Monday, September 30, 2013

Do You Want To Have A Better Day? Watch This!

To see and hear about small acts of kindness reminds us our lives are meant to be given away.

JPII and John XXIII To Be Canonized in April

Pope Francis announced John Paul II & John XXIII will be declared saints on April 27th, 2014 (Divine Mercy).

Friday, September 27, 2013

If You Aren't Convinced Porn Is Destroying Our Culture - READ THIS!

I have been working with men who have suffered from porn addiction for years. I can tell you the stories I have heard are actually worse than what you might read in the article I link below. I can't share all of the stories of relationships destroyed, lives lost, marriages ended, loneliness, hopelessness, etc. But, I can tell you the article is an accurate depiction of what is happening to young people.

What we are seeing is a cultural shift the likes of which have never happened before. We are training the vast majority of a generation to be hooked on graphic sexual images. I ask you, what good can come of that?

WARNING - this article has a frank discussion on what porn is doing to our children. Therefore, it has terms/phrases that are graphic and shocking. Here is merely one snip from the article:
I used to be sceptical that porn was as damaging a force as the headlines and David Cameron - who recently said it was 'corroding childhood' - suggest. In the past I'd even defended pornography in university debates, on TV and on radio. I claimed it was our freedom of choice to watch it and said it could actually help add to adult relationships.

But what I saw during the making of the film changed my opinion of pornography forever.

The true stories of boys I met whose lives had been totally taken over by porn not only moved me to tears but also made me incredibly angry that this is happening to our children.

And the looks of revulsion on those poor girl's faces in the playground enraged me.

I feel as if an entire generation's sexuality has been hijacked by grotesque online porn.
If you want to learn more, I recommend you read some of these other related posts:
**What Is Wrong With Porn?
**The Science Of Internet Porn - What Happens To The Brain & The Body
**The Cost of Porn
**Pornography Research
**Porn Is More Addictive Than Cocaine or Heroin!
**Porn & Support For Same-Sex Marriage

The Stats on Internet Pornography

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hooked On Social Media?

If you are hooked on social media, you might consider:
  • Using social media to communicate with others can either help or hurt your communication, depending on how you use it.
  • “Hiding” behind media (saying things online you’d never say in person), should always be a sign something is off.
  • You should work on establishing real and sincere relationships. Not virtual ones.
  • Professionalism in using media is becoming a huge issue. Many companies search social media before hiring.
The person you portray yourself as on Facebook, Twitter, Email, Message boards, Texting, Phone calls, gaming communities, etc. should be a reflection of who you truly are. But, more and more we hide from reality and attempt to recreate who we are by recreating an image of ourselves. This is a false portrayal.

We are also addicted to communicating terribly. The worst way to communicate with another person is through short electronic messages (e.g. texting, Twitter, etc.). But, the majority of young adults use this kind of communication most frequently. Fully 90% of young adults sleep within arms reach of their phones, because they don't know how to unplug themselves.

It also affects how we communicate and relate to one another. It is nearly impossible to read someone's body language, when behind a computer. The ultimate result of any communication will either increase or decrease the bond of love between two people.

If we are constantly plugged-in to media, we unlearn how to interact with other humans face-to-face. We can forget the faces we see in real life are more important than those on the screens.

Studies show that most people in younger generations spend a significant amount of time using media to communicate and it can negatively change the way we view the human person. To guard against such tendencies, we should not try and re-create our image on the internet.  The fact is that we are who we are.  Our identity should bleed out of every area of our lives. We should also set limits on how frequently we use social media and for how long.

Of course, there are many positive elements to electronic and social media. But, too much of a good thing...

So, if you are hooked on Facebook, Twitter, etc., then you will appreciate these two "musicals".

Why Don't We Use "Yahweh" In Mass Any More?

Q - A few years ago, it was announced that the term "Yahweh" is no longer to be used (removed from all songs). It seemed like an odd decision and with all that is going on in the world, a huge waste of time to make a big deal about. Why did we do this?

A - Thanks for the question! I know this is a point of confusion for many. I hope I can adequately explain the reasoning behind the decision, but let me first point out something else. Don't think the Church isn't doing those other more important things, just because it issues decisions such as these.

The Church hierarchy has a huge responsibility to lead God's people and part of that is to help direct us in the worship of God. Some parts of our liturgy are changeable and some are not. In those parts that are changeable, we might think that it is un-important in the grand scheme of things to address such small issues.

But, if we have the eyes to see it, the liturgy is one of the most important things we will ever do and doing it well is extremely important to everything else we do, because that is where our power comes from (God's grace). So, while in this particular instance we might think that we should be focusing on feeding the poor or helping victims of AIDS, let us not think it is an either/or decision - the Church can and should take care of both big and little issues.

Now, why did the Church makee this change? For a couple of reasons.

1 - The way we spell and pronounce "Yahweh" is a guess for the name of God based on the Hebrew "YHWH". Hebrew is a language without vowels and the vowels must be inferred from the context. In other words, we don't know for certain how to say or write the name correctly - even in Hebrew. In fact, orthodox Jews and ancient Jews would never say the name of God, for fear of doing so incorrectly, because they do not want to accidentally blaspheme God's name. This is why you will find the name "God" spelled "G-d" by some Jews today. Rather they call God by some other name, such as Adonai - which means lord or master.

This ancient practice of avoiding the attempt to pronounce God's name also has Christian roots. In the past few decades, we got away from these roots. Look in most Bibles and you will find the word "LORD" with all caps. This is where the name of God is found. Where you find the name as a proper name "Lord" - is where Adonai is found in the Hebrew text.

So, there has been a wider use of the name of God (YHWH) which started to be used in the songs we sing in Mass. The Vatican asked us return to the roots of language and recapture the awe we should have for God's name.  It is a way to reverence the name of God.

2 - This will be seen as a step of reconciliation toward our Jewish friends. We are showing a sign of respect to both our own tradition and their tradition as well. Though the Vatican did not mention this motive, we can guess it played a part in the decision.

3 - The name of God is not just an identifier for the spirit in the sky. A name means much more, esp. in the Biblical times. Think of John 8:58 - Jesus appropriates the divine name "I AM" to Himself, and the Jews knew that He was proclaiming His divinity and therefore they tried to kill him. This is what the Catechism says about the name of Jesus:

2666 "But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: "Jesus," "YHWH saves." The name "Jesus" contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray "Jesus" is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him."
In the bible, to name a thing, or especially a person, is only done by someone who know what that thing/person is, where its destiny lies, and why it is. Therefore, God names man. Man names creatures (in Genesis). God gives a new name to Abram, Isaac, Peter, etc. Parents share this responsibility by naming their children.

So, when we pray "in the name of Jesus" we can only do so because Christ first united us to Himself. This is because prayer in His name, is always a prayer in and through the Holy Spirit. It is a call to receive His Spirit, which is the fulfillment of all we truly long for. But, it comes true only through a knowledge of the purpose of His name.

Knowing this, we can understand that the name of God is not just any name among others. It is THE name and our reverence for it should come at all times.

I hope this helps to understand why the Vatican made this change.
"at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth" - Phil 2:10

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Catholics Leave The Church

Pope Francis certainly challenges us out of our complacency. As Catholics, we cannot keep the faith to ourselves. We have to love others with the same love God has shown us. Pope Francis says:
The Gospel intends to tell us that the Christian is someone who has a great desire, a deep desire within him: to meet his Lord with his brothers and sisters, his travelling companions. And what Jesus tells us is summed up in his famous phrase: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk 12:34). A heart full of desire. We all have desires. The poor ones are those who have no desire, no desire to go forward, toward the horizon; and for us Christians this horizon is the encounter with Jesus, the very encounter with him, who is our life, our joy, our happiness. I would like to ask you two questions. First: do you all have a desiring heart? A heart that desires? Think about it and respond silently in your hearts. I ask you is your heart filled with desire, or is it a closed heart, a sleeping heart, a heart numb to the things of life? The desire to go forward to encounter Jesus. The second question: where is your treasure, what are you longing for? Jesus told us: where your treasure is, there will be your heart — and I ask you: where is your treasure? What is the most important reality for you, the most precious reality, the one that attracts your heart like a magnet? What attracts your heart? May I say that it is God’s love? Do you wish to do good to others, to live for the Lord and for your brothers and sisters? May I say this? Each one answer in his own heart. But someone could tell me: Father, I am someone who works, who has a family, for me the most important reality is to keep my family and work going.... Certainly, this is true, it is important. But what is the power that unites the family? It is indeed love, and the One who sows love in our hearts is God, God’s love, it is precisely God’s love that gives meaning to our small daily tasks and helps us face the great trials. This is the true treasure of humankind: going forward in life with love, with that love which the Lord has sown in our hearts, with God’s love. This is the true treasure. But what is God’s love? It is not something vague, some generic feeling. God’s love has a name and a face: Jesus Christ, Jesus. Love for God is made manifest in Jesus. For we cannot love air.... Do we love air? Do we love all things? No, no we cannot, we love people and the person we love is Jesus, the gift of the Father among us. It is a love that gives value and beauty to everything else; a love that gives strength to the family, to work, to study, to friendship, to art, to all human activity. It even gives meaning to negative experiences, because this love allows us to move beyond these experiences, to go beyond them, not to remain prisoners of evil, it moves us beyond, always opening us to hope, that’s it! Love of God in Jesus always opens us to hope, to that horizon of hope, to the final horizon of our pilgrimage. In this way our labours and failures find meaning. Even our sin finds meaning in the love of God because this love of God in Jesus Christ always forgives us. He loves us so much that he always forgives us.
This is the message we must offer everyone. For those of us who are Catholic, the quote above and the video below ought to serve as a reminder of the obligation we have toward those we are called to serve - everyone. Both those outside the Church and those inside it too.

**Why Young Catholics Leave the Church & What To Do About It
**Is The Catholic Church "Out Of Date"?
**Why Catholics Leave The Church

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Next Time Someone Angers You While Driving...

I think that this is exactly the reaction Jesus would have if he got cutoff in a drive-through lane.
Pulling my car into the drive-thru line at Starbucks, I wondered why it was a dozen people deep. It wasn’t raining, yet it seemed everyone was driving through today. I was transporting three dogs to the groomer, and there was no way I could leave two wild Shih-tzus and one crazy Bichon alone while I went inside for my daily dose.

Millie, the Bichon, sat on my lap licking the window.

As I peeled her away from the glass, I saw the woman.

She sat across the parking lot, leaving just enough room for a thoroughfare, as she too was waiting in the Starbucks line. I smiled, and gestured to her. It went something like this: “Are you next, or am I?” Really, I was fine either way.

She was not.

Thinking I was trying to snag her spot of next up, she gunned her Suburban, rolled down the window, and let out a string of expletives that made me blush. Millie barked back a retort.

“Go ahead, please,” I said. “I wasn’t sure who was first.” I pulled Millie back onto my lap, so she could see I had been dog-distracted and truly didn’t know who was next.

She didn’t buy it. She continued with the name calling without taking a breath. I won’t write them down here, but the main mantra shared initials with the number one social networking site.

Then something really strange happened.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

7 Reasons Why Pope Francis Worries Some Catholics & Why They Shouldn't Worry

It seems our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, rubs a number of Catholics the wrong way. He certainly isn't the first Pope to do so, but the difference is he troubles a much different group of Catholics than our previous Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI did.

Some said Benedict was a "conservative" and that he wasn't open-minded, caring, loving, or other accusations. These are not accurate descriptions and he doesn't deserve to be accused of such things. Rather, he (like Francis) is CATHOLIC. That means he doesn't fit into the neat political framework of being either liberal, conservative, progressive, traditionalist, moderate, etc.

Take these quotes from BXVI for example - most would call them "liberal":
**"It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs."
**“It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity. Through Mary, and the other holy women, the feminine element stands at the heart of the Christian religion.”
**"the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism"
**"If we refuse to share what we have with the hungry and the poor, we make of our possessions a false god. How many voices in our materialist society tell us that happiness is to be found by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can! But this is to make possessions into a false god."
So, what label should we put on Benedict? How about Catholic. Just as Benedict shouldn't be reduced to political labels, neither should Francis. It isn't fair to either of them.

Why is it that Francis gets some people upset? I think there could be several reasons and here are 7 of them.

  1. Many Catholics are stuck in a model of catechetical formation. This means they see the work of the Catholic Church is to hand over doctrines and teachings. While this is one important role, this isn't the mission of the Church. The mission of the Church is to make followers of Jesus. This is done by evangelization. Evangelization must be centered on relationships. Our relationship with another (through word and witness) helps someone form a relationship with Jesus. If some get the mission of the Church wrong, then they won't understand the focus Francis has on making disciples as one that is in the heart of the Church. Doctrinal formation necessarily must follow the proclamation of the Gospel. NOT the other way around.
  2. Francis is frequently speaking to those on the fringes of the Church and outside the Church - not those who are already faithfully Catholic. If he doesn't focus on what many Catholics find are the most important issues (culture war topics (e.g. abortion, sex, etc.) then he must not care about them. This is false. He has said he is a child of the Church and accepts all the Church teaches. If he doesn't focus on them, it is because he knows that he will drive more away than he will attract if he starts with those topics.
  3. Francis is a very simple man. He connects with the poor like few of us in the Western world do. Personally, it would be tough for me to give up the luxuries and pomp of the Pontificate. That is because I would want others to focus on me. But, Francis seems to want to constantly draw attention to the poor, the simple, and to the one who loves them best - Jesus. So, he lives humbly and simply. This is why so many non-Catholics are attracted to him. We should take notice if we want to reach out to them.
  4. His off-the-cuff speaking style is easy to misinterpret. We should have seen this one coming. He is a preacher and pastor by nature, so he speaks naturally from the heart. This is getting him into some trouble by having ambiguous statements twisted to sound like they are agenda-driven by the media and his opponents. What a shame. If there is any agenda, it is one of spreading the name of Jesus.
  5. Catholics don't like change. Heck, nobody does. When was the last time someone really pricked our conscience or challenged our preconceived notions about faith and we thanked them for it??!! Francis is a radical departure from the norm when it comes to style. He isn't what we expected in a Pope and he is challenging us to look at the role of Peter in a different way. This may hurt a bit.
  6. He is reminding us the being a Christian isn't "safe". We have to shuck off the idea that being a Catholic looks like being a Republican or Democrat. It isn't about having the perfect way of explaining doctrine. Nor is it about a policy, rule, or document. It is about Jesus. All about Jesus. In some ways, we have forgotten this and it is going to take a lot of work to get back to it.
  7. If Francis choose to emphasize different aspects of Catholic teaching that disturbs us, maybe we are the ones out of balance. I see this in myself all the time. It is easy for me to be pro-life, pro-family, etc. But, I have a harder time being pro-poor, pro-immigrant, etc. So, when I am especially challenged by such teachings it is because I am out of balance, not the teaching itself. I need to take these to prayer and let God work on my heart - not throw the Pope under the bus for proclaiming the teachings of Jesus!

Our communities, our Church, and our world needed a Pope like Francis. Someone to shake us up out of our comfort zones.

As Catholics, we have to be careful about criticizing our Holy Father, as if he is just another one of the many Catholics in the world. He is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the guardian of right doctrine and practice. We are not.

When we start to rely more on our own opinions vs the Pope's teachings, we put ourselves in a danger zone. I challenge you to see Francis as an earthly spiritual father. Sometimes he is going to ask us to grow in ways we don't want to. But, it may be good for us anyway.

Lastly, pray for him. He needs your prayers.

NOTE - Comments are welcome, but discussion MUST remain charitable at all times. Comments are strictly monitored.

An Amazing Interview With Pope Francis

This is really good. Some insights into Pope Francis in a real and personal way.
I highly encourage you to read it all. But, if you don't, here are some highlights.

“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” He stares at me in silence. I ask him if I may ask him this question. He nods and replies: “I ​​do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment. Sometimes discernment instead urges us to do precisely what you had at first thought you would do later. And that is what has happened to me in recent months. Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor. My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.

In my experience as superior in the Society, to be honest, I have not always behaved in that way—that is, I did not always do the necessary consultation. And this was not a good thing. My style of government as a Jesuit at the beginning had many faults. That was a difficult time for the Society: an entire generation of Jesuits had disappeared. Because of this I found myself provincial when I was still very young. I was only 36 years old. That was crazy. I had to deal with difficult situations, and I made my decisions abruptly and by myself. Yes, but I must add one thing: when I entrust something to someone, I totally trust that person. He or she must make a really big mistake before I rebuke that person. But despite this, eventually people get tired of authoritarianism.

I see the holiness, in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity. I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved ​​me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.

I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up.

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.

How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.

“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”

I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What Being An Aggie Is All About

This story will tell you what being an Aggie is all about:
McKINNEY — They're back in McKinney after what was one of the best weekends ever.

"Next to the day I married Shannon, it was the best day of my life," said Clay Underwood, with his arm around his wife. She shook her head in agreement.

"It was just magical," she said.

And it was uplifting. And invigorating.

And unplanned.

"I don't even know how I didn't find out about this, that's what's so crazy!" Shannon said, shaking her head.

Am I Saved?

Q - My boyfriend is Baptist and was "saved" when he was a freshman in high school. He asked me if I had been saved and I said yes, when I was baptized...which didn't seem to answer his question very well. It upsets me when I can’t get something across to him because I don't know how to explain things well. My questions are: Am I saved? How do I explain our faith to him and convert him?

A – Thank you very much for your sincere questions! I can tell that you have a heart for God and your boyfriend. You should feel comforted in that. We all have limitations in our understanding of God, because if we didn’t then He wouldn’t be infinite! This is a good opportunity for you to learn more about your faith, so take advantage of it by continuing to study, read, discuss, and learn about your faith.

The first thing I will tackle is the question about salvation. It was hard for you to give your boyfriend a satisfactory answer (in his view) because you are speaking a different language. The way most Baptists define and understand salvation is different in some ways than a Catholic would.

For most Baptists they understand salvation to be something that happens at a particular moment in a person’s life. This moment of salvation is brought about by faith in Jesus Christ. Once a person is moved by grace and accepts Jesus, in faith, most Evangelical Protestants believe, though not all, that salvation cannot be lost. Thus, the door of heaven is open and the believer can now rest assured that they will be with Christ forever after they die. This is the Evangelical Protestant belief of "once-saved-always-saved". But, for a Catholic, this would be an incomplete understanding of salvation.

The Catholic Church teaches that salvation is a life-long process and the Bible also echoes that it is a process (with many “moments”). In fact the Bible talks about salvation in the past, present and future tenses. For Instance:
- Eph. 2:5,8 - for by grace you have been saved through faith.
- 2 Tim. 1:9 - He saved us and called us through grace and not by virtue of our own works outside of His grace.
- Titus 3:5 - He saved us in virtue of His own mercy, and not by our deeds.
- 2 Cor. 2:15 - for we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved.
- Phil. 2:12 - we are working out our salvation through fear and trembling.
- 1 Peter 1:9 - you obtain the salvation of your souls as the outcome of your faith.
- Rom. 5:9-10 - since we are justified by His blood, we shall be saved.
- 2 Tim. 2:11-12 - if we endure, we shall also reign with Him.
- Acts 15:11 - we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.
So, the past tense is speaking of the fact the Jesus won all the graces all of us would ever need when he died and rose from the dead. Of course, these graces do not come to us until we live our lives out and receive this grace through Baptism, adult faith and living a life of love (present tense). Lastly, our salvation is only made complete when we enter into heaven (future tense).

So, to answer the question of “are you saved” the most Biblical of answers would be (IF you have been baptized and are in a state of grace) “I was saved when Christ died for me, I am being saved while I live my life in His grace, and I will be saved when I enter into heaven.”

Here are some additional helpful links.
The next question centered on explaining the faith. This won’t be learned overnight. I once again suggest that you continue to study. There are great books that you can buy or check out here at St. Mary’s library. For a list of books I suggest, look here. You can also come to classes at St. Mary’s, come talk to me or another staff member or even start reading some great Catholic websites, like the ones above. But, be patient with yourself. You didn’t learn English overnight and learning about God and His Church is a life-long process. I am glad to see the desire to learn more.

Lastly, you asked how to “convert” him. First of all, it isn't our job to convert anyone. That is the work of the Holy Spirit and the choice of the other person. But we have to do our part to help someone grow closer to Jesus and the fullness of truth and grace. This is best done through example and a continued relationship that leads to conversations about faith. 

Second, I would suggest that the two of you start to do some homework into the Church together (if he is willing) and that you continue to share with him what you learn about. Let the truth of God do its work. If it is God’s will that your boyfriend ever become Catholic, then trust that it will happen in its own time. Your job is to know your faith and then share it with others out of love. Let God do the heavy lifting here.

Of course, your duty is to not only speak it, but live it. So, here are some practical ways you can help:
  • Frequent the Sacraments. You will find no greater source of strength and grace.
  • Pray frequently. Pray specifically for God’s will to be done in your boyfriend’s life.
  • Study, learn, discuss.
  • Offer to buy him resources (books, CDs, etc).
  • Invite him to Mass or other events here at church.
  • Work on any vices/sins/bad habits you may have.
  • Discuss whether he would be interested in attending RCIA classes and then go with him.
  • Talk to him about how your Jesus and your Catholic faith are important to you and how a relationship with Christ has changed your life.
I hope this helps. May God Bless you both.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Do not weep."

"Because I said so!"  Words we have all heard from our own parents. Words we swore we'd never invoke . . . until we found ourselves face to face with a persistent little one's litany of whys.  In exasperation there they are, those four words.  We blurt out, "Because I said so!"

I used to think these words were a cop out and perhaps sometimes they are used as such, but the more I've used those words myself the more I've understood their importance.  There are some things children cannot understand - the danger of a busy street, the reality of their own limitations and need for sleep, the need for the adult to have their eyes on the road as they navigate a sea of cars in rush hour traffic, that ice cream is not breakfast food (at least not all the time).  The "whys" cascade from their little mouths like a line of dominoes gently nudging the next to fall. Sometimes they’re trying to genuinely understand and sometimes they’re simply pushing the boundaries. 

Yes, there are things they cannot understand, things they simply do not know.  And up bubble those words, "Because I said so."  We know.  We care.  We see.  “Trust me”, we say.  Used in earnest, I think that is what those words mean.  "I care about you, believe me, trust me, because I said so."

Today's gospel echoes these words.  No, Jesus doesn't use those four exact words, but listen to what he does say to a grieving woman in the seventh chapter of Luke:

As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

"Do not weep."

Can you imagine?  This woman is a widow and now she buries her only son.  And Jesus' chosen words in that moment are “Do not weep”?  Didn't Jesus weep when Lazarus died?  Isn't it natural to weep when a loved one is gone?  Of course it is. 

Yet Jesus' statement "do not weep" sees beyond the present moment.  Like a parent who sees more clearly than their child, Jesus knows something more.  He knows what he is about to do, he knows the life he is about to resurrect, and he knows the joy that will come in a few moments by his grace. And so he says "Do not weep."

The point is Jesus knows.  He always speaks to us from a place of knowledge.  Not hunches, probabilities, or speculations, but knowledge.  He tells us to be still because he knows what is needed to listen.  He tells us to wait because he knows when we are ready.  He tells us to trust because he knows what he has planned.  He tells us “no” because he knows what is good for us.  He tells this widow “do not weep” because he knows what he is about to do.

I can’t help but wonder the widow’s response.  As someone whose tears are easy to jerk so to speak (I oft cry at things like Smallville and So You Think You Can Dance), I’m pretty sure I would have shot Jesus a dumbfounded slightly annoyed expression . . . and wept. 

The scripture doesn’t tell us her response.  Did she ignore him and go about her mourning?  Did she drop her jaw in shock or furrow her brow in confusion?  Or in that moment when her gaze met Jesus’, did she look on him with trust and stop her crying? 

That last scenario is something for me to ponder.  I like to think the woman chose to trust Jesus’ words. 

Next time God says to me “wait”, “trust”, “not yet”, “do not weep”, “because I said so” -  what will I do?  Will I argue, persist, complain, ask why, roll my eyes?  Or will I stop, let my gaze meet his, and trust? 

“Do not weep.”  He knows.  “Because I said so.”  He can be trusted. 

Lord Jesus, help us trust in you!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Did Methuselah Really Live 969 Years?

If you have ever read the Old Testament, you will quickly notice there are some folks the live a really long time. The oldest person in the Bible is Methuselah, who lives to the ripe-old age of 969!

Here is what the Bible says:
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.
-Genesis 5:21-27
There are other ages (most before the great flood) that seem extravagantly long:

  • Adam - 930 years
  • Seth - 912 years
  • Noah - 950 years
  • etc

What is remarkable is that modern science tells us that prehistoric people lived short lives, based on the data which has been collected from ancient peoples. So, how do we reconcile the Bible, with science in this instance?

Since the Catholic Church has not authoritatively spoken on this issue, there are several possible solutions we can consider:

  1. The early stories, (e.g. creation stories in Genesis, Noah and the flood, etc) are not meant to be taken literally. Rather they are meant to teach us other lessons. Therefore, giving the ancient patriarchs extremely long life spans was a way of understanding the many years that preceded the history of ancient peoples. In other words, little was known about the early history of man and this is one way of conceptualizing it.
  2. You may read the Bible as a word-for-word truth that accurately depicts the ages of those who lived extremely long lives. However, this would mean that the story of Adam takes place less than 2,000 years before Abraham and means the human race is only about 6,000 years old.
  3. Some say the names talk about families, clans, or dynasties rather than individuals. But, this is merely a theory that has no support within the Biblical text.
  4. Still others maintain that the numbers are all symbols. Yet, we do not have any evidence in Scripture or extra-Scriptural history to back up this claim.
  5. The years may actually be months and this mistake was due to an error in translation. The problem with this theory is that we don't know how to discern which ages would be in months and which would be in years. If we use this aging technique, some ancient Biblical figures would be children who are having offspring. This theory also has no support within the text.

With all this data in hand, it seems our first solution is most likely the best. Which means Methuselah wasn't as old as we thought he was, but he certainly made a name off of the story of being 969 years-old.

We can all agree upon this. I don't think living until you are 969 is all it is cracked up to be.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

This Is What Love Looks Like

To love means to give of yourself.
This is love - lived out in the beautiful life of Mama Hill.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Greatest Obituary I Have Ever Read

This is the best obituary I have ever read. The entire thing - right down to the final line is greatness.
Mullaney, Mary A. "Pink" If you're about to throw away an old pair of pantyhose, stop. Consider: Mary Agnes Mullaney (you probably knew her as "Pink") who entered eternal life on Sunday, September 1, 2013. Her spirit is carried on by her six children, 17 grandchildren, three surviving siblings in New "Joisey", and an extended family of relations and friends from every walk of life. We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Pink during her 85 years, among them: Never throw away old pantyhose. Use the old ones to tie gutters, child-proof cabinets, tie toilet flappers, or hang Christmas ornaments.

Also: If a possum takes up residence in your shed, grab a barbecue brush to coax him out. If he doesn't leave, brush him for twenty minutes and let him stay.

Let a dog (or two or three) share your bed. Say the rosary while you walk them.

Go to church with a chicken sandwich in your purse. Cry at the consecration, every time. Give the chicken sandwich to your homeless friend after mass.

Go to a nursing home and kiss everyone. When you learn someone's name, share their patron saint's story, and their feast day, so they can celebrate. Invite new friends to Thanksgiving dinner. If they are from another country and you have trouble understanding them, learn to "listen with an accent."

Never say mean things about anybody; they are "poor souls to pray for."

Put picky-eating children in the box at the bottom of the laundry chute, tell them they are hungry lions in a cage, and feed them veggies through the slats.

Correspond with the imprisoned and have lunch with the cognitively challenged.

Do the Jumble every morning.

Keep the car keys under the front seat so they don't get lost.

Make the car dance by lightly tapping the brakes to the beat of songs on the radio.

Offer rides to people carrying a big load or caught in the rain or summer heat. Believe the hitchhiker you pick up who says he is a landscaper and his name is "Peat Moss."

Help anyone struggling to get their kids into a car or shopping cart or across a parking lot.

Give to every charity that asks. Choose to believe the best about what they do with your money, no matter what your children say they discovered online.

Allow the homeless to keep warm in your car while you are at Mass.

Take magazines you've already read to your doctors' office for others to enjoy. Do not tear off the mailing label, "Because if someone wants to contact me, that would be nice."

In her lifetime, Pink made contact time after time. Those who've taken her lessons to heart will continue to ensure that a cold drink will be left for the overheated garbage collector and mail carrier, every baby will be kissed, every nursing home resident will be visited, the hungry will have a sandwich, the guest will have a warm bed and soft nightlight, and the encroaching possum will know the soothing sensation of a barbecue brush upon its back.

Above all, Pink wrote - to everyone, about everything. You may read this and recall a letter from her that touched your heart, tickled your funny bone, or maybe made you say "huh?"

She is survived by her children and grandchildren whose photos she would share with prospective friends in the checkout line: Tim (wife Janice, children Timmy, Joey, T.J., Miki and Danny); Kevin (wife Kathy, children Kacey, Ryan, Jordan and Kevin); Jerry (wife Gita, children Nisha and Cathan); MaryAnne; Peter (wife Maria Jose, children Rodrigo and Paulo); and Meg (husband David Vartanian, children Peter, Lily, Jerry and Blase); siblings Anne, Helen, and Robert; and many in-laws, nieces, nephews, friends and family too numerous to list but not forgotten.

Pink is reunited with her husband and favorite dance and political debate partner, Dr. Gerald L. Mullaney, and is predeceased by six siblings.

Friends (and strangers she would love to have met) can visit with Pink's family at the Feerick Funeral Home on Thursday, September 5, from 3 until 7 PM with prayer service at 6:45 PM. Mass of the Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Monica's Catholic Church in Whitefish Bay on Friday, September 6, at 3 PM. Dress comfortably with a splash of pink if you have it.
What do you hope someone says about you when you die?
Are you living your life in the way that would make them write something like this?

If not, then like me, you have some work to do.
Tip o' the hat to HuffPo.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What The Love Of Every Man SHOULD Look Like

This is a love letter of a Christian martyr!

A 21 year-old layman from Spain, Blessed Bartolome Blanco Marquez, was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 as one of hundreds of martyrs during the persecution of the Catholic Church during the Spanish Civil War.
Here is part of his story:
On the day of his execution he left his cell barefoot, in order to be more conformed to Christ. He kissed his handcuffs, surprising the guards that cuffed him. He refused to be shot from behind. “Whoever dies for Christ should do so facing forward and standing straight. Long live Christ the King!” he shouted as he fell to ground under a shower of bullets.
The night before his execution, he wrote the following love letter to his girlfriend:
Provincial prison of Jaen, Oct. 1, 1936

My dearest Maruja:

Your memory will remain with me to the grave and, as long as the slightest throb stirs my heart, it will beat for love of you. God has deemed fit to sublimate these worldly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in him. Though in my final days, God is my light and what I long for, this does not mean that the recollection of the one dearest to me will not accompany me until the hour of my death.

I am assisted by many priests who -- what a sweet comfort -- pour out the treasures of grace into my soul, strengthening it. I look death in the eye and, believe my words, it does not daunt me or make me afraid.

My sentence before the court of mankind will be my soundest defense before God's court; in their effort to revile me, they have ennobled me; in trying to sentence me, they have absolved me, and by attempting to lose me, they have saved me. Do you see what I mean? Why, of course! Because in killing me, they grant me true life and in condemning me for always upholding the highest ideals of religion, country and family, they swing open before me the doors of heaven.

My body will be buried in a grave in this cemetery of Jaen; while I am left with only a few hours before that definitive repose, allow me to ask but one thing of you: that in memory of the love we shared, which at this moment is enhanced, that you would take on as your primary objective the salvation of your soul. In that way, we will procure our reuniting in heaven for all eternity, where nothing will separate us.

Goodbye, until that moment, then, dearest Maruja! Do not forget that I am looking at you from heaven, and try to be a model Christian woman, since, in the end, worldly goods and delights are of no avail if we do not manage to save our souls.

My thoughts of gratitude to all your family and, for you, all my love, sublimated in the hours of death. Do not forget me, my Maruja, and let my memory always remind you there is a better life, and that attaining it should constitute our highest aspiration.

Be strong and make a new life; you are young and kind, and you will have God's help, which I will implore upon you from his kingdom. Goodbye, until eternity, then, when we shall continue to love each other for life everlasting.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Why do Catholics Pray To Saints?

Q - Why do Catholics pray to Saints?

A - Thanks for the question.

I would like to first point out that the Saints are not God. So, Catholics do not worship or adore the Saints. We worship God alone. To pray to a Saint is to ask them to intercede on our behalf, just as we would a friend on earth. 

The book of James says this:
"The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." - James 5:16
Now, who is more righteous than those perfected in heaven? Thus, we ask the Saints to pray for us, because the Bible tells us they have powerful prayers.

The next question is then - can they hear us?
The answer is yes. Jesus says:
“And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, `I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” -Matthew 22:31-32
--Note that Jesus is telling us that those in heaven are alive. But, they now have a new and higher way of living. They have been glorified in Christ once they enter into heaven. In fact, it could be said that they are much more alive than those of us still on earth.
“And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” -Matthew 17:3-5
--Here, during the Transfiguration, Jesus talks to Moses and Elijah, who are very aware of what has been happening on earth. So, from this we can come to the conclusion that death does not separate those in heaven from those on earth.

Remember Paul teaches that we are all members of Christ’s body, the Church. The Book of Hebrews echoes this when it teaches that those who have gone before us into heaven still witness what happens on earth.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us” -Hebrews 12:1
Since we are all made members of Christ's mystical body, we are all connected to one another and even death cannot separate us from Christ. Christ could have told us that praying for one another didn't matter, but he did the opposite. He told us (as did Paul and many others in Scripture) to pray for one another, because God acts through his Church on earth, and in heaven, to give us grace through the prayers of others.

What I believe is the most amazing evidence from the Bible of the Saints in heaven hearing our prayers is from the book of Revelation.
“When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.” -Revelations 5:8
--We see that the elders and four living creatures (who represent the Saints and Angels in heaven) are offering the prayers of those on earth before Jesus. I don’t think it could get much clearer. In Revelation 8 there is another incident of heavenly intercession.
“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with burning coals from the altar, and hurled it down to the earth. There were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” -Revelations 8:3-5
Lastly, we have evidence from Christ himself.
“I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. "Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, `Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.' In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” -Luke 15:7-10
----Those in heaven could not rejoice over a sinner repenting on earth unless they knew about it.
One more reference of Christ talking about this subject is found in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. Those who have suffered bodily death, still are asking for help for those on earth (intercession) with knowledge of what is happening.

Getting to the question outside the Biblical evidence, we can support the fact that those in heaven can hear our prayers because it fits with what we know about God and humans. Just as no person can achieve heaven on their own power, so a Saint in heaven cannot hear prayers of those on earth from their own power. But, being glorified in Christ they now are partakers of the divine nature. This means they participate in the grace of God to a greater degree than we can even imagine. While God is the only one who by nature is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent – the Saints in heaven can in some way share in these traits. The number of prayers offered is finite, so to be able to “hear” all prayers wouldn’t take the gift of omniscience, but rather just raising our nature to a higher level.

We must also remember that the heavenly existence is no longer bound by time. There is no time but eternity in heaven. Therefore, we must not try and answer a question of this nature by using our own limited understanding of how things work in this life.

Based on the overwhelming evidence from Scripture, the constant Tradition of the Church as well as the fact that it is theologically acceptable, we can be assured that the Saints in heaven can hear our prayers and are praying for us.

This is why we pray to Saints.

Because today is All Saints day and we happily unite our prayers with the Saints in heaven, we will pray Litany of the Saints:
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven,
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
God the Holy Spirit,
Holy Trinity, one God,
have mercy on us.
have mercy on us.
have mercy on us.
have mercy on us.
Holy Mary,
Holy Mother of God,
Holy Virgin of virgins,
St. Michael,
St. Gabriel,
St. Raphael,
All you Holy Angels and Archangels,
St. John the Baptist,
St. Joseph,
All you Holy Patriarchs and Prophets,
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
St. Peter,
St. Paul,
St. Andrew,
St. James,
St. John,
St. Thomas,
St. James,
St. Philip,
St. Bartholomew,
St. Matthew,
St. Simon,
St. Jude,
St. Matthias,
St. Barnabas,
St. Luke,
St. Mark,
All you holy Apostles and Evangelists,
All you holy Disciples of the Lord,
All you holy Innocents,
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
St. Stephen,
St. Lawrence,
St. Vincent,
Sts. Fabian and Sebastian,
Sts. John and Paul,
Sts. Cosmos and Damian,
All you holy Martyrs,
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
St. Sylvester,
St. Gregory,
St. Ambrose,
St. Augustine,
St. Jerome,
St. Martin,
St. Nicholas,
All you holy Bishops and Confessors,
All you holy Doctors,
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
St. Anthony,
St. Benedict,
St. Bernard,
St. Dominic,
St. Francis,
All you holy Priests and Levites,
All you holy Monks and Hermits,
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
St. Mary Magdalene,
St. Agatha,
St. Lucy,
St. Agnes,
St. Cecilia,
St. Anastasia,
St. Catherine,
St. Clare,
All you holy Virgins and Widows,
All you holy Saints of God,
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
pray for us.
Lord, be merciful,
From all evil,
From all sin,
From your wrath,
From a sudden and unprovided death,
From the snares of the devil,
From anger, hatred, and all ill-will,
From the spirit of uncleanness,
From lightning and tempest,
From the scourge of earthquake,
From plague, famine, and war,
From everlasting death, 
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
By the mystery of your holy Incarnation,
By your Coming,
By your Birth,
By your Baptism and holy fasting,
By your Cross and Passion,
By your Death and Burial,
By your holy Resurrection,
By your wonderful Ascension,
By the coming of the Holy Spirit,
On the day of judgment,
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Lord, save your people.
Be merciful to us sinners,Lord, hear our prayer.
That you will spare us,
That you will pardon us,
That it may please you to bring us to true
Guide and protect your holy Church,
Preserve in holy religion the Pope, and all
     those in holy Orders,
Humble the enemies of holy Church,
Give peace and unity to the whole Christian
Bring back to the unity of the Church all
     those who are straying, and bring all
     unbelievers to the light of the Gospel,
Strengthen and preserve us in your holy
Raise our minds to desire the things of
Reward all our benefactors with eternal
Deliver our souls from eternal damnation,
     and the souls of our brethren, relatives,
     and benefactors,
Give and preserve the fruits of the earth,
Grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed,
That it may please You to hear and heed
     us, Jesus, Son of the Living God,
Lord, hear our prayer.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
     the world,
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
     the world,
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of
     the world,
Spare us, O Lord!Graciously hear us, O Lord!
Have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us,Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, graciously hear us
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
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