Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Fall of Satan & Jewish Legend

***WARNING: This post has been declared "Most Boring" by Mrs. Serviam! ... read at your own peril. ***

The Catholic Church owes a lot to the Jewish faith. She believes Herself to be the fulfillment of the work God started with them, and the Church maintains continuity with the past through Judaism. Everything from our Tabernacle and style of worship, to much of the Bible and salvation itself has been passed on to us through God’s chosen people.

I have been recently reading the book, The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg. It’s a book filled with Jewish legends that tell stories about characters and events in the Bible that are, well, not in the Bible. These stories obviously do not stand on the same level as scripture, nor do they claim to, but they do a great job of giving clues to what the Jewish people of the time thought was important.

This style of writing, these legends, have also been handed down to us in some traditions (small "t") and pious stories. For example, the story of St. Peter’s friends pleading with him to flee the persecution in Rome. Peter finally agrees, but on condition that he would go alone. But when he comes to the gate of the city, Christ met him. Falling down in adoration he says to Him “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus answers him “I am coming to Rome to be crucified again.” Stunned, Peter said to Him “Lord, I will return and will follow You.” Peter, afterwards thinking it over, understood that it was of his own passion that it had been spoken, because that in it the Lord would suffer. The Apostle then returned with joy to meet the death that awaited the martyr.

Judaism and Catholicism have qualities not only of religions, but also of cultures. They have a hierarchy which governs, an official language, a system of beliefs, … and a body of literature. While things like the Bible, Catechism, and Church documents would be included in the non-fiction area, I see these legends sitting comfortably beween the fiction and non-fiction sections. They are stories handed on through generations, mixing truth and fiction in a wonderful way. In a culture that tends to draw a clear and heavy line between the historical and allegorical, we should be careful not to assume the same line necessarily divides fact and fantasy. Jesus Himself used a mix of historical teaching and parables to communicate the beauty of truth.

One Jewish legend I like has to do with the fall of Satan.


THE FALL OF SATAN
The extraordinary qualities with which Adam was blessed, physical and spiritual as well, aroused the envy of the angels. They attempted to consume him with fire, and he would have perished, had not the protecting hand of God rested upon him, and established peace between him and the heavenly host. In particular, Satan was jealous of the first man, and his evil thoughts finally led to his fall.

After Adam had been endowed with a soul, God invited all the angels to come and pay him reverence and homage. Satan, the greatest of the angels in heaven, with twelve wings, instead of six like all the others, refused to pay heed to the behest of God, saying, “Thou didst create us angels from the splendor of the Shekinah*, and now Thou dost command us to cast ourselves down before the creature which Thou didst fashion out of the dust of the ground!” God answered, “Yet this dust of the ground has more wisdom and understanding than thou.”

Satan demanded a trial of wit with Adam, and God assented thereto, saying: “I have created beasts, birds, and reptiles, I shall have them all come before thee and before Adam. If thou art able to give them names, I shall command Adam to show honor unto thee, and thou shalt rest next to the Shekinah* of My glory. But if not, and Adam calls them by the names I have assigned to them, then thou wilt be subject to Adam, and he shall have a place in My garden, and cultivate it.” Thus spake God, and He betook Himself to Paradise, Satan following Him.

When Adam beheld God, he said to his wife, “O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Now Satan attempted to assign names to the animals. He failed with the first two that presented themselves, the ox and the cow. God led two others before him, the camel and the donkey, with the same result. Then God turned to Adam, and questioned him regarding the names of the same animals, framing His questions in such wise that the first letter of the first word was the same as the first letter of the name of the animal standing before him.

Thus Adam divined the proper name, and Satan was forced to acknowledge the superiority of the first man. Nevertheless he broke out in wild outcries that reached the heavens, and he refused to do homage unto Adam as he had been bidden. The host of angels led by him did likewise, in spite of the urgent representations of Michael, who was the first to prostrate himself before Adam in order to show a good example to the other angels.

Michael addressed Satan: “Give adoration to the image of God! But if thou doest it not, then the Lord God will break out in wrath against thee.” Satan replied: “If He breaks out in wrath against me, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will be like the Most High! “At once God flung Satan and his host out of heaven, down to the earth, and from that moment dates the enmity between Satan and man.’

*Shekinah - the dwelling or settling presence of God.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Too Funny, Too True!



Amy Caroline saw it on Curt Jester and I stole it, shamelessly.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

13 Reasons Not to Wash


I found this little list over at Mulier Fortis. It is a list of thirteen reasons people give for not washing. The list also seems to mirror reasons people give for not going to Church.

1. I was forced to wash as a child.
2. People who wash are hypocrites. They think they are cleaner than everyone else.
3. There are so many different kinds of soap, I could never decide which one was right.
4. I used to wash, but it got boring so I stopped.
5. I wash only on special occasions, like Easter and Christmas.
6. None of my friends wash.
7. I'm still young. When I'm older and have gotten a bit dirtier, I might start washing.
8. I really don't have time to wash.
9. The bathroom is never warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer.
10. People who make soap are only after your money.
11. I get along very well without washing.
12. I work hard all week and am too tired to take a bath on the weekend.
13. The first bar of soap I ever used gave me a rash, so I haven't gone near soap since!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Gem from a Neighbor to the North

During our recent family road trip out east, we enjoyed a quick trip up to Toronto for a Blue Jays game and a trip up the CN Tower. I also found this article in the July 23 Globe and Mail. It's by Dr. Christopher S. Morrissey, an Assistant Professor of Latin Philosophy at Redeemer Pacific College in British Columbia. I believe we've had a post on the recent Vatican document, but I found this piece very interesting.
********************

READING BETWEEN THE VATICAN'S LINES

When the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith speaks, people listen, even if they don't always understand.

And what does the Vatican teach today about its Christian brethren, the Protestant churches? Is Vatican policy setting back dialogue, as recent press reports suggested, by casting aspersions on the non-Catholic churches? Is it pigheadedly clinging to unchanged doctrine?

Neither. Its new doctrinal document actually advanced relations between Christians hen the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued it earlier this month. But headlines portrayed the document as a name-calling setback: "Non-Catholic churches 'wounded,' Vatican says" (The Globe and Mail) and "Other Christian churches are 'wounded,' Vatican says; Protestants worried" (National Post).

Yet the official Latin document didn't speak of "ecclesial Communities originating from the Reformation" and "the wound which they suffer." That quotation came only from the less precise accompanying English commentary.

Significantly, the official Latin version refers to the defectus which they suffer, and defectus is not Latin for "wound." That would be vulnus, a word the Vatican chose not to employ. The Latin text is the official text for a reason. The Latin term defectus has a unique precision that no single English term can capture.

True, we get the English word "defect" from it. But this signification of "deficiency" does not capture the Latin term's full meaning, which is twofold. In the Latin, the one term (from the verb deficio) connotes both a "revolt" and a "lack." The Latin dictionary describes the verbal action: "to do less than one might; to fail."

Remember this is Latin, so call to mind a Roman army in order to grasp the concrete, dual meaning implied here. If a portion of the army "rebels," then the portion thereby becomes "weakened" or "enfeebled" because it has cut itself off from the whole.

Hence my preferred translation of defectus is "self-wounding." This best translates, I think, the attenuated state brought about by anyone's "rebellion" from a healthy unity. Cut off a limb; get the idea?

Now compare the Latin text of Communionis notio, the CDF document from 1992, issued by Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) under Pope John Paul II, with last week's 2007 CDF document.

The correspondences are so close that, if a student submitted such Latin work, I would say it was plagiarized. But when the Vatican is plagiarizing itself, it intends to reiterate an unchanged teaching.

Except, look at what did change in the Latin last week. Many phrases are highly similar, but now the term defectus occurs exactly where vulnus had been used before! In other words, the real story here is that the Vatican plagiarized itself in order to clarify what the term "wounded"- an old news story from 1992- really means.

That clarification, in my opinion, gently and deftly steers the discussion away from the topic of vulnus ("who wounded whom") to the topic of defectus ("self-wounding"). Because lack of unity is consequent upon all Christians "failing" and "doing less than they might."

Another Good Reason

I know this won't really be Big Info You Didn't Already Know, but I have been thinking a lot about this subject (because of some things happening in my extended family) and today I saw this article and it confirmed some things I felt about this subject for a while now.

Whenever I say to someone, "I would NEVER do that!" (IVF) they look at me like I'm crazy (insert goofy joke here) and say something like, "Well, of course you say that, you would never HAVE to do something like that. You have x#(how ever many kids I have at the time) kids!".

I always have had trouble explaining why even if I had NO children or no hope of ever having children that I would never even consider this barbaric practice. Here are my reasons:

1. IVF takes God out of the equation by saying "I'm going to do what I want to do even if it means making my body do something it was not meant to do (produce multiple eggs in a cycle unnaturally then remove them from the body), not having any faith that God knows what's best for me and my family and putting the Dr.s in charge of that, and risking the lives of all the babies the Dr.s produce by bypassing the natural processes involved in procreation."

2. The financial pressure to keep trying in this process would break the bank and put extra pressure in making the one time work, thereby increasing the risk of being tempted to implant mutliple embryos and risking all of their lives and also the life of the mother.

3. Of all of the risks involved, the biggest one for me would be the most ironic. If I would endanger my procreative health by unnaturally stimulating certain hormones, I could be risking my future FERTILITY! If I had given God a little more time, or had figured out why I hadn't gotten pregnant and maybe tried to fix an underlying problem with my health first, who knows how many years of fertility I could have had!

4. The new info from the article above. Sheesh, that stuff is SCARY!

I understand impatience. I see couples get impatient for so many things, including children. It must be so hard to see their friends and siblings have many children or ANY children before they do. Yes, I do have a bunch of children, so I also understand why people roll their eyes when I explain why it's immoral and dangerous to do IVF. But here's the thing. I never have had cancer, but I can imagine that it's truly awful, and horrifying, and scary, and painful. I could offer consolation to a cancer patient and offer my prayers, too. I have never visited Tahiti, but I can imagine that it's lovely (when it's not hurricane season) and I could wish to visit there and close my eyes and imagine the sun, and surf, and pina coladas at the beach, and tell people that they should GO there...even if I'd never been.

I guess the point of all of this is that I didn't always have children. I didn't have to wait very long, but I did have several periods of infertility that made me curse God (don't worry, went to confession for it since!) and throw my thermometer across the room in anger every morning for a year at one time. I didn't get an answer from God until I took responsibility for my anger and resentment and "let it go". I had to come to peaceful terms with the Lord and say that it was up to Him...from now, on...and mean it! Two months later, when I was good and healthy, I was blessed with Niklaus! I'm not saying that there is some magical way of making the infertile fertile, or that some couples simply cannot have children in the natural process. I guess what I am saying is that God loves us so much that he has so many "backup plans" for us-if we would only just turn around and see what He's been tapping us on the shoulder for all that time!

Another little thing I'd like to add is that I've always wanted to adopt a child. Whenever I would think about ever having a baby or a child, I would think about the adoption process and maybe even traveling to find a child from another country. I never imagined getting pregnant or giving birth. God had other plans for me (funny thing about God, always making plans for me! That God, what a card!) So, sort of in the opposite way, I DO understand what infirtile couples go through. I met and married a man for whom adoption was NOT an option. He told me that, plain and simple, from the beginning. Inside, I ranted, and raved (something about "women's rights" and "why won't he just do what I tell him to do!", I don't know, it was early in the marriage, I hadn't been properly formed yet) and wished, and prayed that he would change his mind. It wasn't in the cards for me, but it still hurts that I will probably never get to adopt a child.

Aha! Now reverse the "adopt" word with the "give birth to" phrase like this..."I always wanted to give birth to a child...it still hurts that I will probably never give birth to a child." See? I do understand. But, even if I didn't, that still wouldn't stop me from telling my friend/sister/brother, in the most merciful and charitable way, why it's WRONG to do IVF.

Love hurts really bad when you know what you are saying will hurt the person worse (initially). You know you REALLY love someone when you are willing to hurt that much for them.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Rick Santorum

I never knew a lot about who Senator Rick Santorum was. I knew he was a senator from the west coast (Pennsylvania) who was pro-life, and while I didn't know this, I wouldn't had fallen off my chair if someone would have told me he was Catholic.

Last weekend, while loading my iPod with material for my daily commute for the upcoming week, I ran across a group of mp3 files over at Fr. John Ricardo's website from a Men's conference in 2006. Fr. John is a priest from Michigan and host on the Ave Maria radio station.

Most of the talks were OK (some weren't my kind of "preaching", but to each their own), the sort of stuff you usually hear at Men's conferences. Expecting it to be the least interesting talk of the group, I saved the talk by the former senator for last. In fact, I almost didn't listen to it at all. That would have been a big mistake.

It's a great talk. It's the story of his becoming involved in the pro-life fight, his deepening in the faith, and the growth of his own family. All three events occurred at the same time, ... imagine that. An amazing talk; interesting, sincere, powerful, and had me a little choked up - but just a little. Set some time aside when you get a chance and listen to it. Pay especially close attention about 29 minutes into it - it's a great story.

Mr. Santorum is a class act and someone who has earned the right to speak at a men's conference.

"When you stand up, when you stand up, people will stand against you. And that's something you have to be prepared for and you got to just accept it and welcome it as something you've got to do to speak truth in our society." - Rick Santorum



Click on the Play button to Listen Now

Here are the links to all the talks for those who are interested:

Bishop John Quinn

Peter Herbeck

Rick Santorum

Alex Jones

Fr. John Ricardo

Thursday, July 26, 2007

When The Going Gets Tough...

...the tough get out their Rosary!

A little more than a month ago I had an experience that was sad but affirming to my Catholic faith. My stepfather, Rudolph Cox, had been diagnosed with acute leukemia, which I learned was a particularly aggressive cancer with low cure rates. He chose to undergo one round of chemo, which was unsuccessful in slowing the disease, and thus decided to stop treatments. He understood he probably only had weeks to live. He died four weeks after learning of his illness. He was 81 years old.

I've known Rudolph for 25 years, since he married my mom (she was divorced and he was a widower). We lost my mother to lung cancer in 1999 but remained close and the kids simply called him "grandpa." He had remarried a terrific and faithfully Christian woman, and two years ago decided to re-dedicate his life to the Lord.

I left as early as I could to be with him during his illness, but the disease overtook him very quickly. I was privileged to be at his bed side for his last three days, although he was unconscious by that time. I learned from family members that Rudolph never complained about his circumstance or the pain he must have been in. As his death grew nearer, he awaited it with resolve and faith. Although he and his wife were not Catholic, I believe they had developed and maintained the same view on sickness and suffering that I have developed as a recent Catholic convert. Suffering will happen, our faith doesn't make us immune to it, and suffering can even be a sanctifying thing to bring one closer to Christ.

Rudolph's strength during his illness helped me stay on track with my Faith, to the point where my experience at his death bed was fundamentally different than with my mom (I was also with her as she passed away). I found myself very comfortable with Rudolph's death, and with his illness and apparent pain and suffering. I prayed for him well into each night, including several Rosaries, not for healing but for consolation and preparation to meet God. At the moment of his death, I was sad to let him go but at peace with his ultimate fate- I had done what I could in those last few days to help him get to Heaven.

What a great treasure we have in our Catholic Faith!

Finally, I'd like to offer these passages from a book of daily meditations given to me by a friend, called "In Conversation with God," by Fr. Francis Fernandez. The first excerpts happen to be on suffering, and were part of the readings from the day Rudolph died (Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday):

"...if they [the sick] unite it to Christ's sufferings, their suffering becomes a good of incalculable worth..."
"When Our Lord gives us a taste of his Cross through suffering and sickness, we should see ourselves as his favoured children... we actually can become co-redeemers with him. Then it is that pain, which had seemed useless and harmful, turns into joy and becomes a treasure."
"We turn to Mary, our Mother... Let us ask that our pain and sorrows (which are inevitable in this life) may help us to unite ourselves ever more to her Son..."

And this excerpt from just his week (Ninth Week of Ordinary Time, Wednesday): "When we are grieved by the death of a loved one, or we are with mourners who have lost a member of their family, we have to manifest, to them as to ourselves, these truths that fill us with hope and consolation; life does not end here below on earth; we are going forward to meet God in eternal life."

Pray for us, holy mother of God.

More Proof the End is Near

In a troubled and dark world, a glimmer of hope for mankind has arrived offering to "educate, guide, console, forgive and more." No longer do we have to put up with talking to Jesus and not hearing Him answer. It's TalkToJesus, and it's about to "rock your world." It's like a little second coming when you want it, where you want it. From the site (http://www.talktojesus.com/):

A history changing event is about to occur. Soon over 2.1 billion Christians worldwide will be able to have private, verbal conversations with virtual Jesus from any phone, anytime, anywhere on a daily basis. TalkToJesus will use advanced speech and AI technology to enable millions to develop a personal, lasting relationship with the Lord–in a whole new way.

Jesus will have a soothing, caring and inspiring voice. He will learn your name and address you personally. He will get to know you and develop a personal relationship with you. He will read from the Bible, listen to sins and console. Jesus will pray with you interactively, and you will be able to ask Jesus numerous theological questions. TalkToJesus will educate, guide, console, forgive and more. In a time when faith is reaching epic proportions globally, TalkToJesus will be there as a new tool to assist Christians in a completely innovative way.

Nothing like this has ever been done before. TalkToJesus is about rock your world.

- The TalkToJesus Team




The world being what it is, this just might make someone some money. I think the best part of the whole site is the line near the bottom in intsy-wintsy print: "Disclaimer: TalkToJesus is intended for entertainment purposes only. It is not the actual Jesus."

So what kind of things can you see coming in the future? Maybe Cabbage Patch Christ or Tickle Me Jesus? I'm not one to see the end of the world right around the corner, but after seeing this, well ...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

St Michael Catholic School Part 2

In Part 1 I discussed progress in starting a new growth pattern within St. Michael Catholic School, in Kindergarten and then hopefully in subsequent years in grades 1-6, as the "bulge" in enrollment works its way up and is sustained. Now I'd like to offer a few thoughts on a similar, though in some ways much more challenging, initiative to add grades 7 and 8.

A few months ago, our Pastor indicated that we would be adding 7th grade in the 2008-09 school year, and then 8th grade the year after that. I believe this was a combination of vision and challenge offered to our parish, and I do hope that we respond positively to both. His effort should be considered all the more bold, since there has already been an attempt to expand with the last few years. At this point in time a lot of effort will have to happen for this vision will come to fruition; as in Part 1, I would urge everyone to support our parish and School to make this a reality. The challenges associated with expanding our School include facilities, faculty and the value equation (will parents pay the required tuition to stay in StMCS through 8th grade?). And there are others too, of course.


A committee to put together the pieces of the puzzle is forming, led by our Principal, and already some great ideas have emerged to maximize the current building space, to accommodate the growth I mentioned above, through the next 3-4 years. The faculty plan will simply have to come from folks who know about education and are willing to help the Principal and School. Among the other issues to be resolved is the logistics of getting more kids through the school day (getting them on buses, into lunch, the gym, etc) and again committed volunteers & teachers will provide the solutions.

The value equation is perhaps the hardest part to nail down, mainly because it's a combination of objective and subjective criteria. Mainly families simply can't afford up to nine years per child, at $2,500+ a pop, a completely real and understandable barrier. To those parents I would recommend having a frank discussion with our Pastor or Principal, about need-based scholarships. Even if a family could eke out the funds, is it worth it? Especially when the very good public school has already been paid for through taxes... Valid question! Then there are the other subjectives: class size, dress code, Catholicity of the staff, etc. How much do they contribute, or detract, from the preparation of life we are giving our children? Again, good questions, but I just have to say that all of those things DO make a difference, and in St. Michael the results are self-evident!

Of course, Catholic school does not guarantee a robust & faith-filled future, any more than the lack thereof condemns a student to fall away from the Church later in life. In fact, in St. Michael we are doubly blessed with traditions of both a great School AND a wonderful religious education program. However, having heard many adults discuss the value of their formal Catholic education, or lament the lack of one, I am firmly convinced it's worth pushing forward to expand our School. I believe we have a responsibility to properly teach our children, not just the academics but how to be good Christian citizens.

To borrow from the old Porsche slogan, "Catholic education: There is no substitute."

Please pray for our School, and consider volunteering your skills and insights to helping us maintain our K-6 program as well as expand to 7th and 8th!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lectionary Statistics - The Whole Bible?

I occasionally come across someone talking about how much scripture we Catholics hear in Church and how we read the whole Bible through every 3 years during Mass.

I'm always torn about how to respond to this. Maybe it's pride, but I have such a hard time ignoring inaccuracies - no matter how "unimportant" they seem to be (my poor, poor wife). Concerned with suppressing my reputation as a "know-it-all", I usually let the statement go uncorrected. I know the point is not so much that we read the whole Bible, but that we read/hear it as much if not more than most Protestants.

Let's look at the claim with some rough numbers. The total number of pages in my NAB Bible is:

1170(OT) + 425(NT) = 1595 total pages

So, there are two claims out there. First is that by just fulfilling our Sunday obligation of attending Mass we get the whole thing.

1595 / 156 (52 weeks * 3 years) = ~10.2 pages

Ok, kind of goes without saying that we do not read 10.2 pages of the Bible each Sunday.

So, the second claim is that we would really hear the whole thing if we attended Mass every day over the span of three years. Without getting into too much detail (oh how I'd love to), the daily Mass readings are not on a 3 year cycle, but a 2 year cycle - the following formula takes this into consideration:

1595 / 782 (unique days 313*2 + 52*3) = ~2.0 pages

Even though this may seem closer to possible, there is still no way we even come close to a 2.0 page daily average.

Recently I ran across the information I had been looking for to back up what we've looked at above. So, if we don't hear the entire Bible, what percent of it do we hear? Glad you asked. Below are a few tables with the percentages read listed for each genre. The percentages are given for Sunday Masses only, and for every day Masses of the entire 3 year cycle.

Old Testament:

BooksSundays OnlyEvery Day
Torah/Law:5.5%14.8%
Historical Books:1.5%9.4%
Wisdom Books:3.1%11.7%
Major Prophets:5.9%18.5%
Minor Prophets:6.0%25.9%
Total:3.7%13.5%

Old Testament:

BooksSundays OnlyEvery Day
Gospels:57.8%89.8%
Acts:16.4%48.9%
Pauline Letters:31.3%56.7%
Deutero-Paulines:37.3%64.7%
Hebrews:27.6%62.0%
Catholic Epistles:24.7%67.6%
Book of Revelation:9.4%31.9%
Total:40.8%71.5%

So, the real average would be:

[(1170 * .135) + (425 * .715)] / 782 = ~.6 pages

Yes, a little over a half of a page each Mass would seem to be a pretty accurate number. So to those still reading, which books do you think are used the most and least? I know, the suspense is killing you.

Old Testamant:

Top:
Jonah81.3%
Haggai47.4%
Joel37.0%
Amos34.9%
Daniel33.6%
Malachi32.7%
Tobit29.0%
Bottom:
Nehemiah4.7%
Esther2.6%
2 Chronicles2.1%
1 Chronicles0.0%
Judith0.0%
Obadiah0.0%

New Testament:

Top:
1 John100.0%
Mark96.3%
John92.5%
James91.7%
Ephesians91.0%
Luke87.8%
Matthew85.5%
Bottom:
2 John46.2%
1 Timothy45.1%
Revelation31.9%
3 John26.7%
2 Peter24.6%
Jude24.0%

So what should you do next time someone says that we Catholics hear the entire Bible every three years at Mass? I still recommend just grinning a little, nodding your head, and keeping your mouth shut.

Monday, July 23, 2007

No Evangelization Silver Bullet

I had the opportunity this last weekend to talk with a few interesting guys about a few interesting things. One of the topics we discussed was what the best way of drawing people not in the Church, into the Church.

Now before I get into it – yes, I know that we don’t convert people, God does. And that conversion is itself given as a grace from God. So if conversion is a grace given by God, what good are our efforts in evangelizing others? I would say that our efforts are a part of that grace given by God. Why has God has chosen to work with us in this area? Your guess is as good as mine, it’s truly a mystery. But He does, and he demands that we keep up our end and evangelize the world.

OK, so we know that God converts people and that he calls us to help, but how exactly do we do that?

Few people have the ability to touch a large number of people in a short amount of time in a profound way. Fr. Corapi, Pope John Paul II, and St. Anthony of Padua are a few names that come to mind – you can think of others I’m sure. But us normal people, who aren’t all that smart, can’t talk all that smoothly, and don’t have all that charisma, know that evangelism just isn’t that easy for us.

But I have good news, God doesn’t call us to this type of evangelization. God calls us to a different type of evangelization that matches up more naturally with our gifts. I honestly believe that the best way of evangelizing people is through relationships. We have relationships all around us, Children, parents, co-workers, neighbors, spouses, siblings, friends, … and this is where we are called to do most of our evangelizing. One warning, the results are rarely as dramatic as we would like, but we’re also not looking for a head-count.

When people get to know us through a relationship, they see us as a real person. A person with problems, struggles, happy moments, etc. And if we really “live” our faith in our lives as we should, they will also see that. When a friend knows that your faith is important to you, it carries a lot more weight than say a nutty televangelist who shouts at them how important his faith is to him each Sunday morning.

And when I say, “… really ‘live’ our faith in our lives as we should”, don’t get nervous. I’m not talking about beating your co-worker over the head with the Bible or Catechism, or asking them if you’d like to meet you best friend Jesus Christ, I’m talking about living a life of integrity and not being ashamed of your faith. We should be doing our best at living a life of virtue, in all areas. Picking ourselves up when we stumble, giving apologies instead of excuses. A consistent, not necessarily rigorous (though it would be nice ;-) prayer-life is a must – no exceptions. We make an effort to talk regularly to those we love, and if we don’t talk to God regularly ... well … you figure it out.

We should also be constantly increasing our knowledge about the faith as time and mental capacity allows so that we can offer somewhat intelligent answers to the more common questions. And by offering advice and guidance at times when appropriate and not awkward, increasing the frequency this happens by increasing the depth of our friendship.

Like I said, this type of evangelization may not bring the converts flowing in, but it is what most of us are called to. It’s a method whose results must be measured not on a monthly or yearly but on a generational scale. The people we know may never convert to the Catholic faith, but then again they might. Either way, we won’t really know what effect our lives had on others until the end of time. We may never see the seeds we plant bloom, but planting is what we are called to do. Our evangelism should be carried out in the day-to-day, a multitude of small acts done with faith, as Mother Teresa said, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It Goes Without Saying (So Why The Heck Does That Crazy Lady Always SAY So Much???)

...because I'm a girl, that's why.

Okay, on to the topic. It goes without saying that I love books. All kinds. I have read thousands of them and I finish (with the exception of the Left Behind book 3 and some trashy novels) every, single one. Why in the blue blazes would a person do that? Because I am a very hopeful kind of gal and I always hope that it will get better! Most of the time it does. Sometimes it doesn't. Anyway, it goes without saying that some books are good for your soul, some are bad, and some are "soul neutral". For instance, let's say...the BIBLE: GOOD for the soul! Ummmm, How To Build A Wiccan Altar: Definitely BAD for the soul! Now for the neutral example...you ready?...The Da Vinci Code.

I know, I know, hold yer horses. I realize that the Da Vinci book caused all kinds of noise and outrage with us Catholics but if you really think about it, the noise probably made the book and movie much more popular than it would have otherwise been...standing all alone...all on it's own merit...without a bunch of people shouting, "HERESY!BLASPHEMY!SINSINSIN!CONSPIRACY!". I didn't read it, but I heard it kind of sucked. As a book. Full of made up stuff and goofiness. Even the author admits it was made up stuff and goofiness. Therefore, I say to you, "The book The Da Vinci Code is neutral for the soul because of the neutral impact (properly formed, soul-wise anyway) made by the silliness and nonsense that the book contains.".

So now I'm going to talk about my love of books some more because, of course, it goes without saying.

I read every book lining the parish school classroom's shelves by the 3rd month of the school year, every year. If you've ever been to the parish school (good ol' st. mike) you could see that every classroom has built in shelves (or at least they used to) lining the whole wall under the windows. True, I never really paid much attention in class because I had a book hidden and pretty much read the entire lesson long. I couldn't WAIT for a funeral (the boys didn't like that but I'm pretty sure the girls were all "yay for funerals!"...we were kind of sick) or bad weather because that meant we would have recess in the classroom and I could finish the latest book I was reading and not miss out on anything exciting on the playground (like break dancing move contests, gymnastics tricks, note passing and flirting)! I never minded detention because it meant I could read some more. I often got detention for reading during class or not doing my homework but, ironically, I would read during detention so: HA! I won!

Well...not really. I'm paying for my inattention then now in my homeschooling adventures with my own children. Like me, they have a penchant for reading and I have to keep them on task and help them find OTHER subjects just as interesting as reading the latest book (Little House, or Narnia, or Captain Underpants, or Junie B. Jones, or The Secret Garden, Treasure Island, True Stories of Spies, Shark Attack!, etc.). Oh well, I'm learning those lessons all over again (or for the first time!) and I love teaching them the stuff that I should have paid attention to in the first place!

Oh, and Harry Potter.

GASP...did she say...Harry Potter???
butbutbutsputter...isn't that EVIL? Isn't the author of those books some sort of satan worshipper?

I will now link you to a favorite blog of mine for more explanation as to why (and when) I do allow my children to enjoy Harry Potter books. I contend that Harry Potter books are at best Christian Themed (heavily on the Catholic side) and at worst "soul neutral" because they are made up. Everyone knows they are fantasy. Ridiculous things happen in them. Most children (especially OUR children) know that fiction means FICTION. Our children are not a gullible as most people think they are. Yes, they are sponges and yes, there is such a thing as evil that can seep into their lives despite our best efforts to protect them. BUT, when it comes to books? I can only think back to those grade school years when I read every kind of book and loved reading, even if I didn't love a particular book. I knew exactly which ones were absolute fiction and loved them. I knew which ones wanted to convince me that a certain way of life was reality (Judy Blume-should have been banned from all Catholic schools...what were those teachers thinking?). It wasn't my reality because I had good parents who raised me right and I stumbled, but I didn't fall because of those stupid books!

Oh, but before I link, I ought to tell you that the movies are a separate issue altogether. It goes without saying that the movies are a little different than the books (as most are) and do not have the same nuances or emotions, or lessons as the books. They, like the books, should be prudently judged for each individual child as to which age (if any) would be an appropriate viewing one. That was a weird sentence. I really liked English too, but evidently that didn't translate into a great ability to form a coherent sentence.

WEHHHLP, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Here's the link to my favorite-ist blog (winkwink)
please read the comments and follow the links if you are going to comment on this particular entry. It's good to be as fully informed about what you are discussing as possible.

Yes, people of good will can disagree on this subject, Serviam! On that, I surely agree! (But I'll win you over yet, I will bwahhhahahahaha!)
winkwinknudgenudgeheeheehee

Radical? Majority? Or it don't really matter

Okay, The Ghost has got to talk about it. He heard another story about Muslims killing more innocent folks and the news guy called them Radicals like he's been trained to do. The news guy is also trained to say Islamo-fascists but that's a mouth full so The Ghost understands. This time it was Pakistan, and their king or whatever he's supposed to be is fighting them. The Ghost yawned, cause this kind of stuff just ain't news anymore.

Then he got pissed off. Then he started thinking more, it usually happens to him in that order anyway.

When will the radicals be called just regular true believers in Islam? Are you a radical as long as you're not part of the majority? Yeah okay whatever, most Muslims are peace loving folks who just want to work and raise their kids blah blah blah. The Ghost thinks a pretty big chunk of the earth's Muslims don't mind at all when a lady straps a bomb belt on and blows up a police station or a restaurant or a school. If it's in Jerusalem jack it up to 80%. Take your hand away from your mouth cuz you believe it too.

Well let's say The Ghost is wrong, and only 10% of Muslims support these terrorists. The Ghost isn't a big math guy, but that means about 100,000,000 Muslims. Are you a radical if you've got that many fans?

According to Serviam! (06/21/07 A Threat From Within) The Ghost is a radical because he don't think abortion is ok but three fourths of Catholics do. But since The Church teaches that abortion is wrong, The Ghost calls himself a true believer in The Faith and if he has to be a Radical too that's OK with him.

Well, that's the rub for Muslims, ain't it? Do all those peaceful child rearing Muslims out there reject the Radicals, the way The Ghost would if some crazed Christo-fascist bombed a mosque? Do they speak out? If 900,000,000 of them thought this stuff was wrong, you'd think they could get 4 or 5 to come on TV and say so.

Letter to the Editor

Not sure if anyone caught it or not, but the father of a local parishioner had his letter to the editor published in yesterday's Star Tribune. The letter he was responding to, along with his response, can be found below.

Original Letter:
Letter of the day: A papal proclamation for these narrow times

Published: July 15, 2007

As a lifelong Catholic who has learned to recognize this church's profound disrespect for knowledge and growth, even I was astonished at Pope Benedict's proclamation last week reiterating the unenlightened and niggardly belief that the Catholic Church is the only true church and that no other church holds the means to salvation.

How this pope and his followers can possibly believe in a God who would create a beautiful world, populate it with intelligent people, then allow only a kernel of truth to flourish is beyond any belief system I am capable of accepting.

However, this pope's proclamation does come to us at a time when our country, under the administration of George W. Bush, also asks us to suspend belief in the obvious. I hope we're not so involved in our electronic toys that we fail to raise our heads, open our ears and our hearts, straighten our backbones and move forward with the integrity it will take to "turn the world around."

SHAWN GILBERT, BLOOMINGTON

Response:
CATHOLIC DOCTRINE
Respect for all faiths

Several letters from Star Tribune readers have criticized the recent restatement of Catholic teaching on "Church." One writer, purporting to be a lifelong Catholic, laments that he has "learned to recognize this church's profound disrespect for knowledge and growth." But he demonstrates an ignorance of the document and Catholic teaching.

While the document affirms the church's traditional teaching regarding itself and its beliefs, it also says that other Christian faiths "... are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact, the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation. ..."

The Catholic Church also teaches that salvation extends to non-Christians as well.

JERRY HEIL, WHITE BEAR LAKE

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Vocation God Gave Me

I have been reading a book during my weekly adoration time and last night it really got me thinking. I am a homemaker and often my jobs seem boring, unfruitful, and repetitive. I love being a wife and mother, I truly do, but I sometimes wonder if there is something else I should be doing for God.

As I was reading, the author was talking about the vocation that God has called each of us to. I know that I am called to be a wife and a mother, there is no doubt in my mind about that, but she took it one step further. She said that in our vocation, we are to study our vocation and really immerse ourselves in what God has called us to do. Study not only by reading books on our particular vocation, but really praying that God would guide us to do and say what he wants us to do.

When I am doing the day to day jobs and telling the kids over and over (and over) what to do and what not to do, it is sometimes hard to find God in that, but that is where I am to find Him. It is what He has called me to do.

The book I’m reading is called, A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot. I would recommend this book to any woman out there, especially mothers.
I am curious to hear how any of you "study" your vocation.
"Seek to love more than to be loved, to understand more than to be understood, to serve more than to be served." - Mother Theresa

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You LIKE Me, You Really LIKE me!


WHOA! I can't believe I've not only been included in the blogroll, but also invited to contribute! Hallelujia! Woooohooooo!...I mean, ahem, I will try to live up the the illustrious reputation of this blog and keep my comments and observations in line with the respectful nature of the people who contribu...oh, who am I kidding? You know it's just going to be all the same dumb stuff I spew on my personal blog that nobody cares about!
For real, I hope that I can offer something interesting once in a while. Thank you so much for including me in your group and I really will try to keep to the topics and conversations of the day without flying off into girly-never-never-land (am I the only chick here?). I hope you won't dis-invite me or regret the invitation but if you do, I REALLY won't be offended. You are taking a risk and I appreciate your extending your hand to me, just a gal who loves the Church, the Truth and wants to do what's right always. Kindly remember that I am only a girl, and that I am a huge sinner, and prone to mistakes and flub-ups. I know what the road to hell is paved with but I still try and try to find my way upwards despite my very fallen nature! Hey, Serviam! Maybe you could give me a suggestion of a topic to discuss in my next contribution to keep me on task and whet my virtual whistle?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tridentine Mass

In the July 5 issue of The Catholic Spirit, there was an article about the Pope discussing His decision to allow greater use of the Tridentine (Latin) Mass.

Two months ago, I attended the Latin Mass celebrated at the Historic Church.
I was brought up in the Latin Mass. As a choir boy, I sang the Mass in Latin every Sunday.

While I enjoyed the Latin Mass last April, and the memories it brought back, No Way would I want to go back to that form of Liturgy.

The Mass we celebrate today, I feel like a participant and more spiritually involved.
In the Latin Mass, I feel like I’m just following along. The congregation reads quietly the English equivalent to Latin. I admit there is more tradition in the Tridentine Mass.
The major drawback is no one is familiar with Latin anymore.

Sound Advice For All

Try to commit yourself to a plan of life and to keep to it: a few minutes of mental prayer, Holy Mass — daily, if you can manage it — and frequent Communion; regular recourse to the Holy Sacrament of Forgiveness — even though your conscience does not accuse you of mortal sin; visiting Jesus in the Tabernacle; praying and contemplating the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, and so many other marvellous devotions you know or can learn.

You should not let them become rigid rules, or water‑tight compartments. They should be flexible, to help you on your journey you who live in the middle of the world, with a life of hard professional work and social ties and obligations which you should not neglect, because in them your conversation with God still continues. Your plan of life ought to be like a rubber glove which fits the hand perfectly.

Please don’t forget that the important thing does not lie in doing many things; limit yourself, generously, to those you can fulfill each day, whether or not you happen to feel like doing them. These pious practices will lead you, almost without your realizing it, to contemplative prayer. Your soul will pour forth more acts of love, aspirations, acts of thanksgiving, acts of atonement, spiritual communions. And this will happen while you go about your ordinary duties, when you answer the telephone, get on to a bus, open or close a door, pass in front of a church, when you begin a new task, during it and when you have finished it: you will find yourself referring everything you do to your Father God.

St. Josemaria Escriva (Friends of God, 149)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why St. Francis Was Right

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with one of the most pithy and often quoted saying on effective evangelization, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” This line is most likely the great saint’s reference to the Apostle John’s appeal in 1 John 3:17, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” In a time where book after book is written laying out elaborate and well thought-out apologetic defenses on the faith, these two little gems of advice seem to shine with a beautifully simple light. While there certainly is a place for more scholarly approaches to evangelization, many times the most effective method of spreading the Gospel is through deed and not word.

But why is this true?

I recently ran across a phrase I last remember hearing in a psych class in college. The phrase is Cognitive Dissonance and I think it sheds light on why St. Francis’ advice works so well. Here is a definition I found on Wikipedia (hey, Fr. B made a Wikipedia reference in the bulletin the other day so that makes it a legitimate source):

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological term which describes the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one's beliefs. More precisely, it is the perception of incompatibility between two cognitions, where "cognition" is defined as any element of knowledge, including attitude, emotion, belief, or behavior. The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to reduce the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions. Experiments have attempted to quantify this hypothetical drive. Some of these examined how beliefs often change to match behavior when beliefs and behavior are in conflict.
One of the most common hurdles we as Catholics have to scale when it comes to evangelizing Protestants is the fact that what we believe is usually not what they think we believe. For example, I have heard many people make a claim to the effect that Catholics think it’s ok to go to Mass on Sunday and then live like Hell Monday through Saturday. Others make the claim that Catholics never read the Bible, or that they, lacking any sort of saving faith in Christ, try to work their way to heaven. And the list goes on and on. They sound like ridiculous claims to you and I, but many people are certain they are true.

Even with good arguments on our side, many refuse to listen because they are convinced that whatever we have to say is wrong – even before we say it. No amount of arguing can persuade them otherwise. So how do we break through this? How do we reach past these prejudices and begin to evangelize the person who holds them? This can be though, especially if they are a friend, spouse, child, or another family member, but it is possible (Scott Hahn talks about successfully evangelizing his wife Kimberly this way in his book Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace).

This is where St. Francis and cognitive dissonance comes in. When we live our Catholic faith, and I mean really live it day in and day out, the people who hold these false views of what they believe Catholicism is will eventually notice that what they believe and what they see aren’t matching up. A “tension” will grow due to the conflict between what they think Catholics believe, and what they see you doing.

As the definition above states: “The theory of cognitive dissonance states that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs …” While it may take some time, maybe a lot of time, a person who sees a Catholic regularly reading the Bible will not be able to maintain a belief that Catholics don’t read the Bible. Or a person who sees a Catholic family praying together and putting their faith firmly into action will have a tough time justifying the idea that Catholics put little value in either.

So we should all remember that living our faith is just as important as learning our faith. Whether we like it or not, our actions have a better chance of challenging anti-Catholic attitudes than solid arguments do. Nothing speaks louder, with fewer words, than a faith well lived. Like St. Francis said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

St. Francis of Assisi … Pray for us!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

True Ecumenism

I wanted to write my response to all the reaction in the media and among Protestants over the new document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church".

Since the heavy hitters (Fr. Z, Gerald, etc.) have done their usual great job of responding, I thought I should go about it in a slightly different way. A picture being worth a thousand words, I decided to fire up Photoshop and create a picture that subtly conveyed my feelings.



Sorry, ... had to be done.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

This is the Church ...

For those who haven’t heard, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) released a document today with five questions and responses regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the nature of the Church (Ecclesiology). The questions raised focus primarily on what the Second Vatican Council's true intent regaurding ecumenism.

The document gives responses to the following five questions:

1. Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?
2. What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?
3. Why was the expression "subsists in" adopted instead of the simple word "is"?
4. Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term "Church" in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?
5. Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of "Church" with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

The recent Motu Proprio Datae “SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM” has been seen by many as an attempt to bring the Radical Traditionalist Catholics (mainly the Society of Saint Pius the Tenth – SSPX) back into the fold. While I personally don’t think this was the main intent, I do think there I a certain amount of hope that it would in the very least restart a dialog between the group and the Vatican.

Could this document then be a message to the SSPX that while the Church is willing to reconsider the restriction placed on the Tridentine Mass (the only Mass the SSPX celebrate), the concept of salvation being possible outside the Catholic Church (rejected by the SSPX) is truth and therefore non-negotiable?

This type of document is always one of the most interesting because it brings out so many wildly different views. The Radical Traditionalists will be screaming that the document’s soft stance on Protestant “churches” is paramount to heresy. Then you’ll have the Protestants screaming that the antichrist/Pope dares not consider them true “Churches” (like they’ve ever cared what the Pope said) in the proper sense.

But the most schizophrenic response yet has to be Ingrid Schlueter’s over at her incredibly anti-Catholic site Slice of Laodicea. She writes:
"Pope Benedict is more consistent than his evangelical counterparts. Unlike them, he isn’t willing to sell out what he believes to get along with everyone else. "
What?!? Did Ingrid Schlueter really just pat the Pope on the back? Is this the end? It’s just got to be. Oh, no ... wait a minute. There’s more:
"Unfortunately, what he believes is damnable heresy, and he views himself alone as the Vicar of Christ on earth for the one true church."
That a girl Ingrid, you had me worried for a second.

But let’s not forget Ms. Schlueter, that’s the “one true church,” in the Proper sense.

My Cousin Joe the Soon-To-Be-Monk

Here is a picture of my cousin Brother Joseph Schneeweis, and below is an article from St. John's Abbey.

Br. Joseph will be professing his final monastic vows this coming Wednesday (July 11th) on the Memorial of Saint Benedict. My wife, myself, and our kids are all pretty excited to be going.

So, what kind of a gift do you get for someone who has taken a vow of poverty?!?


Benedictine Brother Professes Final Vows

Release Date: June 18, 2007

COLLEGEVILLE, MINN. -- Benedictine Brother Joseph Schneeweis, OSB, will profess final monastic vows in Saint John's Abbey Church on Wednesday, July 11, 2007. He will make a public and solemn commitment to live the vows of stability, a monastic manner of life and obedience during the celebration of the Eucharist at 10 a.m. in the presence of Abbot John Klassen OSB, the Saint John's monastic community, family members, friends, colleagues and students.

Joseph was born on June 1, 1963, in the neighboring town of Melrose, Minnesota, where both his mother and father were teachers. His father died when Joseph was only five.

Joseph earned a bachelor of science in Secondary Social Studies Education from Saint Cloud State University, a master's degree in Library and Information Science from Louisiana State University and a master's degree in Philosophy from Loyola University in Chicago. Brother Joseph has also begun work on a master's degree in Divinity at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass.

Brother Joseph began his life as a religious among the Jesuits and worked at Catholic Worker houses in Houston, Chicago, and Tijuana, Mexico, as part of the Jesuit Formation Program from 1993 to 2002.

From 1998 to 1999, Brother Joseph served as a formation assistant and librarian at Arrupe College in Zimbabwe and as chaplain and coordinator of service programs at Loyola University, New Orleans, from 1999 to 2001.

Prior to joining the Jesuits, Brother Joseph served from 1987 to 1990 in the Peace Corps; one year was spent in Guatemala and two years in the Kingdom of Swaziland. He is proficient in both Spanish and French.

Brother Joseph entered the novitiate of Saint John's Abbey in September 2003. At the end of a year when he lived the abbey's full schedule of worship and work while studying the Rule of Saint Benedict, Sacred Scripture, and other topics related to the life of Benedictine monks, he applied and was accepted for temporary vows.

For the past three years Brother Joseph continued his monastic training under the direction of Father John Patrick Earls, OSB, Formation Director. Since the beginning of the fall semester 2004, Brother Joseph has been teaching and coaching track in Saint John's Preparatory School, Collegeville.

In August 2007 he will begin three years of language and theological studies in Italy. "As a history teacher," Brother Joseph says, "I am looking forward to living in the ancient city of Rome where historical reminders are found around every corner."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Al Gore and Global Warming


Last night I was snapping our daily harvest of Green beans with my children and watching the show Outward Bound with Ron Shara on channel 11. At the conclusion I was ready to turn off the T.V. when Al Gore and many musical performers came on with a live concert to inform the world of the warming planet. Big fans of the Catholic Church like Madonna were there to promote worldwide awareness and reduction of greenhouse gas. Before shutting off the T.V. I listened to that guy from Titanic talk about the clear evidence of global warming and the fact that it is not debatable any longer. I also made it through Al Gore talking in circles and hoping to get some votes. As I turned the T.V. off I came to the conclusion that these individuals have some serious power. My children would have believed every word out of these "superstars" mouths. Are they speaking truth and why? Global Warming has become a big topic and I have really become interested in what is truly happening.

Being an avid outdoorsman, I am no treehugger. I love nature and believe as humans and Catholics we need to be good stewards of the land. We need to use animals properly and glorify God's creation in our interaction with them. I have never shot a deer without first kneeling and thanking God for the gift of deer for food. We need to take care of our planet and make sure our children can enjoy God's creation.

All of the above I believe is part of Catholic teaching and is sound advice for all nations. I see my buddy Al Gore taking this a step further. Al is part of a group of affluent individuals who not only use more energy than the average Joe but talk and act out of both sides of their mouths. They have found an issue to rally around and gain attention. Many of the these people, Bill Gates being a great example, give millions of dollars to promote sterilization and contraception to ease the burden on our earth. Third World countries are looked upon as burdens and not environmentally savvy. They are looked upon as strains on our food sources and thus causing more environmental damage with their needs to farm and expand. If we could only sterilize those darn natives who keep burning down the rain forest. I believe Al Gore was once quoted saying how no one should have more than two children. I think he said that before he went home for supper with his four children. If you have not yet heard.. drum roll.... this is also the guy who hired a lady to help him become an Alpha Male during his presidential run. Even better...he is thought by many to be the next recipient of the Noble Peace Prize for his work with Global Warming. I am sure all you agree his feats dwarf past winners like Mother Teresa. She managed to win the award with absolutely no alpha male training!

I guess the point to my rambling is that I have no clue what to think about Global Warming. I would appreciate anyone to enlighten me on the current Vatican Position. I might be totally wrong about Al Gore and if I am I please enlighten me. I am very curious to hear some different takes on Global warming and our role in taking care of this planet. Until then you might want to be like Al Gore and take a few less trips on your private leer jet and gain about 50 pounds of cellulose around your waist so you can turn your thermostat down this winter.

St Michael Catholic School Part 1

This posting is offered to all those who are interested in the value of Catholic education, or curious about it, or concerned about its future. Part 1 will include general reasons to support our local Catholic School, and some recent success in the growth of the current K-6 enrollment. In Part 2 I will discuss the potential of expanding the School to K-8.

St. Michael Catholic School has a rich history, having once offered a free K-12 education to all students (and with nuns teaching no less!). But having had the nuns removed and the school cut down to K-6, and with tuition from parents now needed to balance the budget, a logical question might be: will STM Catholic School survive??

The answer: YES!

The caveat: WITH SUPPORT AND FAITH!

As this blogger has learned over the last few years, the health and growth of a parish-based school is a complex mixture of the condition of the parish, the Catholicity of the parishioners, and the kind of education the children are likely to get. Fortunately, or more properly by the Grace of God, we have been blessed with a very strong Catholic center here in St. Michael, with hard work and strong support from both long term parishioners and faithful and visionary priests. The parish is healthy and growing. So, what of our School?

First and foremost, there simply has to be enough interest from Catholic parents in our parish, which is itself a result of the product offered by the School. And there is no doubt that the product is absolutely wonderful: an accredited school; a professional & committed Catholic staff; faith-based learning environment; weekly Mass; and a curriculum that at least matches if not exceeds the public school. Our kids transition to the public school and do very well, and have the benefit of long-lasting friendships forged from having shared their Catholic school years in a close-knit & respectful environment.

And, the numbers show that the interest here in a Catholic education continues to be strong. Not only were we finally able to open up the enrollment of the School to include a third Kindergarten class and accept all of the "waiting list" students for the 2007-08, but at this time the School is only two students short of three full 24-student K classes. This "bulge" in enrollment will extend for the next several years by creating three classes in 1st grade, then 2nd, 3rd, etc. Total enrollment for K-6 is up to 336 for 07-08! And who knows when we'll reach the "tipping point" for a FOURTH Kindergarten class? What about space and staffing? These are exciting but challenging prospects, which brings me to the caveat above...

We need support and faith for our School. I believe in the support, as demonstrated by the fantastic volunteers and their recent fund raising success, and by our Pastor who has published a plan to add 7th and 8th grades (the subject of Part 2). We also need prayer in the growth of the School, as a means of properly educating more of our children, to humbly and respectfully glorify God in everything they do in life. This is an aspect of education that is simply not offered in public schools.

So, if you're interested in a great Catholic primary education, call the School and schedule a tour. If you're already a supporter, please pray for its success as a human implement with which to teach our children how to be successful but humble & faithful creatures of God.


Friday, July 6, 2007

On Ice Cream and Chastity

Chastity is the virtue, which excludes or moderates the indulgence of the sexual appetite. It is a virtue for the married and single alike, though most people today feel that once they are married it is something no longer pertaining to them. As much trouble as there is in the single crowd blowing this virtue out of the water, there are just as many problems with the married crowd.

The obvious transgressions of chastity whether single or married are not only common, they are celebrated – nothing you all don’t know already. But our culture’s scourge of sex outside of marriage is not the beginning of a rejection of chastity; it’s the culmination of a slow erosion of "hidden" chastity. What is this “hidden” chastity? Married Catholics using contraception.

Now I’m not going to go into why NFP is OK and the Pill isn’t, anyone who really cares can easily find these answers without much trouble online. But when we use any of the gifts God has given us in a way resulting in the object of our love being ourselves, and not Him, it is a bad thing. The bottom line is that contraception, even inside of marriage, is a sin of grave nature:

“Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”

- On Chastity in Marriage (Casti Connubii) Pope Pius XI

Try to say that in the pulpit today!

I read an article the other day I really liked. I’m going to borrow an analogy hinted at in the article, but I’m going to push it a weeeee bit further.

Let’s say I’m in a situation, oh ... let’s say I need to be fasting for a doctor’s appointment, where I am not able to eat anything. Now, I love ice cream and I got the craving (if you know what I mean) for the stuff. But since I need to be fasting, I have a little problem. Let’s look and see a few options I have to solve my little dilemma.

I could solve this problem by placing a spoonful of the ice cream in my mouth, chewing it up, and then spitting it into the sink. Or I could add a barrier. Maybe I could place a balloon in my throat, that way I could chew the ice cream and even swallow it. After that, I could pull the ice cream filled balloon up out of my throat and throw it away. Either way I get some of the enjoyment of eating the ice cream, but without digestion. But can’t we do better?

Oh, hey, what if I have a surgeon modify my throat and place a tube in it that would allow anything I swallow to travel down the tube and into the sink. Eating, chewing, swallowing, ... and still fasting! Brilliant!

But why stop there? I could eat my ice cream, swallow it, and feel full and satisfied if I just throw it all up. I then have gratification yet no digestion. But, who wants to stick their finger down their throat and throw up? We could maybe fix that by first swallowing a bunch of some laxative and follow it up with a few spoonfuls of ice cream. Now there is a chance that the ice cream may be digested, but the chances are far greater that it’s not.

Or I guess I could abstain from the ice cream now, and enjoy it sometime in the future when I didn’t need to fast.

Why do the ideas above sound so ridiculous? Because they go against the natural functioning of our bodies, against the way God made us. They try to circumvent a perfectly designed and working bodily process for selfish and irrational reasons. Unwilling to respect God's design and work with it, they show contempt by changing the plan to accommodate an individual's lack of self-control. The person places their own desires above their spouse and ultimately God.

For those who don’t know, Maria was a 12 year-old little girl who was killed stabbed 14 times) after she refused to give in to her rapist. While so many Catholic married couples are not even willing to abstain and practice marital chastity, she placed her love of God through her chastity above the love of her very own life. And today, by celebrating memorial of St. Maria Goretti, the Church places her stamp of approval on this prioritization. Never is one more alive then when they are dead to self.

St. Maria Goretti, so young yet so wise, pray for our children and ourselves!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!!!


"Patriotism is a love for everything to do with our native land: its history, its traditions, its language, its natural features. It is a love which extends also to the works of our compatriots and the fruits of their genius. Every danger that threatens the overall good of our native land becomes an occasion to demonstrate this love." John Paul II (Memory and Identity, 65-66)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

St. Thomas the Apostle

Today is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. Many people feel a special attachment to St. Thomas due to his being known as “Doubting Thomas”. We heard where his nickname comes from in today's Gospel. Many feel that Thomas has gotten a bumb wrap over his moment of doubt, but personally I think it only adds to his story.

The others, having seen Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit, pleaded with Thomas to "just" believe. But Thomas could only reply:
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
It’s a common thought among the authors I’ve read on the apostles that Thomas was likely caught in the grip of despair, having a hard time dealing with the death of Jesus and losing the faith he once had in him. Thomas, one of the twelve closest to the Savior, had lost his faith.

But it’s easy to forget that Thomas once had an incredible faith in Jesus. When Jesus decides to travel to Judea to visit the ill Lazarus, one of the disciples say to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Eight verses later we get a glimpse of this incredible faith:

“So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go to die with him.’”
And it was Thomas’ question before the Last Supper of, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” that moved Jesus to define himself in terms that would echo down through history, “I am the way and the truth and the life.

Like Peter, Thomas was given an opportunity to make up for his unbelief directly of Jesus Himself. After Jesus came to him meet Thomas in the upper room and was given to chance to make good on his promise to believe after placing his hands into Christ’s wounds, he immediately responds with an undoubting and renewed faith in Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”.

Tradition holds that St. Thomas traveled to and evangelized India and Asia Minor. Not much is known beyond the fact that Jesus graciously accepted the earlier offer Thomas made on the way to Judea to “go die with him.” St. Thomas would give his life to pass on the faith that he lost many years ago, given his earthly reward via a spear. (This was before the Health-and-Wealth gospel) Many of us say we can relate to St. Thomas' story of doubtful unbelief, but I hope we can all someday also relate to his story of radical and true faith.

I received a prayer request this morning from a woman in the Parish. She is a wonderful and faithful woman. Her husband who was raised Catholic has since left the faith. The whole story breaks my heart, and I can only imagine how it breaks hers. I’ve never met her husband, but from those I’ve talked with in the past I’m told he is not an angry or mean man. In fact I’m told the opposite.

I see it fitting that a prayer request for this man be made on the feast of St. Thomas. He and St. Thomas; two men formed in truth, two men who lost their faith, and two men, who by the grace of God I pray, have a moment where their disbelief gives way to a true faith worth giving their life for.

St. Thomas, please pray for this family and all the rest of us.

Ecumenism: Is it God’s will that all be Catholic?

Does God want all Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Orthodox, Non-Denominationalists, … to convert and become Catholic? Would it be His will for a happy, say, Congregationalist to become an unhappy Catholic?

Nothing is as well-intentioned yet less understood as ecumenism. I don’t plan on covering this whole topic in this post, but I want to look into a small aspect of it. It seems after Vatican II a big push was made toward ecumenism. The goal of ecumenism of course is a greater unity among Christians. A good cause, and without a doubt the Catholic Church has gone farther than any other group of Christians to try and increase this unity, but at what cost?

It’s official, the term “Protestant” has been replaced in the Catholic vernacular with the term “Our Protestant Brothers and Sisters”. But it seems that it has brought with it an indifference regarding the importance of the Church by well-meaning Catholics. This idea that the Catholic Church is just one option of the many Christian sects has begun to erode the whole concept of what the Catholic Church is.

I’ve made the claim on occasion that God’s will is for all people to become faithful members of the Catholic Church. And on a few occasions I’ve been surprised at the look of horror on the face of the fellow Catholic with whom I was speaking. This response may be due to them translating my statement into something along the lines of, “If you’re not Catholic you’re going to Hell!” This of course is not at all what I’m saying. But I do think there is a sizable group of Catholics that would disagree with this statement knowing exactly what I’m saying. What consequence does this position bring with it?

If it is true that God’s will is not that all are Catholic (or that He’s indifferent about it), why is my wife, my children, and myself Catholic? As a Protestant, my family and I had it very nice. Our Church was housed in an extravagant building (chandeliers, antique furniture, cafĂ©, bookstore, …), we had a very entertaining worship service (great speakers/preachers, very talented musicians, catchy music, …), a strong social connection (every kind of small/support group you could think of, friend after friend, always someone to help you out with just about everything), and much more. No big deal if we missed church for whatever reason, stuff happens. Never had to dwell on any of our shortcomings, after all we were saved and our sins covered by the Blood of the Lamb. The kids were part of an elaborate and well organized youth religious education program. We even had a great relationship with my mother and father-in-law who had been members of this mega church since its humble beginning meeting as a bible study in a local community college.

Then, we converted to the Catholic Church.

And what did we get for coming to the Catholic Church? We received a concept of sin, and the sorrow that came with it. We got Churches without air-conditioning and traded our padded stadium seating for hard, uncomfortable pews. We now are required, unless we have a very good reason not to, to make it to Mass every weekend with all the kids no matter how inconvenient it is. We have worship services that, though they sometimes sadly try, are nowhere as exciting as we were used to. We are now just a face in the crowd, no one rushed to talk to us after Mass like they used to. We have also been told that the commitment to Christ we made once a long time ago, must me made again. Not one more time, but again and again every single moment for the rest of our lives. They informed us that not the Church, but we were the primary educators of our children. And depending on the day and the topic, the relationship with the in-laws is lukewarm to cold at best. And on some days I’m not sure I’m any better person in my actions today as I was then.

Now I ask again, if it is true that God’s will is not that all are Catholic, why in God’s name is my family and I Catholic?! Who in their right-mind would exchange the first situation above for the second? If all God really cares about, is that I love Him and worship Him in any way I like, why are people so sad when people leave the Catholic Church? What’s the point? Can’t people love God in a Presbyterian or Word-of-Faith church if that’s where they enjoy attending?

Absolutely! But the question is what does God want, not what the individual enjoys. We should attend a church because we want to follow God’s will. To seek out a church based on our own desires and tastes and not on what we believe God wants is a little like me buying a birthday present for my wife based not on what she wanted, but on what I liked. God exists, He is the author of an objective truth, this truth can be known, Jesus established the Catholic Church, and this truth is most completely made known in the Catholic Church. This is our faith.

When the pursuit of worldly joys is replaced with the pursuit for heavenly joys, your understanding of what the Church is changes and begins to come into focus. The Church is an earthly Mother guiding her children along the path of life toward eternity; offering wisdom, correction, forgiveness, and hope. It’s an instrument through which God channels His grace, mercy, love, and a peace deeper than any joy or sorrow known to man. She is a holy sanctuary where God sends the Holy Spirit to make Christ truly present for the salvation of the whole world in the most holy Eucharist.

It is God’s will that all be Catholic. It is His will that we all be one. Ecumenism must never give way to an attitude of indifferentism when it comes to God’s desire for all to be Catholic. We do nothing but cheat others of the treasures God has placed in the Church by not sharing the truth of the Church’s identity; of course, always in truth and charity.

You can have the chandeliers, fancy furniture, well-choreographed worship services, never-ending social network, and free-grace attitude. Give me some of that old-time religion, complete with sorrow and forgiveness for my sins, daily struggles, personal accountability before God, a desire for holiness, the understanding that it’s not all about me (it really isn’t), and most of all … the Eucharist.

How could it not be God’s will for all to be a part of this? And if we really believe with true conviction, the truths She teaches, how could we not desire all Christian unity under Her mantle.