Friday, January 19, 2018

Catholic Man Show

It was great to be a guest on this week's "The Catholic Man Show"

We talked sports, virtue, the NFL, and much more

Click HERE to listen to the episode

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Thanks to the Indianapolis Star

The Indianapolis Star did a really aweome article on our "Coaching for Christ" project! 

Please take a moment and click HERE to read it!

please pray as it comes out on January 29th!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Homily on Humanae Vitae in 2018

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?  ..the immoral person sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you… Therefore glorify God in your body.”

As every scripture scholar acknowledges, St. Paul is here warning the Corinthians about a particular type of sin – sexual immorality that was so rampant at the time in Corinth

I read an article this week not even preparing for this homily, but it ended up talking about how this letter from Paul to the Corinthians that we have this weekend was the FIRST sexual revolution – a preaching to Corinth a way of viewing sexuality which would have been almost completely foreign to them and the rest of the world

There is a certain basic reality that St. Paul is speaking to that makes Catholicism unique in so many ways – the idea that each of us have a body and a soul and that our bodies and souls are not a ghost and a machine

Virtually no one else holds the classic Catholic understanding of the body and soul relationship. 

1)   Some go really far towards the bodily and material: “all that is real is what is the physical world” 

2)   Others go too far to the spiritual: “everything that matters is only on the spiritual realm and what we see around us, all that is “bodily” is bad or is an illusion”

3)   and most everyone else has the problematic view that body and soul are real but almost completely unrelated – “I can do with my body whatever I want, and my soul will remain unharmed.  And I can do whatever I want on the spiritual plane, it will not affect me bodily”

That’s why St. Paul URGES the Corinthians: “Glorify God IN YOUR BODY!”

2018 is the 50th Anniversary of the most talked about encyclical of all time: Humanae Vitae

It too, like St. Paul to the Corinthians, seeks to speak to humanity about the importance of keeping the body and soul together. 

A central idea of the encyclical is that in married love, the coming together of spouses (the unitive dimension of married love) must always be linked, in every act, to the procreative dimension of married love (the openness to life)

The Church has always condemned contraceptives that, in a physical way, intervened in married love, but a new question arose with the advent of the birth control pill.  Would it be permissible for marriages to allow a chemical form of birth control?

Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical, then, and ruled that no, couples could never use chemical means of birth control either, that chemicals also serve to sever the unitive and procreative – the body and the soul of marriage

Pope Francis reaffirmed all the teachings of Humanae Vitae last year with his letter Amoris Laetitia (paragraph 80, among others)

What I’d like to look at for the moment is the prophetic nature of Humanae Vitae.  It is probably the most prophetic Church document of all time

Humanae Vitae made 4 predictions if use of the contraceptive pill became widespread in our wider culture:

1)   An increase in marital unfaithfulness and a general lowering of morality

a.      Would anyone deny that over the last 50 years that has happened?

b.     In 1968 he was mocked for worrying about this, but only a couple of years after the contraceptive pill was legalized in the United States, the divorce rate doubled, some of those divorces caused BY infidelity

2)   Objectification of women

a.      Again, many in 1968 would have asked what the worry is about?

b.     In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and so forth, would anyone deny this now?  With pornography being the number one thing the internet is used for, would anyone question his prophecy now?

3)   Governments would begin to use contraception and encourage it on their populations

a.      Surely in 1968 people probably thought he was crazy

b.     In 2018, when China and other countries have done this for years

c.      In 2018 when our own country and Canada and others have been guilty at times of tying our foreign aid to countries only if they are distributing to their people contraception.  As Mary Eberstadt rightly noted: “This spectacle of pale people in increasingly barren societies telling certain other people not to have their own children is going to look grotesque in history’s rear view mirror” Mary Eberstadt

d.     In 2018, when the Little Sisters of the Poor are still in appeals courts and are currently required to pay for contraception for people, would anyone call Pope Paul VI crazy now?

4)   People would begin thinking they have total dominion over their bodies

a.      In 1968 – what does that even mean?

b.     In 2018, when people say that if you are male, but you think you are female, then you are – that merely thinking something in your mind is enough – would anyone say that in 2018 Pope Paul VI was off the mark?

These 4 predictions – to those who mocked them 50 years ago today, Paul VI might say today “you mocked me 50 years ago, but can you hear me now?”

St. Paul said the body and the soul are one, nothing can come between them
Pope Paul said the body and soul of a marriage are one, nothing can come between them

Bishop Fulton Sheen put it this way “Nothing is more psychosomatic that the union of two in one flesh; nothing so much alters a mind, a will, for better or for worse.  The separation of soul and body is death.  THOSE WHO SEPARATE SEX AND SPIRIT ARE REHEARSING FOR DEATH.”

As we think about these warnings of Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, the warnings about separating body and soul in married love, we of course have likely heard about those who have, over the last 50 years, not given their assent to the teaching.  But St. John Paul II said the following – “Humanae Vitae’s teaching on Contraception does not belong to matter that can be freely disputed among theologians.  To teach the contrary is equivalent to leading the moral conscience of spouses into error.” Address of June 5, 1987

Solution put forward by Humanae Vitae – Natural Family Planning

Again, just as the proof of the accuracy of Paul VI’s predictions are obvious and apparent, equally impressive are the positive statistics of those who utilize Natural Family Planning that Humanae Vitae proposed

1)   Natural Family Planning has a success rate of 97-99% for those who discern that they ought to abstain during fertile windows for the time being for various reasons discover in prayer before God.

2)   The divorce rate for couples using NFP is between 1-3%

May our world recapture the Christian vision of human persons as embodied souls, may we recognize the link between our bodies and souls, and thus begin again to affirm, as a culture, that our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit, and we are called, by Paul in today’s reading and also called by the Church in all Her teachings, we are called to glorify God in our bodies.

May we again be people who are able to say, in different ways, to all those we are called to love, may we say what Christ says to those HE loves: "This is my Body, given up for you!"

Read humanae vitae by clicking HERE

What to learn more about Natural Family Planning?  Click HERE 

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Catholic Reflection on the Tax Plan

The Church, in Her "Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine", has a lot to say about economics.  We could go into all of it, but perhaps the best way to say it is this:

No systemic approach to an economy, is, in and of itself, virtuous and good WITHOUT individuals within the system CHOOSING to behave virtuously

Yes, the Church says in its Compendium that Communism and Socialism are, de facto, evil and wrong.

But capitalism is described with a more cautionary tone.  Capitalism CAN lead to good things or it CAN lead to disastrous outcomes, depending on the types of individual decisions that are made by individual people within the economy.

This is where the new Trump tax plan comes in.  Without getting into the details, pretty much everyone acknowledges that it is a plan that lets corporations keep more of the money they earn.  Democrats would argue that this is because Trump wants to help his business owner friends, and Republicans would say that the plan is a great thing because when companies keep more money, they can hire more people, thus more people work.

It is important here to note that the "Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine" places a HUGE emphasis on the importance of work.  The Church emphasizes that people deserve work, should work, should be paid fairly, should be able to support a family if they are willing to work hard, and that human beings derive a great deal of healthy dignity out of working a job.

If you're still with me, then, here's the point: what we ought to be doing as Catholics with regards to this tax plan is speaking directly to the CEO's and business owners around the country, both small medium and large corporations, and encouraging them to take this tax break and actually use it to create more jobs.

Republican talking heads who are out saying lots of jobs will just naturally happen because of this new tax plan, and that business owners will just naturally choose to not pocket the money are deceiving themselves and the nation.  Capitalistic societies take vigilance by the people and REQUIRE virtuous corporate leadership in order to produce virtuous and beneficial outcomes.

Democrat talking heads who are out saying that corporate leaders will just naturally pocket the tax savings for themselves are of course making blanket assumptions and are, in a sense, encouraging that outcome by telling everyone pocketing the tax savings just HAS to happen.  It is also a blanket and judgmental statement to say that "all corporate leaders are bad and greedy people."  We ought to be thankful for those who DO virtuously use their corporate leadership to help bring about a positive impact on the people they employ.

This tax cut for companies, as with capitalisim in general, is neither good nor bad up front.  It stands at a cross roads and needs our vigilance and it needs those in corporate leadership to choose jobs over personal profit.  We pray that they choose jobs.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A metaphorical throat punch to progressive Catholics

"It is necessary to MAINTAIN THE IDEAL in its sublimity even when it may be difficult to attain these heights, even when the ordinary man feels himself incapable of doing so and therefore sinful.  The prophets of Israel and the Apostles of the Church never consented to reduce this ideal; never did they shortchange the measure of perfection or shorten the distance between the ideal and the ordinary; they never watered down the meaning of sin, but rather did everything to the contrary"
Blessed Pope Paul VI
Dialogos Con Paulo VI, (Madrid: Cristiandad, 1967) p. 428

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Science Disproves God?

We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

So it was THROUGH observing things, studying the stars, through tracking the motion of the heavenly bodies that LED these men to Christ

And yet, today, almost the opposite is happening. The number one reason for people leaving Christ is, according to survey after survey, science

So science and astronomy led the MAGI to Christ, but now science is leading a vast number of people AWAY from Christ

It is first of all important to acknowledge a problematic attempt to bridge the faith and science question, and that PROBLEMATIC RESPONSE is called Intelligent Design Theory. Intelligent design theory says that within the realms of the observable, scientifically measurable, it is possible to PROVE the existence of God.

The Church has rejected this.

But the Church goes about 98% of the way, but we stop short of saying you can PROVE God’s existence with science. You can’t say “Look at this test tube experiment or mathematical equation and you’ll see that God is real”

What the Church says, though, is that when we look around at the world, when we study the heavens, the stars, mathematics, when we look around at ourselves and we look at mathematics, physics, biology, etc. there ought to be a response in rational people – “WOW!!!”

And there also ought to be a question we ask when we engage in the things of science and look around ourselves – that question: “Where did all this come from?”
Some of course turn to things like “well, there was a big bang” – but that is not sufficient because if there was a big bang something had to do or cause the banging. You know who came up with the Big Bang Theory – a Catholic priest. And he stayed a Catholic priest after coming up with the theory. “The Big Bang Theory” was no threat to the Catholic Faith of the Catholic priest who discovered it!!!

70% of scientists are atheists today. One of the most famous is Steven Hawking. He said that there are likely lots of big bangs happening. But that is really bad science. Because saying something is likely happening is not science. And he’s still left with explaining who is doing all the banging.

How does the Church try to talk about Faith and Science? St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century put forward 5 proofs for the existence of God that are still turned to and discussed quite often.

Without getting into each of them specifically, each of the 5 takes a very similar approach. He says that if we look around and have any observational curiosity at all, then pretty quickly questions arise.

If you and I and the things of the world are in motion, who got things them moving? If you and I and the things of the world have causes, then who caused the causes? If there is order and beauty, there must be an orderer and something that is the standard of beauty.

Now, it is important to note that St. Thomas Aquinas is NOT saying these are proofs in the scientific sense – but they are proofs that lie beyond the measurable. And you and I readily acknowledge that not all things are proved WITHIN the realm of chemistry or math. If I say I love my mom, no one says “Prove it with mathematics”. If I say I love my Dad, no one says “Prove it with chemistry”… so we can know things and talk about and discuss the reality of things that lie beyond that which is scientifically knowable.

1,000 years before St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine approaches these same things poetically. He wrote the following poem about the fact that reality itself begs the question of where this all came from

“Question the beauty of the earth,
the beauty of the sea,
the beauty of the wide air around you,
the beauty of the sky;
question the order of the stars,
the sun whose brightness lights the days,
the moon whose splendor softens the gloom of night;
question the living creatures that move in the waters,
that roam upon the earth,
that fly through the air;
the spirit that lies hidden,
the matter that is manifest;
the visible things that are ruled,
the invisible things that rule them; question all these.
They will answer you: "Behold and see, we are beautiful."
Their beauty is their confession to God.
Who made these beautiful changing things,
if not one who is beautiful and changeth not?

The magi were men who stared at the sky night after night, studied the heavens, tracked the progress of the stars and planets and the sun – and that led them to Christ.

May we look around more at the world around us, at the human beings sitting next to us this morning, at the fact that we ourselves are breathing and thinking and praying and loving, and may we follow the reality of these things to their logical conclusion – may observing the heavens and the stars and all of creation put us on a journey as well – a journey that, like these astronomers we remember today – leads us to a child who is Christ the Lord

Sunday, December 31, 2017

What Every Family Needs

Growing up in my home parish, being the oldest of 11, people would come up to us after Mass and say things like "Oh, what a lovely, well behaved family you have" and my brothers and I would all laugh quietly to ourselves because we knew all the stuff that had been going on during Mass between us while we were punching each other, stealing things from each other, and squeezing each others hands as hard as we could during the "Our Father" and the sign of peace.  We also, knew, as all families do, about all the stuff that went on at home - the fights, the losing of patience, the arguments, etc.

I know as a priest walking with lots of families as a pastor that ALL families have struggles and adversity.  All families have relationships that are strained, all families have struggles and challenges and pain and woundedness.  Sometimes there are strains and problem spots that are decades long!

And it seems to me that it is a great temptation for people to look around and think that other families are good, other families are well-behaved, OTHER families are "perfect" but that our family is a dumpster fire.

If that's the temptation for families, then how much more so is that the case for the Holy Family???  How in the world would we ever feel like they have anything in common with us???  They are up on Mt. Olympus, and we're down here 100 miles away looking at them - how could we look to them, as the opening prayer of Mass says, as an EXAMPLE??? 

But what does Scripture say?  I think, when we look at the evidence in Scripture, we see a family that, although we have no record of sin being in their family, they still faced great difficult, adversity, and temptation

1) The Annunciation - Mary is visited by an angel and told that she's going to become pregnant by God, and that her child would become the savior of the world.  That's HARD.  That's ADVERSITY.  God coming and telling you all that.

2) Joseph, too.  He had these plans to "divorce her quietly" to do the honorable thing so that no shame or harm would be brought to Mary.  But God comes to him and says "I hear your plans, but I'm changing them"  That's HARD.  That's difficult to accept from God, to learn that our plans that we had come up with need to change dramatically.  That's adversity.

3) In Today's Gospel, Mary and Joseph, in bringing Jesus to the temple when he's 8 days old, they are told by the holy sage prophet at the temple - "Mary, your heart will be PIERCED because of this child"  That's HARD.  That's ADVERSITY. 

4) Finally, Mary watched her son be tortured and murdered.  Are you still tempted to think of the Holy Family as a family of virtuous robots whose lives were the equivalent of vacationing in Tahiti? 

The Devil wants you to think that the Holy Family is so aloof from your family, so different that your dumpster fire of a family has nothing it can learn from the Holy Family because your experiences and struggles are SO different from your own.

So what is needed to help families move closer to the example of the Holy Family?  In our second reading St. Paul says one of the biggest keys for families that I've seen - FORGIVENESS!!!

Forgiveness is the oil that keeps the engine of the family working properly and running well.  Oil keeps parts of an engine that would otherwise get overheated and strained - oil keeps those spots of the engine cool enough to not fall apart.

FORGIVENESS is just that.  So many families need forgiveness in so many relationships.

But forgiveness is certainly hard.  It is hard to offer, and it can be hard to receive. 

So let me suggest one way to get better - the sacrament of confession.  Everyone is afraid of confession and dreads it, but everyone experiences a great freedom and peace afterwards.  It is place to ask for and receive the forgiveness of God, and after that, you are so much better disposed to forgive and seek the forgiveness of others in your family.

Finally, then, let me conclude by noting that through our baptism we are adopted brothers and sisters with Christ.  So the Holy Family isn't JUST a virtuous example, it is also true that St. Joseph is our adoptive father and Mary is our adopted mother - so they live now to intercede for us, for fathers and mothers and husbands and wives and children and if you are struggling, know that the Holy Family knows adversity too, and also that because of your connection and life IN their family, we can draw strength from their prayers for us in our earthly families as well!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas 2017

In 1914, as World War I was breaking out, something spectacular happened on Christmas Eve.  The great truce broke out.  A soldier named Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described the event in detail:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

It is estimated that up to 100,000 troops all along the Western Front participated, and that there were barbecues, gift exchanges and even games of soccer that broke out Christmas Eve into Christmas Day

There seems to be, every year, a peace and a silence that descends upon the Earth, a silence and peace that people literally feel not just because of food or lights or celebrations, but because it is a real and tangible thing at Christmas.  This silence and peace is mentioned in all our favorite Christmas hymns and carols – “Silent Night,” and “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” as a few examples.

A silence that could bring to a grinding halt humanities first attempt at a global war, bring it to a halt such that both sides were celebrating and feasting together on the field of war.

Here’s the question I’d like us to consider – is this silence and peace something that God wants us to experience only one night and one day a year?

The answer to that is, quite clearly, no!

The silence and peace of Christmas are what God wants for us to experience year round by living our lives in Christ and living our lives from within His Church.

Sometimes, people fault God for being too silent, too quiet.  But the failure of those people is a failure to recognize that God, in a sense, is FOUND in the silence.  God prefers silence.

Let’s look at the evidence, beyond the peace and silence we experience and love tonight

The three people we particularly look to tonight, Joseph Mary and Joseph, were all people who cherished silence.  Mary has just a few lines in the Gospels.  Joseph has none.  Most of Jesus’ life is lived in silence and anonymity and it is only has final three years or so where he begins his public ministry.

There’s also one of my favorite passages of the Old Testament where God comes to Elijah – and Elijah stands in the cave and God promises to pass by.  It tells us that there was an earthquake, but God was not in the Earthquake.  There was fire and wind, but God wasn’t in any of that.  Then there was a still small sound, an almost silent whisper, and Elijah knew that it was God.

We can also look at the great changes that God brings about – they almost entirely happen in silence.  Baptism, ordination, confirmation, Transubstantiation of the Eucharist – these things are brought about silently

We live in a world of constant noise bombardment – we are addicted to it because we fear silence because we think in silence we are alone.  But this celebration of Christmas I hope is an opportunity to remind you that the peace that comes to us today amidst silence is accessible year round

Our Catholic Faith is one that encourages us, gently, to not be afraid of silence.  We do not fill every moment of our worship with noise.  We have opportunities to pray in silence in this Church, and before Mass, and after Mass.  Yes we have our Glorias and Alleluias, but I talk with a lot of non-Catholics, and they are always telling me that they are surprised by two things when they come to a Catholic Mass
1)      The sitting and standing and kneeling
2)    The silence

If you want to keep Christmas year round, flee the noise daily and do not fear silence.  Run to it.  Seek it out.  If you are assaulted by distractions, don’t worry about it.  Press on.  As Psalm 46 says so beautifully, “Be still and know that I am God”

May this taste of peace and silence these days of Christmas give us the encouragement to seek God where God may be found – and not despair anymore that God is silent.

The Second Best Homily I've Ever Come Across...

...Is St. Bernard's homily on the Annunciation, which we read this morning for the 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B.  His homily is here:

"Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

"Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

"Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the Desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If He should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek Him afresh, the One Whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. 'Behold, the handmaid of the Lord,' she says, 'be it done to me according to your word.'"

Saturday, December 23, 2017

URGENT prayer request

Friends, I ask of your prayers for a brother priest, Fr. Dan Bedel, his family, and particularly his younger brother David has been given a short time to live.

The family is asking for a miracle through the intercession of Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel

Thank you for your prayers!

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Last Jedi and Catholicism

1 inconsequential spoiler is included in the post below:

Look - if you're watching any movie hoping that the Catholic metaphysical awareness of who God is and how God operates is PROPERLY portrayed, you'll be disappointed 99% of the time.

I also think you can enjoy a fantasy story and not worry the Catholic worldview right.

BUT.  At the same time, it should be noted that when I coached football we had a tradition of "Senior Scripture" on Thursday nights, and one week a senior stood up and read and then gave his speech on a long quote from Yoda


There was one scene that Catholics ought to be somewhat troubled by in the newest installment of the Jedi - Episode 8 - "The Last Jedi"

There is a scene where one of the "saints" of the Jedi "religion" returns to help one of the living "Jedi Saints" by destroying the last of the religious texts that had preserved the religions past.

There was then some mumbo jumbo about how the past isn't needed, the books aren't needed, they were boring anyway, and to be a Jedi is just something that happens inside us.

Essentially, it would be like St. Peter coming back and torching, with Mother Teresa, every library, saint book, (and I guess Church too) because "Jesus is actually just inside us"

Now again, its just a movie.  However, this does coincide with a real-world crisis in our Catholic Faith that goes back at least 50 years known as the "Death of God" movement

In the "Death of God" theology put forward by Catholic and non-Catholic intellectuals, the point is this - RELIGION CAN BE DISCARDED BECAUSE NOW THERE'S A NEW PATH OF UNITY AND RELIGION IS BAD - WE MUST MOVE BEYOND RELIGION TO GET TO GOD

It really is also at the heart of the "I'm spiritual but not religious" movement of today, the simple and straightforward slogan is one of the greatest ideologies pulling people away from Catholicism today.

So here's the point - those who say 'I'm spiritual but not religious" will surely be dancing with joy along with Yoda and Luke at the destruction of the last earthly elements of religion

But we, of course, as Catholics, believe that's all hogwash.  The Bible, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Mother Teresa, St. Francis, (and Evelyn Waugh, Flannery O'Connor, G.K. Chesterton, and J.R.R. Tolkien) and countless others OUGHT TO BE PRESERVED AND READ

There's a gross arrogance involved when you think that everything that has come before us has nothing to teach us.

That's the whole point of our Catholic Faith - and that's why we preserve what was handed onto us, because we can't all figure it out on our own, and we certainly get great assistance from those who came before us, and those who maybe, just maybe, have something to share with us that will help us grow closer to Christ and discover who we really are.

Destroy religion at your own risk

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Opioid Crisis and Advent

While driving around recently, I came across a fairly popular song on the radio with the following lyrics

"Medicate" by the band "Theory of a Deadman"

Got no job, mom pays my bills
Textin' ex's get my fill
Sweatin' bullets, Netflix-chills
World's out there singin' the blues
Twenty more dead on the evening news
Think to myself "really, what's the use?"
I'm just like you, I was born to lose

Why oh why can't you just fix me?
When all I want's to feel numb
But the medication's all gone
Why oh why does God hate me?
When all I want's to get high
And forget this so-called life

I am so frickin' bored
Nothin' to do today
I guess I'll sit around and medicate (medicate)
I am so frickin' bored
Nothing to do today
I guess I'll sit around and medicate (medicate)

I'm not sure if the artist is celebrating this reality, or just pointing it out, but either way I think it is helpful for us to pay attention to this.

We are all probably familiar with the opioid crisis in our country.  Just two stats

1) Opioids are the leading cause of death among people under 50 

2) Heroin alone (just one form of opioid) killed more people in 2015 than carr accidents and guns COMBINED!

We are asked to be people who bring comfort to God's people as we hear in the first reading.  Well, folks, this is the atmosphere in our world that we are asked to bring comfort to.

Some Christians are asked to be bring Comfort in the midst of severe famine and poverty.  Some Christians are asked to bring Comforth in the midst of religious persecution.  In our culture, we are asked to bring Comfort into the world amidst a culture of people that are medicating themselves at epic levels.

And there are lots of ways to medicate...not just drugs.  Shopping, food, caffeine, nicotine, my phone, etc.

So how do we bring "comfort" to God's people in the midst of all this?  The Gospel gives us a start - tell people to REPENT!

That sounds like it would only make people more depressed, more down on themselves...but here's the thing...people went out into the desert to see John.   John the Baptist wasn't bothering them in the middle of town...people went out to see HIM!

Why?  Because no matter how many drugs we take, no matter how much we try to medicate, we know that 

a - we sin (or, if you're atheist, "make decisions that harm ourselves and give us guilt") and
b - we can't fix it

So this invitation to repent is an invitation to acknowledge that these burdens I'm carrying around...God can HEAL them

Another thing the Church offers the world hopped up on medication and hating the burden and "boredom" of reality is the gift of a rhythm of life

1) Each day, we're invited to introspection, to prayer, and to celebration

2) Certainly also weekly we're invited to give something up like meat on Fridays and spend more time in prayer and on Sundays we celebrate

3) But also, as we are aware right now, the Church structures our year with this rhythm of life as well - we have seasons like Advent and Lent where we enter into more silence, perhaps giving some things up and then we have these great seasons of Christmas and Easter, and of course throughout the year we have "Feast days" for great saints and great moments in Church history.  So precisely when the world is trying to tell us to run around like a chicken with our head cut off and be frenzied, we step back and celebrate the quiet and peaceful and anticipatory season of Advent.

In a world of instant gratification, to choose to patiently wait for something is an act of rebellion against the frenetic; and act of rebellion against the evil one.

This rhythm of life given from God is something that the Israelites thanked God for regularly in the Old Testament.  People today often mock the laws of the Old Testament because some of them talk about clothing and shellfish and pork etc...but the Israelites said "We thank you, God, for this way of life you teach us!"

This rhythm of life given to us from God helps us recognize that not every day is the same. If I just think every day is the same, and there is no purpose or rhythm to anything, then things start to get boring REAL quick...

and so I look for a way out...

and I medicate and flee reality

Let us bring the comfort that only comes through Christ to a culture that is so afraid or bored by reality that people are turning to anything they can find to escape.  

Let us show people that the invitation to repent and the invitation to live out purpose and a rhythm of life are actually great gifts from our Loving Father in Heaven!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Are we living in the worst times?

Often times we hear from progressives that the times have changed so much that our sacramental laws have to change to keep up

But is that true?

Is our time really MORE hostile to the Faith than the Diocletian Persecution?  Is our time MORE hostile to Catholicism than 20th century Russia?  Than China over the last 50 years?

I think St. Agatha who had her breasts cut off or St. Bartholomew who was skinned alive for the Catholic Faith would laugh at the notion that today things are so much more hostile to the Faith or that the times are so much worse than any other time in the past.

From my vantage point, the notion that "Woe is us, we have to bring the Gospel to a world infinitely more hostile to the Faith than anything encountered in the first 2,000 years of the Church" is both

1) wrong


2) lazy

It is lazy because in believing that we live in a time "SO much worse" than anything else ever encountered, we can also, in the back of our mind, excuse our failure to do a better job because "things are so much worse now"

"Wow, things are so much worse in your time?  I was skinned alive 2,000 years ago for being Catholic

Hebrews 12:4 - "you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood."

We have this moment

With all the sexual misconduct/rape/abuse reports coming out against Hollywood moguls and media superstars, it is easy to get cynical and retweet and join in the piling on and the "I told you so".

This seems particularly tempting for Catholics, as our teaching on sexual morality has been skewered for the last two decades in the wake of the priestly abuse crisis.

However, it seems to me that we have this opportunity where a lot of people in our culture are awaking to the fact that perhaps our culture's approach to sexuality is not working, and are looking around and wondering "Is there a path out of this?"

 I think we as Catholics are gravely mistaken if we do not step in and help explain what our Church says with regards to sexual expression and also what our Church teaches about the role that morality and Christian principles can play in shaping public policy and law without insisting that a nation become an explicitly Catholic theocracy.

I think many fear that if there is anything in our public sphere that even SOUNDS Christian, we can't utilize it because of the separation of Church and state. 

But the Catholic Church has a lot of well-reasoned non-threatening non-seeking-to-take-over-the-country things to say and engage on this question of how laws can be more rooted in Truth while maintaining our Nation's Constitution.

Let's share these ideas and engage in these conversations - the time seems right, and people seem to want to have this conversation unlike any other time in my lifetime