Wednesday, May 30, 2007

God & Gender Part 1: "He"??

Don't worry, this isn't another claim that God is really some hermaphroditic super-being that smiles with delight whenever an oldies station dusts off the Helen Reddy and plays I Am Woman...." However, my premise is, God the Father has nothing to do with maleness, at least not in the way you're thinking. But, before you condemn me to Joan of Arc parish, take a quick read below.

Also, please note that my posting has streamed from my inferior brain without scholarly study on the topic; no doubt there are more learned contributors who will correct me and put me in the right. I welcome the feedback. It's what the blog is for.

What am I talking about? Simply this: God was a "father" long before there was a human man (or woman)-- before there was gender. Then He created a human man and gave him the nature of "father.” You see, it didn't happen the other way around. This is the key. He didn’t invent man and woman, wait for them to figure out their respective gender roles and then adopt humanity’s concept of “father” by copying what had developed as human maleness. Rather, His “fatherhood” nature was imprinted, intentionally so, on human males from the beginning.

God had been the Father for all time, and with the entire nature that we know to be characteristic of “fatherhood:” creator, provider, protector, compassionate forgiver. This is His fatherly role toward humanity. It is the role He designated for human males as well, and thus in His wisdom gave males the physical, emotional and mental tools to be “fathers” for their own children, that is to be creators, providers, protectors and compassionate forgivers.

So, what about the pronouns? Should we use the term “He” or “She,” or just allow them to float interchangeably to suit our whims or to avoid conflict with militant feminists? Of course not! God the Father is properly referred to as “He” (not “She”) precisely because the pronoun allows us to recognize and acknowledge the “fatherly” traits He has decided to imbue in human males.

I look forward to any comments for exchange. Look for Part 2 in the next few days as I go further with distinguishing our Divine "Father" from maleness and other human limitations.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What are we "winning" them with?

Tim Drake over at the National Catholic Register had the chance to interview revert to the faith Francis Beckwith, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Great interview - read it!

Below is an excerpt from the interview. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the most popular methods of Youth Ministry today - not only in the church but in Christianity itself. And I'll also be the first to admit that I'm not sure I have any better ideas.

You were born into a Catholic family. When did you leave the Catholic Church?

I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1960. My mother, Elizabeth, also born in Brooklyn, is Italian-American. My father, Harold Beckwith, was born in Connecticut. I’m the eldest of their four children. In the mid-1960s we moved to Las Vegas, Nev., where my father worked as an accountant and internal auditor at a number of hotels. In the late 1970s, both he and mother founded Sweets of Las Vegas, a candy business that had two retail stores in the area.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was part of the first generation of Catholics who would have no memory of the Church prior to Vatican II. This also meant that I grew up, and attended Catholic schools, during a time in which well-meaning Catholic leaders were testing all sorts of innovations in the Church, many of which were deleterious to the proper formation of young people.

On the other hand, there were some very important renewal movements in the Church at the time.

The Catholic Charismatic Movement had a profound impact on me.

During my middle school years, while attending Maranatha House, a Jesus People church in downtown Vegas, I also frequented a Catholic Charismatic Bible study. Some of the folks at that Bible study were instrumental in bringing to my parents’ parish three Dominican priests who offered a week-long evening seminar on the Bible and the Christian life. I attended that seminar and was very much taken by the Dominicans’ erudition and deep spirituality, and the love of Jesus that was evident in the way they conducted themselves.

But I was also impressed with the personal warmth and commitment to Scripture that I found among charismatic Protestants with whom I had interacted at Maranatha House.

Looking back, and knowing what I know now, I believe that the Church’s weakness was presenting the renewal movements as something new and not part of the Church’s theological traditions.

For someone like me, who was interested in both the spiritual and intellectual grounding of the Christian faith, I didn’t need the “folk Mass” with cute nuns and hip priests playing “Kumbaya” with guitars, tambourines and harmonicas. And it was all badly done.

After all, we listened to the Byrds, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and we knew the Church just couldn’t compete with them.

But that’s what the Church offered to the young people of my day: lousy pop music and a gutted Mass. If they were trying to make Catholicism unattractive to young and inquisitive Catholics, they were succeeding.

What I needed, and what many of us desired, were intelligent and winsome ambassadors for Christ who knew the intellectual basis for the Catholic faith, respected and understood the solemnity and theological truths behind the liturgy, and could explain the renewal movements in light of these.

I believe in the principle of, "You keep them with more of what you won them with." Now if what you are winning the youth with are things like love of theology, spirituality (legit stuff), scripture, service, sacraments, holiness, etc. - great. But if you are winning them with watered-down, cheezy, secular world knock-offs and immature, irresponsible, goofiness - forget it. I thought the following couple lines from the section above drove this point home:

But that’s what the Church offered to the young people of my day: lousy pop music and a gutted Mass. If they were trying to make Catholicism unattractive to young and inquisitive Catholics, they were succeeding.

Are we as Catholics in any danger of drifting in this direction again? Is there too much emphasis on meeting the youth where they're at, and not enough on drawing them to where they should be? Any thoughts?

Having Kids Ain’t For Sissies!!!

I was 23 when I drove home our brand new mini-van. As you men reading this blog can imagine, this was a tough ride home. Nothing quite says “macho” like a Dodge Grand Caravan. But if I knew then, what I know now, I would have had a much different outlook on the experience. I understand now that a kid-moving vehicle like that should come with a Purple Heart.

My daughter broke her arm this last weekend and had a metal pin surgically inserted. She’s ok now, a little uncomfortable but well on the road to recovery. But as my wife held her down and they tried to start the IV for the second time, and as I sat by her bed the whole night praying the rosary stroking her head when she would stir, I thought about what having kids really meant.

I began to think about how a friend once told me of his diabetic son looking up at him while he gave the little guy an injection and heard the tearful plea, “Daddy, please don’t hurt me again.” Or how some other friends, who desperately wanted another child, were crushed to find that they had once again miscarried. I thought about a couple I know whose little boy died at a young age from a disease that couldn’t be stopped. Or the friends I have whose child is being picked on at school. I thought of the parents I know whose kids are in trouble with the law and those whose kids no longer come around.

I think about the sleepless nights, the diaper changing, the fighting with siblings, the scrapes, the bruises, the mischief, the homework, the sports, the peer pressure, the stress, the eventual leaving.

Late in the night at the hospital, in a moment of general fatigue I began to think, “With all this pain, with all these troubles, why have kids at all?”

It’s kind of funny and kind of sad how strong we can be when things are going well and how shaken and weak we can be when they’re not. But the more I thought about it, the more I formed an answer I could live with.

I am naturally a very prideful and selfish person. I need nothing other than to kneel down at night and look back at my day to convince myself of that. But I know that’s just the opposite of what God wants of me. We’re called to be Christ-like, to lead a joyful Eucharistic life. We’re called to unselfishly love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. To give to others freely what has been given to us freely; things like forgiveness, peace, love, joy, and so importantly life. But how do we get to this point?

Marriage, and therefore parenting for most, is the vocational forge our lives have been placed in. God wants to form us into images of Christ, but we naturally resist. In order to soften us up so He can work on us, he sometimes needs to turn up the heat. For a priest this may mean dealing with loneliness or difficult parishioners (sorry Father), for the married with children this often takes the form of children. When we are soft and malleable He can begin to bend and form us into a tool that He can work with.

So how does having children soften us up? How does putting up with hardships of parenting when we could “choose” not to help? It gives us the opportunity to freely, lovingly, and openly accept the gifts from God that are our children. It allows us to willing set aside selfish ambitions and place God’s will and glory above our own. In it we able to, in a very real and Christ-like way, sacrifice our own lives for our children.

Though this we are allowed by God to take part in the building of His kingdom. To take part in the creating of life, and to be entrusted with leading these children down the path to eternal life itself. It’s so easy today to lose our understanding of what life is, and what a blessing it is that we are able to cooperate with God in its creation.

Remember when you found out you were pregnant? When you heard the heartbeat? When you saw the ultrasound or felt the kick? When you saw them for the first time and held them close? When they rolled over, crawled, or took their first steps? How about when they used the potty chair for the first time? Remember sending them off to their first day of school or off on their first date? Remember their graduation and their moving away? Remember when you found out that they had decided to spend the rest of their life with someone they loved? Remember when you found out they had decided to start the whole beautiful process again and bring a new life into this world? It’s easy to complain about and try to avoid the difficult times, but do we forget to cherish the treasures that also come with the territory?

Every moment, good or bad, is an opportunity for us to shift the object of our love from ourselves to another. This serves to chip away at our self-centeredness, and conform our will to God’s. And yes, sometimes we fail miserably. But our effort tells God, ourselves, and our children something about who we are and who we want to be.

Sure there are times that are a little rough, and times that are just plain tough. Moments that range from annoying to tragic. But in the end, we have been called by God to find a path to Holiness that leads through our children. Just as we make our children do things they may not want for their own good and that we love them, why would we think God our Father would have it any other way for His children?

Having kids is NOT for sissies!!! It can be tough and painful. It’s not a race quickly won once-for-all, it’s more like a marathon. It’s an everyday thing, filled with the good and the bad and everything in between. A battle fought as much on our knees as it is on our feet. But I thank God that He has given us all the grace we’ll need to complete the task he has called us to do. And oh what a beautiful task it is. Amen.
P.S. I have since upgraded fram a mini-van to a 12 passenger van, so you can imagine how tough I am now.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Go Green

As the flickering flame of the Paschal candle was extinguished at the end of the Pentecost mass, a certain sadness enveloped me. Knowing that the joyful season of Easter had come to a close, I spent a few moments reflecting on the blessings of the season, while the smoke from the extinguished wick drifted towards Heaven....

In a culture saturated with Hallmark holidays, we Catholics are greatly blessed by having liturgical seasons, which bring us closer to God. As we transition into "ordinary times", the Magisterium gives the Church more optional and obligatory memorials to honor those saints who have gone before us, perfected in Christ Jesus.

Because of my melancholy state, knowing that the Easter season was over, I looked at the liturgical calender of June to see what was ahead. I quickly realized that June is filled with memorials for saints that have occupied these same Catholic trenches. Starting with the great apologist, Saint Justin on June 1st, and ending on June 30th with the first Holy Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, June has many reasons to celebrate.

More names and dates to remember this June:
SS Marcellinus and Peter, martyrs, on June 2
Saint Boniface, martyr, June 5
Saint Ephrem, doctor, (deacon!) June 9
Saint Barnabas, Apostle and martyr, June 11
Saint Anthony, doctor, June 13
SS John Fisher and Thomas More (one of my patrons), martyrs, June 22
Saint Cyril of Alexandria, doctor, June 27
Saint Irenaeus, martyr, June 28
SS Peter and Paul, Apostles, June 29

Enjoy the month of June and its not so "ordinary times".
May these saints pray for us.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Holy Mysterious Men of the Cloth Batman!

Fist of all, let me join Joshua 24:15 in thanking Fr. Rudolph for serving our Parish with such great dedication and love. He will be greatly missed!

After the untimely and mysterious death of my friend Professor Robert Danglon, I received a small package in the mail. Awestruck over its contents, I wanted to share with all of you what I found inside and I'm curious to see what you think of it. I have to say I'm sure it's nerves, but it seems like I was followed to Mass this weekend by a strange looking car. But anyway, here is the text from the letter inside:

My old friend,

I write you with great urgency. I believe I have stumbled across information that I was never meant to have. The week before last my brother's, nephew’s, roommate’s, cousin’s, landlord’s, third grade teacher requested a meeting with myself promising information that very well could change the face of society as we know it.

I sat waiting for her before our meeting when a large white sedan raced up and came to a screeching halt. The window rolled down and a visibly upset white-haired woman threw a small package into my lap. Shouting something about being followed and time running out, she left in the same manner by which she arrived.

Though a little shook, I gathered my things and the package and returned to my apartment. It seemed like paranoia at the time, but I was sure I was being watched. Oh how I curse the day I opened that package! The world was not ready for the secret it contained. I pass it on to you only because I know my time is short.

Lately I’ve been followed around by a sinister looking fellow with white hair, a pale complexion, wearing a habit, and answering to the name Silas. I fear he has been sent to keep the secret secret.

What he is trying to keep quiet is the true identity of Batman and Robin. Yes, yes, the Dynamic Duo. Two masters of disguise able to blend in to any environment imaginable. You know these two well, and will be stunned to find out what I’m about to tell you. The Dark Knight and Boy Wonder are none other than [unreadable writing]. I know, I know, gather yourself man, we don’t have much time.

The information in this package will go over in great detail the evidence amassed showing this to be true. But let me quickly go over 3 points that are easily overlooked individually, but create a clear picture when put together.

First, just look at the two of them. Look at their size, their physiques, their presence. Two men, who when imagined without their everyday attire and wearing capes, masks, and tights are two very, very different men indeed!

Secondly, the two, especially the larger one, are rarely seen after 10pm. Why you ask? Because bats fly at night my friend, at night! They have been fighting the dark forces of the spiritual world during the day, and those of this world at night. Don’t let their trading of the bat cave for their current residence, or Alfred Pennyworth’s new disguise as fool you!

But what about the Batmobile you ask. Oh friend, have you seen them drive?!?! Yes, they have exchanged the Batmobile for more “unadventurous” vehicles, but again don’t be fooled! You can take the Caped Crusader out of the Batmobile, but you can’t take the Batmobile out of the Caped Crusader.

It is my whole-hearted belief that the smaller of the two, Boy Wonder if you will, has been reassigned by his superiors to a new location precisely in an attempt to cover-up my finding. But I am not so easily thrown off a trail.

I have included a picture with this letter that may shock you, but will remove all doubt of what I say. It was the last known authentic picture taken of the two. Please keep this, … wait … I hear someone coming. I fear that

And that's where the letter came to a heart-pounding, abrupt stop. Below is the picture the Professor included in the package. The picture is a most disturbing picture indeed. If I wouldn't have seen it, I never would have believed it.

I can only imagine what canonical penalty I just incurred.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thank You, Father Rudolph!

In the small town of Saint Michael, Minnesota there is a Catholic church, in which there is a wonderful priest named Father Michael Rudolph. He is the Associate Pastor, but has recently been assigned Pastor of Saint Thomas Church in Corcoran, Minnesota.

Father, thank you for everything you've done and brought to our parish! God bless you!

Happy Birthday Mother Church!!!!

Maybe it’s because it seems like such a lightening rod for controversy and division, or maybe it’s because of past experiences, but I have to admit that I’m not always excited for Pentecost Sunday to roll around. I feel bad I’m not always able to celebrate the birth of our Church with the joy and excitement I should. But this year I’m going to try a little harder, hopefully try to contemplate a little more deeply on what this day is really about.

The bible tells us of a time when the whole world spoke the same language. During this time, men began to mold and harden bricks with their hands and proudly try to build a tower to reach God. But God in His almighty and infinite wisdom confused their language and scattered the people all over the earth. You’ll recognize this of course as the story of the Tower of Babel.

Fast-forward to 33AD Jerusalem, fifty days after the birthing pains of the Church, Jesus Christ’s passion. Pentecost was a Jewish feast occurring 50 days after Passover originally used to celebrate the harvest of the first fruits. Jewish people from all over would come to Jerusalem for this feast. But this year would be different. This year God was not interested in the first fruits from a harvest of fruit or grain, but that of men. This is the setting in which the infant Church was born.

All around, people of different nations were unable to communicate as a result of the scattering and confusing of the people at Babel. But from the sky came the sound of a driving wind, a sound the filled the house where the followers of Jesus were. Tongues of fire separated from the same source appeared over each of their heads.

God had chosen throughout history to reveal His presence as wind and fire to His people, but this time it was different. While in the past God shown His presence outside man, this was the first time the God, through the Holy Spirit, had filled His people with His presence. Man had become the temple of the Holy Spirit; a living theophany. Like a burning bush, men’s hearts would now burn with the presence of God.

The disciples were given the ability to communicate to the crown in each of their own languages. At a time when “Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem,” God had gathered a scattered people and lifted the confusion of Babel.

God began to mold and harden the disciples with the fire of His love like the men of Babel had molded and harden bricks with their hands. And in the midst of it all, a new tower was raised that stretched to God. With Jesus as its cornerstone, the faithful as the bricks, and the Holy Spirit as the mortar holding it together; the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church was born. This tower leading to God was not build by man’s hands or effort, but by the very grace of God.

So this Sunday I’m going to do my best to be thankful for the wonderful gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Church, and not be distracted by any unfortunate events that may occur. May the Holy Spirit actively work in all of our lives to sanctify us and consume our hearts with God’s love. And my we never forget what a gift Mother Church is.

Is it me, or does it feel like the winds are beginning to pick-up?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

CRHP 2007 - Comes to a close.

Well, our parish's CRHP team II wrapped it up last Sunday night. What a great year, ... what a great group of guys. We learned a lot about ourselves, and a lot about each other.

But now the torch has been passed into Team III's capable hands, may it continue to burn with an unquenchable fire.

Good luck fellas, and God bless!!!

My beef with Harry

It seems like every month or so I have the following exchange (or some variation of it):

Them: “Do your kids like the Harry Potter books?”
Me: “They haven’t read them.”
Them: “What? Why not?”
Me: “Because they’re not allowed to.”
Them: “You won’t let them read Harry Potter?!?! Would you let them read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy or Narnia?”
Me: “Yes, if they wanted.”
Them: “Well what’s the difference between Harry Potter and these books?”

I do think this is a subject where people of good will can disagree, but for the record my kids are not allowed to read Harry Potter books. I do have a lot of good Catholic friends who see nothing wrong with letting their kids read the books. I see them as great parents, and their kids as great kids, but let me explain my thinking on the subject.

I think it’s fair to make the claim that Harry Potter is a story that involves as a large part of its storyline witchcraft. It portrays the Wiccan religion in a positive, though largely inaccurate manner.

Books, fiction or non-fiction, influence the way people think. Period. Parents and teachers choose books for children to read in hopes that the book’s subject matter will have an effect, on the child’s thinking. For example, why do you give children books on the saint’s lives? Isn’t it our hope that by the children reading the books that they will be affected positively in some way? The fact is that books have an effect on the reader that extends beyond the last page.

Recently, a new comic book series “99” has arrived on the scene. The series’ 99 characters live in all areas of the world and are found in many different scenarios. The heroes fight everything from crime to giant monsters. Each X-Men-like character embodies a virtue like strength, honesty, courage, industriousness, etc. Sounds great right? Just the thing our kids should be reading at a time when society seems to be glorifying the opposite. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that the “99” virtues embodied by the Islamic characters are the 99 qualities embodied by Allah, and that the stories are told through an Islamic worldview.

Would we let our kids read these comic books even if they are "just fantasy"? What if you had "trouble getting them to read anything but these books", would it be OK then? Has our outlook changed now that Islam has replaced Wicca in the storyline? What would your reasoning be if someone who was shocked that you wouldn’t let your kids read these “fantasy” books asked?

There isn’t any Christianity found explicitly in Narnia or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so then why do I let my kids read them? One reason is that these two were written specifically to pass on Christian values, while Harry Potter was not.

But the biggest difference between Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy is the presence and accessibility of the subject matter in real life.

Today there are estimated 500,000 - 750,000 people in the U.S. who consider themselves followers of the Wiccan religion. Recently, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to the list of approved religious symbols. Depending on the source, the number of adherents to the Wiccan religion doubles every 1.5 – 2.5 years. In short, Wicca is alive and growing in the U.S.

Kids today are looking into witchcraft. And while it may be an inaccurate view of witchcraft that drives their curiosity, the popularity of shows like Sabrina, the teen-aged Witch, Charmed, and The Craft that Wicca has made huge progress in being accepted in our culture.

As far as the accessibility of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings’ subject matter, when was the last time you caught your kids hanging around an elf, a talking lion, or an ogre?

Them: “So you think I’m a bad parent?”
Me: “No, I didn't say that.”
Them: “Then you think my kid’s going to become a witch by reading Harry Potter?”
Me: “Probably not.”
Them: “I think you're kind of over-the-top.”
Me: “You don't know the half of it.”

Let the comments fly, ... I can take it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Religious Tolerance and the Common Good"

Wow. Everyone needs to head over to First Things and read the article by Archbishop Charles Chaput (Archbishop of Denver) titled, "Religious Tolerance and the Common Good".

"But the problem is that much of American culture right now is built on an adolescent fiction. The fiction is that life is all about you as an individual—your ideas, your appetites, and your needs. Believe me: It isn’t. The main interest big companies have in your wants and mine is how to turn them into a profit. Part of being an adult is the ability to separate marketing from reality; hype from fact. The fact is, the world is a big and complicated place. It doesn’t care about your appetites. It has too many of its own needs, and it won’t leave you alone."

Beautifully put your Excellency, simply beautiful.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A small glimpse of heaven.

Ever wonder about what heaven is like? Will we be able to fly? Talk to people we miss so dearly who had died before us? Maybe meet our children who we never had the chance in this life to meet? Today at Mass we found out what heaven, or eternal life is like.

"Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ."
To "know Him"? At first this sounds like kind of a let down because we have such an incomplete understanding of who God really is. Wonderful things like the ability to fly, talk to those we miss, and to be with those whom we love are only small glimpses of a God who is truly and completely love.

If the beautiful things of this world are only hints of ‘the only true God’, how amazing is it going to be to not only meet Him, but to know Him? And best of all, to know Him for all eternity.

Wearing red on Pentecost

Not being critical here, just curious. I noticed the following message in my Parish’s bulletin this last weekend:

Next weekend is Pentecost Sunday.
Please wear red at all Masses in
observanceof this celebration.
I know that my Parish is not the only one where this is being encouraged, I’ve seen and heard it all over the Internet.

My question is where did this come from? Is it from some Vatican document, local or national tradition, or maybe an attempt to counter the Rainbow Sash’s silliness?

I certainly have nothing against wearing red to Mass on Pentecost Sunday, but why don’t I ever see encouragement to wear Purple during Lent or Advent, white during Easter and Christmas, or black on All Souls day?

Does anyone know?

Fr. Thomas "The Hammer" Euteneuer

Gotta say it, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer is a gun-slinging-man-of-God-priest-stud.

Responding to criticism by some "catholic" lawmakers against the Pope's statement that Catholic politicians risk excommunication and should not receive Communion, Fr. Euteneuer responded:

"Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro and seventeen other members of Congress who describe themselves as Catholic not only are ignorant of their faith but also need a civics lesson. It is an embarrassment that a Catholic, much less a member of Congress should make such an absurd statement. Even if this statement were true, the Holy Father answers to a Higher Power than Rep. DeLauro and the Gang of 18."
First it was Sean "lukewarm" Hannity, then the heretical Gang of 18.

Line 'em up, and knocking 'em down.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Think sheep attract wolves? Try money.

Ok, what I am about to write may draw a raised eyebrow from some and the scorn of others, but I have to say it.

The explosion of Catholics and non-Catholics returning to the Catholic Church is an amazing and awesome thing. The sudden increase in desire of so many to learn the faith has brought with it a seemingly endless stream of books, tapes, and videos. And even with the huge quantity of materials available, it seems people still want more.

But there are two things that I have noticed that have me a bit concerned. The first is an overemphasis on the Bible (notice how just reading that causes you to raise an eyebrow) and the second are teachers in the arena gaining such a devoted following that their take on all matters Catholic seem to become to many “official” and definitive Catholic teaching.

First I want you all to breath, … in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Take in the good, … and breathe out the bad. Try to relax. Good, now let me explain.

Having a love for the Bible and actually reading from it is something all Catholics should do EVERY day. We recently had Jeff Cavins teach his “The Great Adventure Bible Study” at my parish. This program is a really great program, not to mention the he is a really great teacher. Catholics have seemed to really begin to get involved in reading and studying the Bible on their own and in groups.

So what’s my concern? Well I’m glad you asked. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people talk about growing up in a home where they never read the Bible. It sat (please choose one): [on a bookshelf, on a coffee table]. This is tragic! But with the new excitement over studying and learning about the Bible, is the pendulum about the swing too far the other way? While the Bible was not being read in these homes, the Baltimore (or equivalent) was. Ask a kid today why God made them and then try not to laugh/cry when they answer. Are we Catholics today raising a generation that will talk to the next about the growing up in a home where the Catechism, one of the great treasures of the faith, collected dust on the bookshelf?

To approach the scriptures with a good understanding of Catholic Theology and Tradition is soooo important. But how much time do Catholics who would be considered “on-fire” (the Lord knows how I hate that term) read their Bible verses their Catechism?

Balance between Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and Magisterial teaching must be sought after; to emphasize any of the three is to distort Catholic teaching on the whole.

Are we still doing ok? My wife says I really need to light up in my posts. So honey, this is for you:

My wife was preparing pancakes for two of our daughters Anne and Mary. The girls began to argue over who would get the first pancake. My wife saw an opportunity for a moral lesson. If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, "Let my sister have the first pancake, I can wait." Anne turned to her younger sister and said, "Mary, you be Jesus!" Ok, not that we have that out of the way, let’s get back to business.
I am very happy to hear that Jeff Cavins has put together a program called “Catholicism 101”, and that my parish will be offering it this coming Fall. I look forward to possibly even attending the class. He also has put together another course on the Book of Revelation. Now this one brings me to my second concern.

The second concern I have is the amount of influence some lay teachers are gaining. Catholic Theology, in certain areas and on certain topics, allows for different schools of thought. For example there are two MAJOR Catholic theories on man's free will, the Thomist view and the Molinist view. Both are acceptable views for a Catholic to hold, but they are DIFFERENT. We can also look at the Book of Revelation through systems which are different, yet acceptable; like historicism, semi-preterism, full-preterism, and futurism. Will Mr. Cavin’s course cover them all, some, one view, or will he come at it at a different angle? I am very excited and curious to see.

Apart from a few points of disagreement, let me say I really like the ideas taught by people like Jeff Cavins, Scott Hahn, etc. But are we setting ourselves up for trouble? Will people be swept away by ideas and teachings that, while borderline heretical or worse, “tickle their ears”?

Is it only a matter of time before the amount of money to be made in this area draws “teachers” with not such good and true motives? Will the marketplace dictate theology based on the profitability of the message like it has in many areas of Protestantism? We have been very blessed to have the teachers and material we have, but I don’t think it wise to assume that this will always be the case.

I am not calling for the gates to be closed and to disallow lay authors and teachers from instructing the masses. What I am calling for is for the watchmen to take up their posts in the watchtowers, and for the masses to prepare to defend themselves and what the Church teaches against an enemy who could attack from any direction and at any time.

Sorry honey, got a little heavy there.

So a minister, a priest, a rabbi and a duck walk into a bar ………

Friday, May 18, 2007

Music Over The Line @ Mass: Repost from 5/18/07

The Ghost wanted to rant about this again. Looking back, he couldn't add nothing to it to make it sound any better.

Let me just say it now: The Ghost is a stubborn bad sinner, with a habit to think (and sometimes talk) about others when he don't have the right. Needed to get that out of the way first off.

And, second he don't have anything against music or musicians. But, (yeah here comes the big "But-monkey")

But, does every Mass have to be a concert these days? Ghost is starting to think that our priests are just the opener. He don't mean to hurt feelings. He just wants to go to Mass and kneel, pray and yeah sing some. He don't need sultry Glorias and he don't need electric guitars. When Ghost is getting ready to take Communion, he's thinking of nails pounding into Jesus' hands and feet, and how Ghost's own sins put the Savior on the cross. It's getting tough for him to concentrate when rock music is blaring in his ears.

The Ghost don't want to see music disappear, he just wants to make sure the music is there to glorify God not the musicians.

Motu proprio - It's coming.

It seems that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos has confirmed that the Holy Father plans on releasing a document that "encourages greater use of the traditional Latin liturgy".

My first thoughts are pure joy! I think the Novus Ordum liturgy cab be a wonderful and beautiful thing. But there's just something about the Tridentine Mass that makes it just seem, ah, ...., just more Holy I guess. I know this is not true on any level deeper than my own personal subjectiveness, so don't beat me up over it.

But I am also a little worried. Even now it seems that many parishes have different "flavors" of Masses. The "quick" Saturday evening Mass, the "traditional" early Sunday morning Mass, and the later "contemporary" Sunday Mass. I just have this feeling that it will be used by some to justify, well ... , let's say less than orthodox forms of liturgy.

(Not a laughing matter - get it?)

I'm not trying to start anything or get anyone worked up here, but for the sake of unity I do feel the issue needs to be looked at and considered carefully so whatever the Holy Father decides, it can be implemented in a responsible, respectful and controlled manner.

What are your thoughts on the imminent Muto proprio?

Our Blessed Mother - A Member of Mensa?

Being that it's the month of May, in honor or the Blessed Mother I've been making my way through a pretty good book, Mary of Nazareth.

I ran across a point that the author makes that while makes sense, I guess I've never really thought about.

We know that the effects of the fall was original sin, or the loss of the preternatural gifts:

Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (CCC 405)

So through the fall, man's will was weakened, intellect was darkened, and freedom from death and sickness was revoked. But Mary, not being born without any stain of original sin, did not suffer from these deficiencies.

I've always taken for granted that Mary's will was in-line with God's, but what about her intellect? The author puts forth that being that she had no original sin, not only was her will not weakened and her death not necessary, but also her intellect was not darkened.

So, how smart was Mary?

All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth. (Ps 24:10)

Here is a video of Anderson Cooper's interview with the nauseating Christopher Hitchens (atheist extraordinaire). I was amazed at how openly angry, hateful, and irrational he was while attacking a man (Jerry Falwell) who was dead and obviously unable to defend himself.

After seeing this video, I ran across another seemingly unrelated video. No doubt you've heard of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. They are "Christians" who picket the funerals of our fallen soldiers. Well they also decided it was their right/obligation to chime in on Jerry Falwell's death. They decided to make a music video to bring with them, as they get ready to go and picket Falwell's funeral.

(No, this is not a joke. Not sure if I even wanted to post it here.)

Now as repulsive as I find Christopher Hitchens' views and methods, I can see that his primary motivation is greed since his interview just so happens to coincide with the release of his new book.

But what can we say about Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church's motivation? To tell the world how much God hates them and their children? To spread the message of the malevolent God of Hate-and-Fear?

We are all sinners to be sure, but I don't think "God hates the world" was the Gospel message to be preached to all nations.

We are so lucky to have been given such a beautiful understanding of God's infinite justice and mercy by the Catholic Church.

Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God. (CCC 1861)

I thank God we serve a just AND merciful God.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

No doubt Opus Dei had something to do ...

... with covering this up.

A lesson in Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, …

But not Justice!

My wife is making me wait until Father’s day to order the new book by the Holy Father, Jesus of Nazareth. I told her that if I waited that long they would probably all be sold out. Unfortunately, she was cool with that.

Love to hear from anyone who has read the book about what they think of it.

Anyone interested in getting together "book-club" like to read it?

Kids and Theology

I do on occasion listen to Christian music. I am also one of those guys who actually listens to the lyrics. The up side to Christian music is that it provides (for the most part) a better alternative to most secular music. That’s a good thing. The down side is that it is where kids today get about 90% of their theology. That’s a really, really bad thing.

A basic understanding of theology (Catholic of course) is needed for a person to really understand who they are, where they are, why they’re there, and what they should do. I’m not talking about a Summa level of understanding, but there is no reason kids of middle school (or younger) shouldn’t be encouraged/required to read the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In short, our theology dictates how we live our life. Pretty important stuff.

Here are the winners in a few major categories of Christian music:

In the blatant-attack-on-Catholicism category, we have “Fields of Grace” by Big Daddy Weave:
“There's a place where religion finally dies”
So, according to Mr. Daddy Weave, there exists a place where we can finally throw the shackles of voluntary subjection of oneself to God off. Way to stick it to the man Big Daddy.

Under the Jesus-is-my-girlfriend category, we have the Katrinas’ Hold Me Close to You:
“Draw mw close to You,
Never let me go…
You are my desire
No one else will do
'Cause no one else can take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace”
Wow. The whole idea of being drawn close and feeling the warmth of His embrace conjures up images that are awfully, oh, yucky.

And finally from the Did-I-miss-something category we have DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak”
“I saw a man with tat on his big fat belly
It wiggled around like marmalade jelly
It took me a while to catch what it said
Cause I had to match the rhythm
Of his belly with my head
jesus saves is what it raved in a typical tattoo green
He stood on a box in the middle of the city
And claimed he had a dream”

My family will be spending a little more time with the radio off, and a little more time with the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church open this summer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mars Hill and a man on a mission.

We read one of my favorite stories from Acts during the first reading of Mass today (Acts 17:15, 22—18:1). Paul travels to Areopagus (or Mars Hill) in Athens and begins to share his faith with the people there. While nothing can be more nerve-racking or frustrating as sharing our faith, all us baptized are called to it. Thankfully we’re not all called to door-to-door evangelizing, but we are all called to some sort of evangelization dependant on our situation. Daily if possible.

The reason I like this story is not because of the bravery or cleverness that Paul shows, but because of the outcome.

Paul was laughed at:

“When they heard about resurrection of the dead,some began to scoff”
He was blown off:

“… others said,’We should like to hear you on this some other time.’”
For one of the greatest evangelists of all time, the success was pretty modest.

“But some did join him, and became believers.Among them were Dionysius,a member of the Court of the Areopagus,a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”
Not once did he water-down the Gospel or turn "pastorial" on us and leave out the part about repentance. With respect and charity Paul shared the message with the people there, and left with peace to contiune on the mission that God gave him.

I wish I had that kind of patience, trust, and peace in knowing that even if I get laughed at and blown off, it is my mission to sow, God's to tend, and many times another's to reap. Whether reaping or sowing, we should find joy in knowing that we are doing God’s will.

A priest-friend has told me that when you plant a seed and get frustrated that it isn’t growing as fast oas you think it should, you’ve probably planted it for selfish reasons.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Farwell Mr. Falwell

If you haven't heard, the Rev. Jerry Falwell has died at the age of 73.

While not a fan of many of the Catholic Church's teachings previously, I pray (by God's grace) an advocate on Her teachings on Purgatory now.

Grant him, O Lord, eternal rest, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

The Resurucifix

Before a new crucifix could be hung on a wall in our house when I was a kid, it needed to be judged as “acceptably morbid” by my mother. If it did not pass this test (few did), she would pull out the paints and a brush and add a little Isaiah 53 to it. And man could she make it look real. I grew to see these as not a sick reminder of the brutality of the crucifixion, but as a reminder of the gift I’d been given.

Today, nothing speaks to me of love more loudly than does seeing Jesus Christ, God-made-Man and savior of all, nailed to a cross. A life not taken, but freely given. The true value of a gift is not only a measure of its intrinsic worth, but also of what it cost the giver.

Maybe this is the reason I begin to dry-heave in the presence of a resurucifix. You know, the crosses with the risen Jesus on them. Sometimes it looks like He’s jumping or leaping off the cross. Guess I missed the verse in the Gospel where Jesus climbed back up the cross and ascended into heaven.

These silly things make absolutely no sense theologically, biblically, or spiritually. Only in a society where no value at all can been seen in suffering could this exist.

Prayer Before a Crucifix

Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before Your face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech You to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope, and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment; while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Your five wounds, pondering over them within me, and calling to mind the words which, long ago, David the prophet spoke in Your own person concerning You, my Jesus: "They have pierced My hands and My feet; they have numbered all My bones."


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Prayer to St. Monica

Exemplary Mother of the great Augustine,you perseveringly pursued your wayward son not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven. Intercede for all mothers in our day so that they may learn to draw their children to God. Teach them how to remain close to their children, even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray.


Friday, May 11, 2007

No animals were harmed during the filming ...

Well to get things off to a “lively” start.

I of course have my own opinion, but I was wondering if I could get everyone's take on the following little video:

Now, is it a silly and sacrilegious abuse? Or is it a bunch of people who have a true understanding of what the Eucharist really is?

After all, in 2 Samuel 6:14-15 the Bible says:

"Then David, girt with a linen apron, came dancing before the LORD with abandon, as he and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn."
While these verses were an obvious inspiration for the celebration in the video, the verse preceding them (which speaks of sacrificing an ox and fatling) was thankfully overlooked.