Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Another marriage prep eval note

Don't misspell misogynist. If you're going to use a strong word like that about someone, you look pretty silly if you can't even spell it.

Writing big and in all caps isn't effective.

The REAL world is... what exactly?

The Tale of 2 Marches

A Tale of Two Marches (Thanks to Kateri!)
by Tony Perkins

What a difference an ideology makes. Last Monday, 200,000 pro-lifers descended on the nation's capital to peacefully protest 34 years of abortion-on-demand. Despite record crowds and a line-up of speakers that included President Bush by phone, the March for Life earned little more than a footnote in the nation's news. Days later, radical anti-war protestors staged a march in Washington that mustered only 10,000, and the event made the front page of nearly every newspaper in America. Yet for all the media the small demonstration received, few news outlets reported the true headline of the day. According to reports, hundreds of demonstrators were allowed to take the steps of the U.S. Capitol during the march and desecrate the property with "anarchist symbols." When police formed a security line to stop them, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse ordered his men to fall back and allow the protestors to "exercise their First Amendment rights" by spray-painting the Capitol grounds with graffiti. One source at the scene said that Morse issued an order that no one was to be arrested for desecrating America's and arguably the world's greatest symbol of democracy. In an e-mail on his actions, Morse writes, "The graffiti was easily removed by the [Architect of the Capitol] staff... It is [our] duty and responsibility to protect the Capitol complex, while allowing the public to exercise their [freedom of speech]." Imagine the response had Christians "trespassed" onto this public property and prayed for our leaders! I dare say the outcome would have been quite different.

I happened to be downtown the day of the war protest, and I was struck by a number of things. First was the way that the people seemed to be conforming to their own stereotypes; i.e. a war protester from 1970. Now, I happen to love dressing in hippie skirts and scarves and such, but I would probably make it a point not to do so at a protest if I knew I would just be taken as a dismissable hippie. A second thing was the violence of some of their messages and the banality of others. (One guy was walking around with a sign that said hugs not war, "free hugs"- so people would go and hug him all day) Okay. Third was the number of people who were ice skating after their protest. I'm not kidding, we were there taking our youth group to the sculpture garden and the place was PACKED and sold out because of all the "protesters". Now I don't know if people from the March for Life went ice skating after the march, maybe they did, but somehow I doubt it. Usually people who come for it are staying in churches or have holy hours or talks or maybe go to a pub afterward for conversation. It's usually at least somewhat penitential (ok, maybe not reeeeally penitential, but not ice skating!). There is a lot of ideology going on in BOTH these things, and I think that's important to note. That's why I hate the speeches at the March for Life- It is ideology for a lot of those people. But it is truth to many others (a distinction worth making). There is also a sense at the March- unless you're with the ideology people- that you are not completely innocent in this; Your sins are part of the reason that you have to be there. Hence the reparation. But I got a sense of self-righteousness exuding from the war protest crowd. It's not their fault; It's all Bush's fault. They had nothing to do with the war and because they are so upright and noble they have come out to tell him to go to hell. Because THAT is right and respectful and appropriate. And it made me sad to hear the 5th through 8th grade kids in my youth group spouting all this stuff, directly from their parents of course, about how Bush is the most evil man in the world, and on Halloween one of them dressed as Dick Cheney because he wanted to be really scary. Lord have mercy. What a disservice it is to children to indoctrinate them into political ideology before they can even judge it. It reminds me of the scary fact from the last election. While many "conservatives" could understand and sympathize with some of the reasons an intelligent person would vote for a "liberal"; very few "liberals" could understand the other side at all, and in fact were violently offended by it. There is no attempt to really enter into an issue and seek the truth together, there's just a back and forth about opinion.

Back to this article, it really is astonishing the way that the media manipulates the truth. Lately I have heard this so many times and it is solidifying my lack of desire to watch the news. Unfortunately that also makes me quite ignorant on a lot of issues, but I guess I'd rather be ignorant than completely wrong and misdirected. A priest I have met recently returned from Iraq and had all kinds of stories about his time there that people will never hear because journalists there have been told that nothing positive will be published or aired. Nothing. Do you remember that streak of bombings at churches? It was happening so frequently and then just stopped dead- Did you ever wonder why it just stopped like that? Did you think maybe the bombers just got bored? This priest I met and a Chaldean priest he met over there searched the area to find all the Christian churches- the locations of which had not been known- so that security detail could be sent to each of them. Definitely didn't hear that. Thus ends today's rant.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ecumenical Swing Dancing?

This weekend, a few friends and I went swing dancing at a great spot where you're guaranteed not to stand still unless you really want to. Lots of great dancers and a fantastic band.

By far the most memorable was when a man I was dancing with started asking about Catholicism and we went back and forth for 4 or 5 songs (still dancing) talking about Jesus, confession, the Real Presence, authority, divorce, zeal and the Holy Spirit. You never know when you'll be asked to give a reason for your hope, my friends! That Baptist is on his way to the Church. Veni Sancte Spiritu, veni per Mariam.

It reminded me so much of Guissani's statement that Christianity is spread by envy; Others recognize in Christians a humanity and a life that they desire for themselves. This man was already Christian, but I think it still applies.

Friday, January 26, 2007

54 Days until St. Joseph's Feast Day!

And time for hardcore phase one of the annual wretched novena to our patron. A rosary every day until March 19! If you can't do the whole rosary, pick a decade. If you can't do a decade, say a "Hail Mary". Whatever you do- or don't do- unite it to the rest of us. Happy praying!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Sr. Sea!

I tried to post a picture of Lucy playing ping pong with Matt, but blogger is not in a happy mood this afternoon.

Happy 24th, my friend!!!! May it bring an increase in love, joy and peace in Christ.

Giussani wisdom

"Mercy is the attitude of the Mystery towards any kind of weakness, mistake or forgetfulness on man's part: before any crime committed by man, God loves him."

Read more!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Marching, marching, marching

Yes indeed, one more year has passed, and abortion has been legal in all of the US for 34 years.

But the March itself, well, you might have read my post about it 2 years ago. I'm not a huge fan, even though I went. There's just a lot of ickiness and ideology and misunderstanding of what is really going on. You must ALWAYS skip the speeches because they are awful and offensive. But it is the Catholic family reunion. Every year, I run into a young priest that I knew briefly when I was in high school and he was in the seminary. I saw our Sr. Rain in the sisters of life, and ran into Sr. Leaf who I haven't seen for almost 2 years. Of course it's nearly impossible to purposefully run into anyone, but when you don't expect to see someone, there they are.

By far, the highlight of the day for me was the youth rally and mass at the Verizon center. If you have never gone, I highly encourage you to volunteer next year or bring a group of kids to it. The energy and the unity of the Church in the Holy Spirit is just palpably present when you're in such a huge crowd of teens who are doing hand motions, the slow motion wave, and dancing and singing to the Lord. Hand motions may not be your thing, but I'm telling you, they are a freeing thing to do! And I think I need to give a talk to most of the seminarians who attended and sit front and center; They had better let the JOY of the LORD into their hearts, learn to dance, and not stand silent and boring! That was sad!

The most powerful moment for me was when I was leading 6 priests to their communion stations where I had "trained" a teen to stand and direct the people. I was actually given the grace to feel the truth that I was leading the Lord to His people. "Come this way, Jesus; they're waiting for you." And it was beautiful to look into the eyes of people on the way who understood that. Especially this one mom who was out there in the lobby and kneeled earlier after the Lamb of God- she was certainly too far away to even see the host from there, but kneel she did. Right there where usually people are pushing to see a fist fight at a hockey game or watch a pick-and-roll play in basketball, the Meaning of it all walked and gave Himself, once again, to thousands of souls who probably do not understand Him. I know I'm one of them!

How beautiful the feet that walked...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Interreligious Dialogue

I went to a forum this week about "the primordial relationship between God and the human person in Catholicism and Islam" and it was certainly illuminating. A few quotes from different people that I think sum it up:

"You can't help but feel a little triumphalistic."
"If this man is supposed to be the Islamic intellectual equivalent of Cardinal Scola, we are in trouble."
"I never realized how Pelagian Islam is."

and on the other hand, a priest who had been involved in this all day:
"I can see why so many Christians are converting to Islam; It is so simple, direct, clear and easy."

The two presentations were emblematic of the two very different ways we understand the world. No matter how many times you want to stress similarities and acknowledge our common brotherhood, you also MUST acknowledge difference.

Scola's paper, which was provided to all participants, was a brilliant and sweeping synthesis of the Catholic understanding of God's relationship with humanity through Jesus Christ. After 2 years of studying just that, I still left with new thoughts to chew on. Professor Siddiqi, formerly the President of the Islamic Society of America, gave us a rough overview of what Muslims believe on the topic... and it was not much. It is simple; God created us. Adam and Eve sinned. (b.n. there is not a concept of original sin in Islam; rather, we all simply follow their example- we are born with a pure nature and are naturally able to know what Allah wants from us, so it's not clear at all why we would sin anyway, or why Allah would be merciful to such people) Human beings are called to surrender their will to Allah and turn to him. We both believe in a God who created the world and should be praised and obeyed. We both believe God's law is written on our hearts. But there was just too much left unsaid. At the end, Cardinal Scola said about 5 HUGE issues he would like to ask Siddiqi but did not want to make him answer, i.e. the relationship between freedom and truth, reason and faith, and the like. Scola started his lecture with the human heart, with the perennial human questions "Who am I?" "Why do I exist?" None of these seemed to be part of the understanding of Islam. If Siddiqi was truly listening, I think he would have had to object strongly to what was actually being said.

Scola: Jesus Christ is the center of the universe and of history.
Siddiqi: Jesus Christ is one of the 25 prophets we acknowledge and respect.

How are these two reconcilable? At least state that. Interreligious dialogue does not mean skimming over differences. It means seeking to understand the other as a person and their beliefs as what shapes them. It means somehow allowing the difference to be fruitful- like in man and woman.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Pursuit of Happyness

I can only go to movies with JPII Institute students, or people who just "get" us weirdos.

We got in a discussion at lunch about this movie, and somehow in a group of daily mass and Jesus-loving Catholics, the particular weirdness of my education reared its (beautiful?) head.

From the desire to be understood, Jesus deliver me!

The premise of the movie is distinctly American: the triumph of the human spirit, the benefits of perseverance, the greatness of taking a big risk and seeing it pay off against all odds.

What did I expect? I guess I had hoped for something deeper than I got. There are directors in the world who could do great things with a story like this-- a man who keeps failing even to the point of being homeless with his son but lands an internship and subsequently a very prestigious job as a stock broker. A good artist could make a lot out of that.

Instead, the message was that happiness is found in dollar signs. That you should risk everything for the sake of a dream even if it involves risking your marriage, even your life.

The arguments of many today and many others are all valid and interesting. It is amazing and cool to see how someone could just go for something big against all odds and especially for someone without a college degree to know they can still be successful. It showed a man who would do anything to make sure that his son knew his father.

But is it ok, really, for a bright and intelligent man to allow things to get so bad that his wife is working double shifts while he still tries to sell medical supplies (his first job- I hope you've seen it or this won't make sense)? He certainly could have gotten at least a part-time job to help them get through while he wasn't selling much. Pride.

And is it ok that his marriage was torn apart and his wife left him and their son? Yes, it was her decision to leave, but she was pretty desperate and you could see that the frustration had been building up after a long time of "pulling more than her weight" to take care of them. Chris's passion that his son not grow up without a father should have also translated into a passion that he not grow up without a mother either.

The first scene when he sees all the stock brokers and says "They were all so happy" I figured was going to lead to him realizing in the end that happiness did not lie in money like he thought. Nope, not the lesson. The last scene is him crying with joy because he got a high-paying job. That's it. Money IS the answer to happiness. There were plenty of opportunities for the film to suggest that happiness did not lie there, and that even rich people had struggles. Nope. Their lives are perfect in their box seats at football games and fancy cars. Shallllllllow.

And finally, in the end, besides the main character, the only faces of homelessness in the movie are the stereotypes. I've heard this called a "social work movie"; No, it's not a social work movie. You don't learn anyone else's story. The only other homeless character who is recurring is a typically crazy one used for comic relief. It would be one thing if that was intentional and for effect (i.e. when you're homeless you feel invisible, just another face in the crowd) but it wasn't done that way. It doesn't ask any questions about that. It also doesn't deal with the question of why Chris did not have any friends or family around. If you're going to treat his character as if he's the orphaned only child of poor parents, you at least should explain that, and that still doesn't help explain why he has only 1 friend who owes him $14.

Luckily I saw the movie with Sr. Morning who shared the same quandries. And I'm starting to think that I can't even go to the movies anymore.

We will never be normal again, my friends.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Our Poor Clare sister!

Check it out, the monastery is online, and they're seeking help for our Kirsten! (Thanks Dawn!)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Children are connected up there

Read these excerpts from an article in Faith & Family and feel the tears welling- thanks to blog friends!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Marriage Preparation Evaluations

I'm going through them right now and keep being blown away. I have been "out of the world" too long, y'all, because these people hardly make any sense to me. So even though I'm really tempted to write verbatim what is on the page, I'm sure that would be completely unethical. So here's a general response to some comments and concerns.

1. Original sin is real. I'm sorry that you want to do without it. So do I, buddy, so do I.
2. Just because a couple home schools their 5-6 children does not mean they are out of touch with reality. They may even be more in touch with it than you are.
3. Citing that only 4% of Catholic marriages practice NFP is not an argument against our teaching it to you. In fact, you have just made our point that education about it is needed. Thank you.
4. The Catholic Church did not make up the connection between sex and children. I am sorry you feel that way and I'll be sure to talk to the Creator about this pesky truth for you. The Church is not going to bring in a speaker on birth control simply because you want to hear all of your "options" in a "neutral" light.
5. I agree that you don't need to know the details of anyone else's sex life. Ick.
6. Where do you get your idea about who qualifies as a "real Catholic"? Why are only dissenters considered real Catholics? Isn't the Pope a real Catholic too? I simply don't understand why people who sacrificed a Saturday to talk to you about their lives and share experiences are only freaks who do not live in the real world and do not represent "real Catholics". How is their life not real?
7. Calling somebody unintelligent while ranting illogically is not convincing.
8. If you don't believe anything you've heard in these sessions, remind me again why you're getting married in the Catholic Church? I'm glad you are, don't get me wrong, just curious.
9. If Christ saying you are not permitted to divorce is not a legitimate argument against divorce... I don't know what to tell ya. Do you want a pre-nup?
10. Proper spelling and grammar is underrated.

Thus ends the work-related rant.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Poor Clare Miracle

A joyful announcement of what the Lord gave one unofficial wretch (we think Sr. Flowers is a good name for her) who has been working to pay off her student loans to become a Poor Clare.

First, an anonymous donor gave her $10,000. The phone rang one day. Just like that.

Then, thanks to the persistence and love of her friends and the ministry she has been a part of- FOCUS missionaries from all over sent her money from their own pockets... adding up to $13,000!

God has all the money in the world. When He wants someone... let's thank Him and keep praying that she may enter soon!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Home in the New Year

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

I hope and pray that the holiday season has been a joy for all the wretches and their families, even though these events usually afford an extraordinary opportunity for wretchedness.

Remember, there is no wretchedness that is a match for His mercy! This line was on the back of Deacon Ryan’s ordination card, with the Divine Mercy image on the front. Amen, my friend.

At the Christmas Vigil, I found myself sitting between a zealous older gentleman and a woman who did not appreciate his zeal. In reflecting on the Spirit as unity and that unity as being what makes us “bear with” one another- in the true sense of that, which is not negative (c.f. Ratzinger, “Spirit of unity”…. Or something like that)- I believe hers was the greater transgression. Her noble desire for silence does not justify her expression of annoyance. We would all receive the Eucharist together, one after another, professing that we are one Body. In that moment, I think we were called to “bear with” him in love and smile indulgently at our “adopted great uncle” who sometimes talks a little before mass.

Sr. Morning has been reflecting on what “home” is; how Fr. A said that as you grow in this journey you begin to realize that Home is a Person.

And suddenly, it makes sense to feel more at home with people you “hardly know” who share your faith and are living in and walking towards Christ than with people you have known all your life that do not think of Him. You look around a room, and either marvel that people who are so different from you yet share this profound sense of the meaning of everything… or you look around at people who look a lot like you, but have a totally different conception of what reality is. It’s wild.

Other profound homey places are World Youth Day and the March for Life (affectionately called by wave “the Catholic family reunion”). In the midst of these crowds—with the exception of some of the crazies at the march— you sense the Spirit and the unity of love.

Spice, halfway across the country, wrote something about home in her Christmas card to me. She wrote that “we always seem to be making our way home”. Always already, almost-but-not-yet, both and. We are home, yet not, and not home, yet home. None of which makes sense if you do not know Christ; Home is always moving because He is a person.

Listening to Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, the Moldau movement, conducted by Ferenc Fricsay, is Home.