Monday, March 26, 2018

(In)Credible Catholic: Faith and Reason for Essential Conversations

Every former, future and current Catholic needs to bookmark their browsers with  The genius behind the initiative is Fr. Robert Spitzer, who has created this inCredible resource for exploring research-based responses to today's big issues--with piercing logical clarity.

Got questions about faith and science--or know someone who does?!?  Just click through these narrated learning modules and reclaim a deeper appreciation of how scientific evidence supports core tenets of the Catholic faith:

Got questions about whether it is reasonable to believe that God exists and that Jesus is real--or know someone who does?!?  Check out these eminently logical arguments:

Got questions about how being Catholic relates to real life in a post-modern world--or know someone who does?!?  Here are three more essential resources:

The price is right:  FREE; the time is right:  Available 24/7.  And the content is right on: PDF "mini-books" of research and references accompany each of the seven modules.

Spread the word as if the very salvation of eternal souls were at stake!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Calling Forth St. Joseph's Spiritual Support

St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pray for us!

It's the topic which comes up with overwhelming frequency in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It's the subject which the U.S. Bishops felt compelled to address in their recent document, "Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography."

It's the one of the issues of the day which calls for the spiritual support of St. Joseph, universal patron of the Church:

  • According to a recent study, 64% of 13 to 24-year-olds actively seek out pornography each week.  Male and female, God created us; yet--male and female alike--the 97-billion-dollar "porn" industry is systematically stripping away basic human respect for the image of God within each person.
  • This is not just an issue of moral turpitude writ large.  Rather, it is a matter of intense spiritual warfare--a battle with powers and principalities for immortal souls.  We have an Enemy who wants not only to derail us from God's invitation to Eternal Life but also to destroy our peace and joy here on earth.

St. Joseph, the righteous man,
understands how the world, the flesh and the devil conspire to drive the human person into a pit of destruction.  St. Joseph also knows the surpassing power and glory of God's grace.

St. Joseph, the chaste spouse, understands that human sexuality must be integrated into a deeper appropriation of one's personal identity.  First and foremost, each human being is a beloved son or daughter of our Heavenly Father; every human person is made for communion with infinite love.  God's grace can properly order human sexuality toward this End, or goal, as long as we stop trying to make human sexuality into an end in itself.

St. Joseph, the foster-father of the Redeemer, knows that human sexuality is ordered toward transmitting infinite love, which is very different from the mere satisfaction of physical and emotional desires.  The function of the human body follows its form or design, not vice versa. God created the human race male and female so that a total gift of self to the other might bring new life into the world.

Finally, St. Joseph, always attentive to the Angel of the Lord, knows that God asked him to name the Baby "Jesus" because "he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21).  He also knows that the Angel told Mary that "nothing will be impossible for God" (Lk 1:37).

With St. Joseph's heavenly help, it is time for us to awake from our slumbers and to do as the angel of the Lord continues to command: Go forth and reclaim the glorious image of God inherent in each human person.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Loneliness: "God's Invitation to Intimacy"

The quote in the title above, which a friend attributes to Archbishop Sartain of Seattle, points toward the following question:  In what ways do I experience God reaching out in my loneliness--and how do I respond?

At different times, the following paradoxical experiences resonate with my sense of God's invitation to a deeper intimacy with him:

  • Sitting alone together.  Distracting devices and relentless noise have the potential to fill all of my waking hours:  I must resist the temptation to hide behind being "plugged in" and so wait for "God-with-me" to draw near...

  • Embracing accompanied abandonment.  Betrayals and devastating rejection marked the final days of Jesus' life: I must cultivate eyes to see the Father of lights beckoning tenderly to me precisely when things seem most dark...

  • Listening to silence speak.  Pascal famously remarked that "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone":  I must resolve to reverse humanity's problems by letting the Lord's still, small voice echo in the one human heart I'm responsible for cultivating and nourishing...

  • Finding the desert water.  Dryness, aridity, withering heat, and lifelessness seem to be the world's default mode:  I must ask for ears to hear the living water bubbling up in silent springs throughout the wasteland...

  • Exploring interdependent individuality.  The myth of isolated individualism is hard to shake since my fallen human nature longs to do it "my way":  I must remember--re-collect the deeper insight--that isolated individualism is an artificial construct and that interdependence defines who I am, where I have come from, as well as where I'm going...

  • Finding fragile strength.  St. Paul says that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:3), which clearly implies that he cannot do all things on his own:  I must have the courage to confront my greatest weaknesses since they are hinges of hope which help me embrace a strength from a source greater than my easily aggrandized ego...

Dorothy Day famously titled her autobiography The Long Loneliness.   Rather than trying to wish away my loneliness, perhaps I should dare to ask for even more of it.  While the world literally seems hell bent on making me feel "complacent in my finitude" (Bp. Barron), longing alone for the infinite creates the condition for the possibility of a deeper Personal encounter. 

This intimate encounter, alone and together, makes all things new.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Our Lady's Long Lent

Jesus' cleansing of the Temple must have been like Ash Wednesday for Our Lady.  Mary's long Lent had begun. 

The dark mark of the Cross must have cast a shadow over her when she realized what had happened.  The "ordinary time" of her life with Jesus was over.  Now everything was heading toward the end, an end which would certainly be bloody.

Chapter 2 of John's Gospel starts with Jesus and Mary celebrating together at the wedding in Cana and then moves immediately into Jesus' prophetic action at the Temple in Jerusalem:  From "My hour has not yet come," to "Zeal for your house will consume me" (Jn 2:4,17).

To hear the story of the cleansing of the Temple through the Blessed Mother's ears is to embrace our own stripping away of worldly illusions which allows us to enter into the Paschal Mystery.  Indeed, from the moment Mary heard that "Jesus went up to Jerusalem" with the Passover approaching (Jn 2:13), she must have glimpsed where this was going--the City of David, the place of Passover sacrifice, the Father's house--and why.

"Destroy this Temple..."  When Mary heard these words of Jesus, she knew that it was not some metaphorical message.  The intransigent leaders and the capricious crowd would, indeed, kill her Son.  The Angel had told Joseph that Jesus would "save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21), and salvation of God's chosen people is inextricably linked to the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb.

But Mary knew that the Blood of this Lamb was different, having been heavenly-sent and co-mingled with her own since the moment Jesus was conceived.  She knows that his Body is different as well, having become the new dwelling place of the Lord on earth:  "...he was speaking about the temple of his body" (Jn 2:21).

Jesus' entire public ministry was a season of penance and prayer for Our Lady.  She accepted the passion which needed to come because she trusted in the victory which the Lord promised for the new Temple of his Body: " three days I will raise it up."  Just as Mary had trusted the Angel who promised that Jesus would "rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Lk 1:33), so she trusted that Life would destroy death, that freedom would supplant slavery.  She knew it must be so.

What a lonely Lent the Blessed Mother must have walked--especially in her empathy with Son's isolation when she heard that "Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all..." (Jn 2:24).

Thankfully, Jesus entrusted himself to Our Lady over and over again.  Gratefully, we must accept the fact that he longs to trust himself to us as well.  If we dare to journey with Jesus and Mary to Jerusalem, our Lent will help us realize that Love does such things.