I have uploaded and published a new videocast:
I first learned about the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal about 15 years ago when I was traveling up I-55 to St. Louis. It’s in Perryville, which is about an hour south of the city. The shrine is only about a mile and half off the interstate and is really easy to find. It’s pretty simple but beautiful and well worth seeing. The Shrine is run by the Vincentians. They were the first religious order of priests that I encountered when I became Catholic. They are primarily rural missionaries, and I came from the rural area of southeast Missouri.
The Miraculous Medal was revealed to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830. St. Catherine Laboure was a member of the Daughters of Charity, the women’s congregation of the Vincentians. Our Lady ordered her to have the medal made, and she said that graces would about for anyone who wore it with confidence. She went to her confessor, who eventually brought this to the archbishop (after two years), and had the medals made. St. Catherine Laboure, however, continued to live in the usual way of a Daughter of Charity for 46 more years. A few months before her death in 1876, Our Lady gave her permission to reveal to her superior that she was the one who received this revelation, and so she did.
Really, though, I want to emphasize that it’s important to keep God at the forefront of anything we do, including our travel. Knowing where places of pilgrimage exist help us to do this. We can take a break from our travel to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament at a place like this and focus ourselves on Christ. If you are traveling this way, I’d highly recommend taking a look at this place.
For our life in Christ, it’s important that we take an annual retreat, and really, we need to take a family retreat (either in addition to or as your retreat). However, my wife and I have small children. If one of us goes on retreat, the other is left to take care of them for a whole weekend. Taking the kids on a retreat with a lot of talks isn’t a readily available option for us. However, we can take a pilgrimage, bring the kids briefly to Adoration, and then each take turns in silence before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. In this video, I talk about the place we go, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, AL. I have some outside footage of it as well. I couldn’t video inside because they prohibit it in order to maintain a place of silence.
I have just posted my latest podcast episode.
I wanted to do a couple of podcasts, and this is the first one, on issues that are often rejected by Catholics who want to follow the teachings of the Church. This is often a reaction to people who press these issues but reject other major Church teachings. However, those people have a point, but the issues aren’t understood correctly.
One of the pet peeves of many Catholics who are trying to be faithful to the Church is people who call themselves Catholic but either are pro-abortion or vote for candidates who are pro-abortion. However, those who will do this will talk about other social issues like concern for the poor. Truthfully, we do need to be concerned for the poor, and this can be forgotten by pro-life Catholics. Many are repulsed by social issues, and it may be due to a political ideology. It also may be because the people who champion the other issues tend to downplay the evil of abortion, provoking a bad reaction to their other concerns (whether intended or not). Anyway, this is what I’m talking about in this podcast.
Next time, I hope to get a videocast up before I pick up another topic like this in an audio podcast.
I have just posted a new podcast episode.
This is something that I often struggle to do for reasons that you’ll probably pick up if you hear the podcast (or if you know me). However, this is something I try to do. A good thing to do for Christian discipline is to get up at the same time each day (maybe modifying for weekends if you need to catch up sleep), and get up immediately when it is time. Too much sleeping in can result in a temptation to laziness. However, do be sure to get enough sleep.
I got a brand new DSLR for Christmas last year. While it takes awesome pictures, I’m really interested in doing some video. So, I’m happy to introduce my first videocast! I’ve been wanting to do this one for a long time.
Just for fun, I wanted to show off my podcast studio and mobile setups. I always like behind-the-scenes kind of stuff, so I wanted to do my own. All of the audio that you hear in this video was recorded using whatever device I was displaying. The camera audio was turned off. Hopefully, I can make some more of these before too long.
I have finally resumed my podcast. It has been so long that I had trouble remembering my username and password to post the episode. I’m hoping to get more done soon and even some videocasts on YouTube.
This is a brief episode on how our spiritual life should be centered on the Eucharist. As some may know, the Eucharist was something that I longed to receive for a long time. Even after 24 years of being Catholic, I still want to receive as much as I can. I honestly think this barely scratches the surface of this topic, but I wanted to say something about it now. This came to mind because I’ve had a recent schedule change at work that allows me to go to weekday Mass during my lunch break. It has been a great blessing as I have really missed going. Because I am no longer going to podcast over my lunch break, I won’t be calling any future episodes Lunchbreak editions.
My first born son is in pre-school now. We found a great Catholic pre-school that operates a modified Montessori program. From around the time we moved to the Nashville area, I’ve been thinking about what kind of school we will send our children to. My understanding of education has changed a lot since I was a student. Some of what I’m going to write about here is years away, but I think it’s good for me to think about it now.
When I was getting ready to go to school, my marching order was “You will major in something in which you can get a job.” I had no argument here. I wanted to have a job and be independent, and I didn’t want to “waste” time on anything that I wasn’t going to use. In high school, I even wrote an essay against have a liberal arts curriculum. I balked at any kind of philosophy or intellectual tradition. I figured that there were too many crazy people involved in that for it to be anything worthwhile anyway. I had a roommate taking a course in logic, and I wondered why he bothered. Before entering pharmacy school, I even asked a philosophy professor what people did with a degree in philosophy.
Then, I graduated and entered residency. Some challenges to my faith caused me to do some searching for whether it were possible for someone to know the truth. The intellectual tradition didn’t seem so silly anymore and neither did all that philosophy stuff. Although I didn’t have a total picture, I realized that the Catholic Church had an intellectual tradition, and having at least some understanding of it was a major key to knowing the truth of the Catholic faith. At least, at that time, I began to understand that the thinking skills taught by a philosophy course would help me to explain to people why faith in God and Christian morality are not just arbitrary things.
This, along with what I have discovered since, led me to have a completely different idea of the education that I want my children to have. The very first thing that we need to be concerned about for them is their eternal salvation. Ultimately, everything in their education should be leading them to God. All of the stuff about going to college and getting a job is secondary and should be pointed towards this end. This doesn’t mean that they can’t study subjects like math and science. All true knowledge leads to God. However, math and science cannot be the only thing they know well, as it was for me.
The National Catholic Register published a recent article about new interest being shown in a classical education. It is described as focusing on the “trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric” and the “quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.” The result will be students with better thinking and reasoning skills. Most importantly, it is leading the students to an encounter with Christ.
This is in contrast to the Common Core. From what I understand of it, which isn’t much, it is a utilitarian type of education. In the Common Core, literature is largely replaced by informational texts. The emphasis is on college and career preparation. The administrator of one classical education school, on the other hand, stated that, “We don’t want our children to aim for college and a career. We want them to aim for the good life.” Another article that I’ve read even suggests that, in college, we should “resist the temptation to pursue degrees aimed at finding a job.”
This is an area where I do have some concern. I do want my children, as well as other faithful Catholics, to be able to train to get a good job. The fact is that our children will someday have to have the ability to do a job and pay our bills. We can’t just toss this aside because it is quite simply reality. I would not want to suggest that godly people avoid professional schools where they learn to be doctors, pharmacists, engineers, and other professions. Otherwise, the only people who will be left in those professions are people who are not believers and whose moral compass will not lead us in the right direction.
However, I’m even more concerned about things like Common Core, education solely for the purpose of obtaining a job, and education that concentrates solely on math and science. After all, I do not want my children formed for corporate America. I don’t want my children to learn to, as a pharmacy preceptor during my residency would say, learn to do things “right” and not be able to reflect on whether they are doing the right things. I’ve seen too many things about how we seek fulfillment in our careers, and yet, there is far more to life than our career.
When I went to college and later pharmacy school, I encountered a lot that I was not intellectually prepared to answer. Some of it was pretty subtle. I want to see my kids have the ability to critically think about what is being presented to them and not simply be ruled by sentiments or the lines of secular society. They need to have an understanding of the philosophical history and thinking of our civilization as well as where it went wrong. When they go to college, I want them not to fall for any of the “isms” that will be presented (The book Disorientation is an excellent read about this.).
The best way to get them ready to think is through a more classical education. I’d like to think that I can find some kind of Great Books program or liberal studies program that will form them as people. They especially need a solid formation in the Catholic Faith so that they know it and can explain it to others. The problem that I’m going to have is that I never had this kind of education, and my understanding of why I needed it came later in life. Somehow, I need to make sure my kids get what they need to be real thinkers, not people who simply swallow society’s lines in the name of “thinking for themselves.” They need job training, but they need more than job training. They need formation for all of life, both in this life and in eternity.
I have posted another Lunch Break edition of the podcast.
Many times, we fear losing our freedom when following Christ. However, what are our plans compared to his?
In my last post, I wrote about some wrong ideas that I’ve heard when people talk about young adult ministry. In the second part of my reflections on young adult ministry, I want to talk about what young adult ministry should be like. Young adult ministry is both very difficult to maintain but very important, and I do wish that parishes and dioceses would put more effort into it.
In order to talk about what a young adult ministry should be, I want to talk about why it’s needed. We are in a period of time now where we are recovering from problematic faith formation. The problem has gotten better, but I think it still exists. My own passion for helping people learn the faith came from seeing the widespread ignorance that exists about the Catholic faith, even among Catholics. While the Internet was very helpful to me, young adult ministry also helped me to understand what I was missing. Something needs to be done to reach those who weren’t shown the fullness of truth as the positive good that it is. Although many life decisions may have already been made or at least started, young adults are still in a position where they are charting a course for their careers, marriages, and other aspects of their lives. The longer we go without reaching them, the more life choices they will make without a full understanding of what God wants for their lives.
Since I’m a big believer that helping people understand what not to do helps people understand what to do, I want to start by talking about some of the things worst things that someone can do while running a young adult ministry. Here they are:
A well-done young adult ministry should have spiritual, catechetical/formational, service (with at least some being geared towards evangelization), and social aspects, and people who participate should be strongly urged to participate in all aspects of the ministry. Prayer and devotion are essential to ensure that people have an encounter with Jesus Christ and not just an academic experience. After all, God is a person who loves us and wants our love and a relationship with us. Eucharistic Adoration, even if it just means spending some time before the tabernacle in the church, is essential. The parish or diocese should have an annual retreat or conference (maybe both) for young adults to spend a period of time in the presence of God and in the presence of other Catholic young adults trying to live out their faith in the world.
Cathechesis is necessary to help everyone learn and understand the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith. If young people are bored with the faith, it most likely isn’t because too much doctrine is being taught but because doctrine isn’t being taught. Some formation programs have been little more than the sharing of our own feelings and experiences without reference to the truth that sets us free. In fact, some people object to teaching concrete doctrine under the well-meaning idea of “meeting people where they are.” People should be taken where they are and be treated with the love of Christ, but that means that we should not leave them there. Young adults will vary widely in what they know about the faith, and many will learn important aspects for the first time and say things like “Why haven’t we heard this before?”
With this in mind, though, people do need to see concrete examples of a lived experience of the faith. So, faith sharing informed by the Gospel is essential, whether it’s a group discussion or some people talking about what Jesus has done in their lives. The Faith has definite doctrine because God has revealed himself, but this is something to be lived, not just an academic subject.
It’s also important to mention that cathechesis shouldn’t be the only aspect of a ministry. Just remember that we are in a culture that is heavy on entertainment, and having something purely catechetical can easily foster an “entertain us” mentality. The expectation to be entertained is very pervasive in the younger generations, and the faith must be something lived, not just a form of entertainment. That form of entertainment won’t hold up well when living the faith becomes difficult. Without aspects of service and evangelization, you can easily fill a ministry with people who expect to be entertained all the time and have little commitment to the ministry or to outreach. At that point, the young adult ministry is already on life support from whoever is doing the work and is pretty much guaranteed to die once that person is no longer willing or able to continue.
Therefore, service activity is a must. At least some of the service activities should be geared towards evangelization. Young adults need to reach out to others to share their faith, especially other young adults who may no longer be going to church (or who may barely be still there). Of course, service to those in need is important also. However, even that service should be geared towards bringing others to Christ. Also, some of the service events need to connect the young adults with other ministries in the Church. The young adult ministry should not be the exclusive participation in the life of the parish for its participants.
I want to say just a little more about forming people to evangelize. Service can include service within the ministry itself. Some may be willing to help catechize the other young adults. Forming leaders who are witnesses and who are willing to be speakers and teach the faith to the others is essential. Young adults from the group should be doing a good part of the teaching and could even be available to be speakers at other events in the parish or diocese. They will be a great inspiration to others, especially older people who are concerned about the faith of the younger generation.
Of course, there should be a social aspect of the ministry. It is essential, but it should not be central. In fact, social events that do not precede or follow a spiritual, service, or catechetical event should be few and far between. We do not want the ministry to turn into a social club. Having an annual picnic or baseball game or something is good, but, other than that, the social time should be, for example, right after a Holy Hour or a speaker. The social time is essential to help form the community and give the sense of belonging that is needed, and care should be taken not to let the group turn into a cliche. Also, any onlookers should notice the Christ-like manner in which the group interacts. The social time is a great time to develop that sense of Christ-like socialization.
Of course, reaching out to young adults can be very difficult. They tend to be super busy, and sometimes other aspects of life get in the way. However, this is Jesus Christ and his Church that we are talking about, and people are hungry for the truth. Greater commitment to both the Gospel and the generations of people who never knew their faith is necessary. In fact, the results may be discouraging at first. If a group is started, a certain time commitment (at least a year) before giving up needs to be established. Be sure that there’s a web page that people can go to. If you have the technology and capable people available, you can even have a site with articles about the faith and even downloadable MP3s of previous talks available. All of these things will help reach people who will be eternally grateful.
Previously, I wrote a reflection on being a Catholic young adult. Today, as I had mentioned, I want to write on Catholic young adult ministry. I’m not so much writing as an “expert” but as a participant in some young adult ministry who has observed the needs around him and knows what he would like to see. I’ve seen a ministry that was strictly catechetical and one that did nothing but social activities. There were a few in which I was little more than an occasional participant, and a couple in which I spent a considerable amount of time doing work. I was the webmaster for the Frassati Society of Memphis which disbanded in 2006. I want to write about my own suggestions as to what is needed, but first, I want to tackle some wrong ideas that I’ve seen circulating.
Should there be young adult ministry?
One of the hosts of a podcast that I have otherwise enjoyed actually said that it is impossible to really have a young adult ministry. The lives of young adults, in his opinion, were just too diverse to have a ministry dedicated to such a group of people. They are in just too many different states of life.
He has a point that there is quite a bit of variation on the state of life of young adults. Some are married, and some even have children. Some may still be in school, but, in my opinion, unless they are older than most other students or are not in school full-time, a good campus ministry may serve them better. Some may have graduated college and are working in a profession. There are others who have no idea what to do with their lives. Some may have, quite honestly, made a pretty big mess of things.
However, there are two reasons why I think that we still have a need for young adult ministry. First, there are some common needs of people in that age group. There is a need for formation, for one thing, as well as a sense of community and belonging. Second, people in different circumstances can support each other and be witnesses to each other. The married can be an example of Christian marriage to the single people. The people who are in their professions may be of help to people trying to find their place in the world. It just takes a good community of people dedicated to Christian charity (and to not becoming a cliche).
With that being said, chances are most of the people who participate in the young adult ministry will be younger and single. I’ve seen a ministry that was able to integrate married couples for a short time, but, once they have children, it has been very difficult for those to remain (including my wife and I). Often the people most in need of the ministry are the people who are out of college, most likely working, but aren’t yet married or committed to another vocation. It’s actually quite an unnatural state, but there are many reasons why someone may be in that state. For me, a little more than ten years passed between graduation from pharmacy school and getting married.
It seems that people in the Church have a hard time figuring out how to reach and involve people in that state. This time can either be spent in selfishness or as a time of service and spiritual preparation for one’s vocation. Young adult ministry, when done right, can really give people in this state a sense of mission.
Group vs. ministry
When I first went to young adult activities where I lived right after graduation from pharmacy school, the local diocese had formed a young adult committee. They had gone to some conference where some supposed expert told them that they need to make it clear that they don’t have a young adult “group” but a “ministry.” Apparently, the problem with the idea of a “group” is that it implied membership and commitment.
My concern is not so much with whether someone says they have a “group” or a “ministry.” I tend to regard those things a semantical games. Membership and commitment, on the other hand, are essential for a successful ministry. You definitely have to have a committed core group to run the ministry. If people are expected to grow in their faith, they will need to commit to doing so. In fact, lack of commitment has been the major reason for the failure of ministries that I have been involved in. Granted, you can’t expect everyone to be ready to dive in right at first, but having a free for all with no one committed won’t get anyone anywhere. Besides, Jesus himself requires a total commitment of our lives. This is the a Gospel outreach that we are talking about! Saying that you can’t expect commitment can easily suggest that Christ and his Church aren’t being taken seriously.
Membership is also essential to building a community and a sense of belonging that is so necessary for people who otherwise might not know how to find their place in the Church. The key is to make sure it avoids becoming a cliche or a closed group that doesn’t reach out to others, or, worse yet, doesn’t really welcome new people. Let people come and see what the group has to offer, and, be ready to have them register to be a member after they have been.
But we already do young adult ministry in things like marriage preparation, etc.
Yes, it is true that marriage preparation or baptismal preparation, you are working with young adults, but what about people who aren’t about to get married or have a child. Also, is this really the time when you are going to catechize someone? If someone is looking to get married and is just then being formed in what Christian marriage is, it means that the person went through years of their life, dated, and selected someone to marry without having really understood how their marriage is part of their Christian mission.
The preparation better start before someone is even dating, or you are already really late in the process. Someone receiving the formation during the years where they are likely to be trying to meet the person they wish to marry will be in a much better position to know what to look for and what to work towards and will be better able to enter into a solid Christian marriage. Take a look at this document from the Pontifical Council for the Family. It talks about remote, proximate, and immediate preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage, and I wish this was how things were done.
Next time: I’ll give my suggestions for good, solid young adult ministry.