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Unplanned – Movie Trailer

20 Mar

“If you only see one movie this year, you should go see Unplanned”
Archbishop Joseph Naumann

The Super Bowl of Life

2 Feb

super-bowlIt’s kickoff time! When you hear that, you’re probably thinking of the Super Bowl, which is one of the most “sacred” events of our secular culture. However, in addition to crowning a football champion this weekend, it’s also time to kick off National Marriage Week.

While National Marriage Week doesn’t have the pomp and circumstance that the football game has, perhaps it should. While Super Bowl Sunday is a great opportunity to come together with friends and watch incredible athletes achieve the heights of athletic performance, it also challenges us to strive for excellence in our own marriage.

What if we approached our marriage in the same way that these incredible athletes approached this game? What if we prioritized and sacrificed to achieve the heights of marital joy with the same intentionality these athletes have sacrificed to be crowned as champions?  For your joyful marriage training protocol, go to www.JoyfulMarriageProject.com.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

The “Becket” List

29 Dec

St. Thomas BecketI’m sure many readers have heard of The Bucket List. It’s the movie in which characters played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman have terminal cancer. They decide to make the most of their remaining time by composing a “bucket list” of things they wanted to do before they die.

And then the adventures began!

A few years ago I started a similar tradition. During the last week of the year—when I can’t put it off any longer–I compose a “Becket list.” This list in named in honor of St. Thomas Becket, the 12th-century archbishop and martyr whose feast the Church celebrates each year on December 29th. The Becket list, part serious and part whimsical, contains things I would like to do before the end of the year.

Without further ado (after all, I gotta get busy!), here’s my end-of-2015 list:

(1) Recall all the blessings of 2015.

(2) Do all the things I put off till the Christmas holiday, when presumably I would “have more time.”

(3) Remember those who left us this year. This not only includes beloved celebrities like Cardinal Francis George, Leonard Nimoy, and Yogi Berra, but also friends and family members who passed away in 2015. I especially remember my sister Dottie. May they all rest in peace, as we put our trust in the Lord’s abundant mercy this year and always.

(4) Set goals and make resolutions for 2016. It’s good that we use the calendar as a motive to challenge ourselves to grow. High on the list is truly taking to heart the Archbishop’s invitation to participate more deeply in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy this coming year.

(5) Finally figure out how to operate the Wii and Xbox 360 before we’re forced to upgrade to Wii U and Xbox 1. I’ll probably always be an upgrade or two behind, to the chagrin of my sons.

(6) Lose ten pounds (five “old” pounds and the five put on over Christmas). I hope the treadmill still works.

(7) Perform intentional acts of kindness. After all, performing “random” acts of kindness leaves too much to chance.

(8) Clean my office! Both of them! If you’ve seen either one, no further explanation is needed.

(9) Tax stuff. Sure, the IRS gives us extra time for some things, but I like to have my “ducks” lined up. And surely this includes end-of-the-year donations to Catholic apostolates and charities!

(10) Playoffs? Playoffs! Of course I have to make plans to watch the playoff run of the Kansas City Chiefs! If I had gotten another puppy for Christmas, I would have named him Tamba, or possibly Dontari or Colquitt. Maybe next year.

What’s on your Becket list?

This article appeared in the December 25, 2015 edition of The Leaven.

What About the Tree?

26 Dec

Christmas treeFor many people, Christmas ends on Christmas day, so over the ensuing few days, amidst the various after-Christmas sales, the trees are unceremoniously taken down and dragged out to the curb.

But for those of us who do have a sense of Christmas extending beyond December 25th, the question still remains: When does Christmas season actually end? When should we take down not only our tree, but also other seasonal items such as nativity sets?

Traditionally, Christmas season is twelve days (like the song), which would take us to January 6th, the traditional date for celebrating the Epiphany, when the wise men brought gifts to the child Jesus. Now Epiphany is only approximately 12 days after Christmas, as in the United States it is celebrated on the second Sunday after Christmas. This year, for example, the second Sunday after Christmas falls on January 3rd.

But while Epiphany is an important feast within the context of the Christmas season, it doesn’t bring about the end of the Christmas season. The Christmas season ends on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, at which point “Ordinary Time” begins. The Sunday after the Baptism of the Lord is thus the second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

The Baptism of the Lord usually falls on the Sunday after Epiphany, which this year will be January 10th.

Lastly, prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Christmas season extended all the way to February 2nd, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (aka Purification of Our Lady or Candlemas), based on Luke 2:22-38. While that is no longer the case, there is still something of a Christmas “flavor” to the early weeks of Ordinary Time leading up to the Presentation of the Lord.

But what does all that have to do with taking down my tree? And besides, if I wait too long to take it down, the garbage trucks won’t take it!

Well, rest assured there are no “rules” on all this. My recommendation, based on the liturgical season, is to keep Christmas decorations up till the Baptism of the Lord (January 11th). If that seems a little extreme for your household, I’d counsel at least waiting till after Epiphany (January 4th). That’s especially true for Nativity sets that include the three wise men.

And after all, why cut short “the most wonderful time of the year”?

Christmas Eve

23 Dec

When you think about it, doesn’t “Christmas Eve” sound like an apt title for the Blessed Virgin Mary? After all, as the Fathers of the Church taught, she is the “New Eve,” the mother of all who are alive in Christ (cf. Gen. 3:20; Rev. 12:17).

As Christmas day rapidly approaches, I thought our readers would appreciate a snippet of a sermon by St. Augustine, which is the reading for tomorrow’s Office of Readings (matins) in the Church’s liturgy:

“Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man. . . .

“Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.”

Come Lord Jesus, do not delay; give new courage to Your people who trust in Your love. By Your coming, raise us to the joy of Your kingdom, where You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

What the Tilma “Said”

12 Dec

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We are all familiar with the events that occurred on this date in 1531 just outside of Mexico City. Our Lady not only appeared to St. Juan Diego and gave him roses that ordinarily don’t bloom that time of year, but also there appeared on St. Juan’s cloak, or “tilma,” the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  

The news of the miracle spread like wildfire. Within two weeks, the tilma was moved to the first of a succession of chapels, churches, and eventually basilicas constructed at the apparition site.

There were three points of great significance to the Indian people:

(1) The lady was Indian, spoke Nahuatl, and appeared to an Indian (Juan Diego), not a Spaniard. The oppressed Indian peoples could relate to her.

(2) The lady appeared, of all places, at Tepeyac, the reputed home of Tonantzin, the mother God. The Indians understood this as meaning that this lady—the Virgin Mary—was the mother of the one, true God. The Native Americans clearly saw that Christianity was to replace the Aztec religion. Even the golden filigree over Our Lady’s rose-colored gown matches the topography of the Mexican lands once ruled by the Aztecs.

(3) The Indians were especially drawn to the image on the tilma itself, which represented God’s sacrificial love for mankind. This image was a welcome change for those who worshipped deities that required human sacrifice. Continue reading

My Brother Louie

17 Nov

As we meditate on the Gospels, it’s only natural that we would try to imagine what the various biblical figures looked like, beginning with Our Lord Himself. One character I find especially intriguing is Zacchaeus, whose encounter with our Lord is recorded in today’s Gospel.

Whenever I think of Zacchaeus, I picture Louie De Palma, Danny DeVito’s character in the popular 1980s television series Taxi. We know that Zacchaeus was not only short, but also dishonest, despised, and resourceful. He was hardly the sort of character we might choose to emulate, any more than we would aspire to be like Louie De Palma. Yet I’d suggest that Catholic laymen do well to meditate on the call and conversion of Zacchaeus.

Perhaps the call of the rich young man is better known, so we might compare the two accounts. The rich young man keeps the commandments but wants to know what else he must do to attain eternal life. Good question! Jesus’s response–sell everything, give to the poor, and follow Him–was more than the rich young man bargained for, at least for the moment. We understand in Our Lord’s response the call to evangelical perfection, particularly as lived by consecrated persons who embrace radical lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Jesus’ response to the rich young man is instructive to all of us as we strive to follow Him single-heartedly. But what about us “rich” middle-aged men, with wife, children, job, mortgage, credit-card bills, and student loans? Are we supposed to sell everything, give the proceeds to the poor, and only then follow Jesus? How does Jesus’ universal call to discipleship relate to Catholic men who are to remain “in the world,” but not of it?

Enter Zacchaeus. Continue reading

St. Ignatius of Antioch

17 Oct

I’m especially partial to today’s saint, Ignatius of Antioch. I’m sure part of it is because it’s my 56th birthday, so I’ve always claimed him as one of “my” saints. But even more, St. Ignatius, who is recalled in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer 1), is a vitally important witness to the faith of the Apostles, which of course is the faith of the Church.

St. Ignatius (c. 50-107 A.D.) was the third Bishop of Antioch (St. Peter himself was the first, by the way). Antioch is the place where Our Lord’s followers were called Christians for the first time (Acts 11:26). St. Ignatius heard the preaching of St. John the Evangelist, and he also knew St. Polycarp, another significant apostolic Father who eventually became the Bishop of Smyrna in what is now Turkey.

What makes St. Ignatius such a significant figure in Church history is that when he was to be martyred in 107 A.D. during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, he was brought to Rome for his execution. During this journey he wrote seven letters to different Churches that are extant and indeed have been precious gems of the apostolic faith for Christians of every generation.

In honor of St. Ignatius, I will now give the following “top ten” list of some of my favorite quotes from this great bishop and martyr: Continue reading

Why We Care About Marriage (Part 4)

2 Sep

winding road CCHeaven!

It is what we all desire in the depths of our existence. Every longing we experience finds its fulfillment in heaven. Every joy in this life is but a sign of what is to come in eternity. When a joy we experience passes away, we’re reminded that we’re not yet in heaven, where our joy will never end.

Imagine going to a party and not having to leave at the end, but being able to stay at the party with all of your closest friends and family. This is kind of what heaven will be like, except we tend to interpret heaven from our own limited human experience. We think that if heaven is some sort of party that never ends, then eventually we will get bored.

Heaven is not quite like that; it is not an endless succession of days where we have to find something to do. It is more like a fixed moment of joy that is locked into our very existence–for in heaven, there is no time.

Believe it or not, one of the greatest insights we can gain into this eternal existence is by contemplating the mystery of marriage.

Married couples are a sign of God’s existence in heaven, as the Church is wedded to Christ for all of eternity. Heaven is depicted in Sacred Scripture as a wedding feast. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so. God uses this analogy to help us understand the eternal joy we will experience in heaven.

Let’s face it, wedding receptions are joyous occasions, and He is trying to awaken us to this reality. The Lord is saying, “If you think weddings are fun on earth, wait until you get here!”  And that’s just the beginning.

Imagine a passionately loving couple who are approaching their wedding day. They simply cannot wait to give themselves as a gift to one another at the altar and also to consummate that relationship through the conjugal act.  The joy the couple experiences through the total self-donation of intercourse is intended to be a foretaste of the bliss of participating in the union of Christ and His Bride for all eternity. This may make us blush, but it is God who came up with this analogy to describe what our experience of joy will be like in heaven.

In the Catholic Tradition, we call heaven the “beatific vision.” This description helps us understand that we, the Bride of Christ, will see Christ, the Bridegroom, face to face for all of eternity in a loving, passionate stare. As we gaze in the vision of our Savior, we are filled with His love. His love penetrates us and fills us with His very life. Having received His life, we now have a worthy gift to return to Him, and so, having received, we can now give in return a pleasing gift.

Does that description of the beatific vision sound like anything that a husband and wife experience in their earthly marriage? It should. The marital embrace of husband and wife, where the husband gives his seed of life to his wife and she takes that seed into herself and offers it in return in the conception and bringing forth of new life, is the earthly window where we catch a glimpse of the eternal embrace of Christ and His Bride!

This is but a tiny glimpse of the beautiful vision of marriage that the Church holds out to her children. So, for us it is not a matter of debating whether to change the definition of marriage. We do not believe we have the power to change what we did not create. It is not for us to change; it is for us to understand and live.

Marriage is not an entity unto itself, but it represents the One who created it because He wanted to communicate the truth and beauty of His loving reality. Is it any wonder that as marriage has declined over the past several decades that we have also seen a rise in atheism? I believe they are connected. It makes sense that as we can no longer see the sign as clearly as we should, we cannot recognize what the sign points to. It is like trying to reach a destination without having the proper signs to guide the way. Can you imagine if you went on a road trip and did not have a map, or GPS, or any road signs to tell you if you were on the right path?  It may feel like an adventure at first, but it would soon turn into a frustrating ordeal. In this scenario, it would be surprising if we ever reach our destination.

I think that is what our culture is experiencing. Our society has set out on an excursion and has left all points of guidance behind. The culture thinks it is on an exciting experience of unbridled freedom and happiness, but it will eventually lead to frustration and despair. I am speaking about every form of deprivation of the truth and beauty of matrimony that I have mentioned in this series.

For us married couples, it is our duty to be the sign we are intended to be for the sake of others. When we do that, we will experience joy beyond belief, because we will be living our purpose in life, which is to lead others to Christ. I invite all married couples to intentionally focus on being the sign they are called to be in order to change the culture.  Living our mission as married couples is the most effective way to awaken our culture to the beauty of marriage. To paraphrase St. Catherine of Sienna, if we were who we were created to be, we would set the world on fire!

The Lost Art of Hospitality

25 Aug

tim's articleHospitality is a lost art in the world today. Through fear, indifference, or just being too busy, we often overlook the simple needs of others right before our eyes. The world could use a little more hospitality. The Church offers a rich history of models of hospitality that may help us today–in our professions, homes, and parishes.

St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547) is often called the “founder of western monasticism.” In The Rule of Benedict, which still guides many contemporary religious communities, he instructed his followers to receive guests with deep, sincere love. His pastoral concern for visitors is rightly held up as an example for those in the hospitality industry and indeed for all Christians.

St. Benedict stressed the importance of  the reception of guests.  His rule outlines how he wants the monks to handle the arrival of pilgrims, the poor, and other guests to the monastery. He writes that “all guests who arrive should be received as if they were Christ.” St. Benedict exhorts his monks to follow the pattern of prayer and welcome, and then to wash their feet, give them food, and provide them a bed. Basic acts of service are essential to the art of hospitality, as they meet the physical needs of the pilgrim. The saintly monk knew that the higher spiritual journey must begin with prayer, but that practical human needs must be provided, or else the pilgrims journey will go awry. Once rested, satiated and clean, the guest can now more eagerly seek the Lord without encumbrance.  

Not just for hotels anymore

How can this 1,500 year-old practice be used in our world today? In our homes, parishes, and retreat centers!

The call to hospitality is part of Gods revelation for all families, found in both Scripture and Tradition. St. Paul exhorts the Romans to “welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom 15:7). His message to all Christians is nothing shorto of a universal call to hospitality–tapping into the welcoming grace that softens our evangelistic efforts and invites and comforts those in need. Christ accepts people as they are, loves them as they are, and invites them into deeper communion. This is our call as well.  

More Christian families need to find ways to welcome Christ in the stranger, the guest, and the pilgrim. As St. John Paul II stressed in Familiaris Consortio, his famous 1981 document on marriage and family: “In particular, note must be taken of the ever greater importance in our society of hospitality in all its forms, from opening the door of one’s home and still more of one’s heart to the pleas of one’s brothers and sisters.”

Opening the doors of our homes and hearts is the constant call from Paul of Tarsus, who heard that call from Christ Himself, to our contemporary Church leaders. Hospitality should simply flow from the living heart of a Christian who sees Jesus in all those people around him or her. The Christian family must not become a closed circle, any more than the Church can become a closed membership group. We are called to be open and “exercise hospitality” to all.  

One reason that hospitality has become something of a lost art in our world comes from the lack of understanding of how to practice it. Primarily, hospitality is not about the host, but about the guest. We ought not try to change the guest, but to accommodate our spaces for them. Thus, anticipating their needs accurately is essential to good service. Benedict identified this point as he assigned “suitably competent” brothers in the guest kitchen and “sensible people” whose hearts were “filled with the fear of God” to run the guesthouse. Those competent and sensible people can see the needs of their guests almost before they realize their own need.

Similarly, the sensible hostess of a Christian family can supply her guest with clean linens and towels (an obvious need) while now also supplying an extra power strip in the guestroom (a more recent need, with increased electronics). One gets better at hospitality with practice, as is the case with any other habit or virtue. Thus, the Christian family should seek to invite guests to dinner, to stay with them, and to pray with them. 

Open to the “circle of grace” 

Following the Rule of Benedict with regard to the reception of guests can enable the Christian family to remain open to the circle of grace that lies before them. As Abraham hosted the three angels at table in the Old Testament (cf. Gen. 18-19) and grace flowed from that encounter, so too can the modern family receive grace through hospitality.

In this context, reflecting deeply on the famous icon of the Trinity by Andrei Rublev, we can see that the three angels at Abrahams table form an “open circle”  that is at once complete and yet at the same time allows for the viewer to join. We are called to Eucharistic communion at that table. The icon serves as a window into the nature of the hospitality of both Abraham (whose generosity was repaid many times over, as father of many nations) and of God Himself. Therefore, divinized hospitality (magnanimous love for others) is the goal for Christian families, as it was for the monasteries of St. Benedicts day and age.  

This active disposition of generous openness is a distinctly intentional pro-life, pro-family stance. With the mentality that “theres always room for one more,” the Christian family can stand counter-culturally for life in every way, such as through their openness to Gods blessing of fertility, through natural birth, adoption, or foster care. With the mentality that “we always have a seat for a guest,” the Christian family can live out the call to open their doors, calling the stranger into communion, making them a stranger no longer.

This practice of generous service can then lead to the virtue of magnanimity, literally a “great-souled” effort to give generously, in the right way and at the right time, a holy hospitality that will “unknowingly entertain angels” (Heb. 13:2).