Friday, January 31, 2014

Your Sin Is Never Bigger Than God's Mercy

"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."
-Pope Francis
"O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!" -Psalm 34:8

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." -1 John 1:9

Thursday, January 30, 2014

10 Reasons Why Many Catholics Would Stop Going To Church If Jesus Was Their Pastor

10 Reasons Why Many Catholics Would Stop Going To Church If Jesus Was Their Pastor
  1. He expects radical commitment and he never will shy away from demanding it from those who say they follow Him.
    Here are just 2 examples:

    **“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." -Matt 5:11-12

    **"I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven" -Matt 5:44-45
  2. His preaching can be very confusing. Seriously. We have heard so many homilies, try imagining what would you would do if you heard this as a homily:

    **"This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!" -Luke 11:29-32
  3. He focuses most of his time on a small number of His followers. While He preaches and teaches the crowds, He invests the majority of His time in a small group that is close to Him. He spends years guiding them, teaching them deeply, instructing them in Scriptures, challenging them to live holy lives, etc.

    **"On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida" -Luke 9:10

    **"Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray." -Luke 9:28
  4. Jesus wouldn't be found at church very often. He would be in the streets, talking to the lost, preaching the Gospel, curing the sick, and helping the poor. He might be seen around church a few times a week.

    **"A scribe then approached and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”" -Matt 8:19-20
  5. He hangs out with rejects, the outcast, the loser, and the untouchable. In fact, He doesn't just hang out with them, He seeks them out to bring them grace, love, and healing.

    **"A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!”" -Mark 1:40-41
  6. Jesus hates status quo. If you want to just maintain 'the way it has always been done' or the prevailing church culture, He won't be happy about it.

    **"Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. " -Luke 9:23
  7. He doesn't care about image, success, money, or trends. He cares about faithfulness, charity, hope, grace, peace, generosity, humility, etc. and He wants you to care about those things too.

    **"For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?" -Matt 16:24
  8. He would focus on holiness, discipleship, preaching the Good News, and evangelizing the lost, not a bunch of distracting churchy activity. My guess is most activities at your average parish would be cancelled and He would focus on truly forming disciples and evangelizing individuals in relational ministry and then training others to do the same.

    **"When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." -Matt 28:17-20
  9. His continued demand that we serve the poor would become a nuisance to many. He valued the poor more than any other group of people. Our attitude, in our culture, is that our money is our own and we can do with it as we please. He reminds us all is from God and we have an obligation to help those in need.

    **""When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”" -Luke 14:13-14
  10. Jesus is willing to die for the message He preaches and expects us to do the same. Most of us, of course, won't have to die for being Christian, but we will have to learn to do the unpopular and difficult for Christ.

    **"If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me." -John 15:20-21

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Rotten Fruit of Hooking Up

One of the rotten fruits from our culture is the hook-up scene. Finding a random, or not so random, person to have sex with in order to feel good for a short time and not have to face the "consequences" of commitment is nothing less than tragic. There are no throwaway people, especially when it comes to something as beautiful, wonderful, and powerful as sex. Sex is where two become one. Where we get to co-create another unique and unrepeatable image of God. This is why it is meant to have permanence, fidelity, and love that comes from marriage of one man and one woman.

The biggest losers in this culture are the women who act like foolish men when they throw themselves at a guy to get some attention, affection, pleasure, or distraction - all for a moment. Unfortunately, I don't think many college students think twice of the consequences of their actions when it happens.

An article in the New York Times highlights this issue with some interesting facts. A few quotes (emphasis added):

One sociological reason for the up-tick in the hook-up scene:
"North Carolina, with a student body that is nearly 60 percent female, is just one of many large universities that at times feel eerily like women’s colleges. Women have represented about 57 percent of enrollments at American colleges since at least 2000, according to a recent report by the American Council on Education."
So, there are more women in college, but that isn't all:
"Jayne Dallas, a senior studying advertising who was seated across the table, grumbled that the population of male undergraduates was even smaller when you looked at it as a dating pool. “Out of that 40 percent, there are maybe 20 percent that we would consider, and out of those 20, 10 have girlfriends, so all the girls are fighting over that other 10 percent,” she said."
What does such a disproportionate female to male ratio lead to:
"Needless to say, this puts guys in a position to play the field, and tends to mean that even the ones willing to make a commitment come with storied romantic histories. Rachel Sasser, a senior history major at the table, said that before she and her boyfriend started dating, he had “hooked up with a least five of my friends in my sorority — that I know of.”"
Women have lowered their standards in order to have a boyfriend or at least one night of a guy finding her desirable. But, this also isn't the end of the story:
"“Women do not want to get left out in the cold, so they are competing for men on men’s terms,” she wrote. “This results in more casual hook-up encounters that do not end up leading to more serious romantic relationships. Since college women say they generally want ‘something more’ than just a casual hook-up, women end up losing out.”

W. Keith Campbell, a psychology professor at the University of Georgia, which is 57 percent female, put it this way: “When men have the social power, they create a man’s ideal of relationships,” he said. Translation: more partners, more sex. Commitment? A good first step would be his returning a woman’s Facebook message.

Women on gender-imbalanced campuses are paying a social price for success and, to a degree, are being victimized by men precisely because they have outperformed them, Professor Campbell said. In this way, some colleges mirror retirement communities, where women often find that the reward for outliving their husbands is competing with other widows for the attentions of the few surviving bachelors.

“If a guy is not getting what he wants, he can quickly and abruptly go to the next one, because there are so many of us,” said Katie Deray, a senior at the University of Georgia, who said that it is common to see six provocatively clad women hovering around one or two guys at a party or a bar."
Think of this as well. Somewhere close to 80-90% of young men in college regularly use pornography. Many young women thus "settle" for a guy that can't control himself and is going to use her for sex, without any commitment or real love (real love = choosing what is best for another despite the cost to myself).

So, what kind of answer to such a culture does the Catholic Church have?
This is the answer - put into my own words. The words of a man who has been happily married for almost 15 years, has one wife, four daughters, one mother, three sisters, and loves women for the way God made each of the unique.

  • You are worth more! Yes, you have something inside you which is beautiful. Don't buy into the lies that you are not.
  • You are a daughter of The King. He wants you to live in his palace forever.
  • Your eldest brother laid down his life for you.
  • You are not like other women, so don't compare yourself to them.
  • Learn to be happy with who you really are (see the statements above if you don't know who you are). This is the key to a happy life.
  • Don't settle for a guy who won't treat you right, can't control himself, or won't see the true beauty inside you.
  • Don't mistake sex for real love.
  • Wait for the right guy. It is worth it.
  • Don't believe the arbitrary deadlines for finding a guy (graduating college, hitting 30, etc). God has an individual plan for your life and it is better than the one you (or society) has created.
  • Don't think you can change a guy or "fix" him.
  • Don't let a guy take advantage of you just to feel good about yourself for a short time.
  • I apologize on behalf of all men.
  • You are already loved and are lovable - there is nothing you could ever do to make God stop loving you. Seek this love first and foremost in order to be happy.

  • Learn what masculinity is really about, by learning what The Man is all about - Jesus.
  • As I tell my son, your job is to "respect, protect, love, and serve" others, esp. the women in your life. Even if that means protecting them from yourself!
  • Sacrifice your own desires for others, especially women. This is the definition of maturity and love.
  • Being a man isn't about having sex, prestige, a supermodel girlfriend, money or power.
  • Being a man is about finding strength and courage to get outside of yourself.
  • Find good role models, not the kind that culture shoves at you, but men you know who do the right thing for the right reasons.
  • Stop looking at porn (or get help if you can't do it on your own).
  • Never use a woman. They are your sisters.
  • Real commitment lasts a lifetime.
  • Rou are already loved and are lovable - there is nothing you could ever do to make God stop loving you. Seek this love first and foremost in order to be happy.
Previous posts that may be of interest:
**Dating and discernment
**Dating and physical attraction
**How far is too far?
**Porn Hurts Others

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bishop Mike Sis

Yesterday thousands of Catholics came together in San Angelo, TX to participate in the ordination and installation of Bishop Michael Sis as the 6th Bishop of San Angelo.

Because he was the pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Center for 13 1/2 years, there were hundreds of Aggie Catholics on hand, including dozens of priests who credit their call to the priesthood to Bishop Mike.

The joy in the room was palpable, as you can tell from the photos. Some touches you might want to know about:
  • Bishop Mike's father is a permanent deacon who was on the altar and who proclaimed the Gospel.
  • Bishop Mike's Episcopal ring, as sign of his office, was made from broken jewelry from his parents. It has a fisherman's hook on it as a sign of his apostolic call to be a fisher of men.
  • Bishop Mike's crosier was made by Fr. David Konderla, our Pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Center.
You can click on any image below to go to the photo-viewer.
The Apostolic Nuncio reads the letter from Pope Francis

Bishop-elect Mike takes it all in.

Bishop-elect Mike lies prostrate in preparation for ordination.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Sillar, of San Antonio, ordains Bishop Mike.

The Book of the Gospels is held over his head as a sign of his faithfulness to the Good News.

Bishop Mike is anointed with oil.

Bishop Mike is presented with his ring (made from broken jewelry of his parents, his miter and his crosier (which was made by his friend and our Pastor - Fr. David Konderla)

Bishop Mike is seated as Bishop of San Angelo, next to his father, who is a permanent Deacon (who proclaimed the Gospel).

Bishop Mike blesses his mother.

Bishop Mike's mother kisses the newly ordained Bishop while his father looks on.

Bishop Michael J. Sis, Bishop of San Angelo.

Bishop Mike processes around the arena blessing the people during shouts of joy and applause.

The Bishops leave the arena.

Dominicans with Bishop Mike.

Aggie Catholics with Bishop Mike (and one confused child).
Thanks to Jaime Roman, Jr. and Randy Light for the pictures!

10 Reasons Why Being Catholic Is Wicked Awesome

10 Reasons Why Being Catholic Is Wicked Awesome
  1. Civil disobedience.  In refusing to obey laws that are unjust, we show the world that there are more important things in life than just getting along. When necessary we march, picket, and if it comes to it, we will even be thrown in jail or killed for our beliefs:
    "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square" -Cardinal George of Chicago
  2. Counter-cultural rebels. Who else is can be found protesting outside an abortion clinic, praying in an adoration chapel, listening to a theology presentation in a bar, hanging a pic or a Saint's card in a cubicle at work, confessing sins to a priest, and hanging out with nuns? Nobody.
  3. Monks brew beer. It might sound silly, but the point is that we don't believe every good thing in the world which can be abused is bad. In fact a good thing can only be "abused" because it is good. Beer can be abused, like any good thing. But, monks brewing beer shows us just how good beer can be.
  4. We have a sense of humor. We can even laugh at ourselves. Have you seen this? If not, you should:
  5. Natural Family Planning (NFP). We talk about sex as a natural and organic part of life and we work with our bodies to space births in marriage. The prevailing mentality is one that is pro-contraception. But, organic sex is now cool.
  6. We fight for the little guy, both literally and figuratively. We do more for the poor than any other non-governmental organization. Feed the poor, clothe the naked, etc. We also hold the right to life as a sacred duty. Babies 'R Us.
  7. We teach about what is really good, true, and beautiful. All three matter. Most modern education question if there really is goodness, truth, and beauty. We say "duh".
  8. Not afraid of culture, but not just a part of it either. Yes, we have to live in the world. But, we are called to change it, not let it change us. Hard to do, but awesome when we do it.
  9. We take the Devil seriously. Otherwise exorcism, confession, and crucifixes wouldn't make cool movies. The devil is real and is our real enemy. He bites and we help him bite the dust.
  10. Leaders that lead. No comment needed, because of men like:

Benedict XVI
Cardinal Dolan

Friday, January 24, 2014

What is Wrong With Porn?

Q - What is wrong with porn?  Isn't it just some harmless fun?

A - Thanks for the questions.  I hope I can get into the heart of the matter.  But, before we get to the negatives, let us affirm the positives about our sexuality.

1 - Catholics see the body as a reflection of the Divine. We are created in the image and likeness of God. The body is not just an instrument to be used for pleasure, but rather, it is a constitutive part of our being. Therefore, sex is not just for pleasure, but it helps us discover our ultimate purpose - union with God. Sex can be seen as a foretaste of the divine relationship we all wish to have in heaven - sex is worship of God - when done in the proper context and for the right reasons. We are not souls trapped inside a shell. We are humans with both a body and a soul.

2 - The human purpose of sex is twofold - babies and bonding. Sex is meant to be an act between two committed (i.e., married) people -a man and a woman. To try and make it something else is to re-define it as something less than what it was meant to be, and therefore it becomes an attack on the dignity of those involved in it. Sex isn't good - sex is so much more - sex is sacred. Sex is meant for higher purposes than just pleasure. Sex that is just for pleasure pales in comparison to true married love. God created sex as something wonderful - porn is a distortion of that beauty.

If you have sex with someone you are not married to you are saying, with your body, "I give myself to you, everything. Fully." But, what you are really saying is a lie with your body, because you are ultimately saying "I give myself to you, but I don’t commit to you. It is a temporary gift that I will give and take back." Sex shouldn't be about degrading or using another person, it should be about true love. Which leads to...

3 - Sex is about real love. Real love is choosing what is best for the other, regardless of the cost to myself. Think about it - what is more powerful than having sex? The greatest power we have is to create and the greatest of all created things is a human being. When a child is created in a mother's womb, it is because two people have the opportunity to procreate. That is, to create with God. Sex is the most powerful thing humans can participate in.

Any kind of sexual activity outside of the bonds of marriage cannot be a loving act. Why? Because love wouldn't take a chance with someone phyiscally, emotionally, spiritually, etc. and this is just what sex outside of marriage does, it risks another person's well-being.

The Negatives Of Porn:
Statistics that can help bring this problem home:
  • Adults admitting to Internet sexual addiction: 10%
  • More than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month
  • 57% of pastors say that addiction to pornography is the most sexually damaging issue to their congregation
  • The Internet was a significant factor in 2 out of 3 divorces
*So, what makes porn so bad? 

*It makes us see other humans as less than human both in the making of porn and in the using of it - PORN HURTS OTHERS. In our mind's eye we treat those involved in porn as objects for our pleasure, not as other humans whom we truly want what is best.  It is the opposite of love. It is using the highest of all of creation (other human beings) as objects. It degrades and uses others as things.

Sex can be used for good and evil. When put in a pornographic state, it is intrinsically evil. It separates love and sex. Once this happens, sex becomes about the self, not the other. In and of itself, it is an exercise of the ego - it is all about ME.

*Porn is addictive - it is more addictive than cocaine and heroine. When porn is used there are powerful chemicals that the body sends directly into the pleasure center of the brain. These chemicals are what cocaine and heroine were made to mimic, only they aren't the real thing. Also, once these chemicals are released while viewing porn, the images are chemically 'burned' into the brain.

*Porn destroys relationships. The fastest growing reason for divorce is infidelity by way of porn. The spouse is made to feel inferior to the images that the other spouse is using. Both partners suffer from self-esteem issues and their view of one another is distorted. The fantasy can never be lived up to.

*Porn desensitizes the user with repeated use. This can lead to a numbing of the conscience and much deeper, sometimes criminal, problems.

*Sex-based addictions are the hardest to kick. Studies show that most addicts have several addictions and therapists have learned that if the sex addiction isn't treated first and successfully, then treatments for other addictions don't usually work.

Porn isn't just a private issue. It is exploitation of others in every way possible.  It is a social problem (see the problems in marriages), it is a religious problem (see the problems in churches), it is a mental problem (addictive), it is a family problem, etc.

Porn is evil.

With all of this in mind, I will post something I have posted several other times - the text of a brochure I helped develop for the Diocese of Austin.
19 Strategies for Helping Yourself Strive for Purity
  1. Get rid of all pornography you own. Destroy movies, magazines and dump all electronic images.
  2. Stay off of the computer if it is a temptation. If you have to get on a computer, then do so when other people are around. DO NOT get on the computer for any reason, if you are alone and it is a temptation.
  3. Pray more. You must rely on God to deliver you from the problem. You will not be able to stop by using your own power.
  4. Frequent the Sacraments and Daily Mass. The grace you need to conquer the temptations will be found here.
  5. Find an accountability partner. Check in with each other frequently.
  6. Fast. It helps you to develop self control. You have had a problem with self control sexually, but most men have self control issues in other areas as well.
  7. Avoid the occasion of sin. Think about when, where and how you are tempted. Then think about strategies to avoid these circumstances.
  8. Use holy images. Your mind has been filled with unholy images; fill it with the image of Christ, Mary, and saints.
  9. Ask Mary to intercede. It may sound funny, but it is hard to be tempted when asking the Immaculate Mother of God to help you.
  10. Read Scripture daily. Let God’s Word penetrate deeply into your life.
  11. Go to confession with the same priest frequently.
  12. Do not suppress the thoughts of temptation. Redeem them. Offer them to Christ through his cross.
  13. If you feel that despite your best efforts, you are unable to stop viewing pornography, seek help from a mental health professional who specializes in addiction. He or she will be able to help you determine whether or not the behavior is an addiction, and will help you get the tools you need to conquer it. (See the back of this brochure for recommendations about where to call for help).
  14. If you are married and your spouse does not know about your problem, you need to talk about it. The problem must be admitted to before it can stop.
  15. Use blocking software to limit access on your computer. Also, software at can send an accountability report to your accountability partner.
  16. Do not drink or use drugs while trying to overcome the temptation. Drinking or using drugs can lower inhibitions, which make us more likely to act impulsively.
  17. Don’t beat yourself up after a setback. The devil wants you to give up. Seek forgiveness and start again, no matter how humbling or hard it may be. God always forgives and loves.
  18. 18. Meet with a priest or spiritual director to formulate goals and learn techniques for growing closer to Christ and becoming the person God calls you to be.
  19. Exercise use of the Virtues - prudence, fortitude, temperance, modesty, purity, and self-control.
Prayer for Chastity
by St. Thomas Aquinas
Dearest Jesus! I know well that every perfect gift, and above all others that of chastity, depends upon the most powerful assistance of your providence, and that without you a creature can do nothing. Therefore, I pray that you defend, with your grace, the gift of chastity and purity in my soul as well as in my body. And if I have ever received through my senses any impression that could stain my chastity and purity, I ask you, who are the supreme Lord of all my powers, to take it from me, so that I may with a clean heart advance in your love and service, offering myself chaste all the days of my life on the most pure altar of your divinity. Amen.

Scripture When Facing Temptation

  • “For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” I Corinthians 6:20
  • “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians. 4:13
  • “Nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37
  • “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way … to win an imperishable crown.” 1 Corinthians 9:25
  • “Create a clean heart in me O God.” Psalm 51:12
  • “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
  • “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:2-3
  • “Go not after your lusts, but keep your desires in check.” Sirach 18:30
  • “I said: ‘I will confess my offenses to the Lord.’ And you, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5
  • “You were once in darkness, but now you you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness.” Ephesians 5:8-11
  • “Let us cast off the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12
Local Help
If you struggle in this area and would like help stopping, please contact me (Marcel). We have accountability groups for men and resources for women who want to stop.

If you would like to talk to a counselor, the Diocese of Austin Office of Catholic Family Counseling and Family Life maintains a referral list of Catholic friendly counselors in various areas throughout the diocese. For more information about their services, or to schedule an appointment, call (512) 726-0405.

Further Reading
**Porn Hurts Others
**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
**If You Aren't Convinced Porn Is Destroying Our Culture - Read This!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Anti-Catholic Prejudice

Anti-Catholicism, as Philip Jenkins (a non-Catholic) has pointed out, is the last acceptable prejudice. It is a growing trend in our culture and one that is gaining ground quickly, especially in our government leaders.

Yet, our response is what is even more important. Yes, we need to fight against prejudice, but with love and kindness, not anger and hate. Even when we oppose unjust laws, such as the HHS Mandate, which need all people of good will to be actively and strongly opposed to them - we should always have love as our motivation.

Fr. Barron comments on some recent incidents and the problem.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

#1 Predictor of Whether a Child Is Incarcerated Later in Life Is?

Try to guess the answer before you read below and see if you can't figure it out.
What is the #1 predictor of whether a child is incarcerated later in life?

What might it be:
  • Drug use?
  • Pornography?
  • Abuse?
  • Bad grades in school / education?
  • Poverty?
  • Community?
  • Something else?
**The #1 predictor for whether a child will ultimately spend time in prison is whether they grew up in a single-parent home (you can safely read this as "single mother", which the vast majority of single-parent homes are).
**Another study uncovered the following statistic - In 1996, 70% of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long sentences, were raised by single mothers. Source.  
**“After controlling for single motherhood, the difference between black and white crime rates disappeared.”

In other words, the higher crime-rate problems in minority communities can be directly linked to the crisis in single motherhood, which is caused by a crisis in fatherhood.

There is a crisis in true masculinity being overcome by mix of selfish machismo and radical feminism.

  • Girls raised without fathers in the home are more sexually promiscuous, and more likely to end up divorced.
  • 70% of teen births occur to girls in single mother homes.
  • 86% of American teen births are out of wedlock.
  • America has more than twice as many teenage births as other developed nations.
  • 70% of drop-outs, and 70% of teen suicides come from single mother homes.
They are leaving. Why? Because masculinity is dying a quick death. It is attacked from all sides, for example:
  • Radical feminists say that being masculine is anti-woman.
  • The feminized man is highly-esteemed in Western culture.
  • Fathers are portrayed as blundering idiots in media.
It doesn’t help that some non-Western cultures (e.g., China , Muslim countries, etc) revere machismo to the detriment of women, just as our own did not so long ago. This is a false masculinity which is truly harmful to women and girls.

So, what is a man to do? Our modern world swings between two extremes that both tear down true masculinity – on the one side is the overly-macho lie and on the other is the emasculated feminization of masculinity.

The answer lies in the root of the problem, which started “in the beginning.”

Adam was given the commission by God to “to cultivate and care for” the Garden of Eden and all that was in it (Gen 2:15). Adam messed up soon after. He fails to protect his wife, because he is a coward. He then blames his wife and in doing so he relinquishes his masculinity. Notice that after giving up his masculinity he quickly falls into lusting after his wife, which is why they have to cover themselves – to protect themselves from the lust of the other.

We still suffer from the same issues.

The modern man has also relinquished his masculinity by failing to have self-control. The modern man is an emasculated macho fool who has given in to his pornified passions and lives a sterile and contracepted life – he bears no fruit, literally and figuratively.

These issues are not only killing masculinity, they are also killing women and their femininity. Because only when masculinity is truly lived properly will femininity flourish - and vice-versa.

So, where do we start? We start with discovering what masculinity is NOT:
  • A man is not emasculated ninny.
  • Neither is a man a testosterone infused bag of passions.
  • A man is this -> one who desperately seeks to follow in the footsteps of THE MAN.
    • He will be courageous in the face of danger.
    • He will fight for and maintain self control.
    • He will put to death his lusts.
    • He will be in control of his emotions and yet not afraid of them.
    • He will find himself in losing himself.
    • He is humble, but sure of the gifts God has given him.
    • He is gentle when he should be and rough when necessary.
    • He is a man of strength of character and his word means something.
    • He fulfills his promises.
    • He isn’t ashamed of his Lord or either of his mothers.
    • He will put life in the proper order –
      1 – God;
      2 – His wife (if he has one);
      3 – His children (if he has them)
      4 – Others;
      5 – Himself
  • A man isn’t afraid of his masculine traits, but embraces them as a gift from God. He doesn’t abuse them, but understands the way to use them in service of God and others.
Fix fatherhood - fix the family.
Fix the family - fix the culture.

Heavenly Father help fathers here on earth!

NOTE - this statistic is not saying that single mothers cannot raise great kids. While these studies tend to make us pessimistic and bring down our hope, remember that Jesus is Lord of all. Single mothers are certainly handicapped in raising kids alone, but I also know some of the most heroic people on this planet are single moms who do the right thing for their kids. So, keep your heads up and hope in Christ alive!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

7 Habits of Highly Effective Catholics

Borrowing an idea from Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I have compiled the following:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Catholics

Habit #1 - Participate in the Sacraments Regularly.
Sunday Mass is a given. To be effective you must also participate in a regular habit of Confession (once a month is a good start) and regular daily Mass, when possible. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament can be tagged on to this as well.

**"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." -Acts 2:42

Habit #2 - Dive Deep into Prayer.
Prayer is the link between God and man. We cannot expect to be good Catholics if we aren't in a personal relationship with God. The foundation of this relationship is a personal daily prayer life.

**"Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thes 5:16-18

Habit #3 - Build Virtue and Root out Vice.
What virtues do we lack? These are what we need to focus on. Pick one virtue you need to improve and work on it. If we can improve in one virtue, then it generally helps raise up others. While doing this try to root out any vices you have, especially those that control you regularly.

**"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." -Phil 4: 8-9

Habit #4 - Know Scripture and Church Teachings.
The more we know about Christ and His Church, the more there is for us to love. The more we can apply to our lives concretely. But, it starts with educating ourselves and knowing what he really taught, not just what we think he taught. This is a life-long process.

**"All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work." -2 Tim 3:16

Habit #5 - Practice Joy No Matter the Circumstance.
Easier said than done. Joy is a disposition, not a feeling. Don't confuse Joy with happiness, which comes and goes. We can practice joy through an act of the will and when strengthened by grace. How could Mother Teresa continue to serve the poorest of the poor even though she suffered in the depths of her soul? Joy.

**"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Phil 4:4-7

Habit #6 - Spiritual Direction.
We should live in a constant state of discernment, asking - what does God want from me now? This puts a high value on living in the moment with an eye on combining our will with God's. A good spiritual director is invaluable at helping accomplish this. They can be an objective observer of our lives and the movements of the Holy Spirit.

**"Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him." - Acts 8:30-31

Habit #7 - Share Your Faith.
To keep something as treasured as the truth, goodness, and beauty of Christ to yourself is a selfish attitude. Effective Catholics evangelize regularly through their words and deeds to all. Pope Paul VI said, the Church "exists in order to evangelize."

**"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." -Matt 28: 19-20

-There are certainly others that didn't make the list.
What did I miss?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not only is U2 one of my favorite bands, they have depth to their much of their music. U2's Pride (In the Name of Love) dives into MLK. This song is about those who have laid down their lives in the "name of love", including Jesus (betrayed with a kiss) and the last verse is about MLK.
Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

On a related note, is this video from Fr. Robert Barron:

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Part Does God Play In Morality?

Can someone do the right thing without believing in God?
But, how does one ultimately determine what is the right thing?
What is the basis of truth and goodness?
Fr. Barron talks about this and much more.

One of Fr. Barron's best videos.
I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Porn Hurts Others

Using pornography is NOT harmless. In fact, I propose it is one of the most unjust things someone can do to others in our modern culture.

A few facts to start off the investigation of this thesis:
  • 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year. Many more are Americans lured into it.
  • There are MILLIONS of slaves throughout the world today. Some estimate as many as 25 million. Of those trafficked internationally, the largest number is for sex slavery.
  • About 1 million children are sold or recruited into sex labor annually.
  • Approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States.
  • The average victim may be forced to have sex up to 20-48 times a day.
  • One in three teens on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
  • The DOJ reports that human trafficking is the third most profitable criminal enterprise after drugs and arms trafficking.
  • Houston and El Paso are 2 of the leading cities (of the top 20 in the USA) for human trafficking.
At this point many will ask - what has this got to do with porn? I don't go to prostitutes. I have nothing to do with sex slaves....

Well, the connection is simple. There is a high demand for sex from men. Pimps, traffickers, club owners, etc supply this demand with women and children.

These same men who go to prostitutes, strip clubs, brothels, etc. almost all start their sexual exploration with pornography. In other words, every time a man looks at pornography (and the majority of those who consume porn are men), they commercialize sex and objectify women. This fuels a mindset that sex is selfish, on-demand, violent, and denigrating to women. The individual persons in videos, strip clubs, street corners, etc. are then exploited as objects, toys, or trash for the men looking for a sexual high.

With the growth, accessibility and ease of using porn, we have become a culture which has fueled a rapid growth in the sex-trade. Thus, trying to fight against sexual slavery, trafficking, and exploitation, without first working on the demand for these things, will never work. The demand is driven by porn.

Porn might give the illusion it is "harmless fun". But, porn is at the root of sexual exploitation, trafficking, and commercialization of sex. Someone is sexually used to make porn. Every. Time.
Sometimes that person is a slave.

Think of porn as the conduit to sexual exploitation. It conditions the users to objectify sex and become more desensitized to violence and aggression associated with it. Someone is exploited every time porn is made, even if they consent to it. The attitudes and behaviors of discrimination and violence rapidly increase after repeated viewings and the depiction on criminal acts (e.g. rape, murder, etc) are made to seem normal.

The porn industry doesn't want you to know this. Neither does the devil.
They want you to believe there is nothing wrong with porn.
They lie and say it is harmless.
They say there is no connection between porn and social justice.

They are wrong.

Those who are free from these lies need to repeat the fact that sexual exploitation and trafficking begin every time someone looks at porn...

As one article pointed out...
"A few years back, Dr. Mary Layden, a sex abuse expert and psychotherapist at the University of Pennsylvania who has testified before the U.S. Senate on the dangers of online porn, addressed a forum on sex trafficking at Parliament House in Sydney.

In an article titled, “Online porn addiction turns our kids into victims and predators,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported Layden as saying to the forum that in her 20 years of experience treating sexual violence victims and perpetrators in the U.S., “I didn’t have one case of sexual violence that didn’t involve pornography.”"
*According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, prolonged exposure to pornography leads to:
  • An exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society
  • Diminished trust between intimate couples
  • The abandonment of the hope of sexual monogamy
  • Belief that promiscuity is the natural state
  • Belief that abstinence and sexual inactivity are unhealthy
  • Cynicism about love or the need for affection between sexual partners
  • Belief that marriage is sexually confining
  • Lack of attraction to family and child-raising
*According to sociologist Jill Manning, the research indicates pornography consumption is associated with the following six trends, among others:
  • Increased marital distress, and risk of separation and divorce
  • Decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction
  • Infidelity
  • Increased appetite for more graphic types of pornography and sexual activity associated with abusive, illegal or unsafe practices
  • Devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child rearing
  • An increasing number of people struggling with compulsive and addictive sexual behavior
*The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (divorce lawyers) reported that the most salient factors present in divorce cases are as follows:
  • 68% of the divorces involved one party meeting a new lover over the Internet.
  • 56% involved one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”
  • 47% involved spending excessive time on the computer.
  • 33% involved excessive time spent speaking in chat rooms.
Porn isn't just a private issue. It is exploitation of others in every way possible.  
It is a social problem (see the problems in marriages).
It is a religious problem (see the problems in churches).
It is a mental problem (addictive)
It is a family problem (destroys marriages)

Porn is evil.

What are you going to do about it?


**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
**If You Aren't Convinced Porn Is Destroying Our Culture - Read This!

The Stats on Internet Pornography

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Homeless and In Need Of Healthcare

Most of us will never have to ask what we would do if we found ourselves homeless and in dire need of healthcare. I know I seem to take for granted the roof over my head and the access to healthcare I have. But, there are millions around the world and thousands in our country who don't have either.

One doctor decided he would do something about this problem. He took a $50,000 startup grant from the Sisters of Mercy and started Operation Safety Net. Below is more of his story:
In 1992, Dr. Jim Withers, an internal medicine physician, began providing medical care to Pittsburgh’s unsheltered homeless population. He partnered with street-savvy formerly homeless individuals and, initially dressing as a homeless person, began to make nighttime street rounds in the alleys and under the bridges of the city. From this initial outreach service other clinical volunteers joined in and Operation Safety Net was born. Today, Operation Safety Net is recognized as one of nation’s first, targeted, full-time street medicine programs. It continues to set the standard for this unique form of health care.

The people we serve have taught us how to best address their needs in the context of their real lives. By developing trust and fostering deep, personal connection with the individuals we serve, we are able to partner with them to find solutions.
But, watching these videos really will put it in perspective for you better:

Dr. Withers decided just helping the local homeless wasn't enough:
At the core, he sought to base his work on the streets (“Street Medicine”) on a deep philosophical basis that would meet people in their own reality. Much of health care is based on the model of making people come to the medicine. It forces people to fit into the boxes designed for the comfort of practitioners. But, this system excludes those who cannot come to systems, those that usually need it most.

Street medicine has become a global movement. Since Dr. Wither first connected with Dr. Jack Preger in Calcutta in 1993, a network of over 80 communities practicing street medicine has emerged. It is essential that these communities support each other. These practitioners are largely “homeless” themselves in the medical community. Not only is the practice not recognized, but the values they hold that prioritize the value of the most vulnerable are also not embraced by main stream health care.

As Dr. Withers traveled to communities throughout the US and other countries, he sensed a burning desire among Street Medicine practitioners to link together for insight and encouragement. To that end, he and others created the annual International Street Medicine Symposium in 2005. Since that time, seven highly successful symposia have been held and the next is planned for September 2012. These have begun to build the kind of unity that is needed to validate street medicine as an actual field of medicine.

In 2008, Dr. Withers and other dedicated Street Medicine practitioners officially launched the Street Medicine Institute. This Street Medicine Institute is now the “home” of street medicine and will serve the following four key purposes:
  • To assist communities seeking to establish their own street medicine programs.
  • To define and improve the practice of street medicine
  • To host the annual International Street Medicine Symposium
  • To provide educational opportunities (such as the Street Medicine Fellowship)
The essence of street medicine is the Golden Rule – doing unto others as we would have others do to us if we were in their shoes. This requires us to believe others are worthy enough to deserve our compassion … and we are ultimately connected as brothers and sisters.
Some might ask - why? Why would this Doctor do what he is doing? This article might best answer that question:
As a child, Withers accompanied his mother, June, a nurse who made home visits and volunteered her time delivering Meals on Wheels. He also joined his late father, Dr. Donald Withers, who made house calls in their hometown near York, Pa. He says he found the example set by his parents to be “inspirational even before I had any medical knowledge.” The patients, he goes on to explain, “obviously loved my dad. It was very human. They were very comfortable with each other. It still sticks with me.”

Withers’s undergraduate experience at Haverford College, a small, elite liberal-arts school with Quaker roots and a tradition of social activism, reinforced the values he gained from tagging along with his father on rounds.

As soft-spoken and gentle a man as Withers is, he’s still taking a stand today, a stand against indifference, intolerance and the attitude that, in medicine: “It’s all about me, and you as the patient need to come to me on my terms.” The point of practicing street medicine, he says, is the opposite: “I’ll honor who you are and come to you.”

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Numbers in the Book of Revelation

Q - In the book of Revelation – why is the number 7 important?
And 1/3 (not the number 3, but specifically 1/3)?

A - Thanks for the questions!
In the time before Jesus there was a popular kind of Jewish writing called Apocalyptic writing (AW). This writing had several characteristics including:
  • It dealt with the subject of the last age of the world when good triumphs over evil
  • It made much use of symbolism taken from the animal kingdom, astrology, numbers, etc.
The OT book of Daniel influenced much of this writing. These kind of writings also resembled some of the styles used in the OT prophetic books like Isaiah and Zechariah. But, there are differences with the prophetic books, they include:
  • AW doesn't use an author's name, but one of a celebrated persona
  • AW conceives of this world as being of Satan and incapable of regeneration. Therefore the most that man can hope for is a new world that he can pray for.
  • AW has determinism.That is, that there is very little room for personal freedom or conversion.What is, is.
Therefore, Revelation is NOT Apocalyptic writing, like some call it, but rather a work of prophecy. The only one in the NT. Prophecy is not always a telling the future, but rather giving a message of God to a people. This is the purpose of the Book of Revelation and it includes language that tells us about the future in part.

As for numbers in Revelation:
The number 7 - This number reflects perfection because God created the world in six days, then rested on the seventh. So, when used in Revelation it signifies such as this example (one of many):
Rev 1:12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw golden lampstands.
The lampstands represent seven Churches - thus the perfection of the Church is illuminated here.

The number 1/3 - represents God's mercy. Usually when used the fraction has to do with punishment that God is raining on the earth. For example:
a third of the creatures living in the sea died, and a third of the ships were wrecked. - rev 8:9
So, even when the punishment comes, there is still mercy - God doesn't destroy all.

There are many other symbols in the book of Revelation, which is why I recommend a good commentary, such as the Navarre Bible of the Ignatius Study Bible. We have both in St. Mary's library.

I hope this helps.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Incompetent Idiot Who Is The Modern Emasculated Man

Emasculate - "To deprive of strength or vigor; weaken." adjective

Have you seen the average man in a movie, commercial, or TV show recently? They are bumbling idiots who can't put a rational thought together, much less handle a relationship, take on responsibility, or think about anything but sex, sports, pleasure, and money.

This is especially amplified when we talk about fathers. The average father is inept and pitiful. His children loathe him and his wife can barely tolerate him. The "stupid dad" commercial is everywhere. Here is a taste of what I am talking about.

Dad is an idiot:

Men lie for football/pizza and are idiots just the same:

Dad is a complete and utter idiot:

Now, think of some of the portrayals of fathers in TV shows, who did only one thing right his whole life, which was marry a woman better looking than he is - Al Bundy, Homer Simpson, and just about every father from a family-based sitcom (with a few exceptions such as the Cosby Show).

But, the incompetent husband and father figure is frequently shown as other areas such as comic strips, animated TV shows, movies (esp. comedy), etc.

It is sexist, but most people in our society have become so numb and comfortable with these portrayals of men, that they don't even think it is sexist. Well, what is mothers and wives were the ones portrayed in this manner? How would we feel then? If it is unacceptable for women, then why is it acceptable for men?

As a father and a husband I think it is a shame. We need to be supporting fathers, not tearing them down. Especially in a culture that is falling apart, with a large part of the blame on men who aren't acting like men (think of the deadbeat dad, the husband who runs away with another woman, the men who abdicate their responsibilities to their families, etc.).

Part of the problem is that men are now conditioned to live in a state of permanent adolescence. They are not raised, coached, mentored, and taught to be men. They are just "guys". Women don't want to marry a "guy" then want a man.
This problem is highlighted in two articles below:
  1. Where Have the Good Men Gone? - The Wall Street Journal. A snip:
    Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. This "pre-adulthood" has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it's time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn't bring out the best in men.
  2. What Porn Does To A Relationship:
    What I would like for everyone to see is the devastating change brought to the marriage from pornography, from a woman's viewpoint:
    Not only was I shocked when he told me, I was also hurt, confused, scared, betrayed and angry. I felt like my world had just been turned upside down; my safety and security were crumbling away. His confession was overwhelming.

    Within minutes, the foundation of our marriage was shaken. The trust we had built was destroyed. I no longer felt safe or loved. I was suddenly bombarded with lies—he doesn't find me attractive; it's my fault he strayed; I'm not beautiful; I'm not sexy; I am a horrible wife; I'm a failure; he is stuck with me; he doesn't love me ... these seemed to instantly go from ridiculous to quite possibly true.
Both of these things emasculate men.

The idea of the full-grown man living as an adolescent guy, who is only out for himself, isn't masculinity but a betrayal of what a man is supposed to be.

Porn twists a man into believing that he is masculine by conquering women for his sexual gratification. It isn't being manly at all.

Catholic men and women need to stand up to this corruption of masculinity. To be a real man is just what I posted a while back - it is to respect, protect, love, and serve.

We must live this true calling of being a man out, model it for others, teach it to our children, and challenge others to live it out. We cannot sit back and allow the culture which portrays us as pleasure-seeking, bumbling, incompetent fools do it for us. They see men, fathers, and husbands like this:

Friday, January 10, 2014

10 Things God Will Never Ask You

10 Things God Will Never Ask You

  1. What do you do for a living?  But, He might ask:
    Who are you?
  2. How much money do you make?  But, He might ask:
    Who else did you help with the resources I gave you?
  3. How many friends do you have on Facebook?  But, He might ask:
    How many people did you help come to know me?
  4. Do you think you are attractive?  But, He might ask:
    Don't you realize the beauty I built within you outshines whatever you look like?
  5. What took you so long to seek me?  But, He might ask:
    Do you know how happy I am that you are here with me?
  6. How respected are you by others? Do others like you?  But, He might ask:
    Were you ever ashamed of me before others?
  7. Did you get your way?  But, He might ask:
    Did you live my way?
  8. Will you do something you are incapable of achieving?  But, He might ask:
    Will you live out the calling I give you no matter the cost?
  9. Will you carry the burden of your sins?  But, He might ask:
    Will you allow me to carry the burden of your sins?
  10. Will you please save your self?  But, He might ask:
    Will you say yes to my grace and allow me to save you?

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Culture That Values Consequence-Free Sex Over Basic Human Rights Is A Sick Culture

President Obama's Administration has decided that the "right" to free contraception is more important than the 1st Amendment Right of the freedom of religion. In fact, contraception is so sacrosanct, it is fighting the Little Sisters of the Poor, in the Supreme Court - in order to force the nuns to pay for contraception!

The Little Sisters of the Poor run nursing homes for the elderly poor around the world. The Administration wants them to sign a form (which amounts to what one judge called "a permission slip") authorizing the Sisters' Insurance company to provide the coverage for them. The Sisters argue signing the form will give credence to the contraceptive mandate and violate their consciences. They refused and then filed suit. Now they have to continue the fight in the Supreme Court. Absurd.

The Administration says the Nuns aren't religious enough to be exempt from providing contraception. In other words, the government wants to define who is religious and who isn't, by the kind of work they do for others and who they employ in doing that work. Even more absurd.

There are many Catholics who use contraception and don't see the big deal about this. They (and others) forget several things:
  1. This is an issue about a basic human right - religious freedom vs a made up "right" that nobody has. Nobody is saying you can't have contraception. Rather, the Church is asking to leave us out of it all together. But, the government doesn't want to allow that.
  2. Sex without an openness to life, is by definition sterile and about pleasure. But, God made sex about so much more.
  3. If it really is about health issues or "women's rights," then why not provide free heart screenings, workout equipment, cholesterol medicine? Pregnancy is not a disease and fertility is not a disability.
  4. There are many chemical abortions caused by these drugs.
  5. Once contraception is seen as a "right", parental authority will be undermined, as it is already in many places regarding sexuality.
This is a short list of reasons the HHS Mandate and free contraception are bad ideas. Insurance has never paid for other things we need much more - toothpaste, medicines that heal, etc. Why should it pay for contraception? Because the point of life is consequence-free sex, according to our modern culture. A culture which is literally contracepting itself to death.

BTW - Did I mention there is a basic form of keeping a women from becoming pregnant that has always been free? Probably not. That kind of statement is for a society that believes we are made for a higher purpose, that sex means something important, and that pleasure isn't the highest good.