The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has produced an online Advent Calendar to help us all prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas:
Check it out!
Why We Were Created
a blog by Eric Sammons
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has produced an online Advent Calendar to help us all prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas:
Check it out!
Since I grew up in Cincinnati in the 1970′s and 1980′s, it should go without saying that I was a fan of the show “WKRP in Cincinnati” (and before you ask, there is NOT a real radio station WKRP in Cincinnati). My favorite episode was the famous Thanksgiving “Turkey Drop” episode. For your post-thanksgiving enjoyment, the classic scene – possibly the best scene in TV sitcom history – follows (apologies for the ad at the beginning of the clip):
I was teaching my 11-year-old daughter about the 8th century in Church history yesterday, and I was explaining the expansion of Islam in the East. I went on to talk about the fear in Europe that Islam would overwhelm the West like it did the East. This fear was present for almost 800 years (and is a major, yet under-appreciated, factor in the calling of the Crusades). This map does a great job of showing the spread of the major religions around the world – see how quickly Islam grew:
In my class with my daughter, I ended up going on a tangent about the fact that Islam might be able to succeed today through demographics where they failed by force during the middle ages. It should be common sense (but unfortunately isn’t) that those cultures which have a lot of kids will eventually overtake those who do not. Europe, are you listening?
In the Harry Potter books, there is a professor called “Mad-Eye Moody” whose experience fighting dark wizards has made him completely paranoid; he sees dark wizards almost everywhere. His refrain to the students is “Constant vigilance!” Although most of the students see him as a bit of a crank, in the end he is correct, as dark wizards are often looming around the corner trying to harm those who are fighting for good.
My wife and I have taken up Mad-Eye’s motto for the raising of our children. The sad fact is that today there are many forces that wish to attack our children and corrupt them with the values of this world, instead of the values of the Gospel. Two generations ago, Catholic parents could be somewhat relaxed about parenting because there were many other parents who were teaching their kids the same values, and they could trust their parish and parish school to do likewise.
However, the generation previous to mine had the misfortune of maintaining this trust in institutions yet having those same institutions (parish, school, and neighborhood) fail them greatly. There were many parents who sent their kids to the local parish or Catholic school in the 1970′s and 1980′s expecting them to get a Catholic education, yet discovered much too late that they instead got the same spiritual upbringing of public schools. As my former pastor once told me, “All I learned in CCD in the 1970′s is ‘Be nice’ and ‘Don’t do drugs.’” Not exactly a well-developed Catholic formation.
Most serious Catholics of my generation now realize that they cannot blindly trust others in the raising of their children – they must have constant vigilance in their parenting, testing those institutions before leaving their children with them. In other words, they need to take a “Mad-Eye Moody” approach to parenting.
What does all this have to do with Advent? Yesterday Christ warned us at the beginning of Advent to “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent” (Luke 21:36). Sometimes our culture is positive enough that we can start to fall asleep and trust others to the tasks given to us. I think most would agree that this is not the case today. But in any time, we must be vigilant, as St. Peter also reminds us: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
This Advent let us all resolve to be more vigilant in all our responsibilities.
I hope every one of my American readers have a restful and happy Thanksgiving tomorrow. It is a wonderful idea to take a day to remember all that we have to be thankful for (as well as stuff ourselves with turkey, argue with relatives, watch football games and prepare for crazy shopping the next day just like the original pilgrims did).
But let us remember that as Catholics we can celebrate Thanksgiving every day. After all, the word Eucharist is from the Greek word for “thanksgiving”, so every time we attend Mass we are celebrating thanksgiving. In the Mass we are thanking God for the incredible sacrifice of His Son for our salvation. What is a greater gift than that?
Vatican II taught that the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Christian life. Among other things, this means that giving thanks should be an integral part of our spiritual lives. Do we thank God every day for the wonderful gifts He has given us?
The American Bible Society just released a new Bible called the “Poverty and Justice Bible“. Many Catholics might be unfamiliar with the concept of “themed” Bibles, but basically these Bibles are regular (Protestant) Bibles with notes and commentary geared to a certain niche. In the case of the “Poverty and Justice Bible,” Biblical verses which speak of poverty or justice (in the eyes of the editors) are highlighted.
“Themed” Bible such as this have been popular in the Evangelical world for some time now. Other “themed” Bibles include:
What are we as Catholics to think about such Bibles? Isn’t it good to make the Bible attractive to as many people as possible?What is the harm in such Bibles?
In a nutshell, the problem with these Bibles is that they place the Bible on our level instead of allowing the Scriptures to raise us up to God’s level. They are trying to change the Bible instead of letting it change us.
The Bible is not “conservative” or “green” or only about poverty and justice, it is above all such categories. It would be like saying that Jesus is a Dominican or a Jesuit. The message of the Bible is not just for boys or girls or conservatives or environmentalists or justice advocates. It is for everyone at every time. Culminating in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, the Bible shows how God has reached out to all people and invited them to His heavenly banquet. Reducing the Scriptures to a specific ideology or even state of life demeans this message and makes it specific to only a few.
I do think that it can be appropriate to create Bible studies with a particular focus, at least when dealing with different states of life such as for a teenager, mother or elderly person. Such studies can help apply the Bible to one’s life in a meaningful way. But even then we must realize that the Bible is much greater than ourselves and applies to all peoples at all times.
Let us always try to read the Bible in a submissive fashion, waiting on the Lord to speak to us – and change us – through the divine words of Scripture.
What a beautiful picture (click to enlarge):
See full story here.
Things are getting ugly here in Washington over the efforts of the DC City Council to enshrine “gay marriage”. Archbishop Wuerl has eloquently defended the Church’s teachings regarding marriage, and the Archdiocese has warned that instituting this law will lead to discrimination against Catholic services to the poor and needy in the city.
Now, some people have decided to play dirty: a website has been set up in order to gather information on “closeted” gay priests in order to blackmail them into disobeying the hierarchy.
I know a good number of priests in this diocese, as our parish is one of the main parishes in which seminarians are assigned during their studies. As a member of my parish’s vocations committee, I have had many opportunities to interact with these young men. All of them are fine, outstanding men who embrace all of the Church’s teachings, and are true shepherds (and servants) to their flocks. I am constantly amazed at the quality of the priests here in the Washington, DC diocese.
Is it possible that there are “closeted” gay priests in the diocese? Of course. It would be naïve in the extreme to believe otherwise. However, this website is nothing more than a witch hunt. What if it reveals a certain priest as a “closeted” gay man? How in the world are we supposed to trust that information, coming as it does from hearsay and innuendo? It is nothing more than a way to silence those priests who have spoken most strongly to defend the Church’s teaching on sexuality and marriage.
Don’t get me wrong. If there is a priest who is breaking his vows of celibacy, either heterosexually or homosexually, that priest should be removed from his ministry. If a priest is engaged in the abuse of minors, he should not only be removed from his ministry, he should also be thrown in jail. But the intent of this website is not to support the Church’s discipline of priestly celibacy or to protect minors, it is to silence the Church. I for one will refuse to allow this website’s “outings” to influence my opinion of any priest. I support my DC priests.
Pray for all priests, especially those here in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
A man recently came out of what appeared to be a 23-year coma. The only problem was, he was never actually in a coma and was conscious that entire time.
This is just more evidence that “persistent vegetative state” often means “we don’t want to take care of you anymore”.
Last week an Orthodox priest in Moscow, who had converted a number of Muslims to Christianity, was murdered in his own church.
The official Web site of the Moscow Patriarchate said that the Rev. Daniil Sysoyev, 35, a father of three, died shortly after being shot in the head and chest by an unidentified assailant who entered his parish church of St. Thomas in southern Moscow late on 19 November…
A Moscow Patriarchate official who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Ecumenical News International that the murder could be connected to Sysoyev’s missionary work among Muslims. “He led to Christianity people, whether Tatars or other ethnic groups, that were overwhelmingly Muslim,” the official said.
Sysoyev gave lectures critical of Islam, debated directly with Muslim leaders, and wrote books on subjects such as the dangers of Christian women marrying Muslim men…
Kirill Frolov, an Orthodox missionary activist who was close to the slain priest told Interfax that Sysoyev had received threats over the past two or three years calling on him “stop his theological polemics with Islam” or otherwise “he will be dealt with like an infidel”.
More information can be found in this news report:
Pray for Fr. Sysoyev and his family and for those who committed this terrible act.
When I was growing up, my father advised me to never sign petitions. He felt that they tied you too much to a group and could at some point be used against you. I admit that this advice stuck with me and sometimes I react negatively to petitions. At the very least, I always read them carefully and never sign unless I am 100% behind the cause.
That being said, I just signed the Manhattan Declaration. Even though it was endorsed by many outstanding Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical leaders, I didn’t want to sign it until I read it myself. Now that I have read it (download it here), I can say that it is a powerful document defending our pro-life and pro-marriage beliefs, as well as our liberty to hold to and live out those beliefs. I also note that my own ordinary, Archbishop Wuerl, signed the Declaration.
I recommend that you read the Declaration as well and urge you to consider signing it. Even if my father would recommend against it.
This week most of us will be closely interacting with cafeteria Catholics, fallen-away Catholics and non-Catholics. In other words, we will be visiting family for Thanksgiving. Those of us who are trying to live an authentically Catholic life are pained when we see those we love rejecting the Church and her loving guidelines for a fulfilling life. So what do we do? How do we evangelize those people who are closest to us? I have a few suggestions from my own personal experience.
1) Pray for your family members
This point can be easily skimmed as clichéd, but if you ignore this advice, all the other suggestions are worthless. If you are not praying for your loved ones, you are not evangelizing them. Period. And when I say “pray for your family members” I don’t just mean some offhand prayers on an irregular basis. I mean daily, specific prayers, including offering up sacrifices for them. Only the Holy Spirit can convert people, so you need to get Him involved in your evangelization.
2) Live your Catholic Faith
St. Francis is alleged to have said, “Preach the Gospel always. When necessary, use words.” I think that this saying has been abused in recent years to excuse doing nothing, but there is truth in it. After prayer, the most important thing we can do is to live our Catholic Faith. Trust me, if you have 6 kids and go to Mass every Sunday, you are making a loud statement to your extended family members. And if you are living your life joyfully, that loud statement becomes an attractive one to others. Don’t think you have to be perfect – because you are not – but just making a serious effort to follow our Lord in your daily life will do more than any words you might say.
3) Accept your role
Typically over a hundred people have a role in someone’s conversion. Most of those people won’t say a word about the Faith to the convert, but will instead impact the person by their life (see #2 above). In my own life, my college roommate was the primary catalyst in my conversion, but there were many other Catholics who impacted me by the quiet witness of their lives. There is a good chance we will not be the primary catalyst to our family member’s conversion (“Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor”), but our lives can be a secondary cause of others’ conversions.
4) Recognize where people are
The sad truth is that most people (including most Catholics) are not interested in learning more about the Catholic Faith, much less embracing it fully. Trying to engage them in conversations about the Faith is therefore usually counterproductive. They will feel that you are pushing something on them and will therefore put up defenses to reject what you are saying. Obviously if someone says something explicitly against the Catholic Faith you should correct their misunderstanding, but that is the extent of how much we should talk about the Faith with them. For these people, we should be content with praying for them (see #1 above); only God can change their attitude of indifference or hostility.
5) Be aggressive in looking for legitimate opportunities
It might seem from the above that we should not say anything about the Catholic Faith to our family members. Nothing could be further from the truth; we are obliged to share our faith whenever possible. As St. Paul writes, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). If someone is open to hearing about Catholicism, we should be looking for opportunities to share our love for Christ and his Church with them. Although our culture is loath to talk about religion publicly, I have found that there are many opportunities to share our faith with others. The person who is open to learning more will make that clear by the type of questions he or she asks you and by their interest in your lifestyle. Although you might not be the primary catalyst in most people’s conversions, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to be one when God is calling you to it. And if you are praying hard for your loved ones (you did remember #1, didn’t you?), then these opportunities will come more often than you might expect.
6) Don’t expect instant results
In our modern culture we expect instant results for everything; we get mad if a web page doesn’t load in under 2 seconds. However, conversion is almost always a long process. Do not expect your family members to embrace the Faith within days, or months or even a few years. More likely is the possibility that they will slowly move closer to God over time until they eventually find that they are living an authentically Catholic life. Do not be discouraged by this slow progress; the Lord works on his own timetable.
Or, in other words, leave the heavy lifting to God. Do not be anxious about your family members who are not living a Catholic life. God loves them more than you ever will and He wants them to come closer to Him more than you can imagine. Being aggressive about evangelization does not mean that we are pushy or desperate. Let your conversations naturally flow to matters of the Faith; don’t always try to direct them there. If you are praying, the Holy Spirit will let the right words be said at the right time.
St. Paul, pray for us!
Today the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington celebrates the 50th anniversary of its dedication. I have been to the Shrine numerous times, and I always am touched by its beauty and the sense of the sacred present there. The Shrine is the largest Catholic Church in America and it has been visited by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
My favorite part of the Shrine is probably the back of the Crypt church, which has numerous mosaics of early Church saints such as St. Lucy, St. Agatha and St. Susanna. Here are some examples:
If you are looking for a great place to take a pilgrimage, consider going to the National Shrine. It is well worth the effort.