Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Aggie Catholic Who Died Recently Wants You To Know Something

I got an email from John, a former student, recently.
It read:
Danny Manthei died on August 10 of colon cancer. He was 41, and left behind a young wife and four children, ages 6, 4, 2, and 9 months.

A few days before he died, he recorded a series of videos about why he loves being Catholic. He talks about his drifting away from the faith as a college student, and about how St. Mary's helped him come back.

Danny deeply wanted to inspire others to love their faith. I thought you might want to post one or more of these videos to the St. Mary's blog.

P.S. The Friday 5:30 pm Mass and Sunday 10:00 am Mass at St. Mary's will be offered for him this week.
Thanks John! You are correct, I do want others to know about Danny's message.

Other videos from Danny can be found here.
Please join us in praying for Danny's soul and his family.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Is There Really a Universal Moral Law???

The basics of any morality is "do good, avoid evil". But, if we change the definition of "good", then we can't help but act in a way which isn't truly good. So, the problems we see are really found in a morality which comes from an individuals' faulty determination of what is "good" (i.e. relativism).

Goodness must transcend us, if it is to have a moral obligation on us all. C.S. Lewis explains it well and I believe you will truly learn something if you watch the video below.
"The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

10 Defective Images of God

When I was a child, I had a very child-like image of God, which came with both positives and negatives.

I remember thinking of God as a wise old man, with a long white beard. He sat on clouds and looked quite sour most of the time. He was a judge who saw everything I did and waited for me to do wrong. When I sinned, He would get me back - one way or another. It was like a childhood idea of karma tha I had projected upon God.

On the other hand, God also forgave anything I asked Him to. He had all the answers and was all-powerful. This gave me some peace and comfort.

Once I took on an adult faith, I had to deal with other defective images of God I had taken on through the years. These faulty images have implications in how I act, how I see others, how I view the world, etc.

The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis once wrote:
"There are three images in my mind which I must continually forsake and replace by better ones: the false image of God, the false image of my neighbours, and the false image of myself."
All of us must deal, at some point or another, with our disordered views of God. Below are a few of the most common and the problems they may present.

10 Defective Images of God

1 - The Multiple Personality God - God is the same for all religions and beliefs. He/She/It takes on different forms, but is the same. So, it really doesn't matter if you are a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Pagan, an atheist, or a Christian. We all worship the same God, just in different ways and all of them are equally valid.

2 - The Divine Yet Disconnected Watchmaker. This view of God is Deistic (God is creator of the universe, but not involved in it personally anymore), but it is more common than you might think. Less than 50% of Catholics believe in a "personal God"! If God does not care about each of us individually, then the implications are enormous - What does faith matter? How ought I act? Who am I?

3 - The All-Powerful Cop. This understanding of God tends to see Him as a cop, hiding behind a cloud, waiting to pull us over and give us a ticket for our bad behavior. It is the same understanding I had as a child - that God merely cared about what we did wrong. If God loves us, we are more than our sins! This image of God is based in guilt, not mercy. Many folks who struggle with self-image and guilt will have to overcome this idea of God.

4 - The Non-Judgmental Drinking Buddy. If we see God as someone who really doesn't care how we act, then our actions don't matter at all. He is then reduced to a drinking buddy, who doesn't really want what is best for us or care to challenge us to live a great life - rather He just wants us to "feel" good about everything (even sinful & unhealthy ones) we do and ultimately he is an enabler, not God. This God is irrelevant in our daily lives.

5 - The Teddy Bear God. Sometimes we limit God to a nice easy list of concepts we can understand and therefore deal with. It may be that God is powerful - but not ALL-powerful. God might be merciful - but not mercy itself! This comforts many people, because then God is "safer" for them to deal with. These limitations on God are actually limitations on our understanding of God, not on the nature of God Himself. This would make God powerless to change us and one who never "judges" us.
6 - The Me, Myself, and I God. We project God into an image of what we want him to be. In other words, instead of humanity being made in the "image and likeness" of God, we make God into our own image and likeness. This means we can make a God who thinks, acts, and lives just like we would like him to. This kind of God is neutered, even if personal in som way.

7 - The Uncle Joe God. This kind of God is handed down to us from ages past. We follow him because our parents, grandparents, and anscestors did. Far from being a God who we know personally, He is like our long-lost Uncle Joe who is disconnected from the present, but we have fond memories of from our childhood.

8 - The Puppeteer God. This image of God is one who controls the actions of everything and makes no sense in how he orchestrates things. He lets natural disasters happen, lets kids die, gives us cancer, etc. Yet we are never able to figure out the reasons for it all. This God is cruel and doesn't relate to our human suffering.

9 - The Party-Pooper God. God is merely out to suck fun out of your life. You can't do what you want, you can't have fun, you can't... Rather, you have to just follow a strict list of rules. If you don't, then God is goingo to see you singing, having fun, etc and come take away all your goodies - just like the Grinch did to Whoville.

10 - The Cosmic Vending Machine In The Sky. Many people believe God is merely there to serve their needs. As long as the put in their good deeds, prayers, etc. they can "pay" God to do their bidding. This isn't the way a relationship works. If we see prayer and our relationship with God as a mere service in exchange for a payment, we have a vending machine (or a butler) in the sky - not a living God who may not answer our prayers just as we want. Furthermore, we aren't able to do enough to save ourselves. It is only through God's grace that we attain salvation.


These are only 10 of the many ways we can misunderstand God's nature. The way we fix these problems (and others) is by continued conversion in faith, that is, we constantly seek to allow God to reveal Himself to us, through:
  • Sacred Scripture
  • prayer
  • The Sacraments
  • other people
  • nature
  • etc.
To be attentive to how God speaks to us and reveals Himself to us, we have to make ourselves available to Him and once we receive such grace, we must allow our minds and hearts to be transformed. Thus, we have to choose to act on His grace. In this, our hearts can be attuned to understand Him more deeply. Which is why the discovery of God's nature is a never-ending task, even in heaven.

Yet, these revelations of God to our hearts can transform us deeply, just as when God revealed Himself to St. Augustine:
“Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved thee. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast with me, but I was not with thee. These things kept me far from thee; even though they were not at all unless they were in thee. Thou didst call and cry aloud, and didst force open my deafness. Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my blindness. Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for thee. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace.” -St. Augustine

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

3 Myths About Catholics and The Bible

Many non-Catholic Christians still hold the common misconception that Catholics are discouraged from reading the Bible. Below is some background and more.

3 Myths About Catholics and The Bible

The first thing we need to do is shed ourselves of our preconceived ideas. We take for granted now that anyone can have a Bible if they want one. Yet not only has this not been the case through most of Christian history, but it isn't the case in many parts of the world still today (North Korea, Middle Eastern countries, etc). Remember that a majority of people during Christian history couldn't read well, if at all. Most didn't have access until books, even after the printing press, because of the high costs.

With all of this background, we can see that throughout most of the 2,000 years of history of Christianity, Bibles were not an everyday possession of most common people. So, the way they learned about the Bible was through other means - Mass, fine art (think stained glass windows, murals, paintings, music, etc), stories, and oral tradition. With this being said there are a number of "myths" surrounding the Catholic Church and the Bible. Here are 3 of them:

1 - The Catholic Church chained Bibles to keep the from the people.
-more accurately, they were chained because they were so valuable and a church might have only one copy. For most of the Church's history the Bible was transcribed by hand (many by monks) and they were very expensive. This was not to keep Bibles from the people but rather to keep them from being stolen.

2 - The Catholic Church discourages personal Bible reading because they know that if you read the Bible for yourself you will find the truth behind their lies.
-This one sounds silly, but many believe it to be true. The problem is that the Catholic Church has always maintained that Scripture is indispensable to a Christian. In fact, the Church even compiled the canon of the Bible.

3 - The Catholic Church banned early translations of the Bible because they didn't want common people to read it and know the truth.
-Rather, the Church banned early translations because they were done "unofficially" and without proper Church oversight. Most contained errors and the Church banned them because they were bad translations - just as the Jehovah's Witnesses have a bad translation today, filled with many errors, some of the deliberate (if only we were protected from some of the bad translations we have today).

There are many more myths, but what happened is that they worked there way into the consciousness of many people, even today.

Another factor in perpetuating the myth is the confusion that ensued after Vatican II in the 60's. If you want to read about some of that, you can in previous posts I have made here and here. Suffice it to say that many problems in the Church were amplified after Vatican II, including Biblical teaching.

So, are Catholics discouraged from reading the Bible? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
In fact, here are a few pertinent quotes from through the ages about the Bible:
"Flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's Scriptures."
-Irenaeus, 2nd Cent.

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ"
-St. Jerome, 5th Cent.

"The church of believers is great, and its bosom most ample; it embraces the fullness of the two Testaments."
-Ephraem, 4th Cent.

"If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."
-St. Augustine, 4th Cent.

"Holy Scripture is a stream in which the elephant may swim and the lamb may wade."
-Pope St. Gregory, 6th Cent.

"Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful."
-Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 20th Cent.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

10 Things To Know About Marian Apparitions

10 Things To Know About Marian Apparitions

10 - A Marian apparition = when Mary is reportedly appearing to a person (or several people) in order to give a supernatural message from God. Generally, the apparitions are given names based on the location of the appearances (e.g. Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal)

9 - No person is required to believe in any Marian apparitions. They are considered "private revelations", even if approved by the Church as authentic. We are only bound to believe in public revelation that came from Jesus Christ and has been passed down to us through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition - preserved by the Magisterium of the Church.

8 - Catholics are still free to believe in Marian apparitions, even though not required to. The Church may decide that an apparition is worthy of belief, but whether an individual truly does so or not, is left up to the individual.

7 - An authentic Marian apparition will never add or detract anything from the deposit of faith. Part of how an apparition is judged to be authentic or not is dependent on the content of the reported teaching - does it maintain orthodoxy with the teaching handed down from the Apostles?

6 - Generally speaking it takes many years for the Church to make a decision on an authentic apparition. Many non-authentic apparitions are easier to spot, but the Church sees no rush to approve any apparition. The process normally starts at the Diocesan level and may never even make it to the Vatican.

5 - Millions of pilgrims visit apparition sites annually. The most visited site is Guadalupe, which receives over 10 million visits a year. Lourdes and Fatima are the next most-visited.

4 - Stoking the fires of devotion to a non-approved apparition might not be a prudent thing to do. Many good Catholics have a devotion to non-approved apparitions. There is a chance they might not be approved after the investigation is complete. If that happens, there are few good outcomes for the devotees. Some may believe either they believe the Church's decision is wrong or their faith in the apparition isn't valid.

3 - The purposes of apparitions is to enliven faith, for the purpose of conversion, and to give a needed message to God's people. Mary is the great facilitator for the one mediator (her son).

2 - False reports of apparitions can be for a number of reasons. They might be because of hoaxes, a mentally-ill person, or someone might fool themselves into believing they are truly seeing/hearing something they are not.

1 - Devotion to Marian apparitions may help strengthen your faith. Millions of people have come to a deeper love of Christ through devotion to his Blessed Mother's appearances around the world. They are great signs of God's loving care for his people and can emphasize a point of faith the world needs to hear at this time.


**Why do Catholics Pray To Saints?
**Can The Saints Hear Us?
**What is The Immaculate Conception?

Monday, September 22, 2014

8 Dos and Don’ts When Reading the Bible

We live in a world of dos and don’ts. We use them every day: Do brush your teeth. Don’t drive too fast. They seem to impact our lives from minute to minute. Our consciences, our faith, and our knowledge of the world help us manage all the dos and don’ts we encounter. This goes for our relationship with God as well. When reading and applying the Bible to our daily lives, a few simple dos and don’ts will help us bring the Bible more clearly into our daily lives.
8 Dos and Don’ts When Reading the Bible

1 - DO: Read the Bible frequently, daily if possible. DON'T: Let your Bible go unread today.
–This one is simple in principle and difficult in practice for many of us. An analogy may help. The Bible is commonly referred to as a love letter from God to his people, the church. But, what good is a love letter when it is rarely opened, read with anticipation, and absorbed into one’s heart and mind? We, as members of the church, as God’s beloved, should relish the opportunity to read God’s love letter one more time.

2 - DO: Focus on the big-picture of the Bible. DON'T: Get caught up in too many details.
–There is no doubt that some details are important. But, they can become distractions when we fail to see the bigger story of God coming to us. When we are able to zoom out and see the big picture of the Bible, we can really see God wooing his people and the love story within Scripture.

3 - DO: Read the Bible expecting to encounter God. DON'T: Read the Bible to prove someone wrong.
–Reading the Bible is an opportunity to commune with God, who made us. It is a chance to find out about who we are made to be and to learn about the one who made us. It is not supposed to be a book of arguments that can be used against someone with whom we disagree. I know from first-hand experience the turmoil that can occur when we use the Bible as a weapon in an argument.

4 - DO: Read the Bible slowly and prayerfully. DON'T: Read the Bible for dos and don’ts.
–The Bible is not just a book of what we are to do and not do. It is a book about a relationship that God forms with each of us and His pursuit and forgiveness of us. So do read the Bible slowly and prayerfully seek to understand God’s word and live it in your everyday life.

5 - DO: Stop reading when you are struck by a word or phrase. DON'T: Chug right through until you reach the end.
–The first to reach the end of the next chapter doesn’t get a gold medal. If something affects you when reading Scripture, then stop and reflect on why it moved you. Don't think of reading the Bible as a project to get completed.

6 - DO: Use good solid Bible commentaries. DON'T: Neglect reading the text of the Bible in favor of them.
–The point of using commentaries is to supplement one’s reading of the Bible, not to take the place of it. While a good commentary can certianly help you have a deeper understanding of the Bible, head knowledge isn't the goal - loving Jesus more is.

7 - DO: Get a good Bible. DON'T: Get caught up in which translation is best.
–One of the more common questions Catholics ask is “which translation is best?For most people, the best translation of the Bible is the one you read. However, there are different translations to explore, if that is your choice, with a range of choices. If you want a specific recommendation, I would recommend the RSV-Catholic Edition, and even more specific - the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (although only the Old Testament isn't completed yet).

8 - DO: Make changes in your life when challenged by Scripture. DON'T: Put the changes off for another time.
–Christ is the Great Doctor. Christ’s grace is the medicine He offers us. One avenue of receiving that grace is through reading and applying Scripture to our lives. If we fail to apply it, then it is as if we went to the doctor and were diagnosed with a disease (realized our need for God’s grace); were given a prescription and bought it (read the Bible); but then never took the medicine that could make us healthy again (failed to apply the Bible to our lives).


The Bible is a great gift from God to His people. May all of us take the time to unwrap the gift and share it with others by living it out.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Burying A Treasure: Entitlement

Reading the parable of talents, I was hit between the eyes with this sentence:
"But the man who received one (talent) went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money."
A talent is a coin worth about 17 years worth of wages. In today's modern income, this would be equivalent of about $750,000 today. This is no small amount of money. The point of the story is there is a great wealth we have been given and digging holes to bury God's gifts can get us in serious trouble.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who doesn't want to hear the Master of the Universe tell us:
'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.' -Matt 25:21
Fr. Barron comments on this parable from a somewhat different viewpoint:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

35 Saints' Names Rarely Picked for Confirmation

I want video of the Bishop saying these names as they Confirm someone.

NOTE: In making this list, I do not intend to ridicule the Saints or those they intercede for. Rather, the list is made in fun. We Christians need to be able to laugh at ourselves. As G.K. Chesteron told us,
"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly"
No names are made up.
35 Saints Names Rarely Picked for Confirmation

35 - Saint Abban of Magheranoidhe
-My tongue hurts from trying to pronounce Mag2#*yudrand.

34 - Blessed Rudolph Aquaviva
-Isn't a bottled water named after him? No that was Saint Flavian of Acquapendente.

33 - Saint Exuperance
-She was very enthusiastic.

32 - Saint Fabius Claudius Gordianus Fulgentius
-I wonder if his parents spoke Latin?

31 - Saint Zynovij Kovalyk
-The last Saint in the alphabet and one of the hardest to pronounce.

30 - Saint Gall
-He was brazenly bold.

29 - Saint Aceptismas
-He accepts the Mass.

28 - Saint Lancelot.
-No. Not THAT Lancelot.

27 - Saint Vimin of Holywood
-Holywood not Hollywood. Big difference.

26 - Saint Austin (AKA - St. Augustine of Canterbury)
-When will there be a St. College Station?

25 - Saint Artaxus of Syrmium
-Any Saint name that sounds like "tax us" probably isn't going to be awfully popular.

24 - Saint Christina the Astonishing
-Sounds more like a master of illusion show.

23 - Saint Januarius
-Followed by Februarius, then Marcharius, etc.

22 - Saint Alphege the Bald
-I like this guy.

21 - Saint Mamas
-One of a kind. This is the only Mamas that is not a woman.

20 - Saint Bairfhion
-Huh huh. He said "barf".

19 - Saint Teath
-Patron against cavities?

18 - Saint Tron
-The video game was better than the movie.

17 - Saint Kenny
-Only his mother called him "Kenneth"

16 - Saint John the Great Sinner
-I can relate to this Saint...

15 - Saint Conon
-That was close. I thought it was "Conan".

14 - Saint Bru
-Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "What's up Bru?"

13 - Saint Olive of Palermo
-Her mother was a Kalamata.

12 - Saint Vicelin, Apostle of Holstein
-Is this the patron of fresh milk?

11 - Saint Dora
-She discipled Boots and evangelized Swiper.

10 - Saint Rollox
-Always on time.

9 - Saint Nabor
-Nothing is known about Nabor. Of course, most don't know their neighbor.

8 - Saint Gwynnin
-Can I buy a vowel?

7 - Blessed Andrea Carlo Ferrari
-His once vice was driving very fast in fancy cars.

6 - Saint Olav the Thick
-Just don't call him that.

5 - Our Lady of Knock
-Who's there?

4 - Saint Pancratius
-I got over it with some strong antibiotics.

3 - Saint Peter Chanel
-Always smelled good.

2 - Saint Guy
-Patron of dudes?

1 - Saint Chillen of Aubigny
-Ah yeah. Chillin' with Chillen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

10 Reasons The Catholic Church Should NOT Sell Her "Riches" And Give Money To The Poor

There are many who ask - why doesn't the Catholic Church sell all her paintings, buildings, expensive decorations, etc. and give them to the poor (and it is a good question to ask). The answers below.

10 Reasons The Catholic Church Should NOT Sell Her "Riches" And Give Money To The Poor
  1. The Catholic Church is not as "rich" as some might think. Most of her "riches" are tied up in assets that were given as gifts. More on this below. 
  2. What happens after all the money is gone? Then where does that get us? The poor are still poor and now the Church's art, buildings, etc. are in the hands of those that might not appreciate them or steward them as well as the Church. 
  3. The "Church" isn't just the hierarchy, it is all of us. The art, buildings, and even money is controlled by certain people, but belongs to all of us. The Pope and/or Bishops can't just sell everything off because they think it is a good idea. 
  4. The People of God have provided the Church with the riches she has. Therefore the people have a right to be able to have the intent of their donations honored. If I gave the Vatican a priceless work of art to preserve and they sold it to the highest bidder, I would be royally miffed. 
  5. Has anyone asked the poor if they want cash for Church assets? If I were poor and gave my widow's mite to build a church and then you went and sold it without asking me I might just go apoplectic. Ask a poor & pious Catholic the next time you get the chance. 
  6. The Catholic Church does more to aid the poor than any other private organization already. This points to and inconvenient fact. Many who make this argument aren't arguing for the poor, but against the Catholic Church. Remember that many religious brothers, sisters, and priests take a vow of poverty and renounce everything for God. 
  7. The issue of poverty isn't about an amount of money (there is plenty to go around), but about personal greed, corruption, injustice, governmental problems, economic systems, etc. 
  8. The greatest need is spiritual poverty - not material poverty. Thus, the Church should use the gifts she has been given to erase this poverty first. 
  9. Worship of God is the first justice issue. We owe God our worship before we owe any other human anything. Thus, if art, buildings, gold vessels, etc. can aid us to worship God, then we are fulfilling the requirements of justice. 
  10. The total Vatican budget is less than $400 million. Most large universities have this budget several times over. The Church's wealth wouldn't do much more for the poor. 
As you can probably see, the argument is quite simply answered by the following quote from Jesus:
"The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me." -Matt 26:11 
The purpose of serving the poor is to show your love of both God and man. What better way of showing love to both God and man, but by loving both in the person of Jesus Christ?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

10 Reasons Why Being Catholic Rocks

10 Reasons Why Being Catholic Rocks

  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. We don't just settle for whatever our government and leaders are selling, when it is counter to the teachings of Jesus.
  2. Counter-cultural rebels. Who else is can be found protesting outside an abortion clinic, evangelizing those who don't know Jesus, praying in an adoration chapel, listening to a theology presentation in a bar, praying a rosary in public, 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 even laugh at ourselves.
  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 than 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 what is good, true, and beautiful. All three matter. Most modern education question if there really is goodness, truth, and beauty. We say "duh".
  8. We take the Devil seriously. Otherwise exorcism, confession, and crucifixes wouldn't make cool movies. The devil is real and is truly our enemy. We help him bite the dust.
  9. Leaders that lead. Francis anyone? Benedict? JPII? Going a little further back we get the martyrs, Saints, etc. Christ is known around the world because of these leaders.
  10. Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. All we do is centered on Him - the one who laid down His life so that we might live. He makes it perfectly good.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mass Etiquette: 20 Things To Do And Not Do In Mass

Mass Etiquette: 20 Things To Do And Not Do In Mass
  1. Fast before Mass. It is Church law that one fasts for at least 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion. Water and medicine can be consumed, of course. The purpose is to help us prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. 
  2. No Food and Drink in Church. The exceptions would be a drink for small children, water for the priest or choir (if discreet) and water for those who are ill. Bringing a snack into church is not appropriate, because we want to set the church apart as a place of prayer and reflection.
  3. Men take your hats off. It is impolite to wear a hat into a church for a man. While this is a cultural norm, it is one that we ought to follow closely. Just as we take off hats for the Pledge of Allegiance, we do so in church too; as a sign of respect.
  4. Don't chew gum in church. It breaks your fast, it’s distracting, it is consider impolite in a formal setting, and it doesn't help us pray better. Can you imagine the Pope popping gum in during Mass?
  5. Cross yourself with Holy Water on entering and leaving the church. This is a reminder of our Baptism, which made us members of Christ's Church. Just try to remain mindful of what is happening when you do so and don't do it without saying a prayer.
  6. Dress modestly and appropriately. Wear your Sunday Best. As Catholics we believe that God comes down to meet us at every Mass. So, why would we not dress up? 
  7. Show up at least a few minutes early. If for some reason you can't be on time, then try to sit in the back so you don't disturb others. Getting to Mass early allows you to pray and prepare yourself better for Mass.
  8. Cell phones should never be used in Mass for calls or texting. The exceptions are emergencies (big ones, not everyday ones) and if you do use one, please walk out of church to do so. Also, if you are using the phone for readings or prayers, this is appropriate, but try to be discreet.
  9. Don't sit on the edge of the pew if you sit down before others. Rather, sit in the middle so others don't have to climb over you. Furthermore - Gentlemen offer their seats to a any lady (elderly, disabled, etc) who must stand. Some churches, like ours, get packed. We live in Texas (Howdy!). In Texas men don't sit when a woman is standing. 
  10. When we enter and leave Church, genuflect toward the Tabernacle. Christ is present for our sake. By allowing our right knee to hit the floor, we acknowledge He is our Lord and God. If someone is physically unable to genuflect, then a bow is sufficient. During Mass, if you pass in front of the altar or tabernacle, bow reverently.
  11. Please be quiet while in church. Once you enter the sanctuary - it is not the time or place to visit with those around you. If you must talk do so as quietly and briefly as possible. Remember that your conversation might be disturbing someone who is in prayer, which is much more important. Sssshhhhhhhh.
  12. Take loud children to the back. Every parent knows that sometimes the baby is going to have a bad day. Don't make everyone else's day bad as well. Sit on the end of a pew, if you can, and take the kid to the back quickly. Don't wait too long before you make a move. There is no reason to be embarrassed about having to quiet your child in the back of the church. It is worse to allow them to disturb Mass continually.
  13. Prepare your offering before Mass. Christ tells us not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing when you make your offering. Keeping the basket while you get your wallet out can sometimes become quite a scene. For tips on tithing, check this out.
  14. No bulletin reading during Mass. Imagine if you invited a guest to your house and before dinner (or during) they decided to read a magazine instead of talking to you. That is what is happening in God's house when you read the bulletin.
  15. Respect Boundaries others may have. You might want to hold hands to pray, they may not. They might be sick and not want to shake during the sign of peace. These are all OK. Do not make any unnecessary judgment because they worship differently.
  16. Bow before receiving Holy Communion. If it is God, then show your respect with a bow of the head. This is an ancient practice that has continued until this day.
  17. Do not receive from the chalice if you are sick. This is an act of charity and it is not necessary to receive in order to receive the entirety of Jesus' body, blood, soul, and divinity.
  18. Do not leave early. We should stay to the end of the recession and the hymn that accompanies it, if there is one. While there are certainly exceptions to this guideline, most who leave early don't need to and ought not to.
  19. Pray after Mass, if you feel called to do so. It is a good custom, though not required, to offer a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass is over. 
  20. Leave quietly. We encourage you to visit with others, but once you are outside of the main sanctuary of the church so you won't disturb others who want to stay and pray. So, please leave quietly and then have then visit afterward.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Were Early Christians Socialists?

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need.” (Acts 2:44-45)
Is this passage proof that early Christians were socialists? Many believe that is the case. What we can see from this passage, and from others (as well as historical evidence), that many (though not all) Christians lived in a form of society where belongings are shared with others in their group. But, one thing we must be very careful not to do is to translate the Bible into a political statement. Socialism is a form of governmental policy, not a statement on how Christians should support one another. Notice there was no government enforcing this form of society, it was purely voluntary. So, I would be careful to call it “socialism” at all – which is state-ownership of property and means of production.

The Church has never said that one form of government or economic system is the only one we should support. In fact, it warns against the evils that threaten the common good present in all governmental systems. What it does do is proclaim the truths that all governments and economic systems should adhere to. But, any form of government which is compatible with the common good is allowable.
“Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all. . . . Every human community needs an authority to govern it. . . . Its role is to ensure as far as is possible the common good of the society.” -CCC 1897-1898
The only form of government / economic system the Church has said is incompatible with Christianity is Communism. This is because it does not seek the common good and denies the basic rights of human persons; because Communism is an officially atheistic, totalitarian government, and by definition cannot seek what is good for the human person, who has as the greatest good, the search for God. Pope John Paul II wrote:
“the class struggle in the Marxist sense and militarism have the same root, namely, atheism and contempt for the human person, which place the principle of force above that of reason and law.” -Centisimus Annus, 14
The Catechism states:
“Regimes whose nature is contrary to the natural law, to the public order, and to the fundamental rights of persons cannot achieve the common good of the nations on which they have been imposed.” -CCC 1901
“The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with "communism" or "socialism." She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of "capitalism," individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market."Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.” -CCC 2425
While some forms of socialism, republic, and democracy are valid forms of government, they need to guard against seeing man as a mere means of production or as an end to a means.

One Catholic social justice principle, that is almost unknown by most Catholics, that I think can shed some light on this subject is call subsidiarity. That is, the lower-level organizations should not have their power usurped by higher-level ones. For instance, the family is the original place of education and that authority of the parents to educate their children should not be taken away by a local school district, state, or federal government. Those higher-level organizations need to support and help the lower-level ones, but not supersede their authority.

In the same way we are to support one another and the federal government needs to allow us (and support our efforts to do so) and then if it has to, be a safety net for those that “fall through the cracks”.

Therefore, we cannot see the Bible passage above as promoting socialism. But, it does promote generosity and helping others in whatever ways we need to accomplish that. One way is what is put forward in the passage – giving all we have to be shared with others.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Does Your Life Make Sense?

“You should live your life in such a way that it would make no sense unless God exists.”- Cardinal Souhard
Never be afraid to ask yourself the big questions:
  • Is there truth?
  • Can truth be known?
  • Is truth universal to all?
  • Does God exist?
  • Is the Bible reliable?
  • Is God active in the world?
  • Aren't all religions the same?
  • Who am I?
  • What was I created for?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What is my purpose?
  • How am I to live?
  • What kind of life (vocation) and I called to?
  • Why is there death?
  • Why is there suffering?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why do good things happen?
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • What is love?
  • What happens after someone dies?
  • How do we determine right from wrong?
  • How do I go to heaven?
  • Does God answer prayer?
Are you satisfied with your answers; and maybe even more important a question: are you satisfied with your life or is there something missing? Regardless, don't be afraid of asking big questions, but always be ready for God to provide a big answer.

Never be afraid of the answer to big questions. You were made to ask them, and even more so, you were made to find the answer in a relationship with Jesus.

Fr. Barron hits a home run with this video, while he touches on some of these big questions.
It is a bit philosophical, but worth watching and reflecting on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

20 Steps To A Great Marriage

20 Steps To A Great Marriage
  1. Don't Have Premarital Sex - The statistics show that it means a much higher chance of a successful marriage if you don't ever have premarital sex.
  2. Don't Cohabitate - If you do cohabitate, it doubles your chance of divorcing your spouse! 
  3. Remain Faithful to Your Spouse - Nothing rings the death knell of marriage like cheating on your spouse.
  4. Stay Away From Porn - It is the fastest growing reasons couples divorce today.
  5. Stay Sober and Never Use Drugs - Moderation helps you make better decisions.
  6. Marry For the Right Reasons - You should marry someone because you believe God is calling you to do so and because you love them and they are drawing you closer to God. Marrying someone merely because you have strong emotions about them (which will eventually go away) or because they are good looking (which won't last) isn't the best idea.
  7. Continue to Work on Communication - Communication is a learned skill and one that we are never perfect at. Learn how your spouse wants to communicate with you and work on it together.
  8. Set Boundaries on Work - There is nothing wrong with being rich and successful. But, if acheiving these things costs your family, it isn't worth it.
  9. Learn to be Selfless - Our job is to live for the other people in our house, not just ourselves.
  10. Share a Familly Plan on Money - Money is the number one reason couples argue. It can create additional stress if there is no shared plan or expectation. Talking about money regularly is a must. 
  11. Tithe! - The money is not your own and God lets you keep most of it! For 
  12. Use Natural Family Planning - kids are a gift from God. Couples that use NFP are happier, have better sex-lives, and stay married more than 95% of the time
  13. Talk Positively About Your Spouse - If you always talk positively about your spouse around others, it will spill into how you talk to them as well.
  14. Always Discuss Big Purchases Before Making Them - The next time you want the new model iPhone that costs $600, you should talk about priorities with your spouse first.
  15. Spend More Time With your Spouse than your Friends - Your spouse is your "better-half", so you should learn to enjoy their company more than your friends. Of course you should still spend time with friends, but the proper balance is key.
  16. Let Love Mature - let your love grow and mature into something more than just mere romance or emotions. While neither are bad, they aren't true love, which involves always choosing what is good for the other person, no matter the cost to me.
  17. Go to Church Every Sunday Together and Pray Together Daily - Marriage needs God at the center to truly have the fruit it is intended to.
  18. After Kids - Don't Forget Your Spouse! - Your kids are important and demand a lot of time, but don't neglect your marriage because of them. Give it the attention it deserves!
  19. Marry a Christian - There are certainly marriages that succeed between believers and non-believers, but the least you are doing is putting a strain on a relationship if you marry a non-Christian
  20. Be Open To Growth and Change - Say you are sorry, humble yourself,  make changes when you ought to, and be open to what God wants to do in your life.. 
This list is not exhaustive. If you have an addition, let me know.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What "Judge Not" Means & What It Doesn't Mean

One of the most counter-cultural ways to live right now is to be a faithful Catholic. This means we will not be understood very well, at least by many people. Furthermore, one of the most common phrases you hear in regards to the Catholic Church's teachings (and faithful members) is "judge not". People may use this in different ways and many don't even understand what true judgment is.

Some may think the Catholic Church is merely full of judgmental holier-than-thou people and is incorrect in her teachings. Others believe all truth is relative and you can't tell them they are wrong. Below is an article I wrote years ago on the subject, which may help sort things out on what the Bible says about judging others.
One of the most misunderstood principles of Scripture is judgment. Many conversations have been brought to a screeching halt by the conversation killers of “Judge not” or “who are you to judge me”. Unfortunately the common interpretation of this passage is that we can make no judgment on whether an action is right or wrong. This is not what the Bible is saying, but rather the Bible tells us not to judge the state of another’s soul and therefore their eternal punishment or reward. This kind of judgment is reserved to God alone.

It never fails that when one of the above phrases is uttered, or one like them, the conversation takes a bad turn. This is due to the modern world-view, which is relativistic, meaning that truth is relative to a person or situation. Simply put, many people are offended by the Catholic Church’s teachings about their sin. These sentiments lead to an improper biblical interpretation of judgment.

Don’t Judge Judgment
Judgment is the act of forming an opinion. When we believe an act to be sinful we are judging the act, not the person who performed the act. When we believe someone is going to heaven or hell, we are judging a person’s soul. In Scripture the former judgment is acceptable (and obligatory in some circumstances) but the latter form is never an acceptable form of judgment for individuals to make. As the saying goes “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

Maybe an example can shed some light on the logical fallacy present in many cases of misjudging judgment:
Joe and Carrie are considering co-habitating. Joe is excited and nervous about the situation and is sharing his plan with co-workers. He decides to ask advice and is pleased to find that most are supportive. Sally Catholic decides to tell Joe that she doesn’t agree it is a good thing, because she thinks it is wrong and that such a decision might actually hurt their relationship. Joe tells Sally that the Bible says to “judge not”. The conversation ends, because Sally has no way to respond.

What should Sally do? She must gently inform Joe that his interpretation of the Bible is faulty. This kind of situation is a perfect place to plant seeds. In many cases, the person will not agree with your conclusion at that moment, but that should not be your goal. You should tell the truth and then let the Holy Spirit do what He does best – change hearts.

Misjudging Judgment
This perceived injustice (intolerance, judgment, close-mindedness, etc) is what many in our society – and unfortunately many Catholics as well – believe the Catholic Church and her members are constantly guilty of.But, the reality is that those offended by Catholics making statements of belief are really saying that only they have the authority to determine right or wrong. This is simply moral relativism, which is the false idea that morality is relative to themselves, a situation or time. It is a denial that there is an absolute truth, or if there is, then we cannot know it and we certainly shouldn’t “impose” it on others.

It seems if you profess your belief that an action is sinful or a law unjust, then you are committing an even greater sin, that is, believing something another considers good or even worse, pleasurable, to be sinful. In this view, vice and virtue are indistinguishable from each other and therefore determined by each individual as right or wrong for them. This is why so many object to the authority of the Catholic Church, because she dares to say that moral truth is true for everyone – regardless of one’s opinion about it.

Of course Catholics aren’t the only ones that believe we have the truth. Many Catholics have been told we are going to hell or something even more dramatic, we are pawns of Satan by other Christians. Such things can be a harsh reminder there are Christians who sincerely believe they can determine your final destiny just by your religious affiliation. The error of failing to separate the sin from the sinner is what makes another think we are headed for hell. This is the same error the modernist makes in believing Catholics are being judgmental when we say an act is sinful. They are two sides of the same coin. Both fail to make the proper distinction between sin and sinner. The modernist believes that judging the sin is judging the sinner and the condemning Christian believes that we can judge the sinner by the sin.

Many have the experience of walking down the street in a large city and hearing the shouts of Christians that you will “burn in hell” for your sins.

Judge Not!
So, how then do we balance these two errors? The Bible will offer the solution, of course. Let us start with the favorite of all “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37). To understand what Jesus is saying we must understand the first kind of judgment that we find in the Bible - the ultimate Divine judgment we all will receive when we die. We see this in the Old Testament, including
"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions” (Ezekiel 18:30).
The Old Testament prophets widely spoke of the Divine judgment the Israelites would face if they failed to repent. The prophets leave the Divine judgment of souls for God while speaking the message of repentance. This Divine right to judge our souls’ eternal punishment or reward is echoed by Paul.
“...on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16).
The second kind of judgment we see in the Bible is judging the acts of another person to be good or evil. This kind of judgment must be done in love of others, with prudence, and should be done in order to steer our fellow man to his proper goal, heaven.
Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).
“This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15).
Thus, while we are to avoid the judgment of deciding another’s ultimate fate, sometimes it is necessary and good to direct someone to stop sinning out of love for them. While this isn’t the most politically correct thing to do, Jesus never failed to be politically incorrect when love was at stake. If we truly thirst for the salvation of all men like Jesus did, then in some situations we are obligated to speak the truth about the dangers of another’s sinful actions.

Jesus was also never shy about talking to another about their sin, and taking it a step further, he always told them they should stop. He constantly rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (John the Baptist was even more harsh), and He told the woman caught in adultery in John 8 (as well as others) to “go and sin no more”.  While in this passage He says that He does not judge (condemn) the woman, He does judge that she has sinned. Jesus never tolerated sin, and He was quick to show others their sinful actions were wrong, but He only did it out of love and with compassion. He knew eternity was at stake.

From this quick look at the biblical understanding of judgment and tolerance we can easily understand what Jesus means when he tells us not to judge others.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
This is referring to the ultimate judgment of someone’s soul that is reserved to God alone. If we continue to read, it becomes even clearer how we are supposed to act in these situations.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye” (Luke 6:41-42).
Jesus is saying to rebuke another out of love, with gentleness and kindness, but do not rub their noses in it.

When another person says not to “judge them” it may be that they are saying that you do not have the right to tell them that what they have done is wrong. However, Jesus tells us that as long as we do it out of love and we don’t presume to know their destiny, we can, and sometimes must, help our brothers and sisters see their own sin. If we then get labeled as intolerant hate-mongers or judgmental bigots, we might do just as Jesus did and correct their error. If they still refuse to listen, then we must do what Jesus taught and shake the dust from our sandals and move on.

Paul, who very well could have the greatest thirst for souls of all the apostles, sums it all up for us while writing to Timothy about the balance that must be brought to a Christian who wants to evangelize and preach the truth.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Do I Have a Soulmate?

The truth is there is a soulmate for you, but it may not be who you expect - it is Jesus! God made you for Himself. Our ultimate relationship is with God, not with another human being, even our spouse.

Of course, the romantic vision of having a soulmate, which comes from movies, romance novels, and love stories sells the idea that there is one person in the world, who is made for us. But, this is more an idea from culture, not Christianity. Our one and only soul-mate is God. Does that mean we could marry anybody and have it work out? No. What it means is that God is not a Divine matchmaker who has a plan and that if we don't get the plan just right, we are thwarting His will. We aren't that powerful.

There are a further problems with believing that God made us for one person in the world. The first problem is the question some have about whether the person they are married to, or planning on marrying, is the "one". This can lead to doubt about the relationship, a feeling of never being fulfilled, and ultimately it can lead to serious problems in the relationship. A second problem is the idea that we are destined to be with one other person. This would be a cosmic swipe at the gift of free-will. It is as if we mess up fate if we don't choose the right person or never find them. Ultimately, this idea of a soul-mate is dangerous and un-Christian.

But, there is another, better, way of thinking about having a spouse to partner with. It is found in the understanding of what marriage does to us. While souls are not fused in marriage, spouses do become "one flesh" with each other and our bonded together, through a Sacramental / covenantal relationship, which is sealed by God's grace. This bond lasts until death and nothing can break it. This is the Christian way of understanding a mutual and exclusive relationship.

Furthermore, love is always a choice, it isn't something we fall into and out of. Love is not something that merely "happens" to us. This respect of free-will and the ability of each of us to choose love is more consonant with Christian understanding of relationships. Marriage isn't just about romance and it isn't about fate at all. It is about love, freely chosen, and being bound together (with God) into the union of man and wife. This is for the good of the spouses, the raising of children, and ultimately it is a call from God.

Finally, we have to build on the reality that there is no perfect human relationship. Thus, marriage is more about commitment and work than it is about perfect compatibility. Since there is no perfect person for you, it means you must realize that marriage is about 2 imperfect people choosing to love each other despite their imperfections and growing closer to God and one another through the process of maturing in love.

After bringing up the idea that there is no soulmate out there for us, someone offered the following verse, which seems to counter that there are in fact soulmates. It says:
"Do not be afraid, for she was destined for you from eternity." -Tobit 6:18
The theology depicted in this verse might seem to be saying God has a soulmate for us. But, I believe it is saying "the one" you are supposed to be married to is the one you choose to marry. The Catechism says:
"To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness." - CCC, 600
So, God would always know who we were going to freely choose to marry and that could be seen from our end as destiny. Rather, it is an affirmation that it is our choice, even though God knows it.

I think this quote sums it up well:
"Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to."
-J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, September 4, 2014

THOU SHALL NOT INDULGE: 5 Myths & Misunderstandings of Indulgences and Purgatory

5 Myths & Misunderstandings of Indulgences and Purgatory

MYTH #1 The Catholic Church no longer has indulgences.
This is just not true. Indulgences are a good thing and are still part of the Church's teaching.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church's answer to the question, "What is an indulgence?":
1471 "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."
That is a lot of churchy-speak, so let me break it down. First off - what an indulgence is not. An indulgence is neither permission to sin, forgiveness for a sin, or a way or working oursleves into Heaven. Neither does it make us immune from sinning.

Simply put and indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment (punishment on this earth) which is due us from our sin. Indulgences are not about eternal punishment (hell).

MYTH #2 - Indulgences are a way to "buy your way to Heaven".
Not at all. Underlying this myth is another one - that the Catholic Church teaches we can earn our way to Heaven through works-based righteousness. Not true. We cannot earn our way to Heaven.

There is a lens through which we must look to understand two aspects of God's grace, which may help explain where this myth came from.

The first aspect is operative grace, which is the grace God works in each of us, in which we play no part. The gifts of faith and hope are examples of operative grace. They are gifts of God which no man can merit. God gifts us with a new life in faith, we don't earn it. An analogy is that of a patient in the O.R. who has died and their heart is shocked back into life. The patient didn't earn life from the doctor.

The second aspect is cooperative grace. This isn't where we heal ourselves, Rather it is more like a patient going to rehab. We work with the Doctor (God) to cooperate with the process of healing. Indulgences are an example of this cooperative grace.

Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters see sin as having only one consequence - hell. If you are a sinner who isn't forgiven then you are bound to hell. If you are forgiven, then you go to heaven. But, there are actually two consequences to every sin:
  1. Eternal punishment - of course the most important kind to know about - without having the eternal punishment forgiven, we can't be saved.
  2. Temporal punishment (punishment on this earth) - Think of Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden of Eden and now enduring suffering, David being made to suffer the loss of his child due to his sin (2 Sam 12), or Moses not being allowed to see the promised land. All of these are punishments on this earth for sin. While the eternal punishment may have been forgiven by God, all of these people still had to suffer the temporal punishment of sin.
If I lie to my wife, it isn't good enough to ask God to forgive me, I need to ask forgiveness from my wife as well. We need to do the same for all sin - seek forgiveness for the eternal and temporal aspects. Even physical death itself is a part of temporal punishment of sin; though the Christian who is eternally forgiven still dies. St. Augustine says there is a difference between having the poisoned dart removed from you and recovering from the wound. Indulgences deal only with the healing from the wound - not the removal of the dart, which only God can do.

Now, this isn't in any way adding to God's grace. Rather, the reason we are even impelled to cooperate is because God acted in our lives first. We receive His grace, then respond to it. Christ has won our eternal salvation for us by His blood. If we choose His grace, we will be saved and enter Heaven. An indulgence takes nothing away from this work of God alone.

Yet, the Bible says heaven is a place for only those perfected (in every way) through Jesus:
"nothing unclean will enter it (heaven)." -Revelation 21:27
In other words - to be made ready to go to Heaven, we have to be absolutely stripped of all that is not of Jesus. While Jesus' work on the cross is complete, we don't share perfectly in this work until we are in heaven, where we will have a full share in His perfection. So, we must be purified before we enter into heaven. If we are not perfectly ready to enter into Heaven at the moment of our death, then the purification process will take place in Purgatory.

An indulgence is only good for those who are already in Jesus' grace and who have converted hearts = the elect. So, it adds nothing to what Christ has already done, since He has done it all already.

MYTH #3 - The Catholic Church sold indulgences and then decided it was bad to do so and stopped after Luther exposed it. 
This is absolutely untrue. The practice of "selling indulgences" is opposed to everything the Catholic church teaches about them. The Church did allow people to offer alms (supporting the Church and the poor, which is a good Biblical practice; e.g. Acts 11:29, 1 Cor 16:1, Gal 2;10, etc); along with prayers, Confession, and going to Communion in order to receive an indulgence. But, since abuses started and there was confusion, the Church reformed the practice and no longer allows alms to be given for part of an indulgence to be granted. This was so there would be no hint of a problem anymore.

The confusion was from some individuals who did try to profit off of indulgences, but the Church has never sanctioned such scandalous actions. So, to blame "The Catholic Church" for the abuse of selling indulgences by a few corrupt men is akin to blaming "The Catholic Church" when someone steals money from a parish today.

Was it a scandal that some sold indulgences? Absolutely! Was it part of Catholic teaching? Absolutely not!

The Church saw that there was abuse by some and moved to fix it. So, Luther did had one valid point - you shouldn't sell indulgences. But, the problem was with the abuse, not the indulgence itself! Furthermore, Martin Luther used the scandal as an opportunity to further other theological arguments he had.

MYTH #4 - The Catholic Church invented indulgences in the Middle Ages.
We have record of them in the very early Church, so this is certainly not true.

MYTH #5 - Purgatory and Indulgences are Catholic Inventions and Not Found in The Bible.
Some may say that these words are not found in the Bible. But, neither are the words Trinity, divinity, incarnation, monotheism, etc. Just because a word is not found, doesn't mean the concept isn't there. So, while the word "purgatory" may not be in the Bible, there are certain passages that implicitly contain the basis of purgatory.
"Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny."
-Matt 5: 25-26:
Here we are being told that we will ultimately be held responsible for all of our actions. There are two dimensions to being forgiven for a sin, the eternal and temporal, as we have said above. While we may be forgiven by God, we still have to go to our brother for forgiveness as well. Here it says that if we fail to obtain the human dimension of forgiveness, then God will hold us responsible ultimately. But, the human element does not merit eternal, but rather finite, punishment. So, it leaves open the door to Purgatory, which is finite.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15:
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."
Paul is saying that we will not enter into our reward until we are cleansed of all unrighteousness. Clearly Paul says we will be "saved", but there will be loss and flames through which one escapes. Also, this loss will be for those things which are not of value.

Lastly, in 2 Maccebees 12 we see the practice of Jews offering up sacrifices for the dead. Any sacrifice for the dead would not do those in heaven or hell any good, so the passage (at the least) points to the Jewish belief in some other state of being in the afterlife, even if some non-Catholic Christians do not recognize the book of 2 Mac to be Biblical.

With all of this evidence we couple some ancient Christian statements on Purgatory and the evidence seems pretty weighty.

As for Indulgences being in the Bible, I have already shown many of the principles of them being in the Bible above. Let me finish with one more.

God forgives temporal punishment through His Church. Ultimately, this is the final point of an indulgence. Scripture says that Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins to men (Matt 9:8, John 20:23, Jam 5:16). But, He also gave them the ability to do "bind" on earth too. Matt 16:19 and 18:18 say the apostles had the ability to "bind on earth" "loose on earth". Binding and loosing cover a number of things: Church practices, discipline, and temporal penalties (including and up to keeping someone from participating in the life of the Church - excommunication).

Now that we know the Church has this temporal authority, we can see how it applies to us. For more, I recommend this article.


*What Is the Deal With Purgatory?
*A conversation on purgatory
*An argument for purgatory
*Early Christians on Purgatory
*How To Get an Indulgence
*Handbook on Indulgences (aka - Enchiridion of Indulgences).

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Aggie Catholic Vocations Update

The Dallas Morning News ran a story on the growth of the seminary in Dallas. We have several Aggies studying there and one of our Aggie Catholic seminarians (and a former Campus Ministry Intern here) was quoted in the article. A snip is below:
Chris Smith, 26, of College Station, considered the priesthood a few years after college. A pre-theology student at Holy Trinity, he earned a marketing degree from Texas A&M University and then went to work for NET Ministries. He visited lots of churches and met many priests.

“I decided I wanted to be the vessel for sharing the sacraments,” Smith said. “After lots of prayer and feeling it in my heart, I knew it was right.”

Smith said he thinks the number of priests will keep increasing.

“There’s a new generation of guys wanting to become priests,” Smith said. “They see a need for it with our culture being more chaotic and all the unrest in the world.” CONTINUE READING.
We have a number of Aggie Catholic vocations. In fact we have about 150 ordained clergy / professed religious + about another 50 in formation / seminary. We should have precise numbers soon.

The Science Of Porn - What Happens To Your Brain & Body

Here are some startling statistics compiled from a variety of academic and popular sources. I am sure you have heard how much money porn makes, how much there is, etc. But, what many don't see as much is the impact porn is having on individuals and society.

Here are some stats I have found (links give sources).

*Porn is more addictive than cocaine or heroin.

*it isn't as widely accepted as some might make you think.
  • 76% of U.S. adults disagree that viewing hardcore adult pornography on the internet is morally acceptable;” 
  • 74% disagree that “viewing hardcore adult pornography on the Internet provides, generally, harmless entertainment;”
*According to a survey published in the Journal of the American Psychological Association, 86% of men are likely to click on Internet sex sites if given the opportunity.

*34% of female readers of Today's Christian Woman’s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn.

*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.
*According to research from Family Safe Media, the largest group of viewers of Internet porn is children between ages 12 and 17.

*According to a study cited in the Washington Post, more than 11 million teenagers view Internet pornography on a regular basis.

*When a child or adolescent is directly exposed to pornography the following effects have been documented:
  • Lasting negative or traumatic emotional responses.
  • Earlier onset of first sexual intercourse, thereby increasing the risk of STD’s over the lifespan.
  • The belief that superior sexual satisfaction is attainable without having affection for one’s partner, thereby reinforcing the commoditization of sex and the objectification of humans.
  • The belief that being married or having a family are unattractive prospects.
  • Increased risk for developing sexual compulsions and addictive behavior.
  • Increased risk of exposure to incorrect information about human sexuality long before a minor is able to contextualize this information in ways an adult brain could.
  • And overestimating the prevalence of less common practices (e.g., group sex, bestiality, or sadomasochistic activity).
*A study of youth between the ages of 10 and 17 concluded that there is a significant relationship between frequent porn use and feelings of loneliness and major depression.

*51% of male college students and 32% of female college students first viewed pornography before teenage years (12 and younger).


*In 1994, a survey showed 91% of men raised in Christian homes were exposed to pornography while growing up (compared to 98% of those not raised in a Christian home).

*In August 2006, a survey reported 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography. 60% of the women who answered the survey admitted to having significant struggles with lust; 40% admitted to being involved in sexual sin in the past year.


Below is a video everyone should watch.

WARNING - Not for the lighthearted! Sex is treated flippantly in parts of the presentation. Nor is it for those that don't want to be shocked by the facts.


**What Is Wrong With Porn?

**Porn and Support for Same-Sex Marriage
**Pornography Research
**Porn is More Addictive Than Cocaine and Heroin