Friday, December 31, 2010

"A teenager's simple act elevates all"

I think I'm going to start a collection of good-news stories about teenagers. Next time I hear an adult whine that teens are such horrible creatures, or that my job must be absolutely impossible because what teen would ever listen, I'm going to hand them the stack of good-news stories. And they aren't even a few isolated cases of goodness. There are wonderful teens with inspiring stories everywhere. We simply have to listen.

So, this good-news story comes from Boston. The Boston Globe article, "A teenager's simple act elevates all" relays the self-gift of Rudy Favard, a high school senior and co-captain of the football team. You have to read the whole story, but it starts like this:

"Everybody was waiting for Rudy.

On Tuesday night, Patty and Rick Parker were in their cramped kitchen with their 8-year-old son Ben. Dinner was over. Bedtime was near.

Ben’s twin brother, Sammy, lay on a cot in the narrow hallway just outside the kitchen. Unable to see or speak or control his limbs, he coughed or let out a little moan every now and then. Rick and Patty took turns feeding Sammy, who has cerebral palsy, through a stomach tube. He cooed when they kissed his face or stroked his cheek, and when they cooed back, he opened his mouth into a wide, joyful O.

A few feet away was the narrow, winding stairway that is the family’s biggest burden lately.

Which is where 17-year-old Rudy’s simple, life-changing act of kindness comes in."

So what does Rudy do? Continue the story here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Unwrap the Silence"

Before 2011 comes rolling in with lights, noisemakers, crazy hats and the sparkly, dropping Times Square ball, be sure to spend a few quiet minutes reading Elizabeth Scalia's, "For 2011: Unwrap the Silence." It is beautiful, peaceful, reflective reading. I leave you with a piece of it:

We have allowed silence to become a gift forgotten, one we only consent to
unwrap when all of our alternative bows and strings have been unraveled, and our
diversions have been utterly played out. Our inability to be silent puts our
minds and our souls at a disadvantage, because it robs us of the ability to
wonder, and if we are not wondering at the impossible perfection of the world in
its creation—if we are not wondering at spinning atoms and Incarnations—then we
are lost to humility, and to experiencing gratitude.

And, without gratitude, we cannot develop a reasoned capacity for joy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

10 "Good News" moments of 2010

Well, it's the end of the year, which always ushers in a flurry of "top 10" moments, reflections and lists. While we don't have to look very far for bad news (try the newspaper, Internet, movies, television and the general moral conscience of society), I would like to reflect on 10 wonderful pieces of good news from the past year, all related to Theology of the Body or Ruah Woods or the faith. And perhaps the even better news is that these "Top 10" barely scratch the surface.

10) The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II -- The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy was finally published by George Weigel. This second and final part of Weigel's biography of John Paul II was much anticipated. Having received it for Christmas, I am enjoying the portrait of the late Holy Father in the latter years of his life. It's so wonderful that on the third day of Christmas I was already half way through the 500+ page work.

9) In the fall, Ruah Woods hosted its first ever book discussion group. We had a wonderful time with nearly 20 young adults eager to engage in discussion over Edward Sri's Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II's Love and Responsibility. We had wonderful conversations about love vs. use, true friendships and relationships, modesty, "raising the bar," contraception and the gift of chastity.

8) Pope Benedict XVI's grace and humility in leading the Church, even amidst gross societal-wide misunderstandings. He dealt with many of those this year and yet continued to be an unwavering voice of truth. This year marked five years since the death of John Paul II and thus five years (and counting) of the pontificate of his successor.

7) It is always a gift to teach Theology of the Body for Teens. This year Courtney Brown and I taught 68 teens the program (including IHM youth ministry's fall retreat). As always we walked away blessed from meeting them. And they walked away with a renewed enthusiasm for their faith and a greater understanding of God's love for them. What a gift to watch teens say that TOB for Teens: "'is where the healing begins'. I can honestly tell you that after this class I have gained such a beautiful new respect for myself, for women, and ultimately for God and everyone." And, "I cannot thank God enough for loving me so that I was able to love myself and love others. In a way, I believe these classes were God’s way of calling me back to Him. Theology of the Body for Teens helped me when I thought no one could help me, and I appreciated all that Theology of the Body has done for me." You can read more testimonies and watch a brief video of teens and their parents at our Kenosis website.

6) The first Theology of the Body Congress in Philadelphia was amazing! It was such a gift to hear remarkable presentations by Fr. Brian Bransfield, Helen Alvare, Fr. Roger Landry, Michael Waldstein and others. There were friends from the TOB world at every corner and plenty of new people to meet. I walked away with 30+ pages of typed notes from the wonderful talks. And I'm not sure that I had ever really reflected on the fact that those engaged in TOB education and promotion now are among the front runners in the field.

5) How incredible to watch the Underground flood with people on Nov. 4 in order to hear Jason Evert's compelling chastity message! There were 500 teens, young adults and parents who crammed into the building. Yet despite the large crowd, one could have heard a pin drop during Jason's presentation and concluding Q&A session. His free materials were gone in minutes, as teens rushed to the table to receive miraculous medals, rosaries, chastity commitment cards and booklets. The lines to speak to Jason after the talk lasted for a couple of hours.

4) CREDO and Cast Your Nets were two local youth events that continued to draw large crowds in 2010. The numbers aren't even what's important -- who can ignore the enthusiasm of the teens who participate in these events? Then there's the student-led all-school Holy Hour at one local high school. Add to it the hundreds of local teens who head to the annual March for Life, and one has to have great hope for the future. It's no wonder John Paul II told the young, "For me, our meeting has been a deep and moving experience of your faith in Christ, and I make my own the words of Saint Paul: "I have great confidence in you, I have great pride in you; I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy" (2Cor 7,4). These are not words of empty praise. I am confident that you have grasped the scale of the challenge that lies before you, and that you will have the wisdom and courage to meet that challenge. So much depends on you."

3) The Human Person According to John Paul II by Fr. Brian Bransfield is the most remarkable presentation of John Paul II's thought I have read. The book was published this year and has received praise from many people looking to delve more deeply into the thought of the late Holy Father. Fr. Bransfield has a gift for simply expressing profound truths, connecting the dots and presenting a wealth of information in only 250 pages. The hundreds of footnotes point to the depth of research put into the work and yet Fr. Bransfield's pastoral heart make the work accessible.

2) On a personal note, 2010 was quite eventful. In May, there was graduation from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, DC. Only a couple of days later I was off to Italy, where I saw the Shroud of Turin and dozens of gorgeous churches. But the purpose of my visit was to give a week-long seminar about Theology of the Body in Chiampo. I was also blessed to present to a campus ministry group at the Angelicum in the room where John Paul II defended his doctoral dissertation. Last but not least, I found myself dubbed in Italian during TOB interviews taped for Tele Giovanni Paolo II. It was incredible to see the hunger for TOB in Italy, even though this is the country where the audiences were first delivered. And it was truly a gift to be able to speak to such wonderful people -- the first groups to whom I spoke after completing my Masters degree.

1) Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life began on Sep. 14, the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. It has been extraordinary to watch the Holy Spirit work in the lives of the Kenosis teens in only three months time. They have eagerly attended meetings, looked for opportunities to share their faith with friends, surrendered their lives more completely to Christ during the first Kenosis retreat, and gathered strength in knowing they are not alone in building a culture of life and a civilization of love. They chose the patron and patroness of Kenosis -- St. Maximilian Kolbe and Bl. Chiara "Luce" Badano. And they can't wait to see what God has in store for 2011.

This just in: Chastity leads to better relationships

I love this!

From the UK-based "Telegraph" --

Psychologists found that couples who waited until after their wedding night
rated the stability of their relationships 22 per cent higher than those
whose physical relationships developed earlier.

Those who practised abstinence were also found to have 20 per cent increased levels of relationship satisfaction, 12 per cent better communication and 15 per cent improved "sexual quality".

Experts said that this may be due to improved communication
between individuals who were chaste before marriage.

More than 2,000 married couples were questioned as part of a study by the Brigham Young University's School of Family Life in Utah.

Prof Dean Busby, who carried out the study, said: "There's more to a relationship than sex, but we did find that those who waited longer were happier with the sexual aspect of their relationship. I think it's because they've learned to talk and have the skills to work with issues that come up."

It's rather amusing how shocked people are by this piece of info. Although at
the same time, how sad that a random news article -- one that easily could be
dismissed as biased or "too religious" -- would be the deciding factor in
someone's relationship choices.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Amazon's gift-destroying "genius"

The days after Christmas are always filled with jokes about Aunt Edna's gift of a tacky sweater or how to lie to one's cousin about what happened to last year's gift of a three-foot tall Greek statue. So, it wasn't much of a surprise to see an article about Amazon's role in the lives of disappointed gift-receivers. What was surprising was the content of the article.


"Amazon is working on a solution that could revolutionize digital gift buying. The online retailer has quietly patented a way for people to return gifts before they receive them, and the patent documents even mention poor Aunt Mildred. Amazon's innovation, not ready for this Christmas season, includes an option to "Convert all gifts from Aunt Mildred," the patent says. "For example, the user may specify such a rule because the user believes that this potential sender has different tastes than the user." In other words, the consumer could keep an online list of lousy gift-givers whose choices would be vetted before anything ships."

"Most cleverly - or deviously, depending on your attitude toward this sort of manipulation - the gift giver will be none the wiser: "The user may also be provided with the option of sending a thank you note for the original gift," according to the patent, "even though the original gift is converted." (Alternatively, a recipient could choose to let the giver know he has exchanged the item for something else.)"

And all of this patented gift-returning is in the name of economics. Because shipping costs are so high these days.

So gifts aren't really gifts. They are economic exchanges that happen to fall around the 25th of December (the "holiday" time of the year). But the question is this: If the meaning of life itself is "gift" then how does the reduction of gift to economic exchange impact how I see my identity? If the way I define "gift" is getting or accumulating whatever it is I happen to want at this particular moment, then how does this impact whether or not I view Christmas itself as a gift?

A true gift requires a giver and a receiver. In Amazon's patented return world, the "giver" becomes oneself (mediated by a corporation), and the "receiver" becomes the same person as the "giver" (also mediated by a corporation). We aren't talking about true gifts anymore. We are fueling a culture of isolated, radically autonomous individuals who think true existence is self-sufficiency.

Whether or not Amazon's grand plan is ever officially unveiled, I think it's safe to say that the concept isn't foreign to how our society views the world today. So, thank you, Amazon, for leading us one step farther away from understanding who we are.

And, who are we, you ask? We were created by God an unique, unrepeatable persons ... a pure, complete, radical gift. Where there once was nothing, there is now something. And it's not just "something," but is you. You, as the "receiver" of the gift of yourself have the option of responding to the gift of your life with gratitude or rejecting the gift. And if you receive the gift of yourself, you are also called to give the gift of yourself in return -- returning your life in gratitude to God by serving others. This return of the gift is done irrevocably through marriage and religious life, which express through vows one's total self being "given."

I think I'm going to go enjoy the gift of coffee I received this Christmas now ...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pope Benedict's Christmas 2010

It's worth a few minutes to peruse Pope Benedict XVI's reflections on Christmas Eve. Here's a snippet just to get you started:

"Benedict XVI said that part of Christmas is 'simply joy at God’s closeness. We are grateful that God gives himself into our hands as a child, begging as it were for our love, implanting his peace in our hearts.'"

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Quote book -- Merry Christmas!

"With the birth of Jesus, in the simplicity and poverty of Bethlehem, God gave back dignity to every human being's existence. He offered to all people the possibility to participate in his same divine life. May this immeasurable gift always find hearts ready to receive it!" -- John Paul II

Friday, December 24, 2010

Does the candy cane mean anything?

A high school student recently asked if there is any Christian symbolism to the candy cane. Some maintain that the red and white colors represent Christ as fully human and fully divine. (Therefore, three-colored candy canes would be heretical.) I also came across a lengthier description of the religious significance of the candy cane.

So if you receive a candy cane this Christmas, consider yourself reminded of the great gift of Christ's life and death for you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

First Oprah, then NPR

The Dominicans are enjoying opportunities to share their joy of religious life through radio and television. The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (Ann Arbor, MI) have appeared on Oprah twice. Now the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville, TN) had an appearance on NPR. You can read the article and listen to the show here. The article features great interviews with several sisters and some of their students in Nashville.

One quote: "I met the person for me. I've been known by him forever. And I've known him more or less throughout my life. And now I know that this is where I'm called to." -- Sr. Beatrice Clark, OP

Q's from HS series

Fr. Kyle Schnippel, always eager to reach the young people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, has launched a new feature on the Cincinnati Vocations website: Q's from the HS. Periodically, Fr. Kyle will answer questions submitted by high school students regarding priesthood and religious life. So far, he has covered "Why can't women be priests?" "Is it hard giving up women?" and "Do you get to 'hang out' with friends?"

I'm looking forward to reading future questions in the series.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Love and Life in the Divine Plan conference

Where can you go to hear Janet Smith, Bradley Wilcox, Jennifer Roback Morse, and other marriage and family crusaders speak for $25? The Ruth Institute will sponsor the "Love and Life in the Divine Plan" conference at Aquinas College on Feb. 25-26, 2011. It sounds like a great event. Any maybe it's a little warmer in Nashville?

Learn more here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Update from the Vatican about condoms and HIV

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith just published a note to clarify Pope Benedict XVI's gravely misunderstood comments from Light of the World regarding the use of condoms by those infected with HIV. The statement is available here.

(On a total side note, I have to say that I still love this picture of Pope Benedict, which I took in 2006 in Rome. It seems a bit miraculous that I just held up my camera, while looking at him, and this was the result.)

When you think it can't get any worse ...

... you learn of a sperm bank for celebrity look-alikes. I'm doing research for a talk about designer babies and came across a link to the California clinic. You can scan through hundreds of celebrity names and choose which sports player, actor, singer, politician you want your little child to resemble. Then read the stats about the man in question and decide whether or not to proceed with your dream of having a child who might look like your Hollywood crush.

I feel like I might lose my lunch after scanning through the testimonials, "success" stories and donor profiles. Oh, and if celebrity look-alikes isn't your thing, there's also a "Beautiful People" sperm bank and a (now discontinued) genius sperm bank.

How is this not considered commodifying children?

Have you prayed for priests today?

We often don't think to keep priests in our prayers -- for the grace, courage and growth in holiness necessary to serve the Church. Fr. Rob Jack has given the Archdiocese a tremendous gift by assigning a priest (living or deceased) to each day of the month, affording us the opportunity to pray in a particular way for all of our local priests. You can view his site here.

St. Therese's Daily Prayer for Priests:

O Jesus,
I pray for your faithful and fervent priests;
for your unfaithful and tepid priests;
for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields.
for your tempted priests;
for your lonely and desolate priests;
For your young priests;
for your dying priests;
for the souls of your priests in Purgatory.
But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me:
the priest who baptized me;
the priests who absolved me from my sins;
the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion;
the priests who taught and instructed me;
all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way
(especially …).
O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart,
and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas starts with Christ

It looks like Cincinnati Right to Life is busy. They have five billboards (like the image below) throughout Cincinnati. It's a great message to bring to the area.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mattie Stepanek

Although lengthy, this video is well worth the time! Mattie Stepanek spent his short 14 years sharing the love of God through poetry, speaking and incredible profundity. Through great suffering, he touched -- and continues to touch -- many lives, as will the peace and joy of his mother, Jeni.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Human Experience

Since "The Human Experience" first began its national screenings a few years ago, I have been eager to see the film. Last night I finally had the opportunity.

All I can say is, "Wow." There is something so simple and beautiful about the film's ability to encounter "ordinary" human persons across the globe, asking questions like, "What is the meaning of life?" Without being remotely "preachy," the film succeeds in portraying the beauty of every human life, the gift of living. Even in extreme situations of suffering -- those things we have been trained to say render life meaningless -- we see persons who know that to live is to be a gift.

What we see in the film is that every life has a purpose. It's a purpose and a meaning not grounded in what we do but in who we are. The words "image and likeness of God" are never uttered during the 90 minutes, but they are lived, intuited and experienced.

Life is not meant to be selfishly hoarded. Rather, we "cannot find ourselves except in a sincere gift of self" (Gaudium et Spes #24).

Listening to and entering into others' experiences has the power to transform our own perception of the world and our own future experiences. The way in which we encounter love informs our own way and ability to love others.

"The Human Experience" expresses all of this in cinematic grandeur, with scenes that communicate the beauty of life, the richness of history and the profundity of a smile. Perhaps it is best summed up in one of my favorite John Paul II quotes:
"Life is a talent (cf. Mt 25:14-30) entrusted to us so that we can transform it and increase it, making it a gift to others. No man is an iceberg drifting on the ocean of history. Each one of us belongs to a great family, in which he has his own place and his own role to play. Selfishness makes people deaf and dumb; love opens eyes and hearts, enabling people to make that original and irreplaceable contribution which, together with the thousands of deeds of so many brothers and sisters, often distant and unknown, converges to form the mosaic of charity which can change the tide of history."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Quote book

"Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. ... There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity and the true way of all your loves upon earth." -- J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Update on Dan Crews

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Dan Crews, a quadriplegic in Antioch, IL. The blog post (and a corresponding article on Catholic Exchange and blog post on Reflections of a Paralytic) urge people to send encouraging words and letters to Dan.

Apparently they are. I accidentally came across this article today. Praise God, and keep the letters coming!

JPII handwriting?!

A friend just shared the amazing news that the "JP2 font" is now available! Yes, you can write like JPII now. Read more from Fr. Z here, and see the font (in all its $65 glory) here. It really does look like John Paul's handwriting!

The Twelve Days of a Large Family Christmas

As the oldest of ten children, I can relate to the comments of strangers presented in this fun video.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Just when you think quite possibly you've heard it all, you come across an article about the new show, "Bridalplasty." Yes, that's right, it's time to mix reality television bridal shows and plastic surgery into one amazing opportunity for the winning bride to walk away with a "new and improved" body for her wedding day.

I suppose we are supposed to experience tremendous excitement that brides-to-be might have the unique opportunity for a surgical self-esteem boost. I mean, that's what their wedding is all about, right? Looking their artificial best.

In this interview, two of the show's creators discuss their enthusiasm about the show. Shanna Moakler says, "I work with girls – teens, and young women – and it’s such a personal choice and it’s something that I don’t think you can teach someone all the self-esteem in the world but if they have something that just bothers them they can’t get over it."
Her counterpart, Dr. Dubrow, adds, "You know, it would be nice to say what we should have to have self-confidence. But the truth is self-confidence is composed of a lot of different variables. And you may be amazing person, but always self-conscious about the bump on your nose and when you have that removed you are just a better version of yourself."

So, a better version of oneself involves a nip and tuck, a lipo and a nose job. Shanna Moakler, who says she would support her daughters getting plastic surgery when they are in their 20s, also explains that plastic surgery can change one's identity: "What was really amazing for me, as a woman, was seeing when you did do the procedures on them how it changed their whole identity. Meek girls all of a sudden had self-confidence and more personalities. They were just different women by the end of the journey."

When we identify ourselves externally -- by what we have, what clothing size we wear, what affirmation we are given -- then our identity is malleable. But that's not where our identity lies. Who we are is a gift from God -- created in love by God in order to love God and others. And somehow I don't see how a nose job can alter that identity.

The irony of the plastic surgery movement, which puts so much emphasis on the body, is that it actually disregards the body. The body becomes nothing more than an accessory -- an item, a thing, an object that we can do whatever we want to as long as it makes us "happy." The body is no longer seen as integral to my person.

Coupled with the backdrop of wedding preparations, "Bridalplasty" glaringly reminds us that our culture doesn't care about the body, and simultaneously doesn't understand the person. If beauty is "all about me," then I will never be happy. If I don't receive beauty as a gift from God to reflect His love, then I will never be satisfied. No amount of procedures will change my constant dissatisfaction.

And if our young brides-to-be are so concerned about their physical appearance matching their imaginary fantasies rather than allowing their God-given beauty to reflect God's love to their husband and to the world, then inevitably their understanding of marriage will begin to crumble as well.

Welcome to the Culture

Catholic Exchange has my latest article. Actually, it's a republished article, since it mysteriously disappeared when the site was redesigned a few months ago. In any event, it features a story and reflection I shared at the Kenosis retreat this weekend and at a Louisville Young Catholics event last night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Refreshing insights from a "teen"

I am so proud to know the author of this piece, a local senior in high school. Sebastian considers the modern notion of the "teenager" and issues a challenge to those working with teens:

"A person cannot grow if some one is telling them not to. Dumbing down subjects and trying to make everything “fun” and “teenish” is only making it worse. Instead of presenting a challenge to teens and trying to encourage them to grow, it’s just telling teens, “It’s okay to be rebellious and we embrace you as such and you can do what is fun and easy and we’ll take care of everything else.” If any one good thing has come from the development of “teen,” it’s that the “teen,” by nature, is constantly looking for adventure and a challenge. We’re done with mediocrity and simplicity and everything easy. We want something deep and challenging, yes, even things that require some work and effort."

It's well worth reading the entire post to hear a refreshing perspective of a teenager who is sick of being treated as an incapable child or as an individual who can't help but make poor decisions.

Ready for some good news? -- "Restore" retreat 2010

There is a plethora of negative news stories any time we turn on the TV or surf the Internet. After spending the weekend with 21 amazing teens and 6 incredible adult leaders on the first Kenosis retreat, "Restore," I figured now would be a great time to stop and reflect on some good news.
  • Watching teens from Eastside, Westside and Kentucky, public, private and home school, gathering together for a weekend, creating new friendships.
  • 21 teens in complete silence reflecting for 10 minutes on each talk with a printed meditation and reflection questions.
  • "Clock appointments" -- opportunities for the teens to spend 10 minutes in a one-on-one conversation to get to know each other.
  • Night prayer on Friday and Saturday night.
  • 1 priest for Saturday Mass, 1 priest for Sunday Mass, 4 priests for confession and 1 transitional deacon for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament -- all joyfully sacrificing their time to serve the teens.
  • 2 seminarians spending their entire Saturday at the retreat, serving as sacristans and servers, and interacting with the teens, as witnesses of men who are actively discerning and responding to God's call in their lives.
  • The amazing surprise of all of the men (teens and adults) serving the entire Saturday dinner. I don't know if I have ever seen so many glowing faces. The girls were glowing in appreciation of the gift, and even the guys were glowing in their acts of service. From leading girls to their chairs, pulling their chairs out, taking their orders, serving their food and taking the dishes, it was an honor to watch the joy and selflessness in the room.
  • Listening to the cook tell me how impressed she was by the group of teens.
  • Saturday night Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, with beautiful praise and worship music and opportunities for deeper prayer.
  • Everyone going to Confession.
  • Saturday night Talent Show. Oh, yes, this was a very talented group.
  • Together asking for Our Lady of Guadalupe's intercession for Kenosis on the date on which we usually celebrate her feast day.
  • Observing the mutual respect between the teens and the young adult small group leaders.
All in all, what a blessing! Thank you for all who prayed for the teens this weekend. It would not have been possible without you. Please continue to pray for the teens, that their experience during the retreat will bear fruit in God's perfect timing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Prayers for Restore

This September, 12 high school students (graduates of Theology of the Body for Teens) met at Ruah Woods for the opening meeting of Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life. The teens have been meeting twice a month. This weekend, 20 teens will participate in the first Kenosis retreat, "Restore."
Please keep the teens and leaders in your prayers this weekend, as we go deeper in John Paul II's Theology of the Body, allowing God to restore our identity as sons and daughters of God.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Legal victories -- one step at a time

Yesterday's local pro-life world heard the news that a judge ruled that in a particular case, Planned Parenthood's doctor breached a legal duty of obtaining informed consent before performing an abortion on a 14 year old girl. The case has been brought to court because the 14 year old girl was pregnant by her 22 year old soccer coach. After the abortion that the coach sought, the girl continued to be abused. Legally, statutory rape must be reported to authorities by Planned Parenthood, pregnancy resource centers or any other agency.

Pro-life lawyer in the case, Brian Hurley, said, ""I think it's the first time ever Planned Parenthood has been in breach of that [informed consent] order."

The next stage of the case (which opened in 2005) goes to court in February.

Read more here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Solemnity!

It's the Feast of the Immaculate Conception today. In honor of the occasion, here is a quote from Pope Benedict XVI from last year's Immaculate Conception day Mass:

"Mary Immaculate helps us rediscover and defend what is inside people, because in her there is perfect transparency of soul and body. She is purity in person in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are fully coherent in her and with God’s will. Our Lady teaches us to open up to God’s action and to look at others as he does, starting with the heart, to look upon them with mercy, love, infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, scorned or exploited. '[W]here sins increased, grace overflows all the more.'"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's that time of year ...

... for Sacred Heart Radio's Advent pledge drive. This year the drive will take place throughout the day. I am privileged to be on the air at 5:30 pm with Teresa Tomeo for the fundraiser on Dec. 8, which also happens to be the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Cincinnati often forgets what a gift it is to have Catholic radio in our area. I encourage you to allow God to inspire you with how you can support Sacred Heart Radio tomorrow.

Advent = Waiting

This is incredible! "This" is a two minute video that eloquently contrasts our society's manner of preparing for Christmas with a Catholic vision of living Advent. Having just spent this weekend riding the Washington, DC metro system, many of the scenes strike a particular cord with me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Pill Hurts Women

I just returned from Washington, DC, where I attended HLI-America's conference, "50 Years of 'The Pill' in America." While I'm unpacking my thoughts from the conference, I'd encourage you to visit their newest project -- a website for women to share their experiences with the Pill. How has it harmed women in the past 50 years? Are women being warned of the risks? The new site will serve as a forum for women to tell their stories in the hopes of educating other women about the negative effects of the Pill.

"Revealing Love to Dan"

A slightly longer piece of mine about Dan Crews is on Catholic Exchange today. Check it out here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Quote book

"Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance: through its crystal the world should see God." -- St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Making Men Dispensable"

It's funny how random google searches can launch us onto other paths we were not expecting. Such was the case the other day when I found a paper by a fellow John Paul II Institute alumna, Elizabeth Pietropaoli, entitled, "Making Men Dispensable: Biotechnology, the Media, and the Fate of the Male."

If you have some time, I highly recommend perusing the article. Ms. Pietropaoli does a masterful job explaining today's quest for men to be either "metrosexual" or "hyper-masculine." In short, today's culture has sought to make men dispensable. What effect does that have on men, on women and on society at large? The paper articulates the current situation in an engaging manner, asking the reader to pause to consider what our societal pursuit of androgyny is really doing.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What have you done for your marriage today?

As a contrast to the Huffington Post divorce page I mentioned the other day, check out the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' site, "For Your Marriage." With articles and tips for dating, engaged and married couples, there are plenty of resources to strengthen a marriage.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Confronting a will to die with a right to be loved

"I feel like I'm the only person in the country who does not have a way or an option to kill myself."

So said Dan Crews, a 27-year-old man in Antioch, IL, who became a quadriplegic at age 3 as a result of a car accident.

I read about Dan this afternoon. In articles here and here, his quest to die is described in a tone that seeks to elicit sympathy from the reader. But while sympathy for Dan's condition and situation is one thing, sympathy for him to die is another.

Even Dan's own mother is quoted in the Journal Sentinel article as saying, "I would rather the decision be his, and if he wants to (die), yes, I'll back him to the hilt; if he wants to stay, I'll back him to the hilt."

One can't help but think of John Paul II's words in the background of Dan's account of a life with, "No education prospects. No job prospects. I have no love prospects. All I want is to no longer live like this." In his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, John Paul II wrote, "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (#10).

And here is a tragic story that highlights the truth of John Paul's words. A young man with no friends, with a father away with his new wife, with a mother whose view of love is not willing the good of the other but of "whatever you want," with a television set to pass the time and a dwindling bank account to measure life's worth.

Even if he doesn't yet perceive it, Dan's life has immeasurable worth. He is not what he does, but who he is. And who he is, is a gift from God -- created by eternal Love. How can he come to see his life as a gift? To think of Dan's opportunities to offer his suffering for others, his time to write his own reflections, his possibility of interceding for the intentions of the world, his ability to be a witness to the dignity of all human life!

But how is Dan to know that his life is a gift if he does not encounter authentic love? So, here's the opportunity for the rest of us. Dan's address is publicly listed in the phone book. So we can send him an encouraging note, a Christmas card, a word of inspiration, a promise of prayer.

And perhaps Dan's life will be touched and transformed by the power of love. Maybe over time Dan will no longer mean what he was quoted as saying in one article, "Unless someone breaks into my house and kills me or there's a drive-by shooting where I live, I can't win this fight." Maybe this Advent and Christmas Dan can receive the gift of knowing that his life is a gift, not a moment of defeat.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dominican sisters on Oprah

While the live portion of last week's Oprah episode with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist is not yet available, make sure to check out the taped segments on the Sisters' website. It is absolutely unbelievable how eloquently the sisters are able to articulate their joy and peace in only a few minutes of video.

"Marriage comes and goes, but divorce is forever"

Oh the New York Times. It's where I turn from time to time for articles about the culture today. There is always some new description of love, some personal memoir of the culture of use, some depiction of society's confusion.

There it was today -- in the fashion and style section, no less -- a report on the Huffington Post's new divorce site. With a motto -- "Marriage comes and goes, but divorce is forever," one knows that this is not exactly a Catholic vision of the Sacrament of marriage.
The Times describes the site in its opening sentence:
"You don't have to be divorced to be sucked in by the new HuffPost Divorce
Section on The Huffington Post; you just have to have thought about getting
one. Which basically includes every married person on the planet."
The site scrolls down for what seems like forever, each downward motion of the mouse revealing more divorce stories, divorce advice, divorce comfort foods, divorced parenting tips, divorced dating ideas, divorce's effects on children (some say it's good, some say it's bad). Then there's the article on what to do with sentimental post-jewelry. And on and on it goes.

I guess it shouldn't be so shocking, when all we see in our culture is divorce. It has become so commonplace that it's almost expected. In today's culture a divorce page would only be seen as a logical complement to a wedding page, since the two are seen as inevitable counterparts.

Such will be our path unless we see that marriage is something than greater than ourselves. We don't create marriage. We don't even create our own marriage. Marriage, instead is a form, an institution, that we are given the gift of participating in and sharing. In a sacramental marriage, a husband and wife are given the gift of loving each other with the very love of Christ for the Church. This is a love that is total and forever. It can't be dismissed, cancelled, redefined or retracted.

In a valid marriage, therefore, there can be no such thing as an ending. The statement, "Marriage comes and goes, but divorce is forever" shouldn't make people smile with thoughts of its wittiness, but instead would cringe at its inaccuracy and rejection of the gift of what marriage truly is.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Many faces of giving

I loved seeing today's Cincinnati Enquirer article about Roger Grein, a local Catholic who has given to the community for years. While the article highlights his financial philanthropy, I have also seen Roger's self-giving in other ways. As a daily communicant at St. James in Wyoming, he greets his fellow Mass attendees with a huge smile, always asking how each person is doing. He serves others by his time and talent, not only his treasure. I met Roger at St. James several years ago and witnessed his selfless nature in the way in which he interacted with those present. He has also served others by visiting nursing homes, working in Mexico and in countless other ways.

The Enquirer article highlights his philanthropy, but Roger's acceptance and trust in the face of losing a large portion of his wealth is an example to all of us. Do we handle our finances as a gift from God? Are we stewards of all that God has given of us? Are we so generous in our giving that we can simply surrender when things don't go as planned?

Worth the wait

One of these days I need to sit down and write a proper reflection on Advent. For now, though, with preparations for our inaugural Kenosis retreat in full swing, I leave you with the words of Pope Benedict XVI on Advent as a season of waiting.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Unborn life threatened by the selfisheness of adults

Pope Benedict spoke eloquently on the necessity of protecting the lives of the unborn, listing the selfishness of adults as a prime reason why the unborn's lives are not seen as precious gifts. Watch the 90 second video and English translation here.

The Holy Father has also requested worldwide vigils for "nascent life." For the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, see this flyer for information about this Thursday's vigil.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jason Evert on YouTube

People are still talking about Jason Evert's visit to Cincinnati nearly a month ago. If you are wishing Jason could share advice, truth and humor with you on a more regular basis, check out his YouTube channel. There are plenty of topics and speakers to choose from, offering guidance on difficult topics.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

TOB and Thanksgiving

Whenever we receive a gift, our natural reaction is (or at least should be) to say thank you. Sometimes this takes the form of a verbal thank you, a note of gratitude, or a reciprocal gift.

God has given us the extraordinary gift of our very lives. Until He created us, we didn't exist. We couldn't have existed. Yet, out of His great love, here we are.

What gift could possibly be enough to thank Him for His love and generosity? Nothing short of our very lives.

This Thanksgiving, we need to ponder how we are responding to God's gift. Do we spend one day a year eating turkey on the pretence that we are thankful? Or do we spend our lives, our prayer, our thoughts and our time giving the gift of ourselves with the One who allowed us to respond to His gift in the first place?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More from birthornot ...

Well, it seems that Alicia, the mother of "Baby Wiggles" on the Birthornot website may not fully agree with her husband's pro-life leanings. If the following statement isn't the epitome of today's idea of freedom as all about me -- my decision, my body, my happiness and my desires -- then I don't know what is.

"Many people have talked about my husband’s conservative/libertarian leanings and have made much of his pro-life and conservative posts on other websites. But when it comes to abortion I am the one that wears the pants in the decision because in the end it would be me going through the procedure. Even though my husband’s opinion and beliefs matter to me, I, as the one carrying the baby have the final say about my body and our unborn child. My fears, anxiety and worries about this pregnancy have been completely discounted in favor of discussing my husband’s opinions about unrelated topics like cars and global warming. Abortion is a serious issue and my opinion and position shouldn’t be ignored. Your comments have helped to ease my fears and although I am still cautious about allowing myself to become attached, I am feeling more optimistic about moving forward."

You can read the entire post here.

It's unfortunate that our modern conception of freedom leads to no voice from the baby or the husband/boyfriend. When I wrote for Pregnancy Center East's chastity blog, I posted this overview of men's legal say in abortion.

Until we see freedom as a gift from God that exists for the sake of love, the bigger and stronger person will always "win" by exercising their "freedom" over and against the smaller, weaker parties.

Birthornot website update

It has just been reported that the Minnesota couple claiming to give anyone a vote in whether their unborn child should experience birth or abortion is a hoax. Husband Pete Arnold admitted so to news sources this week. Apparently, he is pro-life, while his wife supports abortion.

But how could anyone think a website reducing a child's life to an online vote is really pro-life? True, it shows the irony of the weight of our vote in an election, but the concept was so disturbing and so insulting to their child. If they are really pregnant, I can't imagine telling "Baby Wiggles" someday that he was the center of an online controversy. Research has shown that the love children need must begin in the womb. Have the Arnolds treated their unborn child with the love and care he needs, or has their publicity stunt led to using him as a pawn in a worldwide debate?

Fortunately the nature of the site has been exposed.

Quote book

"The best way to show my gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy." -- Mother Teresa

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jedidiah Joseph -- the witness of a young life

I never cease to be touched by stories of families expecting children with terminal illness, such as various forms of Trisomy. Baby Jedidiah Joseph's family kept a blog chronicling their experience during the pregnancy, birth and death of their child.

After learning of Jedidiah's probable diagnosis, his mother Elizabeth wrote:
"one other thing that we would miss out on is that we wouldn't have this priceless chance to show just how unconditional our love is for our children. that no matter what- we will accept them and love them. they may not be perfect, and life may be uncertain at times and may cause us stress, but we will love them through the imperfection and the stress- because there is just not another alternative in this family.
the bottom line is this. God is the author of life. i am not going to presume to be his editor. i don't follow him with a red pen slashing through things i think shouldn't be there. every word he pens into existence is worthy of it's spot on the page. we can try to put human reasons to another's existence, but God's reasonings are so beyond the scope of our tiny brains and we cannot hope to understand them fully, at least not here and not now."
Visit the blog and allow yourself to be touched by Jedidiah's brief life and by the courage of his family. Listen to the funeral homily, which unfolds the meaning of suffering. And please say a prayer for his family, who his mourning his life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Did Pope Benedict really change Church teaching on condoms?

When I returned from this weekend's TOB for Teens retreat, one would have thought that the whole Church changed in those 36 hours. Rumors were flying (though certainly not presented as rumors but as facts) that Pope Benedict XVI had changed the Church's teachings on condoms. And if the German Rottweiler himself could "see the light" and have compassion on those with HIV by allowing them moral access to condoms, then surely the Church might change its tune on other things too, right?


Pope Benedict XVI never said condom use is moral. He never "changed" Church teaching. In fact, he can't change something that is intrinsically wrong to being neutral or even good. To have that power would mean that morality is arbitrary, that there is no such thing as objective truth.

So what did the Holy Father say? You can read his actual comments here. But for a summary, let me just say that Pope Benedict XVI said that "we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms." He pointed out that condoms are readily available, and yet AIDS has not gone away. So clearly condoms are not the answer to the problem. Additionally, the pope remarked that a big part of the problem is the "banalization of sexuality." We don't think it's a big deal. In order to counteract that foundational attitude, we need to "ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man's being."

The main source of controversy lies in the Holy Father's remark that in certain situations when a person uses a condom to prevent the spread of HIV, their intention may be to assume responsibility. But this intention does not go far enough. It does not take into account the whole person. It does not understand the gift of sexuality. In a way, one could say that this beginning intention of responsibility may have opened the person to begin to realize that sex is not an individual action, with one's own pleasure as the primary goal. However, the Holy Father is not saying that this intention makes condom use good.

To understand the truth and meaning of sexuality is to know that condoms can never be good because they change the inherent meaning of sexuality. Even if one's intention is to not spread a disease, the life- and love-giving aspects are separated. But what sex is is a union of love and life. So condoms tamper with the very meaning of sex.
Supporting the use of condoms, even to prevent STDs, is to deny the importance of the body. It communicates that what I do with my body does not matter, as long as my soul (or my internal intentions) are okay. But, a human person would not exist without a body and a soul. What I do with my body matters. What I do with visible body communicates something about my invisible soul, thoughts, feelings. It is with my body that I can communicate a total gift of self -- a gift that to be total must include an openness to life.
Clearly HIV/AIDS is a huge problem. But to hand out condoms as a solution is to give Band-Aids to those with gaping wounds. It doesn't solve the problem. Only a true vision of the gift of sexuality, of the meaning of the human person will solve the problem. It can't happen overnight. But to put off the true source of the issue is only to widen it, leading more people to fall into the trap of thinking that sex is just about my own personal pleasure, forgetting that sex has a language attached to it that we cannot change, because we did not create the language. Our bodies are inscribed with the order of love, because we were made in the image and likeness of Love -- God Himself. Knowing that we are made in God's image calls us to behave accordingly, reflecting His love in our thoughts, words and actions.

IHM TOB retreat

When it's a retreat for teens, you'd better believe that food is an important part of the weekend. But the IHM youth ministry adults and teens found a way to combine TOB and food, as evidenced in the pictures below.

For lunch on Saturday, one of the adult core team members brought TOB cookies:

On Sunday morning, the winners of the pancake decorating contest shared a "TOB Garden of Eden" design, complete with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the serpent and one of the four rivers in the garden.

The retreat was a wonderful event, giving 50 teens the opportunity to learn about God's incredible plan for their lives. Thank you to all who prayed for the event. Please keep these young people in your prayers as they bring their experiences to their family and friends.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yes, I'm suggesting you watch Oprah

Set your DVRs to record Oprah on Tuesday, November 23. The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor are back for a second appearance on the program. Not only does this indicate that their first show, which aired in February 2010, was well-received, but it is also impressive, considering the television program will air its last episode in May 2011 and guests are scrambling to book appearances before it's too late. In this case, the Sisters didn't call Oprah; she called them.

You can read more from the Sisters on their website.

Last time the Dominican Sisters shared the Gospel on Oprah, I shared my reflections in an article on Catholic Exchange. As a Theology of the Body educator, I found the Sisters' articulation of TOB throughout their interview to be outstanding. Let's pray for more hearts to be touched by their Tuesday appearance.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Quote book

I'm planning to share this one at the TOB for Teens retreat this weekend in the ladies' session:

"To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women." -- Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Friday, November 19, 2010

O Come, Let Us Adore Him

This morning it was an incredible blessing to be present during a local Catholic high school's all school assembly Holy Hour. The morning began with a testimony/talk, followed by Fr. Kyle Schnippel processing in the auditorium with the Blessed Sacrament. During the remaining twenty minutes, the students were led in praise and worship, and prayer.

At one point, the music leader urged the students to assume a position that would make them comfortable, listing sitting, standing or kneeling as viable options. Most of the students sat.

A moment later, a few juniors knelt. Almost immediately, a wave of students dropped to their knees. Nearly every student knelt for the remaining time of Adoration.

At another point, the music leader suggested that the students open their hands as a gesture of receiving all that the Lord has for them. Girls throughout the room had their arms outstretched far in front of them, as if begging the Lord for His love, grace and mercy.

It was a powerful and moving experience to watch more than 500 teens praising God in the Blessed Sacrament. Throughout the day, they will have the opportunity to experience Eucharistic Adoration in the school chapel, before reposition occurs at the end of the day. I hope these opportunities occur more regularly at Catholic schools, allowing the students an opportunity to encounter the Lord in the midst of their school day.
This particular event was student-initiated and organized. Never doubt the impact God can have through an on-fire young person.

Like 1970 for marriage

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz spoke to his fellow bishops this week, challenging them, "If you had seen Roe v. Wade coming three years out, what would you have done differently?" He likened our current state in the defense of marriage as similar to 1970 to the abortion issue. (Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion for all nine months of pregnancy, was handed down on Jan. 22, 1973).

Archbishop Kurtz has chaired the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, which was just raised to a subcommittee of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Check out the great work they are doing. One of my fellow JPII Institute graduates is hard at work finding new ways for the subcommittee to defend the good of marriage. Visit the site often for new resources.
The question remains a challenge just as much to us at to Archbishop Kurtz's brother bishops: "If you had seen Roe v. Wade coming three years out, what would you have done differently?" How will you defend life and love in the institution of marriage?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What if your life was decided by an online poll?

When I woke up this morning, I read an article about the trend of women tweeting #ihadanabortion. Now at the end of the day, I was just alerted about a Minnesota couple that is using an online poll on their blog to determine whether or not to abort their child.

While many are hoping the site is a sick joke, the couple maintains that they truly want the public to have a vote that makes a difference in the world.

How in the world can a child's life be reduced to an online poll, a click of the mouse, an anonymous decision by someone who will forget about the child the moment the screen closes? And how in the world can the parents post their ultrasound videos and pictures every couple of weeks, naming their baby "Wiggles" and yet be so cold and calculating as to value their baby as nothing more than fodder for an Internet poll?

Prayer requests

Please pray for a local Catholic school that will host a student-initiated all-school Holy Hour tomorrow morning.

Also, please pray for IHM youth group's Theology of the Body for Teens retreat this weekend. There are 51 high school students scheduled to attend.

John Paul didn't say the youth are our hope for no reason.

Raising the bar

When I first looked at the headline of an article sent to me yesterday, I couldn't imagine what could be so exciting about the "Wedding of Gareth Warren and Lindsay Marsh." Despite my misgivings, I decided to take the time to read.

Apparently, Lindsay is the author of a book about purity. Her journey to marrying Gareth is encouraging in a world where standards are constantly declining and those with strong views of chastity and marriage are told to be more realistic.

You can read the article from the Washington Post here.

Who says, "Boys will be boys"?

Last night our Theology of the Body for Teens group split into guy/girl groups to discuss ways to live Theology of the Body in our everyday lives. When the girls returned to the main room, the guys had completed a list on the white board:
Next time I hear a girl say, "There are no good guys out there," they'll have to see this picture.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"What does heaven look like, Josiah?"

Having worked in pro-life, pro-family ministries since graduating from college, I have found myself on more than one occasion sitting at work, watching a brief video about the gift of a child's life (it's for work ... honestly). Many of the video producers must have struck a deal with all viewer's tear ducts before sharing beautiful stories about babies or young children who are "less" in the world's eyes but who touch the world with a strength and impact few could hope to achieve.

Marcel LeJeune recently shared a video about Josiah, a 6-year-old boy with a rare genetic condition that has given him the body of a 60-70 year old.

Watching this ESPN video gives a heartbreaking and heartwarming witness of a little boy who views each day as a gift.

How many six year olds can say they have shared their life story on ESPN?

Quote book

"Nightmares evaporate like mist in sunshine, fears dissolve and suffering vanishes when the whole human being becomes praise and trust, expectation and hope. This is the strength of prayer when it is pure, intense, and total abandonment to God our provident Redeemer." -- John Paul II


Even though I have heard egg donor radio commercials several times in Washington, DC, and most recently in Denver, I never cease to be shocked by them. There is something so disturbing about the idea of purchasing eggs in order to purchase, manufacture and produce a child. Women who need money can easily feel pressured to give up something largely invisible for an easy profit. But what are the consequences?

I'm excited about a new documentary, "Eggsploitation," that takes a second look at the harm done by egg donation and the fertility industry. Check out the trailer and read more on their site.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New president and vice president of the USCCB

Last year I was blessed to attend a day of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' meeting in Baltimore. It was incredible to interact with bishops and cardinals, interview them on behalf of the Son Rise Morning Show and watch the bishops' discussions and presentations. It was particularly exciting to watch them unveil the long anticipated document, "Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan."

The bishops of the United States are meeting again today. They just elected the new president of the USCCB, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, of New York City. The vice president will be Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, a tremendous defender of marriage and major contributor to the aforementioned pastoral letter from the bishops. Both archbishops are joyful, energetic followers of Christ.

The self-gift of suffering

The topic of suffering has been coming up in the past couple of days in various conversations and experiences, so I figure it's a timely one to mention here. Back in the day we used to hear, "Offer it up!" to the point that I felt it nauseating. But in the last year I came to see suffering as something beautiful.

Our suffering, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, can be offered to God as a gift. John Paul II wrote in On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering that suffering opens us to God and to others. We can have two responses to suffering -- either withdrawing more deeply into ourselves in self-centeredness, or allowing the suffering to draw us closer to God and others.

When we visualize our suffering as a gift, which we offer to God, then we can surrender it to Him to become the fertilizer for the seeds God has already planted. Perhaps the fruit will be born in our own lives, or that of friends. Perhaps the fruit will be unseen. Perhaps someone across the globe will benefit from the gift of suffering that we have offered to the Lord.

The world sees suffering as an evil to be avoided at all costs. With Christ, we can see suffering as an opportunity for God to transform the world by leading us all closer to Him. When we give Him our disappointments, discouragement, doubt, loneliness, physical pain, and broken hearts, He can receive our self-gift to serve others in ways we could never imagine.

One inspiring story of this love-transformed suffering is found in Fr. Patrick Rager, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who offered the suffering of his Lou Gehrig's Disease to the Lord to bear fruit in the ministry of priests throughout the world. His obituary in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette is well worth reading.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pro-life billboard in Ireland

Several years ago I became acquainted with Youth Defence when I attended an international pro-life conference in Dublin. The organization is full of dedicated young people who strive to build a culture of life in their country and abroad.

Recently they launched a new billboard campaign. Youth Defence wants to educate Ireland about the reality of human embryos in advance of expected legislation governing embryonic stem cell research and assisted reproduction. You can read more about the passion, creativity and influence of Youth Defence on their website.

Inappropriate Accordian

My latest article on Catholic Exchange reminds us that we can look for ways to build a culture of life and a civilization of love no matter where we go:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Quote book

From the late Congressman Henry Hyde:
"When the time comes as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I've often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God and a terror will rip through your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there will be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, 'Spare him because he loved us,' and God will look at you and say not, 'Did you succeed?' but 'Did you try?'"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Prayers to know God's will

Last night we had lots of discussions about discerning God's will in our Theology of the Body for Teens class. I just came across a link to several prayers for discernment of one's vocation. Check them out here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Novena for couples preparing for their wedding or anniversary

This was a great find today! A novena for couples preparing for their wedding or anniversary is available from Lumen Press. While I haven't read the novena, the sample prayer includes a John Paul II quote of the day. In fact, the booklet says the novena is, "In honor of John Paul II's Theology of the Body." If you or anyone you know is preparing for marriage or a wedding anniversary, I'd encourage you to pray the novena together. It's a wonderful way to live out wedding preparation as marriage preparation.

Romans 8:28

You've probably seen displays of thousands of crosses on church lawns, representing the number of babies killed by abortion every day. Many times, despite the magnitude of the display, the message receives little attention.

This morning I came across a video from Channel 12 about a man arrested for damaging the pro-life cross display at St. Cecilia in Oakley. While it's upsetting that many of the crosses were damaged (they think due to intoxication, not necessarily to animosity toward the message), it appears that Romans 8:28 came into play.

Romans 8:28 says, "We know that all things work for the good of those who love Christ Jesus." While the damage and disrespect done to the crosses is not good in any way, God was able to use this negative situation to bring light to the pro-life display on the news. Just think of how many more people have been exposed to the statement made by the little white crosses because of the news story.

Even when we feel discouraged or persecuted for our pro-life convictions, we have to remember that God is still guiding us and leading us into the Truth.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cincinnati Vocations -- new site

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati's brand new religious vocations website went "live" a few minutes ago. Check it out here.

I was thrilled to see the top post is about Jason Evert's talk last week and how it relates to the topic of priestly/religious vocations.

The new site is a great way to find answers to questions of discernment, the life of the priesthood, local resources, etc.

Remember to keep the local seminarians in your prayers.

Beauty tip #1

Beauty is a concept we try all our lives to define. We think we know it when we see it, but we don’t have the slightest idea how to describe it. Our world tells us it’s all about our clothing size, hair color, make-up and style. Then we hear those meant-to-comfort words, “You’re beautiful on the inside.” And while we know that’s meant to be a compliment, we shrug our shoulders and think, “But I want to be beautiful on the outside too.”

And then we find ourselves at the beginning of the cycle once again, attempting to define beauty and why it matters, and how to “get” it.

Since it’s a concept we spend our lives wrestling with, it’s my plan to have a regular blog post on “Beauty Tips.” While I can’t spend one post unveiling 101 “beauty secrets,” I can share a few thoughts to get us started.

To begin with, we have to ask what is the source of beauty? The more proper question would be: Who is the source of beauty?

God is all True, all Good and all Beautiful. He is the source, home and goal of beauty. All beauty comes from Him, and all beauty is meant to lead us to Him.

If God is all True, all Good and all Beautiful, and He made us in His image and likeness, then we are created to share in His goodness, truth and beauty. He made each and every unique, unrepeatable person to be beautiful.

Regardless of what Cosmo and Seventeen tell us the standard of beauty is, if we don’t see another person as beautiful, it’s not their lack of beauty, but our inability to perceive it.

Beauty isn’t something we get or achieve. Beauty is a gift. Beauty is God’s gift that He shares with us. The purpose of beauty isn’t to make me feel better, to get more attention or to hear a compliment. Beauty is a gift from God that allows us to be a witness to His love and beauty – to lead the world to God, the Source and home of true beauty.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What did you do to get to Mass yesterday?

While driving to Mass this morning, I heard the news on the Son Rise Morning Show about a group of Catholics who went to Mass yesterday morning. It seems rather insignificant to get up in the morning and head to church on a Sunday, yet the story prompted the question: What would you do?

What would you do if 120 people at your parish were held hostage at Mass last Sunday?

What would you do if you knew that going to Mass could result in your death?

What would you do if you spent last Sunday watching the beginning of the death of 51 parishioners and 2 priests the Sunday before?

Last Sunday, Catholics in Baghdad experienced the horror of watching fellow parishioners held hostage, with dozens killed. On All Souls' Day they marched in the funeral procession. And yesterday, many returned. They put their faith, their trust and their love of God before everything else.

The New York Times offered a glimpse of the courage and witness of the Catholics in Baghdad: “'This gives us more strength,'said Sama Wadie, 32, a teacher, his hand wrapped in a bandage. 'We’re not afraid of death because Jesus died for us. Of course we cry, but they’re tears of happiness, because we die for God.'”

At Sunday Mass this week, more than 150 people filed into Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, walking past blood stains and bullet holes. Many who came were still bandaged from their injuries the week before.

In the United States yesterday morning, how many of us begrudgingly went to church? How many complained and sighed and rolled our eyes because of the required Sunday Mass?

We didn't have to walk by bullet holes, or avoid blood stains on the floor. We didn't have to pass through blockades in order to find the local parish. We didn't have to fear being shot because we were openly proclaiming our Catholic faith.

What will we allow the Baghdad Catholics' witness say to us? How will our own view of the gift of Mass be transformed because of the martyrdom of fellow Catholics half a world away? Will we begin to see that the gift of the Eucharist is even something to die for?