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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Link - Surviving Obama's Left Hook

Link – Surviving Obama’s Left Hook

          Recently President Obama has reinforced his commitment to the Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate as part of his health care “reform.”  I first wrote about this issue in my post The Fugitive Slave Act, 2011.  This blatant attack on religious freedom seems to be directed intentionally and specifically at the Catholic Church.  Thankfully the bishops’ responses have made it clear that the Church has no intention of sacrificing our consciences to this President’s whims.  At the link below, Charles Colson emphasizes the importance of civil disobedience against unjust laws and attempts to inspire all Christians to stand with the Church in fighting this one.  Who knows which of our basic freedoms will be in the crosshairs next.

Sunday, January 29, 2012



          Father Stan Fortuna has been called the rapping priest.  He is a musician from the Bronx who experienced a reawakening of his Catholic faith as a young adult.  That reawakening revealed a call to the priesthood.  Now as a priest Father Fortuna uses his musical talents to give glory to God and to preach to young people the message of faith, chastity, devotion to the Eucharist, etc.

          Another important theme Father Fortuna focuses on is family.  At youth conferences it is not uncommon to see young people walking around with bracelets saying, “F.A.M.I.L.Y.,” a reference to Father Fortuna’s acronym for family, “Forget About Me, I Love You.”

          It’s a simple message about sacrificial love that most Catholics understand, but its simplicity is its brilliance.  Because though we may understand the concept of sacrificial love and its importance in the family, putting it into practice is really hard.  Father Fortuna’s acronym can be a powerful reminder, even a mantra to inspire us to live our family life as we are called.

          For example, we may come home from work exhausted.  Sometimes I don’t feel like I can do anything but collapse.  Just making it to the couch is an achievement.  Then my boys come running in wanting to wrestle or play ball or something.  I haven’t had their kind of energy for 20 years, but they need their dad.  Forget About Me, I Love You.  So I get up.

          Or maybe I’ve finally gotten the kids to sleep and would love to have fifteen minutes to read before bed but my wife wants to talk about something that may be fascinating to her, but would take all my remaining strength to muster up an interest in.  (To be fair, that describes her life from April to September when she has to listen to my fantasy baseball ramblings.)  I want to read, she wants to talk.  Forget About Me, I Love You.  So I listen.

          I’m not suggesting we never take time to rest or read or nap or watch a football game, or whatever, even occasionally when other people may want our time.  Those things are necessary.  But how easy it is to make those needs primary and our family members’ secondary.  I’ve found it very helpful when I’m faced with one of those choices to repeat in my head, “Forget About Me, I Love You.”  More times than not it inspires me to give more of myself than maybe I thought I could.

          Imagine if that really were the mission statement of our families.  What if we taught our kids that that’s what family means?  What if our families had adults and children all trying to “Forget About Me, I Love You?”

          As Catholics we are not Utopians.  Our perfect home is Heaven and this world will never even come close.  But we also have high standards.  We do try to bring Heaven to Earth as much as we can.  And that starts in our families.  We don’t have to expect perfection in our families even if we strive for it.  But if we keep in mind what F.A.M.I.L.Y. really means, and try our best to put it into practice and teach it to our kids, we will make our home a beautiful place and a safe place from which to begin to transform our culture as well.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Finding Alternatives to the Girl Scouts

Finding Alternatives to the
Girl Scouts

          In recent years the connection between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood has become stronger and more public.  Obviously this is a major concern for any parent, particularly Christian parents.  The link below gives some details and one parish’s response.  There are other options out there for parents who no longer wish to have their daughters participate in the Girl Scouts.  American Heritage Girls is a Christian option and the Little Flowers Girls Club is a Catholic group for girls five and older.  They also have a blog, which can be found at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Welcoming the New Translation part 3

Welcoming the New Translation (Part Three)

The past couple of weeks, we have been looking at the new translation of the Roman Missal and how we can take advantage of it as an opportunity to deepen our experience of the Holy Mass.  Again, I have been drawing on my own reflections (intended to be in line with the heart of the bishops) and the work of Dr. Edward Sri, whose book is listed on the sidebar of this blog.

          I now get to the Sanctus in the Mass.  Here, we have changed from calling God, “Lord, God of power and might,” to, “Lord, God of hosts.”  What does it mean?  In this context, “hosts” refers to angels, armies of angels.  The translation brings out a couple of important realities.  First, if we look in the fourth chapter of the Book of Revelation we find the angels in Heaven repeating a version of the Sanctus.  When we say the words, “Lord, God of hosts,” it can remind us that when we participate at Mass, we are joining Heavenly worship.  The angels are present, and we are taking one step out of time and into eternity.

          Also, it seems to me that “power and might” can be a little ambiguous.  For example, at the height of his power Adolph Hitler, by worldly standards, could have been said to have had power and might, but he certainly never commanded the angels.

          When we reach the Eucharistic prayer we find a number of changes, most of them subtle, but a couple of which I would like to highlight.  First of all, we no longer speak of the cup, but rather the chalice.  Why would I bring this up?  I think even though the change is small it is important.  I can put my coffee in a cup, but a chalice is for something special.  The chalice at Mass holds the very Blood of Jesus.  The very minor change in language might perk up our ears and help us remember that we are not receiving a common drink but rather, as St. Ignatius of Antioch said, “His Blood, which is Love incorruptible.”

          During the consecration we come across perhaps the most controversial change in language.  The priest now says, “This is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  This is contrasted with the old translation, which said, “for you and for all.”

          Many have been vocally upset by this change because they think it excludes some people from the love of Christ or puts limits on the power of His Sacrifice.  Catholic teaching is very clear that God wants all men to be saved and the salvific power of the Cross knows no bounds.  The Grace of salvation is available to all people, but as with any gift we are given, we can choose to say “yes,” and accept it, or to say “no,” or in this case, perhaps, “hell, no.”  Cardinal Arinze makes the point that we can recognize in this language the reality that though all are offered salvation, not all accept it. 

          There is another point about the term “for many” that Dr. Sri brings to light.  The phrase doesn’t only echo Jesus’s own words at the Last Supper, it actually goes back to the prophet Isaiah, who said that the Messiah would come not only for the Jews but for “the many,” the many nations on earth.  This is, I think, also an appropriate way to look at the term.  Jesus’s Blood was poured out for the many.  Though the Savior came from the Jewish people, He came to save the many nations, Jew and Gentile alike.

Finally we get to the Ecce Agnus Dei.  The priest begins, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.  Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”  What is the Supper of the Lamb?  If we turn again to the Book of Revelation, we find the answer.  It is a wedding feast.  The Mass is not only a sacrifice, it is a wedding feast, and the two are connected.  Jesus from the Cross cries out, “It is consummated.”  And He gives His Body over to His Bride, the Church.  As St. Paul says in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, “the two shall become one flesh.  This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church.”  At Mass we, the Bride of Christ, become one flesh with the Divine Bridegroom in the Eucharist.  The priest’s reference to “the Supper of the Lamb” highlights the spousal imagery.

Our response also has that flavor, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof…”  It also quotes the words of the Roman centurian in the Gospel who asked Jesus to heal his servant with only a word.  We go on to say, “but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  This also emphasizes the fact that we have to be spiritually prepared to receive the holy Eucharist.

As we become more and more familiar with the new translation I pray that it will not become rote for us, but rather that the imagery, theology and Scripture will penetrate us so that we can fall more and more in love with Jesus at each Holy Mass.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Link - Legislating Morality

Link – Legislating Morality

As Catholics, we hear it all the time, “You can’t legislate morality.”  But every law has a moral character.  And though we can not legislate anyone’s personal moral code, our laws can regulate behavior according to a standard that defines our culture.  At the link below, Kristen Walker gives an important response to those who would say our laws ought not dictate morality.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Honoring Gary Carter

Honoring Gary Carter

          When I was growing up, my interests were pretty singular: baseball.  My father taught me to play when I was a little child and we built a batting cage out of discarded pipes in our backyard.  I spent countless summers and after school hours in that cage and practicing at the local high school with my buddies.

          This began in the 1980s and there were some pretty flashy players – Don Mattingly, Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith.  As a Giants fan I papered my bedroom with a huge poster of Will Clark.  But my favorite player was one that most of my friends overlooked – Gary Carter.  I wasn’t a Mets fan, but I was a catcher, and I loved Carter’s blue-collar work ethic, positive attitude and friendly demeanor.

          I can still remember watching Games 6 and 7 of the 1986 World Series on a 19-inch black-and-white television set, and seeing Carter run home with his arms raised in the air.  It wasn’t until many years later, and until after my Faith had replaced baseball in my heart, that I found I share a love for Jesus with Gary Carter as well.

          Today Gary Carter is fighting for his life.  Nearly a year ago the news was made public that he is suffering from brain cancer and this past week his daughter announced on the family Web site that his condition has worsened and doctors are considering whether to continue treatment.

          Hearing the news this year about Carter’s cancer brought back fond memories of him from my childhood but in learning more about him since, I found more than a Hall of Fame catcher with a signature smile.  I found a man of profound faith and true generosity.

          Carter has a charitable foundation that focuses on fighting poverty through promoting literacy (  He is joined in this endeavor by his wife of 37 years. 

          I’m sorry to say I’ve never met Carter personally and can’t pretend to be an expert on his life.  But I will always appreciate what he brought to the sport I enjoyed so much for so many years and what he’s meant to so many people ever since.  Let us stop and say a prayer for Gary Carter and his family, that the God of miracles will grant him healing if it be His Will, and that He will give peace and comfort to Gary and all his loved ones.  Amen.

Prayer of Reparation

Prayer of Reparation

          Sunday, January 22 was the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand for the entire nine months of pregnancy across our country.  Monday, January 23 is a Day of Reparation.

Prayer for Changing the Culture
by Fr. Frank Pavone, M.E.V.

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we come into your presence in His name.

We have heard the voice of your Son,

And therefore we can make our voices heard.

We have been justified in the blood of your Son,

And therefore we can oppose every form of injustice.

We have repented of our sins,

And therefore we can lead the sinner to repentance.

We have done battle with the power of evil,

And therefore we can have compassion on those still within its grip.

We have been freed from the kingdom of darkness,

And therefore we can bear witness to your Kingdom of Light.

Lord, as we come before you today, we repent, we resolve, and we rejoice.

We repent of every instance in which fear has made us silent when we should have spoken.

We repent of the ongoing bloodshed in our land,
And for ever daring to think that we can deprive the unborn of protection but keep it for ourselves.

We resolve that we will work more generously to advance your Kingdom.

We resolve that we will advance the cause of righteous candidates for public office,
And that we will be more afraid of offending you by our silence
Than of offending the IRS by our speech.

We resolve that we will declare boldly to our people that no public official who fails to respect the life of a little baby

can be trusted to respect our lives.

Father, today we rejoice, because we are not simply working for victory - we are working from victory.

The victory of life, truth, and grace has been won by your Son's death and Resurrection.
Today we hear his voice again.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I hold the keys of death and of hell.
Behold, I make all things new."

Father, we rejoice that we have been made new,

And as we work to renew our culture
We look forward to the great day of his coming,
When every eye will see him, even of those who pierced him,
And every knee shall bend, and every tongue confess, to the glory of God the Father,

In his Blessed Name we pray. Amen!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Link - Remembering Uncle Martin

Link – Remembering Uncle Martin

This past Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Many people have spoken about how to keep his legacy alive.  Perhaps the person most qualified to speak about that is his niece, Alveda King.  At the link below she discusses “Remembering Uncle Martin.” 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Movie Review - Courageous (Re-Post)

Movie Review – Courageous

On July 17 the movie Courageous was released on DVD and Blu-Ray.  I reviewed it when it was in the theaters, so I’m re-posting the review for anyone who missed it in October.

In 2008 members of the Sherwood Baptist church in Albany, Georgia released the movie Fireproof, which explored our current marriage crisis by following fireman Caleb Holt as he tries to save his marriage after his wife has demanded a divorce.  His conversion to Christ gives life to his efforts.

          The makers of Fireproof have just released their newest film, Courageous, which opened September 30.  Courageous takes a similar approach, this time exploring fatherhood, and our duties as Christian fathers.

          Near the beginning of the film we are hit with the sociological reality that the vast majority of our prison inmates, drug addicts and troubled youths grew up without involved fathers.  The main characters this time are police officers and as the film progresses they are confronted with their frailties as fathers and inspired to take public vows affirming their commitment to being Godly fathers.

          It has been said that our age is in a crisis of men, that many of us are allergic to commitment and want to cling to our adolescence, refusing the responsibility of becoming an adult.  There is a lot of truth to that.  It is refreshing to see a movie confront this crisis head on and call on men to step up and be men.

          The movie is enjoyable.  Unlike 2006’s Bella, which starred Eduardo Verastegui, and was an effective evangelistic tool to address the issue of abortion, Courageous does not boast professional actors.  It is somewhat apparent at times, but the acting really isn’t bad.  Some parts seem a little forced but others are done superbly.  At one point it delivers a poignant and extremely believable portrayal of a Christian family’s struggle through unexpected tragedy.

          It is refreshing to go the theater and see a film in which the characters speak openly of Jesus in a reverent manner, women are dressed modestly and the language is inoffensive.  This from a film that deals often with issues of crime, such as drug abuse and violence.  It is a good model for other Hollywood producers.  Courageous also has its share of action, suspense and even humor.  It is a film worth seeing.

          One can only hope films like Courageous, Fireproof and Bella are only the beginning of a movement of Christian filmmakers bringing their faith to the big screen.  Movies can be a powerful tool of evangelization and a means of bringing God back into the conversation of the issues of our day.

          One word of caution, if taking young people to the film, the previews and pre-movie entertainment were not at all fitting for a Christian film.  I suppose that would all depend on where you see it, but you’d think the theaters would anticipate the audience.  I heard a number of other people grumbling about it as well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Evangelizing on the Grid Iron

Evangelizing on the Grid Iron

          Tim Tebow’s unlikely NFL season came to an end last Saturday night.  Tebow, of course, is the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, who were eliminated from the playoffs by the New England Patriots 45-10.  However, Tebow has been the main story of this season and has also been an unlikely lightning rod for controversy.

           There are many things unorthodox about Tebow’s play on the football field.  And some in the sports world have taken offense (particularly after being defeated by the Broncos).  The fact that fans were calling for Tebow to start in place of Kyle Orton riled up those who insisted that he didn’t have the skill set to be successful in the NFL.  His use of a college-style offense in the pros has unquestionably offended the pride of others, especially since he’s been winning with it.

          Without question, Tebow’s passing accuracy will need to improve.  But given an entire off season, I expect that it will.  We have already seen him make great strides in his decision making and throwing mechanics in a period of just a few months.  And even many of his strongest doubters have acknowledged that his “intangibles” – will, leadership, guts – have made him an effective and exciting player.

          So where’s the real controversy?  Tim Tebow is, brace yourselves…a Christian!  But not just a Christian (most players in the NFL are), he acknowledges Jesus by Name at the start of every interview.  He is known to be pro-life, unashamed of his chastity, and he prays regularly…on the field!

          To some people, this can not be tolerated.  There are those who actually claim to hate Tim Tebow.  There have been NFL players who have committed crimes from drug abuse to sexual assault to battery, and they are not considered controversial.  But a man who loves Jesus and isn’t afraid to wear his faith on his sleeve is somehow a menace to society.  Many of the comments aimed at him have been so hateful and so disgusting I can’t bring myself to quote them.

          But through it all, Tim Tebow has responded brilliantly.  When people have said he should keep his faith quiet, he has refused.  As a matter of fact, when he was no longer allowed to wear “John 3:16” on his eye black, he responded by passing for 316 yards in his first playoff game (which garnered a fourth quarter rating of 31.6).  Perhaps that was God’s commentary.  Whether he plays brilliantly and the Broncos win or he plays terribly and the Broncos lose, he carries himself with the same dignity, respect and optimism.  Media personalities in the sports world have said to a man that he is genuine, that what he shows us is who he is, and that’s he’s a great person.

          Most of all, Tim Tebow himself has kept things in perspective.  He has said that he sees his opportunity to play in the NFL as a platform to evangelize.  He doesn’t proselytize, he evangelizes – by who he is, how he carries himself, and by acknowledging publicly the most important thing in his life – his relationship with Jesus Christ.

          Now I may have some disagreements with Mr. Tebow about some of the theological details of justification or Church governance (he’s an evangelical Protestant), but I admire him greatly.  What he does is what we all should do.  We are all evangelists.  Most of us don’t have the national stage that Tim Tebow does, but we have all been planted somewhere, with a message and an opportunity to share that message.

          I have never met Tim Tebow, but I’m relatively sure he cares very little what the Bill Mahers of the world say about him.  He is far more concerned with what Jesus will say about him – “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Few Changes

A Few Changes

          You may notice a few minor changes to this blog in the coming weeks.  First, I have decided to add occasional polls, just for fun.  Some will be about issues specific to the Catholic Faith and some (as this week’s demonstrates) will not.  I am also discerning experimenting with Google’s AdSense.  I will not be adding it now, but I may try it in the future to see what kind of control I have over what is advertised.  I personally recommend all the products I have currently linked.  Obviously that will not be the case with AdSense, but I want to be sure nothing I consider inappropriate will appear.  Also, I do not want to promote companies that financially support Planned Parenthood or other endeavors that oppose the Catholic Faith or morality.  Of course I do not know all the actions of every company, but some of that information is made available by Life Decisions International.

          Finally, although this blog is currently not set up to feature comments, if you would like to comment on anything that has appeared, please email me (  Please indicate in the email, however, if you would not like me to publish your comments.   

Friday, January 13, 2012

Welcoming the New Translation part 2

Welcoming the New Translation Part Two

                Last week I suggested that the new translation of the Roman Missal offers us a wonderful opportunity to craft a New Year’s resolution to more deeply experience the Mass.  In this series of posts I am attempting to reflect on some of the new translations, drawing from personal reflection (which I attempt to align with the intentions of the bishops) and the work of Dr. Edward Sri.  In this article I want to look at some of the changes that give more precise theological attention to the nature of Christ and the Trinity, particularly in the Gloria and the Creed.  (I have previously reflected on the Trinity in the post The Beauty of Mystery.)

          There are many subtle changes in the Gloria.  Indeed it has been one of the most difficult for me to memorize.  One change that can be easily overlooked, but is important, is the reference to Jesus as the only Begotten Son of God.  The inclusion of the word “begotten” is useful for theological precision. 

          Certainly we are all sons and daughters of God.  By virtue of our Baptism we were incorporated into the Family of God and the Body of Christ.  We are God’s children by Grace, but Jesus is His Son by nature.  A man begets his son because the son comes from him, contains something of him, of his nature.  It is true we have been created by God in His Image and Likeness, but we become partakers of the Divine Nature through Grace, by virtue of our baptism.  Jesus, by contrast, was begotten by God.  He has existed from all eternity as the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  He shares the very same Divine Nature as the Father.  They are distinct as Persons, but one God by nature.  This, of course, is something we can  not say, though we be sons and daughters of God.

          The Nicene Creed brings out the same reality in its use of the term “consubstantial.”  We say Jesus is, “God from God; Light from Light; True God from True God; Begotten, not made; consubstantial with the Father.”  Consubstantial means, quite literally, of the same substance.  These subtle changes give us important instruction as to how Jesus, the Son of God, is truly God, from all eternity.

          Another subtle change in the Creed highlights Jesus’s divinity as well as His humanity.  Rather than saying Jesus was “born of the Virgin Mary,” we now say He was “incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”  What’s the difference?  Well, both certainly are true, but the new translation gives important precision.  By saying Jesus was incarnate, we acknowledge two important truths.  First, that Jesus has existed from all eternity as God, but took on our human nature in time approximately two thousand years ago.  Unlike ourselves, who existed nine months before our birth, Christ is eternal and only “became enfleshed” in time. 

          The phrase “was incarnate” is also an important refutation of a heresy that has popped up from time to time stating that Jesus didn’t really become man, but only appeared as a man.  This of course, is not true.  Jesus is fully God and fully human.  By saying He was incarnate we are acknowledging very clearly that Jesus truly did become human.

          On a side note, but related, we will notice some changes to the Apostle’s Creed, as well, which we sometimes say at Mass.  There’s one that I think is important to mention.  We have been saying that after His death, Jesus descended to the dead.  Now we will say He descended into hell.  The Apostle’s Creed, of course, goes back to the Apostles.  One of the great things about the Catholic Church is that it reaches all the way back to Christ and the ancient world.  That means the Church can assist us in our understanding, even when language changes somewhat.

          To understand this phrase in the Creed we have to understand the ancient Jewish notion of hell, or sheol.  It referred to the entire realm of the dead, not just the damned.  When we say in the Creed that Jesus descended into hell, we are not talking about the abode of the damned.  We are speaking of what we might call Abraham’s Bosom or the Limbo of the Fathers.  This is where the righteous dead from before Jesus’s Death and Resurrection dwelt.  They were saved souls who were awaiting the opening of Heaven’s Gate – souls like Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist and St. Joseph.

          It’s also important to understand the ancient Jewish use of the term heaven.  In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he speaks of someone being caught up to the “third heaven” (2Cor 12:2).  What does this mean?  The Mormon church has built a doctrine around this passage stating that there are three separate heavens.  But this is not true.  To an ancient Jew, the term heaven was divided into three.  The first heaven is the firmament of the sky where birds flew and clouds hung.  The second heaven is “the heavens” – outer space – the sun, moon, stars, planets, etc.  The third heaven was what we would call Heaven, where God is.  So St. Paul was making clear that this person was caught up to Heaven, in the presence of God.

          Nuances of language can be very important.  How blessed we are to belong to a Church that has been there through all the linguistic developments of Christian history.  It can provide us a deeper understanding that allows us to enter more deeply into worship, or even evangelize our Mormon brethren.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Links - A Closer Look at Culture and the Economy

Links – A Clearer Look at Culture and

the Economy

          As the primary election season moves forward, the media are trying to set economic issues and social issues against each other, implying that the economy is important and should drives people’s votes, while social issues like abortion should not.  As Catholics we know that basic human rights issues like abortion always weigh more than economic theory, but what we often forget is that social and economic issues are intimately related.  The two links below lead to wonderful articles highlighting this point.  They are must-reads for anyone wanting to develop a more thorough understanding of the challenges of poverty and the economy, and seeking to cast an informed vote.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Former Aide Defends Santorum

Former Aide Defends Santorum

          Presidential candidate Rick Santorum has faced increased scrutiny since his incredible showing in the Iowa caucuses.  He has also faced the usual character assassination.  Well known for his defense of traditional marriage, Senator Santorum is defended against the false charges of homophobia by a former aide, who happens to be gay, in this video.

Monday, January 9, 2012

For the Sake of Righteousness

For the Sake of Righteousness

          Today (Jan. 9) we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.  It is a beautiful feast, on which we meditate in the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  It is an interesting question to wonder why Jesus submitted to baptism in the first place.  After all, people came to John the Baptist to be baptized as a sign of repentance for their sins.  Jesus, of course, being sinless, would not need to repent.

          St. John himself seems confused, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”  There are many answers to the question of why Jesus was baptized and I am certainly not qualified to give a theological treatise on it.  However, Jesus’s response to John’s question has led me to some personal reflections.  He said, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

          John, the greatest of the prophets, was preparing the way of the Lord.  And certainly he was a controversial figure.  By submitting to John’s baptism it seems to me that Jesus is endorsing him and giving an example of righteous behavior for others, who were in great need of repentance.

          I am reminded of a friend I knew in college, who I met through the Newman Center, named Joey.  I met him when I was a junior, about 20 years old, and he was a couple of years older than I.  I remember being very impressed at his maturity, not always a common trait on a university campus.  One discussion still resonates with me so many years later.

          Joey related to us how when he went to parties he never drank any alcohol.  Now Joey was over 21 and would occasionally have wine with dinner, in moderation.  He was certainly not the type to get drunk or have any problem with alcohol.  So we wondered why he felt the need to abstain at college parties.  He told us what we already knew – drinking was out of control at parties, anything but moderate, and certainly prevalent among under-age students.  He felt that drinking even in moderation at parties could be misconstrued or even scandalize those who knew him to be a devout Catholic, and that he could give a more powerful witness by abstaining altogether.

          I was impressed by his thinking and saw the wisdom in it at once.  I teach at a Catholic school and we often tell the kids when they play for one of our sports teams to be aware of their behavior because they are representing the school.  As Catholics we are always representing the Church, and for some, we may be the only Face of Christ they see.  The impression we leave them with can be very powerful.  Words are necessary tools for conversion, but if our actions are contradictory, they render our words powerless.

          I am reminded of a story of Mother Teresa and one of the many people she cared for.  This particular man was dying, and the saintly nun picked him off the street, cleaned and clothed him, tended to his needs, and treated him with dignity and love.  Finally she asked him if he would like to hear about Jesus.  He responded, “Is Jesus like you?”  “No,” she answered, “Jesus is not like me.  But I try to be like Him.”  “In that case,” the man said, “I want to become a Christian.”

          On the other hand, our actions have just as much power to keep others away from Christ.  If people see love in us, they will be attracted to the source of that love.  If they see spite they will be repelled from the Faith that supposedly drives us.

          From time to time that may even mean doing things purely for the example we can set, like my friend Joey.  Of course we are not to be virtuous for the sake of being noticed, but it is good to be conscious of the witness we give, “for the sake of righteousness.”

          Of course a caution is not to fall into scrupulosity.  It is possible to get so wrapped up in how we may be interpreted that it becomes damaging.  Being aware does not mean being obsessed.  Certainly if we are sincere in following Our Lord, we will give the proper witness, and I suspect if our motives are pure, God will intervene on our behalf so those we touch will be led to Him.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Fathers Speak: The Didache

The Fathers Speak: The Didache

          The Didache is an ancient Church document dating to the first or early second century.  Also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, if it doesn’t quite date back to Apostolic times, it at least comes from the patristic period and is considered an authentic product of the early Christian Church, as opposed to other false gnostic writings from later centuries that have received more attention from the mainstream media.  The insight we receive from The Didache into early Christian belief and practice is wonderful and demonstrates clearly the Catholicity of the Church from the beginning.
Concerning Purgatory:  And coming into confinement, he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape from there until he pays back the last penny.

Concerning Baptism:  And concerning first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water.  But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not do so in cold water, do so in warm.  But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

Concerning abortion:  Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Link - Archbishop Dolan's New Year's Suggestions

Link – Archbishop Dolan’s
New Year’s Suggestions

          Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York has some wonderful suggestions of things we can do this new year to deepen our relationship with Christ and His Church at the link below.

Note:  I am working on solving the technical problems the blog has had the last few days with some of the product links.  If you have had a similar experience or have suggestions, please email me.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Welcoming the New Translation of the Roman Missal

Welcoming the New Translation of the
Roman Missal

          We are at the beginning of a new calendar year, and many people are focusing on their New Year’s resolutions.  At the beginning of the Church year about a month ago, we were all afforded a wonderful opportunity for a resolution – to deepen our experience of the Mass.  I am speaking, of course, of the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal.
          We are not adopting a “new Mass.”  All that has happened is that the Missal, which we have been using for over 40 years, has been newly translated for the English language.  Why was this done?  The translation we adopted after Vatican II was called a dynamic equivalency translation.  In other words, it stayed faithful to the thoughts that are presented in the original Latin, but was lacking in some literal translations.  English was the only major language to use this type of translation, and it was not bad.  The bishops have not decided that the translation we have been using was somehow defective, only that a closer translation to the original Latin would be desirable.
          For one thing, the Mass is saturated with Scripture, and some of those references are brought out much more clearly in the new translation.  Also, there is some imagery that had been lost and is restored with the new translation.  Another important benefit is that it is more precise on certain theological points.
          As we adopt this new translation, we can resolve to enter more deeply into the prayers of the Mass and renew our worship, while enhancing our experience.  Over the next few weeks I will pick a few of the new translations of prayers and responses and give a reflection on them.  I, of course, am not qualified to fully explore them, so I would encourage further study.  Although some of the thoughts will be my own, I will try to be faithful to the intention of the bishops.  Also, I will be drawing heavily from the work of Dr. Edward Sri, which I have found most helpful, and would recommend your checking out some of what he has produced for a more comprehensive reflection than what I will be offering here.  I have included a product link to a book of his and Lighthouse Catholic Media has produced a CD on this very topic.
          At the very beginning of the Mass, when the priest greets us, we now respond not with, “And also with you,” but rather, “And with your spirit.”  Of course this is what we’ve been saying at Latin Masses all along (“et cum spiritu tuo”) but now we say it in English as well.  What does it mean?
          First of all, when the priest says, “The Lord be with you,” he is not wishing us a good morning.  In Scripture when this phrase or variations of it are used, it is a blessing or promise to someone who is about to do something profound (Moses, Joshua, Mary, etc.).  When the priest says it to us, we too are about to do something profound.  We come to Mass to worship God, our highest act as human beings.  He says it again at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, when Jesus will become present on the altar and we will receive Him.  And again at the end of Mass when he sends us forth to bring the Lord we have just received to a world that is starving for Him.
          When we respond “And with your spirit,” we are acknowledging something very important.  At this Mass, the priest has a very special role, and it is a spiritual role.  He is going to do something at the Mass that the rest of us can not do.  And he is able to do it by virtue of a spiritual gift he received at his ordination.  Our response is an answer similar to the greeting the priest has given us, but acknowledging the incredible gift he has from which we will all benefit.
          Later in the Mass, after this exchange, the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and we now respond with, “It is right and just.”  The notion of justice with regard to God is an important one.  Justice means giving to someone that which he is due.  Sometimes we can develop the mistaken notion that because we come to Mass weekly or even daily, we are doing something extraordinary and that God really owes us a debt of gratitude for our faithfulness.  Faithfulness surely will be rewarded, but we are, as St. Paul says, “unprofitable servants.  We have done no more than we were obliged to do.”  God deserves our worship.  When we come to Mass, we are giving Him His due, nothing more.  It is profitable for us to reflect on the fact that though we receive so much from God at Mass, it is also our solemn obligation and an act of justice toward Him to attend, at least weekly.
          Also at the beginning of Mass we have the Penitential Rite, during which we examine our consciences and express sorrow for our sins in order to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries.  The new translation has brought back the “mea culpas.”  We will beat our chest as we proclaim that we have sinned “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”
          Why is this important?  One of the greatest flaws of our age is that by and large we have lost a sense of sin.  Even those of us that acknowledge sin often fail to recognize the gravity of sin.  God has given us everything, benevolently.  We would not have life without Him, let alone the promise of eternal life.  He is pure goodness and yet we often respond to Him with disobedience, perhaps even scorn.  It is important for us to recognize that even venial sins are offenses against Pure Love and we should not dismiss them without at least acknowledging our guilt and offering contrition.  Mortal sins, of course, require sacramental Confession before we receive the Eucharist.
          If I hurt my wife deeply, I mean really hurt her feelings or cause her real pain, I would not just in passing tell her, “Hey, sorry about that.”  It is important for me to acknowledge that I have wronged her, to show her that, and sincerely ask forgiveness.  God may not have the same needs as my wife does, but it is still important that I not dismiss my sins, but truly acknowledge them, sincerely ask forgiveness, and gratefully accept it.
          Over the next few weeks I will be reflecting on some of the other changes in translation.  Many of them are small and grammatical, so I will not touch on everything, but there are many that are soaked with meaning.  May this new year find us meditating more deeply on the profound nature of the Mass so that through it we may come closer to Jesus Christ.