Archive for November, 2012

November 24, 2012 – Unlocking the Answers

November 24, 2012

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with your family and friends.  I had  good Thanksgiving, although I’m still a little sore from my nephew pretending to be “Ironman” and killing me about 67,000 times.  Ahhh … family!  And if you were one of the hearty people who ventured out in all hours of the night to grab a deal on Black Friday, I hope you got what you were looking for and that you didn’t get too many bumps and bruises from fighting for that $200 laptop.  I went with the same strategy I employed last year.  I waited until lunchtime yesterday and then went to Wal-Mart to see what was left.  I scored a very nice $9.44 crockpot as well as a couple of computer accessories, so I’m calling it a successful trip.  If you are not on Facebook, I posted this photo that gives a new perspective to Black Friday.  It is a little late, but it is so true…

This coming Tuesday will be a bit of a bittersweet day.  That evening we will wrap up our year-long “Fanning the Flame” discussion group.  When we started back in January I think a lot of us thought that it would be a long year since we would be discussing a chapter out of the same book each time.  However, I think all of us who have stuck with it would say just he opposite.  We have greatly enjoyed the discussions and have learned a lot about why the Catholic Church “does what it does”.  If you didn’t participate in the discussions, you can still go to www.ftfdiobelle.org and get the study guides and other materials from each of the chapters in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, which was the basis of our discussions.  Also, if you did not get a copy of the Catechism, you can still get them at a discounted price by using the code on the same website.

I wish everyone could have been a fly on the wall during our discussion sessions, particularly those who have been having doubts about their faith and those who have the attitude that the church is “behind the times” and refuses to change to suit our culture.  The positions that the church takes on issues such as abortion, birth control, marriage, etc., are not there because a bunch of crotchety old men say that this is the way it is and we shouldn’t have to change just because some people think what we are doing is out-of-date.  The church believes these things because this is what Scripture tells us is God’s will, and we have the responsibility to live the way God desires us to.  For example, the Bible could not be more clear that God’s intention of marriage was to be between a man and woman, and that acts of sexuality should be open to procreation.  as far back as the first chapter of the Bible, we hear this message in Genesis:  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;  male and female he created them.  And God blessed them. And God said to  them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  We also hear this from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:  “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his  own wife and each woman her own husband.”

This is not some made-up, pulled out of the air social policy.  This is Scripture.  The last couple of weeks in my PSR class, and as well as in our Fanning the Flame group, we have been discussing the 10 commandments.  The point that I have been trying to emphasize to the kids, and what I think we as adults need to keep in mind, is that God does not give us these commandments as a punishment.  He gives us these as a guide to live a happy life.  Imagine what the world would be like if everyone followed the Commandments to a tee.  There would be no murders or violent crimes.  We would not have to bother to lock our homes or cars.  It would be the simple life that many of us wish we had.  If you know someone who is having doubts about their faith, or if you know someone who has been inquiring about their faith, then direct them to the Catechism to find answers to their questions.

Back to the subject of marriage, the Catholic Conference of Illinois has put together a great resource, or what they call a “toolkit” to help answer questions about the Catholic Church’s stance on marriage.  It is for clergy as well as lay people.  It helps answer questions such as:

  • What is marriage?
  • Why is the definition of marriage important?
  • Why does the Church endure the repercussions of taking a stance on marriage which is contrary to popular social trends and media advocacy?
  • And, most importantly, why should you care about marriage?

Here is the link to the website where you can get this “toolkit”:

http://www.ilcatholic.org/cci-issues-marriage-toolkit/

Also, we have talked about this being a Year of Faith as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.  I found a website this past week that has a lot of resources pertaining to the Year of Faith.  It is a joint effort between Loyola University in New Orleans and Catholic News Service.  Here is the link to this site:

http://lim.loyno.edu/yearoffaith

Finally, even though Christmas preparation seems in full-bore with all the shopping going on and all the decorations going up, our season of preparation of Advent actually does not begin until next week.  I’ll give you some resources then that you can find online to help our spiritual preparation.  Until then, have a great week.  Enjoy your leftover turkey.  Peace.

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November 17, 2012 – It’s Not So Bad After All

November 18, 2012

Well none of us are immune to having “one of those days” or “one of those weeks”.  This week was my turn to have “one of those weeks”, at least the latter part of the week.  I was so excited when I got home Thursday because my new modem had arrived in order to switch internet providers.  I installed everything the way it was supposed to be, and no internet.  Me without internet is like a fish without water.  So I call the tech people and they tell me a bunch of things to try, and of course none of them worked.  She finally tells me that it must be something in the wiring and that she would open a service ticket.  Ah, the old “I’ll open a service ticket so this guy will get off of the phone” routine.  So Friday comes, and before I come home from work I have to stop to fix someone’s printer.  What I thought would be a five-minute job turned into a 2-hour marathon.  Then I come home and still no internet.  So another call to the tech people, who tell me that they are working on the problem RIGHT NOW, and if the internet didn’t work in an hour, to call them back.  One hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, still no internet.  I did not call back at this point knowing that I would probably say something I would regret later.  Thankfully, a technician came this morning and got me hooked up – thus the reason that I’m late getting the blog up.  Then, as I was getting ready to leave work I get a call with a laundry list of problems that need to be fixed, so I fixed enough to get them through until Monday and I leave over an hour later than usual.  Before going home, I had to stop at the drugstore.  The cashier asked me if I was having a good day.  I said “NO!, I can’t tell a lie,  I’m not having a good day.”  The cashier got a startled look on her face and said “Dang!  I hope things start going better.”

After I left the drugstore I regretted the answer I gave her.  Yes, some nuisances got in my way, but they were nothing more than nuisances.  There are many people who are dealing with problems of much more consequence than my own.  People on the east coast are still suffering because of Hurricane Sandy.  People in the Middle East are seeing another round of violence.  People are suffering with cancer and other serious ailments.  People at Hostess are suddenly left mulling their futures.  I have many things to work on, and one of them is definitely keeping things in perspective, especially when it seemed like things aren’t going my way.  Perhaps all of us need a reminder of this.

OK, now on to some church business.  This past week the Bishops of the United States met for their Fall Assembly in Baltimore.  I’ll touch on a few of the noteworthy items that came out of the meetings.  The week began Sunday with a dialogue between Bishops and Catholic bloggers (and I wasn’t invited?!?! WHAT?!?!).  Anyway, the discussion focused on how the church can more effectively utilize social media.  The fact that many people utilize the internet cannot be ignored.  A recent survey showed that 62% of all U.S. Catholics have a Facebook profile, and that 58% of Catholics age 30 and under share information on social media ay least once a week.  Also, almost a third of those surveyed said that they would like their pastors and Bishops to blog.  One blogger went so far as to say that “Facebook is the new parish hall”, where people meet each other and search for spiritual guidance.  So these tools of communication are definitely here to stay, and will hopefully be utilized even more within the church.  Here is a link to the full story about this session:

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1204773.htm

Another focus of the assembly was on Penance.  Cardinal Dolan used his Presidential address to emphasize the need to return to regular participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, calling it “the Sacrament of the New Evangelization.”  Dolan challenged the Bishops to their own conversion of heart, saying that “We cannot engage culture unless we let him (Jesus) first engage us, we cannot dialogue with others unless we first dialogue with him, and we cannot challenge unless we first allow him to challenge us.”  Reconciliation “brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance — a repentance from within that can then transform the world without,” Cardinal Dolan said.  The Bishop considered a statement to be released in time for Lent of 2013 encouraging Catholics to return to regular celebration of Penance.  The statement also makes the connection between Reconciliation and the New Evangelization.  One of the ideas brought forth was to re-emphasize Fridays as days to focus on Penance, including a possible return to meatless Fridays throughout the year, not just during Lent (does this mean the KC will have to have a Fish Fry EVERY Friday?).

In some other tidbits from the proceedings, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said the work of defending religious liberty would continue despite “setbacks or challenges.”  The Bishops also gave their approval to the first document on preaching in 30 years. The document was prepared by the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and
Vocations, chaired by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, with subsequent review and comment by eight other USCCB committees.  The document states that “The homily is intended to establish a ‘dialogue’ between the sacred biblical text and the Christian life of the hearer … Preachers should be aware, in an appropriate way, of what their people are watching on television, what kind of music they are listening to, which websites they find appealing, and which films they find compelling.  References to the most popular cultural expressions — which at times can be surprisingly replete with religious motifs — can be an effective way to engage the interest of those on the edge of faith.”  And the Bishops endorsed the sainthood cause for Dorothy Day, who co-founded the Catholic Worker

That’s a wrap for this time.  Have a great week and a great Thanksgiving!  Don’t eat too much (NOT!).  Peace.

November 9, 2012 – Keeping Perspective

November 10, 2012

Well of course the focus of the past week was on the little matter of the election.  I won’t go into the results or why the results came out how they did – that’s been done enough by the cable news shows, political commentators. etc.  What we as Catholic Christians need to be focused on now is how the results will affect us in the years ahead.  On the surface the prospects of us influencing policy-making seem pretty gloomy. We have two polarized political parties who have demonstrated repeatedly that their main concern is not in serving the best interests of their constituents, but is in battling one another. Will we be able to continue with our many ministries which serve the poor, provide health care, and educate children and adults without jumping through the hoops of government bureaucracy?  Will we be able to speak about our faith openly without being subject to harassments and penalties?  The HHS Mandate was a bold move into the territory of government control of religion.  What will be next?  Four states passed measures supporting same-sex marriage this past Tuesday.  Will the true, God-given definition of marriage be pushed even farther into the background?  And there are many other questions as well.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, in an article he wrote this past week, brought up another concern for the future.  He believes that we will reach a point where Catholics will not be able to comfortably support the candidate of either party.  “Serious Catholics” who believe in the Church’s teaching on social and life  issues “can’t settle comfortably in either political party,” he remarked.  The political tensions that Catholics are experiencing today flow from the  cultural problems of individualism and a lack of virtue, he said. “In feeding  the sovereignty of the individual, our public leaders fuel consumer  self-absorption, moral confusion, and—ultimately, as mediating institutions like  the family and churches wither—the power of the state.”

Read more:  http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=6507#ixzz2BmSqo9YG

So do we as Catholics resign ourselves to the fact that laws which favor things such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex unions, etc. will not be overturned?  If we do, then we are not living up to the challenge that Jesus gave us – that we are His witnesses and that we should have the courage to stand up for our beliefs.  We must not abandon our voice on behalf of the dignity of all people, including the unborn, the poor, the dying, the prisoner, and the undocumented.  As Christian witnesses, we must continue to do the things that are expected of us.  We must come together and pray for our President and our lawmakers that they can work together for the good of others.  We must continue to be active Catholics and be involved in our parishes.  And we must always remember that there is hope in the Lord, now and forever.

The results of this election will have these probable implications for the Catholic Church:  1) The strained relationship between the Catholic Church and politicians, particularly those who are pro-choice and favor policies that threaten our religious freedom, will continue and the strain will likely grow. We cannot shy away from those who are increasingly aligning themselves with positions that are in direct conflict with Catholic teaching.  2) Largely unrestricted abortion will continue unabated, as will funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the chief provider of abortion in this country. Possible Supreme Court nominations will also feature pro-choice jurists. Likewise many Circuit and other Federal District Court judges will continue to be appointed who favor largely unrestricted abortion.  3) The homosexual agenda will continue to grow and receive increasing legal recognition and protection. This includes not only same-sex “marriage”, but also other issues such as adoption, and the general insistence that the homosexual lifestyle be promoted in schools and other public settings. This will require Church opposition and probably embroil us in many public disputes. This may have continued no matter who won, but certainly now there will be fewer political hurdles for such agendas and the pace will be quicker.  4)  The HHS mandate moves forward, untouched. Our religious liberty is in greater jeopardy. We’ll have to meet the administration in court.  And while the legal basis for our grievance seems strong, recent experience in the courts has demonstrated that nothing is certain. Civil disobedience may be in our future.  5) Extreme debt seems likely to pile up.  This issue may not have received the attention in Catholic circles as other social issues, but it remains a fact that we spend money we do not have, and this has moral implications.  Little change in a very divided Congress means there will likely be little progress in putting a stop to runaway debt. This will become an increasing moral problem that the Church will likely have to address at some level.

The key question then for us as Catholics is how will the Church be able to articulate her positions while continuing to be at odds with lawmakers. There are difficult days ahead for the Church.  Let us pray for great courage and prudence in these days and months ahead.

This weekend we celebrate Veterans Day.  No words can express the gratitude we have for all of those who served to protect our freedom, particularly those who died or were injured in the line of duty.  We also keep in our prayers those who currently are serving in our armed forces.  We appreciate your service, and hope that you remain safe until you return home.  An organization called “Frontline Faith Project” is requesting that at 12:00PM on Sunday (November 11), we observe a moment of silence in order to pray for and thank our troops.  Here is a short video that explains more about this solemn event:

Enjoy what may be our last mild weekend of the year, and have a great week.  Peace.

 

November 3, 2012 – Still Playing Catch-Up

November 3, 2012

This was one of those weeks where I seemed to fall behind from the very beginning and have not really been able to catch up since, so I guess it is fitting that the blog is a little late.  Oh well, good things come to those who wait, right? (lol).  I started out this week with a touch of flu or some type of bug.  When I turn down the savory KC fried chicken at Monday lunch because I’m not that hungry, you know something is out of whack.  Fortunately, it was a short-lived bug, and my ravenous appetite is back.

My problems of course dwarf what folks are experiencing in the eastern part of the U.S. due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.  We can only imagine how one weather event can affect so many people.  Our diocese is recommending that if we have the means to help and make a donation toward the relief effort, that we send money to Catholic Charities USA.  A donation can be sent in the mail, given over the phone or online.  Here is a link for all of the information on giving:

http://home.catholicweb.com/RespectLife/files/HurricaneSandyDonationInformation.pdf

Of course our prayers are certainly needed as well as people start to try to get back on their feet.

Well it has been a long, winding road, but election day is finally almost here.  Again, I’m certainly not downplaying the importance of this as the results will have a direct effect on the direction of many local and national policies.  However, if you are like me, you are probably on sensory overload from all of the advertising you have seen and heard.  I have pretty well made all of my decisions as to whom I will vote for, and I do not anticipate anything that would change my mind between now and Tuesday.  When I was in college, I would see people pulling all-nighters the day before a big exam, and I would think that if they do not know the stuff at this point, what is a night of heavy caffeine (and perhaps other stimulants) going to help?  I kind of think the same thing about the election.  If people haven’t made their minds up by now, will they really be an informed voter come Tuesday?

Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there to access for folks to look at who still need more information.  I would recommend going to the election page of the Catholic Conference of Illinois.  It has copies of all of the inserts that were in the bulletin the last few weeks and a lot of other information.  Here is the link to this page:

http://www.ilcatholic.org/election-2012/

As a voter, I consider myself an independent.  I do not necessarily subscribe to either political party.  I study the candidates and I decide based on who I feel brings integrity to the office and who I think will benefit the most people.  I also certainly keep my Catholic conscience in mind, particularly in this year when threats to our very core value of freedom of religion have taken place.  So rather than tell you that you should vote for candidate x or y, I simply tell you to not leave your conscience outside of the voting booth.  Your conscience has to go in with you when you mark the boxes, otherwise the process will not be genuine.

OK, enough election talk until next week when the news shows will begin talking about who the candidates will be in 2016.  This month of November in the Catholic Church we remember in a special way those who have passed from this earth, especially those close to us who died in the past year.  Those who are not familiar with the Catholic faith and even those who have been exposed to our faith may not know why we make it such a point of emphasis to pray for the deceased.  Well like most of the things we do, it has its roots in scripture.  In the Old Testament in the second book of Maccabees, it tells of how Judas Maccabee, the Jewish leader, led his troops into battle in 163 B.C. When the battle ended he directed that the bodies of those Jews who had died be buried. As soldiers prepared their slain comrades for burial, they discovered that each was wearing an amulet taken as booty from a pagan Temple. This violated the law of Deuteronomy and so Judas and his soldiers prayed that God would forgive the sin these men had committed (II Maccabees 12:39-45).

We also see an example in the New Testament, when Paul offers a prayer for a man named Onesiphorus who had died: “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day” (II Timothy 1:18). The cavelike tombs under the city of Rome, which we call catacombs, bear evidence that members of the Roman Christian community gathered there to pray for their fellow followers of Christ who lay buried there. By the fourth century prayers for the dead are mentioned in Christian literature as though they were already a longstanding custom.

A simple answer to this question would be that as Christians, we believe that there is life after death, and that even though we are separated from our earthly body, we are still in existence and still have a personal relationship with God.  Praying for the dead has further origins in our belief in the communion of saints. Members of this community who are living often assist each other in faith by prayers and other forms of spiritual support. Christians who have died continue to be members of the communion of saints. We believe that we can assist them by our prayers, and they can assist us by theirs.

Our prayers express hope that God will free the person who has died from any burden of sin and prepare a place for him or her in heaven.  Though death remains a mystery to us, we as Christians believe that there is hope even in death, and we pray that any barriers that keep our loved ones from enjoying eternal life with God are removed.  To all of the faithful departed: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May they rest in peace.  Amen.”

Well hopefully the extra hour we gain this weekend will help me in my quest to catch up.  Probably not, but it’s nice to dream.  Have a great week.  Peace.