Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Supreme Court's Decision - Now What? (part 2)

The Supreme Court’s Decision – 
Now What? (part 2)

350z33 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

          In my first post about the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision redefining marriage, I focused on our personal response, especially with individuals in our lives who see the court’s ruling as a cause for celebration.  In this post, I’d like to tackle some of the larger, societal questions I mentioned, such as: What does it mean?, and, What do we do next?
          First of all, the Supreme Court’s decision does not mean that now same-sex “marriage” is a reality.  It never can be a reality.  The Supreme Court did not create marriage, so it has no authority to recreate it.  However, the decision does mean that the marriage law of our land is now divorced from reality.
          Such an event is always a major problem.  When it comes to marriage, it is an even greater problem.  The state has always been concerned with marriage because it is an institution that provides stability for children, and a legal connection for them with their parents.  The stable family in which a child has a right to the presence of both its mother and father is the building block of any healthy society.  By disregarding this truth - the purpose of the family, and the legitimate needs of children – that building block has been pulled out from the foundation of our society.  If our nation lasts, with any of its former strength, for long after this, it will be the first in history to do so.
          That being said, the Roe v Wade decision 40 years ago was even more devastating than this one.  Our culture has been on life support ever since.  Is it any surprise that Sister Lucia reportedly said that the final confrontation between Our Lord and satan will be over the family?
          She also said that those who defend the sanctity of marriage and the family will be opposed.  This is what we have to look forward to now.  There will shortly be an attack on the tax-exempt status of churches over this issue, and faithful Catholic schools will be fighting for their lives.  Even we as individuals had better be ready for increased suffering.
          We wonder whether the United States could turn into Canada, where simply defending traditional marriage can have a person fined for hate speech and even thrown into jail.  At one level, we would think it could not.  I consider all the court cases involving the Ku Klux Klan, in which free speech rights were upheld by the courts.  Essentially, the mantra was: “We hate what you say, but we will fight for your right to say it.”
          Does that still apply, though?  Judges are no longer faithful defenders of the law.  They are simply politicians like the rest.  Time will tell which freedoms will be defended and which will be discarded.  In all this, we should also remember that Sister Lucia, in commenting on this great battle, echoed the words of Our Lord: “Do not be afraid.”  The head of the serpent has already been crushed.  We are on the winning team.  Our goal is to stay faithful.  Save our souls, and as many others as we can.  The victory is the Lord’s.  (Let us also remember, when persecution comes, that vengeance is also the Lord’s; our call is to forgive.)
          So the long battle for religious liberty continues.  A great example of what needs to be done on that front was given by the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, who responded to the court’s ruling by issuing a directive protecting religious liberty.  Especially with a Presidential election coming, this must be a non-negotiable issue for us.
          One important thing to remember is that as much damage as the Obergefell decision will do, those five judges aren’t really as important as we all make them out to be.  The decision did not create a disaster for our culture, it only revealed where our culture already is.  A far more important meeting of far more important people will be happening this September in Philadelphia, when the Church holds its World Meeting of Families.
          This best answers the question: What do we do next?  Of course, the Church’s teaching on marriage will not (and can not) change.  But will this challenge be met head on?  I am not looking as much for condemnations (necessary as they often are) as for a clear positive vision.
          The problem is not that our country will have same-sex “marriage.”  The problem is that our culture (the entire Western world) has lost a true vision of what it is to be human; what it is to be a man or a woman; what marriage and the family is all about; and where our destiny lies.  We need to be reminded, and who, besides the Church of Jesus Christ, can do that?
          Now I do not presume to have even remotely the prudence or understanding of our shepherds, so I will simply pray, trusting them to their task.
          But I would love to see a massive educational campaign, that becomes a primary focus in each of our parishes, to restore in our hearts God’s vision of who we truly are. 
          And that vision is beautiful, far more beautiful than anything the secular culture has to offer.  It is not about “Thou shalt not,” but rather, “Thou can become…”  Everyone is welcome; everyone is invited to be the glorious saint God has destined us to be, if only we respond to the grace He offers.  This effort should not set us at odds with any group, rather it should give hope to all groups. 
Our culture demands that people be defined by their attractions, or even worse, their sexual habits.  We Catholics can see much deeper.  We can see every person as a precious child of God, beautiful but broken.  We are all beautiful but broken.  You struggle with same-sex attraction?  Fine, I have my own struggles, and I will not measure mine against yours to exalt myself.  I always stand in awe when I see someone shouldering a cross that I know I’d never be strong enough to carry.  And if I can help them carry their cross, whether it is same-sex attraction or whatever, and they can help me carry mine, perhaps we can both become saints together.  Whatever our bishops decide in September (and let us not forget to pray for them!), that can be a task for all of us.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

          “If the Canadian parliament, say, should declare that in light of evolving social mores, triangles should be regarded as sometimes having four sides, and decree also that anyone who expresses disagreement with this judgment shall be deemed guilty of discriminatory hate speech against four-sided triangles, none of this would change the geometrical facts in the least, but merely cast doubt on the sanity of the Canadian parliamentarians.” – Edward Feser, The Last Superstition

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Supreme Court's Decision - Now What?

The Supreme Court’s Decision –
Now What?

350z33 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

          Last week’s Supreme Court ruling would seem to have been an answer to a major cultural question.  But rather than an answer, it was really the opening to many more questions: What does it mean?  What will happen next?  What are we, as Christians, to do?  Are we living in the End Times?  Or does it at least spell the end for our country? 
          I have heard all of these asked over the past few days; I have asked some of them myself.  Over the next week or so, I will be reflecting on them and sharing some of my (very unauthoritative) thoughts.
          The first question I need to answer (which all of us do) is a very personal one.  We are probably all close to people (friends, family, coworkers) who see last Friday’s decision as a cause for great celebration.  We have probably all had to endure some of that celebration the past few days.  How do we respond to that?
          There is no question that much of it has been, and will continue to be, crass and revolting.  We will be taunted, called bigots who have finally been placed firmly on the wrong side of history, and scorned.  It seems to me that such responses should be met with patience, but essentially ignored.  They are without depth and dignity, and do not deserve a response.
          However, I do not begrudge the marriage redefiners their celebration.  The day that all human life is protected from conception to natural death, I will certainly celebrate, rightly so.  I will try to be classy and gracious, but such an event would deserve to be celebrated.  Those on the other side of this issue must be feeling the same way right now.  I understand.  Even those who, in their zeal, have crossed the line, I can easily forgive.  It’s easy to go overboard at such an emotional moment.
          But how do we personally respond to those people we have, or certainly will, encounter, who celebrate last week’s decision of those five black-robed politicians?  There is no question that they are wrong; we need not back down on that point.  Last week’s decision no more puts us on the wrong side of history than did the Dred Scott decision put abolitionists on the wrong side of history.  Right is right and wrong is wrong, regardless of historical events.  (Besides, I’d much rather be on the right side of eternity than history.)
          It seems to me that the answer to the question of how we ought to respond is simple: with charity.  As much as I disagree with those who have sought to redefine marriage, I understand their position, and in most cases, I respect them.  I believe that most of the people I know personally have arrived at their position, by and large, compassionately.
          This is what I mean.  They and we hold totally different visions of what it is to be a human person – who we are, what our destiny is, and the genius of our creation.  We hold to a vision of the human person that is much larger and more beautiful than secular society offers.  We believe in a destiny in which our culture not only no longer believes; it no longer finds desirable.  We encourage men to be ruled by their higher nature, given by God, and in which they will find the fullest happiness.  But the world says that we have no higher nature; we have simply a highly evolved bestial nature.
          To be sure, not all those on the other side of the marriage issue have fallen for the entire secular bundle of lies.  But it is certain that their view of human beings, human sexuality, and marriage and family, differs greatly from ours.
          Here’s the point: if they are correct on those fundamental issues, then we are wrong about same-sex “marriage.”  Their view of “marriage equality” flows naturally, and compassionately, from their basic assumptions.
          On the other hand, if we are right about the fundamentals, then they are wrong about marriage.  Our view is the truly compassionate and loving one, loving towards everyone, because what we aspire to for all people, is higher and more beautiful, however difficult it may be.
          Therefore, although I soundly disagree with those who celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision, I can respect them – because both their position and mine are based on charity.  Genuine charity has led them from a faulty starting point to a faulty conclusion, but charity is something I can admire regardless. 
I do not scorn anyone for not knowing calculus.  I have never cut off a friend or family member because they could not properly conjugate irregular verbs.  Why, then, would I act in such a manner to one whose knowledge about man, sexuality and marriage is lacking?
I honor the charity in their hearts, and perhaps they can honor the charity in mine.  Now this does not answer all the questions that I began this article with, and there still remain large cultural questions and battles (probably for survival) to be fought.
But at least with this approach, I can love others as I hope to be loved by them.  In times like these, that’s at least a start.  May we all pray for the grace.

Silent No More

Silent No More

          This blog has been silent for quite a while, with a few minor exceptions.  I have been working on a couple of books, as well as dealing with one of my sons’ medical challenges.  As my writing projects have concluded, and it seems my son has recovered from any acute problems, I intend to resurrect this blog, beginning this week.

Friday, May 15, 2015

California Mission Pilgrimage - 8

California Mission Pilgrimage(8)


Day Ten: Divine Mercy Sunday


Mission San Juan Capistrano

          After driving home on Saturday, we went back to Mission San Juan Capistrano on Divine Mercy Sunday to finish our pilgrimage.  After attending Mass in the new basilica, we visited the old Mission.  We had been there numerous times, but it continues to be a special place.

          First of all, this Mission has more to see, in terms of artifacts and buildings, than any other Mission, with the possible exception of La Purisima.  There are also some really incredible places here.

          One is the Old Stone Church.  This church was a labor of love, built by the padres and Indians in the beginning of the 1800s.  You can see little sea shells mixed in with the stones, that had been added by Indian women just so they could contribute something of personal value to the place.  After only eight years, the church collapsed during Mass on December 8, 1812, during an earthquake.  The ruins have been retrofitted, and the new basilica is a larger model of the Old Stone Church.

          Possibly the best place is the Serra Chapel.  This chapel, still used for Mass, is the last original building still standing in California, where Father Serra himself personally celebrated Mass.

The Serra Chapel

The Old Stone Church

Lots to see at this Mission
The new basilica

          Thus ended our Mission pilgrimage.  It was an incredibly wonderful and spiritual experience.  In the weeks since I have gotten back and returned to the hectic pace of life, I have often found myself thinking longingly of our trip.  I couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone else thinking of giving it a try.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

California Mission Pilgrimage - 7

California Mission Pilgrimage(7)

Day Eight: Easter Friday


Mission San Francisco de Asis

          The Mission in San Francisco, sometimes called Mission Dolores, is a great place, but to me, it is in the worst location.  Getting to the Mission is tough (especially when you are trying to make the morning Mass).  The traffic is difficult, and once you arrive, parking is even worse!  The Mission is located in a rather dirty part of San Francisco, and will probably require a fair amount of walking up the city’s hilly streets to get there.

          We did make it just in time for the morning Mass, and found that there were exactly four people attending Mass (not counting the priest).  We more than doubled the crowd (although another family came in a few minutes into the Mass.)  Still, the Mass was beautiful, as is the church, and the grounds are really very nice.  There is even an entrance to the adjacent new church, which is used for larger celebrations, such as Sunday Mass, for example.  We were just exploring that church when we had to leave for the sake of a funeral.  Another interesting experience at Mission San Francisco was that we had to tour the Mission grounds while avoiding a film crew that was working on some sort of documentary.

Inside the new, adjacent church

Mission San Rafael

          Finding your way out of the city from Mission San Francisco can be tough, but once you do, you’ll get to drive on the Golden Gate Bridge, which is a nice iconic experience if you haven’t done it before.  North of the city of San Francisco is another urban Mission, San Rafael.

          The small Mission chapel is located on the same grounds as the new church, like San Francisco.  The small chapel is beautiful, though, with nice angelic art.  There is a tiny corner in the gift shop with only a handful of artifacts, but the woman at the gift shop was very helpful, and this Mission is free to visit.


Mission San Francisco Solano

          Our final Mission was San Francisco Solano, the last Mission to be built, and the only one built under Mexican rule.  This is the other Mission that is a state park, not an active church.  One of the treats at this Mission is a room with watercolor paintings of all the Missions, created by Chris Jorgensen in about 1915.  There is a little more to see on the grounds, the chapel being the high point.  Down the street from the Mission is the soldiers’ barracks, which contains some really nice historical artifacts.

Again, watch out for secular bias.  For example, one of the workers made it a point to share how the Indians were not allowed in the cloister area, as if that was somehow terribly degrading to them.  Of course, any Catholic should know that a religious community needs some cloistered area, where the members can get away for prayer and community life, away from the world outside.

          One nice thing about this Mission is its location.  First of all, the drive to get there is through beautiful wine country vineyards.  The Mission is located right off a town square with a park in the middle and little cafes and shops along the edges.  It is also near other historical sites, such as the location of the original Bear Flag Revolt.

The Bear Flag, in the museum at the soldiers' barracks

The view of the Sonoma square from the balcony of the soldiers' barracks

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

California Mission Pilgrimage - 6

California Mission Pilgrimage(6)

Day Seven: Easter Thursday


Mission Santa Clara

          We were only planning to visit two Missions this day, and then spend the night with my mother, who lives in the East Bay Area.  We started with Mission Santa Clara.  This Mission is totally unique because it is located on a college campus!  It is the church for Santa Clara University, a Catholic college.  The chapel is a beautiful building in the middle of campus, and the inside of the church is really rather stunning.  One problem, however, is that the office doesn’t open until 1:00.  We were ready to leave about 10:00, but we also wanted our passport stamped.  One of my sons and I explored the student commons and the campus ministry office, searching for a stamp, to no avail.

          We ended up coming back after visiting Mission San Jose, only about half an hour away, and found a student in the church office who let us in an hour early and gave us our stamp.

The old cemetery has been turned into a rose garden

Mission San Jose

          Not far from Santa Clara is Mission San Jose.  This Mission is in a busy downtown area, very different from the rural setting of most of the Missions we had visited the previous few days.  The Mission contains a modest museum area, which we actually found to be pretty nice, even after having visited so many.  Then, of course, there is the church itself, which still serves a parish community.

          That is one thing to be careful of when visiting the Missions.  It is great to be able to attend Mass there, but sometimes there is a wedding or a funeral (as we would discover the next day) and visiting the church may not work out.

What the Mission looked like in its early years