Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm back...sort of

I know my thousands and thousands of readers are probably irate that I have not posted in such a long time, but I have returned! At least temporarily. I unfortunately do not have convenient access to the internet and when I do I am pretty busy. Here is a post to hold you over though until I can post again.

Here is a sign (or assurance) of God's goodness. When I first came to Georgia, I was told that the Georgia State Parks could provide housing but I was told that the house was completely empty - no furniture, dishes, nothin! Thankfully I knew my sister would be nearby and I really felt that this was the place that I needed to be to set myself up for finding a job. So here I am in Georgia and expecting the bare minimum - imagine my surprise when I find out that my house has not one, but two beds, three couches, a large chair, and a big screen TV!! And the kitchen even had dishes and some pots and pans. It may not seem like much but if you consider what I was expecting it's a lot. Needless to say, I was elated. I felt that there was where God was calling me and I trusted in Him and I believe that I have been rewarded.

A little info on what I'm actually doing here in Georgia. For 4 days I am able to stay with my sister and her family which is unbelievable and such a blessing. I love being around them and the children and getting some good "parenting practice"! The other 3 days I stay at Red Top Mountain State Park and any give day work at one of 4 parks/sites. Red Top is in charge of running three surrounding sites - 2 Civil War battlefields and an Indian Mound site. What I'm actually doing is considered "historic site management" but is even broader than that. The guy who I'm interning for is an interpretive ranger/resource manager who sets up programs for groups at all the sites. We do things like "junior ranger" programs, nature programs, colonial period programs, etc... I'm able to help him setting up and leading these programs. Right now I spend most of my time at the Indian Mounds leading tours for school groups. At one of the battlefields I actually got to take part in a reenactment and fire a cannon! It was pretty awesome. So that's kind of what I'm doing in a nutshell.

For my birthday Amy bought me an excellent book called The Quiet Light about St. Thomas Aquinas. The book is a historical novel not so much about St. Thomas but about the time period and features St. Thomas. It's an excellent way to learn about the time period - what was going on politically and religiously - and obviously about St. Thomas. Definitely a "once you start reading you won't want to put it down" book.

Another book that I've only started to read but which I love already is Fulton Sheen's Three to Get Married. I think it would be a great book to read in conjunction with Theology of the Body.

Hopefully this post finds you all well and in good health. God bless!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Moving to Georgia

I just found out officially that I will soon be leaving for an internship in Georgia. I don't know exactly when but probably very soon. This opportunity is such a blessing for myself and Amy - it's one step closer to stability. The other great thing about it is that I will be less than an hour away from my sister Jacquie who lives in Georgia! I can't wait to be able to see her family on a regular basis.

Of course this opportunity also present new challenges for myself and Amy and so I am asking for your prayers as I step out into the unknown. The added distance means that Amy and I won't be able to see each other as often as we do, which wasn't very often to begin with. But like all such occasions, this too is an opportunity to grow in faith - to really trust the Lord.

As for the continuation of this blog, well that is yet to be decided by circumstances outside my control. The fact of the matter is that I just don't know enough about being down there to say one way or another whether I'll be able to continue posting. I hope I can and I'll try my best, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Thanks for the prayers and God bless!

In Adoration

And Adoration-inspired poem:

There's a reality here before me
in this most Blessed Sacrament
The Host is not just bread alone
but God's own Holy Flesh
Why can my eyes not see His face
no matter how I stare?
Is it with mind, or heart, or soul
that I should see Him there?
We say He hides within the bread
but I don't think it's true
It's not that He is hidden well
it's just our point of view.
For does He not want all of us
to look upon His face?
He calls to us and reaches out
to draw us to this place
But it is us who will not come
nor kneel upon the ground
And so we search the world for love
yet He remains unfound
If we knew or even thought
that God was really there
I think we'd go to any length
to find out when and where.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pope Benedict's October Prayer Intentions

We often pray for the Pope's intentions but rarely know exactly what they are.

VATICAN CITY, 30 SEP 2009 (VIS) - Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for October is: "That Sunday may be lived as the day on which Christians gather to celebrate the risen Lord, participating in the Eucharist".

His mission intention is: "That the entire People of God, to whom Christ entrusted the mandate to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, may eagerly assume their own missionary responsibility and consider it the highest service they can offer humanity".

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A little more on Medj

Catholic Culture has a good summary article about Bishop Ratko Peric's reiteration of how the "messages" and "apparitions" at Medj are to be treated. The summary also contains two links for further information.

It is interesting to note that Bishop Peric "has emphasized that the alleged apparitions and messages of Medjugorje are not to be treated as 'worthy of faith' and that he "has imposed a series of restrictions on activities in Medjugorje, clearly designed to discourage interest in the supposed apparitions."


Last weekend I had the immense joy of being able to go to Ohio to see my girlfriend for a few days. For the ride there and back and I took a bunch of Catholic CDs - Scott Hahn, Christopher West, John Martignoni, and one I was unfamiliar with about the Pope and the Papacy. I was really excited about the Pope and Papacy one and so I saved it for the ride home. Much to my dismay, not only was it NOT a Catholic CD, it was very much an ANTI-Catholic CD. I don't know who the speaker was but he began the CD by blasting the "heretical" Catholic Church for everything she does wrong - and I might add that everything he said was unfounded, uneducated, and almost laughable. Among other things, he was railing against the Church's invention of Purgatory.

The speaker believed that purgatory is the only thing that makes Catholicism work because without it "it's a hard sell." The fact that, as far as our faith goes, Catholics are never assured of their salvation was too much for him and he believes that only the idea that we might not go straight to hell keeps people from leaving the Church. For beginners, the idea of "maybe not going to hell right away" isn't what keeps me in the Church. I'm Catholic because of the chance that I might go to Heaven! That is enough for me.

Outside of scriptural references to a post-death / pre-Heaven state, Purgatory just makes sense. First off, if we assume we our saved, or are assured that we are saved once and for all, why should we continue to be good people, let alone good Christians? In what world would it make sense that we could go on sinning without fear of punishment because we "knew" we were saved? In all of history there was only one person who was assured his salvation - the good thief. Did Jesus not say him: "Amen, I say to you, this day you shall be with me in Paradise." But just as we are not assured of salvation, neither are we "assured" of damnation. If Hitler, in his final moments, had truly repented of his sins and asked forgiveness, would God not have been overjoyed at the return of the prodigal son? Yet I believe Hitler would have not been ready for eternal joy in Heaven.

And so we get to Purgatory.

Purgatory is where we are purified and perfected. If we believe our God is a just God, does this not seem fitting? I see Purgatory as an extension of His Divine Mercy and Justice. No one but God can know the state of someone's soul and so who are we to judge others based on their actions or what we think we know of them. GOD IS MERCIFUL! I remember always thinking that those who committed suicide went to hell, and maybe that is the case, but only God knows what went through their minds at the last second. Only God knows their struggles and miseries and do you not think that He would take that into account?

As for Catholicism being a "hard sell" without Purgatory, well, to be honest, it's a hard sell with it! Our faith is not easy and no one ever said it would or should be. Catholicism is not for the faint of heart - it requires self-sacrifice, suffering, humility, and service to others. It is a difficult, life-long quest for holiness and perfection in and through Jesus Christ. If this quest is not finished on earth then it will be finished in Purgatory. And if we persist, what is our reward? To behold the very face of God and to be counted among his saints in Heaven!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Now this is helpful. No, really.

One of the biggest contributors to the loss of Catholic identity is the media's coverage of "devout" Catholics who are anything but. The term devout is thrown around too much and more often than not confuses the heck out of Catholics and even non-Catholics. The problem is that by calling someone a "devout" anything, you label them as a sort of poster child. This wouldn't be a bad thing if the people the media tend to call devout were in fact just that. Alas, that is not the case and so we have the media labeling all sorts of people as "devout Catholics" when in truth they simply are not. Here is a good article from about journalism's use of the term devout. Below is a section of that article where the author listed feedback from "religion-beat veterans and observers".

There is no question that the term “devout” is used far too often and in a sloppy manner, said Richard Ostling, a religion-beat veteran best known for his work with Time and the Associated Press. This fact could be a comment on how little exposure many mainstream journalists have to religious life and practice.

“Perhaps, to someone with only secularist experiences and friends, any level of religious interest of any type might seem ‘devout,’ ” he said. But, in the end, “reporters can only observe outward behavior, not the inner soul. … There’s usually a connection between observance and personal faith, so generally it makes sense to assess personal belief by externals.”

Many of these common labels used to describe believers — terms such as “serious,” “practicing,” “committed” and, yes, “devout” — are completely subjective, agreed Debra Mason, director of the Religion Newswriters Association at the University of Missouri.

Different people define these words in different ways. With the “devout” label, there is even the implication that these believers may be fanatics.

When in doubt, reporters should simply drop the vague labels and use plain information, she said, echoing advice offered by Ostling and others.

“Since journalists do not have a direct line into the soul to discern a person’s faith, it is far better to use precise descriptions of a person’s religious practice and observance,” said Mason. For example, a reporter could note that, “Joe Smith attended Mass every day” or that “Jane Smith attended worship every week, even when ill.”

The goal is to use clear facts instead of foggy labels, an approach that Mason admitted may require journalists to add a line or two of context or background information. Non-Catholics, for example, may not understand the importance of a Catholic choosing to attend Mass every day.

However, she stressed, this extra work is “a small price to pay for more accurate and precise reporting.”

Now isn't that helpful?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Catholic Evangelicals? I don't think so

A little while ago I had the great opportunity to go to a discussion at Wheaton college between a Catholic, Francis Beckwith and and an Evangelical Baptist, Timothy George. The topic of the talk was basically what it means to be evangelical and whether or not it is possible for someone to be an "Evangelical Catholic." The reason this was the topic is because Francis Beckwith, who converted to Catholicism about three years ago, had been president of the Evangelical Theological Society. After converting Mr. Beckwith saw no need to drop the term "evangelical" and so considers himself an Evangelical Catholic - that is, a Catholic who is also evangelical.

The point of this post however isn't to summarize the talk but to elaborate on my reflections of it. To me the most interesting part of the talk was when Timothy George referred to himself as an Evangelical Catholic. His reasoning for this is that he believes the path he is on (i.e. being an Evangelical Baptist) enables him to be Catholic in the sense (as he perceives it) that the apostles were Catholic. This blew me away. What he was saying is that he doesn't have a problem with Catholicism, he has a problem with the Catholic Church. He believes in the faith of the apostles and he believes that faith is the true, pure Catholic faith and so he also believes that the established Church has distorted and complicated "original" Catholicism and become something separate.

As Mr. George himself said, the key then is the Primacy of Peter and Apostolic Succession. The barrier (or at least the main barrier) between him and the Catholic Church is that he does not believe that Jesus appointed Peter as the head of the Church and therefore as the first pope. My thoughts are a little scrambled here so I will do my best to write what I'm thinking. The connection I can't make is how he accepts the apostles' faith but refuses to acknowledge apostolic succession. Why does he apparently accept everything else but that? Something doesn't fit. Now I don't know specifically what Timothy George's arguments against Apostolic Succession and the primacy of Peter actually are, so I can't say much more. I'm sure he is familiar with the scriptural references which we Catholics believe clearly point to these two points and he, being an intelligent man, presumably has intelligent reasons for not accepting them.

Below is a passage from the Gospel of Matthew chapter 16 which clearly (to me at least) indicates the primacy of Peter. The writing in blue are notes from

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." [Peter is first among the apostles to confess the divinity of Christ] 17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. [Peter alone is told he has received divine knowledge by a special revelation from God the Father] 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church [Jesus builds the Church only on Peter, the rock, with the other apostles as the foundation and Jesus as the Head], and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [only Peter receives the keys, which represent authority over the Church and facilitate dynastic succession to his authority], and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Another part of the talk that threw me for a loop was during the Question and Answer section afterward. Someone asked him about sola scriptura and how he believes in it when it isn't mentioned anywhere in the bible. His answer was what to me had always been a refutation of precisely what he was defending! He said there are plenty of things not mentioned in the bible which we believe, such as the Trinity. Until now that had always been a reason against sola scriptura, not a reason for it! However, he did elaborate and give good reasoning. He said that when sola scriptura was "coined" it wasn't intended as just that, scripture alone. To the reformers of the time it really meant the primacy of scripture and the meaning has become somewhat lost through the ages. I accept that. Granted though, there are those who believe literally in sola scriptura. To them you should ask, well you believe in the Trinity don't you? And when they respond yes (as all Christians must) ask them to show you a reference to it in the bible.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nourishing Your Faith at College

This is a "guide" that myself and two good friends (my best friend and girl friend, to be exact) have compiled on how to nourish your faith while at college. The three of us attended Franciscan University so that is where most of our advice applies, but there is advice for those not attending a Catholic university.

There are so many wonderful opportunities at Franciscan and the key is to really take advantage of them while you're there. It's mentioned a few times below, but I want to state again what the biggest obstacle to nourishing your faith is - YOU. You must make the decision to grow. You must find time to do what it takes. You must be disciplined enough and have the will power to continue to pray daily, to go to Mass daily, and to always strive towards perfection in and through Christ. If you make the effort you will be greatly rewarded.

Specifically at Fransiscan:

- first and foremost we must all recognize our need for Christ. This isn't easy and it doesn't come quickly. Reflect on God's will for you and how He is working in your life. For me, spending the semester in Austria helped me in this more than anything else. Especially freshman year it is easy to get caught up in everything that's going on - it seems like there's always something to do. Be sure to spend time with Christ, to hear His voice, and feel His embrace. Pray for a desire to love Him more completely.

- pray without ceasing! This is an absolute must. You have to find time during your day to pray. Trust me, the time is there, you just have to make it a habit. I found that the best way to get into a habit of praying daily is to sign up for a holy hour.

- I am no expert on prayer but one of the things you will always hear people say or advise is to pray in a silent, holy place - if you can. Fortunately there are several such places on campus. Probably the most convenient being one of the chapel's found within each dorm. Each chapel has access to the Blessed Sacrament and is a great place to go and pray.

- Remember that prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue. We will never hear God speaking if we do all the talking. Sometimes the best prayer is one of silence, from the heart.

- If you're having trouble with how to pray find a "manual of prayer" to get you started. Read the lives of the saints during your prayer time or recite a Novena or Rosary. Find what works for you.

- this is one of the most powerful and beautiful things you can do. Developing a love for Christ in the Eucharist is of infinite worth. Sign up for this early in your college career. I waited until my last semester senior year and it is one of my biggest regrets. If you're a little intimidated by the whole thing just sign up for one hour a week. You can find a time that will be convenient for you but that isn't really the point either. Our faith shouldn't "happen" only when it's convenient for us. Make a sacrifice.

- go to Mass as often as you can. There are a few daily Masses on campus as well as off. Go to Mass both on and off campus to see which you prefer - they are very different. This is another one of my big regrets. I waited until my senior year to start going to daily Mass on a regular basis. You will be amazed at how wonderful it is. The biggest obstacle to overcome is your own will. Simply realize that any time you set aside for God will be rewarded. And with daily Mass it isn't going to be long, at most an hour. Again, make a sacrifice.

- Along with Mass, frequent the sacrament of confession on a fairly regular basis. Just because you are at Franciscan does not mean that you, or anyone else, will be free from sin and temptation. The difference is that at Franciscan there are always priests around willing to hear a confession. The more you frequent the sacraments the more grace you will receive and you will notice a difference in your life.Grace is life changing and life saving.

- one of the great blessings of going to Steubenville is the number of wonderful priests and religious who are always around. Even if you don't go to one specifically for spiritual direction, it will definitely be worth while to get to know them. If you are particularly attracted to one person, think about going to him/her for spiritual direction. This is especially important early on as they can really help with your spiritual formation during your time at college.

- regardless of your major, try and take at least a few theology courses. After all, it's kind of what Franciscan is known for. Learning about your faith is always a good thing and Franciscan has some of the best teachers.

- Do not be intimidated by how much others seems to know about our Faith and don't be ashamed by how little you may know. You must ask questions if you really want to learn. Asking questions takes courage and humility but you and everyone in the class will benefit from it.

- Amy, my girlfriend, specifically recommends Foundations of Catholicism with Sirilla.

- realize the importance of being in a Catholic community. You are all there to build each other up and draw each other closer to Christ. Some people may seem very "advanced" in their spiritual life but don't let that intimidate you. Remember to be humble and ask questions. If someone seems to you to have a great spiritual life, ask them what they do - always be learning and developing ways to grow closer to Christ. Everyone at Franciscan is at a different stage in their life, there is no right or wrong "level of holiness." What is important is that you are trying to grow.

- Community also means that you reach out to others who are struggling. You will be most Christ-like when you help those who may not be your first choice as friends, or even those people who you flat out dislike. Feeling alone is a terrible thing, and these people may be in your life so that you can help them. Remember the Golden Rule.

- Accountability is also an important aspect of community. Whether this be your roommate or just a good friend that you trust, find someone who will challenge you and be with you in your struggles. Whoever you choose, be sure to pray about it beforehand. You don't want to open yourself up to anyone, but to someone who can truly help you.

- Franciscan also has groups called households. These are not for all people but they may be for you. Check out different households to see if there are any you like, and pray about it! Members of households help each other to grow and be accountable to one another. Because the members are from different grades there is a variety of experience within each one.
- A great way to be part of the community is through the club and intramural sports. This an excellent way to meet new people and just have a lot of fun.

- between your textbooks, the great library, and the bookstore, there should be no shortage of books to read. The problem is in finding time to read them! Definitely, definitely, take advantage of the library! There are so many good books there and they often have great book sales. And of course, be sure to read your bible. The key to this is reading it with a guide or commentary. You will get so much more out of it and it will take on a new meaning in your life.

- make sure you get off campus everyone once in a while! Different groups sponsor all sorts of events in the surrounding area. Even if you just befriend someone who as a car - do it! As great as Franciscan is, sometimes you just need to get away.

- we truly must die to ourselves in order to live in Christ. Amy says it much better than I can:
We have to detach ourselves from the world and material goods to attach ourselves to Christ. You can't hold Christ's hand with your right while still holding onto an addiction with your left. It doesn't work that way. He expects all of you and nothing less. He expects total reckless abandonment given to Him every day. Without this, it's pretty much impossible to grow. You might be stretched a bit but you'll never be free. It's like the image of holding the Lord's hand with one hand but in the other hand is a rubber band that is tacked to the ground. The Lord is pulling you up to heaven, to Him, to experience eternal joy but tacked to the ground is that addiction that you can't let go of. You may have a hold on Christ and he may be stretching you a bit and you may be growing but you will never be free to be completely with Him since you are giving part of yourself to your attachments.

Not specifically at Franciscan
: [though as many of the above as possible should apply]

- if it isn't offered on your campus, search around and find a church where you can go as often as possible. The grace you receive through Mass and the Eucharist will strengthen you.

- Research the school's Newman Center in order to discover if this would really be an authentically Catholic resource center. Some schools have phenomenal Newman Centers, while many others can be spiritual wastelands.

- Associate yourself with genuinely good people. This does not mean that all your friends should only be Catholics. Rather, search for people who are authentically seeking to better themselves psychologically/morally/emotionally. You want to be with people who will help you foster real human development

- the more you grow and develop your faith, the more you will Witness to Christ and His Love. Especially in a place not specifically Catholic, or religious for that matter, this is so important. Lead others to Christ through your example. You don't have to be "holy" to do this, sometimes just the effort is enough to inspire others.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mother's Song

This is an AWESOME song by a girl who was in the same household, the Handmaids, as my girlfriend Amy. For those who don't know, households are Franciscan University's version of fraternities and sororities. The artist, Kelly Pease, is a Catholic musician with at least one album out. This is the only song of her's that I've heard. I know a lot of specifically Catholic music doesn't make it mainstream, but I really feel like this song could be huge. The Handmaids have adopted this song as their "household song" for obvious reasons, as you'll soon see. The lyrics are posted below the youtube video.

I will hold and I will love Him, until He's big enough to walk
And even then I''ll pick Him up, and I will teach Him how to talk
To say the words that will save, all the people of every nation
I will feed the flesh, that will bring about salvation.

And when He kisses me goodnight, I'll be living my reward
Be it done as you have said, I am the handmaid of the Lord.

I will walk these roads behind Him, and I will follow where He leads
I will beam at His good works, and I will love the mouths He feeds.
I'll be a mother to my Son, and a mother for the world
If You can set them free through Moses, then You can do it through this girl.
And when He brings the dead to life, I'll be living my reward
Be it done as you said, I am the handmaid of the Lord.

Lord is this what you've called me to, to watch Him lose His life?
I am bending, but will I break? How can I just stand by?
All of heaven be with me now. He's my only Son.
Help me pray that prayer with Him. Father, let your will be done.
And when He walks that lonely road, my heart will go with Him
And when He falls my spirit dies, and when He bleeds I hate this sin
And when He utters those last words, and when He finally hangs His head
I'll be planted in the ground, my whole life my soul is dead.
But I will stay here at this cross
Where He brought you your reward
Be it done as you have said I am the handmaid of the Lord
Be it done as you have said I am the handmaid of the Lord.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thanks Newt

The other day I happened to come across this article about Newt Gingrich's conversion to Catholicism. It really isn't that informative and seems to try quite hard to show what a lukewarm Catholic Mr. Gingrich is. Now I don't know much about Newt or his conversion or how fervent he is, but it irritates me how the author was just out to prove that "Newt is still Newt." To discredit his embrace of Catholicism by any means possible.

Anyways, the reason I'm really posting is because of a quote by Newt that I agree with 100%:
Gingrich describes the appeal of Catholicism for him in just these terms. "When you have 2,000 years of intellectual depth surrounding you," he told me on a recent summer morning, "it's comforting."
Comforting. Bingo. To think of the great minds that have contributed to our understanding of the faith is not only humbling, but immensely reassuring - to feel as if my back will never be up against a wall. This is why evangelization shouldn't worry us! Too often we focus only on the personal dialogue between us and the other person; we worry about what we're going to say, and what questions they're going to ask and we worry about how little we really know about the faith. If we just took a step back and realized that though we might not have all the answers, they are there! As I mentioned in a previous post, you may just have to politely disagree with someone and tell them that you'll get back to them with a definitive answer. There is a wealth of knowledge at our disposal. Sure it helps if that knowledge is within us but what is so comforting (at least what should be so comforting) is that we have Truth on our side. And we have 2,000 years of geniuses answering the same questions that people are still asking.

2,000 years and numerous remarkable intellects is a force to be reckoned with. Is it pride that keeps people from the Church? Pride that keeps them from accepting authority and having the answers almost given to them? To me it is borderline (if not flat out) arrogant to think that we truly know better than the Church. How can you argue with a history such as Her's? I understand personal doubts and skepticism, those are good if they lead us to find answers, and I also understand that many people are just plain ignorant, that is, they aren't really seeking truth and understanding. But to be an intelligent person, or a person who "understands" the faith, and still to think that you know better than the Church, well to me that's just ludicrous. Many will disagree with me (well they would if they read my blog) on this. I might not even blame them because I don't feel as if I'm expressing myself just the way I'd like, but I stand by my words.

[The following is in red because it was added after the initial posting]
Thankfully when I can't find the right words, C.S. Lewis has my back.
A few hours after I published the post, I was reading Mere Christianity and came upon this very relevant passage. In it, Lewis is talking about Christian Theology, but I think it holds true even more so for Catholic Theology.
...if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun that looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.
Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God-experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map.
This is what I was trying to say before. On our own, we only have our "single glimpses" but the Church as a whole is like a much more detailed map drawn from the "masses of experience." Only an arrogant person would shun a map in favor of using his glimpses when navigating the Atlantic. Thank God for C.S. Lewis.

The fact is, the Church is greater than you or me. If you're pride won't let you accept that, well you may just be missing out on eternal life.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Best of Benson

On the Catholic Church and Faith and Reason:

So, then, [the Church] goes forward to victory. "First use your reason," she cries to the world, "to see whether I be not Divine! Then, impelled by Reason and aided by Grace, rise to Faith. Then once more call up your Reason, to verify and understand those mysteries which you accept as true. And so, little by little, vistas of truth will open about you and doctrines glow with an undreamed-of light. So you come indeed to the unveiled vision of the Truth whose feet already you grasp in love and adoration; until you see, face to face in Heaven, Him Who is at once the Giver of Reason and the Author of Faith.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More on Medj

I am not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, on the alleged apparitions at Medjugorje or apparitions in general. I have not been to Medjugjore. However, I have researched Medj and that, combined with discussions I've had with other people have made me a skeptic of the alleged apparitions.

It should also be noted that skepticism is not a bad thing, though it may become sour if it turns into simple bull-headedness. Such as if I were to continue to reject Medj even if the Vatican were to declare it legit. I have said though that I will accept whatever the Church decides on the matter.

Because I am not an expert on this topic (and even if I were) it is not my intention to prove or disprove the alleged apparitions. I am merely stating the case for my skepticism. Though this post is mainly in response to a comment left by Timothy, in no way am I attacking his position. I simply intend to answer his protests to the best of my ability. I should also apologize beforehand for the length that I fear this post will go too.

Let us start with this passage from an an excellent (and unbiased) article on Medj which can be found here, from the EWTN website:

Catholics may go to Medjugorje. Such pilgrimages may even include priests acting as chaplains, as opposed to officially sponsoring them. Also, the Church has not suppressed discussion of Medjugorje, therefore, it is allowed. Common sense, however, says that Catholics on both sides of the Medjugorje issue should exercise prudence and charity in speaking of others who believe differently. Medjugorje is not a litmus test of orthodoxy, though every Catholic will have a moral obligation to accept the judgement of Rome, in the manner Pope Benedict explained, should it ever be rendered.

Though I am skeptical of much of what is happening at Medjugorje, I do not doubt that something is happening there. Obviously there are many good things happening as a result of Medj - such as people finding their faith. Regardless of whether the apparitions are real or not, from what I understand there exists an aura of holiness around the site. My qualm is whether or not the apparitions are real, not whether good things are happening there or not, for surely they are.

Timothy, in your comment you bring up the "miracles" that have been occurring there. And as you say, how do we explain the "miracles" other than by saying that they are just that, miraculous. However, I think you are mistaken when you use the "miracles" as proof that Mary is appearing there. It may be proof that something is happening, but it does not mean that the apparitions are real or that they come from Mary. They may very well be from heaven (though not necessarily from God) and they may very well be angelic, but keep in mind, as the following EWTN article points out, demons are angelic creatures as well.

Mystical Phenomena. The presence of remarkable phenomena is for many sufficient evidence of the validity of an alleged apparition. For others the judgment by local Church authority that there is no evidence of supernaturality at a site suggests fraud, mental illness or the demonic. The Church for her part, however, takes great care before affirming the certain supernaturality or non-supernaturality of phenomena. . . There are likewise few examples of outright condemnation. When they do occur it is usually on the basis of doctrine which is contrary to the faith.

The reasons for such caution are rooted in the Church's common teaching. St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross both assert that as a general rule mystical phenomena (whether in the lives of saints or in apparitions) are the work of the angels. Unless God Himself needs to act to immediately produce an effect (such as to create out of nothing or to infuse sanctifying grace into the soul), He works through creaturely instruments. Thus the intellectual lights granted in contemplative prayer, the visions and locutions of private revelations, the levitations of the saints, the ecstasies of mystics and visionaries, and most external phenomena associated with mysticism, are produced by the angelic nature. Since both good and evil spirits possess the angelic nature the presence of such phenomena alone is an equivocal sign of authenticity. This means that a great deal of unexplained phenomena can occur without indicating positively that the event is from God. This is why the Church looks, among other things, for evident supernaturality, that is, for effects beyond the ability of men or angels which can be attributed to God alone.

Theologians remain divided in judging which phenomena fall clearly into the category of strict supernaturality. However, the practice of the Church in the canonization process of recognizing as miraculous those cures which meet certain strict criteria is a standard that has been applied in approving apparitions, as well (e.g. Lourdes, Beauraing, Banneux). At Fátima the Miracle of Sun likewise fell into the category of a natural prodigy. It is clear, however, that the phenomena which many laity have experienced in connection with alleged apparitions in our days, and which they consider to be proof that they are authentic, do not in fact rise to the level of evident supernaturality. Angelic or demonic activity would be sufficient to explain them. Without a proof of the supernatural order there is little likelihood of the Church affirming an apparition as authentic.

In the case of Medjugorje the commissions found that nothing directly connected with the apparition met this strict standard. As the earlier quoted statements show, the Church remains open to new evidence of supernaturality should it occur and has not judged that Medjugorje is NOT supernatural, much less condemned it.

Timothy also brings up the point of the content of "Mary's" messages: "the Blessed Mother in Her apparitions focuses on being devout to Christ and His Church." I take you at your word on this as I have not personally read the messages. Obviously if they were anything but faithful, we would not be having this discussion. However, you have missed a crucial step. You are still assuming (I do not mean that to sound harsh) that the someone or something is actually appearing to the visionaries. If this is the case, then I believe you are correct, it is not of Satan. Here I think I must make my skepticism more clear: my doubt is as to whether there is anything appearing to the visionaries, not just whether what may be appearing is of heaven or hell. That being said, if the visionaries are "making this up" then the content of their message means little.

And as far as ecclesiastical obedience goes, there seems to be something lacking in that department as well:

Bishop Perić reminded his people of the restrictions that he has imposed on activities in Medjugorje. The parish church is not formally a "shrine," he said, and should not be characterized as such. Pilgrimages to the church are discouraged. Priests there are "not authorized to express their private views contrary to the official position of the Church on the so-called 'apparitions' and 'messages,' during celebrations of the sacraments, nor during other common acts of piety, nor in the Catholic media."

The bishops urged the "seers" of Medjugorje to "demonstrate ecclesiastical obedience and to cease with these public manifestations and messages in this parish." [They did not. -Me]

Some of the Franciscan priests assigned to the Medjugorje parish, he said, have been expelled from their order because of their refusal to accept Church authority. "They have not only been illegally active in these parishes, but they have also administered the sacraments profanely, while others invalidly," he said. As Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, he said, he felt obliged to warn the faithful "who invalidly confess their sins to these priests and participate in sacrilegious liturgies."

As I have mentioned previously, one of my biggest problems with Medj is the fact that it makes no sense (to me) that the visions do not stop, as that is the only way for the site to become approved. Would Medj not bear much more fruit if it became official? Timothy, I believe you gently rebuked me by saying "Who are we to question how the Blessed Mother chooses to appear?" I think it's a slippery slope when we start to say, "who are we to..." Should we question nothing merely because we are inferior to God? If that were the case I think we would live in a vastly different world. The fact is, Mary has appeared before, and based on those official apparitions She has set a precedent. And frankly, Medjugorje is very different from the other apparitions. Granted, that in itself is not much, Mary could decide to appear any way She pleases, but by doing so the way She allegedly has at Medj, much discord has been sown.

For example, at Fatima Our Lady appeared only six times from May to October of one year and at Lourdes She appeared only 18 times from January to July of only one year. But at Medj She has now allegedly appeared over 40,000 times over the span of almost 30 years! Again, this is not enough to "debunk" Medj but it is enough to add to my skepticism.

Timothy, you also made this comment:
If we as Catholics believe in the presence of the Lord in each of the millions of Eucharistic Hosts presented throughout time and throughout the world, how is it so difficult to believe that His Mother would appear and give us messages of hope, love and a path to Her Son?
To which I would say that I do not find it difficult that Mary would appear and give us messages. What I do find difficult to believe is that She is appearing at Medjugorje. I respect your position that the apparitions are real at Medjugorje, I just cannot bring myself to believe it - based on what I know. Though I can't say this enough, I will accept the Church's ruling.

One final question, Timothy. What was it about Medj that brought you into the Church? Was it the message of the seers or the atmosphere of the place, or some other aspect? And - please keep an open-mind - if the Vatican were to officially rule that the apparitions were not real, what would your response be, seeing as how you were brought into the Church because of Medj?

More Links to happenings at Medjugorje:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Apologetics 101

This is only a brief post and I don't claim to be an expert on apologetics. The information here is from my own experience but I'm sure there are better resources out there.

When engaging in a "discussion" or "debate" or "dialogue" with someone not of the Catholic faith, I think there is one especially important thing to keep in mind - if you don't know the answer to a question, or if you just aren't sure how to respond accurately - for Heaven's sake don't TRY and answer it off the top of your head! More often than not whoever you are talking to will seize on this error and use it to his advantage. In the long run it will weaken not only your cause but the cause of the Church.

The truly beautiful thing about the Catholic faith is that we do have the answers. Personally we may not know everything there is to know, but if you look hard enough you can find what you're looking for. If a question is asked of you and you are not sure how to respond, simply say, "I can't answer that right now but if you give me a little time I will get back to you." No harm done.

Nobody has complete knowledge of their faith. However strongly you may disagree with someone, if you cannot answer the argument with a sound, justified answer of your own, don't answer at all. Ask for time and get back to the person. Use prudence.

When the current situation you face is less in the realm of apologetics and more of evangelization, keep these words of C.S. Lewis in mind:
Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times. I had more than one reason for thinking this. In the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often involve points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history, which ought never to be treated exept by real experts. . . And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. . .Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.
- from the preface to Mere Christianity
I believe we must first simply lead unbelievers to God, and then hopefully to the Catholic Church. If the person you are engaged with is truly seeking the truth, how else can he end up any where but the Church?

Friday, August 7, 2009


Ever since I first started to really hear about Medjugorje about five years ago I've been a skeptic. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not expert on the subject, but I have had intelligent conversations with people who know much more about it then I do and I have read various articles for and against. Catholic Thing has an excellent article today about Medjugorje and I believe the author has almost the exact same view/attitude towards it that I do. It is definitely worth reading. One piece of information that the author didn't mention - the one piece that above all makes me a skeptic - is the fact that the Church cannot make its final decision one way or another (yes, the visions are real or no they are not) until the apparitions stop. There is so much controversy over the alleged apparitions that I can't figure out why Mary wouldn't cease appearing so that the Church could make its decision. If She is appearing there then the Church could make it official and resolve the whole issue. I can't imagine that Mary would desire all this confusion and debate. For me, I will remain a skeptic and accept whatever the Church decides in the end.

Quote Catch-up

Again, I apologize for the long hiatus in between posts. I thought a good way to get back into the swing of things would be to post some great quotes from some books I've read over the past couple weeks. One of the authors, Robert Hugh Benson, was recommended by Sara and I have to admit that he is now one of my favorite authors and you'll be seeing a lot more of his work in my posts.

First up, Josef Pieper's slap in the face to modern art in the book Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation (I especially love this passage):

The artist may perchance be tempted - all the more so, the more he has acquired and mastered the "creative" possibilities of his craft - to produce an opus decidedly "different" from the accustomed and everyday experience of reality, yet in essence false, and in its banality a mere ruse. As is well known, fabrications of such a sort are quite assured of the public's applause.

I'm only going to post one passage by Benson here but expect much more of his work to be posted. I'm thinking about a recurring piece called "Benson's Best"... This passage is from his sermon on Meekness and Violence in the book Paradoxes of Catholicism.

The Catholic Church then is, and always will be, violent and intransigeant when the rights of God are in question. She will be absolutely ruthless, for example, towards heresy, for heresy affects not personal matters on which Charity may yield, but a Divine right on which there must be no yielding. Yet, simultaneously, she will be infinitely kind towards the heretic, since a thousand human motives and circumstances may come in and modify his responsibility. At a word of repentance she will readmit his person into her treasury of souls, but not his heresy into her treasury of wisdom; she will strike his name eagerly and freely from her black list of the rebellious, but not his book from the pages of her Index. She exhibits meekness towards him and violence towards his error, since he is human, but her Truth is Divine.

I'll leave it at that for now. I've recently begun to read C.S. Lewis as well and am finding out what a joy his writings are. My next post will include a great and practical quote by him. God bless!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Strangers and Sojourners

Well I just finished my borrowed copy (thanks Sara!) of Michael O'Brien's Strangers and Sojourners. Overall I thought it was a very good novel. Of the three O'Brien novels that I've read so far (this one along with Father Elijah and Island of the World) I do have to say that it was my least favorite. Still good in it's own right but not as good as the other two.

So to the book... It is the first in a trilogy which follows the life (and later the descendants) of Stephen and Anne Delaney in British Columbia. This book focuses mainly on Anne and her internal struggle to break free from her rationalistic self and come to know and embrace something greater than herself. Anne's husband, Stephen, is Irish Catholic and so very different than his wife. Her love is in words and reason and the power of the mind and his life is much simpler, one connected to the land he works and the One who provides.

Although it is a bit slow to read, there were certain chapters or certain sections that kept me completely spellbound. Not to mention a few twists or divine coincedences that left me back paddling through pages to make the connection. O'Brien has a beautiful and vivid way of portraying the emotion felt by a distressed soul searching for a transcendental God. You will grieve with Anne and whisper words of encouragement to her as she undergoes her transformation. If you do read this book and you're finding it slow, I encourage you to hang in because it definitely picks up towards the end.

One last comment, below is a passage that I found particularly relevant:

Anne: "Yes. I was happy. But not with the kind of happiness most people want. It went much deeper. I can't describe it. It was a sense that grew and grew over the years, a current underneath everything, a feeling, a form, a hand that was on my life. A sort of fierce, fatherly love that demanded everything from me but hid itself from me. It had given everything. It wanted total trust in return."


I was a little frustrated the other night about my post "Unanswered prayers?" because it wasn't really coming out like I had envisioned. The problem I realized was that I hadn't found a satisfactory example of a common kind of prayer that gets answered but we fail to see God's hand in it. Well I thought of one! Illness. How often do we pray that we (or someone we know) recover from this or that illness. Maybe in our mind we're envisioning God answering this prayer by miraculously healing them at that very moment. But more often than not it takes time and, God willing, we (or they) do recover. The problem I see is the time frame. Because many illnesses take long periods of time to be be cured, by the time we're "healed" we attribute to just that, time. Do you see where I'm going with this? We prayed for healing and we got it, right? Well then praise God! Sure it took a little longer than we anticipated but that doesn't mean that God was any less involved in the healing. There, now I'm happy with it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Here I Go Again

The title of this post works on so many levels... I wasn't going to post again tonight but I was listening to Casting Crowns and their song "Here I Go Again" and it struck me how appropriate the lyrics are in light of my "evangelization situation" with my friend that I wrote about before. Here are the lyrics:

Father, hear my prayer
I need the perfect words
Words that he will hear
And know they're straight from You
I don't know what to say
I only know it hurts
To see my only friend slowly fade away

So maybe this time
I'll speak the words of life
With Your fire in my eyes
But that old familiar fear
is tearin' at my words
What am I so afraid of?
'Cause here I go again
Talkin' 'bout the rain
And mullin' over things
that won't live past today
And as I dance around the truth
Time is not his friend
This might be my last chance
to tell him that You love Him

But here I go again
Here I go again

Lord, You love him so
You gave Your only Son
If he will just believe
He will never die
But how then will he know
What he has never heard?
Lord he has never seen mirrored in my life

[Lyrics in bold are those that really struck me}

Hope these words are as encouraging to you as they are to me. Christian/Catholic music is a great way to stay encouraged and positive throughout the day. Most of the mainstream music isn't specifically Catholic so be careful with some of the lyrics (the theology isn't always correct). However, there are some really good songs our their right now. For those of you who live near me, try FM 104.7 WBGL.

Caritas in Veritate

I'd be remiss if I didn't inform you of Pope Benedict's new encylical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). It came out a little while ago so hopefully you have at least heard about it and maybe even read it. I tried reading it online the other day but I realized that I want to devote some real time to and be able to high light what I'm reading. It is available online though so I wanted to at least provide one link to it. I'll reserve an in-depth post on it until after I've had time to read it. I will include this link to Catholic Thing which has a good "preface" article for those interested in reading the whole thing or at least understanding it better.

Unanswered prayers?

This is the story that our priest opened his homily with today:

One day a successful businessman had a very important meeting but found himself running late and frantically searching for a parking spot. This business man had long since abandoned going to church and was generally living a very sinful life - he cheated his clients, cheated on his wife, etc... Well, desperate to find a spot and make it to the meeting, he offered up this prayer, "Lord, if you can get me a spot I promise I'll turn my life around!" At the same moment, as he turned another corner, a spot opened up and the man promptly said, "Nevermind Lord, I found one!"

Apart from just being funny I think there's a serious point to this story. Too often do our prayers get answered yet we fail to attribute it to God. Maybe we expect God to answer our prayers in some miraculous and marvelous fashion in which, were this the case, we would be sure to praise and thank Him. But most of the time this isn't the case. And maybe this shows a lack of faith in God as well, as if we're saying, "Look God, I'd really like for so-and-so to happen, but I don't expect much from you." And then by the time our prayer has been answered, we've forgotten that we even prayed for it! At least this has been my experience. Even if it's just praying for a safe flight or car ride. Often I'll get to my destination safely (= prayer answered) but never offer a prayer of thanksgiving. Why is that? Is it because my initial prayer was really only a kind of insurance? Something I do just in case? Trust in the power of your prayers! God will answer them according to His divine will and plan.

My semester in Austria opened my eyes to the reality of God working in my life and answering my prayers. I can't tell you how many times I would be back from a trip and suddenly realize how perfectly everything went and how safe we had been kept the whole time. I know it's easy to remember to thank God when something big happens but try not to forget the little things either.

God answers our prayers but he doesn't always do it in a flashy, obvious way. But this doesn't mean that we still shouldn't thank Him for his Love and Mercy. When you realize that He's answering, you realize He's listening. And don't forget to thank Him for what Garth Brooks calls "some of God's greatest gifts" - unanswered prayers. Remember that God knows what is best for us.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Knowledge Used Well = Time Well Spent

Have you ever noticed how some really smart people often used their gifts for rather unimportant things? Maybe they collect useless information simply to know more than you or maybe they are very intelligent but they waste their time learning about something that just doesn't matter. I think this is a tragic waste.
To me information falls into three categories: (1) party trivia, (2) good-to-know-but-not-really-important, (3) and important. Party trivia would include things like knowing every Best Picture winner for the past twenty years, or knowing the number of every basketball player. Basically it serves no real purpose other than to entertain and fill up our pride-o-meters.
The second category is information that you learn in school - geography, math, reading, etc... Information that will serve you well in this life but when it comes to the next life, maybe isn't too important.
And then you have the important information. I won't try and narrow this category down but what I mean by it is any information that makes you a better person and draws you closer to Christ. But be careful, because it isn't just about the obtaining of this knowledge but also the using of it. Important information would include things like knowledge of your faith or the ability to understand and help others.
What is the point of knowledge if not to share it and make the world, and the people in it, better? I remember reading once that Chesterton was considered by many to be "absentminded" because of the little things he either would forget or just didn't know. But he wasn't really absentminded, he had his mind in perfectly the right place. If it was truly important, that is, important to his soul, he would care about it. But something like his address, while it may be good to know, really isn't important in the long run. I'm not saying that we should ignore certain subjects in school or not try to gather as much information as possible, but when it comes down to it, wouldn't it be more beneficial if we spent our time and energy on the important things in life? We do also need to have entertainment in our lives but entertainment should not take up all of our time. Be careful what books you read, or what movies or television shows you watch. If we are to live a truly Christ-centered life I imagine that we all have many things we should cut out.
At the day of Judgment God isn't going to ask us what the square root of 73 is, but we will be held accountable for what we did in this life. If we made no attempt to better ourselves, to follow Christ, or to draw others to Him, what were we doing?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Perspective Mirror (working title)

While driving home today I suddenly had what can only be described as a "moment of brilliance." I conceived in my mind the perfect mirror. I know, it sounds lame but bear with me. It would be comprised of two parts, the first, on the left hand side, would be an image of Jesus lying on top of the cross on the ground. His head would be towards the bottom. Kneeling next to him with arm outstretched towards the second part of the mirror would be a Roman soldier. The second part would be the actual mirror. Here's where it all fits together - coming from the mirror portion and towards the Roman soldier's outstretched hand would be another hand (and presumable a portion of a body) holding the nails for Christ's crucifixion. So when you look into the mirror, your face will be on the soldier's body who is handing the other soldier the nails! Whenever you look into the mirror it will put things in perspective, hence "The Perspective Mirror." I'm new to inventing but I'm pretty sure this is an awesome idea. I can't imagine that there would be universal appeal for this item but all proceeds could be donated to charity. If any one can work up an image of this somehow let me know and send it to me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Church shall prevail

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16: 18)

My family was talking about the origins of the St. Michael prayer and how Jesus promised us (see passage above) that the Church will prevail over Satan. Which got me to wondering about the state of the Church, especially in this country, and how we often worry about "what's going to happen." If we know the Church will prevail, why do we worry about it so much? Well, I don't think we really do worry about the Church. Maybe we worry about the Church's churches, but not the Church. What we do worry about, or what we should worry about, is not Satan "defeating" the Church, but about the souls that he is winning over to his side. Hell may not be able to prevail, for there will always be those who are faithful to the Church, but Satan is converting as many people as he can as fast as he can. So we must be warriors of Christ, defending His Church by reconquering the ground that Satan has won for himself. Is that not the Church's mission - to advance the kingdom of God by winning Him souls? By undermining what people perceive the Church to be, Satan draws souls away from it. This is why it is so important that we defend the true identity of the Church and work our hardest to bring people to it - to spread the Good News. The Church will survive, Jesus promised us that. The question is how many people will be sitting inside?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Honest Scrap

So I happened to mosey on over to Homeschooling With Joy and found, much to my surprise, that I had won an award! According to Laura these are the guidelines:

1) Say thanks and give a link to the presenter of the award.
2) Share "ten honest things" about myself.

3) Present this award to 7 others whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.
4) Tell those 7 people that they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving it.

#1 Thank you Laura for bestowing this award upon me! I am honored that my blog has encouraged you in some way.

#2 Ten Honest Things:
  1. I've been told (on several occasions) that I'm 22 going on 60. Hey, it's not my fault that pipes and sweater vests are awesome.
  2. When I get frustrated it takes a herculean effort not to lose my temper. One of those bad habits that I'm just now getting around to fixing.
  3. I can't draw. Tracing I can do. Free hand drawing, nuh uh. It's all the more frustrating because I can have a clear mental image of what I want to draw, but somewhere between my brain and my hand that image gets lost.
  4. My body is apparently falling apart. Not only do I get injured more often but my injuries tend to heal either slowly or not at all. I'm sure this fits into God's plan somehow so I'll put up with it...for now.
  5. I tell really lame jokes. Personally, I think they're hilarious (damn you pride!) but most people would probably disagree. Let's put it this way, I get more eye-rolls than laughs.
  6. As much as I hate to admit it, I am very self-conscious about my long neck. Most people act surprised when they find out so I guess it's not a big deal but it still bothers me. Probably God's way of humbling me.
  7. My hairline has given up on just receding and is now in full retreat. However, there isn't much I'm willing or able to do so it bothers me less and less.
  8. I'm a closet video game nerd. Fortunately for every other aspect of my life my playing time (along with my desire to play) has gone down significantly lately but every once in a while I like to get a few minutes in.
  9. If I could do it all again I think I would be a professional tennis player.
  10. Much to my chagrin I've never been "great" at any sport. I'm "good" at a few but that's about as far as it goes. Thankfully I've come to realize, or at least I've come to tell myself, that being good is more fun than being great. Being decent at things keeps your pride in check and allows you to enjoy the game more.
#3 This one is going to be short because I really only follow two blogs:
  1. Homeschooling With Joy - might not count because she was the one who gave me this award. Great blog nevertheless!!
  2. The Blue Boar - a funny, up-to-date, blog about all things Catholic. Really the blog that got me interested in blogging.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Quote of the ____________

Possibly some of the most profound writing I've ever read. Seriously.

O, how great is the priest! ... If he realised what he is, he would die. ... God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host.

Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest. ... After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realise what he is.

- St. John Vianney [quotes were found in Pope Benedict's letter on the Year for Priests]


The past couple years (i.e. at Franciscan) I've really been trying/struggling to find a balance between becoming a better person interiorly and making sure to manifest my faith exteriorly. I've always felt guilty about not truly evangelizing. In a way I guess I feel guilty about not sharing the great truths of our faith. Since I've rediscovered my faith I have tried to lead by example but I don't think that's good enough any more. A while back I was thinking that most of my good friends back home probably don't know that I'm a devout Catholic. That was like a slap in the face to me. I want people to know that I'm Catholic and that I love it!
What I mean by "finding a balance" between personal growth and evangelization is that when I would feel that desire or call to bring others to Christ and witness to His love, I never felt like I had the right tools, so I would insead just focus on my own conversion. It was like a tug-of-war between these two different, but very important, things. On the one hand I really wanted to talk to people about my faith but at the same time I felt totally ill-prepared to do so. But then as I would work to become more knowledgable or courageous I would start to feel guilty because I knew I wasn't doing much to advance God's kingdom. Then just the other day it suddenly all made sense. There was nothing wrong with me focusing on myself because that's what I had to do. I felt ill-prepared because I was! And there isn't anything wrong with that. God was making sure that I was ready. I don't mean to say that I have every answer or even that I have total confidence, but I do believe that I have been given sufficient tools.
Well the reason I started this post is because I have one friend in particular who I feel especially called to evangelize too. The problem isn't so much that I'm afraid to make a move but rather what move to make. I want to be prudent about how I approach this. Recently I've decided that the best thing to do would be to introduce him to my faith via a book. Which leads to you. Can anyone recommend a good book for this sort of situation. This person has little to no knowledge of Catholicism or probably of Christianity in general. He's a "typical" fun-loving, no consequences kind of person. I don't think he is anti-religious but rather lives a "ignorance is bliss" type of life. My first thought for a book was Orthodoxy but I'm not sure. I want something that will keep his attention all the way through.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Into our hands

I know it's been a while since I last posted (sorry Sara!!) and I have a couple things I want to write about, but right now it's late and I just wanted to get this one on here before I forget it.

I remember a priest once saying that before every mass we should pray that the Lord speak to us during the mass - whether it's something in the homily or the Liturgy or somewhere else. I should note too that the priest was really saying that we should pray that we are receptive to the Word because really, God is always speaking to us, we just don't always listen.

That being said, before mass today that thought popped into my head and I really prayed that something in the mass would jump out at me and really speak to me. Ask and you shall receive. What really struck me today was something the priest said before the consecration. The Eucharistic prayer included something along the lines of "He [Jesus] gave Himself into our hands." The reference was to his Passion and Death but I never really made the connection before to the Eucharist. The wording is beautiful: "He gave Himself into our hands" - exactly what He does at Communion - literally placing Himself in our hands.

I was also thinking about something Scott Hahn said about his conversion to Catholicism. He was talking about when he first went to a Catholic mass and as the mass went on, instead of it being an abomination, he remarked how biblical it was and he kept exclaiming how certain parts of the mass were from certain parts of the bible. The more I come to really know the mass through my participation in it and through various readings, it really is amazing how biblical and symbolic it all is. But unless someone explains it, or unless you're very well versed in the bible, I think it's easy to miss those connections altogether.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shocker (not really)

The Cardinal Newman Society has discovered that ten U.S. "Catholic" colleges and universities "arrange student internships with organizations that promote causes incompatible with Catholic moral teachings." I'm almost at a loss for words. Not only is it unthinkable that these universities would do such a thing, it is unthinkable that the students would accept the internships. I'm just waiting for Franciscan to be officially announced the premier Catholic university in the country. Soon...

Catholic Instituions...ACT CATHOLIC

My uncle from California called me today to let me know about these Catholic schools in D.C. that will be shutting down and transformed into charter schools. Apparently attendance was so low the diocese had no choice. Our conversation eventually turned to other Catholic schools and how many of the students aren't Catholic. I think that many parents of non-Catholics sends their sons and daughters to these schools because they recognize them as good institutions - places where they will develop important values and get a good education. Nothing wrong with that. If a non-Catholic goes to a Catholic school and comes away with nothing but a firm moral foundation then good for him or her. The problem lies in the fact that often these Catholic schools try and cater to the non-Catholics a little too much. Eventually that catering causes a loss of Catholic identity. We've seen similar scenarios everywhere - it seems the world is obsessed with not offending anyone but at the expense of compromising their beliefs. What I don't agree with is the parents of these children know they're sending them to a Catholic school, so why should the school go out of its way to ensure these kids aren't offended by having to go to mass? If they don't want to go to mass then don't go to the school. It comes with the territory. This policy of appeasement isn't going to work; at least not if we intend on preserving the Catholic Identity.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Despair or Dependence?

I just read an article in National Geographic about population growth and food production. Basically, the world population is estimated to be about 9 billion by the year 2050 and there are serious concerns about whether or not food production can support that many people. The article goes into depth about past "advances" that have been made especially in grain production which at the time drastically increased production. The only problem with many of these new techniques is the fact that in the long run they damaged the soil so much that production is once again declining. This may seem like a stretch but the article really got me thinking about our dependence on God.
I think that in this day and age there is much emphasis on independence; independence from God and dependence on science and technology. Despair then comes about when science fails to produce the answers we need. I obviously am not implying that science is a bad thing, but there is a time when we must look to higher things.
God desires that we lay all of our troubles, worries and anxieties at His feet. He desires that we trust in Him. We may encounter circumstances or situations which seem impossible, but we must remember that in God all things are possible. Maybe God places these instances in our lives so that when all else seems to fail, we finally turn to Him in complete surrender.
So back to the world population "problem." Imagine what a difference there would be if all the world learned to truly trust in God. That is our mission! Are we not called to spread the Gospel to all the world? Well now we have a global problem with no immediate or obvious answer; a problem that I am sure is leading many people not only to despair, but to death. When this happens, when we can think of nothing to do, there is ALWAYS prayer. This is what God desires. That we turn to Him!! Do not despair. Ever. Our God is good and merciful. Our God is Love. Maybe the answers to the world's problems can only be unlocked once the world has turned to Him. Depend on God. I think it's what He wants.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nightmare or more?

This isn't generally something that I would openly talk about but for some reason I feel like I should.
The night that my friends and I got back from New Hampshire last week, me and one other guy spent the night at a friend's since the lease on our house was up. If any of you have been in Steubenville, and I mean the surrounding city, not the University, then you now it's not the greatest place. Well it was a pretty hot night so my friend and I were sleeping downstairs in the living room with the screen door shut but the wooden door open. I have no idea what time it was but at some point in the night or morning I turned so that I was sleeping on my side with my back to the door. For some reason I suddenly had the thought that maybe I should shut the wooden door because if somebody did come in (God forbid) I wouldn't be able to see.
At the same time as I was having this thought (and I mean almost the exact instant) I felt this strong pressure on my shoulder which felt like someone trying to turn me onto my back. I can honestly say that I have never been so scared in my life. My first thought (helped I'm sure by my burglar paranoia) was that someone had broken in and was turning me over, but I didn't feel a hand, only a strong pressure. I closed my eyes and it seemed to go away. I opened my eyes one more time and immediately felt the same pressure. I didn't know what to do besides pray so I recited about 20 Guardian Angel prayers and quite a few prayers to St. Michael, as well as invoking the name of Jesus. Apprently that did the trick and I was able to fall asleep without any more trouble.
Now I'm not saying that this was a demonic temptation or presence, or what-not. It's completely probable that the whole thing was a nightmare, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't. To put it simply - I don't really know what happened and I haven't been able to talk to a priest about it. I've never experienced anything like this in my life. The next morning I felt fine and in fact since then I've felt better than ever, spiritually anyways. Almost as if I have won some spiritual battle. Since that night I seem to be able to communicate with the dead...just kidding (I know this is a long post, still with me?). But seriously, since that night I do seem to be able to resist little temptations like gossiping or even just being impatient. So all in all, as scary as it was, I think it was a good thing. What can I say, God is good.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Pro-Life or Anti-Abortion?

I'm sure you have heard about the murder of George Tiller, the nation's most well-known provider of late-term abortions. Tiller was murdered, in his church, by Scott Roeder, a militant anti-abortionist. Obviously Tiller's murder was not, or at least should not have been, condoned by any real pro-life groups. Make no mistake, Roeder is not pro-life, he is anti-abortion. Apparently there is a difference. Real "pro-lifers" respect life from conception to natural death. Murder is not a natural death. What Tiller and his "colleagues" do is wrong, but it is not up to us to decide their fate. They need our prayers more than anything. In no way does murder or violence of any sort help the pro-life cause. It is blatantly against our cause. The pro-life movement is more than just anti-abortion, it aims at defending life from conception to natural death. Obviously abortion is a serious and important issue but it is not the only issue. Please pray for Roeder and others like him, who have strayed from the path of the pro-lif movement and instead have simply become anti-abortion.

Okay Okay, I'm back!!

After being verbally abused by one of my readers (*cough* Sara *cough*) I feel like I owe you all an explanation (or is it a justification?) for my absence. You see, I recently graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville - the exact date was May 9th. Following graduation I was doing a bit of archaeological work for the University as well as preparing my house for total evacuation. That took up my time from graduation until almost the end of the month. On the 26th of May I left with three of my housemates for New Hampshire where one of them was getting married - it was a splendid wedding by the way. I was in New Hampshire for a week and have only recently returned to Illinois. It has come to my attention that some bloggers may be able to write even while they're in Rome but I am relatively new to all this and apparently incapable of such a feat. Please forgive me. My writing shall now resume. God bless.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More on helping the needy

I just saw a commercial for (I believe) a local company that has instituted an awesome plan. The company does heating, plumbing, cooling, etc... type work and offers reduced prices on their services in exchange for at least five canned goods. The commercial advertised $50 off ($97 to $47) an air conditioning repair or $50 off any other service. This concept may not be new but its new to me. It seems like an excellent way not only to help the needy but also to set an example for the community. Good for them!!

Quote of the ___________

More of an excerpt than a quote:

"There is a limit to human charity," said Lady Outram, trembling all over.
"There is," said Father Brown dryly, "and that is the real difference between human charity and Christian charity. . . For it seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don't really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don't regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. So you tolerate a conventional duel, just as you tolerate a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn't anything to be forgiven."
"But hang it all," cried Mallow, "you don't expect us to be able to pardon a vile thing like this?"
"No," said the priest, "but we have to be able to pardon it."
He stood up abruptly and looked round at them.
"We have to touch such men, not with a barge pole, but with a benediction," he said. "We have to say the word that will save them from hell. We alone are left to deliver them from despair when your human charity deserts them. Go on your own prim-rose path pardoning all your favorite vices and being generous to your fashionable crimes; and leave us in the darkness, vampires of the night, to console those who really need consolation; who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend; and none but a priest will pardon. Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes; mean as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came."
-The Secret of Father Brown, "The Chief Mourner of Marne"
Thank God for priests, the Church, and confession!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

What to do with the poor

At one of the Church's here in Steubenville there is always at least one person begging for money as people head in for mass. I've been confronted by these people many times and more often than not (I am a college student after all) I don't have any money. I also happen to know that these people don't respond to invitations to meals (i.e. not money). My problem is that I would like to help these people but I don't want to give them money for two reason: (1) I have very little and (2) I don't know what they would spend it on. So what do we do in a situation like this? It has gotten to the point that I literally turn the other way and hurry into Church because I just don't know what to say or do. Help!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Conscience and Bananas

Imagine this scenario:

A person believes, for whatever reason, that eating bananas is sinful. This person's friends (including even a priest) have told him that this is not true. Still, for some unexplained reason, the person continues to believe that eating bananas is sinful. If this person then went ahead and ate a banana, would he be sinning?

I know the example is a bit strange, but it illumines an important point: the "sinfullness" of an action doesn't just depend on the action itself, but also on whether or not we believe (that is, our conscience tell us) that the action is good or bad. If the person above ate a banana, it would be sinful. The reason is that his conscience told him that eating bananas was wrong, yet he did it anyways. In other words he did what he believed was wrong.

Now for ignorance:

A modern day doctor fails to properly diagnose a patient who has AIDs, instead diagnosing the patient with some other condition. This doctor is acting on vincible ignorance and is morally culpable for the state of the patient. In this day and age, there is no reason to miss an AIDs diagnosis.

If a doctor in the 50s were to do the same thing - misdiagnose a patient who had AIDs - he would be acting on invicible ignorance - ignorance that cannot be overcome by himself. There was too little known about AIDs in the 50s for him to make the proper diagnosis. Therefore the doctor is not morally culpable.

These are all reasons that our conscience must be formed properly. It must be formed within the context of the Faith and the Church to properly know what is true and good and what is false and bad.

I'm Back!

Finals are finished, papers are penned, and graduation is gone. My undergraduate college career is officially over. It still hasn't really sunk in and I don't think it will until next fall, when for the first time in about 16 years I won't be going to school. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. I can't wait to begin posting on a regular basis again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I know I haven't posted anything on here for a while and I do apologize but I've been pretty busy. I'll be graduating in about two weeks and that means that I have a lot of studying to do and a couple papers that I have to write. Basically the same thing I've been doing the past two weeks but now it's really crunch time. If I have time I'll post a few things but right now I need to devote myself to school. Please keep me in your prayers, God bless.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Prayer Requests

Please feel free to add any of your own in the comments.

Lord Jesus Christ, our God, in thy mercies and loving-kindness thou regardest the humble prayers of all who call upon thee with their whole heart; incline thine ear and hear now our prayers, offered to thee in humility:

  • For the continued health and safety of Pope Benedict XVI. Continue to guide him as he leads Your Church; strengthen him in these times of increased criticism and hostility.
  • For Your Church and its leaders, that they have the courage to uphold the Truth and bear witness to your Son, Jesus Christ.
  • For the souls in Purgatory
  • For all unborn children
  • For an end to the culture of death and a renewed respect for all life, from conception to natural death.
  • For our President, Barack Obama, that he be open to, and guided by, truth and love.