Call 9-1-1: for your enemies

So, today marks the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the 4th plane that crash landed in the Pennsylvanian field.  A time of tragedy and sadness, at the hands of a group of terrorists fighting in the name of their extremist beliefs.  America always stands to commemorate the fallen, those who sacrificed their lives to save those few they could who were unjustly killed.

I just want to offer two little things to think about as we enter into this day of memorial, offering prayers for those who suffered.  First is an article about the recent ISIS situation.  When these kinds of tragedies occur, it’s a simple thing to follow our gut reaction where we ask for justice to be done.  Yet, this article is a great reminder that all are called to be God’s people, and sometimes the greatest opponents of our faith may become some of our greatest champions as well.  Here is the link:

http://catholicexchange.com/st-paul-isis

The second point I wanted to bring up was from the Gospel of today’s mass.  We read in Luke of how Christ taught his disciples “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.”

Christ challenges us to understand the concept of real love in this passage, reminding us how loving those whom we already love is easy.  Instead, He reminds us not to think in a human way, but in the divine.  Love is not reserved, it is not conditional, but is freely given, broken and shared for all to receive, especially for those who have harmed us, those who have persecuted us.  So, in your prayers today, also pray for the strength, the wisdom, and the courage to love those who have hurt you or those you know, and if/when you have that encounter with these people, pray for their conversion, for their transformation.  Pray that the world might come to remember the greatest fulfillment we seek: God, fully in His immanent and manifest nature.

"Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way."

-John

Preach to the ends of the earth

So, we just had an amazing Labor Day weekend spending time with young adult Catholics at the California Chinese Catholic Living Camp (CACCLC HYPE!) on the theme of “Ever Ancient, Ever New, Ever Relevant?” based off the writings of St. Augustine.  The words come from a well-known prayer of his, titled “Late have I loved you.”  Here’s the prayer:

Late have I loved you, 
O Beauty so ancient and so new, 
late have I loved you! 
You were within me, but I was outside, 
and it was there that I searched for you. 
In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. 
You were with me, but I was not with you. 
Created things kept me from you; 
yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. 
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. 
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. 
You breathed your fragrance on me; 
I drew in breath and now I pant for you. 
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. 
You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Source: http://kathwilliamson.blogspot.com/2009/04/famous-prayers-late-have-i-loved-you.html#sthash.sIK5c9qf.dpuf

Over the weekend, our spiritual director provided great insight and depth of vision within our Church and the call to evangelization.  But, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of Catholics I speak to about “evangelization” seem to shy away or blow over the topic as a whole.  And, in thinking about the theme and the idea of the relevance of the Catholic faith, I want to ask then, why the stigma, and why evangelize?

I mean, when the term “evangelize” comes up, I usually think of: Protestant Evangelicals, Bible Thumpers, and those people who just wouldn’t give up on standing at street corners or high traffic areas trying to get the attention of people walking by with their words on Jesus (which, ironically, I ended up doing as well for a time in college).  It seems that generally speaking, evangelizing is often equated with people who are extreme, seemingly fanatical to what they teach and preach, and have little to no care of the societal norms around them… but doesn’t that sound familiar? I think I know one guy in the Catholic faith that a number of people associated the same way… your hints: he was born of the Virgin, suffered death, and was buried; and on the third day rose again.

It’s Jesus!  And when you read through the gospel accounts of this Son of God/Son of Man, what does He do EVERYWHERE?  Evangelize.  Everywhere He went, Jesus had a message, a purpose, and a person to see.  His life was filled touching the lives of men and women, a number who are not even named, and transforms their whole lives with His presence.  But, why are they being so transformed?  Should we be out there on street corners preaching to the random passerby?  Let’s look at a couple of Scripture passages:

Mark 1:22 - “And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes,”

Matthew 7:29 - “for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”

Luke 4:32 - “and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority.”

John 7:46 - “The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this man!’”

Jesus, when he teaches and speaks, does it in no way that others do it.  He spoke with authority.  He taught with the full understanding and conviction that what He has for us is TRUE, is GOOD, is RIGHT.  He doesn’t mince his message if there’s something that needs to be said.

Yet, in our world, how often do we preach this Word of God handed down?  Not just from the fact that our society is hostile to our message (which, to be honest, has been that way all throughout human history), but at what I believe is important to ask: do we believe Jesus’ message and truth is really needed for everyone?

Backtrack a little, what does the CACCLC and prayer of St. Augustine have to do with this?  Simply, because the key to evangelization has to do with one simple thing: the forgiveness and love which God has given to us. The message of God’s love and forgiveness is truly, “Ever Ancient, Ever New, Ever Relevant.”  Evangelizing is not as difficult or as arduous as we might expect, it simply calls us to be a witness to the truth that we are convicted of.  It doesn’t require massive amounts of education, charisma, or hours of work.  What it does require though is a relationship with God.

St. Augustine’s prayer here is so powerful, so potent because it exposes the raw reality that he experienced between him and God.  St. Augustine lived till he was 32 before he converted, living a life filled with depravities and self-seeking pleasures.  And through it all, as Augustine prays, God never gave up on him.  Through the thick and thin, God was always calling to St. Augustine, engaging ALL of his senses to show him the full life of happiness that God called St. Augustine to experience.  And it was BECAUSE of these experiences, despite the fact that he loved God so late, that St. Augustine received redemption and proclaimed the message of the Gospel throughout the Church.

So indeed, looking at those who go out to the streets to proclaim the Word, there is a sense of necessity that perhaps we as Catholics SHOULD learn from.  HOWEVER, we also realize that those kinds of acts can turn people away and reflect an incorrect view of the faith.  In order for the message to strike home, it is NECESSARY that the relationship between men and God begins, whether through God’s divine intervention in their lives, or through people who are given the opportunity to share in God’s work.

Now, for some of us, our relationship with God deepens through an intensive study of the faith in a very intellectual manner that brings us to conversions.  If that’s so, great!  Others of us have to the faith through intense experiences, whether they be tragic or euphoric, which is awesome as well.  Some may have had the faith since they’ve been born and had never strayed from His love and truth, serving where they need to be, and that’s amazing!  If you’re called to go out to the streets and preach, finding and bringing strangers to know Christ, more Holy Spirit powers to ya!  All of us have an experience, a call, a love that God has inexplicably given to us.  What we are called to do is to share that love with others, that we may be witnesses to the love of God and the peace of Christ.  

That’s the call of evangelization, the good news, that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).  So, I challenge you to find that relationship with Jesus, through mind, heart, soul, strength, and to be relevant to the ends of the earth, as we are told at the end of Mass to “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”

-John

Something I just thought of…

A friend of mine posed these questions, and this is my response to his questions.  I’d be curious for what you think about these questions.

"If God is perfect, then how is it even possible for him to create a world that is imperfect? If hell exists because God, who is perfect, cannot withstand the imperfection of human beings, then how can he even withstand the existence of our world altogether? Doesn’t it make sense to believe that an imperfect world could only have been created by a correspondingly imperfect being?"

*Note* - This is a LONG POST… Skip to the end if you want the summation of my position on each question, otherwise, here you go!

Good questions. This is what I believe:

I think that the closest understanding to an answer to these questions stems from two things: understanding what God’s perfection is and the gift of Free Will.

I’ll begin first with God’s perfection. What does it mean for God to be perfect? Well, let’s look up definitions first. Perfection (according to Google searches for definitions) stands for “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” Now, what does that mean for God to be perfect? God then, by definition, is understood to be in the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects. Now, it’s interesting to consider the second part of the definition of perfection, to be as free as possible from all flaws and defects. The wording implies that there will always be a degree of imperfection that cannot be attained (this is an important point, it will come back again). So, the question then is raised, which is God categorized as, the initial part or secondary part of perfect’s definition? Understanding the Christian/Catholic perspective, God constitutes the initial part of this definition, that God IS the standard of perfection, that God alone is flawless and lacking in all forms of defects. For the sake of continuing on, I will assume that this is what you mean by perfection. If not, then the discussion would have to lead elsewhere, and would make this already long post into something even longer XD

Now, what about the word “imperfection?” Imperfection means “a fault, blemish, or undesirable feature” or “the state of being faulty or incomplete.” Or, by using our previous definition, imperfection is “the condition, state, or quality of NOT (emphasis added) being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” Now, you asked in your question that God, in creating the world, created an imperfect world right from the get go. I would raise the question, why do you believe that? What makes you believe that at the moment of creation, that God created a world that was imperfect? According to the Jewish Scriptures and Christian and Catholic bibles, the world that God created was not imperfect, “it was good.” *note*- God, in being perfect, by classifying things with His words, is flawless, hence calling the world “good” means that the world is TRULY good. If God had created the world imperfectly, that means there should have been a lack, something that was flawed and defective in the order of the universe. Yet, at the time of creation, when God created all of these things, what would have been considered the “imperfection” or “flaw” as you stated? That would be my first question in response to your questions.

Continuing on, we know that there is the conception of heaven and hell. So, my next question is about your second question, or more like a clarification. Your second question seems to have a number of assumptions that do not reflect Catholic teachings. First, you state that “God cannot withstand the imperfections of human beings.” From what your statement notes, the stress is placed upon God’s inability. I believe that is a huge misunderstanding of the nature of hell and the nature of the imperfection of man. Rather, the stress should be emphasized on the fact that MAN cannot withstand the perfection of God. All across the Scriptures, when there’s a situation reflecting the interaction of God and Man, it is not God who shies away from Man, but Man who cannot withstand the glory of God (Israelites cannot withstand glow from Moses from presence of God, Isaiah being “undone,” Uzzah stricken for attempting to touch the Ark, etc.). The flaws are what defines the separation between God and Man, and it is the flaws that are faulty, not the perfection.

Secondly, I also want to move into the nature of what Hell is, and this leads into free will. Now, what IS hell? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (summation of the core doctrines/dogmas of the Catholic Church [NOT EXCLUSIVE]), Hell is, “Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (CCC 1035) and, “God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end” (CCC 1037). By definition, hell is a place that one enters when one willingly turns away from God.

Why am I bringing this up? My point is simply that what we understand as the “imperfect” world comes not from God, but from Man’s inability to properly choose to follow his proper order. Or, to state another way: Imperfection comes not from God, but from beings that choose to turn away from God. This is the key in trying to wrap one’s head around the nature of sin, suffering, and all the defects of the world. God did not create sins/imperfections, HOWEVER, He allows for these things to happen based on the gift of Free Will.

But why? Now, this is actually leading into a separate discussion, but I will try to condense my points as much as possible, as they are vital to this discussion. First, that nature of free will is the ability to “will” action as a being chooses without impediment. God, in His perfection, (important!) DOES NOT NEED ANYTHING. By what we understand of perfection, God is flawless, lacking in all deficiencies, complete, total, and whole. YET, in His infinite love, He offers EXISTENCE to beings that DO NOT EXIST. He provides beings the ability to experience existence, to be ACTUAL. In addition to that, not only does He allow these beings to exist, He also provides (remember, each of God’s acts are PERFECT) certain existences the gift of Free Will. But, what is the gift of Free Will for? What makes this gift, of ALL gifts (outside existence), so vital? To my understanding, simply because the act of willing commits one’s whole being undeservingly and completely toward whatever one has willed to do. Thus, God, rather than pre-programming humans (and angels, which is interesting because we are not the only beings with free will), gifts His creations with one of God’s powers: the ability to “will,” to actualize. In giving that power, God then PERMITS the ability for something to NOT “will” what is God, what is perfect. That then PERMITS the POSSIBILITY of what we classify as “sin” and “hell,” or the willful choice for what ISN’T God.

Does that mean God created sin? Logically, NO. As there was always the POSSIBILITY of sin, conversely there has always been the POSSIBILITY of ALWAYS following what is perfect as well. As Catholic/Christians, we understand that the gift of existence and choice obligates (is morally or legally binding, necessary, essential) us to God, for we owe our existence to God. Without that, who cares? If we were not morally or legally bound to God, then to what does sin avail? BUT, since we believe that Humanity’s existence and gifts come from God, we believe there is a moral obligation to follow God. But, we understand that humanity chose NOT to honor that obligation, and thus willfully chose to separate from God. That does not conclude that it was impossible to follow God’s will though, and hence, the power of Free Will. Summing that up, the imperfection of the world falls not on God, but on His creation that failed to honor its moral/legal obligation and then paying for its responsibility.

Why doesn’t God then take away that Free Will, or the consequence of it? I would say that God does not take it away, or force a different circumstance/decision because that then would override the gift of Free Will that He gave to us Himself. In doing so, God would contradict the very gift that He placed within us that He himself declared “good” and would thus reveal that this gift was incorrect, “flawed, deficient,” and imperfect, and with a decision like that, would depict a scenario of God contradicting Himself, which would be a separation of His actions, and thus God would be flawed. Thus, the separation of beings into “heaven” and “hell” are in actuality God’s justice in permitting and respecting the decisions of Free Will that each individual person willfully chooses.

In conclusion, 1) God did not create an imperfect world, but rather, the world became imperfect through its own decisions. 2) It is not God that cannot withstand the world’s sin, but rather, we cannot withstand God’s perfection, and thus shy away in sins/turning from that which we owe our existence to. 3) Imperfection is not created by imperfection, perfection creates perfection, but through the agency of free will, could be marred not by the original perfection, but through the responsibility of not fulfilling one’s obligation.

What about you?

-John

Confronted with the Scourge of Suicide that Plagues Korea, Pope Francis Presents the Secret of Hope - Aleteia ›

Interesting commentary on an interesting phenomenon. My friend once asked me why it seems like Asians seem to be the ones more and more populating Christian churches and fellowships; what is it about Christianity that seems to speak to Asian youth?

To that I can only speak to my own experience, maybe one that is echoed in this brief article. Many of us have been driven to pursue success, careers, education, stability. What happens when we fail? Or, on the other hand, what happens when we achieve those goals and find ourselves unfulfilled? Having been driven to pursue those goals, where do we find a foundation for the even deeper values that many of us have also been taught but that seem so easily discarded into the rivers of change, the importance of family, fidelity, honor, and sacrifice? In the modern world, it seems that there is no anchoring place, no safe harbor, no place for rest.

But faith reminds us that we are not our own, we are not the sum of our achievements, that our hope comes not from our own power but from our God. Faith reminds us that the truths and values that have anchored countless societies, transcending tongues and race and time, are not mere social or temporal fancy, but have real worth and real substance.

I have heard it often said that it is a sign of modernity to reject religion, that only the uneducated and superstitious and desolate turn to it out of gullibility or need. And so it is fascinating for me to see a demographic that breaks the mold, a nation and a generation that as an analogy has been to the precipice of modernity, looked over the edge, and seeing the collapse of truth, and with it hope, is returning to God, the source of all truth and the only true source of hope.

<3 you Kim Yuna! And today I learned that BoA and Rain are also Catholics, haha!

The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary (August 15th) is the celebration of the elevation of Mother Mary’s body into heaven.  To recognize the day in which the Virgin Mother of God was assumed to heaven is a marvelous thing.  Yet, why do we celebrate this momentous occasion?  What makes this event so sacred that the Church denotes this as a Holy Day of Obligation?

It essentially focuses on one thing, and one thing only: Jesus Christ, Son of Man, Son of God.  Everything that we know of Mary and why we honor of her is ultimately aimed toward Christ.  In the Immaculate Conception, we believe that at the moment of conception, God, in His Infinite Wisdom and Love, preserved Mary from the effects of Original Sin, based on the timeless salvific grace won for us through the sacrifice of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.  From the Annunciation, we see the “Yes” of Mary as the New Eve, choosing through the capacity of her own free will to follow God’s plan to bring Emmanuel, or “God with us.”  At the Nativity, Mary bears the Son of God into the world, protecting and nurturing the fulfillment of the Ark of the Covenant (Jesus, the Bread of Life - John 6 / Manna - Exodus 16:34, Jesus, the High Priest - Hebrews 4:14-16 / Staff of Aaron - Numbers 17:10, Jesus, the Law - Matthew 5:17 / Ten Commandments - Exodus 40:18; Deuteronomy 10:5).  Then, we have Mary’s elevation in her Coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth, which comes from her relationship with Jesus, as in days of old, the queen being the mother of the king (Solomon to Bathsheba - 1 Kings 2:19).

And so, what about the Assumption?  In this sense, Mary again becomes our access to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in two ways: as a sure sign of the hope yet to come, and to be a guide to help illuminate our path to God.  As the hope, her body upon death was spared the expense of decay, a sign of the effects of the Original Sin that pervade this imperfect world.  As the Ark, the pure vessel of God, we believe He saw it fit to preserve His bearer, and also as a testimony for us to believe in the hope of resurrection of BOTH body and soul.

Secondly, as one brought into heaven with the fullness of salvation, Mary, our Mother, continues to intercede and guide us just as she had her whole life.  By stepping up, she brought Christ to the world that we would come to see God dwell among Man as promised (Isaiah 7:14).  Through her intercession during the Wedding of Cana (John 2), Mary prepared the way by which Jesus manifested His first miracle as a sign of the Messiah, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world.

Essentially, without Mary, Mother and Bearer of the Son of God, the gift of salvation would not have entered the world as God intended.  Thus, it is only through Christ that we understand the honor offered to Our Mother.  Then, in understanding what Mary has done can we rightly give thanks to Our Mother for her sacrifice and generosity to bring the Lord to us.  It is through Mary that we have been blessed with the Word Made Flesh, and in the midst of all that, Mary, our Mother, turns our attention not to her, but to Him.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

And, for kicks and giggles:  http://www.jasonbachcartoons.com/catholic-08.html

It’s a much lighter question than most, but I wanted to ask if you guys have some recommended readings?

For recommended readings, it depends on what you are looking for to get deeper into your faith.  However, here’s some books I’d recommend based on some things that might interest you.

1. FIRST AND FOREMOST, IF YOU HAVE YET TO DO SO:

Start reading through the books of the Bible.  I can’t ever stress it enough how unfortunate and sad it is that the vast majority of Catholics have little to no sense of their way around and through Scriptures.  This is one revelation of THE WORD OF GOD! If we are seeking to know our Lord better, you have to become familiar with the written Word.  So, try reading through the bible.  There are many forms of reading through, such as starting with New Testament Gospels and Acts, then moving into the Letters of Paul, to the Pastoral Letters, and ending with Revelation, then moving to the Old Testament.  Other ways to read through include one of my personal favorites called The Great Adventure Bible Timeline, a biblical reading series started by Jeff Cavins that reads through the Scriptures dealing with salvation history.  It’s a great introduction to leading Catholics into understanding and finding the connections between the history of the Israelites to Christ (Web-Link: http://biblestudyforcatholics.com/ )

*Note* - Try to get a Catholic Translation as well, generally Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) and New American Bible (NAB) are good selections.  Protestant translations like NIV or the American Bible Society’s Good News translation sometimes render words different than Catholic understanding, but this is a whole different issue.  READ HERE for a better description on Bible translations.

2. Apologetics

If you have a hankering for Apologetics, there are a few books that you should definitely pick up. I’ll give a short run-down of how these might help.

Catholicism and Fundamentalism, by Karl Keating:  This book is a wonderful introduction into reading about the differences between Catholics and Fundamentalist Christians.  It covers a range of topics from Mary to Sacraments to sola fide and sola scriptura and the Papacy.  While it’s an older read now, it’s a very good way to get introduced to the primary differences between Catholics and Christians.

Cons - It is an old book, and the topics are not very specific to particular denominations of Christians, but as a step into the realm of apologetics, it’s a good start.

Where is Thatin the Bible?, by Patrick Madrid:  This little book is a great guide of the most common phrases and quotations that pretty much every Christian may raise to Catholics about their faith.  Within the book lies a number of important Scriptural passages that should be known by the typical Catholic, and it’s a very light and easy read, separated into different sections that can help you get through your work.

Cons - It is very small and light, more like a reference book to prepare you for different topics, and doesn’t always get into the nitty-gritty of the philosophical and theological points that someone may raise as counter-arguments.  But, it’s a beginning.

Catholic Answers Tracts,by multiple authors:  This isn’t actually a book, per se, but if you go on <catholic.com>, under their tab “Library” and in “Tracts,” there’s a HUGE selection of various reads that you can find about most of the typical questions that Catholics may encounter regarding many different topics.  This was a huge source that I used to read through regularly when I was deciding to be Christian or Catholic myself, going back and forth between different topics, but I would highly recommend going through these tracts one by one, topic by topic, and trying to understand the basic gist of the arguments.  It’s a great way to get yourself immersed into the questions one may raise, and the site itself has other resources you can use to answer follow-up questions.

Cons - If you are searching through the website, be careful of when you enter the Forums, as those are open to the public and may not have the properly trained/educated people.

Summa Theologica, by. St. Thomas Aquinas:  This is probably the most influential philosophical and theological work in the Church that has continued impact to this day.  Aquinas is probably the most well known Doctor of the Church, with this book (which is ACTUALLY NOT A COMPLETED WORK) being written on working through and trying to rationally dissect and enter through the doctrines and dogmas concerning God, Christ, the Church, etc.  A must read if you really want to enter into knowing the theology and philosophy that continues to guide the Church today.

Cons - HEAVY THEOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY, do not expect an easy read.  This will have you confused and re-reading and re-reading and re-reading and still wondering what you read.  BUT, if you can get through it, it will help immensely!

3. Spiritual Formation

Confessions,by St. Augustine: This is perhaps one of the most well-known, highly regarded writings of the Church.  The book is an auto-biography that St. Augustine wrote about his spiritual journey and life before and after as a Catholic.  If you haven’t read this before, you should really take the time to read through it to see the struggles that saints go through (remember, all of us are human, even the saints!)

Mere Christianityby C.S. Lewis: This is a great read on the mystery of Christianity and what the life of Christians ought to be.  While better known for the Chronicles of Narnia (which is also a great read), Lewis wrote a number of books on Christianity as well.  It covers two primary points of why Christianity is reasonable to follow as well as how the Christian ought to act and behave in their lives.  While Lewis was NOT in fact Catholic, his writings have had a strong impact on understanding the faith and are very profitable in helping develop that path to Christ.

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis: Also the same author, but this book is EXTRAORDINARY, in a chilling way.  The premise of the book is following the correspondence between two devils, Screwtape (the senior devil) and Wormwood (the junior trainee devil).  The way Lewis describes the intricacies of the temptations and motivations behind the work of the devils is astonishing and hits very close to how temptations get the best of us.  Read it, it’s so “BAD,” it’s GOOD.

The Imitation of Christ,by Thomas a Kempis:  This is regarded as one of (if not THE most) influential devotional book since the Bible.  The book is separated into 4 parts, those being, in order: “Helpful Counsels of the Spiritual Life,” “Directives of the Inner Life,” “On Interior Consultation,” and “On the Blessed Sacrament.”  The book is a great meditation and reflection to follow to help in guiding and directing your spiritual life.

Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Liseaux, by herself:  A great spiritual reflection and journey through the life of St. Therese.  Anything I personally write about it would do it grave injustice to its simplicity and complexity of the writing.  If you’ve never read it, you need to, simple as that.



There are a TON of other books that I’ve not mentioned, authors I’ve not even noted (Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft, Early Church Fathers, G.K. Chesterton, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Jason Evert, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc.) but these should give you a start on things that you might want to read or pick up, and from there, with the lovely inter-webs we have, you should be able to find other spiritual reads and finds that can continue to help you in your journey with Christ! :D

-John

"Christ on the Cross Adored by St. Dominic" by Fra Angelico, 1442 ›

Happy Feast of St. Dominic! A link from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology on the contemplation of St. Dominic of Christ.  May we continue to seek to know you more, Lord Jesus Christ, as we gaze upon thy Crucifixion, knowing yet still seeking to comprehend the mystery of your humanity and divinity.  May the Peace of Christ be with us all!

With God’s grace, you have to tackle and carry out the impossible, because anybody can do what is possible.

St. Josemaria Escriva, The Forge, no. 216

Our Fathers, who art on Earth

You go to Mass, you see them at Church, ask them how they’re doing, ask them for confessions, or maybe to preside at your wedding day.  They teach, they preach, they work diligently and do their priestly work.

And yet, I ask you, how often do you seek the help of your priests for spiritual guidance and support?

When Jesus dwelt among us in the flesh, recall how often and regularly people came to seek his help.  Of course, it’s easy to recall the numerous times he healed the paralytic, or cured the blind man, and y’know, raise a person from the dead.  But, also recall, people came to Jesus seeking advice on how to live, what steps they should take, where to go next.  The rich young man asks, "Teacher, what good deed must i do, to have eternal life?" (Mt. 19: 16), Nicodemus seeks counsel, stating how they "know that you are a teacher come from God" (Jn 3: 2) and proceeds to learn of the mystery of the sacrament of Baptism, Peter says, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words to eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (Jn. 6: 68-69), and all of Matthew 13, Jesus, speaking in parables, is sought to teach and explain the parables.  He was there to guide us, in truth and to restore us to what we were first created to be.

And, as we know, the bishops and priests carry on that good work for us.  Recall, Jesus tells the apostles,

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt. 28: 19-20).

Also, recall St. Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3:

The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God’s church?”

The Church is the priest’s household, and we are the children of the priest.  In a home, parents are responsible for nurturing and providing for their families.  They provide sustenance, a safe environment, teach their children of morality and right and wrong, how to survive in this world.  The same is true for our priests.  We are their children, and they are responsible for all the things that our parents are responsible for.  How then, do we treat our parents?  Are we negligent, or do we honor them?  Are we treating our priests the same way?

We know how valuable it is to take preventative measures to teach and gain wisdom for our regular and daily activities, preparing ourselves for our future careers, in managing our busy lives.  But, when it come to seeking guidance and support from protecting our souls, are we taking those same precautions?  When do we seek the availability of our priests to guide and lead us toward holiness?  When you have troubles and spiritual needs, are you actively seeking out your priests, trained and guided by the Spirit, to determine the right path before you turn the wrong way?  It is part of the priest’s responsibility to care for their flock, but if the flock is avoiding him, how can he minister to their needs?

It’s especially sad to see today that there are so many articles about priests who are at fault, when they break the bounds of trust and responsibility that they have.  Yet, I also have to wonder, is that because we haven’t been challenging our fathers to BE Fathers?  It’s so easy to be quick to judge, but perhaps these lapses are because we are not actively seeking that need from our fathers.  They need to do the work that they have been called to, and if they find themselves idle and bored, they too will fall to temptation.  Why not be pro-active and seek our priests to be strong spiritual guides for us, to challenge them to step it up? (Recall Proverbs 27:17)

I’ve been particularly blessed recently for meeting with one of the recent priests transferred to the parish of St. Elizabeth Seton in Pleasanton, and what he said at Mass this last Sunday really struck me.  He said, “We, the priests, are here for you whenever you need.”  They’re out there, ready to bring us closer to God.  Take advantage of the service they provide, offer them the satisfaction of fulfilling their vocation to the priesthood, sharpen their wits by presenting them your needs as they lead you on the path to Heaven.  Give our priests the chance to be the shepherds of the faith that we need.

-John

The Problem of Evil

Life goes on for us. We keep browsing FB and reddit, keep watching our shows and surfing Youtube. Other people around the world are being killed. Can we understand that? Maybe an even more piercing question, should we even try? I don’t know. What good does it do, to pretend that our facebook arguments can have an impact on the fears and angers of people on the other side of the world? Are we going to be the ones to move them, are our arguments the ones that will convince them to lay down their weapons?

What would you die for? What would you kill for? And can we comprehend what it is like for people to be pushed to that brink? The world isn’t made up of bad guys and good guys, cops and robbers. We are confused people, fraught with misunderstandings, filled with fear, overcome by hatred, motivated by our own interests, doing what we believe is best for ourselves and our own. The world is unjust. It is broken. And I am a part of it.

I’ve been thinking a long time about what one can say in times like these, when darkness and misunderstanding and hate rise up and everyone has an opinion on who is right and who is wrong, as if being on the “right” side justifies in some way or another the killing or neglect of innocent lives. What do I have to say to the pro-Russian rebel who believes in his cause enough to fight and die for it, who for that cause pressed a button and mistakenly sent nearly 300 innocent people to their death? What do I have to say to Israelis who in defense of their people rain death upon other innocents?

St. Augustine reminds us that evil is not a force, it is not a substance. It is not its own power. What evil is, is disorder, it is the misplacement or displacement of what is good. It is what happens when we substitute a lesser good for a higher one. What can speak to the evil of the world? I’ve heard retaliation, I’ve heard divestment, I’ve heard boycott and sanctions, dissolution, compromise. Probably the only thing I haven’t heard is the only thing that can: love.

Many blame religion for the violence and conflict in the world, and perhaps rightfully so. But what besides faith, hope, and love, can ever break us out? It makes sense for some to kill. It makes more sense for others to kill them. In the face of evil, in the face of injustice, it makes no sense to believe, to hope, and even less sense to love. And yet it is the most sensible thing there is. But it is also hard. Maybe that is why the world is as it is. These are just words. I won’t pretend that I can truly change the world with my arguments or my dollars or my votes, my pressures and demands (as useful as they may be). There is only one thing that can and really will change the world, and that is the transformation of the human heart.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.