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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Link - The History of the Scapular

Link – The History of the Scapular

Many people wear a scapular.  Many people have heard of the scapular, but many people don’t know much about it.  The article at the link below is a helpful resource.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thanking God for the Superbowl

Thanking God for
the Superbowl

Image from

I have to admit that I love sports, football in particular.  So even though the sting of my beloved 49ers losing the NFC championship game by three inches of loft off a Colin Kaepernick pass is still a little tender, I can’t wait for the Superbowl.

Next Sunday, for about 5 hours, the whole country will seemingly shut down as everyone tunes in to the big game.  On some levels, it’s pretty silly.  After all, we act like it’s the most important event of the year and in the end, it’s just a game.  Could anything be more insignificant, really?

I was thinking about this the other day.  And I also got to thinking: since that fateful pass was intercepted in the end zone a week and a half ago, we’ve seen: another mall shooting; the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision marked by the March for Life while the killing goes on unabated; a mass gay “wedding” at the Grammy’s; a governor say that pro-lifers have no place in his state; the President’s war on conscience push forward; and a judge order the execution of a child at the request of that child’s family.  And that’s just a fraction of the evil that’s happened in just our country.

We are a people of the Light, and yet sometimes the darkness feels overwhelming.  In the past ten days it has brought me to silence, to yelling, and to tears.  But in the morning as I work out, or on my drive home from work, I can hear analysis, argument, and prediction, all regarding this Sunday’s major, insignificant event.  I can enjoy, for a little while, something that is safe.

It reminds me of a story I heard of a sportswriter who ran into his New York police officer friend shortly after 9/11.

“Can you believe it?” the sportswriter asked.

“I know,” replied the officer, “What do you think the Mets should do about their pitching?”

The sportswriter looked at him in disbelief, considering the events of the recent few days.  “That’s not really important, is it?” he asked.

“No, of course it’s not,” answered the officer, “but it helps to pretend that it is.”

Well, I am looking forward, next Sunday, to forgetting about the culture wars we have to fight as Catholics, and pretending, for a few hours, that the issue of greatest importance is whether the league’s best defense can slow down the league’s best offense.

This is one of the glories of sports.  It offers us a respite, not to mention the beauty (which is always more powerful than the darkness anyway) of friendly competition, of seeing people make the most of their God-given abilities, and of spending quality time with family and friends.

Enjoy the game.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Action - Urge Gov. Perry to Save a Life!

Action – Urge Gov. Perry to Save a Life!


This weekend, a judge ordered the murder of an innocent person.  In a tragic story, Marlise Munoz suffered a pulmonary embolism and has been declared brain dead.  She is currently 22 weeks pregnant.  Texas law states that a pregnant mother must be kept on life support for the sake of the unborn child’s life.  Munoz’s baby is alive and many experts have contended it has an excellent chance of survival.

However, a district judge has ordered that Mrs. Munoz be taken off life support by Monday evening, which will kill the little baby.  Why?  Is Mrs. Munoz suffering by being kept on life support so her child could live?  No.  There would seem to be no benefit (besides the saving of a few dollars) to turning the machine off now.  The only consequence would be the death of the child.  I wonder if the fact that the child may have deformed lower extremities came into play.  Either way, Adolf Hitler would be proud.

I’m sure the family, stricken with grief, is thinking of Mrs. Munoz, and I don’t blame them.  But the law is in place for a reason, so that, during these emotional and trying times for a family, a child’s life would be protected.  Yet again we see a judge disregarding the law and ruling according to his own personal whims.

Could our system be more broken?  If anything is left to be done, we must do it.  We must urge Governor Perry of Texas to intervene to save this child’s life. 

And as always, we must pray.  We can not judge the motives of anyone involved in this case.  We must pray for them and for justice for this little child, and for its mother, may her last heroic act on this earth be the giving of life, and may she rest in peace.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Christian Unity

Christian Unity

I recently attended an education in-service about Socratic Seminars.  The instructor impressed on us that the goal was to promote dialog, not debate.  All positions were equally valid, there were to be no judgments made, and there were no right answers to the questions being asked.

Now, this was about analyzing literature, identifying figurative language, tone, etc.  Depending on the piece, the technique could be rather benign, but it certainly could promote poor habits of mind, and immerse students in a culture of relativism.

It reminded me, in fact, of a statement I once heard a young man make: “I don’t really like apologetics; I prefer ecumenism.”

I bring that up because this is the week of prayer for Christian unity.  That is certainly a time for ecumenism, but what the young man I spoke to didn’t understand is that apologetics and ecumenism go hand-in-hand.

Ecumenism refers to dialog between members of different Christian communities: Protestant denominations, the Catholic Church, and the Orthodox.  The key to understanding ecumenism is understanding the goal: unity.  This means reunion – one Church giving one witness.

Praying together, standing up together in the culture wars, and supporting each other are all important things.  They all help build a sense of brotherhood.  But in the end, our goal is, as Jesus Himself prayed, “That they all may be one.”

To achieve this goal, many things are necessary.  We need patience, a historical understanding, forgiving hearts, and we need apologetics.

The only way for the many Christian communities to really reunite is for all of us to recognize that there is an objective religious Truth.  Some believe baptism is regenerative, others believe it is merely symbolic.  Well, it is either one or the other.  Someone is objectively wrong.  Some believe authority can only be found in the Bible, others believe Jesus has given authority to the Church as well.  He either did or He didn’t.  Someone is wrong.

There are many issues like that.  We should get along, we should support each other, we should work together, but we should also admit that on many issues of objective truth, we disagree.

This is why dialog is so important.  We need to discuss these things.  And this is why debate (and apologetics) is so important.  If we can all come to understand what we all believe, and why, we can arrive at the truth.  Then there must be humility enough to act on that truth.

As Catholics, we are very confident that the Church has the fullness of the Truth.  And she does.  But our Protestant brethren are quite sure that she does not.  We must, as a Church, be willing and able to explain and defend the Faith, if we are going to inspire many of our separated brethren to come home.

And we need our own humility.  We may be on solid theological ground, but there are many things we need to be able to see through others’ eyes.  There are many historical events, for example, about which we must acknowledge our wrongdoings.  A perfect example is the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.  It is true that the Church did not order or approve the attack, and that in fact the pope strongly disciplined the guilty.  But that does not change the fact that Catholic knights sacked the Orthodox capital, and the impregnable Constantinople soon fell as a result.

We need apologetics if we are ever to have unity, and we need humility.  And most of all, we need prayer.  So let us remember, during this week of prayer for Christian unity, to join sincere hearts across Christianity and beg our Lord to grant us the graces to fulfill his prayer for unity.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Day that Lives in Infamy

A Day that Lives in Infamy

Tomorrow, January 22, is the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion on demand.  Catholics are being asked to observe the event with prayer and fasting, as acts of reparation to God, Who is so much offended, and to obtain the grace necessary for our country to protect all human life.

Please consider skipping a meal or denying yourself something this day.  Below is a prayer to end abortion.  May God forgive and heal our nation.


Prayer to End Abortion

Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life,
And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters.
I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion,
Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death
by the Resurrection of Your Son.
I am ready to do my part in ending abortion.
Give us, Lord, the grace,
Not to be silent,
Not to be passive,
Not to be forgetful of the unborn.
Please bless the pro-life movement,
Let us never stop defending life
Until all our brothers and sisters are protected,
And our nation once again becomes
A nation with liberty and justice
Not just for some, but for all,
Through Christ our Lord. Amen!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Double Standard that Keeps our System Alive

The Double Standard which

Keeps our System Alive

Last week, Paul Kengor had an interesting commentary on Barack Obama’s giving of the Medal of Freedom to feminist attorney Gloria Steinem.  The interesting part of the whole thing was what Steinem said upon receiving the award, that she hoped it would be an honor to Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.

Even for pro-abortion liberals, Sanger is a bit of a problem.  It is well known that she was a pioneer of the eugenicist movement.  She intended reproductive control to be used in order to stop the breeding of “undesirables,” most notably the intellectually inferior, the poor, and blacks.

Mr. Kengor points out the irony of an African-American like Obama giving an award to someone who, upon receiving it, hoped it would honor a woman who had desired to wipe out African-Americans through eugenic policies.

To me, it called to mind the end of the career of former senator Trent Lott.  If you recall, on the occasion of fellow senator Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration, Lott spoke admiringly of Thurmond and said that, had he been successful in his run for President in 1948 (as a Dixiecrat), we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today.  These were nothing more than (stupid) hollow words meant as a blind tribute to a man that everyone was honoring at the event.

However, the media firestorm was fierce.  In 1948, Thurmond was a segregationist (a position he later abandoned), and Lott was painted as a racist for his comments.  The damage was more than he could fix, and his political career had been dealt a death blow.

What struck me was that, outside of Mr. Kengor, I have heard nothing about Steinem’s comments.  Segregation is bad, but eugenics is worse.  Lott praised a man who held segregationist views; Steinem praised a woman who wished to see African-Americans disappear from the planet.  Lott’s career is over; Steinem’s is untouched.  It’s not necessary to sit in judgment over Sanger’s soul to say that public praise of her “accomplishments” is utterly inappropriate.  (Hillary Clinton was given the Margaret Sanger Award by Planned Parenthood in 2009.)  Sometimes I think liberals make comments that so blatantly flaunt the double standard which they enjoy just to show they can.

My concern is not about either Trent Lott’s position or Gloria Steinem’s.  It is about a media that has become worse than a bad joke.  It is intentionally making our populace ignorant.  How can we affect change?  Our choices of media consumption and economic consumption are important.  But so is speaking out, making sure the knowledge of the double standard is taken for granted as much as its practice.  And, as in everything else, first and foremost, prayer.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Link - Scrupulosity, OCD, and Spirituality

Link – Scrupulosity, OCD, and Spirituality

One rarely discussed difficulty that many Catholics can experience is scrupulosity, an obsessive fear that they have committed some terrible sin, often when no sin at all is really present.  Numerous Saints have struggled with it at times, and it was probably the major impetus behind Martin Luther’s development of the mistaken doctrine of Sola Fide and eventual leaving the Church.

Scrupulosity has more to do with one’s mental state than spiritual state.  At the link below, Benjamin Mann gives an insightful reflection, based on his own experiences, on scrupulosity, obsessive compulsive disorder, and the spiritual life.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord
Image from

This Sunday was the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and liturgically ended the Christmas season.  There is much to be contemplated upon during this feast.  The first is, in looking at the baptism of Jesus, what does it reveal about our own baptism?  The second is the question, Why was Jesus baptized at all?

When we examine the baptism of the Lord, as presented in Matthew Ch. 3, verses 13-17, which we heard at Mass yesterday, we see some telling similarities to our own baptism.  The most obvious, of course, is that it is a water baptism.  When Jesus is baptized, the Spirit comes down in the form of a dove, and the Father’s Voice is heard to say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  (This is also a beautiful early hint at God’s revelation of the Trinity.)

When we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit; we become, in fact, temples of the Holy Spirit.  He lives in our souls and brings with Him the gifts that will be strengthened at our Confirmation.  We also become children of God, with souls perfectly pure, containing no stain of original or actual sin.  God at that time could say of us, “This is my beloved son (or daughter), in whom I am well pleased.”

A question that my students sometimes ask is, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?  John was baptizing people for the repentance of their sins, and Jesus had no sin.  John was telling them to prepare for the Kingdom of God; Jesus was bringing the Kingdom of God.”

John himself, in verse 14, gives voice to this very objection.  I have found two answers to it in the writings of the Fathers of the Church.  The first is that Jesus was not purified by the water, but He purified the water for us.  By His baptism, Jesus sanctified the waters of baptism.  Remember that John’s baptism was not the Sacrament of Baptism.  Jesus would leave that to His Church Himself.

The second is contained to Jesus’s response to John’s objection, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  John’s baptism was of God.  People would certainly be interested to see whether Jesus would endorse it.  Not to mention that Jesus was the leader of His disciples, and He has left us the perfect example of how to live.  It may not have been necessary for Jesus to be baptized, but it is necessary for us.  He was setting the example for us to follow. 

Imagine the humility of God on display in the act of being baptized.  John was baptizing sinners.  Who was coming to him?  Prostitutes and tax collectors…and the Son of God.  He got into those same waters and underwent the same baptism as we who are sinners.  There is no depth to the humility of God when it comes to love of us.


Note:  As always, when I reflect on Scripture, I am forced to remember my own limitations of knowledge and wisdom.  I ask for emails from anyone who has something to add.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

One of my favorite New Year traditions is the two-day Twilight Zone marathon on the SyFy channel.  I love ringing in the new year delving into the mind and creativity of Rod Serling.  For me, it even beats out most of the Bowl games.  (Of course I haven’t forgotten that January 1 is the feast of Mary, Mother of God, which is the true glory of the day.)

Well, this year we have already been treated with a real-life Twilight Zone episode, actually a continuation of one that has been insufferably unending.  The Supreme Court, late New Year’s Eve, granted the Little Sisters of the Poor a temporary injunction protecting them from the federal government’s predatory HHS Mandate.

The response from the Department of Justice was disappointing but not surprising.  It stated that the Little Sisters of the Poor should not have received the injunction because they have the option of simply not providing health coverage and paying the Obama Administration penalties.  On top of that, they qualify for the Administration’s pathetic “accommodation,” which in reality does nothing to protect conscience rights or religious liberty.

Many Twilight Zone episodes deal with time travel.  I suspect that if our Founding Fathers were able to travel through time and found themselves in 2014, they would be horrified and wish that the episode lasted no more than 30 minutes.

For them to see all the work they did to make liberty their legacy devolve into a situation in which any citizen, not to mention a religious order, would be forced to provide for morally objectionable activity like artificial contraception and abortifacient drugs, I imagine would be more than they could bear.

And yet, the battle rages.  The tyrannical demands of a wayward government are not laughed out of the courts or the public square as they ought to be, and people of conscience must fight for their moral lives.

If there’s one resolution we should make this new year, it is to pray.  Our government has lost its way, and it didn’t start with Mr. Obama.  It will take time to bring it back, but we can help do so only with prayer, fasting, education, and perseverance.  In the meantime, we must remember that any human law that contradicts God’s Law is no law at all.  It must be defied.  And may God be with us as we try to understand how we are called to do that.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
Today, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany (celebrated at Mass yesterday), the Twelfth Day of Christmas.  In the nearly two weeks since Christmas Day, the Church has taken us on quite a journey, allowing us to meditate on many of the events surrounding the Nativity of Our Lord.

On Christmas and Christmas Eve, of course, our worship included prophecies from Isaiah about the Messiah, the beginning of St. John’s Gospel (“In the beginning was the Word…”), the familiar stories of the trip to Bethlehem, the shepherds, and Joseph’s obedience to God’s plan, which was so unexpected to him.

Then, December 26, while everyone is still feeling the bliss of their Christmas celebrations, we had the feast day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  This feast is a reminder that by accepting the newborn king as our King, we will be called to pay a price.  On December 28, we are confronted with the Holy Innocents, those children who lost their lives because of Herod’s blood-lust for power.  This feast also challenges us to consider the millions of innocents in our own time who have been sacrificed on the altar of abortion, as well as those countless men and women who regret losing their children to abortion and are in need of help and healing.

On January 1, we ring in the new year with the feast of Mary, the Mother of God.  This can serve to remind us that we are part of a family, and that God has provided for us a mother, His own mother.

And now we celebrate the Epiphany, and the Magi coming to adore the Baby Jesus.  These pagans, Gentiles, led to Jesus, give witness to the words Simeon would speak at His Presentation, that He would be a light for all nations.

It may not seem so profound to us now, but to understand that the Messiah, the King of the Jews, is really the King of the Universe and the salvation of all men, is the greatest epiphany of all time.  It should lead us to immense gratitude and also remind us that we are a missionary Church, and our call is still that of the Apostles, to bring Jesus to all people.

May we be blessed this Epiphany with the grace in this new year to bring at least one soul to Christ.


Note:  One of the beautiful traditions on the Epiphany is the blessing of one’s home.  Find a traditional Epiphany home blessing at the link below. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Bulletin Announcement for C. and E. Catholics

A Bulletin Announcement for C. and E. Catholics 

The following is one of the best bulletin announcements I have ever seen. The priest, like a good fisher of men, knows that to haul in a catch sometimes you need a hook with a bite to it: 

From the Pastor: No Marshmallow World Today

There is an old song I remember from childhood which is often played alongside Christmas Carols. Sung by Dean Martin, it starts off, “It’s a marshmallow world in the winter, when the snow comes to cover the ground. It’s the time for play, it’s a whipped cream day. I wait for it the whole year ‘round.” It is a catchy little ditty, a simple tune with simple words and it makes you feel good about the cold weather. “The world is your snowball, see how it grows...” Admit it, you are singing it in your head right now. But as for it being a Christmas song, well, it simply isn’t one. It never mentions the baby Jesus, the Virgin Birth, Salvation, Peace on Earth, choirs of angels, or anything else that could be truly considered Christmasy. There is no depth to it. Just as a bag of marshmallows should never be devoured as if it were a nutritious meal, this song should never be sung as if it were a real Christmas Carol. Yet too often such distinctions, obvious though they are, are not made by anyone, me included, nowadays.

Looking back at my past Christmas bulletin articles, I think I have been too quick to give you all a marshmallow world message. I write nicely pleasing words of welcome to all of the C&E Catholics and remind them that we actually celebrate Mass every day, every week, every year. Ho ho ho! But that message, while being a truthful one, is really no different than, “Those are marshmallow clouds being friendly, in the arms of the evergreen trees...” So this year instead of serving marshmallows I think it is time to feed you some real meat, even though it is harder to chew and digest.

After writing, “Merry Christmas! I welcome all of you who are here!” I am going to mostly ignore those of you who come here daily or weekly. You are already striving for holiness and, even though not yet perfect, you are sinners on the path to Heaven. I will focus instead on those of you who only occasionally bother to show up for Mass. You are sadly on the path toward hell. Yes, hell. You likely are not so much afraid of hell as of being informed that you are heading there. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus is “God who saves” us from hell, which we all deserve due to our sin. Those who die denying that in thought, word or deed can never enter Heaven. The Savior revealed the fullness of the Father’s love in His plan for our salvation and that plan essentially, not tangentially, includes the supernatural graces found only in the Catholic Church, Her teachings and Her sacraments. Therefore, if you willfully reject the Church—even partially—you reject Jesus and you reject salvation itself.

Consider these truths. Those who deny mortal sin being mortal (deadly to the soul) and/or refuse to avail themselves of the grace of Confession for those sins, refuse absolution, refuse salvation, refuse Heaven. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass re-presents the very act of salvation—Jesus giving His life in exchange for ours. We are to participate in this greatest of all acts of love at a bare minimum of every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, not just Christmas and Easter, weddings and funerals. If you purposefully miss Mass on even one of these days and die without being reconciled to God and His Church (i.e., through Confession) you have rejected salvation, rejected Heaven. If you deny that Jesus is truly present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, you will either skip Mass and refuse this “true food” which “gives life to the world” or you will receive Holy Communion without being in a state of grace and either way you condemn and damn yourself.

Chances are pretty good that if you are attending Mass today and have read this far without bursting into flames you know that what I have written is true. You want to be saved, you want to be a better Catholic, you want to go to Heaven. Now start acting like it. Meet me in the confessional and I’ll welcome you back to the path to Heaven. I promise to be gentle. After all, “It’s a yum yummy world made for sweethearts...”

With prayers for your holiness,