Archive | October, 2011

For All the Saints!

31 Oct

Enjoy this hymn, and celebrate with gusto the solemnity of All Saints tomorrow!

Herman Who?

31 Oct

Pope Benedict XVI has deliberately timed the beginning of the “Year of Faith” next October to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).  In his apostolic letter Porta Fidei (“Door of Faith”) introducing the Year of Faith, the Holy Father made his own the statement of Blessed John Paul II regarding the importance of Vatican II as “a sure compass by which to take our bearings” in the new millennium.”

But then Pope Benedict further added: “I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: ‘if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.’”

What is a hermeneutic? And in this instance, what is the “right hermeneutic”? Continue reading

Has the Vatican Really Become the Chaplain for the Occupy Wall Street Movement?

28 Oct

Last week, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) issued what it called a “reflection” on the current state of world economic affairs. This reflection has stirred up some controversy, because the PCJP suggests that part of the solution might be to establish a global financial authority.  There has been some confusion among the faithful because the media has framed the story as a spiritual endorsement of the “Occupy” protests that have been taking place throughout the Western world.

So as the archdiocesan “social justice guy,” I thought I would take the time to actually read the 18-page document and give an overview of what the Vatican has said.

The document is entitled “Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority.” While I think this document bears careful reading as an application of Catholic social teaching to the current world economic crisis, Catholics need to know it is not a doctrinal statement that binds the conscience of the faithful.   Continue reading

Temperance Matters

27 Oct

Temperance not only is undervalued but also misunderstood today. It does mean moderation, but not in a quantitative, mathematical sense. I could probably eat a dozen donuts, but that would be excessive. Yet not having any donuts would be excessive in the other direction, so I decide to eat only a half dozen. That’s a compromise, but not a temperate one!

Temperance is not pleasure avoidance, even though Prohibition was brought about by the “temperance movement.” And temperance is not merely “sin avoidance,” namely the mere absence of serious sins of gluttony or lust.

Temperance is all about living the good life. Here’s a textbook definition: Temperance moderates the attraction of sensual pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods.

Let’s simplify that: Passions (also known as desires or emotions) are a “given.” They are not good or evil in themselves, but must be harnessed by the intellect and will lest they run amok.

When emotions such as fear keep us from pursuing the good, we need the virtue of fortitude or courage to press on.

Other times our desires pull or even seduce us to seek what isn’t good for us. In those instances, temperance is the virtue that moderates these desires and directs them in a good and healthy way.

Temperance involves staying strong during a storm of passion. We know those storms: “munchies,” sugar cravings, a cold beer or two, sexual urges, anger, the thrill of a gamble or athletic competition, or an exhibition of speed.

Let’s face it, our sins tend to be rooted in disordered desires, so we need the virtue of temperance lest our desires take control of our lives. The various vices of intemperance will lead to addiction and enslavement—spiritual and at times physical and psychological as well.

The virtue of temperance when specifically applied to the area of sexuality is called chastity.

Everyone is called to chastity. It’s a manly thing, and it’s a difficult thing. Continue reading

“Virtual” Conversion

26 Oct

It’s true that in this life we will never reach the point at which sin ceases to be an issue. However, we can make great progress in our spiritual journey—and in the process, build up the culture of life—by striving to grow in virtue. Then, when tested, we’re disposed to act in accordance with our values—in other words, to act virtuously.

Virtues are “character muscles.” Let’s look at it this way: We may desire to accomplish some athletic feat (such as win a race or make the team), but to reach that goal we need physical muscles. We need to be in shape. We can’t show up and expect to succeed if we haven’t put in the requisite effort. Similarly, if we want to live happy, godly lives, the virtues are the muscles that enable us to reach our goal.

A virtue is a good habit that inclines us to perform morally good actions, as opposed to a vice, which is a bad habit that inclines us to sin. Virtues enable us to do the right thing with:

Continue reading

Men for Life

25 Oct

As Catholic men, we are all too familiar with what Pope John Paul II called the “culture of death,” which treats people as dispensable commodities rather than as persons made for eternity. Every day we are witnesses to myriad offenses against human life and dignity. Many of us respond by supporting pro-life organizations and by participating in the political process.

These responses are extremely important, but they’re not primary. After all, the culture of death is not merely “out there,” cordoned off from “good Catholics” like us. Rather, the culture of death is lurking within us: It is the reality of original sin. The effects of original sin are not only societal, but first and foremost intensely personal.

We’re probably sincere when we say we love Christ and desire to be faithful to His Church. But something may be lacking in the execution, as we frequently do the very things we say we hate (cf. Rom 7:19). Through our sins, we become complicit with the culture of death: We—and I’m speaking here primarily to men—become part of the problem. “Men behaving badly” isn’t just a lousy sitcom. The phrase epitomizes the widespread failure of today’s men to lead well.

Thanks be to Jesus Christ, who through the sacraments imparts to us His saving grace. Yet despite the awesome gift of divine mercy, we still bear within ourselves sinful tendencies that incline us to commit the same sins over and over again. We truly are works in progress–“men under construction,” as our annual archdiocesan men’s conference aptly describes it.

Over the next couple posts, I will discuss what men can do, with God’s grace, to become part of the solution.

This series originally appeared as a feature article published by This Rock magazine.

Credo Catholics

24 Oct

As noted last week, the Church will observe a “Year of Faith” next year, which will coincide with a meeting of Church leaders in Rome to discuss the “new evangelization.”

The last so-called “Year of Faith” took place in 1967-68, at the request of Pope Paul VI. I don’t remember that “Year of Faith,” and I barely remember Pope Paul VI. But there are some things from that time that I do recall, which I think have some relevance to this new “Year of Faith” announced by Pope Benedict XVI.

I remember the year beginning with the Packers’ second straight Super Bowl victory and ending with Richard Nixon’s narrow victory over Hubert Humphrey and  George Wallace (I was allowed to stay up late and watch the election coverage). I remember Bobby Kennedy being shot only a couple miles from my house and the rioting that accompanied the Democratic convention.

Mostly, though, I was a chubby third-grader at St. Elizabeth’s in Southern California, oblivious to most of what was going on in the world and in the Church. Whether I was playing kickball in the schoolyard or humming “Kumbaya” as I crafted nifty collages from magazine scraps, I was largely shielded from the cultural changes going on in our society, from the civil rights movement and Vietnam to Woodstock and women’s  “liberation.”

On the whole, these were dark days for the Church. Today there’s the enthusiasm of the “new evangelization” and a significant influx of converts notwithstanding the scandals and other challenges. Back then, however, there were people jumping ship in unprecedented numbers. And not just priests and religious. All of us experienced the exodus of relatives, friends, and classmates from the Church.

Yet, amidst the turmoil, I think the “Year of Faith” planted seeds of hope for future generations.

One such seed was the issuance of the Credo of the People of God by Pope Paul VI at the conclusion of the “Year of Faith.” The publication of new, official expressions of the Catholic faith is a rare occurrence. Further, Pope Paul’s Credo (Latin for “I believe”) is much more detailed than the more familiar Apostles’ Creed or Nicene Creed. Continue reading

Courage to Be Chaste

20 Oct

This week the National Catholic Register published an informative interview with Fr. Paul Check, the executive director of Courage, an organization that ministers to people with same-sex attractions. Check out the entire interview here.

I thought Fr. Check provided an especially clear, down-to-earth summary of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality:

“There’s a distinction we always make among the person, the inclination and  the action. The person is always good: a child of God, redeemed in Christ and  invited to grace and glory. As for the inclination, the Church teaches that it’s  disordered when put alongside our understanding of what it means to live and act  in a way consistent with our human nature, in this case, in the realm of human  intimacy and love.

“It’s the ultimately procreative power of sexual activity that tells us why  the world is divided into two sexes. Therefore, the same-sex inclination is  described by the Church as disordered because it’s at variance with that design  and order in nature. That inclination takes a person’s deepest aspirations and  desires and confuses them by layering on top of them an erotic same-sex  attraction. Underneath that layer, however, there is the fullness of human nature to include authentic desires relating to human intimacy. And although the  inclination is disordered, we stress that this is absolutely no basis for a  personal moral condemnation.

“But the action–the deliberate choice to engage in homosexual activity–that action is gravely immoral.”

Archbishop Naumann has noted that we cannot credibly oppose same-sex “marriage” without at the same time providing a compassionate pastoral response to those with same-sex attractions. Fr. Check puts it this way: Continue reading

This “Hallowed” Season

19 Oct

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little “halloweened” out–and the holiday is still nearly two weeks away!

All the same, since it’s not only a cultural phenomenon but even more importantly the eve of All Saints Day (“Halloween,” after all, is an abbreviation of “All Hallows’ Eve”), we can’t simply ignore it. I recommend this tract on Halloween for those who want to know more about the history of this day.

As for me, I’ve always been a little low-key about Halloween because it’s the birthday of a dear brother of mine who died when I was a teenager. Further, “trick or treating” was never an issue when my family lived in Steubenville, as we usually had multiple “All Saints Day” events to choose from that were both fun and reflective of the religious roots of the holiday.

Now for the past four years we have lived in a good community here in Kansas, but not a Catholic enclave like Steubenville, so we’ve been figuring out anew what to do about Halloween. We decided early on to participate in the neighborhood festivities, but we do what we can to ”re-baptize” the holiday.

For one thing, my kids still dress up as religious figures. So far we have had a priest, a Franciscan, St. Raymond of Penyafort, Moses, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, among others, with a couple other saints still in the making. The idea is that the kids need to be ready to explain who they are to others, which isn’t far removed from evangelizing their peers.

I will again dutifully give out treats (yes, that makes me a sugar daddy, I suppose!). One year I gave out second treats to those who could recite from memory a Scripture verse or answer a basic question about the Christian faith. Another year I gave out holy cards along with the candy. I’d like to try something new this year to keep things fresh, so I’d be interested in hearing our readers’ ideas and traditional practices when it comes to Halloween.

Pope Announces “Year of Faith”

18 Oct

During Mass this past Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was calling a “Year of Faith.”

This special year will begin on October 11, 2012, which happens to be the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992. Also in October 2012, the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will convene to reflect on the theme, “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”

The holy year will conclude on November 24, 2013, the solemnity of Christ the King.

The official document announcing the “Year of Faith” is called Porta Fidei (“The Door of Faith”). In Porta Fidei, the Holy Father says this initiative is required “because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.” Surely this crisis has affected our own families and circles of friends and acquaintances.

“A Christian many never think of belief as a private act,” he wrote. The Pope suggested that during the “Year of Faith” the Church must find ways to make public professions of faith.

The Pope also desires that the Year of Faith will provide an opportunity to help the faithful properly understand the authentic meaning of Vatican II. In the past, the Holy Father has stressed that we should see Vatican II as being in continuity with our Catholic tradition, and not as a betrayal or abandonment of what the Church has always believed and taught.

Pope Benedict also expressed his profound hope that the “Year of Faith” will “arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in its fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope.”

In the coming weeks and months, we will further unpack this “Year of Faith” at “No Place Like Home,” so that we may fully embrace this initiative to help renew the Church in our time.