Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Reflections on the Pope's Interview


Reflections on the Pope’s Interview

 
 Image from http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-qyjhTmBLJ4c/UUFGgReemkI/AAAAAAAAAvg/aWymVqoeDHw/s1600/popefrancis.jpg

There has been quite a firestorm following the interview Pope Francis gave last week.  Initially, the mainstream media, intentionally or not, misrepresented the comments of the pope, suggesting that he was urging Catholics to stop focusing on issues like abortion, homosexual “marriage” and contraception.  Most Catholics by now should have recognized the truth, that the pope is not moving the Church away from her teachings on these issues, especially since the day after the interview Pope Francis made his strongest comments against abortion since his election.

Still, some Catholics have been concerned about the tone the holy father has set and the direction they think he may be taking the Church.  Now it’s true that there is no charism guaranteeing the pope will say everything perfectly eloquently or that every decision he makes will be the best.  However, this is a holy and learned man, who happens to be our chief shepherd, so I do think it’s important that we reflect on what the pope did say.

The issue, I think, is context.  Pope John Paul II coined the phrase “The Culture of Death.”  It was imperative that the Church respond forcefully, consistently and often to the great evils of the day.  It still is.  But perhaps Pope Francis is concerned that the culture has begun defining the terms of our message.

The pope is clearly concerned about the right to life and has spoken as archbishop against homosexual “marriage.”  He made it clear in his interview that he has no intention of moving the Church away from her teachings on these issues.

However, he spoke of the primary necessity of showing the Person of Jesus Christ to the world.  This, he said, is the essential of evangelization.  He called to mind the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and how their encounter with Christ caused their hearts to burn within them.  In this age of the New Evangelization, when many people think Christianity is merely noise that can be dismissed, though the consistent witness against the evils of our time is essential (the pope is not calling on any of us to slow our pro-life work), it is easily ignored.

An encounter with Jesus Christ, however, can not be ignored.  I believe the pope is calling on all of us to remember that our witness begins and ends with Him.  We can not witness to the issues of life and marriage apart from that context.  And the Church needs to offer the world her Lord.  Then hearts will be opened to all else besides.

This is my take on the pope’s interview.  Agree with it or not, I would pray that we all listen to Pope Francis as a father, and at least take his message to prayer, so that we can be truly effective sons and daughters of the Church, and servants of our Lord.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pope Francis on Abortion

Pope Francis on Abortion

Every unborn child, though unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of the Lord, who even before his birth, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world”


Our response to this mentality [the 'throwaway culture' that abortion promotes] is a ‘yes’ to life, decisive and without hesitation. ‘The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are precious, but this one is fundamental –- the condition for all the others’”



On the one hand we see progress in the field of medicine, thanks to the work of scientists who passionately and unreservedly dedicate themselves to the search for new cures. On the other hand, however, we also encounter the risk that doctors lose sight of their identity in the service of life.”



While new rights are attributed to or indeed almost presumed by the individual, life is not always protected as the primary value and the primordial right of every human being. The ultimate aim of medicine remains the defense and promotion of life.”


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CD - Our Lady of Good Success


CD – Our Lady of Good Success
 
The latest offering from Lighthouse Catholic Media’s CD of the Month Club is Matthew Arnold’s presentation on Our Lady of Good Success.  Although devotion to Our Lady of Good Success has a long history in South America, it is only becoming widely known now, though it is fully approved by the Church.

In 1594, Mary appeared to a Conception sister, Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres, in Quito, Ecuador under the title of Our Lady of Good Success.  The title can be a little misleading, as if it is a Catholic version of the “health and wealth gospel,” which it is not.  It refers to the promise of a happy ending, or a joyful outcome, which is one of the reasons people originally asked for Our Lady’s intercession under this title when they were expecting a child.

Mary appeared to Mother Mariana over the period of a number of years with requests, prophecies and miracles.  One of the incredible things about these apparitions is that many of the events they foretold refer to our times.

Mary requested that a statue be fashioned of her, holding the Infant Jesus in her left arm and in her right, a crosier and the keys to the convent.  She desired people to come to her, “for I shall lead them to Him.”

Construction of the statue began in 1610.  When the sculptor went to Spain to get the paint he needed to finish, however, Mother Marianne had a vision of archangels finishing the work.  When the sculptor returned and saw the statue finished, he declared that, “no human hand has done this.” 

Pilgrims may notice that the quality of the statue of Jesus is less than that of Mary.  The reason is that one of the sisters hid the original Infant statue when the convent was at risk of being destroyed by government soldiers and died before she revealed where it was hidden, so Mary now holds a replacement.

Numerous miracles surround the devotion.  In 1941 when Ecuador was at war with Peru, the bishop asked for people to come make a novena for peace.  On the fifth day of the novena, the statue moved.  It looked down at the people praying and then up to Heaven.  The miracle, completely documented at the time, continued into the night, and the war ended that very day.

Another time, the sisters were told by the government that soldiers were coming to close and confiscate the convent.  On the prescribed day, no one came – the government was overthrown in a coup.

The many prophecies Our Lady made to Mother Mariana catch many people’s attention.  Many had to do with Ecuador – the revolution, and the Catholic presidency of Don Gabriel Garcia Moreno and his martyrdom.  She also prophesied many of the details of the pontificate of Pius IX.

But her most stunning prophecies were those of our day, particularly beginning in the second half of the 20th century.  She prophesied a great crisis of faith, and the loss of innocence in children.  Marriage would be attacked, she said, and evil laws would make it easy for people to live in sin.  Many children would be born out of wedlock and denied baptism.  Vocations would plummet and there would be scandals among the clergy that would try the strength of faithful priests.  Last Rites would be widely ignored, the Eucharist would be profaned, and there would be many sacrilegious Communions.

“Wealthy and powerful Catholics won’t do a thing about it,” she said.  They would fail to use their wealth or influence to stop the slide.  Mother Mariana, when she had a vision of these days, said that without a special grace, she would have died of shock.

These prophecies, made 400 years ago, have all come true, all but one.  When it seems that evil has triumphed, Our Lady said, that is when satan will be dethroned and trampled underfoot.  Ultimately Our Lady of Good Success is about hope.  She foretold a great restoration of the Church.  Mother Mariana, in fact, offered herself as a victim soul for our times.

The promised restoration is coming.  The devotion, prophesied not to become widely known until the end of the 20th century, is spreading, and it should bring us hope. 

Matthew Arnold, a brilliant storyteller of all things Catholic and historical, does a wonderful job in this CD of giving detailed information about Our Lady of Good Success and documenting reasons for hope.  To order the CD, please go to lighthousecatholicmedia.org, or the online store in the sidebar.

To learn more about the CD of the Month Club, and to sign up to receive a new inspiring talk from a dynamic Catholic speaker every month, for yourself or as a gift, click here.  Also, see Mr. Arnold’s Web site, for more information on Our Lady of Good Success.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Praying with the Heart of St. Paul

Praying with the Heart of St. Paul


This Sunday’s second reading (1Tim2:1-8) really caught my attention. It has long pricked my conscience, but I heard parts of it I never noticed before. I would welcome feedback from any priest or theologian regarding the comments I make here.
In verse 2, we are told to offer prayers “for kings and for all in authority.” This I have done, but it has been a challenge, especially since 2008. Readers of this blog have heard me bemoan the policies of the Obama administration many times, as many Christians have. But I have consistently prayed for him.
After the disaster of 2012, and an election I do not believe was validly conducted, it became even harder to do. I have wondered, were Germans supposed to pray for Hitler? We are to pray for our enemies, I know, and I do not compare Mr. Obama to Hitler, but how am I supposed to pray for this man by name every day, I wondered? I have taken to praying specifically for his conversion, which I know is what is most important for any soul. But still I wondered, am I embracing fully the command of the Gospel?
Then I heard this reading at Mass this week, both on Tuesday and again on Sunday, and something caught my attention that never had before. After St. Paul asks for prayers to be offered for kings and those in authority, he says, “that we may be able to lead undisturbed and tranquil lives in perfect piety and dignity.”
Is St. Paul especially asking for prayers for those in authority because they have the power to grant earthly peace to the Church? I have genuinely desired the salvation of Mr. Obama’s soul and yet I have been praying for his conversion particularly so that his persecution of Catholics (HHS mandate, for example) and promotion of anti-Christian values might end. This has caused me to feel a little self-serving, but I wonder if this is much of what St. Paul had in mind.
I have also wondered if my desire for “a tranquil life” is appropriate for a member of the Church Militant. Verse 3, however, says that “this is good and pleasing to God our savior.”
So I will continue to pray for the conversion of Mr. Obama, and for a tranquil life as a Catholic, with more confidence now. And I will also remember the last part of that sentence, which reminds us that even if we should find that tranquility, there are always battles to be won: “[God] wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

Shocking!


Shocking!

As expected, the main stream media’s reporting of a recent interview by Pope Francis bears little resemblance to what the holy father actually said.  By taking a small quote from a big interview, totally out of context, they have been able to put adequate liberal spin on the pope’s words.  To read an unbiased article or the text of the actual interview itself, see the link below.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Confronting the Duties of our State

Confronting the Duties of our State
 

The world is full of tragedies.  Christian churches are being torched daily in Egypt, civilians were recently gassed in Syria, there are senseless killings daily in the United States, and that’s barely scratching the surface.

These tragedies raise all sorts of issues and feelings among people.  Sometimes they can even make us question the validity of our own pursuits and struggles.  An example:

I am faced with the prospect of leaving my job in the semi-near future and I have no idea what I will do then.  The plans I had been pursuing seem to have fallen apart.  I also do not know what to do about health insurance.  Obamacare will make insurance completely unaffordable, and many of my options will be morally objectionable.  I thought medical sharing would be a solution, but my son’s medical condition precludes that as a realistic option.

I have been taking these issues to prayer often, and they have consumed much of my thoughts recently.  And yet, I remember, there are families in Syria whose dreams were wiped away in an instant.  Many people wonder how they will feed their children; I certainly don’t have that worry.  It definitely helps keep things in perspective.

But it can have a negative effect, too.  I can at times feel as though my concerns do not warrant so much attention.  It can feel selfish of me to focus so much of my energy on these needs of my family when so many others are facing so much worse.

But I believe that is the wrong approach to take.  It is true I must remain grateful for the blessings I have; I pray often for those suffering around the world, and try to be generous with my time, treasure and talent.  But though it is good to keep things in perspective, the grave concerns of others do not render my own insignificant.

My wife and family are my vocation.  Providing for them is my responsibility.  That is the charge that God has given me; none is more pressing.  I would be remiss in my duties if I were to lessen the importance of the responsibilities of my personal vocation out of some misplaced humility.  I trust that God will provide, but He has given me a definite work to do, and it begins with my family.

Very often people miss the blessings of what they have been given by focusing on what they lack.  I think we can sometimes fall into the complementary trap of missing the responsibilities we have because of the many troubles in the world we can not fix.

We can forget the charity we are to extend to our neighbor because of the plight of “the poor.”  We can fall into the trap of thinking that since people are suffering grievously in the Middle East, God certainly can not be interested in our problems.

Suffering remains a mystery.  But we have to believe that God has the suffering refugees in His Hand as much as He has us, and that, though we can not see it, He is providing the grace they need to obtain His promises, remembering that Heaven is the greatest promise.

We are called to alleviate the suffering of our brothers as much as we are able, and we are also called to fulfill the duties of our state in life.  We are called to prayerfully discern and live our vocation; nothing is more important.

Professor Peter Kreeft says that it is easy to love humanity, but difficult to love our neighbor.  The same may be said about our vocation.  It is easy to care about the needs of the world’s suffering, but difficult to tend to the needs of those God has put in our lives.  With His grace, may we do both.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Beloved

Beloved


      The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, in the news lately for their Gregorian chant album which has been a mainstay atop the classical music charts, are first and foremost brides of Christ.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Be a Man



Be a Man


          As a boy, I always saw the notion of “being a man” as an important goal for which to strive.  Although I didn't really know what it entailed, I did have a sense that it meant more than just turning 18 or even 21, although I figured that by the time I hit those magic numbers, I would accomplish the task naturally.
          Our society has made it painfully clear that “being a man” (and I would really just say being an adult) does not come from reaching a certain age.  Countless children grow up without fathers, and marriage, as well as other commitments, are broken as easily as one's plans for Friday night.  One of the greatest crises of our times is the crisis of men.
          Since being a child hoping to someday “be a man,” I have reflected on what that term really means.  What does it take to “be a man”?  And again, though men and women are different, the aspects I am reflecting on here really apply to all adults.
          Ultimately I think it comes down to a perspective, a focus that shifts off one's self and onto others.  As an infant, we are all born totally self-absorbed.  Our survival depends on it.  But as we grow, our focus should begin to shift.  We should begin to place our focus onto others, God first and then our neighbor.
          As we become men, we become willing to sacrifice, to suffer some loss for the sake of another's good.  We are willing to risk our own comfort to stand for some truth or goodness or beauty. 
          When we are able to truly and completely give ourselves to another, we are ready to marry.  Our spouse is our vocation and her good, particularly her spiritual good, becomes our primary concern.  Once the marriage is blessed with children, we pour ourselves out for them, to raise and educate them to be good, strong, holy adults themselves one day.
          But that is no longer the goal that many people strive for.  A recent Time Magazine article, revealing the secret to happiness as the lack of children, is a scary reminder of this.  The trick, says the article, for many people, is to acquire no responsibilities for others (read “liabilities”), so one is free to live as hedonistic an existence as possible.
          Of course, with all this hedonism, the one thing that is missing is joy.  Those who choose to truly become men (and women) find that in imaging Jesus by giving themselves away, they find true joy, a joy that is hidden from the rest of the world, which leaves them in poverty.
          Of course, marriage and children are not the only avenues to this joy.  Priests and men and women religious often overflow with it.  And many single people serve God as they are called to, with this adult perspective and corresponding joy.  Even much needed recreation and occasional properly ordered “indulgence” are colored with a holy outlook.
          As real men and real women become ever more scarce in our culture, it is critical that those who bear the name Christian bear also the image of Christ in their lives so that His message may still be preached and the conversion of the world will not become a forgotten dream.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Eradicating Christianity in America, One Baby Step at a Time



Eradicating Christianity in America, One Baby Step at a Time


The demons that use political correctness as their tool of choice have turned a corner recently toward the eradication of Christianity in American society.
Recently we’ve seen a Christian bakery put out of business for declining to make a cake for a same-sex “marriage,” a Christian photographer told that she must photograph a same-sex ceremony and that compromise of her Christian values is “the price of citizenship,” a bar owner fined $400,000 for asking cross-dressing patrons to leave for creating trouble in the bathrooms, and Christians discriminated against by the city council of San Antonio, Texas if they have ever expressed a belief in favor of traditional marriage.
All of these gross attacks on freedom of religion and freedom of speech have gone on with barely a notice from the American people at large.  These events have put our country squarely on the path of religious persecution, but for most people, it’s business as usual.
And those haven’t been the only abuses.  In California, public school students will have transgendered bathrooms, and New Jersey followed California in denying children suffering with gender-identity disorder access to the treatment they desperately need and that their parents desire for them.  Then of course there’s the HHS mandate.  I wish that exhausted the list of abuses…
The key to the demons’ success is not that all of these things have happened, but more that very few people seem to know or care.  People still get up and go to work.  None of the country’s industries have shut down, and no one has died.
Christians involved in the event industry have lost their freedom, but most Christians don’t work in that industry.  This week, only San Antonio codified discrimination in an official city policy, but most people don’t live in San Antonio.
These seem like baby steps that don’t affect the majority of Christians, let alone the majority of Americans, so even those who have heard of them (they have been shamefully underreported) simply breathe a sigh of relief that they weren’t hit and go on with their lives.
It reminds me of the quote regarding the Holocaust:

First they came for the gypsies,
And I didn’t say anything because I am not a gypsy,
Then they came for the Jews,
And I didn’t say anything because I am not a Jew,
Then they came for the Catholics,
And I didn’t say anything because I am not a Catholic,
Then they came for me,
And there was no one left to say anything.

The same tactic is being used.  Little by little, Christians are told they are free to hold whatever beliefs they want, but to practice them will cost them the freedom to be in business or make a living.  You can believe what you want, but not in school.  You have freedom of speech, but that speech will cost you government contracts or even representation.
Little by little we are pushed into more of a cultural ghetto.  How will we respond?  Many will simply lack the endurance and give in (pray that we all have the strength to avoid that fate).  Some will keep their religion in a closet out of a genuine desire not to cause pain to others.  (One of the most brilliant angles of this whole attack is that it focuses on people with same-sex attraction.  Because as Christians, we generally love and respect these people, we have no desire to hurt them, and thus through a false compassion, can be silenced by our own sensitive hearts.)
But others will persevere.  They will fight in court.  They will band together, as the Irish immigrants of the nineteenth century did, and support each other.  They will form charitable associations; they will teach their children Truth; they will not sell their consciences, for bribe or for threat.
Will that remnant save our culture?  Maybe, maybe not.  But they will win a crown in Heaven, and they will save the souls of many others in the process.

Monday, September 9, 2013