Friday, August 31, 2007

Intelligent Design Follow-Up

Ran across this timely post over at CLS (Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex) today that hits on the Darwinian Evolution vs Intelligent Design issue. Check it out when you get a chance. Below is a clip included on the post from the upcoming Ben Stein movie EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed.

Two great questions captivate man: How and Why. If religion addresses the "Why", and science the "How", is science doing its job? With the scientific world often accusing religion of being blinded by ideology, it will be interesting to see the response to this movie.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Origins of Life

I’ve recently noticed a trend in some circles of Christianity to call into question (really attack) the theory (some may say hypothesis) of evolution. I don't hink this much attention has been given to this topic since the Scopes Monkey Trial.

A few weeks ago, while talking with a good friend, I asked him what he thought of it. Being that my friend has some pretty hefty credentials in the area of science, I was interested to hear what he had to say. We talked about it for a while, and left it at that.

I work with a guy who was hired by my company as a contractor. He’s a good guy and we get along well. I’ve noticed in the past that at lunch he reads a small bible. No doubt he knows I’m Catholic, everyone here knows that, and it comes up occasionally in conversations with another person we work with.

OK, so a strange thing happened a couple of days ago. The guy I worked with asked me how old my kids were. I told him, and he gave me a book titled, “Evolution Exposed”. The book goes over the idea of evolution and makes a case against it.

I’m actually familiar with the author Roger Patterson, and the website/ministry (not Catholic) Answers In Genesis that published the book Answers in Genesis. I also know that they hold Young-Earth Creationist views, but some of the information that they put forth is interesting and deserving of discussion.

Personally, I’ve always had a hard time accepting a Darwinian form of evolution. A single simple cell forms and gives rise to countless highly complex organisms with huge number of cells over time? Now I do believe in things like natural selection and speciation, they are only a part of Darwinian evolution. Where these ideas can explain where we get wolves, dogs and foxes, can they really explain how a spider began spinning webs? At the same time, I don’t believe that the Earth was created in 6 days a little over 6,000 years ago.

I think it’s important for people to understand that by arguing that evolution is flawed doesn’t necessarily mean that you hold the Young-Earth Creationist view. The real answer may be a combination of the two or another completely different method.

While my faith wouldn't be shook in the least whatever the answer is, I guess currently I’m a pretty solid Intelligent Design guy. I believe that it is acceptable for Catholics to hold any of the three as long as God’s involvement is acknowledged (someone please correct me if I’m wrong here).

So, where do you guys sit on the Creation/Intelligent Design/Evolution/Whatever fence?

(*And yes, I know we may never know the real answer, and I'm OK with that too.*)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Future of Youth Ministry?

In an effort to attract and retain the youth in the area, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic Church has turned to a unique mix of traditional Church architecture and contemporary high-tech entertainment.

In May of this year, the church began an effort to update its existing building. One new addition to the sanctuary are the “Gamed-Glass Windows”. These windows cleverly mix the Gothic look of stained glass windows with that of 21st century gaming. The windows are connected to powerful dual-processor computers loaded with everything from Tetris and Q*bert to HALO and Madden NFL.

“There was some hesitation early on from some parishioners about placing the four windows in the sanctuary.” Said Nick Miller the Youth Minister for the parish. “We reached a compromise and agreed not to place the windows near the altar so as to not be as distracting.”

“It’s fun. You can come to church, hang out, and have some fun without getting preached to, I love it!” Michael Ward, a current youth group member said.

The parish’s youth program has seen record growth over the last few months, swelling in size from 12 to 21 youths. And that growth is expected to continue as the parish begins plans on expanding on the “Gamed-Glass Windows” with lighted in-floor sensors allowing for DDR (Dance, Dance, Revolution) to be played.

And few are more thankful than Nick Miller, “God has really blessed us here. There’s no doubt in my mind that we are being called by God to lead the way in winning our youth for Christ.”

Will we ever really see something like this?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cure For Those Spiritually "Dry" Times

Feeling a little down in your spiritual life? Have a tough time living your Baptismal vows? Difficulties in prayer? Do you feel like God is just soooo far away? Is Jesus MIA in your life?

Well, chin up lad! An answer to the scourge of the "Dark Night" which has plagued the greatest of the Saints for the last 2000 years has been found. So, what is the answer?

Starting fighting dogs and get busted:

Michael Vick Says “Dog Fighting is a Terrible Thing” and he has found Jesus.

Michael Vick held a news conference today, August 27, 2007, after he officially pleaded guilty in court on dog fighting charges. In the news conference, he said he is sorry for all the things he has done and he takes full responsibility for his actions.

Vick told reporters that this incident has changed his life. He said he has found Jesus and is turning his life over to God.

Vick apologized to his teammates saying he was not honest and that he is ashamed. He also apologized to children saying, his actions were immature.

The judge in the case is considering whether to accept a plea deal that calls for a sentence of 12 to 18 months.

Oh, if Mother Teresa only knew.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Striving, and That Narrow Gate

The Gospel for today (Luke 13:22-30) has Jesus fielding the question of how many people will be saved. This question most likely came up due to the arguments among the Jewish sects at the time over this same question. On one end you had the Essenes convinced that they alone would be saved, and on the other you had the Pharisees (along with most the population) who believed that pretty much all of Israel would be saved in the end.

And what was Jesus’ answer? He begins with a reminder that this question is not only a theological curiosity, but has a very practical application to each of us on a personal level. He tells them to, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” He lets us all know that the first question we each need to ask is not how many, but how about me?

There is no doubt that this passage deals with the salvation (entering through the narrow gate) of people. And we are told to “strive” to enter through the narrow gate. You may have to trust me here a little, but the Greek word used here for “strive” is “agonizomai”. This Greek word means to fight, struggle, to do with intensity and effort. According to Jesus, entering through this narrow gate is going to take some effort on our part.

Now, all the work needed for us to enter through the narrow gate was accomplished by Jesus, and there is nothing that can get us to heaven but the grace that flows from His sacrifice. Yet from Jesus’ statement above, it is obvious that this grace is not granted universally or without some fight, struggle, and effort by the one interested in passing through the narrow gate. Jesus may have opened the gate, but he expects us to enter through it.

I once told my son when he was younger to carry something up from the basement to the kitchen. He walked over, tried to pick it up, and found that it was too heavy for him to lift. He came over and asked me if I would carry it up for him because it was way too heavy for him to carry. I told him that I wouldn’t do it myself, but that I would help him. So he grabbed one end of it, and I grabbed it somewhere near the middle. Now the whole way up the stairs I can tell you that he did little if anything to help in the effort. But when we got to the kitchen and set it down, one thing was true: this item was now in the kitchen because he and I both wanted it, and were willing to do what it took to get it there.

And I would suggest that a “decision for Christ”, reciting a “sinner’s prayer”, or answering and “altar call” may be a start, but by themselves are not what Jesus had in mind when he spoke of striving. Being a true follower of Christ takes a life full of fight, struggle, and effort, not a moment of emotional response. As Laura pointed out, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is a perfect example of this. This struggle may not always be pretty, but it always has purpose.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Side Of Her We Never Knew

Wow. This is really something. I can't comment to any great extent because I feel like the whole thing was a huge invasion of privacy to her. I do see that it will only strengthen most who believed she was and is a saint in Heaven to remain faithful even in the face of spiritual dryness and encourage us to help the poor and downtrodden even if it means that the more we see Jesus in each other, the less we may see the actual Jesus working in our lives or hear his voice.

Isn't that what he wanted? That we be Jesus to each other?

I don't care what that Christopher Hitchens says, that lady had such a deep faith, like the Amazonian jungle natives who have never been introduced to's just that she didn't know it. That doesn't mean she couldn't end up in Heaven, or that Jesus lost love for her, or really doesn't exist!

P.S. I just published a post under the one about Scott Hahn that I had drafted a few days ago. If you want to check it out scroll down a little.

Response to: An Ecumenical Aspect to Islam

I just wanted to start a different post on this topic, but related nonetheless....

Serviam stated (correctly I think) that the confrontation between Islam and Christianity is "inevitable." However, he also asks whether Christians "would" stand up if threatened. I believe the correct question is whether Christians "will" stand up. The difference in these contexts: the threat is here; we are already under attack. Witness a few examples:

We of course are well aware of the physical attacks: USS Cole; embassies in East Africa; the Pentagon; the WTC (twice!); London busses; Madrid subway; etc. When a cartoonist offends the Muslim world, the chief response is based on threats of violence and very real rioting in France. Christians, especially Catholic priests, are targeted for harassment, kidnapping and execution.

Culturally in America: at the University of Michigan-Dearborn (and other institutions of higher liberal indoctrination), foot baths are being installed so Muslims can wash their feet, but Christmas music is not allowed (and I suspect a basin for holy water would be completely intolerable). The ACLU claims this apparent discrepancy is "complex." Seems pretty clear to me... When imams at the Minneapolis airport put on an outrageous show and get kicked off a plane and cry victim, I believe this is simply a ploy to grease the skids for future "action" (whatever that might be!).

In Shanksville, PA, the Flight 93 memorial was originally dubbed by its architectural desigers, Paul & Milena Murdoch, "The Crescent of Embrace." REALLY! (see the original artist rendering below-- the flags on the right were added to show the alleged Islamic references). Murdoch claimed it will be "...a gesture of healing and bonding." Apparently not to Tom Burnett, Sr. His son Tom Jr. led the counterattack on Flight 93 and probably saved hundreds of lives and the destruction of the White House or Capitol. Tom Sr. has publicly asked that his son's name NOT be on the memorial because of its Islamic references. I believe the name of the memorial has been changed to The Bowl and the red maples have been replaced by greenery, but it retains the main objectionable features and the National Park Service says it will proceed.

These "attacks" not not always violent, but always have the implicit threat of violence behind them. This makes them more insidious and, let's face it, clever because it plays to the Western world's modern day weaknesses and fecklessness. Europe is dying out, morally and physically. Muslims have been more than happy to resume the invasion of earlier millenia to fill the void.

Interestingly, a recent Catholic Answers Live broadcast featured review and commentary by Karl Keating on Hilaire Belloc. I'm no scholar on Belloc (or much else for that matter!), but I am interested enough to learn more (in my spare time!). I did find this quote from Belloc's "Europe and the Faith:"

"...there remains the historical truth: that this our European structure, built upon the noble foundations of classical antiquity, was formed through, exists by, is consonant to, and will stand only in the mold of, the Catholic Church. Europe will return to the Faith, or she will perish. The Faith is Europe. And Europe is the Faith."
Well, the rest of the West (read: America) will either learn the disastrous modern history of European Catholicism or be doomed to repeat it. And if American Christians allow this to happen, the "inevitable" confrontation will likely end up even more violent than we have experienced thus far.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Dignity of the Person - The Love of a Father

Many may have already seen the following video, but for me it just never gets old. Currently around 90% of all babies with Down Syndrome are aborted because after all, "what kind of life would they have?" In a world where the dignity of a person is based for the most part on their ability to be "productive" in society, and where fathers have largely disappeared, this video says so much.

Here some information on the two from wikipedia:

Team Hoyt is a father (Dick Hoyt) and son (Rick Hoyt, b. 1962) in Massachusetts who compete together in marathons, triathlons, and other athletic endeavors. Rick was disabled at birth by a loss of oxygen to his brain because his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, and he also suffers from cerebral palsy. Dick carries him in a special seat up front as they bike, pulls him in a special boat as they swim, and pushes him in a special wheelchair as they run.

Thanks to his parents, who ignored the advice of doctors that he would live life in a persistent vegetative state, and Tufts University engineers, who recognized that his sense of humor indicated intelligence, at the age of 12, Rick was able to learn how to use a special computer to communicate, using movements from his head. The first words he typed were, "Go Bruins!", and the family learned he was a sports fan. They entered their first race in 1977, a 5 mile benefit run for an injured lacrosse player who was a schoolmate of Rick's.

Dick is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard. Rick earned a college degree from Boston University in special education, and now works at Boston College. They continue to compete in races, and are also motivational speakers.

As of December 31, 2006, Team Hoyt had participated in a total of 942 events, including 216 Triathlons (6 of which were Ironman competitions), 20 Duathlons, and 65 Marathons, including 25 consecutive Boston Marathons. They also biked and ran across the USA in 1992 — a 3,735 mile journey that took them 45 days.

When asked what one thing Rick wished he could give his father, his reply was "The thing I'd most like is that my dad would sit in the chair and I would push him once."

Kind of makes me think about what kind of father I am. Wow.

When She Bears Attack!

So this morning I had my shower cut short due to what sounded like a bear trashing the house. I get dressed and quickly dart out of the bathroom looking for the wife and kids all ready to be heroic. The sound was coming from our office so I made my way in there and saw something I'll never forget.

It wasn't a bear, it was Mrs. Serviam! going nuts and attacking the PC monitor with a crazed look I just can't describe! I jumped on her back, and after getting thrown off twice, was able to calm her down. After asking what would drive her to act in such a way, she pointed me to this:

Click Here

Apart from a few outbursts here and there, she is doing better.

Islam "No Decoration Like Vatican in West"

Here is a story that caught my attention and got me thinking:

Tehran - The secretary of Iran's National Security Council said Monday that the United States should know that Islam in the Muslim world was 'no decoration like the Vatican in the West,' the Mehr news agency reported.

'The US cannot by force impose the American way of life on Islamic societies, as democracy on the basis of secularism would not work (in the Islamic world),' Ali Larijani said in a meeting with religious scholars in Tehran.

'Islam is not just a decoration in our lives, contrary to the West where the Vatican is decoration,' added Larijani, who is also Iran's chief nuclear negotiator.

Iran has several times criticised the US for trying to impose Western norms, including secularism, on the Islamic world.

Tehran has especially criticised Washington for supporting Iranian opposition groups which, according to Iran, not only criticise the Islamic state's policies but also advocate Western lifestyles.

How much truth is there in saying that the Vatican is "decoration" in the west? At first I was angry, but the more I thought about the sad state of Christianity in the West - abortion, destruction of marriage, miniscule church attendance, etc. - I began to wonder.
But with that said, evils in the West can increase only where the practice of Christianity decreases. Can Islam say the same?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Christmas in August – Dr. Hahn’s Dissertation

Taylor Marshall, over at one of my favorite blogs Canterbury Tales has been reading through and giving some thoughts and observations (very interesting) on Dr. Scott Hahn’s doctoral thesis, Kinship by Covenant: A Biblical Study of Covenant Types and Texts in the Old and New Testaments. Interested in reading it myself, I was surprised and disappointed that you could not buy a copy of the text.

Well today, Taylor has posted a link to the entire theses in a PDF format on his site! If you’re interested and feeling a little ambitious – the file is 760 pages long and the bibliography is longer than many books in print – swing over and check it out. I’m about to head out on a week long trek to Canada, so this came at a very opportune time.

Dr. Hahn has his share of fans and detractors, but I think everyone would agree that he has had a lot to do with the shaping of Catholic thinking over that last 10 – 15 years and will for many more to come.

Is "Non-Denominational" Anti-Catholic?

When I was first considering homeschooling my children someday (Katrina was only 4 and Matthew was 1) I prayed for guidance because the only experience I'd had with that was one family in town and it was such an oddball thing to do. Butch's boss's wife homeschooled her children which gave me the idea that homeschooling could possible be an option for us. Years later, we moved to Buffalo next door to a very nice family. I thought that maybe God was trying to tell me something when I realized that they homeschooled their children! They were a lovely example of the fruits of homeschooling. Their children were intelligent, well rounded, well mannered, and loved God and their parents very much. The mother (I'll call her "Beth") introduced me to a whole lot of other homeschooling families and we eventually joined their co-op of about 50 families for the school year. We met at a local church (we rented) and I taught the pre-school class while Trina attended the kindergarten class (she was 5 then) and it really was quite a nice introduction to homeschooling in general.


I started to notice a couple of things that bothered me. When we gathered together in the morning (twice a week, I think), we sat in the "sanctuary" of that church and prayed a general prayer, said the Pledge of Allegiance (there was a flag there), and after a while, I noticed another, different flag which we were starting to say a "Pledge to the Christian Flag" whatever the heck that was. I didn't pledge or stand because I had no allegiance to this strange flag or whatever it stood to represent but nobody seemed to have a problem with this and they eventually must have had other people make comments because they stopped this practice after only a few times. This was all fine, but then I realized as I made my lesson plans for the 4 year olds that every time we talked about the bible lesson for the day, I had to "check" my Catholicism at the door (so to speak) and be careful not to place too much emphasis on Mary, the Saints, or anything else typically Catholic. I started to feel like an apple on a peach pile. I looked around for anyone to talk to and realized that I couldn't say anything at all because if I talked about MY faith, I would be construed as being too denominational or maybe trying to convert people to MY faith. THEY could go on and on about how much land they bought, how big their houses were, how HUGE their churches were, how successful their husbands were, how great the last foriegn mission trip they went on was...but if I talked a simple, little bit about a small matter of my faith...I would get a stare or a shake of the head to show how inappropriate that would be.

It wasn't long (a few mom only meetings into the year) before I realized that the co-op was a set up for something much more than I was willing to dedicate myself or my family to. It seemed that they were organizing like a corporation. They had a bossy, self appointed president, vice, secretary, etc. and kind of a "board" who decided what classes they would like to include, what outside teachers they might like to hire, which curricula were best, and on, and on. The main goal of the whole group, I discovered, was to eventually start their own "Christian School" in Buffalo!


I wanted to homeschool my children! I wanted the flexibility that comes with teaching my children at their own pace. I wanted for them the freedom to explore some subject they may not get to in a public/private school. I wanted to not feel bad if we had to take a break from school (and therefore get "behind" in some subjects) if we had a family emergency, illness, new birth, vacation (much cheaper during the school year!), etc.!

Which all leads me to today. I found, right before the school year of Katrina's first grade, that Michelle S. lived back in town and that she homeschooled her kids and that there was actually a group of CATHOLIC homeschool families that got together once in a while! So now, we are happily in our 8th year of schooling at home and are chugging along just like everybody else.

A neighbor asked me if Analise could go to a "non-denominational" VBS class the other night and I said "yes" knowing that this neighbor would be there the whole time and that she is a wonderful lady and a good Christian. I figured that they would just mostly talk about old testament bible stories and sing songs about Jesus, etc. and that it would be pretty general and fun for Weazy. But the more I thought about the whole "non-denominational" thingy the more it got me thinking that if Weazy said certain "key words", what would the adults there say to her in response? Nothing like that happened, of course, but what if one of my older children innocently asked an evangelical friend something like, "When did you receive your first communion?" and one of their parents overheard and came in to "correct" my child's belief in the true presence or something like that? I don't know if "non-denominational" means anti-Catholic for sure, but I'm pretty sure it actually DOES. I can't go into it any more than that right now. It's 2am and my brain is spongy. My original idea for this post was lost because I saved it unfinished as a draft! What are your thoughts?

Concerns Over Rising College Costs

The Christian Post is running an article about the increasing concerns over the rising cost of College due to: increasing birth control costs. I’m serious:

College students face soaring costs of birth control pills when they return to
campus this fall.

For years, birth control pills were sold at discounted prices at colleges and universities with students paying around $3 to $10 for brand name prescription. This year, however, the price has jumped to as high as $50.

Providers fear this may lead female students to either stop using prescription birth control methods or use other less effective ones such as condoms or Plan B. The concern of conservative groups, meanwhile, remains the same. They say campuses are skipping out on offering young women the one sure method of protection.
Oh those tired old “conservative groups”, why can’t they just loosen up?

Another interesting and telling little blurp from the article was the author’s description of how Plan B works, or what I like to refer to as a “white-collar abortion”:
The two-pill package blocks a fertilized egg from attaching itself to a woman’s uterus, which leads to it being flushed from the body.
Flushed from the body? Since when do people “flush” something good from their body? I can only pray that the increased price is due to a decreased demand.

Catholicism 101: T Minus 30

Catholicism 101, the 10-week study of Catholicism created by and presented by Jeff Cavins, will begin in less than 1 month. My wife and daughter will be attending the classes/study while I hold down the home front.

If anyone interested in going has not registered for the class, there’s still time! You can visit the St. Michael's Parish website for more information.

For those on the fence who may benefit from this class, listen up: Jeff is a smart guy, a good teacher, an entertaining presenter, has a great track record in the realm of study courses, and at $55 for 10 weeks, it’s pretty much a steal.

You can also swing by Jeff’s blog for more things “Cavin”.

An "Ecumenical" Aspect of Islam?

Just some thinking (rambling) here …

We know that it’s God’s will that all Christians be unified (Jn 17:11) under the See of Peter (Mt 16:18-19). We also know that for the last 500 years people (to a greater or lesser degree) have worked to bring about this unity (again, to a greater or lesser degree) through dialog and documents stating common ground between those holding opposing views.

Unfortunately for 500 years of work (almost 1000 years if we count the Orthodox) we’ve made more progress in the cosmetic than we have in substance. All the internal effort so far has not been able to overcome the pride and misunderstanding that led to the scandal of a divided Body of Christ.

Could it be possible that Islam has the ability to do from the outside what we have been unable to do from the inside? Is it possible that the inevitable confrontation between Islam and Christianity forces Christian theologians to turn from the current internal arguments such as those of imputed verses infused righteousness, and turn their attention to more basic areas like defending the idea of a Triune God against Islamic charges of polytheism?

I’m not saying theological discussions between Christians are not important of trivial at all, but would forcing all of Christianity’s greatest minds to come together and once again argue that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man in a less scholastic and more hostile environment be the start of a lasting unity? Would a couple of generations of this result in the forgetting of the prejudices held today between Christians, and allow a view of Church history and Her teaching to shine through in an unbiased and persuasive way?

The last time Jesus’ divinity was challenged to the extent it is today was during the Arian heresy of the 4th century. At that time the Church called the council of Nicea (325) to address the real and pressing danger Arianism posed to the Church and Her understanding of Jesus’ divinity. It was a fight fought with passion on both sides, and at one point Arianism looked as if it may win the fight. But in the end, after the dust settled, the truth God had given to His young Church shone through and the Trinitarian nature of God was upheld, and a universal creed was born.

Would Christianity come together under an attack (physical, political, theological, …) from Islam? The day is coming (my opinion) when radio programs like Catholic Answers will focus more on Islam than they do on Protestants. God has given us a history full of Him bringing the good from the bad. And while ecumenism imposed from the outside is definitely not my first choice, I do recognize that anything is possible.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

If Truth Isn't Working, Try Titillation

Around the beginning of the summer, a flyer arrived in the mail advertising a new sermon series (yes, Protestants have those) for a newer church in town that meets at the movie theater. But just glancing at the flyer didn’t lead me to think that salvation was what they were peddling. Below is the same flyer, the only difference is the name of the church.

The flyers are the same because they are not produced by the church, but bought as a sort of sermon/promotion package used to draw people to the church who they feel normally wouldn’t be drawn by normal “church-like” things. One church using sex to sell church would have been bad, but to find out that there were enough churches around to make churning this trash out is disturbing.

To be clear, it’s not the picture – I see pictures much worse all around (have you seen the pictures at the bus stops in Minneapolis lately?!??). And it’s not the “s” word that bothers me, nothing dirty about it when use appropriately. It’s the idea that sex is now being used to sell church by objectifying people with the aim of increasing attendance. It's the idea of taking something which is holy and beautiful and twisting and warping it so it will fit in your highly promotionalized packaging. And when a pastor’s salary in these churches is directly tied to the offerings, which are directly tied to the church’s attendance; I guess I see the motives as just a little suspect.

Well I can say I wasn’t all too happy that the flyer made it to my house. I planned on attending a Sunday service and asking the “pastor” if he would mind explaining to me why he thought it would be cool/funny/creative/whatever to send this out to homes indiscriminately. Not sure if I was too busy, too lazy, or calmer heads prevailed, but I never did make the visit.

One of the Catholic Church’s (notice the big “C” in Church) treasures is the Theology of the Body left to us by John Paul II. It doesn’t shy away from the topic of sex, just the opposite. TOB comes at it head-on, but with a novel little twist. It does it with class, faith, truth, and respect. It doesn’t place a bikini-clad woman or guy with a six-pack on the cover in hopes of tricking some twisted pervert into picking it up and reading it. I’m happy to say that not only is the cover of the TOB not sexualized, it’s actually quite boring. The only thing naked in the whole book is the Truth.

I know, I can hear what you’re thinking, “So if this happened months ago, why are you writing about it now? Slow blog day?”

Well I’ve found some information that leads me to believe that we’re about to see round two of the marketing campaign with the slogan, “We’re Bringing Sexy Back”. Guess the first one was a success, how wonderful. Below is a promotional video for the next installment. Oh, and what’s the website’s address you ask? (no – I’m not kidding). Go ahead, check it out, and tell me (if you didn’t already know) how long it would take you to realize that it was a church’s website.

Think Fr. B or Fr. G would boost Mass attendance by starting a homily or two with, "I wish I was more sexy" or "How sexy am I?"

Thank God for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church!

AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!: Can Emeril break-dance like our priest-turned-TV-chef?#links

This looks really nice, I hope he makes it to TV (It would probably be the ONLY thing I could bear watching on PBS!).

AmericanPapist: Not Your Average Catholic!: Can Emeril break-dance like our priest-turned-TV-chef?#links

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Feast For The Eyes And Ears

I know you might have seen this but it's good for the children to see. I cried when I first saw it and I don't have a super strong devotion to Mary. I do love her, but it sure seems like a whole lot of people love her a lot more than me. I should probably work on that. This video helped a little!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jewish Sects of the 1st Century

Between the return from exile and 70AD, five major sects formed within Judaism: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, and Christians. The New Testament was written by the Christians, mentions the Pharisees and Sadducees often, the Zealots in passing, and the Essenes by inference. Each group took as its focus an element of Judaism and built around it an ideology and way of life. Books could be/have been written on this, but here's my quick overview.

The Zealots
Due to their focus on the Jewish Kingdom, the Zealots despised the rule of the Greeks and later Romans. The Zealots looked to Phinehas (Exodus 6:25), the priest who drove his spear through a couple in the “act” of worshipping Baal at Peor. It’s this kind of zeal that lead to the group carrying daggers under their cloaks and staging an unsuccessful attempt at assassinating Herod. The Zealots were known to also use their daggers on fellow Jews who committed acts that they considered sacrilegious or unpatriotic. One of the 12 apostles was a Zealot - Simon the Zealot. Some had theorised that Judas was also a Zealot since his name, Iscariot, is thought to be a form of the word Sicarii who were the group of assassins within the Zealots. But, again, this is only a theory.

The Essenes
The Essenes focus was on the land God had given the Jewish people. Driven by the belief that all the other Jews had defiled the land, the Essenes separated themselves from the people of Israel and lived in isolated communal existence in the desert outside Jerusalem (possibly Qumran). Not a huge amount is known about the Essenes. We do know that they believed they alone had valid priests, observed celibate life, saw baptism as an important aspect of purity, and had very strict dietary laws. In 1947, a shepherd found a cave with jars containing writings from a group believed have a connection to the Essenes. These writings are known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many think that John the Baptist, due to his ascetic lifestyle and practice of Baptism, was at one time part of the Essene community. But again, it's only a theory.

The Sadducees
The Sadducees were the priests of the Temple, and so had as their focus the Jewish Temple. An aristocratic group, they were very much more open to being Hellenized (“Greekified” if you will). They held a very literal interpretation of the written Torah (first 5 books of the Old Testament – the Law of Moses) and rejected any notion of an Oral Torah (a body of interpretation of the written Torah handed down from generation to generation.) And as the Gospels show, the Sadducees rejected the idea of a bodily resurrection. Since neither are mentioned in the Torah (believe it or not), there was no heaven or hell for the Sadducees. Instead, all who died eternally slept in to the abode of the dead, or sheol.

The Pharisees
The Pharisees were what we would call today, a lay-movement. Their focus was without doubt the Jewish Torah. But the Pharisees not only considered the written Torah to be the word of God, but also the oral Torah. The oral Torah would be analogous to our Sacred Tradition (big “T”), and would centuries later be written down as what is now known as the Talmud. One was not born a Pharisee, they would choose to be a member. The Pharisees taught that the ritual purity was not something for the Temple priests (the Sadducees) alone, but that all Jews should observe it. And all Jews wishing to be righteous needed to observe all 613 mitzvot, or commandments found in the Torah. Though not spoken of in the written Torah, the Pharisees held beliefs about the afterlife based on what was found in the oral Torah. They believed the God punished the wicked and rewarded the righteous in the life to come, and that there would be a resurrection in the end. The Pharisees were also looking for a Messiah to come and establish peace and freedom to Israel. Paul was a fervent Pharisee before becoming a Christian, and his letters show this.

The Christians
Christianity started out as a Jewish sect who focused on the Jewish Messiah - Jesus. From the beginning it didn’t see itself as a new religion so much as the fulfillment of Judaism. You can see this in the first big crisis of the Church, what Jewish laws the gentiles would be required to observe (read circumcision). The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) was called to address this problem. It was decided that the gentiles would only have to, “avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood” (Acts 15:20). Interestingly, Gentiles who met these criteria would satisfy Jewish purity laws just enough to allow Jews of that day to sit and eat at the same table with them. Why would this be so important? The early celebration of the Eucharist was in the form of a meal. Charging that the Christians fled instead of defending Jerusalem against the Romans (probably true since their focus was Christ and not the land or Temple), the ties between Judaism and Christianity were decidedly cut.

So, what happened to these groups?

The Zealots: After the Romans brutally put down a Jewish rebellion in 70 AD, destroying the Jewish Temple leaving only part of one wall standing (known as the “Wailing Wall”), the zealots stormed a Roman fortress known as Masada. Killing all Romans inside and taking fortress over, the Zealots were able to defend against a siege by the Tenth Roman Legion for nearly three years. Once the Romans did breach the walls of Masada, they found that the 936 Jews inside (men, women, and children) had committed mass suicide (can anyone say Jonestown?). Live by the sword, ….

The Essenes: After 70 AD, the Essenes seemed to disappear. Though no one is sure as to why, there are a few theories. One theory is that the Essenes had fixed a date on the coming of the Messiah. The date came, and left without any luck, and like the Millerites of the 19th century just dissolved after the great dissapointment. More likely is that they had lent their support to the Zealots in their war against Rome. Rome, not being very happy about this, let them know of their anger. Either way, the Essenes ceased to exists as they had before 70 AD. Not sure how long a completely celibate group could continue.

The Sadducees: With their focus on a Temple that no longer existed, work was hard to find for the Sadducees. While some weak data suggests the possibility of the Sadducees in some form making it to the medieval times, the overwhelming majority of historians place their end within a few years of the destruction of the Temple.

The Pharisees: With the focus of their faith on the Torah, and not tied to a physical entity (i.e. the land, kingdom, or Temple), the Pharisees were able to adjust to the events of 70 AD. They were able to turn the focus of their worship from the centralized Temple to the non-centralized synagogue. With the Rabbis and Torah (written and oral) leading the people, the Pharisees of Jesus’ time have become the modern day Jews.

The Christians: Modern day Catholics.

Don't "Bock" at Attending the Fall Festival....

As most folks around our parish know, our annual Fall Festival is right around the corner: September 8-9th. Among other great events in this two day extravaganza of community, is a polka mass on Saturday and a traditional chicken dinner on Sunday, and various music and kids' games on both days. And, of course for many Festival goers is the coup de grace: a drawing for a car! Yes, choose from one of three options! However, not to dash anyone's hopes about winning the big prize, there was apparently some disturbance at our Adoration Chapel, as "sports car" noises were heard coming from the Chapel-- during Serviam's hour! Must've been some serious petitioning going on...

To learn more, please visit the St Michael Catholic Church home page at:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mass of the Archangels

This coming September 28, St. Michael Catholic Church in St. Michael Minnesota, will be having a conference to celebrate the Mass of the Archangels. The speakers will be: Fr. Pablo Straub, Mother Nadine Brown, Fr. Matthew Hincks, ORC, Dr. Mark Miravalle, and Saturday evening Mass with co-adjuctor Archbishop John Nienstadt. If you are in the area and have an interest, consider attending - it sounds like it may be an interesting few days.

But I’m interested in hearing thoughts on something that strikes me as odd. One of the speakers, as I said above, is Dr. Miravalle. Many will recognize his name from Relevant Radio. I really don’t know much about him other than that he is probably a pretty sharp guy being that he’s a Professor of Theology and Mariology at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Dr. Miravalle has been involved with a campaign over the last few years. This campaign has been to persuade the Holy Father to define the fifth Marian Dogma, proclaiming Our Lady as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate.

Here is an excerpt from a letter Dr. Miravalle has written on the subject:

Now, my friends in Jesus and Mary, it is our turn to manifest our love for our Mother and our desire to see her solemnly crowned on earth for what she is already crowned in heaven.

Following the example of these heroic Marian cardinals and bishops, let us manifest our minds and hearts to our Holy Father for the solemn papal definition of Our Lady’s spiritual motherhood as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate. Please send a brief personal note to Pope Benedict, expressing your own heartfelt desire for the fifth Marian Dogma of Mary as the Spiritual Mother of all peoples. Your personal petition can be in any form that you would like to express, from your heart, concerning your desire to have our Holy Father solemnly proclaim Our Lady as the world’s Spiritual Mother. The Holy Father’s postal address is:
What strikes me as odd is not giving our Lady these titles, I would have absolutely no problem at all if the Holy Father decided to declare this as the fifth Marian dogma. But what I find weird is the idea that we as laity have the right/ability to push for a dogma to be defined based on some direct mail campaign.

Is it a good idea for the doctor to be promoting this type of thing? Even assuming that there is a desire by the Pope to define this dogma, is it ok to "lean" on the Pope to hurry it along? Just how many letters does the Vatican need to receive for the Pope to say “uncle” and give in to an overwhelming response? Are dogmas defined based on heartfelt desire or popularity? Does this smack of the inmates running the asylum?

Am I way off here?

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Has anyone read, or is anyone reading any good books? Here are a few I have read:

Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion and the Crisis of Faith
This book is pretty good. It’s fairly short and easy to read. It goes over evangelization (real evangelization – in my humble opinion). I only really had two complaints about the book. First is that I had read a lot of Fr. McCloskey’s material off the Internet in the form of papers and articles, and much of the material in the book is built from it. Second, I was hoping the book was going to be a little “deeper”. Being that it was light and easy to read was a plus in some ways, but it’s just not exactly what I was hoping for. Interesting but light.
3.25 out of 5 stars

The Jews in the Time of Jesus
Every once in a great while I will find a book that is exactly what I’m looking for. When I bought this book, I had a feeling that I would like it, but I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I had. I’ve always believed that if you want to understand the Gospel of Matthew and especially Paul you need to have a good understanding of first century Judaism and in particular Pharisadic Judaism. I know, it may sound dry and boring but it’s so not! If you are looking for a book on this topic and would like one that is interesting, understandable, and affordable - grab it.
4.5 out of 5 stars

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
I read the first Harry Potter book and thought … I’d wait to write a whole post on it. Sorry!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Catholic Parents ACTUALLY Expected To Go To MASS?

I got this from Ray. It made me think a great deal, and for ONCE, I'm going to shut up and ask you your opinion before I open my big pie hole about it.

What do you think of this?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It's All About ME!!!

The Full Notion of Liturgy:

"The sacred Liturgy, then, constitutes the public worship which our Redeemer, the Head of the Church, has shown to the heavenly Father; and which the society of the faithful in Christ attribute to their Founder, and through Him to the eternal Father; and, to sum up briefly, it constitutes the public worship of the mystical body of Jesus Christ, namely, the Head and its members.

Therefore, they wander entirely away from the true and full notion and understanding of the Sacred Liturgy, who consider it only as an external part of divine worship, and presented to the senses; or as a kind of apparatus of ceremonial proprieties; and they no less err who think of it as a mere compendium of laws and precepts, by which the ecclesiastical Hierarchy bids the sacred rites to be arranged and ordered."
[From the same Encyclical, "Mediator Dei," November 20, 1947]

The more you look at the direction the Protestant churches have traveled over the last century, the more you see a trend toward a radical individualism. In recent history, this individualism has become so radical that a tipping point has been reached, and the faith held by many seems to be less focused on God, and more fixated on self. As the mainline Protestant churches have continued to hemorrhage members, churches that would have been thought of as “fringy” a couple decades ago, are quickly growing in numbers.

No one is going to admit that they are more concerned about their own interests than with God when it comes to worshiping Him, but it’s there - Protestant and Catholic alike. Believe me. Just think about how many times you’ve heard of someone who left or is going to leave a Parish or the Church because, “I didn’t feel welcome,” or “I don’t like how Father so-and-so does this-and-that,” or “I don’t like the building,” or “They should play this type of music because … I enjoy it,” … I'm sure you can think of a few more. Before anyone goes crazy, I’m the first to admit I’m not immune to this line of thinking.

Now I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with having greeters, or calling the Parish a “faith community”, or playing contemporary Protestant Christian music during Mass, but I’m not endorsing it either. As much as I'd sometimes love it to be, it's really not up to me. And it's probably better that way.

As Catholics the focus of our primary, public, and communal form of worship, the Mass, is … God. When it comes to increasing attendance and keeping others by from leaving the Church by making them feel more "comfortable" and more "welcome", how careful do we have to be to not loose the idea of communal worship focused on God? While we attend Mass to get something (grace) out of it, we should also be attending Mass because God deserves and demands our worship. The more local Parishes try to make distinctions between themselves and neighboring Parishes, the more I feel we loose this.

I’ll throw out one quick example of this trend showing itself surfacing on a Parish level. Why would a Parish need a mission statement? All Parishes seem to have one, and they’re all different! Huh? Is there really someone out there looking over Parish mission statements trying to decide where they’ll become members?

So what if Catholics now are deciding on which Parish to attend based on list of criteria important to them? What’s the big deal? Maybe nothing. I found the following list on the website of a hip and modern preacher. The kind that most Catholics would find … well … disturbing and a little creepy. Read it over, and think about how much of it resembles what you hear Catholics talk about today.

(Just a note: The preacher (David Foster) was let go after he posted this list.)

16 things I’d look for in a Church
1. When I enter do I hear laughter?
2. Are people greeting me as a job or a joy?
3. Does the place look like they were expecting me?
4. Are people buzzing as they greet each other?
5. Is there spirited music playing as people gather?
6. Does the music move me?
7. Do the people on stage look real and engaged?
8. Are the announcements short, strategic, and to the point?
9. Is there a printed outline with Scripture already printed on it?
10. Does the pastor smile?
11. Does the message title promise a relevant topic I am interested in?
12. Does the pastor speak with humility and authority?
13. Do I feel the presence of God?
14. Are people listening and engaged?
15. Is the service no more than 71 minutes? Does it pass by fast?

The Visiting Priest From India

I was trying so hard to listen intently to the priest but: I have a bit of a hearing problem, he had a very strong accent, and I was sitting about as far away from the man as I possibly could (had to go in the "gathering space" because of the loud toddler).

He mostly spoke (in his homily) about how we shouldn't attach ourselves to the things of this world. His basic message was how this life is so very fleeting, that it's but a moment in the grand scheme of an eternity with God. He talked about how our dreams are a good example of this, that our dreams are so easily forgotten by the time morning comes and that they become distant memories so quickly. This must be what our lives on Earth will seem like if we ever get to Heaven.

Okay, now that I've convinced you that I was actually paying attention this Sunday, I get to tell you something not so reverent about Sunday. So, I was sitting there, straining to hear over the wigglyness of my girl and my three nieces and one little nephew, I heard Father say something that about knocked me off of my seat until I figured out what he REALLY said.

I often hear things that are not exactly what the sayer was originally trying to say. For instance, "Laura, Mari wants a drink!" might sound to me like, "Laura, mountains in the SINK!". Yeah, it's pretty bad but it can be really funny too.

Father was saying these words: "Father, you sent us your son as our redeemer..."
and I heard:

"Father, you sent an a**hole in a Beamer..."

I swear that's what I heard. I kept shaking my head to get that funny thought out of there but it didn't work and I went to communion (!) thinking about what a dork I am, and how my brain must be twisted to keep thinking about how funny that was, and how I should be saying "Hail Mary's" until I could get it together and straighten up, Missy. Mass was just ruined for me by my impediment and my silliness. I hope I didn't ruin it for Jesus.

I owe Him tons for my Distracted Church Thoughts (DCT's)over the years. One that I'm going to share with you is the painting on the dome of our church. If you look at the green background border around the bottom of the painting...and use your looks like a bunch of fallopian tubes and ovaries. I'm not kidding here. I really think that the artists KNEW they were painting that and were somehow trying to represent the beginning of "life" in some way, or fertility. I'm kind of sorry that I'm drawing you into my weird, DCT world, but I'm kinda not because now I guaranteeeeee you will be looking up next time you're at Mass, and you will see those things up there, and wonder how the heck you missed that up until that crazy mama pointed it out to you.

Oy, I need help. The pregnant-er I get the goofier I get. Sorry, it's not looking so hot until about March of 2008. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Don't Forget About Mark!

Of the four Gospels, Mark seems to get the least respect. It’s the shortest, the Greek is poor at best, the wording is clunky, and to top it off, it’s had to live in the shadow of St. Augustine calling it an abbreviated version of Matthew’s Gospel.

But most today (myself included) believe that Mark was the first written Gospel, Not Matthew. And what Mark lacks in Greek and grammar he makes up for with great story telling. Mark is a master at organizing the Gospel episodes with a deep and often overlooked meaning.

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration (got a late jump in writing this post). It celebrates the story of Jesus bringing Peter, James, and John up the mount (Hermon, Tabor, or Sinai – you decide) and allows them to witness him transfigured in his glory talking with Moses and Elijah.

Mark places Peter’s confession and the Transfiguration next to each other. He also places a story before these that is overlooked, but very significant. It’s the story of Jesus healing a blind man. But what makes this story a little strange is that Jesus seems to need two tries to do it:

“When they arrived at Bethsaida, they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, "Do you see anything?" Looking up he replied, "I see people looking like trees and walking." Then he laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.” Mark 8:22-26
The three, blind as to who Jesus was before now, were now told who Jesus was (the Messiah) and saw Him in His glory. But this image was a blurry and incomplete view of Jesus. Their eyes will be soon closed again as Jesus is crucified and they abandon Him out of fear and lack of faith. But once Jesus is raised and even more so after the Holy Spirit comes, their eyes will be opened and their sight will be restored and they will be able to see everything distinctly.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

On A Scale of 1 to 10 ... Faith vs Culture

The culture and faith interact with each other on many levels. Since you really can’t truly have one without the other, this is to be expected. But what should the relationship between the two be? Should the culture have more influence over faith, or should faith be a greater influencing on the culture?

For example, the reforms of Vatican II would be most commonly seen as the culture influencing faith, and the Catholic Church's refusal to bend on things like birth control, gay marriage, and abortion an example of faith influencing culture (or at least attempting to).

Let’s say we have a line with two ends. At one end you have the culture exerting complete influence over faith, and at the other end we have faith exerting complete influence over the culture. In the United States, the reality is that each denomination would place their mark on this line at a different location.

[Faith] 1 <------------------------ 5 ------------------------> 10 [Culture]

For the Fundamentalists, the mark would be much closer to the faith influencing the culture end (less than 5) (Blue laws and the Prohibition laws of the 1920’s would be an example of this). For Evangelicals and even more so Emergent churches, the mark would be placed nearer to the culture influencing faith (greater than 5) (contemporary Christian music, coffee shops in church, minister's trendy clothes and hair cuts, and sermons with themes based on current movies as a few examples).

I would say that the motto from the churches under 5 is, “We are to be in the world, but not be of the world.” And the motto you hear from the churches over 5 is, “We need to meet the world where they’re at.

So I have two questions:

  1. Where would the Catholic Church place their mark?
  2. Where should the Church be placing its mark?

Of course as always, .... I have my own opinion. ;-)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Great blogging

Hey bloggers, thanks for the follow up posts on the portrayal of the Church in films. This kind of exchange of ideas and opinions is exactly what this blog is for! God bless!

It's Not All That Bad

Hey! Since we're on the subject of Hollywood's portrayal of our faith...check out Church of the Masses whenever you get a chance. It's the blog of Barbara Nicolosi who is a screenwriter/advisor for screenwriters/playwrights and she has a really great view of all things "Catholic in the Media".

Also, last year, I heard a lot about the movie, Bella which will be shown at St. Thomas. I got an email about it just a little bit ago promoting the premier here in MN. Here's how it read (a portion of it):

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops saw an early cut of the film Bella at their meeting in June. The main actor and primary members of the production team are all faithful Catholics. Without being overtly Catholic or pro-life, the movie is a powerful testament to life, to love and to family. The Bishops were all impressed. Bishop Pates thought the film was excellent and has asked the FLYYA Office along with the Respect Life Office to spearhead its promotion within the Archdiocese.

Why promote this film?
Pope John Paul II exhorted us to create a Culture of Life. This film is a response to that call.
If we are disappointed in Hollywood's handiwork, here is a chance to let them know what kind of entertainment we appreciate.

How do we promote a film? First we see it. Then we sell it.
1. We would like to invite you and select members of your staff and parish to attend a private viewing of Bella
- University of St. Thomas' OEC Auditorium on Monday, August 6th at 7:00 p.m.
2. If, after seeing the film, you believe this is a film worth your time and effort to promote, remain in the auditorium for a brief discussion of how we can encourage others to attend.

Our mission is not simply to promote the film. We want to promote attendance on opening weekend (late October) and preferably via pre-purchased group tickets. Opening weekend is when the movie and its success will be compared with others and when theaters will decide how long the film will remain in their theater. We will have promotional materials available that night to make it as easy as possible for you and your parish to promote this effort.

Would you be willing to help promote this "Culture of Life" film?

Please let us know if you will be coming to this private pre-screening, who else you will be bringing and their contact information
by Friday, August 3rd.

Reservations: or 651-291-4488

Questions: Bill at 651-291-4553

Or Megan at 651-291-4489

For more information go to:

For a map of the University of St. Thomas go to:
OEC is #4 on the map.
<> <>

Office of Family, Laity, Youth & Young Adults
Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis
328 West Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102
So I emailed and hopefully will get a few tickets for some of us in the parish and I really hope it lives up to the hype! It sure would be nice to promote something that has a positive, and entertaining , prolife message!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hollywood and the Catholic Faith

I saw the last post dealt with Hollywood's portrayal of Catholics and their faith. I have not seen the movie "Breach" but have seen may other movies depicting our faith. I always get upset when they portray the "bad" and not the "good". I firmly believe our country has a deep rooted prejudice about Catholics. One can easily trace back to this country's start to find the birth of this prejudice. The Pilgrims, Puritans, and other early settlers were not exactly big fans of the Catholic Faith. The early settlers were leaving organized religion and did not want anyone to tell them what they could and could not do. Chesterton, a famous English convert and writer, comments on how Americans celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and even have a holiday to commemorate their arrival. He comments that the English also celebrate Thanksgiving but it is much different than ours. The English celebrate the departure of the Pilgrims to America. Imagine if Call to Action Members all got together and departed across the sea, never to return..... get my drift.
The arrival of the Catholic Church was not welcomed in American and still fights prejudice, lies, and hatred. What does all this have to do with movies? It has everything to do with movies. Hollywood must depict the church in the worst way to continue this deep rooted prejudice. It is ingrained in many Americans that the Church is corrupt and bad. More dirt sells more tickets. It is very hard to find a movie with any Catholics portrayed in a positive manner. As Catholics, we must admit members of our Church have behaved in horribly ways. Hollywood loves this because it sells tickets. We are constantly under a microscope and everyone watches for one wrong move. I wish Hollywood would at least, show the good with the bad on a more regular basis.
I would like to close with a movie that I really enjoy called "The Mission". The movie is about a mission in the South America Rainforest. The movie does show the good and bad of the members of our Church. I encourage all the watch the movie and let me know what you think. The movie is for adults so make sure your child is old enough to handle the movie.


"Breach" is not anti-Catholic (well, I don't think so, anyway...)

A couple of weeks ago, I rented and watched the movie "Breach." It is based on the true story of an infamous American traitor, Robert Hannsen, who as an FBI agent sold information to the Soviets/Russians until his arrest in 2001. He is now serving a life sentence with no parole at the Supermax in Colorado.

The movie is "based" on the real story and so I know there are quite a few liberties taken but all in all it followed the main thread of history. I've heard that a lot of folks disappointed with the film thought they were going to watch some sort of spy mystery-- I suppose the same folks left "Titanic" shocked that the ship went down... Anyway, I did enjoy the movie, although I am having some trouble sorting out my feelings concerning the role of the Catholic Faith played in it (and in real life).

Hannsen was (is?) a member of Opus Dei, as is a lot of his family. He apparently led a fairly strict prayer life and projected this overtly to coworkers. He was (is?) also a pretty egregious sexual pervert. These aspects were all central to the screenplay of "Breach." Hannsen was essentially taken down by Eric O'Neill, a young FBI analyst who is also portrayed as a Catholic man (although I haven't yet found as much info about his real life...).

Here is my dilemma: I found myself feeling sympathetic to Hannsen, even though I knew the Titanic sunk and I knew Hannsen was a traitor. As the movie unfolded, O'Neill questions his superiors about why Hannsen is a target, because they've told him that Hannsen is being watched due to his perversions and unacceptable chat room activities. However, Hannsen behaves as a very strict and orthodox Catholic, with icons decorating his office (including a Crucifix on the wall that he would pray at daily). There is no evidence of any perversion. Hannsen chides O'Neill for ogling attractive female coworkers and challenges him to attend Mass and bring his non-Catholic wife along as well. It's clear that until more information comes his way, O'Neill begins to admire Hannsen and thinks Hannsen is getting a raw deal. Midway through the film, I agreed.

Then it all came crashing down on both O'Neill and me. The FBI revealed that Hannsen was really being investigated for selling secrets to the Reds-- BUT, by the way, the bit about sexual perversions was still true, and late in the movie this is demonstrated in a really icky way. Well, of course Hannsen was a despicable man who betrayed his country and his faith in several ways.

Until I read a little more about the real Robert Hannsen, I honestly thought that his projection of Catholic faith was part of a "cover" that he used to look squeaky clean while doing the traitor and pervert things. Not true-- in real life Hannsen IS an outwardly strict Catholic as I mentioned above, but having done these very bad things. And yet I still feel positive about the "good Catholic" part of Hannsen from the movie scenes in which he preached the right orthodoxy about the Faith. I suppose I was taken in by him, like a lot of people were for two decades and in many ways.

I don't have any deeper thoughts than this to share, but I would be interested to hear from anyone else who's seen this movie. We're all used to seeing Catholics portrayed in their most "flawed" state in the movies. Here is another example, but it turns out it's all true in the case of Robert Hannsen in "Breach."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Day the CCCB Revolted

It was September 27th, 1968, and Sister Ella Zink delivered a document known as the Winnipeg Statement to reporters at a press conference. The Winnipeg Statement was a statement written by the CCCB (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) in response to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. A nation and the world held their breath waiting for the long awaited document.

The Winnipeg Statement was a relatively short document, but what it contained shook the Church. The Statement placed the CCB’s stamp of approval on dissent, and in an indirect but not so subtle way challenged Papal authority. It placed pastoral theology firmly ahead of moral theology and replaced an objective truth with a more palatable subjective one.

Here are paragraphs 25, 26, and 34 from the Winnipeg Statement:

25. In the situation we described earlier in this statement (par. 17) the confessor or counsellor must show sympathetic understanding and reverence for the sincere good faith of those who fall in their effort to accept some point of the encyclical.

26. Counsellors may meet others who, accepting the teaching of the Holy Father, find that because of particular circumstances they are involved in what seems to them a clear conflict of duties, e.g., the reconciling of conjugal love and responsible parenthood with the education of children already born or with the health of the mother. I accord with the accepted principles of moral theology, if these persons have tried sincerely but without success to pursue a line of conduct in keeping with the given directives, they may be safely assured that, whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience.

34. We conclude by asking all to pray fervently that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide his Church through all darkness and suffering. We, the People of God, cannot escape this hour of crisis but there is no reason to believe that it will create division and despair. The unity of the Church does not consist in a bland conformity in all ideas, but rather in a union of faith and heart, in submission to God's will and a humble but honest and ongoing search for the truth. That unity of love and faith is founded in Christ and as long as we are true to Him nothing can separate us. We stand in union with the Bishop of Rome the successor of Peter, the sign and contributing cause of our unity with Christ and with one another. But this very union postulates such a love of the Church that we can do no less than to place all of our love and all of our intelligence at its service. If this sometimes means that in our desire to make the Church more intelligible and more beautiful we must, as pilgrims do, falter in the way or differ as to the way, no one should conclude that our common faith is lost or our loving purpose blunted. The great Cardinal Newman once wrote: "Lead kindly light amidst the encircling gloom We believe that the Kindly Light will lead us to a greater understanding of the ways of God and the love of man.

Cowards! So can someone tell me what the line, “… if these persons have tried sincerely but without success to pursue a line of conduct in keeping with the given directives, they may be safely assured that, whoever honestly chooses that course which seems right to him does so in good conscience…”, does not permit? It seems to open the door to homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and just about any other sin one can think of. As long, of course, as we “have tried sincerely but without success to pursue a line of conduct in keeping with the given directives.”

This was an era filled with a new “Catholic” intellectual class of theologians who seemed to think of dissent as not only an intellectual right, but a virtue. This group was present as “advisors” to the Bishops during the writing of the Statement, and played a huge and influential role in its exploitation. As Msgr. Vincent Foy has said, “In the main, faithful Catholics remained silent. They did not believe their shepherds would turn into sheep and scatter before the theological and "intellectual" wolves.”

But scatter they did, allowing people like Father Walter Principe to give media interviews, spreading statements like, “I hope that they (the Canadian Bishops) will make clear to all that one who dissents with a well-informed and well-formed conscience is still a loyal Catholic in good standing.” Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Saint Blasé, all Bishops willing to give up their lives and be martyred for the truth, yet these Bishops didn’t see the truth worth their personal reputation.

So, if you’ve been following Fr. Z’s coverage of various reactions to the Holy Father’s Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, you will have noticed that there are more than a few Bishops who are, shall we say, less than happy.

So with that in mind I ask, are the winds of Winnipeg picking up and starting to blow again?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

35W Birdge Collapse

For those who haven't heard, the 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed around 6:00 PM. Let us all remember those, both living and dead, in our prayers.

Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.

**Update: Here is an email from a Parishioner:

PCI, the company doing the resurfacing of the bridge, is located in St. Michael, and still has not accounted for one of 18 workers. The rest "rode it" down safely. My husband [Husband's Name] & I have been paramedics with HCMC for about 20 years each, so we have many friends involved in this effort. [Husband's Name], now a Metro Transit police officer, was on his regular shift, and has been at the scene since it happened. Please offer frequent prayers for the poor souls, any surviving victims, the families & the workers who continue down there.
Again, let's keep them all in our prayers.

**Update #2: Just got to work...

My company sits right next to the 35W bridge (north side). If you've watched the news at all, I'm sure you've seen the building. Part of the bridge that collapsed actually landed in one of our parking areas. The trip in wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but I'm guessing that many people decided to take the day off. I talked to one of the guys who was working last night and he said that when the bridge collapsed it sounded like a huge thunder storm followed by a vibration that made the building tremble.

Actually standing here looking at the bridge takes your breath away.

**Update #3: Archdiocese responds to Minnesota bridge collapse, holds prayer service

From CNA:

Responding to the collapse of the 35 West bridge in Minneapolis during yesterday’s rush hour, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is holding a prayer service for the victims of the disaster.

The prayer service is open to anyone who would like to come and pray for the victims. There will be two prayer services in the Twin Cities. The Minneapolis service will be held at St. Olaf Catholic Church downtown and the St. Paul service will be at the Cathedral of St. Paul both at noon on Thursday, August 2, 2007.

The archdiocese says prayers of thanks also will be offered for survivors and rescuers.

What a great response.

The Audio Bible & the Hacks at Newsweek

I have the entire New Testament on my iPod (among other things). I can, for example, listen to Paul’s entire first letter to the Corinthians in the time it takes me to get to and from work. I have found that doing this, verses reading one or two chapters a day, gives me the added benefit of picking up on the letter’s message as a whole, and not just that of a chapter’s. Seeing how each chapter’s theme, tone, and content fits in with that of the letter as a whole is so helpful in understanding what’s being said.

In the August 6th edition of Newsweek, there is a somewhat interesting article on the intersecting popularity of the iPod and the Bible. While the topic itself is worth discussing, the journalism Newsweek "reporter" Tony Dokoupil produced leaves a little to be desired. It wasn't enough to look objectively at the topic; he needed to "spice" it up with odd comparisons and off-the-wall quotes from marginal sources.

The article starts with a clunky and forced comparison between audio files and holy water, and fiber-optic cables with a sacrarium. Of course the term "Roman Catholics" is used to try and offer some sort of credibility.
“The convenience of these modern miracles is obvious, but they raise a thorny question: now that the holy texts are digital, portable and deletable, how should we treat them? It seems blasphemous to shuffle God into electronic company with Madonna and the Grateful Dead, and later destroy his name as casually as "Control-Delete." Even downloading the Word through the same fiber-optic cables as the latest Korn album sounds like a bad idea, given that Roman Catholics dispose of holy water through special pipes to keep it from touching sewage.”
Man, that’s such a stupid paragraph. But I digress. Anyway, so next the article looks to Catholics, Jews, and Protestants for their take on the Word of God made digital phenomena. And of course, the Catholic position is given by the wackiest Catholic clergymen they can find, a Jesuit no less.

"If someone uses their iPod exclusively for sacred purposes," says Justin Daffron, a Jesuit priest at Chicago's Loyola University, "then it's a sacramental object that needs to be buried or burned when it wears out." But feel free to delete digitized Scripture on a daily basis. "The file itself is just a file," adds Daffron, who erases the readings he receives on his multi-use BlackBerry guilt-free.
Huh? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought for something to be a sacramental it had to be blessed by a priest? And since when did a BlackBerry fit neatly in to a vow of poverty?

Jews also believe that the Bible prohibits destroying the readable name of God, although it's not that simple in an electronic world. "It depends on whether the digital grooves or tiny dots that the computer translates into Torah can be considered letters," says Joel Roth, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary. "If you say they aren't, then what about the Old Testament in Braille?"
What? Did Joel Roth, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, refer to the Jewish Bible as the “Old Testament”. Hmm… Prof Roth’s authority in the area of the Torah may be a little shaky.


Protestant evangelicals see e-Bibles as mere vessels for God rather than holy objects—kind of like the replicants in "Blade Runner" were less human than their human originals. "There's not the same sense of investing the object with sanctity," says Lauren Winner, an assistant professor at Duke Divinity School. "Evangelicals will use whatever helps squeeze religion into the cracks of modern life."

Duke University? Of all the protestant institutions out there, they picked a Methodist school to speak about the Bible? I apologize to all the Methodist readers we have, but having the Methodists speak for the protestants in this area is a little like Rudy Giuliani speaking for the Republicans on Pro-Life issues.

Ah yes, leave it to Newsweek to generate a story where there really never was one. But all ridiculous hack journalism aside, if you do have the ability to pick up the Bible on CD and would use it, think about it. But here is the question I’m interested in hearing responses to.

Below are two versions of an audio Bible, one is dramatized, the other is not. If you were going to buy one, which would it be?




Would it matter if one was a Catholic version of the Bible and one was a Protestant version?