Thursday, January 31, 2008

Books for Lent

Wow, Lent is less than one week away. I was reading something by Cardinal Neumann the other day and I found a point he made interesting. He said something to the effect that while the world had a feast then fast mindset, the Church held to one of fast then feast.

The world wants what it desires now and will deal with the consequences later. The Church desires to prepare itself now, to be ready to receive what it desires later. We see this in the Church in many areas, and at many levels.

Kneeling we say, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you …” before receiving the Eucharist, we fast an hour before celebrating Mass, we fast in Fridays before we rest on Sunday, Good Friday and then Easter, and celebrate Lent before Eastertide.

Besides fasting each Lent, I try to commit myself to some reading and my family and I make our way through a weekly devotional we put together.

The following are books I read or have read during Lent and recommend highly. Follow the link for each if you're interested in getting more information.

In Conversation with God (Vol. 2: Lent, Holy Week, Eastertide)
- Francis Fernandez

This book is the second volume of a seven-volume set. It has 3 reflections for each day on the Gospel reading for that day. I love this set of books.

The Confessions
- St. Augustine

This is St. Augustine’s autobiography, a wonderful and moving book where he (a bishop) bears his story and his soul. There is a newer translation that I have heard does a great job at finding a balance between readability and beauty.

The Way of the Cross
- St. Josemaria Escriva

This is a great book to use when praying the stations alone. It has a picture of each station, a reflection on it, and then 5 questions the reader can use for meditation. It’s a small but rugged book.

Heart of the World
- Hans Urs von Balthasar

Hans Urs von Balthasar writes about Christ’s passion and God’s love in a deep, poetic and readable way. It can be a tough book to get your hands on.

The Sinner's Guide
- Venerable Louis of Grenada

And if you are looking for a challenge, there’s this classic. After reading this book you will see yourself in a whole new light, and know exactly what needs to change. The story goes that it converted a million people when it was printed. And you know what? I believe it.

So what do you do or plan to do for Lent? Do you have any other books you’d recommend?

Marcial Maciel Dead at Age 87

The founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, has died at age 87.

In the official statement, Fr. Corcuera announced "the departure of their beloved founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado to heaven on January 30,” as well as the Legionaries “deep gratitude to all those who wish to unite in prayer for the eternal repose of his soul".

"The Legionaries of Christ currently have three bishops, about 750 priests, and close to 2,500 aspirants to the priesthood, novices, and religious in formation, with centers established in 20 countries. Regnum Christi currently has 70,000 members from about 40 different nations."

More information here.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pentecostals and the Ecumenical Future

John Allen has an interesting article over at the National Catholic Reporter titled, If demography is destiny, Pentecostals are the ecumenical future. The piece covers the nature of Pentecostalism, it's wolrd-wide explosion, and its current and future relationship with the Catholic Church.

Here are a few exceprts I found interesting - but make sure you click on the link above and read the whole thing.

"In Christian terms, the late 20th century will probably come to be known as the era of the “Pentecostal Explosion.” From less than six percent in the mid-1970s, Pentecostals finished the century representing almost 20 percent of world Christianity, ..."

"That would make Pentecostalism the second-largest Christian “denomination” on earth, lagging behind only Roman Catholicism. There are more Pentecostals today than all the Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans put together. "

"... Harvey Cox has dubbed Pentecostalism “Catholicism without priests,” meaning an expression of folk spirituality without the Roman juridical system or complicated scholastic theology. "
Assuming that the growth trend continues, what long-term effects do you think this will have on the Catholic Church? What would Ecumenical progress look like?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Medjugorje

This is a continuation of a previous post in which the author asked what we thought of the appatitions at Medjugorje. After a bit of contemplation I believe the messages are real;

-The good fruit argument- The fruit is good but people with free will sin
-The wheat and tares argument- The good will be mixed with the bad in this age
-The Strongman argument- Unless the strongman is bound his house can not be plundered. -Satan’s house is being plundered when people are led to prayer and the sacraments. Therefore, he is bound in some way.
-Argument from Israel’s past- They all ate manna and drank from the rock but many did not believe and perished in the desert.
-Communion of saints- We ask Mary to pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. She is telling us how we can do that.
-Queen of heaven and earth angels and saints- This is real authority. She is using it to lead us to Christ. Christ can lead us to God, we are being evangelized and it is working.
-Mediatrix of all graces- As co-redemptress with her son she is acting in the role she was given at the annunciation and the she first performed when she hastened to visit Elizabeth. She is presenting Christ to the world. [Mediatrix is not yet dogma it is however, good theology]
-Devotion to the Mother of God is weak in our generation of Catholics. St Louis De Montforte’s devotion to his beloved Mary would be dismissed or condemned as being over zealous- The apparitions have resulted in a renewed devotion to Our Lady and thus grace.
-The messages- encourage repentance to the fallen away, perseverance to the repentant and fortitude to the faithful.
-I have not heard any convincing arguments against M.-Most critics are either liberal, in that they do not accept any type of miracle, including the Eucharist, traditionalists who accept miracles but only if they occurred before V2 so as not to legitimatize it, or random skeptics who do not accept things they do not want to accept. Moreover, the most frequent arguments are weak and could be applied to anything including Christianity.
-A proof that is very silly but convinces me- The message of M must be authentic because it is not very original; Pray, fast, read scripture, confession and Eucharist.
-So, I believe the messages are authentic because there is no reason not to.

The King and the Maiden

Soren Kierkegaard was a 19th century Danish philosopher/theologian (earlier post reference here). Though Kierkegaard wasn't Catholic, and wasn't all that friendly towards it, he still remains in my opinion one of the most profound and deep Christian thinkers of all time. Much of his thinking reaches deeper than Catholic and Protestant divisions - and that's deep.

And as really, really smart people tend to be (just look at the other contributors to this blog;-), Kierkegaard was jUUUst a tad quirky. But as strange as he was, the man could tell a story! His stories are amazing in their ability to explain in an understandable way, what is not.

In his story of the King and the Maiden, Kierkegaard gives his take on why the Incarnation was necessary.

The King and the Maiden

Once upon a time there was a certain king who was very rich. His power and preeminence were known throughout the world. Yet something was missing in his life that kept him unhappy – he desired a wife. Without a queen, the palace was empty.

One day, while riding through the streets of a small village, he saw a beautiful peasant girl. So lovely was she that the heart of the king was immediately won. He desired her more than anything he had ever wanted. On succeeding days, he would ride by her house on the mere hope of seeing her for a moment in passing.

He wondered how he might win her love. He thought to himself, “I will draw up a royal decree and require her to be brought before me – and then I shall make her the queen of my land!”

But as he considered, the king realized that she was a subject and would be forced to obey. He could never be quite sure that he had won her love.

Then he said to himself, “I shall call on her in person. I shall dress in my royal garb, wear my jeweled crown, my best rings, my silver sword, and my most colorful tunic. I will overwhelm her with my majesty and position and sweep her off her feet to be cone my bride.” But as he pondered the idea, he knew that he would always wonder whether she had married him for the riches and the power that he could give her.

Then he decided to dress as a peasant, drive to town, and have his carriage let him off. In disguise, he would approach her house. But, somehow, the duplicity of this plan did not appeal to him.

At last, he knew what he would do. He would shed his royal robes. He would go to the village and become one of the peasants. He would work with them. He would live with them. He would suffer with them. He would actually become one of them. This he did, and in so doing he won his wife.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Understanding Islam Presentation

Its Principles, History and Challenges
for Catholic Christians

A Special St. Michael Men’s Dinner and Presentation featuring Dr. Terry Nichols from the University of St. Thomas Theology Department

Saturday, February 2nd at 7:00 pm
in the Church Gathering Space

7:00: Chili dinner with all the fixin’s
7:30: Presentation by Dr. Nichols
8:30 Q&A session

Cost: $7 per person

RSVP to the parish office at 497-2745 Ext. 210
by January 29th to reserve your seats!

Directions to the Church can be found here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

St. Bernadette

St. Bernadette had 18 apparitions with The Blessed Virgin in 1858 at Lourdes.

She was Beatified in 1925 and Cannonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.
She was a sickly person, and became the patron Saint of the sick.
She was Cannonized for Her heroic virtue during Her life as a Nun, and Her simplicity,
humility and holiness of life.

Appariations are never considered during the beatification and canonization process, as they are understood to be gifts from God beyond deserving of anyone.

This is the Church’s attitude toward the vissionaries of Medjugorje, they received a Gift from God.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Problem of Certainty

I've been stewing on the notion of certainty, both in science and in religion. The stew bubbled to a boil this morning, and I wrote a post ... but I decided to post it my personal blog.

I did this for two reasons: first, because I have some folks who weigh in over there sometimes who might make the discussion spicier, and second, because I didn't want it to come off as a frontal assault on the friends and good people posting here. I wouldn't be here if I didn't like and respect what you are doing on these pages. I just get a little worked up sometimes ...

All that said, I'd love it if some of you would weigh in. You can find it here. Keep up the good work!

Our Father's Desire? To Be Ours.

“But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, …”
John 1:12a

My two-year-old daughter Sarah is never so happy as when I am holding her. She has a very strong attachment to her “Daddy”. If I have some candy or a gift for her, even better, but it’s not what drives her. And while I do read her stories and play with her, she is completely content just sitting on my lap, being with her father. Little kids have the wonderful ability to appreciate just being in their father’s presence.

It’s this child-like quality of desiring to be with our father, to enjoy and appreciate who he is more than what he gives, that we should strive for in our own spiritual lives. To place ourselves in His presence, content having nothing more than the love of a Father who could give nothing less; never wanting to leave. Through baptism He has given us the power to become His children, and His desire is to be ours.

As my daughter gets older and her desire to be constantly with her earthly father fades, I pray that desire to be with her heavenly Father remains.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Medjugorje - The Tree and its Fruit

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them."
- Matthew 7:15-20

In the verses above, Jesus explains how to identify false prophets. According to this, the fruit of the prophet should be looked at more closely than the prophet themselves to determine if a they are a true or false prophet. But the application of this principle has been expanded and applied to just about every area of the faith.

It's not uncommon to hear people quote verse 16 ("By their fruits you will know them.") when they are discerning a situation where they find the "tree" troubling. They say something like, "Look at all the good fruit that's coming from of it, it must be OK."

But things begin to get complicated when the tree bears both good and bad fruit. I would say that Medjugorje is this type of tree. No doubt good fruit is present, but there also is bad. And with this type of tree, I think you find two common methods of discernment.

The first method is to argue that a tree cannot be considered a good tree if it bears any bad fruit. I guess you could say the logic here is that a tree like this may not be safe to eat from. And being that there are other trees growing nearby with fruit that has been guaranteed to be good (Fatima, Lourdes, Guadeloupe, etc.), it makes little sense to risk eating from it.

The second method is to basically weigh the good and bad fruit and make a judgement based on the outcome. Here the thinking is that the fruit can be easily separated into good (long confession lines, conversions, reported healings, etc.) and bad (disobedience to the Bishop, rebellious Franciscans, $$$, etc.) piles. And the larger and heavier the good pile is, the more assured they are of the tree being overall, good.

The Church has not made a decision on Medjugorje, so Catholics are free to make their own minds up on the topic.

But I'm curious - How do you see it?

Is it a mistake to reject the good with the bad and possibly throw the baby out with the bath water? Or is it a bigger mistake to overlook the bad for the sake of the good and run the risk of letting the ends justify the means?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Vesting Prayers for Priests

During a confirmation sponsor meeting at Church yesterday afternoon, the subject of Vesting Prayers for Priests was mention during a talk. While serving Mass as a kid, I remember noticing the priest softly mutter something to himself as he would dress.

While the muttering didn't strike me as very odd at the time (I thought he was practicing his Homily), the occasional kissing of the items kind of did. It wasn't until later that I learned the reason behind it all.

According to paragraph 119 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (G.I.R.M.), the vestments worn by a priest during Mass include an amice, the alb, the stole, the chasuble, and a cincture (for anyone interested, the G.I.R.M can be downloaded here).

Below is a description of the garment and the suggested prayer to be said while performing the action or putting the garment on. (Prayers and descriptions taken from the Handbook of Prayers)

Washing his hands:

The celebrant washes his hands and asks for the grace of purity.

Prayer: "Give virtue, O Lord, to my hands, that every stain may be wiped away; that I may be enabled to serve you without defilement of mind or body."

The amice:

A rectangular piece of white cloth, is the helmet of salvation and a sign of resistance against temptation. The priest usually kisses it and passes it over his head before putting it across his shoulders and tying it around his waist.

Prayer: "Place, O Lord, on my head the helmet of salvation, that I may overcome the assaults of the devil."

The alb:

A white linen tunic which cover the priest's whole body, signifies perfect integrity.

Prayer: "Purify me, O Lord, from all stain and cleanse my heart, that, washed in the blood of the Lamb, I my enjoy eternal delights."

The cincture:

A cord which fastens the alb to the waist, stands for purity.

Prayer: "Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may remain in me."

The stole:

The long band that fits around the neck, is a symbol of immortality and the sign of the dignity of the ministerial priesthood.

Prayer: "Restore to me, O Lord, the state of immortality which was lost to me by my first parents, and, although I am unworthy to approach your sacred mysteries, grant me nevertheless eternal joy."

The chasuble:

The outermost vestment worn by the celebrant at Mass, is the emblem of charity, which makes the yoke of Christ light and agreeable.

Prayer: "O Lord, who said, "My yoke is sweet and my burden light," grant that I may carry it so as to obtain your grace. Amen."

Maybe it'd be a good idea for everyone to pray while we dressed each morning.

But I can't help but wonder what kind of response I'd get if Mrs. Serviam! saw me kiss my belt and while putting it on praying, "Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may remain in me."

Money says I'd have more than an amice wrapped around my neck.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Medjugorje Visionary to Visit St. Michael Catholic Chruch

On January 24th, St. Michael Catholic Church will be hosting an event that some may be interested in attending. Below is some information from the Parish bulletin, and some more from another website.

Here is some information from the Parish bulletin:

Ivan Dragicevic, one of the six visionaries from Medjugorje, will be speaking at St Michael Catholic Church on Thursday, January 24th.

The schedule is the following:
6:00 p.m. begin Rosary;
6:40 p.m. Ivan has an apparition (Our Lady has come to him every day since 1981 at 6:40 p.m.); pray the Magnificat and finish the Rosary;
7:00 p.m. Mass;
8:00 p.m. Ivan speaks to the congregation.

The Blessed Virgin Mary usually appears to Ivan anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes, as she did in Lourdes to St. Bernadette and also to the children in Fatima. During his presentation at 8:00 p.m. Ivan will share with us words from the apparition that evening, as well as the general message of Medjugorje: e.g., he will be speaking about going to Mass and how important that is for us; why it is important to read the Bible, etc.

He will explain how it was when he was a child, what his family was like and what happened on the 24th of June 1981, when he along with five other children, saw the Blessed Virgin Mary on the hill for the first time. Over the last 25 years, more than 40,000,000 pilgrims have gone to Medjugorje. More than 6,000 young men who visited Medjugorje have gone on to become priests and about the same number of young women have become sisters. The fruits of Medjugorje seem to be really fantastic for the Church. I encourage all parishioners interested to consider attending the event on the 24th. No doubt the church will be full, so plan to arrive early.

And here is some more information from another website:

Ivan Dragicevic - Ivan was born on May 25th, 1965 in Bijakovici. He is the oldest of three children in his family.

Our Lady has appeared to Ivan every day since June 24, 1981, and has, to date, confided nine secrets. Ivan married in 1994 and has three beautiful children. His family resides half the year in Medjugorje and the other half in the US.

Ivan: "The apparitions have made a big difference in my life - the difference between heaven and earth. For example, I arrange my day now so that even during the day I find time to pray. Before, my life had no meaning. Now, I'm filled with inner contentment. The first time I saw Our Lady, a change occurred in my soul, and in my heart. Before, I often avoided prayer, but now the difference is so great, I really can't describe it. I'm no longer sorry that Our Lady revealed my future. I'm confident and not afraid, because I know who leads me, and therefore, I'm not afraid of death. People in our parish, and all people, should feel that way."

Ivan and his family spend May-September in Medjugorje and the rest of the year in the US spreading Our Lady's messages in parishes around the country.

Directions to the Church can be found here.

Why Mary?

Growing up non-Catholic, I used to think of the Rosary as a "ladies prayer," insofar as I had any real understanding of it at all. This was probably from the images on 70's TV where only little old ladies nervously massaging their Rosary beads was a common image of the Catholic Church. I really liked watching Magnum PI, Barnaby Jones and the Rockford Files, but none of those great police dramas probably helped my faith journey all that much.

I don't pray the Rosary enough, that's for sure. I really admire those who do one or more Rosaries every day! When I do pray it I have a wonderful experience so why and how I've NOT put this into my daily routine is a "shameful mystery," so to speak. It's also fodder for another post. I just wanted to share some reflections that have occurred to me during the Rosary, with the understanding that these are only from my little brain (and maybe I hope some guidance by Our Lady and the Holy Spirit!)

Here goes:

The Rosary is for men. Yeah, I know it's for everybody but I'm just making the point that no man should be self-conscious about praying it. Serviam! was kind enough to make me a heavy duty version of a Rosary that I carry EVERYWHERE. What a gift to occassionally just reach into my pocket and touch the metal links or the beads or the Crucifix and get a little strength, serenity or even just joy. (Not a substitute for the Rosary prayer of course but it helps me everyday in this way)

I still remember the first time I really KNEW that this whole "Mary thing" was okay. I had already converted and was definitely in a Rosary Streak, even as the occassional doubt would creep in about Marian devotion. So I was over at the school waiting for some other parishioners to arrive for a meeting and decided on a quick Rosary in the car. During the repetitious "mother of God" phrase it just suddenly hit me that those words really conveyed something more profound than Jesus' descent to earth as a human being. After all, Jesus' human body could very well have been formed from a rock, and at an adult age; or even just popped into existence as an infant that Mary could have found (ala Moses); or any combination that didn't include an actual human birth. But instead, God became man through the physical womb of a woman, and not just some fuzzy anonymous archetype but through the womb of one particular woman, Mary. That's why she is so special; she was chosen and she gave her assent. I often think back to that moment in the car whenever I need to boost up my Marian Quotient. I helps me get back to the fundamental nature of Mary's participation in Salvation.

A related theme that I've been working on and pondering, is the placement of Mary as our intercessor and why SHE is so important when we men need help. Think about it: if I'm praying for my deceased mother, Mary obviously knows the profound relationship between mother and son; my deceased sister and grandmother?-- Mary is blessed among all women, shares a human and now glorified existence with them and can relate to them directly; for reconciliation with my dad, or for myself to become a better father?-- Mary watched Joseph help teach and raise Jesus, and thus witnessed that part of the human family dynamic; priests?-- sure, proxies for Jesus, see first example. Etc. Etc. It just seems like having a human mother to pray to, in addition to our Father and the Son our Savior, gives us an absolutely essential intercessory way to give thanks to, and ask for blessings and help from, God.

Don't know if these thoughts make a whole lot of sense, and maybe I'll keep refining my message for future posts. I do know that the Rosary, although really a walk through Jesus' life, has opened up in my heart a better appreciation and justification for Marian devotion.

Mary, pray for us!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Leprosy of the Soul

Leprosy in biblical times was seen as a severe punishment by God for sin that person committed. Lepers were ostracized by the community and lived a truly miserable existence. They were not allowed to speak or interact with people not having leprosy, enter the Temple, participate in the communal worship of God, or live in a walled city. They were required to cover themselves with a rent garment and notify anyone approaching that they were a leper by shouting, “unclean, unclean, unclean, …” and were chased away with rocks if they got too close. And with only three cures of leprosy recorded in the Old Testament, they were left to live out their lives without hope.

Leprosy begins with small spots forming on the eyelids and hands and slowly spreading across the body. It then begins to form scales on the skin and progresses to sores and legions. Because it attacks the nervous system, feeling and sensation diminish and then disappear as the disease spreads deeply into the skin and bones. Eventually gangrene begins to set in and rot the inflected flesh, leaving its victim disfigured. This is why it’s known as the “living death”. The person watches themselves slowly die and decay, one piece of themselves at a time.

As we look back at how these people were treated, on what a sad and horrible life these people must have lived, we can’t help but be moved with pity. We would never treat people suffering like that the way the Jews did, our Christian compassion would not allow it.

It's tough to find a better real life analogy of sin than leprosy. Like people with leprosy of the body, poeple can also have leprosy of the soul. Sin so often begins slowly, but steadily grows. It causes our soul to become numb and decay one piece at a time. If left untreated, it brings about a slow death.

But I wonder what we’d see if when we looked at a person we saw their soul instead of their body. Since we all have sinned, we would see a world full of lepers of varying degrees. How would your own soul look? Not perfect of course, maybe missing a finger or toe, with a little redness here, a little scaliness there. Maybe worse.

And what if as you looked around, you noticed a group that was in the later stages of the disease. Most of themselves rotting away, disfigured and hopeless while other healthier looking souls hurry past not interested in offering assistance of any kind. In some instances, you even see some of the souls chasing away and ostracizing the lepers.

Moved by compassion, and incensed over the terrible treatment of hopeless and sick lepers, you begin to move toward them. With your pace increasing you approach with a determination to show a Christ-like mercy on these souls.

And within steps of reaching them, your ability to see souls ends, and you once again see people’s bodies. Who would you see standing in front of you? The most wretched sinners this world has to offer.

Sinners, even grave ones, are not our enemy, Satan is. Those who have given their lives over to sin have been fooled by the enemy and their souls are slowly dying a horrible “living death”.

As hard as it is, we need to show them compassion and not contempt. This compassion will not cure leprosy, but with it we just may be able to lead the person to Someone who can help them.

Today’s Gospel (Mark 1:40-45):

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Can Bad Roots Bring Forth Good Fruit?

I had the opportunity the other night to watch a video about the Sharing and Caring Hands organization. Much of the 20+ minute video contained footage of the organization’s founder Mary Jo Copland. Every time I read or hear something about this woman I am impressed and amazed. What a beautiful person, what a holy saint.

As the video went on, I started to think about what would happen after Mary Jo was no longer “in the picture”. There would come a time when Mary Jo’s personality and holiness wouldn’t be there to lead and touch people. It got me wondering how much of an organization’s “soul” is who their founder was.

Most organizations, whether secular or religious, take on much of their “personality” from the person who founded them. It makes sense that the organization’s purpose, methods, and mission would come from the very person(s) who brought life to it. While an organization does change some things over time, what usually does not change are its core beliefs and values passed on to it by its founder.

For example, the United States looks to the group of men who signed the Declaration of Independence and celebrates them as its Founding Fathers. For the most part people see in these men (Franklin, Adams, Jefferson ...) the very qualities that we hold dear as a country. We see the bravery, honor, love of freedom, and justice and claim it as our inheritance; passed on through the ages from them to us.

Many major businesses look to their founders with respect and adoration, and in some cases have their own little treasury of legend and lore surrounding them.

Mohammed, Buddha, and Confucius passed on much to their devotes. Luther, Calvin, and Smith also gave birth to causes taking as their identity that which their founders had believed in so strongly. The Jesuits have St. Ignatius, the Dominicans have St. Dominic, the Franciscans have St. Francis, and of course the Church has Christ. What would the Church be if She hadn’t been founded by and on Jesus?

In many ways the founder of an organization embodies their founder. And because of this, one popular way to discredit another group is to discredit their founder – and it’s often quite effective.

Another founder has been in the headlines lately - Msgr. Dale Fushek. Msgr. Dale Fushek is the founder of the popular movement Life Teen. Life Teen, according to their website is,

“an international Catholic movement that serves the Church by providing resources and faith experiences that help lead teens closer to Christ. This is accomplished through a vibrant Eucharistic spirituality and by creating widespread opportunities for teens to grow in their faith.”

Sadly, Msgr. Dale Fushek faces “allegations were raised that he had engaged in improper sexual conduct with teens. A year later he was charged with several misdemeanor criminal counts of assault, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and indecent exposure.” He has been suspended by his diocese and has decided to resign from the priesthood. He has recently started a nondenominational praise and worship center along with the former associate pastor of the same Parish (who left the priesthood in 2002) against the orders of his superiors. The complete story can be found here.

So with a daughter who will soon be exposed to Life Teen through the local Youth Group I’m left wondering - how much of a person is embodied in the organizations they found? I’m interested in hearing if any reader knows anything about this organization or has any experience with them.

Can the fruits be good if the roots are bad?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Finding True Reconciliation

Hey. I’m the new guy. The one contributor to this blog I’m sure I know invited me to write, which may have been a mistake. I don’t know; I’m not sure I can live up to this new role, although I read these posts often and comment when I get particularly inspired. I’ve come relatively late to the faith and am far more opinionated than I am well-read. Bad combo. I was baptized Catholic as an infant, then raised by a fallen-away Catholic and an … atheist? agnostic? … who in reality is one of the more “Christian” men I know. I took a degree in anthropology, focusing on human evolution. I came back to the church when I met my wife, got confirmed after the birth of our first child when our priest announced the two of us as new youth ministers. (We had told him the week before we were interested in helping out …)

I have far more questions than answers.

So during the past week I’ve been commenting on two posts: the first one regarding under what circumstances Communion should be denied, and the second regarding examination of conscience and receiving Communion unworthily. I have a story to tell that ties these posts together, I think.

The first 10 years of married life I spent in a constant state of serious sin. Coming late to the church and with a questioning mind, I found that I didn’t agree with all the Church’s teachings (still don’t) and was unwilling to submit to them simply because I was told to. When I came back to the church, our priest told me that God had given me the head on my shoulders, so as long as I was using it to examine my conscience and discern the truth, I would be alright. I took him at face value: I’ve always believed that remaining willfully ignorant is also a serious sin, and so I continued, with my wife, Catholic friends, seminarians, and priests, to dig into these teachings and try to make them make sense to me.

It wasn’t until many years later, however, that things began to click—not that I completely agreed with all the Church’s teachings, but I could see her wisdom and admire what she was trying to do. I had never confessed my deviance (and that of my family) from one particular teaching, but I began to think seriously about doing so, and prayed in earnest for understanding and humility, believing that to confess a sin with no serious intention to reform would be an even greater sin.

Finally I reached a point at which I thought, There is wisdom in this teaching, and although I may not fully understand, I may find the understanding I seek in submitting to it. Because my own confession and reform would impact my family, I told my wife what I was going to do. She was struggling with the same issue, but was perhaps not as far along at that point – nevertheless, she encouraged me.

So I did it: I confessed the sin, and the fact that for a decade I had disregarded the Church’s teachings as misguided, and the fact that I had never before confessed this sin. I shared my other sins, as well, and told the priest of my personal struggle to understand, and my willingness to try to lead my wife and family to reform. It felt great – the weight of 10 years of uncertainty and good old-fashioned Catholic guilt drifting skyward. The priest talked softly to me about letting go—about relinquishing the control I feel that I must have over my life and yielding to God’s will as revealed through the Church. I told him I would do my best.

Then he said, “As far as absolution, I’m not sure …”

I was shocked. He proceeded to tell me that he needed to be certain I was committed to reforming my life, and that he simply wasn’t there.

I didn’t know what to say. What else could I do, besides confess 10 years of sin and silence and tell him I was willing to change my own ways and lead my wife and family as best I could?

We spent another 10 minutes rehashing the discussion – and I got steadily angrier, until, when he finally did offer me absolution, I had no doubt already sinned again.

It was 18 months before I returned to confession. My rationale during that time was that I knew in my heart, well before the priest had finally said my sins were forgiven, that I was absolved – so what had I gained? A grudge, against a priest I admired and respected (still do).

I returned to the sacrament, not because of my “usual sins” – the thorns and weaknesses each of us has – but because the lingering anger over this conversation left me feeling unbalanced. It certainly helped: this is the first time I’ve shared this story and not felt an ache in my chest and hot blood in my ears.

But the question remains for me, where is true reconciliation found? I’m glad to have reunited myself with a sacrament I’ve always loved – but to this day, I feel as though some of my truest and most sincere confessions occur within me, while my worst, by far, happened with a priest and by the book.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Based on the volume of discussion the AOTM post generated it is a topic many of you are thinking about. I want to ask some related questions.

1. An excerpt from the Catholic answers tract on communion has this to say;
"Out of habit and out of fear of what those around them will think if they do not receive Communion, some Catholics, in a state of mortal sin, choose to go forward and offend God rather than stay in the pew while others receive the Eucharist. The Church’s ancient teaching on this particular matter is expressed in the Didache, an early Christian document written around A.D. 70, which states: "Whosoever is holy [i.e., in a state of sanctifying grace], let him approach. Whosoever is not, let him repent" (Didache 10). " Under what circumstances would you not receive the Eucharist as a matter of conscience?

2. Do you perform a daily or frequent examination of conscience? I ask this because I think it would be very difficult to keep track of ones "state" if some sort of examination is not performed at least several times a week. I know this from experience. I find nightly examinations difficult for many reasons though I suspect the primary reason is because my flesh (sarx) detests it.

I ask these questions because I am guilty of receiving the Eucharist unworthily. I have justifyed it by saying I will confess this sin next time, or worse that I made an act of contrition just 30 mins ago so I am "ok".
It is my intention to amend these behaviors by continuing to struggle with examinations and frequent confession.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bill Maher - A Man of Reason?

Not sure how many people caught the Conan O'Brien show last Friday night. One of the guests was the ever-lovable Bill Maher. Of course he spent his moments in the spot-light trying to stir up as much controversy/attention as possible, but I thought part of his shtick had an interesting question buried deeply under layers of anger, hatred, and bigotry.

“Excuse me. You can't be a rational person six days of the week, and put on a suit, and make rational decisions, and go to work, and on one day of the week go to a building and think you're drinking the blood of a two thousand year old space god. That doesn't make you ... a person of faith ... that makes you a schizophrenic.”
- Bill Maher

Can reason and logic alone lead a man to faith in God? Or does faith necessarily require a departure from/beyond it? (Pope John Paul II had a little something to say on the topic.)

Monday, January 7, 2008


A post to the First Things blog titled "Servants and Immigration"
poses the following question; “Professional women are one of the major reasons immigration control has been so hard to achieve.”
The thesis is that women want successful careers and successful families. In order to have both they must employ domestic help and foreign help is cheaper. However, the article continues “The children of these immigrants…prove to have little more desire to be personal servants than the legal Americans do. And so the flow of new immigrants has to be kept open to provide new servants.” Therefore in order to keep maintain their standard of living these women politically resist immigration reform.
Though I agree with the first part of the premise, that a desire for cheap labor keeps immigration reform a nice idea but never a reality, I can not agree with the narrow vilification of career women as the major reason. Career men must also be blamed, greed and over consumption is not an issue confined to one gender. It is the problem of our common humanity sold into sin. This “slavery to sin” as St Paul calls it, has twisted our desires and the institutions we create.
Indeed, the Holy Father spoke on this during his Epiphany homily when he said “The only way to bring about just and sustainable development in the world is to live in moderation” we must “prefer the common good of all people (as opposed) to abundance for the few and misery for many."
St James has this to say in reference to the twisting of our desires.
“You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

The problem is that the world needs to be transformed by Christ.The problem is that we need to be transformed by Christ. The premise offered is wrong. It has been used before though, long ago, in a perfect garden.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Argument of the month club

With a name like that you want to know more, don't you? The topic this month relates to a previous post by Joshua 24:15 in regard to denial of the Eucharist.
The speaker will address "[w]hat does Church law say about denying Holy Communion? When and why does the Church deny the Eucharist to certain groups or individuals? Under what circumstances may a Catholic politician and others be denied the Eucharist? Is this a political act? Why does there seem to be confusion on this issue?" More information can be found at