Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

Order 'Evolution for the Catholic Student' - Click on the image above

Monday, October 31, 2011

Link - Down Syndrome-cide

Down Syndrome-cide

          Mark Leach’s family has been blessed with one of the most beautiful people in the world, a child with Down Syndrome.  However, while Mark knows his daughter’s worth can not be measured, the world is increasingly saying that she is worthless.  He shares his thoughts and experiences at the link below.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Defending Traditional Marriage (part 1)

Defending Traditional Marriage part 1

          I wrote last week in my article How Did We Get Here? that it is important that we give reasoned arguments for our beliefs as Catholics in the public square, especially because of the juvenile discourse that currently reigns.
          The definition of marriage has become one of the most contentious issues of our day.  This would have been unthinkable just 10 years ago, but today nothing inspires more anger and character assassination than defending the traditional view of marriage (despite the fact that over half the country still does).
          As Catholics it is our duty to defend traditional marriage, and we must do it with charity and reasoned arguments.  But how?  How do we explain to a pagan culture that marriage between one man and one woman, for life, is an indispensable piece of the social puzzle?  Simply quoting Scripture or Church teaching will not be enough.  Civil marriage law affects Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and sadly, there are many Catholics who also wouldn’t be swayed.
          I will focus on five specific points in this series, with only the last one relying on religious arguments.  I am far from the most qualified person to give a comprehensive defense of marriage, so please find other sources as well, and continue to learn.
          The first thing we must do is to focus the conversation on marriage, not homosexuality.  Homosexuality is a different topic and it is never appropriate to engage in “gay bashing” or to treat anyone with less than human dignity and inestimable worth.  We are concerned with the definition of marriage.  Certainly gay marriage is the imminent issue, but we would fight with the same intensity against polygamy, incest, or any other new version of “marriage,” and we should have fought as hard against no-fault divorce.
          The first point is that our laws should reflect reality.  Marriage was not given to us by the U.S. government or any other government.  It predates every nation on Earth.  As Catholics we know that God gave marriage as a blessing to our first parents in the Garden of Eden, and that blessing even survived the Fall.  But all honest people must acknowledge that marriage as a human institution has been universal since the beginning of human history. 
          It has existed as the union of a man and woman in all cultures throughout all history.  It was in ancient Rome, Greece, the Americas, Africa, everywhere.  Marriage has always been between a man and a woman.  The state has no right to change the definition of an institution it did not create.  In fact, it has no power to.  Just because the state declares a homosexual union a marriage would not make it so.  The law would be contrary to reality.
          The state can not decide that I am no longer my children’s father.  If it were to declare that the brother of the man who sires a child is now that child’s father, that wouldn’t make it true.  If the state declares my sister to be my mother, or my uncle to be my aunt, or my cousin to be my daughter, it would not become reality.  Those are human relationships that were not defined by the state to begin with, so the state has no power to redefine them.  In such cases, the laws of the state would simply not reflect reality.
          The same is true of the definition of marriage.  Marriage always has been and always will be between a man and a woman.  We have every right to demand that our laws reflect that reality.  If they do not, they become ridiculous.
          Of course, ridiculous laws still have power, which makes it even more urgent that we fight against the redefinition of marriage.  The power wielded by ridiculous declarations of the state is the basis for my next three arguments.

Click here to read the second installment

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How Did We Get Here?

How Did We Get Here?

My parish recently got a new pastor.  Before we did, the bishop sent a committee to the parish to meet with some of us and get a sense of the community so he could make an appropriate appointment.  In the course of the discussion I remember one woman standing up and speaking about our outgoing pastor.  She was involved in the women’s ministry but sometimes wandered into dangerous theological territory.  This is what she said:
          “[The pastor] shot down some of my ideas, and he told me I was wrong more than once.  But he was never unkind to me.  He was always concerned with how my family and I were doing, and he often greeted me with a kiss on the cheek.”
          Knowing this man, what she said didn’t surprise me, but it did strike me as an important trait in what made him such a good pastor.  He never compromised on the Faith and was not afraid even to rebuke someone when it was necessary.  But his motive was always love – love of God and love of his flock.  And he always treated people accordingly.
          Sadly, this is a rare trait in our current cultural climate.  Just look at the language that comes out of Washington.  President Obama throws around ridiculous talking points like “corporate jets” in order to tap into the basest parts of our nature and capitalize on envy.  Just this week, in reference to legitimate disagreements on government regulation, he accused Republicans of wanting dirtier air, dirtier water and fewer people with health insurance.  How childish can you be?  Certainly not fitting for the President of the United States, and a tactic to avoid discussion of issues.  Of course, the other side of the coin is not so shiny either.  Every proposal by the President is met with accusations of class warfare, and much has been written about the last Republican debate in Nevada, which turned into a slugfest with bickering and personal attacks. 
In Washington there’s no civil discussion as to how to address our current economic disaster.  It’s far worse when the discussion turns to social matters.
          I’ve said in the past that I would not much mind being called homophobic, but I would greatly mind actually being homophobic.  I pray that there is nowhere in my soul that would deny human dignity to anyone, and I pray that I would never look at someone’s sexuality and judge their worth as a person.  I have known many people over my lifetime who have same sex attractions, many who have struggled mightily with it, and many whom I love dearly.  But to be accused of being homophobic is meaningless because I know the only people who would call me that don’t understand the term and are the types that resort to insults and name calling to avoid real discussion of issues such as the definition of marriage.
          Not everyone who defends traditional marriage is homophobic.  The vast majority are not.  Not every environmentalist is an anti-human wacko.  The vast majority are not.  Not every feminist hates men.  The vast majority do not.
          But though we may have real disagreements on these issues, when is the last time you heard a reasoned, respectful debate about them?  In our cultural climate you win arguments by calling your adversary the most damaging name you can think of, belittling him and shouting him down.  As a result we have lost the power, on the whole, to accept or even understand reasoned arguments.
          So how did we get here?  I suspect, at the root, is the abortion issue and how it was perpetuated in the 1960s and early 70s.  Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a founding member of NARAL who later became a pro-life activist and converted to Catholicism, writes in his book Aborting America about how his group intended to force the legalization of abortion.
          They had no intention of debating the issue and certainly not examining the scientific evidence that showed a child in the womb to be a separate biological human being from the start.  They needed a scapegoat that they could say was oppressing women by pushing its pro-life views on people (even though they knew at the time the country was overwhelmingly pro-life).  They chose the Catholic Church.  There was a history of anti-Catholicism in the United States and the misinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council was legitimizing dissent even among Catholics.  They also felt that if they pinpointed the hierarchy, it would be a small enough group to be a scapegoat and that America, being mostly Protestant, would recoil at the idea that the Catholic Church was affecting public policy.
          So out came the smear campaign, the name calling and the outright lies.  Dr. Nathanson lets us in on NARAL’s strategy and how they turned the debate about abortion from reason to the type of political discourse we have today.  This was certainly not the first time it had happened, but it has only snowballed unabated since then.
          I want to point out again that Dr. Nathanson himself was open enough to change his thinking and see what he had been blinded to before.  He died recently a hero for his tireless work to restore the dignity due to all human lives.  He died a humble, repentant and loving man.
          So what’s the solution to the mess we’re in?  I can tell you for sure that I don’t know.  There are a few things I think can help.  First, we have to be prepared to make reasoned arguments when defending our positions, particularly those regarding the Faith.  Those arguments may not be accepted right away, but they have to be presented with love, like my old pastor and like those who received Dr. Nathanson into the Church.  
          If people know we are more concerned with the truth than just scoring a point, that we want to win souls more than we want to win arguments, over time we will earn a hearing.  On a broader level the discourse in Washington has to change.  That seems rather unlikely, given that if there’s one place people are more interested in winning than being right, it’s Washington.  But there are some politicians who are not afraid to bring their faith to the public square and to defend it with dignity and respect.  Let’s support and encourage those people.  And most of all, let us pray, knowing that in Christ all things, even our culture, can be made new.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Link - Coptic Winter

          We’ve heard a lot about the “Arab Spring,” the overthrow of Middle East dictators.  But for the Christians of the Middle East, it has been the beginning of a long winter.  Christians have been routinely persecuted and killed without recourse as Islamic militants have filled the power vacuum.  Charles Colson expands on the struggles of Egypt’s Coptic Christians at the link below.

Link – Coptic Winter

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Personhood on the Ballot in Mississippi

Personhood on the Ballot in Mississippi

          If it seems ridiculous to decide whether someone is a person by majority vote, it is.  However, that being said, it is a great hope to the pro-life movement, starting in Mississippi.  In deciding Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court acknowledged that if the unborn child were declared a person, it could not be killed.
          Well, since 1973 science has definitively answered what common sense already had – the unborn child is a person.  At the moment of conception, the human embryo is a unique, self-replicating organism with its own DNA.  That is uncontested.  However, the law in the United States still does not recognize anyone as being a person with human rights until completely out of the womb.  The state of Mississippi is trying to change that.
          By the Supreme Court’s own admission, a legally defined person can not be killed by abortion.  A proposed amendment to the constitution of the state of Mississippi, Amendment 26 – the Personhood Amendment, would define a human being as legally a person “from the moment of fertilization.”  It would enshrine into law what science has already told us.
          We as Catholics have always known that every “organism of the species homo sapiens” as the pro-abortion side likes to euphemize, is a person with inestimable value, precious and lovely in the sight of God.  The notion that the law decides who is a person is very dangerous.  If the state declares you a person, the state can, in the future, declare you not a person.  See Nazi Germany.
          Regardless, this is an important first step.  We can never agree that someone’s personhood or human rights depend on a declaration by the government.  “We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.”  Those are the words of the Declaration of Independence, on which our country was founded.  First among those rights listed is the right to life.  However, as long as we live in a country that refuses to recognize everyone’s right to life, we have to fight using every moral means possible, including the law.
          How can you help?  First, pray.  Then, check out to become educated about the measure, and consider giving a donation.  Then let’s work for a human life amendment to the United States Constitution.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Link - The Day After The Silence

The Day After the Silence

Bryan Kemper reflects on last week’s Day of Silence, when students around the country gave up talking for a day in solidarity with those whose voices have been silenced through abortion.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

All Hallowed's Eve

All Hallowed’s Eve

         Halloween is only a week away.  It can pose some interesting challenges for us as Christians.  Some completely shun the holiday because they say it is the celebration of a pagan festival.  Some don’t give any thought to it and figure it’s just an innocent opportunity for kids to have fun and ruin their oral hygiene.
         Growing up, that was the approach we took, and there was an innocence to that which I think was beneficial.  However, even since I was a kid I’ve noticed the character of Halloween change in our society.  It has gotten more morbid, and there is a growing fascination with a darker, even demonic character to the event.
         Certainly this is not true everywhere, and Charlie Brown and his Great Pumpkin still have a place in the popular culture of Halloween.  But a disturbing trend among kids has been an interest in things like vampires and the occult, and Halloween has tapped into that recently.  That sort of thing is no joke and every parent, Christian or not, has to be vigilant in protecting their children from such things.
         Add to that the designation of “Christmas” as a dirty word by secular society, and it can all become pretty offensive to those of us trying to raise our children in the Faith.  So what are we to do?  I can’t give any authoritative answers, but I’ll share what we have done with some success thus far.
         First of all, we reclaim Halloween as a Christian celebration, All-Hallowed’s Eve.  The following day, November 1, is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation, and a day infinitely more important than October 31, although ignored by the secular culture.  We remind the kids how important All Saints Day is, and that we’ll be going to Mass.  All-Hallowed’s Eve is important in its relation to All Saints Day, like Christmas Eve is important in relation to Christmas Day.  We finish off our celebration by taking the kids to a cemetery to pray for the dead on All Souls Day, November 2.
         Our kids dress up like saints when they go trick-or-treating.  They love telling the neighbors who they are.  Now our kids are young, so they go out with us.  I imagine the challenges will be multiplied when they want to trick-or-treat with their friends instead.  We have a great neighborhood, with many parents enjoying the evening out with their kids, and of course, ours are confronted with witches, goblins and haunted houses.  We just do our best to explain that different people celebrate in different ways.  They’re at the age now where they accept that since they are having so much fun the way we celebrate.  Our hope is that when they are old enough to question what haunted houses have to do with saints, they will also be old enough to understand that they are Catholics living in a secular culture, and that the culture will not always do things the way they do, but that God has called them to be a light in this world.  We are hopeful, as just this week our oldest son responded to a store’s Halloween display by saying, “They don’t know that Halloween is about God, not spooky things.”
         I know that many people have approached this dilemma with better ideas than we have, and please email me with any ideas you have.  There are a couple of online resources that may be of help.  You can download pro-life pumpkin cut outs on the Internet to turn your Jack-O-Lantern into a tool for evangelization.  Also, the web site has many resources and ideas for celebrating All-Hallowed’s Eve in a Catholic way.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Alessandro Serenelli

Alessandro Serenelli

          One of my favorite saints is St. Maria Goretti.  Many people have heard of her, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  But fewer have heard of Alessandro Serenelli.  He’s the man who murdered St. Maria.
          When Alessandro was nineteen and Maria was eleven, he made shameful sexual passes at her, which she always refused.  One day her refusal was met with rage.  He stabbed Maria 11 times with an ice pick and then went to take a nap.  When Alessandro heard Maria struggling after regaining consciousness, he stabbed her three more times.  She died the next day.
          But that is not the end of the story.  Alessandro’s life actually had a happy ending.  After being sentenced to 30 years, the maximum for his age, he had a conversion in prison.  Maria came to him in a dream and presented him 14 while lilies in forgiveness, one for each time he stabbed her.  (Maria had declared her forgiveness of Alessandro before she died as well.)
          For good behavior, Alessandro got out of prison three years early and struck up a relationship with one of the most unlikely people in the world – Maria’s mother.  As they aged he cared for her, and the two often went to Mass together.  Alessandro lived his final years as a doorman in a monastery, where the brothers had taken him in.  In his final days he issued a warning to the world about “immoral pictures,” the precursors of our modern pornography, how they corrupt the mind and lead to all sorts of evils.
          Alessandro lived the majority of his life as a holy, humble man who spent his days doing acts of charity and trying to honor the young girl he had killed and the God she loved so much.
          The life of Alessandro Serenelli is fascinating to me because it is a story of hope and a challenging story for our times.  Often people find themselves beaten down by their sins, unable to believe that they can be forgiven or loved by God.  Despair is a favorite weapon of the devil’s.  Alessandro’s story reminds us that there is no sin that can not be forgiven, and no sinner that can not be redeemed.  All of us can reclaim our identity as children of God no matter our past.
          It also poses serious questions to our system of justice.  Without question Alessandro’s crime is one that would have earned him the death penalty in our justice system.  How much would have been lost!  I don’t have all the answers but it is a question to ponder when we become too eager to render out death and judgment.
          Certainly neither the Church nor the world will ever forget the courageous witness of the martyr of purity, Maria Goretti.  May we also never forget the witness to redemption that is Alessandro Serenelli.

Henry Hyde Quote

 “When that time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment…I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone.  I think there’ll be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world – and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement.  They will say to God, ‘Spare him, because he loved us!’”

– Congressman Henry Hyde (1924-2007)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Image of the Father

Image of the Father

          My father died about four and a half years ago.  Although he did almost none of my formal religious education, my dad taught me a lot about God.  Most importantly, by the way he devoted himself to being an extraordinary father, he disposed me to know and love my Heavenly Father.
          I believe fathers are children’s first image of God.  Of course Mom is, too, but in a different way.  Whereas Mom introduces children to the immanence of God, Dad in some ways expresses His transcendence, perhaps the first concrete sign of the Father.  Certainly our current crisis of faith and our crisis of fatherhood are in many ways intertwined.
          I was blessed to grow up without such crises.  There was little my father spent more time on than his children, and I learned many lessons from him.  We spent many hours playing baseball, as that was my dream.  My dad deserves much of the credit for providing a slow, fat, uncoordinated kid the opportunity to play college baseball.  But despite the countless hours we spent playing baseball, a memory I still treasure often was the one time I remember playing football with him.
          It was a Saturday afternoon when I was about twelve.  Dad was in the kitchen eating lunch and reading the paper and I was in the backyard throwing a football to myself.  He must have heard me because he came out on the balcony to see what I was doing.  We had watched a lot of football together, but never really played.  But that day he asked me to throw the ball up to him on the balcony.  I did and for the next 20 minutes or so, he threw the ball down to me as I ran around the yard.
          All in all, it would seem a rather insignificant event, and my dad may have forgotten all about it.  But I never have.  All those hours playing baseball, my dad was helping me achieve a goal, sometimes he even had to drag me.  But that day he just wanted to play.
          Ephesians 3 tells us that it is the Fatherhood of God from which all paternity is named.  Fathers have a duty to be an image of God for their children, the God who delights in His children.
          Once when Jesus appeared to St. Faustina He told her one of the most amazing things I have ever heard.  He said, “Daughter, your heart is my Heaven.”  The heart of a creature the Heaven of the Creator of the universe?  How can it be?  How are we to believe that God so delights in us that He finds Heaven in our hearts?
          Well, I was able to believe it.  My dad, the man who started out with the title of superhero, found delight in me.  It was natural to believe that God would.
          Now I’m the dad; I’m the image.  So when I come home from work and my boys want to play a “rough fighting game” (tickle wrestling), or play ball, or go outside and chase each other in the grass, as tired as I may be at that moment, I have to remember that they need me to play, they need me to show them that their Father truly delights in His children.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Link - Alveda King

Alveda King Reflects on Her Uncle’s Legacy

          Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., reflects on her uncle’s legacy and how we can truly honor him and his dream today.  Originally printed in anticipation of the 48th anniversary of his iconic speech.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Render Unto God

Render Unto God

          In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus is approached by some disciples of the Pharisees and some Herodians with a question with which they hope to trap Him: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax?”  Jesus responds by asking whose image appears on the coin.  The answer is Caesar’s.  Jesus then tells them to, “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and unto God that which belongs to God.”
          I find it extremely significant that before Jesus answers the question He asks whose image is on the coin.  Since Caesar’s image is on the coin, it (the taxes) belongs to Caesar.  However, we must render unto God that which is His.  On what does God’s Image appear?  Genesis tells us that God created man in His Image.  Us.  We contain the Image of God.  Therefore, if we are to render unto God that which belongs to God, we must give Him ourselves.
          How do we do that, particularly in the context of our civic responsibilities and as citizens of a country?  The holy archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, has written a wonderful book on this subject, Render Unto Caesar, which I highly recommend.  A few of my thoughts follow below.
          As Catholics we know that patriotism, the love of one’s country, is a virtue.  And since the time of Pope St. Pius X, 100 years ago, we have been encouraged to participate in political life, particularly to bring our Faith to bear in the life of our countries.  Love of country must always be subordinated to love of God.  Devotion to country can never approach our devotion to God.  To truly put country first, to support everything our country does regardless of good or evil, and to see ourselves as Americans before anything else, is nationalism, and is a sin.
          Our love of country always has to be ordered to love of God.  This is a good way to measure all of our political activity.  This weekend I joined a public rosary for our country, specifically remembering Our Lady’s words at Fatima that we will have peace if we return to God.  If we do not, there is no hope for real or lasting peace.  On the way, I passed about 150 people “occupying” Irvine.
          It is not my purpose at all to judge the motives of those who have been participating in the “occupations.”  Certainly there are grievances we can all have.  There is such a thing as corporate greed and corruption, and we should oppose it.  The federal government is guilty of artificially inflating the housing market, deflating the dollar, and manipulating interest rates in ways that do not correspond to the economy, but support an unsupportable debt level.  They need to be held to account.
          Certainly there are people protesting that are intending to do what is right, or at least what they sincerely believe is right.  On the other hand, can defecating on police cars be a form of prayer?  Never.  Can the vitriol that is being spewed at people who have become successful, mostly through enterprise and hard work, give honor and glory to God?  Of course not.
          But this is not about the occupiers.  They have to discern for themselves, individually, whether their participation is ordered to the love of country for the sake of the love of God.
          What about us?  This is election season.  As Catholics we have a responsibility to be engaged and participate.  Some will participate more than others and that’s as it should be.  But as we do, we must offer all that we do as a prayer to God.  We pay our taxes, follow just laws, and render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.  But as we bring our Faith to the public square, we must do it in a spirit of Christian love and justice, and prayer, and render unto God that which belongs to God.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lessons From My Five Year-Old

Lessons From My Five Year-Old

          Last weekend I attended a military funeral.  It was for a hero who was killed at the front of his men defending innocent people in Afghanistan, as well as the freedoms we enjoy here at home.  It was the first funeral I have attended for a soldier killed in battle.  And I was a little worried, because I had to take my five year old son.
          My wife’s great aunt died earlier last week so she also had a funeral to attend and would not be able to bring all three kids.  So, at the last minute, I gained a companion.  My concern was that this is a child who has not sat still and quiet through Mass since he was an infant, and I knew this service would be longer than a standard Mass.
          However, to my pleasant surprise, he did great.  It was outside, at the cemetery, on a hot, sunny day, and it was so well attended that we had to stand.  My son, after a little while, sat down on the grass in someone’s shadow for shade, and listened or played quietly with the dirt.  When the ceremony was over we walked calmly to the car (no one running off, refusing to hold my hand, or looking for things to jump in) and stopped to say a prayer on a hill overlooking the many other headstones in the cemetery.
          I was very impressed, and we celebrated by going to a movie that night.  But it made me wonder, why was he able to be so calm, quiet and respectful for over an hour under the hot sun, when at Mass he struggles so much to do so for barely an hour in an air conditioned church when he has a book and a sippy cup?
          Now, my son definitely struggles with attention issues, so sitting calmly can be difficult for him, but he had very little difficulty at the funeral.  I think the main reason was the atmosphere.  Everyone was respectful.  No one was talking, fooling around or reading the newspaper (or the bulletin).  People stood at attention for the flag, and walked with solemnity into and out of the ceremony.  No one showed up half an hour late, and no one snuck out early.  The music was beautiful, and played on a bugle or bagpipes.  There was no question what kind of event this was.  The atmosphere made it easy for my son to show calm respect.
          The purpose of these reflections is not to point the finger at anyone.  If I did, it would have to start with me.  More than once I have ushered one or more of my kids out of the church chastising myself for how I handled them, sure I had disrupted the Mass for at least some people.  But it is an opportunity to reflect on ourselves and how we support or undermine the proper atmosphere at Mass.
          The Mass is a memorial service.  More than that, it is a Sacrifice.  We attend a Crucifixion.  Calvary is made present to us, and then in the greatest of triumphs, the Sacrifice becomes a Feast, a wedding feast, at which we are one of the spouses, and we become one flesh with God in the Holy Eucharist.  Nothing is more sacred.  Joyful, to be sure, but also to be treated with the highest dignity and respect.
          Here are the questions I want to ask myself to be sure I am doing my part to ensure a dignified, respectful atmosphere at Mass.  Do I arrive on time, or perhaps even early, so I can spend some time in prayer before Mass, maybe even visit the tabernacle?  That would be a great sign to my kids that we are here for something and Someone special.  Do I stay until the end or am I sending the message that there are more important things to do and places to be?  How do I dress for Mass?  Do my clothes signify that this is like a picnic at the beach or do I dress as though I am approaching something special and sacred?
          Do I spend my time in the church talking to God or talking to fellow parishioners about trivial things?  Fellowship is important, but in the church I should be preparing myself.  No one at the funeral was talking about college football as it was getting ready to start.  How do I receive Holy Communion?  A friend of mine, who serves as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, related a time when someone approached her for Communion while on his cell phone.  That is an extreme case, but I should approach the Sacrament with the same honor that I gave my wedding vows.
          All of this sets a good example for my children, but doesn’t change the environment around them, so I have to make my expectations clear.  When they do well, like last weekend, we can celebrate.  When they don’t, I can’t ignore it.  One by one we can each set an example and bring the proper reverence back to our churches.
          May the soul of Army Ranger Tyler Holtz and all our fallen heroes, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace, and may we remember their families in our prayers.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Link - No Small Job

No Small Job

Denise Bossert has written a great article about her experiences working at a nursing home.  It is a touching piece that highlights the beauty and dignity of the elderly.  I can’t post it here for copyright reasons, but please follow the link to check it out if you’re interested.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's NOT the Economy

It’s NOT the Economy

          We all know that the economy stinks.  Millions of people are out of work and homes are being foreclosed on at record levels.  Young people are graduating college with plenty of debt, but no job offers.  We are told again and again that the upcoming election is going to be about the economy.  Polls consistently show that the voting public agrees.
          However, at the same time, an entire class of people, the unborn, are being slaughtered by the millions.  Marriage is being redefined before our eyes, and those who oppose it are increasingly facing persecution.  Parental rights are being trampled on as our children can be vaccinated against STDs without our consent and we are losing our rights to opt out of objectionable public school curriculum.  Our health care system, which has provided the highest level of care in the world, is under hostile takeover by the federal government, and there are advisors to the President who have endorsed euthanasia, voluntary and involuntary, as cost cutting solutions in the past.  The next President will almost certainly shape our national policy on these issues for years through Supreme Court appointments.  On top of this, we are still deeply involved in the global struggle against terrorism.
          So no, for a Catholic, the economy can not be the issue driving our votes this election season.  In fact, until basic human rights, most importantly the fundamental right to life, are guaranteed to every person, and until each person’s human dignity is safeguarded in law, it is selfish for any of us to vote based on how we imagine we could be doing four years from now.
          Regardless, on Tuesday night there was a Republican Presidential debate focused entirely on the economy.  The economy is important, don’t get me wrong.  We are being crushed by a national debt that is morally indefensible.  And work is intimately tied into human dignity so our elected leaders do have an obligation to do what they can to create an environment favorable to job creation.
          Many of the candidates have impressive credentials.  Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and John Huntsman have been successful governors, economically speaking.  Herman Cain is a down-to-earth straight shooter with an impressive track record in business.  Michele Bachman has proven willing to stand and fight for what she believes.  But I think Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum stand above the others in experience getting things accomplished, working with both Republicans and Democrats.  Both men worked with President Clinton on important economic reforms.
          The debate, overall, was uninspiring.  Each of the candidates, of course, shared their approach to the economy.  Much time was spent attacking and defending Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” plan.  And Mitt Romney spent most of the night not answering the questions he was asked.  Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachman came off as the most knowledgeable, along with Rick Santorum, though he was given the least opportunity to speak of the eight candidates.
          There were two moments that were particularly important.  The first came near the beginning.  The candidates were told that most Medicare spending comes in the last two years of a person’s life, often on treatments that do not prolong life.  Is this wasteful?  Implicit in the question was the notion that we may not be able to afford to care for these elderly people.  This is a major issue, particularly since President Obama has hinted as much in the past.  We must resist degenerating into a people that looks at someone and asks what they cost, rather than what they are worth.  As Catholics, we know that value is inestimable.  Only two candidates were afforded the opportunity to respond.  Happily, both Gingrich and Bachman displayed disgust at the suggestion.
          The other moment came near the end, when Rick Santorum pointed out that a single-parent family is six times as likely to be in poverty as an intact home.  He suggested we need to do better at encouraging marriage and supporting the family.
          It was refreshing to see a candidate take a truly integrated approach to the economy.  It is important to recognize that our economic issues are intimately tied to our social issues.  I’m sure many of the candidates would have agreed.
          Mr. Santorum’s pro-life credentials should also be encouraging to Catholics.  Most of the candidates are pro-life and many have very solid track records.  However, Santorum led the fight against partial-birth abortion during his time in the Senate.  As a Catholic, I appreciate that he is a man who is not afraid to wear his faith on his sleeve.  He and his wife have seven living children, including a disabled daughter, and one that died two hours after birth, who they welcomed despite knowing he had a fatal condition.  In the Senate, he led a Rosary for Catholic senators, and through personal friendships was able convert the hearts of some of his peers.
          As important as the economy is, I have a problem with an entire debate being focused solely upon it.  I have seen a number of the debates and have already heard a lot about the economy, but voters desperately need to know who the candidates really are regarding social and moral issues.  The Values Voter Summit was nice, but the debates need to broaden.  Until the priorities of the American voting public change, our country will continue to wait for the change it really needs.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Beauty of Mystery

The Beauty of Mystery

As Catholics we meditate often of the great Mysteries of the Faith.  A Mystery is something that has been revealed to us by God, but that we can not fully understand this side of Heaven.  We can know it and we can understand it, but our understanding will never be so complete, no matter how learned or holy we are, that it can not become greater.
          The greatest Mystery of our Faith is the Holy Trinity.  It tells us who God is, that He is three Persons in one God.  We may have spoken to people who do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity.  Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, in particular, object to it because they say it is ridiculous to imagine that God would be so incomprehensible to us.  It is a barrier to intimacy that God would not want between us.
          This is an interesting argument and one we should examine.  Is it true that the doctrine of the Trinity is so abstract that it makes God incomprehensible and impossible to love intimately?  First, it should be noted that the truth of something does not depend on our ability to understand it.  The principles of calculus are true even though I don’t really understand them.  God has revealed the Trinity to us.  We can know that it is true for that reason.
          However, it is not accurate to say that the Trinity is totally incomprehensible.  To understand it we have to comprehend the difference between a person and a nature.  A nature describes what something is.  A person describes who something is.  We are human beings so we have a human nature.  I can know who you are when you tell me your name, and I can know more about your person the more I get to know you.  The Church speaks to us in broad terms about humanity sometimes because of our shared nature.  There is only one Divine Nature; however, this nature is fully possessed by three Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is why we can say there are three Persons but only one God.
          I am quite inadequate to explain this and have not tried to do it comprehensively, but I recommend Frank Sheed’sTheology and Sanity for a wonderful, understandable explanation.  St. Thomas Aquinas and Archbishop Fulton Sheen have also produced works on the subject that I have personally found helpful.
          It remains true, though, that we can not fully understand this Mystery.  We, of course, each have our own human nature, whereas the one Divine Nature is possessed fully by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  So are our non-Trinitarian brothers correct?  Does this create a barrier between us and God?  The exact opposite is true.
          Because our understanding of the Trinity will never be complete, we can always grow closer to God.  God has revealed to us the intimate reality of who He is, and we have the blessing of ever being able to deepen our knowledge of Him.
          I have been married for six and a half years.  By now my wife and I know a lot about each other and we are very comfortable in that knowledge.  But I am constantly getting to know her more.  The adventure of those first years and months is not over.  Despite the bond that has been built between us, I can always know her more, and in knowing her more, I can love her more.
          The same is true with God.  I can never say, “Well, I know God completely.  There is nothing more to learn.  I can relax, be complacent, and stagnant.”  Every day is an opportunity to answer God’s call to know Him better.  And the deeper I know Him, the more I can love Him.  Nothing could be more intimate.  Mystery is not an obstacle, it is an opportunity.  The beauty of the Mystery of the Trinity, and all the Mysteries of our Faith, is that until I take my dying breath, I can continue to grow in my love of God.  What a great adventure!