Friday, September 25, 2009

Distractions

Even the most devoted Catholics will find themselves off the path suddenly without even realizing it.  It happens to me all the time, especially being involved in ministry. I start out on the right track, the greater goal in my sights and my feet firm on the path ahead.  I think this is true of many of us.

Eventually I find that if I'm not careful, I start fixating on certain details.  Don't get me wrong, details are all very important, and of course require attention.  Not ALL of my attention, though; not even most of my attention.

No matter who you are or in what you are involved, details can completely derail us. Like when you're walking through a park or on a trail, and suddenly you're walking through a swarm of gnats?  It's like that, but instead of just closing our eyes, shewing them out of our way and continuing onward like we should, we start running around in circles and furiously waving our arms at them, and for a spell, our destination slips out of view.

What is our destination, anyway?  For all of us involved in one ministry or another, I thought it was bringing Christ into the world.

Isn't it?

For the last couple of weeks, I've been in a Papal Encyclical discussion group.  We started with Pope Benedict XVI's most recent Encyclical letter, Caritas in Varitate, and have been really diving into it quite extensively.  In it he writes:

Truth, in fact, is lógos which creates diá-logos, and hence communication and communion. Truth, by enabling men and women to let go of their subjective opinions and impressions, allows them to move beyond cultural and historical limitations and to come together in the assessment of the value and substance of things. Truth opens and unites our minds in the lógos of love: this is the Christian proclamation and testimony of charity. (Introduction, #4)

Subjective opinions and impressions.  Cultural and historical limitations.  Aren't these these very details that most often distract us from what we're here on this earth to do?

Of course in this Encyclical, Benedict XVI is directly addressing global and multi-national issues, but Truth applies universally, whether we're talking on a national or global scale about issues like the environment or health care, or evangelizing in our own communities or parishes.  How often have we seen organizations or programs struggle to maintain participation, when new ideas and thoughts are squashed over the narrow-minded opinions and impressions of its members about a myriad of issues from proper pen color to personality types? or by an unhealthy attachment to unimportant cultural practices, or to those "glory days" of how we did things before? 

When we allow ourselves to get caught up in all the wrong things, we fight Truth--we fight Christ Himself.  If you are involved in ministry, spend some time in reflection, but not on the organization itself.  Focus instead on Truth, which is Christ and His Church, and how that Truth can enlighten and enliven your ministry before even entering into a dialogue with others.  This way, when we begin to act, we can be assured that we're acting in Christian love, not in some human agenda.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Morality Takes Guts

"You have to be better than your parents and grandparents, because the culture is no longer on your side." Dr. Ray Guarendi, clinical psychologist and father of ten, urged parents at St. Dominic Church in Youngstown, OH last night to have the guts to teach morality when it comes to their children, because "the moral way requires guts."

He's not kidding there. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult life is for some of these kids. Their paths are a minefield of temptation with an establishment relentlessly urging them to trip every single mine along the way, and many are giving in far too easily. This isn't because they're any different than the children of previous generations.

It's because, as Dr. Ray said last night, parents lack confidence. They don't know how to establish themselves as authority figures in their children's lives. Parents have bought into the idea that what he calls "psychological correctness", the idea that something a kid does at a certain age is normal, has replaced morality as the standard of behavior. The great dilemma has become whether or not parents should discipline their children for "normal" behavior. Compound this with nearly every American's need for instant gratification, and parenting--a vocation that requires time, dedication and vigilance--is reduced to a few minutes late in the evening with the TV blaring in the background (or foreground, which is worse).

Just by randomly observing in places such as stores, restaurants, live shows, even at Church, I've witnessed an overall lack of authority among children for their parents, and it's appalling. Mom or dad shouldn't have to discuss, bargain, argue and fight with their pre-school childen to curb their behavior in public. If a parent can't establish authority with a two-year-old, what is going to happen as they grow? A parent's will to guide and direct their child with calm, consistent authority must be the stronger will in the relationship, says Dr. Ray. "If you have authority, you rarely need to use it, but if you don't have it, you're constantly chasing it."

To learn more about Dr. Ray Guarendi, visit his website at www.drray.com.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Contraception Conundrum (cont'd)

What continues to gnaw at me regarding this issue is not just that a clear inconsistency in views of secular environmentalists regarding contraception's effect on the environment seems to exist.

My Dad always told me, "if you think you know what you're looking at, take a step back and look at the bigger picture."

The goal of population control advocates is to reduce the number of human beings on the planet, for the sake of the earth. Essentially, they are little by little removing human beings from the environmental equation.

The more fact sheets I read from Population Connection's website, the more my head spins.  I have read paper after paper discussing human activity. Growth rates, resource depletion, deforestation, highway congestion, water shortages...the hopeless list and scope of potential disasters humans will either cause or face is alarming--alarming enough to reclassify humans as destructive parasites upon the earth to be controlled, if not eradicated.

Self-loathing and self-destruction isn't limited to the individual human, I guess.  When a society lacks hope, it will turn on itelf, just like an individual will.  Does a suicide victim care about contaminating the floor with their blood?  After all, someone else will clean up the mess.  Neither does a self-destructive society care that they're contaminating water with their tools of self-destruction.  Once we're gone, nature will clean up the mess.

It's more important than ever that we cling to our Lord and His Church if we are going to turn any of this around.  As Catholics, we should be spending some time every day in formation activities that expand our understanding of our Lord and His Church. 

This is as good a place to start as any:
COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Contraception Conundrum

I found this quotation on American Papist:

Contraception is almost five times cheaper as a means of preventing climate change than conventional green technologies, according to research by the London School of Economics.

Everyone who knows me knows that I lean green. We recycle, use reusable grocery bags, garden, use alternate heat sources during the winter, utilize natural remedies, and are setting up a means of capturing rain water for use in and around our home. I've even written here about Church teaching regarding the environment. So my first thought after reading this quotation was this: "at the expense of the environment" I guess isn't an issue?

Let me back up.  A couple of weeks ago, I read this article titled Protecting environment must involve morals, Archbishop Chaput insists.  Read the relevant excerpt here. (If you're not reading American Papist, you really should be).

So this afternoon I decided to take a look out there to see what the environmentalists really do have to say.  After all, the article about Archbishop Chaput states that only one environmentalist reacted passively to the discovery that artificial contraception in the Denver water supply was the cause of bizarre mutations in trout.

Low and behold, I found the Earth Island Institute's website (Earth Island was founded by David Brower, FYI) containing an article discussing the downright frightening effects of BPAs (found in plastics and epoxy resins), livestock hormones and pesticides on our water supplies, along with another form of pollution:

...another major source of water contamination is all the pills we pop. The proportion of healthcare spending in North America devoted to prescription drugs, including estrogen-laced birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, has risen dramatically in recent decades. In the last five years, prescriptions grew by 12 percent. The human body can absorb only some of the medication, and the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. Discarded medicines often find their way there too.

...it’s not looking like the “answer to pollution is dilution” theory works. After being ingested, excreted, and flushed down the drain, these drugs are not being filtered out by water treatment facilities. What that means is that people could be getting a small dose of thousands of different drugs with every glass of drinking water. The resulting health implications are just beginning to be realized.

(from Pink Water: Plastics, Pesticides, and Pills Are Contaminating Our Drinking Supply By Holly Pyhtila, August 2008; emphasis mine.  To read the article in its entirety, go to www.earthisland.org, scroll to the bottom of the page and in the search field type "Pink Water".)

As it turns out, birth control pills aren't just affecting some trout in a Denver stream. This problem is affecting all life on earth.

HMM.

So back to that first quotation from APP.  You know, the one about contraception being cheaper than human carbon emissions?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ave Maria

On this feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, why destract ourselves?  The issues will still be there tomorrow.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Division

"The division in the church boils down to two different camps that see the world in entirely different ways:

"One recognizes the world as a battlefield where evil must be called out and defeated.

"The other strides through the world believing it to be a place that only needs to be engaged with, and it will see the light of truth and accept it. It is the easier and less confrontational path, and perhaps a little too naive. It is the view that has ruled the day for the past 40 years in the west, and the Church in the west is in massive retreat because of it."  Mike Voris, THE VORTEX, realcatholicTV.com

Friday, September 4, 2009

21st Century Breakdown? Yeah, no kidding.

“They all walk with their heads down, never make eye contact, have an expression of stone on their faces,” lamented a friend of mine last night regarding his fellow students at the local University. “Everyone seems so hopeless.”

I share his concern.

His concern triggered my memory. A few months ago I remember watching an episode of Saturday Night Live. The musical guest was Green Day, performing a song that disturbed me to my core:

Violence is an energy
Against the enemy
Well, violence is an energy

Bringing on the fury
The choir infantry
Revolt against the honor to obey

Overthrow the effigy
The vast majority
Well, burning down the foreman of control

Silence is the enemy
Against your urgency
So rally up the demons of your soul

Do you know the enemy?
Do you know the enemy?
Well, gotta know the enemy

Anyone who owns a copy of Green Day’s album titled 21st Century Breakdown is listening to song lyrics such as this...chaotic, dark, angry, violent, bitter, befuddled, insolent. 

This is not a call to censor artists, because that has no effect other than increasing sales. Bands that peddle despair have a pretty large fan base among teens and young adults for a reason, though. They’re offering empathy and an answer—a wrong answer that can be easily discarded by a person who has been properly formed, but to a teen or young adult with next to nothing by way of real formation? How do parents explain to teens or young adults what this message is really all about, when they have done little or nothing to form them all along?

I have numerous friends that are CCD teachers, and I was involved in Teen Ministry at my parish for several years. Our biggest complaint is lack of parental participation. More than a few parents do not take an interest in the curriculum offered, don’t show up to special functions or retreats, don’t bring their children to Mass regularly or even attend themselves, and other than nominally don’t truly live out their Catholic faith. They literally drop their kid off on the church steps and speed away. It’s no wonder that our parish programs for the youth have limited success in keeping our kids Catholic.

Parents who have not actively participated in the forming of their children’s faith, for whatever reason, have done their children a grave disservice. One or two hours in a CCD class or youth program can’t combat 24/7 constant bombardment from television, radio, the internet and video games.

What scares me the most is how many kids have this very song in their CD player right now on repeat? Because that's what's forming them.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I dig Pope Leo XIII...

...he really "got it". His encyclical titled Rerum Novarum is a thorough reminder that society exists for humanity's betterment, not the other way around.

"...if human society is to be healed now, in no other way can it be healed save by a return to Christian life and Christian institutions. When a society is perishing, the wholesome advice to give to those who would restore it is to call it to the principles from which it sprang; for the purspose and perfection of an association is to aim at and to attain that for which it is formed, and its efforts should be put in motion and inspired by the end and object which originally gave it being. Hence, to fall away from its primal constitution implies disease; to go back to it, recovery." (Rerum Novarum, #27)

Hmm.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Glimpse Into the Inner Workings Of My Mind (not for the faint of heart)

This is what happens.  Something strikes me while I'm in morning prayer that makes me go "hmm".  I think about it for a little while--a few minutes, an hour, a day, sometimes a week or more, sometimes even longer than that.  Before I know it, I'm in the middle of some article, encyclical, book, film or other media that I can't put down.

Take today.  I opened my September Magnificat (a day late, forgot it was in my purse so yesterday I used Universalis) and read the following:

Work is not only good in the sense that it is useful or something to enjoy; it is also good as being something worthy, that is to say, something that corresponds to man's dignity, that expresses this dignity and increases it... Work is a good thing for man--a good thing for his humanity--because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed in a sense becomes "more a human being."  (Laborem Exercens, #9) 
from the section titled, Blessing for the Workplace, Magnificat pg. 12

It only took me about 15 minutes (the time it took to finish the prayer, reread the passage and ask myself the question, "What's "Laborem Exercens"?) to google Laborem Exercens, John Paul II's 1981 Encyclical on Human Work, which I skimmed briefly, until it led me to Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII's 1891 Encyclical on Capital and Labor (commonly titled On the Condition of the Working Classes), which in turn led me to this quotation:

"Human law is law only by virtue of its accordance with right reason; and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence."

This quote from Summa Theologiae by Thomas Aquinas is nestled in its entirety in Leo XIII's footnotes. The Holy Father cited Summa quite a lot for this work.  As I consider some of the legislation coming out of Washington, and the rationale behind it, I can't help but see just how timeless Aquinan thought is.

Anyway, this, my friends, is how I get myself into some of the real formation treasures of our faith.  After I spend the next two days reading these two encyclicals, you can bet that I'll be digging around the Summa for a while.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Seeing With New Eyes

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge advocate for the sacrament of Confession. I've written about it here, where I included an examination of conscience link that I find very useful. I go to confession every 6-8 weeks.  Do you sin that much, you ask? Well, yes. The more I grow in my faith, the more easily I can hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, and the more I realize exactly how much I sin on a minute-to-minute basis, and need to reconcile, especially if I'm going to be united in Christ through the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

In his book Fundamentals of Christianity (A Cursillo Publication), Fr. Frank Salmani discusses how the Holy Spirit drives our Christian faith. "When we open our hearts to the Spirit," he writes, "we begin to see the world and reality not in our limited terms and ideas, but in the way that God sees them. (p. 50)" This isn't just seeing how God sees the good stuff about us, either.

 "When the Spirit of Truth searches our hearts and we are honest with ourselves, we will know that we need to be recreated and transformed to Christ. (p. 50)"  If we're going to live as disciples of Christ, we have to find the cracks--those little areas where evil continues to take root. The confessional is where I weed out the evil and expose the cracks. Christ in the Eucharist repairs the cracks, and my practice of holiness maintains the repair.

I found this handy list on Fr. Larry Richards' website.  This list is alphabetical--a weed's a weed, right?  There are two copies of the list on one sheet of paper, so cut it in half, keep a list for yourself and give the other list to someone you love. I'm not guilty of all of them, but I am guilty of quite a few.

I'm definitely taking this list with me to my next confession.

30 Seconds Well-Spent

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