Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Reflection: What does the Resurrection mean to me

Without the Resurrection, there would be no Christianity. Jesus would have died just another rebel executed by the Romans. The Resurrection is what makes his story different.

As I told my confirmation kids, even non-Christian scholars have to admit that something happened on that first Easter 2000 years ago. No one suffers imprisonment and death for some story he and his friends made up. The apostles had nothing to gain by making stuff up.

The apostles, after seeing their risen Lord, went throughout the world spreading his message. If it wasn't for the resurrection, we wouldn't know all of the other stories about Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount would have been lost to history. As would have walking on water or all of the healing stories. Stories like the healing stories were told about other prophets in Jesus' day. His story wouldn't have stood out if it wasn't for the resurrection.

As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14, "... if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith." The pivotal concept of the Christian faith is that "... God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." (John 3:16) Without that cornerstone, the whole structure falls. 

So, that is what the resurrection means to me. Without the resurrection, there would be no Christianity. Without Christianity, I wouldn't be Christian. It's that simple.

The God who knows suffering, who loved us all enough to die for us, rose from the dead. "He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent." (Colossians 1:18) 

To quote Paul just one more time:

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Imperfect Church: Six things to say to "church hoppers"

A while back, I reviewed John L. Allen Jr.'s interview with Archbishop Cardinal Dolan. I walked away from that book completely enamored with the man, but that's not why I bring this up. At several points in the interview, he talked about the imperfections of the Church. Any organization, even one ran by God, is going to have imperfections because it consists of people. People aren't perfect. As Dolan says in the interview, "We shouldn't be afraid to show off the wounds of the Church to the world, and we should boast that the wounds remind us of the healer."

People run from church to church trying to find the perfect one. They say, "This one is full of hypocrites" and "this one has better preaching." They are looking for some imaginary church that is full of living saints, with awesome services and amazing programs. They are looking for a church in which they'll agree 100% with everything the hierarchy says. 

And when they do not find this church, they are the people and families that stay home on Sundays. They figure it's good to just be alone with God, because other people just mess things up anyhow. I have 6 things to say to them:

1. In any group of human beings, perfection does not exist. Everyone fails from time to time. 

2. Jesus came for sinners, not for the well.

3. He also came to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. So, you don't 100% agree with the hierarchy of your church? Maybe this is God's way of asking you to reconsider your position. Maybe this is God's challenge for you to prophetically change your hierarchy's mind. In either case, maybe you should look at the issue closer. There must be something more to learn there. Never stop learning.

4. Religion isn't supposed to be easy and it definitely isn't entertainment. No, you don't have to earn your way to heaven. Catholics and Protestants both agree on that. But church is supposed to change you. You aren't supposed to get a warm fuzzy feeling every time you go to church. Sure, sometimes you'll get a warm feeling, but other times you'll be hurt, or get angry, or sometimes you won't feel much of anything at all except the comfort of knowing you are not alone.

5. This is in direct response to the Muslim convert to Catholicism who left the Church because the Church "got soft on Islam": church isn't about hate. We don't get together to hate. Jesus doesn't hate. This also goes for the Catholics who think the Church is not being hard enough on homosexuals.

6. But neither should you expect unconditional acceptance of your behavior. "Love the sinner, hate the sin," said St. Augustine. There is a huge difference between the doer and the action. The doer is always a person in the likeness of God who God loved so much that He died for them. The action is not always so holy.

So, find a church that isn't completely bad and one that you feel at home in and stick with it. Through good times and bad. When you love it and when it challenges some of your fundamental beliefs. You'll grow through it and you'll be better for it.
Cynical, but enlightening post from a Protestant Pastor who has plenty to say about this topic to fellow pastors:

What the Crucifixion means to me?

One of the most important aspects of my spirituality is the Incarnation. The infinite, loving, merciful God became one of us. In light of that, and my work with the sick and dying, the Crucifixion means quite a lot to me.
It means that God knows what it means to suffer and die. God knows what my residents and patients go through. He knows what I will eventually go through when my time comes. There is a great comfort in knowing that the Creator of the universe knows what a puny little being like me goes through.

And He loves me. He loved me enough to go through all of that. So, not only does God know what I'm going through from personal experience, but He cared enough about me to do it and now He walks with me through it.

A crucifix from a church in Minnesota (I think?). A classmate said that this crucifix was really scary looking. 
Jesus' experience on the cross wasn't your ordinary death either. It was one of the worst deaths you could imagine. He was abandoned by those he cared about. Regardless of what you see in the paintings, in reality, Jesus was likely naked. He probably died from asphyxiation long before the blood loss did him in. The Romans were experts in horrible, humiliating executions. So, whatever we go through, we can be assured that Jesus went through just as bad or worse.

Any discussion of the crucifixion is incomplete without the resurrection. But that's for tomorrow's entry. I hope the rest of your Triduum is fruitful. God bless.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

How I came to believe in the devil


I was always the one who was quick to reject the idea of the devil. I always laughed at any mention of him. It just seemed ridiculous to me that there was some evil being roaming around messing with people.

Then came Easter 2007. It had been a very hard couple of months for me. My heart had been broken. I felt betrayed by a close friend.

I spent that Easter at school. I always did because that was the only way I could guarantee that I could get to Easter vigil Mass. Before Mass, got some movies and junk food. After Mass, I took my stuff and went to the Newman Center to watch my movies. I was the only person there.

I started watching my movie (Little Miss Sunshine, I liked the movie but I've never been able to watch it again ever since). I barely stayed awake through the whole thing. When the movie was over, I turned everything off and I decided to spend the night on the couch because I knew I couldn't stay awake long enough to go back to my dorm.

That's when it started. It was as if a force outside of myself wanted me to kill myself. I've suffered from depression before, I've had suicidal idealization before, this was different. I could see myself go to the kitchen and take out the largest and sharpest knife. I could see it gleam. I could almost feel it piercing the skin of my forearm. I could see myself laying in a puddle of blood on the kitchen floor. I could see the look of horror on the face of the person who would discover me Monday morning.

All of this was so vivid in my mind, I barricaded myself in the room. I didn't trust myself to leave the room. I just knew if I left the room, I was going to do it. The safety light outside the window started to flicker. I went back to the couch and tried to block it all out. I prayed the rosary. I prayed to my guardian angel and to my friend Al Wannepain who had died a couple summers before.

Prior to this event, every once in a while, I could feel Al's presence at the Newman Center. He was an elderly gentlemen who was very active in the center and he had adopted me as a granddaughter. He had a tracheotomy and I sometimes heard him breathing still when I was there by myself. This night, I certainly heard him breathing. I could hear and almost see him seated on his walker at the foot of the couch. My guardian angel I could see and feel laying with it's head on my lap. It looked very androgynous like they tend to look in paintings. I eventually fell asleep.

In the morning, I awoke grateful to be alive. Otherwise, everything was back to normal. I took down the barrier, worried that someone would come, see it and think I was crazy. I left the Newman Center and went back to my dorm.

This experience convinced me of the existence of the devil. These thoughts did not come from me. They had to come from some evil force outside of me. Also, it taught me a few things about him that I would like to share with you.

1) The devil always kicks us while we're down. I don't think he would have attacked or gotten very far if I hadn't already been very depressed. The situation with my ex-boyfriend and my other friend had me on my knees and the devil saw that as an opportunity.

2) The devil is a fallen angel. As such, he is only as powerful as your guardian angel. He is certainly not anywhere near as powerful as God. It aggravates me when I hear people talk about the devil like he's some kind of anti-God. He. Is. Not. That. Powerful. The story is that he is was a beautiful angel who got so full of himself, he didn't want to listen to God anymore and he fell.

3) While I believe that he exists, I still do not believe that he is responsible for everything we pin on him. Don't give me that "devil made me do it" crap. The devil didn't make you do anything. We need to take responsibility for our own sinfulness. Humanity is responsible for the vast majority of the evil in the world.

I'm sharing this story with you today because of the stories about Pope Francis talking about the devil.

Yes, the devil is real. Don't use him to write off your own sinfulness and failures. But don't completely let down your guard either. Always remember: he might be more powerful than you, but he has absolutely nothing on God.

Chris Tomlin: My Glorious

Praise and Worship Dominican Theme Song?

I heard this song on the radio on my way to a Lay Dominican meeting this week and I thought it was very appropriate for the Ordo Praedicatorum:

The song is "Words" by Hawk Nelson. Here are the lyrics (although the video has them):

They've made me feel like a prisoner
They've made me feel set free
They've made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king

They've lifted my heart
To places I'd never been
And they've dragged me down
Back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
(Speak over the fear)
God, Your voice is the only thing
We need to hear
(We need to hear)

Words can build us up
Words can break us down
Start a fire in our hearts or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
(Back to You)

Let the words I say
(Let the words I say)
Be the sound of Your grace
(Sound like Your grace)
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be Your light
I wanna be Your voice

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
(Back to You)

Let the words I say
(Let the words I say)
Be the sound of Your grace
(Sound like Your grace)
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
(Back to You)

Words can build us up
Words can break us down
Start a fire in our hearts
Or put it out

I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Boycott MSNBC

I'm done. This is it. I'm politically liberal, but I am sick and tired of people on my side-of-the-fence's pro-abortion rhetoric. Watch this:

I would ask her to listen to herself. She is judging a being, that she admits has the potential to someday be a person, based on how much a financial burden they are. So, to her, people are only worth how much they can produce? How much of a financial burden they are?

Let's expand this logic. There are there are over 1.5 million people living in long term care facilities in the US. They don't have jobs. Many of them are not mentally or physically capable of work. I'm sure it costs quite a bit to keep them all alive between the room and board and all the medications. Using her logic, why don't we kill them all?

There are 8.7 million Americans unable to work due to disabilities. If they are not a drain on their family's resources, they are clearly a drain on the government. Why don't we kill all of them too?

Oh, that's right. Because killing the disabled or the elderly is murder.

She says that the belief that the fertilized egg is a person is just that, a belief. So apparently science can tell us when life begins? Science cannot tell us definitively when life ends, how can science tell us when it begins? Life is the ultimate mystery. No one will ever be able to figure out exactly how it works. No one knows where it comes from or where it ends because newborn babies don't talk and, except for maybe that Jesus guy, no one has ever come back from the grave. This is purely the realm of philosophy and religion. Science cannot touch it, just like science cannot touch God.

Her junk science is judging, at the very least, a unique grouping of human cells to only be worth as much as it can be worth on the marketplace. It is putting a financial value on life. Regardless of your beliefs on when life begins, you must see the inherent immorality of such a judgement. It is morally repugnant to judge anyone, even a "potential human," based on their economic usefulness.

I know that life starts at conception, but even if I ignore that fact, Melissa Harris-Perry's logic is dangerous and deeply morally flawed.

I stopped watching CNN a while back because they had one "journalist" who had clearly forgotten how to do an appropriate interview. Now, between this and Toure, I will no longer be watching MSNBC. I only watch FOX NEWS sometimes for the humor; I can't believe rational, intelligent people actually believe some of the spin on that channel. So, I guess I'll start reading the newspaper?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Snippets-- A Catholic Carnival (#1)


Stay tuned for next week. I'm sure I'll be reflecting on Holy Week. I'll probably also whip out that reflection on "CS Lewis and Gender" that I've been sitting on for a couple weeks. We'll see.

Check out more Sunday Snippets from other Catholic bloggers at This, That and the Other Thing.

Lessons from Death: A Palm Sunday Reflection

Thinking about this week's entry, I had no idea where to start. The readings this week really don't leave much to talk about. Facing Jesus' pending death (liturgically speaking), I have no idea what to say. For several years I worked with the elderly in nursing homes. Every day, I was faced with the prospect of one of my residents' dying. So, you could say, I know quite a bit about death. In light of Jesus' crucifixion, I would like to share two of those death stories with you.

Illustration from Ars Moriendi.
One of the earliest deaths I encountered was of a fairly young man. He was in his 50s, maybe? He was suffering from a lifetime of smoking and being extremely obese. His family blamed him for his health problems. They simply dropped him off in the nursing home and didn't come to see him again until after he was dead.

He was a fascinating person. I always wished I had talked to him about his life story. He had experienced life on both sides of care-giving. He worked caring for the severely handicapped and then he ended his life being cared for at the nursing home. I wonder what insights he would have had. He and I were the only liberals at the nursing home and this was shortly before Obama was elected the first time. We'd talk about politics all the time, grateful to have someone in this small town who agreed with us. He died only a couple days before the election and I made sure I voted in honor of him (and I've regretted my vote ever since, but that's another post for another time.)

He is the only resident I've ever had who I'm genuinely concerned about. He died very, very angry at everyone and everything. I could imagine him getting to the pearly gates and saying, "F-you, God! You treated me so horribly during life, I don't want to have anything to do with you in death! Where were you when my family and friends deserted me? Why did you let me fall apart and die before the age of 60?" I pray for his soul anytime that he comes to my mind.

I've seen crowds at the nursing home that would put the crowd at JPII's funeral to shame. 
But, now that I've shared an ugly death, let me share a better one. At another home I worked at, I had a resident that I knew for a whopping 3 hours. I came on to my shift and as the day-shift person walked me through my assignment, she pointed out a new resident to me. She was in her 70's but she didn't look past 40. She was a beautiful woman with bright eyes and flawless chocolate brown skin. The only interactions I had with her was her bath and her postmortem care.

Her room was full of family the whole afternoon. We didn't expect her to die, it's as if her family knew something we didn't. It came as a complete surprise when the nurse came and got me to prepare her for the funeral home. It wasn't even quite dinner time yet. The funeral home wasn't able to take her right away, though. It seemed as if half of St. Louis came to pay their respects. Family and friends were lined up down the hall. Small children were running around and playing all over my wing of the building. The other residents enjoyed seeing so many cute little kids. I found out later that while this woman never had kids, she had dozens of nieces and nephews and their children who she was very close to. Regardless of the inconvenience of working around these people for the rest of my shift, I was happy to see so many. It was the first and the last time I ever saw such a crowd while I worked in St. Louis. At other homes I worked at, this was the normal occurrence.

I don't know what it says about me that I associate "surrounded by people" with "a happy death." That'll have to be explored later. For right now, I have a few closing thoughts:

  • Don't get me wrong. There is no such thing as a pretty death and don't let any pro-euthanasia activist tell you otherwise. Death is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter if you're homeless, you're rich, you're the President of the United States or you're the Pope. Everyone dies and in the very end, it all happens in much the same way. I'll spare you the grizzly details, but it's enough to know that it sucks and it sucks for everyone.
  • What matters is how we live. St. Benedict often advised his followers to keep death always on their mind. I think this is very good advice. I think the world would be a better place if we all thought about death a little more. Not to be morbid, but death puts everything in life in perspective. All those petty little things that we occupy our time with, will they matter in the end? If it won't matter in the end, don't worry about it! We will all be spending a lot more time dead than we will be spending alive.
  • We spend a lot of time, energy, and money running from old age and death. It is a race we will all eventually lose. Old age is not ugly. It is not something to run from. Even if we lose our abilities and wind up in a home, I can tell you right now that my residents have all changed my life for the better. I think we should have mandatory CNA service. Like young Israelis are required to work in the military for a couple years, I think we all should be required to be a CNA for a couple years. That way we'll have plenty of people to help the elderly. I know my work with the elderly changed me profoundly, I think everyone would benefit from the humbling task of helping another person with their daily activities.  

St. Benedict, pray for us!

Not 100% appropriate but it is one of my favorite songs of all time and I couldn't get it out of my head while writing this: "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult

Friday, March 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday #1

--- 1 ---
I got accepted this week for an internship! It's with Feminists for Life, a pro-life feminist organization as the name suggests. They work toward helping women to eliminate the reasons why women feel forced to have abortions. For example, they have a college outreach program in which they work with schools to make it easier for pregnant and parenting students like having a daycare for them and being flexible with school work. My job will be working with the college outreach program and working on their quarterly magazine, The American Feminist. As their motto says, "Women deserve better than abortion." I wasn't expecting to get the internship because I've already graduated from school and I figured they would be looking for people still in school to work on their campuses. I'm so excited for the coming few months!
--- 2 ---
Yes, pro-life feminists do exist. I'm one of them. I've been one of them for a while, but since my son was born unexpectedly, I've developed a passion for it. I talk more about that in my little rant here.
--- 3 ---
And here is a more recent picture of my little bundle of joy:

The little one, not the big one. The big one is my husband.

--- 4 ---
I've been having a blast leading a Bible study at my church. Right now, we're using the Year of Faith study by Fr. Mitch Pacwa. I'm leaning toward our next study being of the Theology of the Body. No, that wouldn't strictly speaking be a Bible study. We'll see how my time management goes. Maybe I can do a more traditional Bible study, too.
--- 5 ---
Next month is C-section awareness month. I'm sure I will talk about this a few times over the next month. I wanted to let you know that ICAN of Syracuse will be hosting an exhibit "Cesarean Stories" at the Basic Baby at Shoppingtown Mall here in Syracuse. The opening night will be April 13th. If you're in the area and you're interested in learning more about c-sections, I hope to see you there.
--- 6 ---
I still think this video is hilarious. Find out how to become Pope here:

--- 7 ---
And this YouTube channel has other gems. Check out this one about 8 common animal misconceptions:

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Anthrax Vaccine Tested on Kids?

You might have seen the headline today, "Test of anthrax vaccine in children gets tentative OK" or "Bioethicist: No chance of anthrax vaccine trials in kids" or even "Obama Bioethics Council OKs Anthrax Vaccine Testing on Kids." Let me try to cut through the bias on both sides of the aisle and let you know what is really going on. (And throw in some Catholic medical ethics while I'm at it because that's what I do.)

So, back in 2011, there was a study about how devastating it could be if anthrax was released in a major city. This study estimated that as many as 8 million people could get infected and a quarter of them would be children. The people who did the study strongly recommended that a vaccine be created and tested to use to protect children pending an ethics evaluation.

And the results of the ethics evaluation came out Tuesday. It said that once the possibility of harm has been brought down to no more than minimal risk, it might be okay to test on children. The President's Bioethics Commission put a very tentative seal of approval on this potential study.

What does that mean? Well, they won't be shooting an anthrax vaccine into little Johnny's arm anytime soon, if that's what you are worried about. It takes an average of 12 years to develop a new drug. Now, it might be quicker for this vaccine since there is already one in use. Currently, our men and women in uniform and those who work in at-risk professions like the scientists who work with it are required to get vaccinated. The adult vaccination doesn't seem to have any more side effects than your normal vaccine and it seems to be pretty effective

So, what are we up in arms about? We're talking about children. We're talking about protecting children from a terrorist attack. But we're also talking about testing on children. On the one hand, we want our kids safe from attacks, anthrax itself is likely worse than any vaccine (certainly any vaccine that is okay'd to test on humans) and the best way to know if something works is to test it on the population that it is for. On the other hand, we have a natural revulsion against using our kids as lab rats.

What do respected Catholic bioethicists say? Having been edjamacated in a Dominican graduate school, when I can't find anything explicit in the Directives or the Magesterium, I turn to Health Care Ethics: A Catholic Theological Analysis.

On the bookshelf right by the Bible and my Catechism
So, what does Ashley, et. al. have to say to us:

"We follow a protective opinion in regard to vicarious consent, maintaining that it is not licit to expose a ward to other than minimal risk in non-therapeutic research."(pg. 117) 
"Minimal risk" is usually defined as being no more dangerous than a typical doctor's visit or a normal day at home. So, I guess Benedict Ashley, O.P. (RIP), wouldn't be against this as long as there was minimal risk. Which is exactly what the ethics board called for when they gave their tentative "okay."

The Catholic concept here that best applies is "the dignity of the human person." We cannot do anything that disrespects that. As it says in the Directives:

29. All persons served by Catholic health care have the right and duty to protect and
preserve their bodily and functional integrity. The functional integrity of the person may be sacrificed to maintain the health or life of the person when no other morally permissible means is available.
We are to respect the integrity of the body as much as possible. This Directive was likely referring to things like amputations, but I think it applies here as well. We have a moral obligation not to harm a child even if what we are doing may help the common good of all children.

Too stinking cute. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Once again, we hear in the news about a pregnant teacher losing her job at a Christian school because she got pregnant out of wedlock. I appreciate the fact that Lifesite news seemed pretty unbiased in covering this story. If they had picked a side, I probably would have thrown over a desk.

So, a woman signs a contract saying she'll live up to the Christian ideal to be a good role model for the students. She falls. We all fall. Nobody is perfect. Didn't Christ Himself say that whoever among you that is without sin cast the first stone?

This does not mean that actions do not have consequences. I'm not saying that she should have been kept on as a teacher. But what is worse?

Having sex outside of marriage


Kicking a pregnant woman out?

She set a poor example for her students of chastity. The school's administration is setting a poor example to the whole world as to what it means to be pro-life. The number one cause of abortion in this country is the worry that you will not be able to financially support the child. Yes, she broke her contract and for that she needs to be moved out of her position. That will show the children that actions have consequences. But she needs a job and out of respect for the unborn child, the school should help her secure employment elsewhere. 

And what makes this latest story worse is that the father of the child was offered a job at the very same school! So, the school knows he had premarital sex, but he gets offered a job while she gets fired. Is this because the woman has the misfortune of being the one whose sin is blatantly obvious to the world? 

This stuff gets on the news because those who look down upon Christianity rejoice in stories like this. They've caught us committing one of secular society's cardinal sins: hypocrisy. It is a sin in the Bible, too. 

No, we don't need to worry about what people think of us. 

But we do need to think about that unborn baby and the status of unborn babies everywhere.

If we don't defend them, who will?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Something New: Reflections on the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Sorry I didn't get one out last week. My son was sick so I didn't do much of anything last weekend but comfort a cranky, clingy 10-month-old. So, this week, I'm not sure where to begin. There are so many gems in this week's readings. How about the Old Testament?

The Isaiah reading contains one of my all time favorite bible verses:

Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
-Isaiah 43:18-19a

In two weeks we will be celebrating Easter. I'm sure that is the 'something new' that the Church wants us to think about when we read this passage.


But don't you want to apply that passage to your everyday life? I know I do. Like everyone else in the world, there are a lot of things in my past I regret. And I think that we can apply it to our lives. 

Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind 
but straining forward to what lies ahead, 
I continue my pursuit toward the goal, 
the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 3:13b-14

The second reading contains this gem. For me, this just reiterates the Isaiah passage. Think of it this way. God is telling you to let go of your past. A great book for this I've always enjoyed was Traveling Light by Max Lucado. It was one of the first books I read when I converted to Christianity because I had a lot of baggage particularly from my past experiences with Christian churches. God doesn't want us to carry around all this regret and shame. He wants to do something new for us though His Son, Jesus.

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, 
and all the people started coming to him, 
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman 
who had been caught in adultery 
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught 
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin 
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
-John 8:1-11

Read that Gospel out loud. Maybe break out some Ignatian Contemplation. Put yourself in the woman's shoes. There is a crowd that is about to kill you. A Stranger you do not know (but you might have heard about) stands up for you. He tells you that He does not condemn you and sends you on your way to not sin anymore.

What a great set of readings for just 2 weeks before Easter! God freeing you from your past in order to celebrate the resurrection with joy!  
Read the readings for yourself here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Social Justice Catholic vs. Pro-life Catholic: A False Dichotomy

I even fell into it myself. We were having a discussion yesterday in my Bible study about everything that was wrong in the Church and the new Pope. I said, "Church leaders in the southern hemisphere tend to be more involved in social justice issues tempered with being very socially conservative."

I almost smacked myself.

It drives me nuts when other people do it. I hate it when comparisons are made between the social justice Catholics and the orthodox Catholics. As if you have to be one or the other, you can't be both. But isn't real Catholicism both? If one really understood the Church and tried to live out her teachings, you'd have to be both.

Let me illustrate using our new Pope:

And the Pope on the bus goes...
When Pope Francis was the Archbishop in Buenos Aires, he refused to live in the Bishop's palace. He lived in an ordinary apartment with an elderly Bishop that he helped take care of. I imagine this like the 65.7 million caregivers in the US looking out for older family members. He used public transportation instead of a chauffeur. He took the Jesuit vow of poverty seriously.

Pope Francis has said that abortion of a child conceived in the rape of a mentally handicapped woman is wrong. Rape? Mentally handicapped? While what he said is absolutely correct, the hypothetical situation he used is one of the worst I could think of. This simply illustrates his orthodoxy in pro-life matters.

The same lips that made that statement also chastised priests for refusing to baptize children born out-of-wedlock. He said essentially that these women sacrificed bringing these unplanned children into the world; They should not have to go door to door to find a priest willing to baptize the child.

One of the biggest pro-choice complaints is that pro-lifers seem to be willing to go to the ends of the earth to protect the child in the womb but won't lift a finger to help a child already born. This Pope, chosen from the ends of the world, clearly cares for children born and unborn and has an understanding of what women with unplanned pregnancies go through.

So, here we go: A Pope that talks the talk and walks the walk, going above and beyond the call of duty to truly live out the Gospel in his everyday life. The more I learn about him, the more I think he is exactly what the Church today needs. A perfect synthesis of the "social justice Catholic" and the "pro-life Catholic." The Cardinals seem to have done a wonderful job. And, note to reader: smack me if you ever hear me pit these two against each other ever again.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


POPE FRANCIS former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires Argentina!

EDIT: I sit corrected, St. Francis of Assisi was who the Pope was thinking about when he picked his name.

I read somewhere that the Pope's choice of name is his first message to the world.

So, what does 'Francis' mean? Let's look at the St. Francises in the Church...or not. There are over 70 of them. That's a post I don't want to write and I'm sure you don't want to read. So, let's instead limit ourselves to the best known ones.

St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)

St. Francis of Assisi was born in Assisi to wealthy parents. He was a spoiled brat and lived a life of sin. He dreamed of glory in battle and when the opportunity came, he went. He never made it to battle though. He had a dream in which God told him that this was not His will so he went back home. He was laughed at for being a coward, but he devoted himself to prayer waiting to see what was God's will.

He finally heard back in the form of a mystical experience with the cross at the church of St. Damiano. He was told to "fix my church." At first he took it literally, but he gradually realized that God meant figuratively. He married Lady Poverty. He preached and started an order of friars. He is known for his love of the environment and the poor. For better or worse, in recent years, devotion to St. Francis has gone far and beyond the doors of the Catholic Church. I heard about him for the first time when I was still practicing Wicca. He has become a truly ecumenical figure who is admired throughout the world.  

St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

He took his sweet time to answer to his vocation, but once he did, he embraced a crazy missionary zeal wanting to convert Protestants back. He was not successful in his initial door to door efforts, but then he had a novel idea. He wrote out sermons and stuck copies under doors. This was much more successful than banging down people's doors. It is because of this brilliant idea that he became the patron saint of journalists and writers.

With St. Jane de Chantal, he founded the Visitation order. Known as the Salesian sisters, their main mission is teaching. This order is found all over the world. The first picture of my last post, you know, the one with the crazy nuns? That was made by a friend of mine who is discerning a vocation with the Salesians as we speak.

But, since he is a Jesuit, he likely was not thinking of either of these Francises. He was likely thinking of St. Francis Xavier.

St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)

He was one of the seven original Jesuits and a close friend of St. Ignatius. He is best known for the missions to India, China and Japan. He made many, many converts and he didn't use the typical methods of his day. Like the other two Francises, he was a pioneer.

Instead of imposing his own culture on the groups he evangelized, he embraced their culture and tried to teach the Gospel in their own language. He worked to "translate" the Gospel to the culture and language of the people and he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty by working with the sinners and the lowest of the low.

Let us pray that our new Pope shows the same evangelistic spirit of St. Francis Xavier and "translates" the Gospel for this new generation!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

And the Conclave begins!

I figure since I am Catholic I should write something about the conclave.

Today it begins. I just want it over because I'm already sick and tired of the stupidity of the secular press. No, the pope can't overturn the Church's teachings on abortion, women in the priesthood, homosexuality, priestly celibacy or any of your other complaints. It doesn't work that way. Idiots.

I'm hoping for a Pope from the southern hemisphere in order to reflect the changing demographics. I'm hoping for a Pope who embraces what John L. Allen Jr. calls "affirmative orthodoxy." The world knows what the Church is against, now more than ever they need to know what the Church is for. I pray that the Cardinals are open to the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit leads them to the best man for the job.

Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest (Veni, Creator Spiritus)

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,and in our souls take up Thy rest;come with Thy grace and heavenly aidto fill the hearts which Thou hast made. O comforter, to Thee we cry,O heavenly gift of God Most High,O fount of life and fire of love,and sweet anointing from above. 

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;Thou, finger of God's hand we own;Thou, promise of the Father, ThouWho dost the tongue with power imbue. 

Kindle our sense from above,and make our hearts o'erflow with love;with patience firm and virtue highthe weakness of our flesh supply.

 Far from us drive the foe we dread,and grant us Thy peace instead;so shall we not, with Thee for guide,turn from the path of life aside. 

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestowthe Father and the Son to know;and Thee, through endless times confessed,of both the eternal Spirit blest.

 Now to the Father and the Son,Who rose from death, be glory given,with Thou, O Holy Comforter,henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Catholic Imagination: A Review

"Catholics live in an enchanted world."

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Bernini
This sentence is repeated many times in The Catholic Imagination by Andrew Greeley. Overall, I would say he's entirely right. Reading this book helped me to understand my fallen away brethren better as I saw how the "Catholic" worldview is so pervasive, they still have it no matter what their relationship is with the Church.

Catholics (and perhaps some of the more mainstream Protestants) have a sacramental worldview. The Sacraments, as the good ole Baltimore Catechism tells us, is an "outward sign of an inward grace." It is a real, physical sign of God's love and care for His people. I know for me, I cannot help but expand this understanding of life out the church doors. Seeing the "magic" (very poor word choice, but bear with me) at the altar, I cannot help but see the "magic" in my every day life.

Source, although I would not recommend the site.

And I see this overall view still in my friends who were raised Catholic and no longer identify themselves as Catholic. They may no longer participate in the sacraments, but they do have a sense of God's presence among them. They still have a passion for social justice.

Another major point that Greeley wanted to make that I agreed with is the Catholic sense of community although I would disagree vehemently with his argument that the Church has not lost it's sense of community. I do see among my Catholic and ex-Catholic friends a hunger for community. I think we are all hungering for community in this individualistic world, but I see that hunger more readily in the Catholics I know. But, even the Church, at least all of the parishes I've belonged to, has lost that sense of community entirely. Like everything else in the world, the Church in the United States has been victimized by the post-modern sense of individuality. No one is a "joiner" anymore and those who do join tend not to show up because we all have something better to do.

Aside from the lack of community, the only other thing I would argue with him about is his conclusions in regards to sexual ethics and gay rights. In some parts of the book, he does differentiate between the nominally Catholic and the active Catholic. I do not feel that he does that nearly enough. The Catholic Church, as an institution that many are born into, houses a whole variety of people. With this variety, you will meet people who agree with the teachings of the Church, people who reject practically everything that the Church says, and every thing in-between.

The Catholic imagination in literature

In this book, Greeley argues that a pro-birth control, pro-gay marriage worldview dovetails well with the overall "Catholic imagination" that he describes. In a sense, he argues that being pro-birth control and pro-gay marriage is more "Catholic" than the opposite views. He says that the "Catholic imagination" propels Catholics to see the world holistically and to value the dignity of all people above all other factors. So, it would stand to reason, that the "Catholic imagination" would lead one to be against discrimination against gays and for anything that helps the poor and disenfranchised.

In this argument he clearly does not understand the Catholic Church's teachings on gay marriage and birth control. On the topic of gay marriage, the Church is not against it because we want to discriminate against gays. The Church is against it because we want to defend marriage as an institution and the family as the fundamental unit of society. So, as marriage is for the creation of a family and children, the Church is against marriage being used for anything else. It is a similar issue with birth control. The Church is not against birth control because we want to keep women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. The Church is against birth control because we are for the dignity of the human person, including the woman in question. So it does not go against the "Catholic imagination" to be anti-birth control or gay marriage.

Stay tuned for my feminist rant against birth control. No, that wasn't a typo.

That said, however, I think he's on to something with the general idea of the "Catholic imagination." It reminds me of a chaplaincy visit I had a year ago. The patient had been raised in a devout Catholic household, but he had fallen away after being confused by Vatican II. He had dedicated his life to helping the mentally handicapped live normal lives. His work with them was all he wanted to talk about during our visit. In a sense, "helping the mentally handicapped" was his "religion." And I could hardly think of a more "Catholic" alternative religion, to recognize the dignity and empower those who society deems powerless.

I would recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand the Catholic worldview as Greeley makes a number of very good observations. BUT, please, do take some things with a grain of salt, especially when he talks about sexuality.  

Greeley argues that Springsteen uses his Catholic imagination