Saturday, June 27, 2015

For every Catholic who supports the gay "marriage" decision....



Below is the mind of the Church on the SCOTUS decision. It's from the US Bishops, and there is no nuance or mincing of words. If you are sort of okay with, or even celebrating, the decision that legalizes gay "marriage" in our nation, you are at odds with the mind of your Church. If you consider the bishops' strong words to be "hateful", you are at odds with the Catholic faith that you claim to profess. It is a dangerous place to be, spiritually, particularly if you are in any way publicly expressing pleasure at the decision, which can promote confusion and even cause scandal. 

The full statement from the US Bishops, emphases mine:


Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.



For easy-to-understand answers to questions about gay "marriage", go here.







Friday, June 26, 2015

Rejoice! The Church's beacon just got brighter.

Maybe I should be upset and disheartened at today's Supreme Court decision. But I'm smiling. And I don't feel sad. I feel strangely excited.

I remember the night that Obama was elected for his second term. I went to bed early, sick to my stomach, depressed and afraid. It was truly awful. I felt a dark shroud had descended on our nation, the America that I love so much.

But I have grown and changed. The ins and outs of politics and courts and men do not bother me so much anymore. And in this case, I find myself untroubled. I am almost shocked at my peace! But isn't that what Christ came to give us, if we follow Him and not the world?

Some random thoughts (unpolished, redundant, I've not had breakfast yet) now that gay "marriage" is newly, magically discovered as a Constitutional right:


-- Pray for the soul of Justice Kennedy. He is a Catholic. He will be accountable for his decision. May the Lord have mercy on his soul.

-- America is and was always an experiment. If we put our hopes and faith in a fallible nation, even one so promising as America, we miss the boat. The only home for us is Christ's Church, which has outlasted every empire and nation and will outlast even the world itself. If you have built your house on the Rock instead of shifting sand, and if you are safe in the Barque of Peter, and not flailing in the stormy waters, then relax and rejoice. Life is good. And Christ's promises stand. (And if you are still in the stormy waters, get in the boat!! There is room for all!)

-- God called each of us to live in this moment, at this time, in this culture. He did so for a reason. Are you ready to fulfill your baptismal mandate?

-- So many lost souls. Pray for them.

-- So many children will suffer, and we will see that fallout in the coming decades. Pray for them.

-- Everything that happened today falls under the very capable hands of Divine Providence. Now is the time to step up and really live your faith. If not, then what is your faith for, anyway?

-- Don't be afraid. I'm not. God is so good. He knows just what we need and he has given it to us. Find your courage, people!

-- Become a saint. Trust me, it's the only way. It's what will dispel the darkness and it's what will attract people to you, and to the Church, and to Christ Himself. This is about the salvation of souls, not whether or not America will continue to be a comfortable place for us.

-- America was never the "shining city on the hill", the Church is! We need to get that straight, because I think a lot of American Christians misunderstand that point.

-- Just as with the evil decision of Roe v. Wade, this decision will continue to divide the nation. There can be no healing and unity when natural law and our very natures are dismissed and contradicted. God will not be mocked. Nature will not be mocked. It will be the children of these "unions" who will eventually bring us back to sanity. It will take some decades, but like abortion, the tide will turn back to reality and truth. And if we don't live to see it, so what? This world is passing away. Christ has overcome the world. How can we not be filled with joy?!

-- What to do now? Live your life. Become a saint. Teach your children well (start with this), because they will need to find some firm footing and sense in a crazy, upside-down world. The Church will continue to be a beacon, but even more so now. I praise God for making the line very clear! Now, the choice is more obvious. My overriding thought is "bring it on!" We were made for this, my dear Christians. Why are you afraid?

-- Finally, if you are truly, profoundly rattled and even devastated by this Court decision, you have put waaaaaaay too much faith in the things of this world. Change course. You will not find peace nor salvation in the things of this world. Turn to Christ, the source of our joy. He Himself asked if He would find any faith in this world upon His return. Well, will He?

He will in my house.


God bless and have a beautiful day, as I leave you with some prescient words from Venerable Fulton J. Sheen:
We are at the end of a tradition and a civilization which believed we could preserve Christianity without Christ, religion without a creed, meditation without sacrifice, family life without moral responsibility, sex without purity, and economics without ethics. We have completed our experiment of living without God and have proven the fallacy of a system of education which calls itself progressive because it finds new excuses for sins. Our so-called progressiveness, did we but realize it, is like unto the progressive putrefaction of a corpse. The soul is gone, and what we call change is only decay. How stop it except by reversing the process by which we drove God out of the world, namely by relighting the lamp of faith in the souls of men?
...
The millions of the world who keep their fingers on the pulse of public opinion and follow every theory, every vogue, every panacea, every popular immorality, and who approve the appointment of every anti-moral educator, have no standard of right and wrong. A thing cannot measure itself: A tape measure must be outside the cloth; a speedometer must not be a brick in the roadway; a judge must not be a shareholder in the corporation whose cause he judges. In like manner the judgment of the world must be from outside the world. Such a standard is the need of the hour -- an authority that does not, like some politician, find out what the people want and then give it to them, but which gives them what is true and good whether it is popular or not. We need someone to be healthy when the world is sick; someone to be a stretcher-bearer when the battlefields are freighted with wounded; someone to be calm when the house is burning; someone to be right when the world is wrong, as on Easter when they who slew the Foe lost the day.  
Where is that authority except in the Church of the Risen Christ which in each new generation is condemned by the world and then rises to a new and glorious Easter? At least a thousand times the bells have tolled in history for the death of the Church, but the execution never took place; the coffin is ordered but the corpse never appears; the mourners assist at her burial but she sings a requiem over her mourners; still doomed to death, but fated not to die, she survives a thousand crucifixions and a thousand deaths, and alone has survived the crash of all civilizations, because not involved in their ruin.

There is often an hour when the world cannot understand the reason the Church gives for her position, but there is never a time when men do not live to see that her judgment was reasonable.  




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If you are still discouraged, please read this.



Monday, June 22, 2015

Just Curious: When did you know that the Catholic Church was what she claims to be?

A lot of you know my own story, but now I'm just curious about yours.




When did you realize that the Catholic Church isn't "just another Christian denomination" but in fact is the Church that Christ established to teach and sanctify in His name until the end of time?

Once that moment happens, once that realization comes, life is never the same. So, I'm excited to hear how it happened for you!




Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day Guest Post: "Having a Child is Definitely the Coolest Thing I've Ever Done"


This Father's Day, as I spend time with my own dear father who is recovering from heart surgery (thank you all for your prayers!), I want to introduce you to a wonderful new blog. 

Ready To Stand is described by its co-authors as "born of our desire to stand up for all life and all people. We are pro-life, pro-family, pro-God’s mercy, pro-forgiveness, pro-healing, and pro-recovery. We believe in the dignity of each human being and seek to uphold that dignity through conveying the truth about God’s love and mercy. We come from different pasts and backgrounds, and desire to share our thoughts and reflections on pro-life causes, family life, healing and recovery, and our experiences with God’s truth and love."

One of the authors, Cullen Herout, is a young husband, father, and counselor. This is one of his posts at Ready To Stand, and I think it's perfect for Father's Day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’ve done a lot of super cool things in my life. I really haven’t. There are a lot of places I haven’t been to, a lot of people I haven’t met, and a lot of world treasures I haven’t seen. There are mountains I haven’t scaled and countries that haven’t stamped my passport.

I’m not on Twitter, and I couldn’t tell you a single song that has cracked the top 40 in the last five years. Though if you were to make me guess on that, I’d say Taylor Swift, right?  I don’t stay up late, I’m not the life of a party, and I don’t really stand out in a crowd. I pretty much never watch television, and therefore have no idea what’s going on in Game of Thrones, NCIS, or any other popular show.

But there is one thing I’ve done that’s pretty amazing. In fact, it trumps all the other things I’ve done, with ease. It’s something that I’m incredibly proud of, and talk about at every chance I get. I gloat about it, actually.

So while marrying my wife is easily the best decision I’ve ever made, having a child is easily the coolest thing I’ve ever done.






There are a number of reasons that having a little man has been the coolest thing I’ve done. For one, it’s uniquely counter-cultural. For some strange reason, being child-free is the seen as the hip, trendy, fashionable choice these days. I suppose that in these days of rampant selfism, having a child is perceived as dreadfully inconvenient.

I was at the mall earlier today to get a haircut, and every time I step foot in the mall, I’m amazed at the consumerism I encounter. Each time I pass a 20-foot-high billboard with some guy or girl in a swimsuit and sunglasses, I am reminded that the whole goal of consumerism is to make people believe that they have a product you cannot live without. This pair of sunglasses is trendy; that style of shirt will make you happy; if you just think about your clothes a little bit more, you can have the perfect outfit that will help you fit in. With the exception of a store here or there, none of it is marketed toward people concerned with children; it is marketed toward people concerned with themselves.

I’ve fallen for this before. I have a pair of “cool” sunglasses, a trendy looking swimsuit that I never use, and I’ve bought clothes with the idea of “looking better”. But I’ve found that this cultural need to “fit in” doesn’t cut it for me. What cuts it for me is pushing my son in a playground swing, and rubbing his back when he is having trouble falling asleep. Lying on our living room floor and watching the fan go around is infinitely more enjoyable to me than going to a movie.

Maybe it’s just me, but everything our culture says I need and want, I find completely empty. Yet, that which our culture thinks is an inconvenience and a burden, I find thoroughly fulfilling.

Having a child is also easily the most manly thing I’ve ever done. Guys here will know what I’m talking about: there is nothing manlier than hanging out with your offspring. I know manhood has been dragged through the trenches, beaten with a stick, tied to a car and hauled around town to the point that it is hardly recognizable anymore. But just when I think I’ve completely forgotten what manliness is, I take my son on a trip to the Dairy Queen (don’t tell his mom), and I remember that spending time with my son is the manliest thing I do.

Now that my wife is pregnant and our second son is on the way, I feel an extra sense of bravado when I step out with them. There is something inherently masculine about taking care of a family, being the guardian and the protector, the strong one. This flies in the face of our society wherein dads are practically disposable in some areas and seen as unnecessary in others. Yet, there’s a paradox here. Deadbeat dads are seen as losers. This is because having a family and caring for it is inherently a manly thing to do. We know that dads are needed, even if sometimes our society pretends that they are not.

My little man has also given me a chance to build strength of character. As I noted in this piece here, virtue can be developed through the promulgation of children. Patience is a wonderful thing. I remember a time a month or so after we had brought our son home from the hospital. It was the middle of the night and I was giving him a bottle, my wife sound asleep. I remember thinking, “This is what being a parent is all about”. Since that night, I’ve had countless opportunities to practice and grow in patience. Some of those tests I’ve passed, in others I’ve fallen short. But you can bet I’ll be working hard to be ready for the next opportunity.

Having a child has given me the chance to be more selfless. I have spent less time worrying about myself or my own useless worries. I have someone more important to worry about than my own trivial and petty problems. I noticed that some of the things that used to irritate or upset me, no longer bother me. Things that used to get me fired up, no longer do so.

Having a child has further allowed me to see the world through simpler eyes. When we are out on walks, he points to every bunny rabbit, bird, tree, and squirrel. If it were me, I’d probably walk by and not even notice. But to him, those animals are new every time, each one different and unique, one he’s never seen before. It’s beautiful. It makes me want to be like that. By the way, you should see this kid laugh. It’s amazing the way that children laugh with abandon, no insecurity at all. They are not worried about what you think of them. When he gets going, it is the funniest, most wonderful sound you’ve ever heard.

My mini-me is a never-ending source of amusement. I had to read The Crunching Munching Caterpillar 224 times before my son could finally pick out the bumblebee. But you should see how proud he gets when he recognizes it now. He points at it like he’s saying “I actually knew that was it all along, Dad, I was just seeing how many times you would read me this book”. Very funny, son.



Whether we are playing cars in the hallway or chasing a ball around the circle, he’s a wonder to behold. I have completely forgotten what life was ever like before I had a child. Something about fantasy baseball, free time, I can’t really remember. Looking back on it now, I’m pretty sure it was incredibly boring. I probably got to sleep more and could stay out later. I probably didn’t have to plan all morning activities to be done by noon so we could get home for naptime. I definitely didn’t haul a diaper bag everywhere, and I never packed extra food for myself because I might get fussy. Actually, nevermind, I did that. I never had to wash bottles or set three napkins on the table for one person at mealtimes.

But I can’t imagine a life where I was so selfish that all those things would bother me. I can’t imagine not being willing to give of myself, my time, or even, GASP, my sleep, for the good of my child. But then again, maybe that’s all true only because I’ve grown in patience and selflessness. Maybe if you had asked me before, I would not have considered it possible to give of myself in this way. It’s fairly impossible to have a child and not grow in those things. And see, that’s just it: having a child has made me a better person.

I pray more. I pray for my family, and with my family. I do things for them. I am concerned with them. I am looking out for ways to take care of them, and while I am certainly not perfect in this, I do try. I express insane amounts of gratitude for things I have been given, whereas before these things might go unnoticed. I notice the miracle of life more than I did before, and I see it not only in the people I know, but also in the people I don’t know.

Most of all, I love more. I love my wife more. She is a wonderful mother and a constant reminder of all the good God has done in my life. I love my son more every day. I want to be around them all the time. I miss them when they are not here. I think about them constantly, and I try to be a good dad even when I’m not with them.

My family has brought me more love, happiness and fulfillment than I ever thought was possible. Not only that, but it keeps on growing every single day. Every day brings a little more love, happiness, and fulfillment than the day before.

And that’s just cool.




Read more from Cullen Herout and co-author Heather Bernt here




Sunday, June 14, 2015

Don't be a Ball Bearing.




If you are bewildered or even frightened about the lightning speed at which the western world seems to be accepting the most nonsensical, sinful beliefs and throwing off any and all notions of traditional, Judeo-Christian, natural law values, take a deep breath. It's not as surprising or alarming as it seems, if you consider the predictable movement of the Ball Bearings in every culture.

What or who are the Ball Bearings?

They are the citizens who will -- with little or no resistance -- go along with the trend, the fad, the popular opinion, or the peer pressure of the day. The Ball Bearings consist of most of your neighbors, your co-workers, some of your friends, and yes, members of your own family. And you yourself may be, as I once was, a Ball Bearing.

As soon as an opinion or a cultural trend becomes the "right" or "acceptable" one (regardless of its veracity or its connection to anything that came before), and especially as soon as there is a real price to pay (socially or legally) for not accepting or embracing it, the Ball Bearings begin to roll.

I imagine a flat plane, maybe like a massive metal tray, with the free-rolling Ball Bearings headed this way or that, depending on how the tray is tipped at the moment. So, for example, when gay "marriage" was unthinkable in this society, the Ball Bearings were huddled snugly and comfortably on the side of authentic, heterosexual marriage. Believing that man + woman = marriage was clearly "approved thought" -- heck, it was axiomatic -- and there was no price to pay, socially or otherwise, for holding that universal belief.

But watch the tray as public opinion changes. First slowly, and then more quickly, the tray begins to tip towards acceptance of gay "marriage". Sure enough, the Ball Bearings start rolling down until they've landed on the other side and are now wedged firmly in the camp that they had previously, and quite recently, disavowed.

Oh, sure, there are some hold-outs among the Ball Bearings, but by the act of holding out, they have joined the minority that I call the True Believers. True Believers (and they come in all stripes and hold all spectrum of opinions, from devout Catholic to radical secularist) do not change their principles based on the winds of change in the culture. They don't follow polls or trends, and they are willing to pay any social or legal price for holding firm to their beliefs.

Right now, it is tempting for those of us who are True Believers in Christ and His Church to wail and lament the tipping tray that is the post-Christian western world.

"Oh, those wonderful societies of old when everyone was Catholic!" we cry. "When the Cathedral was the heart of the town, when there was a Catholic culture and religious processions, when folks never missed mass and knew that the goal was sanctity.... Oh, those were the days of courage and strength!"

But maybe when an entire society is Catholic it's not because of courage and strength, but rather because the tray was tipped in our direction. Maybe -- no certainly! -- the Ball Bearings of those societies did back then what they do now, namely, they went with what was popular and expected and acceptable. There is nothing courageous about going with the flow, even when the flow is fully Catholic. The Ball Bearings in the "golden days" were going to mass and processing and practicing sexual restraint precisely because that's what everyone else was doing. There was a price to pay for doing otherwise, and Ball Bearings never want to (or cannot cope with) paying the price.

The marker for courage in those Catholic cultures would come (as it always does) when the spirit of the age turned from being Catholic to, let's say, Protestant, or Muslim, or secular. At that point, as we see the cultural axis tilt away from the previous Catholic norm, as soon as it becomes uncomfortable or even dangerous to hold the Catholic Faith, we see the Ball Bearings sliiiiiiding down to the new cultural norms. We see the minority True Believers at the top of the tilt, clinging to the Faith. Those are the courageous ones, the ones who won't let themselves take that wide and easy path of least resistance, even as the Ball Bearings roll past all around them.

[And in defense of the Ball Bearings, it's not always true that they roll because they have no convictions. Some of them have convictions, but they do not have the courage of their convictions when the price of stating or living those convictions gets too high.]

Even though (or perhaps because) the Ball Bearings go in whichever direction is safest and easiest, there is a benefit to having a robust Catholic or Judeo-Christian culture. In fact, having such a culture is ideal, as there will be greater human flourishing in such a society. The Ball Bearings themselves benefit greatly when a society is strong in virtue and love of God. As a former Ball Bearing myself, I can assure you that had I been a teen in the 1950s, I would have gone with the expected morals of the day, and I would have spared myself many of the heartaches and sins I took on as a teenager in the '80s M-TV generation. The Ball Bearings end up rolling with the crowd, and when the crowd is pushing virtue, that's a benefit for all; when the crowd isn't pushing virtue, that's a detriment for all.

All this to say that if you find yourself panicked or despairing at America's swift decline into chaos, wondering when we entered the Twilight Zone, relax and remember that this is nothing new. Remember that it's fallen human nature for people to go with the spirit of the age, because being on the "right side of history" is infinitely easier than being on the right side of Truth. Remember that going along with groupthink is how folks protect their livelihoods, their homes, their families, their reputations, their lives. We can understand why it happens, and we can even sympathize and have pity on those who roll into error.

After all, no one wants to go against the popular opinions of the day (including me!). No one wants to give up his own security, be targeted, mocked, ostracized, or persecuted, but we may be called to do so. Heck, Christians are called to be prepared to give up our very lives for Christ and His Truth, so surely we are also called to give up our security and reputations if need be. But it is hard, at least in the early stages of our Christian path to holiness, to give up our comfort and walk in His ways, not the world's ways.

While it's been comfortable to live in an America based on Judeo-Christian values, True Believers should recognize that comfort is not our mission. Truth is our mission. Love is our Mission. Sanctity is our mission. Heaven is our goal. And any comfort we feel (or felt) in a society here on earth can only last until the next "tide of history" or "enlightened ideology" tips the tray and the Ball Bearings slide right down the slope to join it.

Don't be a Ball Bearing. Be the one who helps the Ball Bearings become True Believers.





"In the world you will have troubles, but take courage;
I have overcome the world."  John 16:33











Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Little Shares: Including the book excerpt that blew me away, and a special prayer request



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This just blew me away. It's from the book, Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching, by Anthony Esolen. He is speaking in a subsection called "No Family, No Society" when he says, "When a man and a woman give their bodies to one another, their very nakedness testifies that it is a total gift." He claims that it's of no use to deny this inherent meaning of the bodily relation:



BOOM! Can you imagine if we understood this still, and if we taught this to our children? We might just begin to heal our society.

For those of you interested in Catholic social teaching, this book is a must-have.


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It is always pure joy to spend time with this lovely woman! Jen Fulwiler was in town for a conference, and Dean and I met her and Joe for drinks tonight. We could have talked for hours; there's never enough time to pick her formidable brain. If any of you have not read her book, Something Other Than God, you simply must! Her journey from atheism to Catholicism is the stuff of legends now.



(Yes, I'm name-dropping. Wouldn't you??)


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A couple of Sundays ago, my pastor at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, the amazing and faithful Fr. Don Kline, wrote something in the bulletin about IVF that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Here is an excerpt (emphasis mine):

In-vitro fertilization makes the child a commodity produced in a laboratory and makes doctors, technicians and even business people part of the conception process (and therefore formal and material cooperators with evil). The sperm used is usually obtained by masturbation, which is an immoral and gravely sinful act. The sperm or eggs used might not come from the couple desiring the child (as one of the spouses may be infertile), so it may be necessary to use the sperm or eggs from an third party. Most of the embryos conceived—which the Church holds should be respected as new human lives—die; are frozen indefinitely for later implantation; are used (and destroyed) in research or are callously discarded as if they were waste. Today, there are 600,000 frozen embryos in the United States alone, many of them abandoned. This is a shocking moral dilemma. 
In speaking with a brother priest, we have both experienced that same response from couples. Whenever I have written about IVF, inevitably a couple comes to me with a picture of their in-vitro conceived children and make the assumption that since their conception was immoral, that I believe those children shouldn’t exist — this is not the case. All humans, no matter the manner of their conception, are beloved children of the Father. They are made in God’s image and likeness and the Church defends and respects all human life. What I am most concerned about are the moral implications that are being ignored, particularly that issue of human beings treated as a commodity or a right and not as a gift from God. In our history, we should realize that the demeaning of the human person is a serious violation of God’s command to love.

Children are not responsible for the ways they are conceived. There are wonderful, holy, talented, kind, good people who were conceived in rape, or in incest, or out-of-wedlock, or by artificial means and commodification of human gametes, etc. They are as worthy and have as much dignity as every other human being on the planet.

Unlike many today, the Church firmly believes that every person on earth should exist, and Catholics shout this often, from the rooftops! But the Church also rightly acknowledges that not every means of conception is moral and good. 

I hope that goes without saying, but I guess I am wrong to assume it.

By the way, happy 20th anniversary of your ordination, Fr. Kline!! I knew you when you were just a new priest (and I was a newly returning Catholic!). God bless you always.


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She totally nails it! From the wonderful Nicole DeMille, from her Facebook page:

I participated briefly in a discussion tonight and it helped me see a great burgeoning problem of our time. Feelings and unresearched opinions trump empirically observable reality. Science, natural law, history, sociology, statistics, demographics, the great religious and philosophical thinkers of the last 2000 years -- and even before that -- it's all meaningless compared to what someone feels/opines based on personal feelings, familial experiences, and friendships. We are in deep trouble if this passes for the meat of reasoned dialogue, and if this is how the "good" and "right" is being determined.

This is why we are headed for a big cultural downfall, and fast. But part of me just thinks, "Bring it on." I had a friend who used to say that the line in the sand is getting clearer, and at some point, we will have to pick a side. I thank God for that kind of clarity. Those who are weary and beaten down by the shifting sands of relativism, by "feelings" disconnected from any objective truth, and by the chaos of it all, will find sure footing, grace, and so much peace on the Rock. Where the modern soul is so ridden with anxieties, the soul united with Christ finds supernatural peace.

Hey, do you remember this prediction from Papa Benedict, before he was Papa?? It's sure looking prophetic!



“The Church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning.


She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes ... she will lose many of her social privileges…. As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members….

It will be hard-going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek…. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution — when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain…. But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.


And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.”


-- Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), from his book Faith and the Future



(And speaking of Nicole, be sure to check out her latest blog post, "Wounds", especially if you are grieving or overwhelmed with suffering.)




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Oh, if I had a nickel for every time someone told me that heterosexual marriage is simply a "Catholic belief" that cannot be "imposed" on the world! 

From Ryan T Anderson, PhD, defender of marriage extraordinaire, writing Sunday on Facebook (emphasis mine):


Since it's Sunday, I figured I'd share this report back from a Vatican conference just before Thanksgiving. The Vatican conference brought together speakers from more or less every faith tradition on earth: Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Taoist. The speakers hailed from 23 different countries, representing all the continents inhabited by man. Although the speakers came from many different faiths, they all shared a common view: that men and women are created for each other. While the world's religions disagree about so much, they bear common witness to this common truth. I explore what this means in my new book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1621574512/




Many Faiths, Common View on Marriage: 
Men and Women Are Created for Each Other

I urge you to read what the representatives of different faiths had to say about marriage. 

Sure, conjugal marriage is "catholic" -- in the literal sense of the word, which means "universal". 



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Take two minutes to watch this dynamic video from Culture of Life Africa! The vibrant pictures of a beautiful pro-life, pro-family culture are worth a look! I love the African people. And I love our friend Uju and all she does for the cause of life in Africa. She is one of the most powerful (and holy) women I know.





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Books, books, more books! 





Well, back then only the Joyful Mysteries edition was published. Now, the Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous Mysteries are now available!



Seriously, these books are ingenious, especially for children, or for any of us who have trouble focusing during the Rosary.


In case you haven't heard, some fantastic young Catholic evangelists and authors are producing gems for the rest of us who are ready to bring Christ to the world.

For example, teachers and parents will love 99 Ways to Teach Like the Master, by T.J. Burdock. It's as simple as it sounds: Each of the 99 ways begins with a Scripture verse and follows with a brief reflection and application to teaching the students and children in our care. 





And the indefatigable Shaun McAfee has written Filling Our Father's House: What Converts Can Teach Us About Evangelization. As a passionate convert himself, Shaun knows of what he speaks. 

Why do we need to evangelize? How do we present our own personal testimony? Reading Scripture, deepening our personal relationship with Jesus, getting involved in our parishes, and working for Christian unity... all of these topics are covered in this practical and easy-to-read book. 





So much great stuff coming from the Church laity -- especially the young and the converts -- that it's hard to keep up. And so heartening!


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I have a special prayer request if you don't mind. My dad is undergoing open heart surgery on Monday, and he and my whole family would deeply appreciate your prayers. Heart surgery is routine, of course, but then again it's never really routine when it's happening to you or a loved one. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart! I will let you know how it goes. 


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Finally, let's work and pray to find little Abner, just five years old, a family. Here is what a visitor said about Abner last December:

“Abner is a happy little boy who does not speak but whose facial expressions are easy to read. Those expressions are generally of joy, especially when he is given love and attention. Occasionally I would see a different expression, one that would break my heart. At 5 years old Abner is spending a lot of time in a wheelchair, unable to participate in playing with the kids around him, and the look of “I want to play too!” on his face broke my heart. When he had the opportunity to participate in playtime he always looked very happy and proud of himself. This sweet little boy needs a family who will be able to help him to reach his full potential!”




He had been in a baby house until recently, and now he lives in an adult institution. Little ones do not fare well there. Let's get him out before it's too late for him. Please click here for more information. 


And thank you to the amazing Bubble readers who read about our very own Kara going to adopt "Truman" from overseas and helped with generous donations. She's recently gone to the orphanage to meet him, and she is about to take her second trip for court proceedings and then finally bring "Truman" home! I cannot wait to meet him, and I know Kara is so grateful for all your prayers, love, and support!





Have a beautiful week everyone!! 







Monday, June 1, 2015

Little Teachings: Development of Doctrine made easy, plus a word on theologians







As we've discussed often, the Deposit of Faith (the Truth about faith and morals) does not change. Jesus entrusted the Deposit of Faith to His Apostles, and that Truth has been handed down, intact, for over 2,000 years. The Church is not static, however. She is a living thing, a supernatural reality that grows and deepens in richness and understanding over the centuries.

This deeper and richer understanding of the Truth is called "development of doctrine". Development of doctrine is not, as some critics of the Church claim, a fancy way of disguising a reversal or change or contradiction of teachings. Quite the opposite; Church teaching does not change. However, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church is able to unpack the beauty of Church teaching as we go along through salvation history.

Here's an easy analogy:
Imagine you are in a room with the lights down low. The room is filled with furniture, objects, colors. In the dimly lit room, you can make out the outlines, the general shapes and placement of things, and some muted colors.
Now imagine that someone turns the dimmer on the light switch up, gradually. Slowly, over time, you start to see the details you had not been able to see before, you see the colors start to come alive. As the light continues to be turned up, you see even finer details, and more vibrant colors bursting forth.
The room and the objects have not changed nor reversed themselves. Nothing has moved or been inverted, nothing has been added to the room, and nothing has been removed. But you can see everything more clearly, with more detail, color, richness, depth. Our understanding and appreciation of the room is more profound than before, and we see the beauty and reality of it in ways we hadn't when the light was more dim.

This is development of doctrine!


Now a word about theologians, who are very important in the life of the Church.

There is a widely-held misconception that the job of a theologian is to come up with theological truths. But, this is a complete misunderstanding of the theologian's role!

The only legitimate arbiter of the Truth, the only divinely-authorized keeper and protector of the Deposit of Faith, is the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, not the Church's theologians. The Magisterium of the Church is the teaching authority of the Church, comprised of the body of bishops in union with the pope.

We go to the Apostolic Church to know what is doctrinally true.

So what, then, is the role of Catholic theologians?

Well, going back to the room analogy, their job is to turn up the lights. They illuminate the details in the room so that we can explore the treasures all around us and see the colors more deeply. Theologians help plumb the depths and uncover the riches of the Deposit of Faith that was given by Christ to His Church.

Once a Catholic theologian puts himself and his work in opposition to the Deposit of Faith, he has overstepped the bounds of his profession. He has wandered into error and forgotten his role and sacred responsibility. He has left the room, so to speak.

So, a Catholic theologian does not determine or decide what is Christian teaching, but rather he helps the faithful understand Christian teaching more deeply and profoundly, reflecting and addressing the specific circumstances and challenges of every era.

The distinction is crucial, and if you should come across a Catholic theologian who disagrees with Church teaching, that's a red flag. He is not grounded in Truth, so his work is built on a foundation of sand.

The authentic Catholic theologian is one who begins with faithful obedience to the teachings of the Magisterium and goes from there. This is a theologian with integrity, who will bring about authentic development of doctrine. This is a theologian who helps to fulfill Christ's promise to lead us into all Truth, in every age.












Thursday, May 28, 2015

Why do we treat homosexual sins differently than other sins?


A mere five to ten years ago, the following was considered a tolerant and acceptable stance: Openly supporting and promoting natural marriage, while also being kind and loving towards our homosexual brothers and sisters. Today, that same stance is considered "bigoted hate", and its purveyors must be silenced, shamed, and ruined. To hold such a stance (publicly) is now unacceptable. The haters include the Catholic Church and all faithful Christians who speak up against gay "marriage".

The reaction to the simple and clear teaching on homosexuality is so visceral, so violent, so dark, that even otherwise outspoken and proud Catholics are gun shy on this particular issue, telling me that they are afraid to say anything, nervous to be labeled as evil and heartless, preferring to stay silent. This bullying is occurring in the whole western world at the moment, and it's so awful that even some gay people have (mostly quietly, for their own protection) decried what they see happening.

The Church is pretty much the only voice in the world that is not afraid to speak up against this sin (as she has done with other popular sins in the past), standing clearly for what is True. When the Pope and other Church leaders are bold, the rest of the flock finds the courage to speak as well.

But here's something that I don't understand, and it's perplexed me for years. For some reason, many faithful Catholics treat the sin of homosexual acts and gay "marriage" differently than any other sin, sexual or otherwise.

No faithful Catholic is afraid to say boldly that lying, cheating, stealing, blasphemy, greed, adultery, abuse, fornication, abortion, surrogacy, human cloning, contraception/sterilization -- all are grave sins. All have serious spiritual consequences, and we cringe and hurt to see our loved ones committing any of those sins. We hate those sins! We love the people, but we would never hesitate to speak or write on the wrongness and even the evil of those sins, many of which we have ourselves repented of.

But for some reason, active homosexuality sort of gets a pass, and we're told not to be so hung up on the gay "marriage" issue. I've even been told (more than once) that we should not be voting against gay "marriage" or engaging this issue in the public square, because to do so would make Catholics look "mean" and it will make people dislike us! There is a certain sympathy about this particular sin, and a reluctance to condemn it forcefully, that I don't see in any other area.

After the tragic vote in Ireland ushering in genderless marriage, I was heartened to hear the clarion statement given by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, calling it "a defeat for humanity". There is no question where the Church stands, and firmly. Yet, while I rejoice in the Cardinal's courage, other Catholics believe that statements like this are unhelpful at best, cruel and harmful at worst. They have great concern that such blunt and sweeping statements will not be received well by the LGBT community, that those souls will turn away from the Church, and that evangelization efforts will be hampered.

Here's what doesn't make sense to me about that. Let's say that a once-Catholic nation had been the very first in the world to pass a referendum in which the populace overwhelmingly and joyfully approved abortion. Or adultery. Or euthanasia. Or fill-in-the-blank sin.

Would a forceful Vatican statement against any of those sins be met with disappointment or frustration by the faithful? Would any of my Catholic friends be saying, "We really should not speak that way about [lying, cheating, stealing, blasphemy, greed, adultery, abuse, fornication, abortion, surrogacy, human cloning, contraception/sterilization] because we will offend and alienate [women, doctors, young people, corporate heads, pagans, adulterers, surrogates, etc.]."  Probably not, and yet those groups of people might feel excluded or marginalized or unloved, too. (I'm not being sarcastic, I really mean that.) So, is it that we think of active homosexuality as somehow different from other sins? Or even worse -- is there a sort of soft bigotry going on, where we don't think gay people are capable of hearing and handling the Truth as well as everyone else can?

I've been told that we need to love people, not "condemn" people or make them feel "unwelcome" by speaking Truth out loud and unvarnished. Yet, this is a false dichotomy! We don't choose between Love and Truth. We choose both Love and Truth. In his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis goes over this, time and again.

There is a micro way to talk about things and a macro way. In the micro, we speak personally to individuals, we get to know them for their own sake, we laugh with them, break bread with them, love them. When sensitive questions arise or questions are asked, we speak the Truth. We are gentle and kind and respectful to all, and if we are not, then woe to us! It will not go well with us as we stand at our Judgement.

But in the macro, the Church as Teacher needs to be unambiguous and clear (and we laity have every right and obligation to repeat that Truth). The moral law is a beacon. It is True for everyone, and when the moral law is transgressed by entire nations, then yes, it is a blow not just to the Church, but to all of humanity. We say this clearly. We don't mince words. We speak the Truth in season and out. Who else will? Who else has been charged by Christ to do so? When we watch a traditionally Catholic nation embrace grave sin with shouts of celebration, we should be heartened, not concerned, to hear our Church speak with a clarion call, denouncing the evil we see.

In the macro, there are millions who do not understand that the Church will never change her teaching on homosexual sin. Most people assume change is coming just around the corner and so settle comfortably in their sin, even feeling "a step ahead" of the lagging Church. In the west, the comfort level for this sin is growing, and more people, not fewer, are becoming lost. If it were any other grave sin, every faithful Catholic would be fighting hard against it, and vocally.

One more thought, and it's personal. For every sinner that is "turned off" or stung by the Church pronouncing unambiguous Truth, there are others, like I was, who desperately need to hear it.

When I was in high school and in the midst of grave sin, I turned to the girl I saw as the most serious and devout of my Catholic friends. I asked her what I should do, whether I should continue on as I had been, down this sinful path (but one I was happy to be on). I will never forget her response. I even remember where I was standing. She placed her hand gently on my forearm, gave me a loving smile, looked me straight in the eye and said: "Leila, I just want you to be happy. You do what makes you happy."

At that moment, I decided to stop worrying about my sin.

She soothed and affirmed me when what I needed to hear was, "Leila, what the hell are you thinking?? You snap out of it right now, turn to God and stay on the straight path! I love you, and I am here to help you!"

I needed her to be the Church for me, not the world. Sure, I felt "loved" in that moment, and that comforting feeling led me to turn from the Truth, for at least a decade.

There are many millions like me out there, who need to hear the Truth clearly, who need to be held accountable to that Truth in order to change. Let's not forget about them and their spiritual needs.

Praise God for the Truth-tellers, and the ones who are not afraid to face the consequences of doing so.

I love being Catholic.

And I'm sorry for rambling and redundancy. It's very late here (early), and I'm just going to hit "publish".

Good-night!


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Related: This thoughtful atheist gets it! Check it out:






Sunday, May 24, 2015

Little Shares: Housekeeping items (and braggy mom!)

Lots of miscellaneous stuff! Housekeeping in my brain commences here....





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Can a proud mama brag for a moment?

Our eldest son Eric (number two in our lineup) just graduated from college! I have no picture to share in cap and gown, because he opted to skip the ceremony and come home early (he's not much for drawing attention to himself), but he graduated from the University of Arizona with honors, with a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Basically, that's his pre-med degree, and now he's off to medical school! He will be attending Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine in North Carolina, speciality to be determined later. We are so proud of you, Eric!

And, oh by the way, he's single. And looking. He's a faithful Catholic, and would love to marry and have a big family! I know that Belmont Abbey is just about three hours from his medical school, and it's full of wonderful Catholic women, so if any of you know someone....  ;)

Hopefully he won't be too upset that I wrote that last part. But I don't think he reads my blog too often, ha!

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On the subject of Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, some people are confused about DOs, so here's a short primer: a DO trains in the same course of study as MDs, is eligible for the same residencies, and  has the same ability to become a surgeon or any specialty. However, because of the more holistic philosophy of osteopathic medicine, most DOs tend to become primary care doctors, i.e., family physicians, internists, obstetricians, or pediatricians.

I suspect that people tend to confuse DOs with naturopaths (who do not have medical degrees and are not doctors). My father and uncle are MDs, so I didn't know much about DOs until recently, and it's been interesting to learn. My own family physician is a DO, as is my NaPro doctor and several of the partners in my OB/gyn's office and our pediatrician's office. And that's my PSA for today!


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I am more and more drawn to the truth that the crosses in our own lives are our path to sanctity, the ladder to the Father. The personal cross is something inescapable, and yes, when approached with surrender and acceptance, it is beautiful and transcendent. And it is surely a sign of contradiction in a world that seeks comfort and pleasure above all.

Ann Coakley, as many of you know, lost her husband Paul to a fast moving cancer this year. Ann is raising their four small children (including a son born after Paul's death), and has been a source of wisdom and inspiration for thousands, including me. She wrote something today on her Facebook page that needs to be shared. Today would have been their seventh anniversary:

7 years ago today I walked up the aisle of St. Peter's. My eyes were locked on Paul who had tears escaping his own eyes. It was the most beautiful and perfect day of my life. In Paul I recognized the love God has for me, his lowly daughter whom He loves beyond measure. Paul loved me in such a way that was as close to a perfect love as you can experience in this life. It was a fore taste of heaven. A heaven that my saintly husband is now experiencing because he understood love & sacrifice better than anyone I've ever known. Our vows are complete. We loved each other through everything this life threw at us and we held onto each other up until the end. God gave me a miracle in the reassurance that Paul was going to Him when Paul lifted off his bed, raised his arms and went to the One who loves him more perfectly than I could. One day my beloved will be waiting for me to close my eyes and wake up in the true reality that we had helped each other attain during this life. I joyfully await that day. Until it comes I will make both God and Paul proud of me by focusing on our babies and living this life the way Paul lived his life. Happy anniversary, sweetheart. I love you and miss you. Please keep helping me on this path to heaven.

She then linked to the following page on her blog, from 2009, "Catholic Symbolism in our Marriage", and she mentioned elsewhere that this is her favorite image from her wedding day. Note that Paul is washing her feet (as the Lord washed the feet of His Apostles), as a sign of his tender love and eternal service to his bride:

Paul and Ann Coakley


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Just for fun, here are two of my very, very, very, very (did I say "very"?) favorite blog posts of all time, from Bad Catholic. I know it's a good blog post when it doesn't leave me, and when I keep returning to it, after years have passed. I think you guys will enjoy them, either again or for the first time:






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Okay, this made me so sad! Look at how the activist author of this blog describes herself:

She regularly annoys her 6-year old son ... by grounding him whenever he attempts to rescue a princess.

My heart breaks! The beautiful, unique, God-given instinct of a boy or man to be protector, provider, hero, is disparaged and punished! The attempt at some kind of social consciousness here may be well-meaning, but this mother's sentiment is terribly misguided. Every boy, every man, wants to be a hero. The masculine heart is made for such things. In this culture, the part of boys and men that we should want to nurture more than anything is their desire to willingly sacrifice themselves for others, especially women and children who are in danger. If we dampen or (shockingly!) punish this instinct in men and boys, then we kill that part of them that gives them purpose and mission.

Oh, I cannot tell you how eagerly I await Bishop Olmsted's Apostolic Exhortation to the men in our diocese, on the masculine nature. We desperately need it! Our boys are floundering, and punishing them for desiring to "rescue the princess" is a blow to their nature and mission, a crushing of the masculine heart and soul.



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* CUTENESS OVERLOAD WARNING * CUTENESS OVERLOAD WARNING *

A few weeks ago, my daughters and grandbabies came to visit!!! Their trips home overlapped by two days, so the cousins got to meet!




Felicity will be ONE next month!!



David is two months old today!!


I hope you all survived the cuteness overload. I believe I warned you.


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If you are seeing this or any post in script, it's not me, I promise! It's your computer or your browser. Rest assured, I would never make you wade through all these posts in script!


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Have a most blessed Memorial Day, and as a reminder (because I never used to make the distinction), here is the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day:

Memorial Day (Monday) commemorates those who lost their lives serving our nation. Veterans Day (always November 11) is for celebrating all of our veterans. So, this weekend specifically honors those servicemen/women who were killed in the line of duty.

May God rest their souls and reward their sacrifices, and may He comfort their family and friends. 















Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My burning question about gender issues



Here's what I don't understand.

I have talked to and debated countless people who assure us that there are no real differences (outside of incidental genitals) between men and women. No difference in essence at all.

They have told us that it absolutely does not matter if a child has a father or not, or whether a child has a mother, because mothers and fathers are completely interchangeable. Mothers and fathers can perform the same functions, we are told. They can cook dinner and make a nice home and they can "love". Gender is meaningless.

They tell us that gender is fluid (unlike one's sex, which is the incidental genitals that I mentioned above), and that any perceived differences are social constructs. To think otherwise, they say, is narrow, bigoted, foolish, archaic.

And yet the same people -- the same people -- tell us that gender differences are so real, so important, so crucial, that people who merely think they are a different gender have a right to surgically mutilate their genitals to get their incidental physical bodies to conform to what they feel in their minds, what they feel is their essence. That to surgically alter their bodies is, quite literally, a matter of life and death, so much so that even prisoners have the right to have taxpayers pay for their gender reassignment surgeries, and small children who are conflicted about their gender vs. genitals need to be put on hormone treatments without delay.

So, which is it? Is one's gender a matter of such essence and import that it means life or death, or is it something so insignificant that mother and father, bride and groom, woman and man are indifferent, meaningless designations that must be ignored or done away with?

Please, I'm sincerely asking: Which is it? And if it can be both, then how?