Archive for June, 2010


Summer Vacation

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Dear readers,

I will be out of town next week, so there will be no new posts until the week of July 5th.

We will be heading first to Michigan, where my daughter will be doing a one-week pre-aspirancy (kinda like an orientation) with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She is one of I believe 28 girls who plan to enter the community later this summer on August 28th (feast of St. Augustine). It will be cool for the rest of the family to check out the place! Here”s their website.

Please pray for these beautiful young women, and also for the safety of all travelers next Fourth of July weekend!

Going to the Dogs

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

I recently received this interesting question via email:

“A relative of mine entered a hot dog eating contest. You know, the kind where one competes with others to see who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes.

“What do you think about the morality of this?”
To be perfectly “frank,” I don”t “relish” having to come down on hot dog eating contests. I was an obese child, and as a youth my eating exploits were legendary. And beyond my own personal struggles, gluttony is seen by most people as not being a big deal.
Fr. Hardon gives the standard definition of gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins: “Gluttony is an inordinate love of eating and drinking. It means eating or drinking to excess, taking more than is needed or healthy, or indulging the appetite merely for pleasure, or beyond one’s means. . . .”

St. John Vianney, who is especially on our radar screen during the final days of this “Year for Priests,” affirms this teaching and writes about the negative spiritual ramifications of gluttony.
I don’t know how one could take seriously the definition of gluttony and still find hot dog eating contests morally acceptable. It surely entails “eating . . . to excess, taking more than is needed or healthy.” It goes even beyond eating “for pleasure,” making it a quasi-sport/entertainment, completely detached from the satisfaction of one’s hunger. I think some analogy could be made to various “games” or “sports” that play on our lustful inclinations, such as wet T-shirt competitions, mud wrestling, and worse.
We discuss overcoming the vice of gluttony and growing in the opposing virtue of temperance in our online Faith Foundations course. Visit the My Catholic Faith Delivered homepage for more information.

The Heart of a Father

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Each year in June we have the beautiful feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, with the heart symbolizing the immense love of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother for each one of us.

As Catholic husbands and fathers, we might also consider meditating on the heart of St. Joseph, the third member of the Holy Family. His heart is an apt symbol of the love he contributed to the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation that was unfolding under his watch. And now that same masculine vigilance and love, once focused on his beloved wife and the Christ child, is bestowed on each one of us, as he is universally invoked as the patron of the Catholic Church.

At the outset of St. Luke’s Gospel, we learn that part of St. John the Baptist’s role in preparing the people for the imminent coming of the Messiah was to turn the hearts of fathers to their children so as to make ready for the Lord a people that was truly prepared for Him (Lk. 1:17). In St. Joseph, we find a father whose heart is already exquisitely calibrated.

His heart is always in the right place, and God was able to accomplish great things through this eminently just and faithful man.

St. Joseph’s fatherly heart jumps off the page throughout the biblical accounts of Christ’s childhood. Let’s take a brief look at just one such familiar episode: the Finding of Jesus in the Temple (Lk. 2:41-52). 

“Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to custom” (vv. 41-42).

These verses may seem unremarkable at first blush, though as St. Joseph is carting the Holy Family from place to place in the first century we can be certain these journeys were much more onerous than a leisurely afternoon drive in the air-conditioned minivan. But even in his fidelity to the Jewish practices of his time, St. Joseph gives us a most timely lesson on the value of men being observant Catholics. Too often we find at Sunday Mass mom and the kids, but where’s dad? St. Joseph challenges us men to allow our love for the Lord and zeal for our faith to set the tone for the entire family.

Real men go to church. [more]

“Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously” (v. 48).

St. Joseph doesn’t have any lines in this scene, but surely he has a leading role. We hear in Our Lady’s words the great anxiety that overcame St. Joseph when he realized that Jesus was missing, and we can picture him looking frantically for his child.

Several years ago my daughter Abigail got separated from us while on a family outing at the zoo. It was one of the most terrifying moments I’ve ever endured as a father, and Abbie was only missing for about an hour. Try losing the Son of God for three days!

It’s also significant that Mary refers to Joseph as Jesus’ father, which surely reflected the common understanding of the people. As an adoptive father myself, I appreciate the affirmation of a father that transcends biological lineage. As Pope John Paul II commented in his 1989 apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”):

“In this family, Joseph is the father: his fatherhood is not one that derives from begetting offspring; but neither is it an ‘apparent’ or merely ’substitute’ fatherhood. Rather, it is one that fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of the father in the family.”

Joseph accepts this fatherhood through the obedience of faith, even though he also knows that this child was conceived “of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 1:20). He exercises this fatherhood in complete docility to God’s will and with superabundant love for mother and Child. As the wondrous events unfold around him, it’s clear that St. Joseph does not have a complete understanding of what’s going to happen next. Yet he always remains faithful in the present moment, and the Lord never fails to reveal to him what he needs to know at any given point in time.

As I’ve tried to translate this into my own life experience, I’ve understood this to mean that I must at all times remain attentive to God and available for my family. When things go wrong, it’s typically because either I’m not paying attention, or I am serving myself and not my beloved family.

“And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and His mother kept all these things in her heart” (v. 51).

Women with careers often need to be affirmed regarding the beautiful vocation of motherhood, which too often–in subtle and not-so-subtle ways–is devalued in our society. Yet men need to hear a similar message regarding fatherhood, spoken through the humbly eloquent life of St. Joseph.

We might do great things in the world’s eyes, but our primary vocation as married men is to be husband and father in the domestic Church.

This verse speaks of Jesus’ return to Nazareth with His parents, but it’s also true that St. Joseph committed himself to a hidden life in Nazareth that was recorded only in his beloved wife’s heart, as she delighted in her family’s inner life. St. Joseph didn’t get rich, and he didn’t build skyscrapers. Rather, as Pope Leo XIII summarizes, St. Joseph simply set out to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Child (Quamquam Pluries, 1889). He gave totally of himself to his family, and because of that he truly was a success, both in time and in eternity.

For those of us who wish somehow to be better, to be the godly men we were created to be, we do well to invoke St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church, and to imitate his fatherly heart.

Odds and Ends

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Some interesting Catholic news items:

(1) Cardinal DiNardo, chairman of the United States Bishops” Pro-Life Committee, voices grave concern over the FDA”s plan to approve new abortion drug for “emergency contraception” purposes.

(2) Bishop Morlino of Madison is criticized for bringing in more priests. Why? Because the new priests are “too conservative.”

(3) At the recent U.S. bishops” meeting, USCCB president Cardinal George blames the Catholic Health Association for the passage of the health-care reform bill. In essence, Sr. Keehan chose President Obama over the U.S. bishops . . .

(4) On a lighter note, the Vatican newspaper recently paid tribute to the movie Blues Brothers, in honor of the 30th anniversary of its release, calling it a “Catholic” movie. (That”s not my recollection, but it”s been awhile. And hey, wasn”t John Belushi a “soul man”?) For the Reuters account, see “Vatican beatifies Blues Brothers . . . well almost.”

(5) Massachussetts bishops oppose casino gambling. I applaud this move, in keeping with my recent series on gambling. The effects of legalized gambling may on the surface seem minimal, but we can’2012-04-24 18:36:03′t overstate the corrosive effects of this sort of thing on our culture.

(6) U.S. bishops announce new book on theology of the body. Here at My Catholic Faith Delivered, we will soon be offering theology of the body courses in an online, interactive format. 

(7) Carl Olson”s trenchant commentary on the legacy of Fr. Charles Curran, who led the opposition against the Church”s teaching on contraception in the 60”s and 70”s. Also at My Catholic Faith Delivered, we have a new course on Humanae Vitae, the little encyclical that got Fr. Curran and his colleagues so worked up.

(8) This item from the Catholic Culture site claiming that nearly 50 beneficiaries of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) are opposed to Church teaching. Then this week there was the report that Bishop Hebda of Gaylord, Michigan temporarily suspended the funding of the CCHD within his diocese while a review of CCHD takes place.

(9) I wish I had commented on yesterday”s saint, St. Aloysius Gonzaga. He is a patron saint of youth. I don”t know that it”s universally true that “only the good die young,” but this 16th-century saint died at the tender age of 23 of the plague, after courageously giving compassionate care to many plague victims himself. He was a saintly Jesuit, and that”s saying something!  And it”s good to know that Gonzaga is not merely a basketball school in the Pacific Northwest!

(10) One of today”s saints is St. Thomas More, the chancellor to King Henry VIII of England. There are many great books and articles about this popular saint. Very few saints have movies made about them, and fewer still win Academy Awards. So, whether you”ve never seen it, or whether you”ve already seen it ten times, I heartily recommend renting A Man for All Seasons tonight! Here are ten reasons why!

Spiritual Cataracts

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Today’s Gospel is the familiar passage from Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, in which He advises us to remove the large beams from our own eyes before trying to remove the tiny specks from our neighbor’s eye. This lesson has long been a source of fruitful meditation for me.

Several years ago, after Mass in which that same Gospel was read, I decided that I would try to illustrate the point of the lesson to my children.

What I did was blindfold two of my daughters after dinner, and they took turns trying to lead the other around the basement. Quite predictably, there were many humorous collisions and wrong turns. It was truly a case of the blind leading the blind–or, in the case of my fair-haired daughters, the blonde leading the blonde! But when one of them was able to remove her blindfold, she was easily able to lead her sister from point A to point B.

The children learned that while it’s a very good thing to help others in need, we have to allow the Lord to help us first.

I used another analogy with them. [more]I told them to imagine that there’s a mishap on an airplane and the craft begins losing cabin pressure. In the face of such a disaster, most of us would want to be courageous and help as many of our fellow passengers as possible. Yet, if we don’t use our own air mask first, in a manner of seconds we’ll be of no use to anybody. We would be among the first casualties.

This is a lesson for all of us. There are many people around us with impaired spiritual vision. Yet, as evil as some activities are, such as abortion, euthanasia, pornography, homosexual acts, and other such grave sins, they’re not the worst sins. And as bad as some individual criminals, dictators, and thugs may be, from Hitler to Bin Laden, their sins are not the worst sins, either.

Rather, the worst sins are our own sins. Why? Because they are the only ones that can separate us from the love of God and our eternal inheritance as His children. We have to learn to hate our sins absolutely, and to hate them even more than anybody else’s sins. We might not commit the horrid sins alluded to above, but we surely have pet sins, including sins we might even enjoy on some level.

Job one when it comes to Christian discipleship is to turn away from our own sin. “Convert” literally means “to turn with,” and so we turn with and toward Christ. Through prayer, Scripture reading, sacramental living, penance, and virtuous conduct we continually have to recommit ourselves anew to this orientation toward Christ. But when we turn “to” Christ we have to turn “away” from something, and so we must be utterly resolute when it comes to turning away from any and all sin in our lives.

Otherwise, our own spiritual cataracts will make us instruments of darkness, not of the light of Christ.

Protected: Tie a Yellow Ribbon

Friday, June 18th, 2010

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Good Advice for Fathers

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

With Father”s Day on the horizon, I thought I would share with those of you who are fathers or who know someone who is (!) this excellent article by James Stenson, posted at the Catholic Education Resource Center.

Stenson”s “Advice for Fathers” is a list of things not to do, drawn from the school of hard knocks. Yet, I found the article to be very positive and encouraging. To adapt a popular commercial tagline,”kids come at you fast.” It”s tough to push all the right buttons as fathers in our confusing, fast-paced family lives. I found Stenson”s article to be really helpful as I continually make midstream adjustments that are so necessary when it comes to raising godly children.

Here are a couple excerpts that I really needed to hear (again):

“Don”t underestimate your children. Have high ambitions for their swift, step-by-step growth into maturity. We all tend to become what we think about, and kids tend to become what their parents expect of them. Even when they sometimes let you down and you have to correct them, make them understand that you see this as just a blip along the way. You have no doubt, none whatever, that they”ll someday grow into excellent men and women. You’2012-04-24 18:36:08′re proud of them, confident in them. Always will be.”

“Don”t forget to praise your children, and be specific about it. Kids need a pat on the back from time to time. We all do. Give praise for effort, not just success. Teach the kids this adult-life lesson: because success depends on effort, then effort is more important than success. You always appreciate when your children try.”

There are many other insights in the article. For even more, readers may be interested in Stenson”s book Father, The Family Protector, which is available here.

Protecting the Lambs

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

As the pastor of my domestic Church, I must admit that we don’t have any pews or bells. We do, however, have areas set aside in our home for prayer, and we have adorned our home with crucifixes, Catholic art, holy water fonts, and the like, which serve as helpful reminders of our family’s Catholic identity. Even so, it’s not the externals that make the Church–domestic or otherwise–so much as the lives of faith, hope, and charity that are fostered on the inside.

Pastors of parishes are often presented with programs and ideas, and while they want to say yes, they need to scrutinize the proposal to make sure nothing harmful to the faith is allowed into the parish.

Similarly, we have to be careful about what we allow into our homes. I’m not suggesting that we adopt a bunker mentality, but are we good shepherds, truly committed to protecting the souls that have been entrusted to our care? We might talk a good game when it comes to what’s going on at the parish, but do we apply the same level of scrutiny to what goes on in our own homes? Are we careless in letting in influences, often under the guise of entertainment, that are harmful to our family’s life of faith, hope, and charity?

Families may take different approaches to the Internet, television, cell phones, and the like. But whatever approach we take, we must be clear in our resolve to protect the faith of our children from thieves and marauders that want to steal it from them. Catechism, no. 2088 provides the standard, and I find it quite sobering:

“The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it.”

Let us renew our personal commitment to defend the faith and innocence of the next generation. And that commitment starts close to home–in fact, in the home.

In the Summertime

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

As you”re “lazing on a sunner afternoon” this summer, I”d like to propose an interesting reading list, posted at the Tiber River site. It”s a top ten list of autobiographical accounts of spiritual experience. In other words, what do holy, prayerful people themselves have to say about their intimate, personal relationship with Our Lord?

The list is by Fr. Tim Gallagher, O.M.V., an outstanding spirtual director and retreat master. In creating this list, Fr. Tim writes: “”I”ve tried to choose those which are really at the top, most of them saints or others in process of canonization, and a few others who are well known and whose autobiographical writing is spiritually rich and classic. It has meant leaving out many other wonderful writers in this genre (Hilda Graef, Angela of Foligno, Eugenio Zolli, etc.), but that is the point of the ”top ten” in a category, I suppose.”  

To view the top ten list, click here.

For different sort of reading, check out George Weigel’2012-04-24 18:36:13′s informative take on the most recent TIME cover story on the Pope and the sex scandals. 

Working for Sunday

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

A friend recently asked me, “Isn”t human work the result of the fall? How should Catholics view the subject of work?” Here”s how I responded: [more]

In the beginning, God fashioned man in His image and likeness and called him to “cultivate and care for” (Gen. 1:15) the land that was given him. Therefore, work was part of human life before the fall, and thus it is not in itself a punishment or curse. Since the fall, work has become burdensome (see Gen. 3:17-19), but it has also been redeemed by Christ.

The life and preaching of Christ is instructive. For example, we know that He spent most of His years tending to the carpentry trade that St. Joseph taught Him. Once His public ministry began, He described His mission as involving work: “My Father is working still, and I am working” (Jn. 5:17), and He often likened His disciples to laborers for His harvest (e.g., Mt. 9:37-38).

He taught us to be diligent in our work, but also not to be enslaved by it. We must not let work or other worldly concerns consume us with anxiety, but rather we must see our work as a way of honoring the Father.

Work is a duty. As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (no. 264) teaches: “No Christian, in light of the fact that he belongs to a united and fraternal community, should feel that he has the right not to work and to live at the expense of others (cf. 2 Thes 3:6-12).” Work enables us to participate in the ongoing work of creation as collaborators with God. In doing so, we become who we were created to be, we honor God through our use of the gifts and talents He gave us, we provide support for ourselves and our family, and we help build up the human community.

Work also enables us to participate in the ongoing work of redemption (cf. Col. 1:24). Work is a means of joyfully carrying our daily cross (Lk. 9:23) and being leaven to the world, both for our own sanctification and for the salvation of souls (see Catechism, no. 2427).

Because work is a God-given duty, it”s also a fundamental right. Its dignity is not based on what is done or made, but because it is done by man for the good of man. For that reason, the Church champions the rights of workers, including access to work without unjust discrimination of any kind, just wages, the ability to organize in unions and even, when it can”t be avoided and when necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit, strike (see Catechism, nos. 2433-36).

Lastly, the most important aspect of work is rest! The Sabbath rest was an integral part of God”s creation of the world (Gen. 2:2-3). Time away from work to worship God was what Moses tried to obtain from Pharaoh for the Israelite slaves in Egypt (see Ex. 5:1-3). And the observance of the Lord”s Day is an essential aspect of the Christian life in every generation.

On Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation, believers must refrain from “engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’2012-04-24 18:36:14′s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body” (Catechism, no. 2185; see generally, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nos. 258, 284-86).

Jesus stressed that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mk. 2:27), and the worship and rest that”s part of our Sunday celebration corresponds to the deepest needs and yearnings of the human heart.

For further reading, check out Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II”s 1981 encyclical on human work.