David Ancell's Virtual Home

The Depth of the Scandal

  /   Sunday, August 26, 2018   /   Comments(0)

I first started blogging right around the time the news of the sexual abuse scandal hit in 2002. You can go back in the archives and see my perspective back then as a single man in his late 20s with no children. In light of recent news stories, here I am now taking this topic up again as a 40-something with a wife and children.

I am hoping I can convey what I want to say without making it look like I am downplaying the absolutely heinous nature of the crimes committed against the victims of the scandal. These things should not be tolerated in the Church, and I think what Fr Dwight Longenecker wrote is a good example of how the problem needs to be handled. I’m especially disgusted at how someone like Archbishop McCarrick could be promoted the way he has been despite his conduct, and there really needs to be an investigation into who knew what and when and what they did about it. However, what needs to be understood is that, as demonic as the sexual abuse is, there is more to the problem in the Church than sexual abuse.

When I have heard people say that the Church doesn’t have a higher incidence of sexual abuse than the rest of society, it underscores the problem for me. The problem is that those who were supposed to be preaching the Gospel followed what our society was doing rather than led it. The light of the world was hidden under a bushel basket. When I hear people complaining about the teachings of the Church in light of the abuse scandal, I know that the real problem was that the teachings on human sexuality weren’t really taught or insisted upon and were sometimes disregarded by those in authority.

One definite component of the problem is enforcement. This article by Phil Lawler from 2002 said something that I had noticed but often wasn’t sure how to articulate. This is more evident when you take a look around the Church and see what else was allowed to slide.

Dissenters against the Faith were allowed to continue to use our own forums as a platform for dissent against established teachings. Our Catholic schools and universities largely sold out to the secular world, and nothing was really done about it. The celebration of Mass in many parishes became filled with saccharine instead of true beauty.

Resources and programs for formation in the Faith were lame at best. Just imagine trying to explain to someone wanting to learn the Catholic Faith that you can’t rely on the official parish or diocesan program to tell you what you really need to know. That was often the case then and is probably still the case now in a number of places. With all of this going on, how surprising was it that even criminal misconduct got swept under the rug?

With all of this said, the problem, and therefore the solution, is something deeper than mere enforcement of rules or the lack thereof. The problem is a lack of faith. There are plenty who will write suggesting “reforms” that are essentially changes to the Church to make her more like the secular world. This is not what we need.

All of us, from our Pope and our bishops to the laity, need to have an authentic faith in what has been revealed by God. Our shepherds need to insist that the faith be lived by those who wish to be called faithful, and the faithful need to insist that our shepherds proclaim the Catholic Faith as it is. Any action taken must address the problem in it’s entirely and must be taken with the salvation of souls in mind. We don’t need statements made and committees formed as though we were a spineless and soulless corporation. We are the Church that Christ founded, and we need to act like it. We will all be held accountable by God himself.

Category: News, Response


You Can’t Just Pray It Away

  /   Tuesday, June 12, 2018   /   Comments(0)

Articles about depression and suicide are coming across my news feeds in the wake of the recent, tragic suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. To be honest, I’m not that familiar with either of them, but it’s my long-standing habit to say a prayer for the soul of anyone whose death I hear about. It’s difficult for me to imagine what must be going through anyone’s mind to decide that taking his or her own life is the best way out. The old saying that kept coming up on the TV ads when I was growing up was that “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” However, someone with a mental or emotional problem is going to have a hard time seeing it that way.

We may not want to simply follow the whims of the media, but this is a great time to examine our attitudes as Catholics towards people with emotional or mental disorders. It seems that there are a number of devout Catholics who will over-spiritualize mental disorders. I have even heard a priest talk about how one doesn’t need a counselor but need only say the Rosary. There exists a misconception that the feelings that accompany mental illness are in and of themselves sinful or are purely caused by sin or some other spiritual fault. Someone with anxiety is assumed to not be trusting in God enough; maybe the person with depression isn’t praying enough.

Another form of this extreme is to attribute all mental illness to some activity of demons or even of the Devil himself. Someone who believes this may simply tell someone to pray, go to some deliverance ministry, or even undergo an exorcism. While genuine diabolical activity does exist and may mimic a mental health disorder, making such an assumption without a proper evaluation can be downright dangerous.

The fact is that being a faithful Catholic is not automatic insulation from mental or emotional health problems. Even if it were, how many of us live out our faith so perfectly that we can avoid every problem? Genuine problems can occur with people’s minds, and these problems will require not just prayer, Sacraments, and spiritual direction (though all of these should be used) but also professional mental health treatment. As Catholics it’s our job to support our brothers and sisters who are experiencing these problems and not be dismissive of them.

We must also be careful not to view the problem from a completely secular perspective and to disregard the spiritual component of the problem that may exist (though some disorders may in fact be mostly if not completely biological). This is shown when someone is merely put on medication with no effort to look at the person’s life and behavior. Prayer and the Sacraments end up playing no part in treatment because they are simply viewed as not relevant. No consideration is given to the idea that there may be some sin involved because that would be a form of “blaming the victim.” I am not trying to condone making a quick, armchair diagnosis here but to say that we need to consider all aspects here. Christ does have real power to heal and will use it.

We have body, mind, and spirit all working together, and problems that arise can easily have more than one dimension. If we fail to address part of the problem, we will unnecessarily limit the healing that someone can experience. I think I can safely say that, no matter what the cause, we want people to experience healing. They have to want it, too, but our own approach can be instrumental in bringing this about.

Category: Catholic, Response, Uncategorized


That Terrible Banana Peel

  /   Saturday, September 23, 2017   /   Comments(0)

Sometimes it’s hard for me to take allegations of racism in this country seriously. It’s not that I deny that racism exists. Even if I did, the latest events in Charlottesville should have been enough to convince me that it does exist. I don’t deny the evil of racism either. I know it’s sinful. Let me share an incident that has happened in the news to illustrate the problem I have.

In August 2017, a retreat for leaders of fraternities and sororities at Ole Miss (which happens to be where I went to school) was cut cut short due to one supposedly racist incident.. A breakfast had been served that included a fruit cart with bananas. I guess one of the students took his banana to go. He looking for a trash can to throw away his banana peel and couldn’t find one. So, he put the banana peel in a nearby tree. One of the members of a historically African-American sorority saw the banana peel and, having remembered a recent incident involving bananas that really was a racist incident, became disturbed by it.

A meeting was called later that day, and the student who put the peel there explained himself and apologized for it. However, that wasn’t good enough for the offended. They claimed that they didn’t feel safe, and the end result was that a big production was made out of it. The retreat was cut short. My favorite line was that the student who discarded the banana peel needed to consider the “effects of their actions versus their intent” because of the “fear and anger” that was incited. Never mind that it seems pretty unlikely that such an effect could have been anticipated by the student who did this.

I once read a meme that someone posted on Facebook that said something like “If I tell you that you’ve hurt me, you don’t have the right to tell me you didn’t.” There are really two extremes that we need to avoid in cases like these. One is usually not socially acceptable by any decent person. The other seems to be the direction in which our society is headed, and I can only think that it will lead to worse relations between different groups of people as we will fail to walk on eggshells to avoid being accused of “bias.”

The first extreme is only acceptable to genuine abusers. These are the people who do objectively offensive things and blame the other person for taking offense. The incident I have described would have been an entirely different issue had there been a racial slur written on the banana peel or had it been hung from the tree on a noose. It is beyond question that white supremacist groups are wrong. It’s not just about black and white races either. It’s just as wrong to walk up to a Latino or Asian person and tell them that they need to go back to their own country. It would be wrong for someone to meet a Catholic priest and immediately tell him he’s a pedophile. I can’t imagine a decent person saying that a person offended by any of these things is being too sensitive.

The other extreme actually concerns me more because it’s becoming a kind of norm. This extreme basically says that one who is offended by the words or actions of another doesn’t have any responsibility at all for how he interprets those words or actions, and to suggest that he does is “blaming the victim.” This mentality goes beyond the fact that someone was offended by something that was said or done. The person who committed said “offense” is guilty of an enormous evil. Maybe it’s completely unforgivable, or maybe the “victim” makes a major drama about being offended but never seems to be able to describe anything in particular that he wants done about it. Someone has been “triggered,” and now the entire world must be horrified by it.

So, we end up with a group of people being super upset because someone discarded their banana peel in a nearby tree. Great offense is taken because the table centerpieces at a dinner were cotton stalks. If we were deliberately looking for something to be offended by, it would be hard to tell if anything would be any different.

Maybe I had my chance to make some major drama. I am married to an Asian woman, and on two occasions at an amusement park an employee questioned me when I tried to board a ride with my wife and her immediate family. After all, they just assumed that, just because I don’t look like her family, I must not belong with them. What terrible racist people! Really, what could the operators have done? They didn’t have any way of knowing whether I belonged with them or was jumping the line. Still, I could have made it into a racial drama and gotten them in big trouble for nothing more than trying to do their jobs as best they could. Instead, I just laughed about it, and I still think it’s funny.

All of this is not to say that misconceptions and unintentional slights shouldn’t be corrected. St. Ignatius of Loyola is a good guide in this matter. He would tell us to always be ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement. If we can’t, ask the other how he understands it. If the understanding is not good, first correct with kindness before using more forceful means of correction. In other words, correction needs to be done with an assumption of good will rather than making something into a drama by too easily condemning someone as “racist” or “sexist” or “stereotyping.” Only after someone responds in a way that rules out good will can we assume that there is none.

We also need to recognize that we can’t expect everyone to understand everything about any given race, culture, or religion. I’m Catholic, and the number of misconceptions about the Church is huge. Although I love to talk about it and help bring people to understanding, I have to accept that not everyone will understand. It’s not necessarily a form of bigotry or hatred, but instead it can just be a form of ignorance that someone just doesn’t see the need to correct. Often, when people don’t know something, then don’t know that they don’t know it. I can’t imagine the student putting the banana peel in the tree thinking he had better Google that for racist incidents just to be sure. How would that have ever come to mind?

We’d see a much better improvement in any kind of relations if we thought more critically about the things at which we take offense and took some responsibility for our reactions. Some things are objectively offensive, and true hate groups do exist. There’s no question that we need to fight against them. Other things are misconceptions that need to be corrected with charity. Some things are just misconceptions and misunderstandings, and treating them as racist, sexist, or any other kind of bigotry will merely stir up anger which serves no one. If we are continually taking offense, we leave each other walking on eggshells for fear of unintentionally triggering someone and being dragged before a bias incident response team (Yes, they exist on college campuses with who knows what kind of power!). It will become so restrictive that many will give up trying to improve relations.

Category: Catholic, Response, Social Commentary


My Thoughts on the Nashville Statement

  /   Monday, September 04, 2017   /   Comments(0)

By now, many people have heard about the Nashville Statement written by a group of evangelicals known as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The statement is really a well-written and compassionate statement of constant Christian teaching on sexuality. However, there are plenty in the media, including social media, who just won’t have it.

I have read a number of comments and derogatory tweets stating that the statement is “anti-LGBT bigotry.” Some of the objections weren’t particular logical, like the ones stating that it’s 2017. What does the number of the current year have to do with whether the statement is right or wrong? Others criticized the statement simply because it came out during the time of Hurricane Harvey. Yeah, I’m sure the members of this group knew when there was going to be a hurricane and planned to release the statement then. Seriously, I’m doing my regular job in Nashville, so why can’t they? Even the mayor of Nashville, Megan Barry, posted a critical statement on her Twitter account. However, if you know anything about her, that’s not a surprise. She’s a known supporter of Planned Parenthood, and she’s also known for having officiated at the first same sex wedding in Nashville.

However, the statement is hardly a hate-filled denunciation. It states that marriage is between one man and one woman and that sex belongs only in marriage. It states that men and women are different from each other and that those differences are good. They are part of God’s creation, and both sexes are equal in dignity. It recognized the sinfulness of homosexual acts and of trying to act as though one had a different gender from one’s biological sex. However, also recognized is that those who find themselves with some ambiguity in regard to their sex or attracted to members of the same sex are still people loved by God who can live a fruitful life by obedience to Christ rather than identifying oneself with these inclinations and seeking to act on them. Finally, the statement clearly says in the end that no one is beyond the mercy of Christ. There’s nothing in here that hasn’t been proclaimed by the Church for 2000 years, even though some people in our present age wish to deny this.

As a Catholic, I could affirm everything in the Nashville statement. Still, it’s not perfect. There is one minor point that I would like to see worded another way. There is another statement that I would like to see strengthened and a third on which the Nashville statement is silent but shouldn’t be.

Article 2 of the statement says that God’s plan is “chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.” I think I know what they meant, but I don’t like the wording. Chastity is a life long virtue for people in all states of life, not just for unmarried people. It simply means the subjection of one’s sexual desires to right reason. It does not only mean abstinence, though it does for anyone not married. I’ve noticed some Protestant works saying someone intends to remain “sexually pure until marriage,” but they don’t mean that they plan to commit adultery once married. There’s nothing impure about the marital act between a husband and a wife when engaged in properly. Total abstinence ends once one is married, but the practice of chastity does not. It not only encompasses fidelity, but also respect for the physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of one’s spouse.

While Article 1 of the statement does mention that God intends marriage to be a lifelong union, I would have liked a stronger statement against divorce. Specifically, I’d like it to say that “WE DENY that a valid, consummated marriage may be dissolved by anything other than the death of one of the spouses.” However, I do know that many evangelicals do believe in a kind of biblical divorce. Truthfully, there are reasons why one must separate from one’s spouse and even obtain a civil divorce for protection. However, the person is still married to that spouse in the eyes of God and may not seek another during the spouse’s lifetime.

So, what’s the biggest thing missing from the Nashville Statement? It lacks any mention of the necessity of each sexual act being open to life and the sinfulness of and harm caused by contraception. Evangelicals often don’t understand this, but the acceptance of contraception is at least partly responsible for opening the floodgates of the problems in our society today. Allowing deliberate separation of sex from the transmission of life made it possible for people to attempt to redefine its meaning into whatever strikes someone’s fancy. Children became an optional add on to one’s “relationship” and perhaps were even considered a nuisance. It made it much easier for men and women to use each other as objects for one’s own pleasure whether than to give themselves to each other in love. I pray that one day the evangelicals will come to this understanding. When Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae in 1968, he was prophetic in stating what would happen were there widespread acceptance of contraception. He was right!

Still, calling the Nashville Statement some kind of bigotry is just plain nonsense. There’s nothing new in it. It is simply a proclamation of one part of the Gospel that is badly needed in today’s climate of family breakdown.

Category: Catholic, Morality, Response


Google and Supposed Diversity

  /   Monday, August 14, 2017   /   Comments(0)

James Damore no doubt got more than what he bargained for, or maybe he expected it. If you aren’t familiar with his name, he’s the 28-year-old man who was fired by Google for his memo that the media has named an “anti-diversity manifesto” or an “anti-diversity screed” (full text of memo is in this link). In it, he suggested something that is absolutely anathema to today’s promoters of diversity – that men and women are different from each other and that those differences, rather than discriminatory practices, may account for why there are not a lot of women in the tech industry. Well, really, I’m oversimplifying. Maybe I’m just strange, but I’m having a hard time understanding how his comments are “anti-diversity” or a “screed,” and I hope you’ll stick around for my explanation below. In fact, it’s really a carefully written memo that is well worth reading, and I’ve provided a link above to the whole document if you can excuse Gizmodo’s comments.

I’m perfectly fine with Google expressing disagreement with what Damore wrote. That’s one thing. Given the fact that Google controls a search engine, YouTube, and a major e-mail service, among other things, the fact that they fired him is really disturbing. I have no reason to believe that they are censoring people who disagree with their viewpoints on their search engine or any other site, but it would only take one misguided “anti-discrimination” initiative for them to start doing so at any time in the future.

It seems that corporate America in general is moving towards a view of diversity and inclusion where the standard of right and wrong is no more than hurt feelings, even if the cause is mere disagreement. I remember this being discussed back at orientation at my first real pharmacy job when we were basically told that what was important was how the other person felt. When there is disagreement, the reply is often a sort of canned, knee jerk, reaction rather than a well thought out argument to specific points made. It’s as though it’s just impossible for anyone to honestly disagree with the prevailing groupthink. In reading the official responses from Google, I think one could be forgiven for suspecting that those who wrote the responses never read, much less thought about, the actual memo.

If there are really no natural differences between men and women, then it would mean that men and women are merely interchangeable parts. If this is the case, then it seems to me that it would undermine the whole rationale of promoting diversity. Why in the world would we care how many of each completely interchangeable part we have in a particular workplace? Why couldn’t we acknowledge that there are natural differences between the sexes without going to the opposite extreme of stereotyping? Anyone who is carefully observant knows that the natural traits of masculinity and femininity can still be expressed in different degrees among either sex.

Actually, failure to understand the natural differences between the sexes is likely to lead to more unjust discrimination against women, not less. Modern feminism, instead of valuing women for who they are, tends to denigrate the things that make being a woman distinct from being a man. Their version of “equality” is not seeing the equal in importance and complimentary nature of both sexes. Rather, it is practically saying that what men have traditionally done is of greater importance, and women who don’t do those things are lesser beings. I just think of the stories I’ve heard of women who stay home with their children being accused of wasting their time, talent, or even their lives. After all, they could be helping to fatten some big corporation’s bottom line but are instead working to raise immortal souls who will one day, by their free choice, spend eternity in God’s presence or forever separated from him (not to mention ensuring survival of the human race). Who is to say that any unjust discrimination occurring against women might be caused at least in part by a failure to appreciate the fact that a woman will likely approach her work in a somewhat different manner than a man will and to respect that approach for what it is rather than expecting conformity?

However, with there being natural differences between the sexes, it’s perfectly reasonable that there will be some lines of work in which there are fewer women than men who are interested. This does not and should not be used to justify unfair discrimination (which does exist). Women with the aptitude and desire to do so should be able to pursue work in male-dominated fields. However, arbitrarily trying to increase the number of women in a profession is in and of itself an unjust discriminatory practice. We need to simply hire, pay, and promote people based on their merits instead.

Yes, there should be equal pay for equal work. While we are at it, we also need to look at how well we are paying people who pursue professions traditionally dominated by women, such as teaching. Of course, harassment of any kind, especially sexual harassment, is completely unacceptable. The answer to that, however, is the virtue of chastity for both sexes (but it’s probably more lacking in men), not the sexual permissiveness of the current culture that breeds the mentality that this is acceptable. Our culture can and should treat both sexes as equal in dignity without denying natural differences.

One final note . . . while I do think equal opportunity needs to exist, please understand that none of this is to be taken to negate my view that family, not job or career, needs to come first. This is true for both men and women though it will usually be manifested differently. Many of these problems tend to be exacerbated by the mistaken notion in our society that the job or career is the most important thing and the ultimate source of fulfillment. This is where we really need to put our efforts.

Category: Response


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!

Please don’t be afraid to go.  I know I’ve experienced those times when I was expecting the priest to tell me what a jerk I am and give me a penance of fifty Rosaries while kneeling on hot coals and broken glass.  It almost never happens.  (That supposed penance was tongue in cheek for those of you who aren’t familiar with 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. Yes, you heard me . . . it’s enough to go to have fear of Hell as your motivation.  It’s actually called imperfect contrition or attrition, and your sins will be forgiven in the Sacrament. 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


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