David Ancell's Virtual Home

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   /   Comment(1)

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


Reflections on Young Adult Ministry, Part 1

  /   Sunday, August 17, 2014   /   Comment(1)

Previously, I wrote a reflection on being a Catholic young adult.  Today, as I had mentioned, I want to write on Catholic young adult ministry.  I’m not so much writing as an “expert” but as a participant in some young adult ministry who has observed the needs around him and knows what he would like to see.  I’ve seen a ministry that was strictly catechetical and one that did nothing but social activities.  There were a few in which I was little more than an occasional participant, and a couple in which I spent a considerable amount of time doing work.  I was the webmaster for the Frassati Society of Memphis which disbanded in 2006. I want to write about my own suggestions as to what is needed, but first, I want to tackle some wrong ideas that I’ve seen circulating.

Should there be young adult ministry?

One of the hosts of a podcast that I have otherwise enjoyed actually said that it is impossible to really have a young adult ministry.  The lives of young adults, in his opinion, were just too diverse to have a ministry dedicated to such a group of people.  They are in just too many different states of life.

He has a point that there is quite a bit of variation on the state of life of young adults.  Some are married, and some even have children.  Some may still be in school, but, in my opinion, unless they are older than most other students or are not in school full-time, a good campus ministry may serve them better.  Some may have graduated college and are working in a profession.  There are others who have no idea what to do with their lives.  Some may have, quite honestly, made a pretty big mess of things.

However, there are two reasons why I think that we still have a need for young adult ministry.  First, there are some common needs of people in that age group.  There is a need for formation, for one thing, as well as a sense of community and belonging.  Second, people in different circumstances can support each other and be witnesses to each other.  The married can be an example of Christian marriage to the single people.  The people who are in their professions may be of help to people trying to find their place in the world.  It just takes a good community of people dedicated to Christian charity (and to not becoming a cliche).

With that being said, chances are most of the people who participate in the young adult ministry will be younger and single.  I’ve seen a ministry that was able to integrate married couples for a short time, but, once they have children, it has been very difficult for those to remain (including my wife and I).  Often the people most in need of the ministry are the people who are out of college, most likely working, but aren’t yet married or committed to another vocation.  It’s actually quite an unnatural state, but there are many reasons why someone may be in that state.  For me, a little more than ten years passed between graduation from pharmacy school and getting married.

It seems that people in the Church have a hard time figuring out how to reach and involve people in that state.  This time can either be spent in selfishness or as a time of service and spiritual preparation for one’s vocation.  Young adult ministry, when done right, can really give people in this state a sense of mission.

Group vs. ministry

When I first went to young adult activities where I lived right after graduation from pharmacy school, the local diocese had formed a young adult committee.  They had gone to some conference where some supposed expert told them that they need to make it clear that they don’t have a young adult “group” but a “ministry.”  Apparently, the problem with the idea of a “group” is that it implied membership and commitment.

My concern is not so much with whether someone says they have a “group” or a “ministry.”  I tend to regard those things a semantical games.  Membership and commitment, on the other hand, are essential for a successful ministry.  You definitely have to have a committed core group to run the ministry.  If people are expected to grow in their faith, they will need to commit to doing so.   In fact, lack of commitment has been the major reason for the failure of ministries that I have been involved in.  Granted, you can’t expect everyone to be ready to dive in right at first, but having a free for all with no one committed won’t get anyone anywhere.  Besides, Jesus himself requires a total commitment of our lives.  This is the a Gospel outreach that we are talking about!  Saying that you can’t expect commitment can easily suggest that Christ and his Church aren’t being taken seriously.

Membership is also essential to building a community and a sense of belonging that is so necessary for people who otherwise might not know how to find their place in the Church.  The key is to make sure it avoids becoming a cliche or a closed group that doesn’t reach out to others, or, worse yet, doesn’t really welcome new people.  Let people come and see what the group has to offer, and, be ready to have them register to be a member after they have been.

But we already do young adult ministry in things like marriage preparation, etc.

Yes, it is true that marriage preparation or baptismal preparation, you are working with young adults, but what about people who aren’t about to get married or have a child.  Also, is this really the time when you are going to catechize someone?  If someone is looking to get married and is just then being formed in what Christian marriage is, it means that the person went through years of their life, dated, and selected someone to marry without having really understood how their marriage is part of their Christian mission.

The preparation better start before someone is even dating, or you are already really late in the process.  Someone receiving the formation during the years where they are likely to be trying to meet the person they wish to marry will be in a much better position to know what to look for and what to work towards and will be better able to enter into a solid Christian marriage.  Take a look at this document from the Pontifical Council for the Family. It talks about remote, proximate, and immediate preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage, and I wish this was how things were done.

Next time:  I’ll give my suggestions for good, solid young adult ministry.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic


Reflections on Being a Catholic Young Adult

  /   Wednesday, July 23, 2014   /   Comments(2)

My birthday is coming up.  Depending on how “young adult” is defined, I’ll either have one more year left as a young adult, or I haven’t been a young adult for a few years now.  I think I’ll take the former.  A few things have been on my mind as I reflect on the fact that I will soon make my exit from young adulthood.

The most exciting thing for me has been being a part of the movement of young adults who are embracing orthodox Catholicism.  We were able to find out the truth and beauty of the teachings of the Church that had somehow been lost when we were in CCD or PSR or PRE or whatever you called it.  There were many moments of “Why haven’t we heard this before?”  In a number of places, better catechesis is now available, but there is still a lot of evangelization work that needs to be done.

When I first attended religion classes in high school, I expected to be far behind the others.  Little did I know that there really wasn’t much doctrinal content in the course materials in use at the time.  In fact, I came to a disturbing revelation.  I knew more than they did.  When I went to campus ministry in college, it was mediocre at best.  I actually was jealous of evangelical Protestants because they seemed to be much more enthusiastic than most Catholics that I knew.

After graduation from pharmacy school, I joined a catechetical young adult group.  For the first time, I saw people who were concerned about following what the Church teaches.  I discovered a lot of good Catholic books and publishers that filled in what I had long misunderstood.  However, at this time, and in the place where I was, it still seemed that I had to figure a lot out for myself.  I didn’t always know exactly who to trust to tell me what is true. Apparently, my experience was not unique. I believe it was Colleen Carroll Campbell who mentioned in 2002 that college students were growing in their faith despite the official campus ministry. The same could be said of other official ministries.

This was the 2000s, and the young, orthodox, well-formed priests were just beginning to be ordained.  A lot of ministries and resources have since become available to help teach the faith that weren’t available just as I was coming of age.  For example, Ascension Press, if it existed at all back then, hadn’t yet published the Bible Timeline Seminar or the Theology of the Body resources.  Catholic Exchange started as e3mil sometime in that era.  The campus ministry group FOCUS was still in its infancy.  Catholic Answers had been around for some time, but for some reason I wasn’t as interested in them at first.  Thankfully, more ministries are being formed, and more resources are available to help teach the Faith.  Just watch Life on the Rock on EWTN, and you’ll hear about a lot of them.

Back then, my focus was mainly on apologetics, probably because I was put into a situation where I needed to learn to defend my faith.  Unfortunately, I was too focused there.  I was looking for just the right argument.  I really needed to learn more than that.  I can thank Incarnation Church in Collierville, TN for letting me join their RCIA team and forming me as a catechist.  They even let me teach some of the sessions.  In fact, I can’t thank them enough.

I now see signs of things becoming even better even better.  We still see some of the orthodox young adult Catholics in our area who are ten or more years younger than I am, and they are very faithful and joyful.  They seem to have received better formation, too.  However, I know that their experience and formation isn’t universal in the Church.  It needs to be.  We would set the world on fire if it were.  There is still a lot of work to be done in evangelizing my generation and the people who came after us, but we have more people who are in love with Christ and his Church who will bring others with him.

Next blog, I want to share my thoughts on young adult ministry . . .

Category: Catholic, News on My Life


The Respect Due People with Same-Sex Attraction vs Gay Rights

  /   Sunday, July 13, 2014   /   Comments(0)

A few weeks ago, President Obama has promised to sign an executive order prohibiting companies who do business with the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  This order is likely his attempt to implement, as much as possible, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act that failed to pass the House of Representatives last November.  The order hasn’t been made public yet, but it is expected soon. Needless to say, this could create a myriad of issues depending on how broadly  “discrimination” and “doing business with the federal government” are defined.

Believe it or not, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does mention, in paragraph 2358 (scroll down near the bottom), that people with same-sex attraction are to be treated with “respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” We are to avoid “every sign of unjust discrimination” against them.  If I were a business owner, I could not in good conscience arbitrarily refuse to hire someone simply for having this inclination.  However, does this mean that there should be anti-discrimination laws in place?  Let me explain some things here.

If you haven’t noticed, in the paragraph above, I used the term “people with same-sex attraction” rather than describing such people as gay, lesbian, or homosexual.  I referred to them as “having this inclination.”  For some reason that I can’t understand, people with same-sex attraction often bind their identity up with their inclination and say that it is “who they are.”  However, people, regardless of their condition, are far more than their inclinations.

People who have such an inclination probably didn’t actively choose it.  There may be some responsibility for strengthening the inclination in one’s mind once it is noticed, but even then there may be reasons why a person isn’t fully morally responsible for this.  There is debate as to whether the inclination can be eradicated, and my own opinion is that it depends on how deep-rooted it has become.  Some may be able to eradicate the inclination, reduce it, or at least have a somewhat normal relationship with a person of the opposite sex.  Others may not be able to do any of that.  However, regardless of the above, having such an inclination doesn’t destroy a person’s worth and dignity in the eyes of God.  People with same-sex attraction still have a need to make a living and be able to function as they can in society.  This shouldn’t be denied arbitrarily.  However, it does not follow that there aren’t cases of just discrimination against them.

Notice that, up until now, I’ve been talking about having an inclination towards the same gender.  There’s a difference between having the inclination and acting upon it.  The inclination isn’t in and of itself sinful.  However, like I said, despite what the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association now say, it is a disorder, just like anxiety, depression, anorexia.  How do I know (apart from Church teaching, of course)?  The desire to have a sexual union with someone of the same gender has no natural means available to accomplish it.  Two men or two women cannot unite their bodies anatomically in the same way that a man and a woman can.  Our bodies just weren’t made for it.  It’s also completely impossible for it to accomplish the biological end of sexual relations – the generation of offspring.  Having the disordered desire is not in and of itself sinful, but acting on it is seriously sinful.

In fact, a case of discrimination is most likely to occur is if a person is, in fact, openly acting on it. Even then, there are a lot of situations when someone’s conduct can be tolerated.  If I were a restaurant  or store owner, an argument can be made that someone’s homosexual activity is not directly contrary to the mission of that particular business.  This is true even though I would run my business according to my Catholic faith.

However, it’s another story if we are talking about a Catholic school or university, charity organization, or even a for-profit whose purpose is to, for example, publish Catholic books.  Someone known to be deliberately acting directly contrary to the teaching of the Church in such a serious matter, with no known intention of changing the situation, would be acting directly contrary to the mission of such an organization.  Requiring that organization to employ such a person makes a mockery of its mission.  Would PETA be required to employ someone in a key position who ate bacon off the clock?

One major threat that an anti-discrimination law could pose would be to require Catholic employers or even institutions of the Church to recognize homosexual unions and provide spousal benefits to homosexual couples.  It’s one thing to tolerate such activity; it’s quite another to give official recognition or even the giving of benefits.  It’s still another to force the granting of recognition upon people whose long-standing religious beliefs would be violated in doing so.  Let’s not forget that we’ve already had a lawsuit against a Christian baker who did not want to make a wedding cake for a homosexual wedding.  The court ruled against him despite the fact that homosexual marriage isn’t legal in that state.  This is a real threat against religious freedom.

Even someone who is not acting on the inclination may not be suited for certain occupations, possibly depending on the severity of the inclination.  A Vatican document came out several years ago stating that men who practice homosexuality or have deep-seated tendencies cannot be ordained as clergy.  There may be some other situations in which such an inclination would affect how well they could do the job, and employers faced with such situations need to retain their right to make a reasonable judgment unhindered by political correctness.

The bottom line is that people who have an inclination towards people of the same sex are still loved by God, and they need our care and compassion.  Treating them with contempt is simply wrong.  However, allowing them to act upon the desire and pretending it is normal is doing them a great disservice, just like enabling an alcoholic would be.  People with such inclinations, even those acting on them, should be able to obtain what they need to live just like anyone else.  However, making them a protected class, especially in today’s society, is a dangerous move and needs to be stopped.

Category: Catholic, Morality, Response


Will Religious Freedom Create Corporate Anarchy?

  /   Tuesday, July 01, 2014   /   Comments(0)

It’s all over the news now. It’s on the Internet, so it must be true. Pfizer, Wal-Mart, and Apple are raising religious objections to paying taxes (warning: link contains vitriol). GM now has religious objections to paying employees, so they are going to stop. Rite Aid has religious objections to laws requiring a prescription in order to dispense medication, so now everyone can go there and get the “good stuff” any time. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that Hobby Lobby can’t be forced to provide insurance coverage for abortifacients contraceptives, they can all get away with this stuff, right? If not, maybe they could at least become Jehovah’s Witnesses and stop covering blood transfusions or something like that.

That’s what you might be led to believe if you listen to all the nonsense that is out there in the media about this, including the dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg wrote that the ruling was of “startling breadth” and would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law to which they raised a religious objection. Well, now, according to her, corporations that don’t want to follow the law now need only make up a religion and decide that following the law will be against their beliefs. Surely they will get away with it even if there is zero evidence of any such beliefs (or any beliefs at all) predating this ruling.

Well, actually, the more “startling breadth” is really in Ginsburg’s dissent. Indeed, I’ve read similar stuff from some columnist who spouted out that he was “in favor of religious freedom” as long as they “obey the law.”  If so, this logic could be applied against any challenge to any law based on religious freedom. They seem to forget that we have a Constitution that dictates that certain laws can’t be made in this country. This is the issue that was at stake. Does the Department of Health and Human Services have the right to issue this mandate? If a law can’t be challenged because it’s an unnecessary infringement on one’s Constitutional rights, then the Constitution isn’t worth squat. Further, if protecting a company’s rights has broad implications, then so does not doing so. Are we going to give the government the power to require companies to pay for cosmetic surgery, tanning sessions, or Botox to remove wrinkles?

A compelling interest must exist in order to limit religious Freedom, and it has to be done in the least restrictive manner necessary. Sadly, the issue of a compelling interest was basically sidestepped even in the majority ruling. You could find compelling reasons to require coverage of vaccinations, blood transfusions, and psychiatry, but contraception is not essential health care despite what the left wants it to be. It is a lifestyle choice. The “need” for it can be eliminated by simple self control.

It also defies logic to say that for-profit businesses do not have rights. Businesses in this country tend to be owned by human beings. If a business doesn’t exist to serve customers and make a living for its owners, all of whom happen to be people, then why does it exist? No business is an impersonal entity, even though some corporations may seem that way. Owners have rights, too.

Are we to say that, the moment you are out in society to make a living, you have to leave your very mission and purpose in life behind? Can someone not start a business to further his/her mission and make a living doing it? This would basically reduces one’s faith to a random, arbitrary thought or personality quirk that has no place in the “real” world. It would be fine to have those beliefs, as long as you don’t actually take them seriously when running a business. I’m always amazed at how people who accuse others of blindly following a religion will blindly assume that religious beliefs are all arbitrary and cannot be substantiated.

The way some of those protest signs read (eg “Keep my boss out of my bedroom.”), you’d be forgiven for thinking that his case was about whether your boss could search your house for condoms and packs of Ortho Tri-Cyclen. It isn’t. It’s about whether your boss can be forced to pay for your contraception (or at least the premiums to cover it). Your boss shouldn’t be able to control what you do outside of work that closely. However, not being required to pay for something does not give that person control over someone’s life. No one is trampling any rights here, as though there were a right to contraception. The mandate to cover contraception was going to do little more than ensure that only people without morals (or at least without any that they take seriously) can run a business. We have seen enough problems in our nation without barring people of real faith from leadership in the business world.

Category: Catholic, Response


Where Are We?

  /   Thursday, June 19, 2014   /   Comments(0)

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I were on vacation visiting family.  As we always like to do when we visit this city, we took a walk through the attractive/upscale shopping and dining area.  It’s just a beautiful place to take a walk.  This time, I noticed something I didn’t remember seeing before.

Down one street I found the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist.  Across the street from there was a Unity Temple.  The Christian Scientists were a sect founded by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy based on some supposed insight on healing.  They are the ones who don’t believe in the use of medicine.  The Unity Temple is some kind of church that seeks a “unity” and “peace and harmony” that doesn’t appear to be based on anything but just letting people believe whatever they believe.  Their web site, which I won’t link to here, has as a principle that we create our life experience through our own thoughts.

From that location, I decided to search for the nearest Catholic Church.  This would be a place that could really use a place to encounter our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.  To my dismay, I found that the nearest Catholic Church was the Cathedral four miles away.  It’s not too far, but it’s not too close either.  So, I had to ask, where are we?

Why aren’t we there?  It just reminded me more that we need to be where the people are, trying in whatever way we can to bring people to an encounter with Our Lord.  If someone doesn’t help feed the hungry, they will seek whatever food they can find.  Sadly, that food will never satisfy like the fullness of truth.  Just imagine if there were a church or chapel there where people could stop and pray in the presence of the Eucharist.  Maybe they could go to Confession and be reconciled with God.  We could even leave some materials where interested people could discover the Catholic faith.

One place where evangelization is badly needed is simply among where ordinary activity of people takes place.  We should be there, not to try to shove something down their throats, but to engage them, inform them, and ultimately challenge them to explore the truth.  If other groups are there, why aren’t we?

Category: Catholic, Response


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