I wanted to share very briefly my thoughts about the latest #MeToo movement. I think it is time that we as a society recognize that sin is a public venture. What do I mean? Every sin, no matter how private, has a public ramification. This is why the act of reconciliation is so essential and why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so essential. I think immediately of Matt Fradd and his many works including most recently his book ‘The Porn Myth.’ Addiction to pornography is likely the biggest taboo and the greatest purveyor of sexual predatory practices. Think for a moment in how much time a day someone spends on developing virtue and holiness; how much time do you think an addiction to the vice of porn drags from someones life? What is the longterm effect on the brain with such exposure and training? As we’ve discussed in earlier posts, the most fundamental aspect of Catholic Social Teaching is that we are all made in God’s likeness, image, and have an immutable dignity. What dignity is given by making someone an object of personal gratification? What kind of dignity does it serve to train one’s brain to perceive women in this way? As Christians we constantly train ourselves in the ways of holiness of prayer of peace of virtue; what does this add?
The real question is what is virtue? Virtue is essentially at it’s root a good habit, vice is it’s opposite. Think about all the habits you have, things that now come easily to you which were once difficult at first. This is something in our nature that cannot be changed. We form virtue or vice depending upon our daily choices and behaviors. Our most private sins effect all in a very public way. How we treat others is borne very deeply within our very thoughts as Jesus taught very firmly: anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28). Do you understand this serious accusation? In the law the punishment for adultery is a stoning death. Just as sure as there was at one time a death penalty for Adultery, there is a death that takes place within the heart of those who partake of this vice. Luckily God intervenes with his mercy through the sacrament of Reconciliation. But if we are going to be serious about the way men are exhibiting predatory tactics towards women in our society we need to recognize and acknowledge the prevalence and the problem that pornography poses to the dignity of the feminine genius.
It is at this juncture that it must be brought up the prevalence with which my generation (millennials) has been brought up with pornography, whether by parental permission or by secret. In one sense my generation is much more aware of the struggles that women face but on the other hand my generation grew up on a steady diet of pornography. I can’t say that I’ve spoken as candidly with members of other generations but I can say this problem is certainly not close to being solved or addressed in a real way. Acknowledgement is the first step, it is key, and I hope that the public sin of pornography & masturbation, no matter how private, will be denounced for the pathway to abuse that it is. Abuse of self firstly and abuse of others mentally to the abuse of others physically.
To love the Blessed Mother, which is to be Marian, is not only to recognize her humility, her Queenly attributes, her beauty, her purity but to recognize in her the dignity and the genius that she is. In a universe in which God creates the most beautiful Angel who falls and becomes ugly due to pride; the most beautiful creature who is Mary effortlessly appeals for us all. The beauty spoken of here is more then mere appearance, but truth of being. It is no mistake that the closest creature to God is Mary, not just as mother of Jesus or spouse of the Holy Spirit. Her genius is a simple ‘yes’ to the plan of God for her life. Her genius is her ‘yes’ to allowing her son to be immolated upon the cross before her very eyes. Her genius is her 'yes' to the Holy Spirit in becoming a spiritual mother to the Church at Pentecost through her silent but warm presence. Her genius is one of tremendous joys and tremendous sorrows. None of this credit would she take though as she continually points to her Son.
The sooner men begin to step up in virtue and the practice of daily holiness the sooner that society will back away from the rocky cliff it is precariously teetering upon. It is when men and women collaborate together in dignity, making family life the fruit and the focus of a loving relationship that sons and daughters will live in peaceful contentment. This change is possible, but it depends upon us all to make a change for peace.
This post doesn’t begin to address or acknowledge in an effective way the gravity and scale of the suffering that many, many women have suffered at the hands of men who cannot respect or uphold the dignity of women. To be sure, pornography isn’t the only problem but it is a big problem that needs to be acknowledged.
NOT A PAID ADVERTIZEMENT: Please read The Porn Myth by Matt Fradd!
In recent months we have experienced serious hurricane after serious hurricane. Not to mention earthquakes, forest fires, other natural events, and calamities. Often times we are asked or the thought comes to mind, why does God allow this? Sometimes, people go so far as to say that God is actively punishing a region through natural events.
Suffering itself is a mystery that can be summed up in the cross. It is important to point out here the theological meaning of mystery. A mystery is something that God hasn’t fully revealed yet, or something that escapes our understanding because of the vast difference between God’s infinite nature (what he is) and our own finite nature (what we are). A difference between creator and creature.
This is where this discussion becomes interesting. The term ‘creature’ is applied in a theological sense to anything created by God, whether it’s an object, animal, or person. This terminology highlights God’s relationship with everything in the universe. He is the creator, in that creative process he created time, space, matter, laws of physics, natural law, as well as a moral law.
There has been a temptation from the very beginning of humanity to create idols. These idols always were connected with earthly things, with natural events and the natural world. These idols explained the earthquakes, the hurricanes, drought, volcanos, eclipses, and other natural events. There is a reason why the greek Gods are depicted as capricious and unpredictable, because the natural world was equally so. This is called a god-of-the-gaps or an “idol-god” that is used to explain events that cannot yet be understood or explained through any other means.
Even now in the great age of science, people are still tempted to follow idols. One of the greatest limitations of modern man is the incapacity to correctly understand the attributes of God particularly his transcendence and omniscience much less the subtlety of the Trinity. Many times in discussion, even rational people make the mistake of assuming that God is a crutch to explain away any earthly event without reason, and at times the faithful in a poor attempt at being zealous whole-hearty agree.
Faith and reason go together, God is indeed creator of the universe which also means that the universe operates to a certain design. Temporal or earthly things can be studied and understood, this does not limit God. The study of science only glorifies God, as he delights in our use of God-given faculties. It was God who created the laws of physics and it is the natural world that follows those laws as designed. This is not an admission of idolatry because the laws of physics, along with space and time began when the universe came into being. Should scientists form a deeper understanding and knowledge of our temporal existence, or how the universe came to be, it will only enlighten our understanding of God. Both faith and reason ought to be searching in a parallel manner for truth.
The purpose of this pilgrimage of life is to love and serve God well. Catholics are often asked to memorize the four last things: death, heaven, hell, & purgatory. God punishes after death as a natural consequence of sin. God alone is the judge. In order to refute in a final way this idea of God punishing through the natural order is the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Mt 13:24-30). First the owner of the field sows good seed, then overnight an enemy sows weeds in with the wheat. Then with the discovery of the mixed weeds and wheat the servants ask if they can remove the weeds from the wheat and the owner replies:
“No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Mt 13:29-30)
God does not punish or kill purposely through hurricanes. The very existence of death is something that God does not wish (see Ezekiel 18:23). From the time of Adam and Eve, death is the rejection of God and death has been handed on to all subsequent generations. When that first rejection took place with Adam and Eve death entered into the world and the entire natural order was disrupted. Can God stop a hurricane? Sure, just as he can stop sin. Yet there is a philosophical question here at heart of the parable. If God were to stop all sin and all death now, he would risk uprooting much of the good wheat. To God, sin is sin there is no comparison. Just as I’m sure we could agree, that instead of stopping one hurricane we would act, if we could, for an end to all death.
Sin and death are horrible; mercy, forgiveness, and love are amazing works of grace and healing. We are called to forgive the former and to live heaven on earth which is the latter. While we don’t believe in idols or ‘god-of-the-gaps’ we do believe in an all-powerful God who has created an interesting, complex, and yet simple universe to which all laws converge to make existence what it is, a universe that operates according to his design, though not with out defect as the result of sin. Rather then being built like a pocket watch God is very invested in our universe and in our plight by offering up his only son so that sin and death may be vanquished. It is through the example and words lived by Jesus, that we understand truly the things that science cannot teach. Among them that we will one day according to God’s just judgement live in eternity, that this life here is just a passing pilgrimage. Keeping an eye on the purpose of our lives, to love and serve God, and to aim for eternity bring into view a different understanding of the temporal world around us. It brings a different understanding of suffering, of disaster, or of calamity that cannot be stolen or taken. We are given a kind of ruddy hope, something that was captivating about Jesus and those close to him.
So when calamity strikes instead of looking for omens and signs, run to the aid of those in need. Instead of judgment offer your hand in trying to understand. This certainly is a difficult world ridden with sin and death for which there is only one cure, the indomitable hope of Christ with the precious gift of salvation.
**DISCLAIMER: Hey guys, I want to make a small disclaimer that this subject has so many deep facets that really this post is the very baby-step beginning of understanding what is going on with God and how judgement works and then we didn't even touch on Revelation and when or how judgment will come or the poetic language of Revelation there is just so much in this one subject! So enjoy, write your questions below!**
I think one of the biggest challenges with being a leader in the Church at any level is balancing the need to speak out against injustice, the call to be prophetic, versus alienating certain groups of people within the Church or perpetuating divisions abroad. Though, it could safely be said that amongst many social justice issues ranging from the terrible events in Charlottesville to the general attitude towards migrants and refugees and now to the decision made on DACA. Where does our Church stand? Is there an unequivocal moral outcry on these issues? The thing about politics and policy in general is that it is not only a matter of opinion but also something that affects individuals, it is at this juncture that morality begins to meet policy. So while some folks say, the Church should just stay out of this stuff. The difficulty is that, when we involve people, moral choices are at stake. When moral choices are at stake, we must recognize that the Gospel in point of fact calls Christians to certain uncomfortable positions, attitudes, and beliefs. It sure would be easy to say, well the Church has to stay out of all politics; but again as previously stated, policy making now days just doesn't have that clean of a break from the moral implications that effect many many people. We aren't talking about theory in many cases but lives. Political theory is one thing, a real refugee faced with tortuous death or asylum is a reality that needs to be felt.
At the same time I am very reticent to share any information about my voting habits or making specific policy suggestions in terms of which party to support or not support, mostly because there is no party that fully represents everything that Catholics hold to in regards to moral teaching. If there was a party that does that, there are some, they often are tiny and have the same large potential problem for having their core values shift due to influence or growth as any party or human endeavor does. The real crux of this issue isn’t necessarily political party, for Catholics it ought to be the mission of informing the conscience of America and the world. There were never those days that you could blindly accept one party over another, Catholics are routinely called to use their informed conscience in determining the best course of action for the nation and the world.
How do we influence societal conscience? By enacting just laws that breathe with all factors considered, from the practical, to the moral, to the budgetary; each consideration as integral to the next. What that really requires is folks who can sit down and hold a conversation on how to make these difficult difficult issues flow together, a certain unity. What now seems like the impossible is actually very possible. It begins at home, by entertaining open dialogue that includes real listening to ‘the other side’. Being able to disagree amicably and focus on areas where we can agree. At the same time there ought to be no room for hate speech. Far from having a ‘safe space’ or a ‘snowflake room;’ common decency and the dignity of the human person shouldn’t even be a question that needs answer or a discussion worth entertaining. America is built on the principle that God creates with a certain inalienable dignity, and even if it didn’t our faith requires us to see all through the loving eyes of God the Father. While hate speech is being contended as ‘free speech’ as Christians we are not free to do as we please; God is our judge, even more then those that aren’t professed Christians, and we are held to a greater moral standard. Surely, we hope that all will believe in the Gospel and follow the higher standard but it is incumbent upon us to be especially aware of our conduct and our speech, that it always reflects the Gospel.
Ultimately here is a guiding principle behind many crises and moral quagmires that have happened as of late. In paragraph 369 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says that man and woman are created with an “inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their creator” (CCC 369). Furthermore, to confirm scripturally, you could begin look in Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 22 as God literally made Adam and Eve in ‘his image and likeness.' To go yet further it says in Acts 10:34 that “God shows no partiality” as all people have the same dignity as we are all made creatures in God’s image and likeness (CCC 1934; Cf. Rom 2:11, Gal 2:6, Eph 6:9). In Gaudeum et Spes, a document of the II Vatican Council it says that:
“True, all men are not alike from the point of view of varying physical power and the diversity of intellectual and moral resources. Nevertheless, with respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God's intent.” (Gaudium et Spes #29).
I can’t speak enough about the dignity of the human person and at times it seems like the risks or the devil’s influence of ignorance in this matter is just too great. But we cannot tire of preaching the precious news of Jesus Christ. That he found worth enough in humankind to come and redeem all humanity. Jesus, visited even the lowliest class and the lowliest treated among that class, a samaritan woman, not just to drink water from but to engage in a relationship of peace and joy. We must take care of the immigrants and the resident alien, just as much as the refugee and of course our own poor: not because they are or aren’t American but because they have a dignity beyond price or measure and that is what our faith calls us to.
We must be aware of the patrimony and the beauty of our faith and be able to express it in a beautiful way in these ugly times. Not with chants and rallies and violence of word or action but with simple peace, quiet resolve in knowing that Jesus has already won the war. All we have to do is carry the battle on in silent and holy stubbornness holding to the principles and values that our God has given us. The greatest among many things that Martin Luther King Jr. to whom I owe great respect and admiration for has done for our country is his example of peaceable witness and a voice of conscience. It is a terrible thing when that memory is lost and even greater terror when our voice of conscience is mixed with violence, as what we believe must be lived out to the extreme. The extreme of loving our enemy and loving our neighbor no matter who they are or what they’ve done. To speaking out for their protection and their dignity as human beings, created in the image and likeness of God almighty!
Before we can act we must inform our conscience, learn your faith! Learn the beatitudes, the commandments, the corporeal works of mercy, learn the story of our salvation well. Become involved in Bible Studies, book clubs, speaking events, involve yourself in lay ministries. Learn what the Church teaches in regards to work, to war, to human dignity. Become that beautiful soul, write, speak, listen; say only the good things men & women need to hear, for their edification in the good, noble, and beautiful (Cf. Eph 4:29).
Jim Carrey hands down as a kid was my favorite actor period. Just ask my poor mother about talking with my butt (asking for a breath mint), or always saying ALLLLLLLLRIGHTYTHEN! What’s not to love about Ace Ventura, Stanley Ipkiss, Lloyd Christmas, and Fletcher Reede. As I grew older Jim began to mix deep meaning and life questions with comedy; I became obsessed with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind primarily because of its quirky-ness, of course also included in this category is Bruce Almighty which is better known and the Truman Show.
Fr. Greg Boyle is a Jesuit priest who is founder of Homeboy Industries which is a program for former gang members to have a way out of crime and addiction. This program gives opportunities for these former gang members to have a second chance at living life at it's fullest. There is so much to be said of the work Fr. Greg has been doing in LA.
One of the more unexpected alliances, sheerly out of ignorance, is actually between Jim Carrey and Fr. Greg Boyle two personal hero’s in one location. What’s even more inspiring is Jim Carrey’s reflection on what it means to suffer, something all of us can reflect upon and relate to.
I don’t really want to add to what Jim says you’ll just have to watch the clip for yourself because it is profound in many ways. A reflection spoken by someone who has truly experienced affliction, despite all the glamour, money, and fame. I think for many reasons Jim Carrey will always be an inspirational favorite as well as Fr. Greg Boyle.
I shared on twitter last Wednesday how struck I was by the second reading in the Office of Readings. Just as a short clarifier, the Office of Readings is one of five daily prayers that belong to what is called the Liturgy of the Hours which is a set of prayers that are sung, chanted, recited, and meditated upon throughout the day.
The Second reading was from an ancient document entitled “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” or sometimes better known as the Didache. What struck me I think is the requirement for purity before receiving the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist.
Often times I think we get hung-up on the idea of purity. Mostly because it is most commonly associated with ‘purity talks’ where hundreds of nervous teens are packed into a gym and talked to like they’ve never considered intimate relationships before. Or in even more bizarre instances promise ceremonies in which a daughter will promise purity to their father before marriage.
Purity, in many respects, denotes freedom and doesn’t relate exclusively to sexuality. Purity is something that is bigger then just one component of your physiology it is a way of life. Living by God’s freedom not out of repression as is exampled above, but out of holistic integration of the law of God in daily life.
Which is why the Lord says very clearly, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” We reconcile to our brother, we reconcile to God before offering ourselves because in order to offer ourselves we must be free to make that gift. Try to give away your car or your house on which you still owe money to the bank for; the collectors will come and look for you or whomever you have given it to. Our spiritual offerings, though inherently valuable by virtue of God’s love for us become even more effective with our effort in love and humility freeing ourselves, with the help of God’s grace, from wrongdoing.
Which is to say that one can be impure or have an impure intention by wishing ill on others while pretending to love God as they receive him in the Eucharist. If one were truly to love God, they would firstly love their neighbor; they would even love their enemy and wish good on them. Understandably, this can reach any aspect of our person, whether that be applied to our sexuality, our capacity for malice or hate, how we treat others, or even how we make use of our time each day.
A prime example of the difference between repression vs. integration is the 'purity talk' vs. talking about real life dating and how to discern a vocation to Marriage. Integration calls us toward something; it asks us to do something genuine for someone else. Repression prohibits; it asks us to think of ourselves and how we might preserve ourselves. It takes little imagination how spiritually damaging this can be, and how easy it makes it to throw out Church teaching which is really the freeing teachings of Jesus himself.
We don’t of course have to be perfect for God to love us but our hearts must be ready to reconcile in order to give ourselves fully to God and to others. God prefers an open heart to a closed heart. As it says in James: “Be doers of the word not hearers only… But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.”
Practically speaking, forgive those who ask your forgiveness. Give the benefit of the doubt. Ask forgiveness for wrongs committed to others. As we would ask forgiveness of a brother or sister, ask forgiveness of God by going to reconciliation. All of this ideally before going to Mass. Sure, there is a minimal Church Law requirement of being free from mortal sin before receiving the Eucharist; but what is the heart of this teaching? It is to be free to give yourself fully to God. Do you feel free? Are you reconciled with your sister or brother? God Loves you unconditionally yet: are you reconciled to God, that your offering might be effective? “My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.”
 Mat. 5:23-24
 James 1:22, 25
 Psalm 51:19
"In the solitude and silence of the wilderness..., for their labor in the contest, God gives his athletes the reward they desire: a peace that the world does not know and joy in the Holy Spirit."
Husband & father of four, graduate from Quincy University and currently a grad student at Franciscan University. Director of Faith Formation & Youth Ministry for All Saints Parish since January 2012.