Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Would Jesus get a tattoo?

Billboards have been popping up all over Lubbock, TX featuring a tattooed, crucified Jesus.

It directs people to a site called No specific church is taking responsibility for the billboards. In the "About Us" section on the site, those responsible for them say that they are just what they seem, a small group of people who want to lead others to Jesus. Looking at the site, it seems to be pretty theologically neutral. It's definitely Protestant as it features a Sinner's prayer, but I found nothing there that was particularly problematic from a Catholic perspective. It even says that a follower of Jesus needs to belong to a community of believers which is an idea found more readily in Catholic circles.

So, what about the tats?

The Catholic Church teaches that tattoos as such are morally neutral. That said, there are three main factors that could push it over the fence either way.

  1. The image used or... 
  2. the location of the tattoo could be immoral or inappropriate
  3. Your motivation in getting the tattoo could be impure. "Am I seeking to glorify God or draw attention to myself? Will my tattoo be a source of contention for my loved ones? Will getting a tattoo cause me to disobey my parents? Will my tattoo cause someone who is weak in the faith to stumble?" are all good questions to ask (Source).
A big part of the controversy seems to be the idea of Jesus having one. The website features videos where people tell their stories of how Jesus changed their lives. In these videos, an actor playing Jesus changes the tattoos on the new Christians. They were tattooed with words like "addiction" but Jesus changes those tattoos to say thing like "hope." Jesus, in turn, takes the new Christian's old tattoo onto himself. Here, it's easier to show than tell:


While the details might be offensive to some, the general idea here is very true and Biblical:
He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.- 1 Peter 2:24
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.- 2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus is the Lamb of God, not just because he's perfect or because he's cute, but because lambs were used for sacrifice.

Jesus was pure, that goes without saying, but he did bear our sins on the cross and I think that this tattoo idea is a pretty creative way of making that reality tangible for people. It makes a theological idea visual in a society in which we are getting more and more used to getting our information visually rather than verbally.

A tattooed Jesus doesn't bother me, but it can be used as a source for meditation. What tats did He get from me? What sins do I need to confess? What sins do I need to remove from my life?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Reclaiming Halloween

Thursday was my favorite holiday. I love setting out spooky decorations. I love gorging myself on candy. I like watching spooky movies and television shows and telling ghost stories. I think one of my favorite parts of the season, however, is dressing up.

And my son goes, "yeah, candy!"
As I get older, however, dressing up is getting more and more difficult. This year, I had to go as a male lion. My son was a lion and I wanted to follow the theme, but the only female cats out there were the "sexy cats." It's very degrading for a woman to have to choose between being "sexy" or being nothing at all. What does that say to women who don't fit into our society's unrealistic idea of beauty? What does that say to women who do not want to be objectified on Halloween? What about the women who just want to go out and have fun?

And don't get me started on the girl costumes. I don't consider myself a prude but I was shocked by how "sexy" some of the costumes designed for children were.
That is where Take Back Halloween comes in. I wish that I had found this site before Halloween. I know where I'm going next year for costume ideas.

Some of my more religiously conservative readers may take offense at the goddess costumes or some of the choices of heroines, but I think we can all agree that the idea of the site is awesome. The site features instructions on how to buy already made things to put together some awesome costumes for women. You don't have to be crafty to have a cool costume although some of their suggestions are not cheap.

It's kind of like this project. A photographer did not want her daughter to buy into the Disney princess mythology. She did a series of pictures dressing and posing her daughter as famous women.

My favorite of the series.
She wants her daughter to look up to real women who did great things, not imaginary girls who wait for their prince charming.
This one is also awfully cute and much cooler than a Disney princess.
Not that there is anything wrong with marriage, but the whole princess thing is really unrealistic and demeaning to the female genius. All of those "sexy" costumes are insulting. We are more than our bodies. We are more than our sexuality. We are strong. We are smart. We are passionate. We respect ourselves and we want the men in our lives to respect us too.  

I'm planning on using Take Back Halloween next year. Maybe James and I can find a cool man and woman pair to dress as. 

Maybe Take Back Halloween should branch out to girl costumes. Or somebody else should start one directed at girls. I certainly can't find one. Do you know of any sites like Take Back for girl costumes?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

India's "Abused Goddesses" Campaign Opens Eyes

Buzzfeed had a post not too long ago about a deeply moving and fascinating PSA campaign about domestic violence in India. The organization "Save our Sisters" is working to bring awareness to domestic violence and help the victims. More than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. To put that in perspective, in the United States, the rate is 25%.

The ads say, 
“Pray that we never see this day. Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to.”
The advertisements themselves are incredibly striking and beautiful in a painful and sad way. The advertising company took traditional images of the goddesses and made a real-life recreation. They cover the goddess in bruises and cuts. The props in the pictures are either real or painted on.

The posters feature a phone number to report abuse.

As the Buzzfeed writer points out, this advertisement campaign directly addresses a contradiction in Indian society. They revere many goddesses, but the country remains unsafe for mortal women.

This contradiction can be found in other religious traditions as well. Speaking as a Catholic, I can point out the Catholic devotion to Mary and the Church's long history of social justice. Yet, domestic violence still occurs in some Catholic households.

Here are some of the ads:

Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, music, the arts, and science. 

Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth.

Knowing the subject of this ad, this is perhaps the most striking of all. Durga is a warrior goddess. She is representative of the victory of good over evil. I have a statue of her in my room (because I like to keep pieces of every part of my religious history). May she give the people of India strength to defeat the evils of domestic violence. 
For a better view of these ads, including close-ups of some of the details, visit the original Buzzfeed article.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Only 2% of the Nation Responsible for the Majority of Our Death Penalty

Earlier this week, the Death Penalty Information Center released a report. They found that 2% of the counties in the United States account for over half of all people on death row and/or executed since 1976. Moreover, they discovered that only 20% of the counties in the United States account for all of the prisoners currently on death row.

The aggressive use of the death penalty by a few counties costs us all money.
When the total costs of the death penalty are divided by the number of executions carried out in a state, the amount can be $30 million per execution. (Source)
This $30 million comes out of our taxes.

Now, before people start in arguing "Well, it would be cheaper to put a bullet in the head" let me share this with you:

  • The vast majority of that $30 million is not to pay for the method of execution. It is for the 15 years or more of appeals.

So, you say, "Then let's get rid of the appeals." I say:

  • Since 1973, 140 people have been exonerated from death row. That means they were initially found guilty, but through appeals it was found that they were not guilty at all. So, without the appeals, there would be at least 140 innocent people dead. 
Of all the counties in the United States, 85% of all counties have not executed anyone in over 45 years. But in many of those counties, they are still paying for their neighbors who use the death penalty frequently. If you want to know what counties we're talking about:

This map depresses me. As you can see, St. Louis County and St. Louis City both are in the top 15.

For more information, check out the report yourself at:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Been Busy

Sorry you haven't heard from me in a while. I've been busy on some of my other websites. Here are some of the things I've been writing:

Mary Speaks to All of Us

What I Learned About Marriage From Two Nursing Home Residents

I re-posted my last reflection on Lumen Fidei.

Saint of the Day: Saints Fausta and Evilasius

Some memes I've made:

Confirmation Classes are starting again. Technically, I'm going to be teaching two classes at once which is unheard of in my parish. One of my classes will be ending in November, so it shouldn't be too bad. 

There have been a number of things in the news lately about pro-life and women's issues that I would like to comment on and I'll get to work on that. I just wanted to let you know I haven't disappeared. 

I gotta use this cartoon every excuse I get. Although I'm done with the shameless plugging.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lumen Fidei #22: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

From #57: To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.
In my time as a nursing assistant and later as a chaplain intern, I was asked many times why is there suffering. It came up in many of my classes. I even had one class that dedicated a semester completely do that question in college.

The best I can say is that no one answer is going to work for every person in every situation. If someone who is suffering asks you "Why?" there is no answer you can give that will help them. The best you can do is, if appropriate, help them find an answer themselves and listen to them.

One thing I appreciate about Christianity is that it offers something more than an answer. It offers a God who knows all about suffering and who cares about each and every one of us deeply. Jesus Christ died abandoned by his friends in one of the most horrifying ways imaginable (likely asphyxiation). During his life, he suffered all the pains we do. Friends of his died, notably Lazarus. He lived far from home as he traveled preaching. He felt hunger, he felt thirst, and I'm sure he felt all the other aches and pains that we do.

So when we come to him in our suffering, he understands us intimately. He's been there. He might not be able to tell us why we are suffering, but he can be present to us in our suffering.

This is the last installment in a series of posts reflecting on quotes from Pope Francis' first encyclical. It's been fun and given my background, I think it's very appropriate that we ended with a post about the meaning of suffering. If you want to read more, visit here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lumen Fidei #21: God of Creativity

Wikipedia cites it as "God creating the cosmos (Bible Moralisee, French, 13th century)"
From #55: If it possesses a creative light for each new moment of history, it is because it sets every event in relationship to the origin and destiny of all things in the Father.
All things originate in God and all things are destined in God. Out of this fertile ground, creativity grows. God is not stagnate, He is active. You may have heard the quote, "God, to me, it seems, is a verb not a noun." (R. Buckminster Fuller) Like many popular quotes, there is some truth in it and some absurdity. That's beyond the point of this post however.

Creativity and the arts can be holy. Creating and viewing it can lead one to the Divine. As JPII said in his letter to artists:
None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.
And for the consumer, a quote from Francis Schaffer as quoted by Joe Carter at First Things:
The arts and the sciences do have a place in the Christian life—they are not peripheral. For a Christian, redeemed by the work of Christ and living within the norms of Scripture and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the Lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts. A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God—not just as tracts, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself.
The creation of art brings the artist closer to God and the consuming of art should bring the consumer closer to God's truth. This is all because all things come from God and all things will ultimately end in God. Art is an important part of this cycle.

This is part of a series of articles reflecting on quotes from Pope Francis' first encyclical. To read more, visit here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lumen Fidei #20: Courage to Love

From #52: Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love.
We've kind of messed up as a society in our views of marriage. On one hand, we take it so seriously that a lot of young people are scared to take the plunge. They think it's safer and less complicated to just live with someone without getting married. On the other hand, we've lost any sense of permanency. We talk about trial marriages. It's not so much until death do us part, but until we can't stand each other anymore.

It takes a lot of courage to get married. It's not something to do half-heartedly or without thoughtful consideration. In getting married, you are not only changing your own life, but that of another human being. A person that you'll get to spend the rest of your life getting to know and love.

But there is a bit of recklessness involved to. It is called "taking the plunge." After all the thought and prayer, you eventually have to do it. Courage doesn't mean not feeling fear, it's not letting that fear control you. One antonym of fear is faith.

To get married, you have to have faith in a bigger picture. This bigger picture might not be exactly what you think you want. But we have to believe that this bigger picture is what is best, that the Person in charge of the bigger picture only wants the best for us. Marriage is never easy. It will require sacrifice. It will require change.

But all of that sacrifice and change is making you into a better, holier person. The main job of a spouse is to make sure their beloved makes it to heaven. That's one heck of a responsibility and one heck of a reward.

This is part of a series of reflections on quotes from Pope Francis' first encyclical. To read more, visit here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lumen Fidei #19: Let Us Build A House

From #50: That faith is not only presented as a journey, but also as a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another. 
As much as we want to cram religion into the personal sphere, religion cannot be simply personal. If you are close to God, you want to share Him. You want to reach out to other people who are also getting close to God. Something so big cannot be contained. A journey as important as faith cannot be done alone.

When you are baptized, among other things, you are baptized into a community. When my son was baptized, it was important for me that it happened as part of a regular Sunday Mass. We don't have any family in Syracuse and not many friends, but I wanted to share this event with others. I liked the symbolism of having it as part of the Mass, my only regret being that the baptismal font was at the back of the church so most people couldn't see it.

Although my son will never appreciate it, the people who were at that Mass certainly did. We still get stopped after Mass by people who comment on how good he is and how much he's grown. I think sharing that moment with our family helped other people in the parish to adopt our son. He's a part of the parish community in a way that my husband and I will never be. He's had the opportunity to grow up with them and they with him.

If you want to read more about his baptism: How My Son's Baptism Helped Me Heal From My C-Section

This is part of a series of reflections on Pope Francis' first encyclical. To read more visit here.

Three Lessons From A Conversation With A Pro-Choice Feminist

Brought on by my latest post on Ignitum Today, I've been engaging in an enlightening discussion with a pro-choice feminist. I want to share with you some of my observations:

1) Pro-lifers need to do a better job at showing that we are for all life, not just the unborn.
One of the first things that the pro-choice feminist threw at me was the stereotype that "Pro-lifers only care about the unborn." We know that your average pro-life activist working at the grassroots level cares about all children. They donate to or volunteer for crisis pregnancy centers to assist women and children with their practical everyday needs. They start homes for pregnant women, like Joseph's House that is being started soon in my town. 

Yes, for those of us who are religious, our right hand is not supposed to know what our left is doing (Matthew 6:3), but we're only giving fodder to pro-choice attacks. We need to do a better job at showing that we are for all life. We need to put our money where our mouth is.

Source, This site has other cool pics.
Our so-called "pro-life" politicians need to show that they understand that women and children need support (in whatever way they feel comfortable providing that support). Politicians need to realize that being against abortion is not enough to earn the title of being "pro-life."    

2) Conservatives and liberals need to talk to each other instead of demonizing one another. Eventually, she and I both agreed that pro-life and pro-choice people care about the poor and people who are already born. I tried to explain to her one of the main differences I've observed between conservatives and liberals: That conservatives want the social safety net to be local and charity based, while liberals are more comfortable with more government intervention. No one wants to kick the poor out on the streets and no one wants anyone to go hungry.

Liberals and conservatives both need to be willing to talk constructively about their differences. The polarization in our culture needs to stop. We aren't getting anything done and we will ultimately tear ourselves to shreds. Instead of staying in our little corners, we need to talk to each other. 

When we talk to each other, we can work on the the issues we agree on and we can learn from one another. Refusing to talk to one another is simply a sign of being insecure in our own beliefs. It's a sign of anger and hatred. Be a sign of love today: talk to someone who is across the aisle from you.

3) It all boils down to the existential questions of: When does life begin? What is a human? That's where the real argument is. We can go around in circles all day with protest slogans and signs, but in the end, this is the question that matters. When we are debating abortion, we are debating the meaning of being human.

This is a question that everyone, regardless of your opinion on abortion, needs to ask yourself. And keep asking yourself. It's not a question you can answer and then walk away, you need to analyze your answer. Is this really the right answer? Is this universally true? Human lives are at stake both inside and outside the womb. 

Often our answers to what constitutes life inside the womb as implications for those already born as well. For example, let's say you come to the conclusion that life starts when the brain becomes active, what does that mean for our definition of "brain death"?

Science can be used to come to the answer, but science cannot provide the answer. Religion can be used to come to the answer, but religion cannot provide the answer. I think if we could all put down our rhetoric and bickering, we could get somewhere by limiting ourselves to the question at hand: What is a human? 

Yelling at each other is getting us no where. We are more mature than that. Let's all act like it. 
Hug a conservative/liberal/whatever-you-disagree-with today 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lumen Fidei #18: Equal Opportunity Faith

From #48: The Gnostics held that there are two kinds of faith: a crude, imperfect faith suited to the masses, which remained at the level of Jesus' flesh and the contemplation of his mysteries; and a deeper, perfect faith reserved to a small circle of initiates who were intellectually capable of rising above the flesh of Jesus towards the mysteries of the unknown divinity. In opposition to this claim, which even today exerts a certain attraction and has its followers, Saint Irenaeus insisted that there is but one faith, for it is grounded in the concrete event of the incarnation and can never transcend the flesh and history of Christ, inasmuch as God willed to reveal himself fully in that flesh. For this reason, he says, there is no difference in the faith of "those able to discourse of it at length" and "those who speak but little," between the greater and the less: the first cannot increase the faith, nor the second diminish it.
Paul tells us that in God there no Jew or Greek, slave or free, man or woman, because we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). We are also told:

One body, one spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Seems pretty clear to me. Just as there is one God, there is only one faith. And faith isn't just for the theologians or the church-goers. Faith is for everyone.

I always think it's funny when people assume that I'm somehow closer to God because I have a Master's and I volunteer a bunch for the Church. I'll let you in on a little secret. Even people like me have doubts. We, too, have things that we struggle with, things that we don't completely agree with the Church hierarchy about, and things that just don't make sense to us. We also go through dry periods in our spiritual lives and dark nights of the soul.

I'm not any more precious to God than some militant atheist troll on the internet. We're all precious in His sight. We are all His children. He wants nothing more than to welcome us all home. He created us all, He redeemed us all.

Any faith that claims that some people are superior to others is full of it. We are all called to holiness and we all fall short. God loves us all more than any of us will ever understand and He wants a relationship with every single one of us. As the CCC quotes (605), "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer."

Full of it like this baby.

Keeping an Alzheimer's Patient Alive?

In Canada right now there is a court case in which a family is suing a nursing home for spoon-feeding their loved one.

Her advanced directives say that she does not want to be fed if she becomes incapacitated. She worked as a nurse and she's seen people die from Alzheimer's. She was abundantly clear with her loved ones that she did not want to die like that.

But the feeding isn't being forced upon her. She's opening her own mouth and swallowing the food. Although her family argues that it's just a reflex, I say that's irrelevant. The important thing is she is doing it, so on some level she's feeling hunger and she's eating.

They say she's in a so-called "vegetative" state. She has to be transferred using a lift. She spends her day in bed or in her wheelchair. Eating is likely one of the only things she can do anymore. And again, that is also irrelevant. Euthanasia is always wrong.

I think my opinion in the case is pretty clear, but this is where it gets murky. The nursing home has threatened to call the police if her family tries to take her out. They have refused to transfer her to a hospice. I think the nursing home is overstepping it's bounds in those respects.

No, she should not be denied food that she is eating on her own, but that does need to be balanced with the family's rights. The family is wrong in insisting that she starve to death. The nursing home is wrong in not letting the family move her. Yes, she needs to be protected from abuse. But, it's still her family.

I've seen people die from Alzheimer's as well. It is not a pretty way to go, but no way is pretty. As Dr. House said (Edited for language):
"Our bodies break down, sometimes when we're 90, sometimes before we're even born, but it always happens and there's never any dignity in it. I don't care if you can walk, see, wipe your own [butt]. It's always ugly. Always. You can live with dignity, we can't die with it."
This case in part shows how advanced directives can be tricky. No one can account for every possible circumstance. Who knows, she might have been only referring to getting a feeding tube or hydration through an IV. Spoon-feeding is not unreasonable, especially if it's not forced. As one person noted on Free Republic, if spoon-feeding becomes optional, what next?

Also, how can we judge her quality of life? We don't know what it's like until/if we get into her shoes. Quality of life arguments have always bugged me. Only the person living the life can judge it's quality and, again, I question the relevancy of the question.

So, if quality of life, how conscious she is of eating and her disabilities are all irrelevant, what is relevant? She's a human being, for starters. Even from a secular perspective, the value of human life has always been seen as an absolute good that can only be taken away for an important, grave reason.

From my religious perspective, life is a mysterious gift that is not ours to take away. God formed us in our mothers' wombs (Psalm 139:13), and only God can take us Home. It's like that Bill Cosby quote, "You know, I brought you in this world, and I can take you out." Only God can do that.

No, no she can't.
The most important thing in this case is that this woman is a child of God. Everything else is secondary. Primarily, she needs to be protected. Secondarily, her family has rights as her legal guardians and I'm not sure if this nursing home has not overstepped their bounds a little bit in this case. I'll be awaiting the outcome of this case. It will be an important decision setting precedence for or against euthanasia in Canada.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wrongful Birth, Wrongful Life, Pre-natal Testing and C-Sections

This story explains a lot.

My current homestate, New York, is one of many states which does not protect medical personnel from wrongful birth or wrongful life lawsuits.

A wrongful birth suit is when a family sues a medical professional because their child was born with some kind of illness or disability that if caught before birth would have resulted in an abortion.

A wrongful life suit is when an individual sues a medical professional because they feel they should never have been born.

Borrowed from one of the most awesome blogs on the net. Who borrowed it from somebody called Saturn Stills at
When I got pregnant with James, I was told about all of the pre-natal testing they could do. I refused to do them because a) we have no family history and b) most importantly, the test results would not changed anything, I would never have an abortion.  When I refused, I had to sign a waiver saying that I had been offered these tests, been informed of the pros and cons, and refused. Since I was in my twenties with no family history, the doctors didn't really attempt to persuade me either way. I wonder what will happen next time around since we aren't planning on trying to get pregnant again until I'm at least 30.

One of the biggest c-section myths out there and the one that hacks me off the most.
I also wonder if this mentality has something to do with the c-section rates. There are a number of factors in making c-section rates as high as they are. I know, however, in the case of myself and many other women who have unwanted c-sections, they are pressured into it by doctors. And one of the reasons for the pressure? The doctors are concerned that in the course of regular labor, something will go wrong. They are afraid something will go wrong and they'll be sued.

I addressed this topic specifically with my doctor since I knew it was an issue. I told her that I wouldn't sue her for something that is out of her control. Life and death are a mystery. Childbirth is more of an art than a science. Some things just cannot be predicted and controlled.

I can understanding suing someone when there has been gross negligence, but this "sue-happy" culture makes no sense. Someone doesn't have to pay every time something goes wrong. Pardon my language, but shit happens.

And suing the doctor involved in the birth of your child because the child has a disability is sending one message out loud and clear, "This child should not be alive. A handicapped life is not worth living. A disabled life is less valuable than the life of a 'healthy' person."

I can understand that those with special needs children need money to pay for their care, but you don't have to get it at the expense of the innocent doctor. There are many government and charitable organizations to reach out to for help. And if that isn't enough, be an activist for more aid.

People suing the medical personnel is only making things worse for all of us. It is creating the environment in which few people go into the OB profession because the insurance costs are too high. And people in the profession are scared. And women and children are subjected to unnecessary tests and interventions because the professionals are scared.

Not to mention the message this is sending to world about the value of human life.

Lumen Fidei #17: Sacramental Reality

From #40: The sacraments communicate an incarnate memory, linked to the times and places of our lives, linked to all our senses; in them the whole person is engaged as a member of a living subject and part of a network of communitarian relationship.
A while back I reviewed The Catholic Imagination, by Andrew Greeley. I remember overall appreciating the book although he did perpetuate some half-truths about Catholic teaching. The main point of the book is that people who are raised Catholic, even if they later leave the faith, have a very distinctive mindset.

The Mass and all of the other Sacraments bring the divine into everyday life. That should permeate our whole lives. Encountering the divine in the Sacraments helps us to recognize the divine in the ordinary. Not in the same way, but just as real, Christ is present in the Mass and in our neighbors.

Moreover, the Sacraments connect us not only to God, but to all believers at all times. As this quote points out, it highlights all of the major events in our lives: birth, marriage, birth of our children, death...

And the Sacraments are multisensory experiences. You witness the priest at the altar. You smell the incense. If you go to confession seated across from the priest, you feel his hands on your head as he says the words of absolution. You hear music, the prayers, and the readings.

Growing up with these experiences leaves a permanent mark on cradle Catholics. Those I know who have fallen away still have a deep appreciation for social justice causes, still has a grasp for how interwoven we all are. Many of the ex-Catholics I know fall squarely into the "spiritual but not religious" category as they see God everywhere. I pray that they find the Sacraments again and come back.

If you want to read more of this series of posts reflecting on Pope Francis' first encyclical, visit here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lumen Fidei #16: Share The Light

From #37: Faith is passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another.

This is one of the many points in this encyclical in which I'm reminded of this year's Lawn Chair Catechism series at We're reading Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. While my participation in the series has been shoddy at best, I have been faithfully reading along and I love this book. Just this summer, I've recommended this book on at least three different occasions. That is saying a lot for me. I don't usually volunteer book recommendations.

In the book, the stages of conversion are discussed. Essentially, in order for someone to become a disciple of Jesus, they need to have a personal relationship with His Church. Faith is passed on in personal contact between one person and another. We can't just launch into catechesis; a person needs to trust the Church and have a relationship with the Church before they can learn.

This reading has changed my views on my job teaching Confirmation at my parish. Last year, I concentrated mainly on giving my students accurate information and making that information relevant. This year, I'll likely put more emphasis on prayer and developing a connection with my students.

If you want to read more of my reflections on Pope Francis' first encyclical, visit here.

And when spreading the faith, don't forget new media.

Lumen Fidei #15: Technical Jargon

From # 36: Theology also shares in the ecclesial form of faith; its light is the light of the believing subject which is the Church. This implies, on the one hand, that theology must be at the service of the faith of Christians, that it must work humbly to protect and deepen the faith of everyone, especially ordinary believers. On the other hand, because it draws its life from faith, theology cannot consider the magisterium as something extrinsic, a limitation of its freedom, but rather as one of the internal, constitutive dimensions, for the magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity.

In other words, theology as a discipline must serve the ordinary believer and work with the magisterium, not against it. I almost didn't share this quote because 1) it's too fracking long and 2) I thought only me and my fellow armchair theologians would appreciate it. I decided to share it because it needs to be said.

The Magisterium is not the enemy. We're all in this together. The Magisterium contains the collective wisdom of thousands of well-educated men and women accumulated over centuries. When we say "the Church teaches X," we are referring to this well of knowledge. It really shouldn't be cast aside like it's worthless or rebelled against like it's always wrong. At the very least, it deserves a fair hearing and thoughtful (prayerful) consideration. God gave us the Magisterium. The Holy Spirit leads the Magisterium. You can't just ignore the Magisterium.

If you want to read more of this series of reflections on Pope Francis' first encyclical, visit here.

Jesus giving the keys to Peter

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lumen Fidei #14: We're all Magi

From #35: And image of this seeking can be seen in the Magi, who were led to Bethlehem by the star (cf. Matthew 2:1-12). For them God's light appeared as a journey to be undertaken, a star which led them on a path of discovery. The star is a sign of God's patience with our eyes which need to grow accustomed to his brightness.
Every year at the Christmas party at my Newman Center, everyone got rewards. One year, the organizing committee thought it would be cute to base all of the rewards on the Christmas story. As the token convert (and a non-Christian convert to boot), I received a cute homemade ornament featuring the three magi.

The magi: Traditionally, there have been three although the Bible doesn't give an exact number. They came from the East (like I did) following a star. They looked for the Christ.

Just like the Magi, we may have a very far way to go. In this life, the vast majority of us will never completely make it. But that doesn't mean that we stop searching. The Kingdom of God is the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46), it is the treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44).

You can find the rest of this series on quotes from Pope Francis' first encyclical here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Swords to Plowshares

Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich, given by the Soviet Union to the United Nations in 1959; my picture taken from UN grounds showing sculpture in front of the East River. Picture from

In days to come,The mountain of the LORD’s houseshall be established as the highest mountainand raised above the hills.All nations shall stream toward it.Many peoples shall come and say:“Come, let us go up to the LORD’s mountain,to the house of the God of Jacob,That he may instruct us in his ways,and we may walk in his paths.”For from Zion shall go forth instruction,and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.He shall judge between the nations,and set terms for many peoples.They shall beat their swords into plowsharesand their spears into pruning hooks;One nation shall not raise the sword against another,nor shall they train for war again. - Isaiah 2:2-4
For some reason, I always had the idea that God was the one who was going to come down and turn our "swords into plowshares" when this world comes to an end. But this morning during morning prayers, I had another idea.

In this passage, people go up to the LORD's mountain so that God can instruct them. After this instruction (and judgement), the people themselves turn their swords to plowshares. So...

Let's think about this for a moment. As we learn about God and follow His will, we find peace within ourselves. We know we're doing the right thing and we know we are on the right path. We are told that peace begins in ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Above is the song "Let there be peace on earth." Keep your comments to yourself. Yes, I hate most church songs popularized post-Vatican II. Not this one. Sue me.

So, maybe here is another point to all of this reading, studying, and catechizing. As we learn more about God, little by little this world will find peace.