David Ancell's Virtual Home

What About the Other Side of This

  /   Wednesday, March 01, 2017   /   Comments(0)

I have heard over the years about different politicians and groups insisting on protecting “access” to contraception as though it were something necessary and hard to obtain. I have also heard all I can stand from people who insist that the new version of “nondiscrimination” is more important than the faith of people who run businesses and provide services. I’ve often thought about how such policies, and especially the actions of our previous administration, would end up limiting the medical profession to people who will essentially follow our culture, preventing people of faith from being able to practice both their faith and a healing profession. I’m glad to see that there still are some people still trying to stand up for the rights of faithful health care professionals.

However, there is another aspect of this that needs to be considered. I have had my fill of media describing women seeking abortion, contraception, or a morning-after pill being made to feel guilty about their “reproductive choices,” but very few in the major media are willing to apply that to faithful Catholic women who wish to embrace the Church’s teaching about openness to life. Where is their “access” to faithful physicians who have a mindset other than the prevailing cultural mindset about families and children? Where is their “access” to an OB / GYN who understands natural family planning? If you want to talk about discrimination, then you should hear the comments these women (including my wife) get when they try to explain that they don’t want contraception.

However, for all the grief they get, at least there is not yet legislation pending to make the teaching of natural family planning illegal or to saddle it with ridiculous requirements. For another group, such laws are in place in some form in a number of states and cities. They city of Toledo, Ohio is the most recent I have seen to ban any form of “conversion therapy” for people with same-sex attraction. Claims you hear are that it protects people, presumably minors, from being forced to undergo supposedly harmful therapy for something that supposedly isn’t a problem. The Toledo version doesn’t appear to be limited to minors, though, as some are.

Well, I really don’t know how well current methods of therapy work for same-sex attraction. Even the NARTH institute is not suggesting that everyone (or even most people) with same sex attraction can completely reorient themselves. Therapy certainly will have no helpful effect on anyone who does not want to change. However, banning all therapy with such a goal sets a dangerous precedent.

What about those people who do want to try and change or reduce unwanted same sex attractions? What option are we leaving them? Some people may be able to do so if they get help before the feelings become deep rooted. Instead, the only “support” option available to them in these jurisdictions is someone who tells them to accept this as who they are and get on with it. The same can also happen to someone who experience discomfort about their gender. They may not have anyone to turn to except people who insist that they believe that they are really a woman in a man’s body or vice versa, and this is who they are.

For their own ideology, the activists are shutting down the scientific inquiry and the treatment choices for people. By doing this, the only freedom or choice they support is for people who fit their ideas. Those of us who want treatments in conformity with our faith may find ourselves out of luck if we don’t do something about it.

Category: Catholic, Response


They Knew Him Not

  /   Saturday, December 31, 2016   /   Comments(0)

We are nearing the end of the Octave of Christmas, and on January 1st we will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Church gives us the reading of the first chapter of the Gospel of John for the day. What struck me was something that I see as a reflection of the saddest aspect of human society. The Gospel mentions that the world was made through the Word who is Jesus Christ, but despite this, the world did not know him. He even came among his own people, but they did not receive him.

If anyone is considering what is the greatest problem facing our society today, I think the root of it is simple. Today, we live in a secular society. That is nothing really new. As far as I know, as long as the Church has existed, there have been both the temporal rulers of society, and the bishops in the Church. The problem today is actually called secularism. It’s the running of our society and the going about of our lives as though God did not exist or, if he does, as though he doesn’t really have any effect on our lives.

Some people treat the very thought of God with contempt. You can see this is the angry atheists of our day who have bought into the absurd notion that this entire universe came about by itself. It’s also visible among the media people who mock Christians. Others just don’t give God the time of day. They just go about their business every day without it ever having seemed to occur to them that there is a greater purpose beyond what they are doing every day. Concerns about what would be the will of God or whether a certain act is sinful give way to a supposed “real life.” Some such people have really never thought about the matter. Others assume that we really can’t know the truth, but somehow they insist that they know we cannot know the truth. They never bother to try and find out. Still others are actually people who say they believe, and even go to church, but their belief is superficial at best because it hardly weighs in on the decisions they make on a daily basis.

It has always seemed strange to me how someone can really say that they believe in God, but not be ready to base every aspect of their lives on what he has to say to us. This ain’t small potatoes! I also cannot fathom how anyone can just ignore the question of God entirely as it were of little matter. Don’t they need to find out the truth? The fact is that we are all going to die one day, and we will leave behind whatever we had on this earth. One may wish to spend life doing good for others, and indeed we should. However, everyone whom we have helped will die one day no matter how much good we have done for them. Then, how will we have helped them? The good we do must have behind it a greater purpose.

In society today, we as Christians, and especially Catholics (as we have the fullness of truth), have a mission. We must evangelize. The atheist, of course, needs to be evangelized, but he may actually be better off than the sleepers who don’t seem to think it matters. The atheists, at least, are actively arguing and perhaps could be convinced. However, many times the problem that causes unbelief is a moral problem. There is some sinful behavior that they aren’t willing to give up that is at the root of their unbelief, whether they understand it or not. Still, if it becomes know to us, helping them to see another way to live may be what is needed.

The people whom I really think will be harder to believe are what we may call the “sleepers.” They are the people who go through life without much thought of God, as though the question were a topic of interest to some like science fiction. Unlike the atheists, they have to be convinced that they need an answer in the first place. Such people may see very little wrong with their lives. Yet, God wants to call these people to himself as well. We must pray that they come to know him before it is too late.

I’ve never liked the saying that we should “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” Contrary to popular belief, St. Francis of Assisi did not say it. The saying can easily become an excuse not to preach the Gospel and not to use words when needed. However, we who follow Christ really do need to examine our lives. In a secularized society, we can easily fall into the trap of living at least some aspect of our lives as though God didn’t exist. Does Christ rule over everything . . . how we act, how we dress, how we run our businesses, how we raise and educate our kids, how we choose entertainment? We’ll never convince the world if we appear to be unconvinced. This doesn’t mean we wait until we are perfect to preach the Gospel or that we should appear perfect. This might actually discourage people who live troubled lives. Rather, we need to give God everything, and this also means that we need to learn to tell people about Christ, his Church, and his love for us.

Our societal problems won’t ultimately be solved by government leaders, though we do need good ones in office. They won’t be solved by some new product developed by a corporation, though they can be of assistance to us. They won’t be solved by education, though we need to be educated. They won’t even be solved by social justice and welfare programs, though we are obligated as Christians to help those in need. We must get to the root of everything, and to do so, we need to put everything under the reign of the King whose birth we celebrated almost a week ago.

Category: Catholic, Response, Spirituality


Just Say Merry Christmas

  /   Friday, December 23, 2016   /   Comments(0)

When I was in kindergarten, way back in 1980, our teacher had us all make a Christmas card for a craft. She told us that we could choose to write either “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” on the card. That was probably the first time I had heard the phrase “Happy Holidays.” It seemed strange to me then as a young child who hadn’t even been baptized at the time. It still seems strange to me now.

I don’t want to make some huge drama of it every time someone says “Happy Holidays.” I’ll have nothing to do with the ridiculous Starbucks cup controversy from last year. However, I am aware that many people, including devout Christians, don’t seem to think it matters at all. Truthfully, many people may just be saying what rolls off their tongue and not really thinking about it. The thing is that we really do need to think about it.

I’d go so far to say that anyone who is really offended by being wished a “Merry Christmas” is probably someone whom I would term a “professional offendee.” That’s the term I use to describe anyone who finds offensiveness to some group in way too many aspects of human speech (or in things like naming a sports team the “Braves”). Really, how I am going to react if someone tells me to have a Happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? I celebrate neither, but I think getting upset about it would be a waste of my energy. It wouldn’t do me much good anyway. It seems that the move towards “inclusiveness” really means anything but Christianity. Did anyone hear about the suggestion from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville last year to make sure that holiday parties are not “Christmas parties but in disguise?”. I dare them to say that about a Hindu festival!

With that, I get into the precise problem. The “War on Christmas,” isn’t about people saying Happy Holidays. It’s rather more concerned with the ridiculous aversion that some have to mentioning Christmas or of specifically celebrating Christmas. A number of businesses who darn well know they are making great profits from the sales of Christmas gifts act as though they think we are just celebrating Generic Winter Holiday. You can see this list from the American Family Association. One street that I drive by frequently advertises “Holiday Trees.” What else are those being used for at this time of year? In a job I held, part of our orientation was a diversity class where we were to discuss how to plan an inoffensive “holiday” party. We had to have it in November so that it wouldn’t look like a Christmas party. Oh, the horrors of our party looking like a named holiday that even many non-Christians celebrate!

We who are Christians should not be ashamed to mention that we are celebrating the birth of Christ. Just as the winter solstice has passed and days are just starting to get longer, we celebrate the Light of the World coming to us. We need not be afraid to simple say “Merry Christmas” to those whom we see. We have something known and very real to celebrate.

So, to all who are reading, I wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Category: Catholic, Response, Uncategorized


Preparing for Eternity

  /   Saturday, December 17, 2016   /   Comments(0)

In life, we know there are things for which we must prepare. If we are in school, we prepare for exams. If we want a good grade, we don’t write a term paper at the last minute. In the business world, we prepare for an important meeting, appointment, or presentation. Even a theatrical performance or a baseball or football game requires practice in order to prepare for the performance or game.

We in the Catholic Church don’t just carry out business as usual and then one day say “Oh, hey, it’s Christmas today” or “Oh, I guess today is Easter.” We have this season of Advent now to prepare us to celebrate the coming of Our Lord at Christmas. In a fairly short time, we will have the season of Lent to get us ready to celebrate Our Lord’s resurrection at Easter, or, really, the entire Paschal mystery in the Easter Triduum. Both seasons have a penitential aspect, with an emphasis on repentance of sins. We want to be holy in order to fully celebrate the great feast days. We don’t let these great and holy days sneak up on us.

When the day is over, we don’t just go right back to business as usual either. We celebrate the Octave of a Christmas and the Octave of Easter, and then we have a season in the Church afterward. In fact, the season of Easter is longer than Lent. We know that these days are not ordinary days in our lives. They are the celebration of the central events of our eternal salvation. The secular world, trapped in endless restlessness because its heart is not resting in God for whom we were made, just moves on.

Really, though, with the stores having Christmas stuff available just after Halloween, or even before, you’d have to live under a very heavy rock for Christmas to be able to sneak up on you. There will be plenty in the secular world – Christmas music, parties, gifts to buy. None of it is bad in and of itself. We just need to be careful not to be distracted from living the season of Advent for what it is.

Perhaps this Advent we can take a look at how we prepare for the daily things in life so that we live them out on purpose, and we live them for the purpose of serving God. If we don’t do some kind of preparation, we open ourselves to the possibility of just drifting along and/or being knocked in every direction like a pinball. How do we prepare ourselves for the day ahead of us?

Do we wake up promptly for our duties of the day? I can’t recommend the heroic minute enough. Do we pray in the morning and offer our day to God? Some people may do their daily prayer in the morning. For me, it’s the only time possible. Others may make a morning offering and save their main time with God for later.

There are a lot of moments while getting ready in the morning that you can stop to say a quick prayer. Take a look at Fr. Thomas Dailey’s excellent book Live Today Well for suggestions. This book has a lot of good rules to use for keeping the presence of God all day.

A particular area to look at is how we prepare ourselves for Sunday Mass. Is it the center of our Sunday, or is it just one more event on our agenda? Sunday Mass is the most important thing we do all week and needs to be treated that way. Do we pray about what we are to participate in? Do we make an effort to dress properly for it and arrive promptly (really, a few minutes early)? Do we keep reverential silence in the church before Mass starts? It is hard to keep little ones quiet, but I am really referring to not having unnecessary conversations in the church so that people can pray.

What are we doing in the morning before we head to Mass? God commanded a Sabbath rest on Sunday. We need not pray the whole time before or even a large part of it as we need to have breakfast, get dressed, and get to the church. Sometimes the kids don’t cooperate with keeping an atmosphere of preparation for Mass (or even getting there when we’d like). However, if we are conducting our usual business first and then rushing off to Mass, almost as though it’s an afterthought, something is really wrong. Also, what are we doing with the rest of Sunday? Remember the Sabbath rest, and beware of activities that interfere with the nature of Sunday. There are some things you may have to do because they are unavoidable or even because you enjoy them, and some jobs are essential (or people have no choice). However, there are a number of other things that can be avoided with, yes, you guessed it, appropriate preparation for Sunday.

All of this preparation can serve as a reminder to us that this life is a preparation for eternity. How we live now determines how we will be forever. It will determine whether we spend eternity forever in the presence of God in Heaven or separated from him in Hell. Even if we are saved, we won’t be all equal. Read Matthew 5:19 to hear what Jesus said about some being great and others least in the Kingdom. The sanctifying grace in our souls can be lost, but it can also be increased, making us able to experience more of the beatific vision. We need to strive to be as holy as we can be.

Category: Books, Catholic, Spirituality


An Important Part of Preparing the Way

  /   Saturday, December 10, 2016   /   Comments(0)

I’m writing this here in the Second Week of Advent. The reading from this past Sunday was about St. John the Baptist. He tells us to prepare the way of the Lord in a very certain way – by repenting of our sins. On Monday, the Gospel was about the man whose friends came through the roof of a house to bring him to Jesus, and the first thing that Jesus did, before healing him physically, was to forgive his sins. On Tuesday, he Gospel reading was about how there is more rejoicing in Heaven over one repentant sinner than over 99 who have no need of repentance. Jesus said he did not want anyone to be lost. On Wednesday, Jesus told us to come to him and rest because his home is easy and his burden light.

In a world where many seem to think that the whole Gospel can be summed up by being completely nonjudgmental, talking about sin isn’t fashionable. However, sin is a real obstacle to being close to God. When we sin, we go against our very purpose in life and offend the one who is holding us in existence. It is a really heavy burden to carry. The good news is that God really wants to forgive our sins, not because they are no big deal. They are a huge deal. God wants to forgive because his love is great. I want to suggest that this Advent, in order to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts, we need to go to Confession!

So you say … “I’ve done something that I could never tell to the priest.” Well, remember that the priest is there to represent Jesus and to forgive you in his name. Jesus already knows your sin. The priest is there to help bring to you the love and mercy of God in a tangible way. What seems like a big embarrassment to you is probably something he has dealt with many times, and he will be grateful for your courage in acknowledging what you have done so that he can bring you God’s mercy. Having to acknowledge the sin you committed can help you to see what love and mercy God is showing you and to love him in return.

So you say … “I keep confessing the same sins over and over again.” If that’s the case, then please don’t be discouraged. Would you rather be committing new and different sins all the time? Often times we do have things we struggle with for a long time and need to keep trying. Keep fighting the good fight. If you fail, hurry back to God and try again. The Sacrament will give you the grace to carry on the struggle, but do struggle against your sins. Never accept your sins as things that are just a part of you. Resolve to never commit them again, and if you do, know that God is full of mercy and compassion.

So you say … “I would only be confessing out of fear of Hell.” It turns out that if your motivation for being sorry for sin is fear of Hell, that is sufficient to receive forgiveness through the Sacrament. It’s actually called imperfect contrition or attrition. You can think of it as a good starting point, but of course, you want to grow into being sorry out of love for God. It may be that knowing that God loves you and has forgiven you is what will help you learn to truly detest having offended a good and loving God.

So you say … “I am not sorry for my sins.” Well, you may have me there, but first let me be sure. Being sorry for sin is first and foremost an act of the will. You choose to repent. This means that you can choose to be sorry for your sins even if you don’t feel the sorrow. Maybe your sorrow is weak, but it is there. The grace of God is at work, and so is his forgiveness. Just meditate on how much he loved and forgave you, and it can help bring you to a deeper sorrow.

However, if you are really not sorry for a mortal sin, then don’t go to Confession. The absolution won’t work, and you will commit a sacrilege. This has the effect of making you a worse sinner than you were before you entered the Confessional. However, let me remind you that only God can bring you true happiness in this life and the next. You may think you are enjoying the pleasure of your sin, but in fact it is placing a major obstacle between you and the source of your ultimate happiness and fulfillment. This obstacle, if not removed, will separate you from him for all eternity. Why remain there a moment longer? Be sorry for your sin, and turn back to God. Prepare the way for him to be in your heart.

Category: Catholic, Doctrine, Spirituality, Uncategorized


The Weight of Sin, and the Truth of Purgatory

  /   Wednesday, November 16, 2016   /   Comments(0)

In my last article, I wrote about the need to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory who are undergoing immense suffering. However, some people who may have read this don’t believe in Purgatory. If you don’t, I would invite you to take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:15 if you need a Scriptural reference. Catholics also have 2 Maccabees 12:46 as a reference, but Luther and others removed this from the Bible that Protestants now use.

Think about this … do you know yourself to be a sinner? Will you die still a sinner? Will you sin once you reach Heaven? Most of us will die a sinner, but we will no longer sin in Heaven. What changed, and how did it change? We know that Jesus paid the price for our redemption, but we know that, upon becoming a Christian, our faults do not immediately disappear. We have to struggle against them to grow in holiness. If the work isn’t finished here, wouldn’t God need to finish it before we could be in his presence? If God doesn’t, except in extraordinary cases, change us in an instant in this life, isn’t it reasonable to believe that any purification done would also entail some process?

Perhaps you may wonder why it matters to God. Many of us have heard people tell us not to worry about the law because it is love, which they rarely define, that matters. Are we Catholics so obsessed with sin that we imagine that God takes pleasure in handing out pain and punishment for every sin? No, we know that God takes great pleasure in showing his mercy, and Purgatory is not just a part of God’s justice, but also very much a part of his mercy.

It is important to understand in this that nothing about God is arbitrary. God created this world, and he is fit to rule it. He knows everything about his creation and wants what is best for us all. The laws of God are not some randomly decided precepts but are instead the key to our happiness and the happiness of others by living in the world as God created it to be lived in. They just seem like an imposition to us at times because we have a fallen nature. The lie that God wants to arbitrarily restrict us has worked for Satan for so long that he has never had to come up with another one.

Because of this, sin is not just the breaking of some arbitrary law. Sin is real, and it has real effects whether we can immediately perceive them or not. Some we can perceive. If I take a baseball bat and break someone’s window, that person has a broken window in need of repair. If I steal money from someone, that person is deprived of some of his or her money. Even if I am forgiven, there is still a broken window in need or repair and/or money that someone is missing. This will be true of any sin.

The stain left in our soul and the demands of justice can be taken care of in this life. They need to be. Our sins, being real, create a distance between us and God. God wants to completely remove them from us and let us be free of that distance so that we can be in his presence.  He is all good and all holy, and nothing impure can be in his presence.  If he left us with our impurities, there would forever be a distance between us and him.

As for the demands of justice, if God simply let them go, it would be for him to say that he shows mercy to the sinner but isn’t concerned about the victim. In fact, in the case of theft, restitution is required for forgiveness. Of course, the victim may excuse the sinner from restitution, which is essentially an indulgence. However, even one who forgives has the right to expect repayment of what is owed. There is still a temporal punishment merited with every venial sin.  If you don’t believe this, then do you believe that every criminal, after having sought God’s forgiveness, should be immediately released from prison?

Therefore, Purgatory is not some cruelty. There is no cruelty in God. It is the merciful means of completely freeing the sinner from all stain of the sins committed. God makes us clean and holy and able to forever live in the beatific vision. However, Purgatory is not our goal in this life. We need to do penance here and now, and God will not only cleanse us, but he will increase the grace in our soul. It is possible to die in such a state of union with God as to bypass Purgatory. However, as long as we die in the state of sanctifying grace, we are assured of our salvation, and God will make sure we are ready for Heaven.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic, Doctrine


Please Don’t Say This When I Die

  /   Sunday, November 06, 2016   /   Comments(0)

Death is never a pleasant subject. It was not part of God’s original plan for the human race, but it came into the world because of the sin of our first parents. When someone dies, it’s only natural to look to give or receive some consolation in light of this terrible reality. However, I don’t believe in trying to give comfort by compromising the truth.

November is the month of remembrance for the faithful departed in the Catholic Church. The first day is All Saints’ Day. The second day is All Souls’ Day. Often times, when someone dies, people say “He is not suffering anymore.” or “He is at peace.” This is especially tempting when a loved one has suffered a long illness. I ask that you please do not say these things if you are still here and learn of my death or are at my funeral. You may be doing me a great disservice.

I’d be afraid to meet someone who would not hope that I would be saved and be with Our Lord. It is a real possibility that I might not be. If that’s the case there is nothing you can do. However, the best thing to do is hope for the salvation of those who have left this world but realize that they may have to undergo their final purification in Purgatory before being admitted to Heaven. In fact, the primary purpose of a funeral Mass is to offer the Eucharist for the soul of the departed.

The souls in Purgatory are in fact suffering more than the worst suffering in earth. The magnitude of all sins committed and graces spurned by them is seen very clearly at this point. However, the Church teaches us that the purifying fire is altogether different from the punishment of the damned. In fact, such souls, though suffering, will never experience the punishment of the damned. Once a soul is in Purgatory, he or she has avoided Hell forever. There is nowhere to go from there but to Heaven. This is why we refer to the souls in Purgatory as holy souls.

Although I would love to be one of the souls who can go directly to Heaven, there’s a good chance I will need your prayers and other offerings for my soul. Your other departed friends and family will appreciate the same. It will mean far more to them than merely trying to comfort yourself with thoughts or statements that they are not suffering. It will mean more to you, too. After all, do you think that those whom you helped will forget you once they reach Heaven (or even before)? No way! You will have gained a grateful and powerful intercession for yourself before Our Lord. So, take the opportunity to pray for the faithful departed, and help them to reach the place where there truly is no more suffering and no more tears.

Category: Cathechesis, Doctrine, Spirituality, Uncategorized


Trying to Figure Out This Election

  /   Thursday, October 27, 2016   /   Comment(1)

If I were looking for an attention grabber, I’d could start this post with some statement about how this is the worst presidential election in the history of the United States. Well, it could be, but how would I know? I may not be young anymore, but I haven’t been around long enough to speak for our country’s entire history. I can say that this is the worst one I have ever voted in. In every other presidential race, I have known how I would vote well in advance. This time I am not sure what I will do. We have our usual two major party candidates, and neither is fit to be president.

I can’t think of any way that a Catholic, or any Christian for that matter, can justify voting for Hillary Clinton. The fact that she is very pro abortion is enough to disqualify her. And, no, you can’t say she is just respecting other people’s decisions). She is a supporter of the radical LGBTQ agenda. I know these aren’t the only issues out there, but these are two very important issues that are non-negotiable. Oh, and don’t get me started on her Catholic in name only running mate.  

If she continues along e trajectory of the Obama administration, then it’s likely that the only Christians who will be able to own a business or even practice certain professions will be the ones who are compromising the Faith. It’s her party that is in a dispute with the Little Sisters of the Poor because they tried to mandate that all employers provide free contraception in their insurance plans. She’s even made mention before that deep-seated religious beliefs need to be changed. Some may believe that the statement was taken out of context and/or magnified, but the fact that the phrase was uttered at all is very concerning.

Donald Trump’s conduct during the campaign is highly problematic, and it has gotten worse towards the end. I don’t think he would have done much worse if he were trying to lose the election. He is alienating people who otherwise might support him. His character is problematic, as evidenced by the disgusting conversation from years ago that was released and his response to the revelation.

On the other hand, his public policy statements suggest that he will support more pro-life, pro-family policies than Clinton, and he has chosen a very pro-life running mate. He has even sent a letter to the folks at Catholic Vote stating he will protect religious liberty. However, I am unable to find a past track record to back up what he states are his policy positions, and the possibility that he won’t follow through deserves much consideration.

The Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson is pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, but may be somewhat better than Clinton in protecting religious freedom. The former Green Party now independent (at least in Tennessee) candidate Jill Stein has a similarly problematic platform in those areas with no mention of religious freedom on her platform page of her web site. While I don’t agree with everything on the platform of the American Solidarity Party (I’m strongly against a single-payer health care system.), their platform poses no moral problems and is overall more in line with my thinking. The problem is that their candidate is neither on my ballot nor certified as a write-in candidate in Tennessee last I checked, and his profile online doesn’t really help me to understand how he is qualified to be president. One independent who is a certified write-in candidate is Evan McMullin, and there are a lot of good things in his platform also.

So, really, the only two viable choices I see are voting for Donald Trump or writing in an independent candidate, probably Evan McMullin. I have seen quite a bit on Facebook accusing people who would vote for Trump as voting out of fear. However, there is a legitimate basis in Catholic moral theology for deciding in good conscience to vote for a not-so-suitable candidate in order to limit the evil that the other would cause if elected. Some people who are voting for Trump may see the people voting for independent candidates as really allowing Clinton to win by taking votes from Trump. There is a risk of causing that outcome, but there is also a practical strategy that may be employed.

Having a practical strategy for doing the best that we can do for our country is important. I have a hard time taking people seriously who say to just vote for the candidate you like without taking practical considerations into account. We need to consider the potential consequences of what we are doing. I’m a big believer that I need to support someone who has a realistic plan of winning, and I strongly believe that I have a better chance of becoming the next pope than a third party or independent candidate has of winning the election in the usual manner.

Fortunately, though it’s a really long shot, there is another practical strategy that could work for a third party. In this climate, a third party candidate might be able to win a state or two with just enough electoral votes to prevent either major party candidate from getting a majority, in which case the House of Representatives will choose the president from the three candidates with the most electoral votes, and the candidate they choose could be neither Trump nor Clinton if there is at least one other candidate with some electoral votes. This could be the independent candidate who carried a few states. If the thought of voting for either major party candidate is repulsive to you, this is something you can try to bank on. I don’t think it has good odds, but neither can I suggest that it’s a waste of a vote in this election. In fact, I just might do this myself.

So, to recap, I’m saying that I can either vote for Donald Trump (as this Catholic blogger is doing), because he is better than Clinton from a policy standpoint, or I can vote for a third party or independent (probably Evan McMullin) and hope that he can prevent the major party candidates from getting a majority. If I do the former, I vote for someone who has a much better platform but risk him either not keeping his promises or causing other problems in other areas (e.g. immigration, foreign relations, scandalous conduct in general). If I do the latter, I risk making it easier for Hillary Clinton to end up winning, which would be a huge problem for being able to carry out my mission to serve Jesus Christ. Now, it’s time to pray, discern what to do, and go vote. Early voting is going on now in Tennessee. For whom will I vote? Well, I have no plans to reveal that on this site.

Category: Morality, News on My Life


Just What is Education About

  /   Sunday, September 21, 2014   /   Comments(0)

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.

Category: Catholic, Response


Reflections on Young Adult Ministry, Part 2

  /   Sunday, August 24, 2014   /   Comments(0)

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.

Category: Catholic, Spirituality


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