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: http://catholicexchange.com/2010/11/15/141434/.

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?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Romance without Regret

Thank you to all who made it possible for 478 people to hear Jason Evert's message of chastity last night at The Underground. It was tremendous to see so many young people pouring into the venue, beginning at 6:30 pm, and then watching how engaged they were by Jason's talk.

For those who wish to continue the spark that may have begun last night in hearing about God's beautiful plan for our lives, check out the opportunities we are planning in the future. Taking a Theology of the Body for Teens class and then delving into Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life are perfect ways to allow God to continue the great work He has begun in your heart.

*** Photo from Fr. Kyle Schnippel.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Demand your dignity

Young ladies should check out the remarkable website DemandYourDignity.com. A group of young men will bring you through a journey, exploring pertinent issues such as modesty, beauty and the meaning of chastity. The men who created the site and eager to share their conviction that women should be loved and not used. Visit the site and share it with your friends.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jason Evert is in Cincy!

Jason Evert's plane has arrived! Students from Elder, Seton, McNicholas, Carroll, Ursuline, St. Ursula and Purcell Marian will hear Jason's powerful message this week.

On Thursday, Nov. 4, Jason will present, "Romance Without Regret," along with a Q & A session at The Underground in Cincinnati. Doors open at 6:30 pm. The event begins at 7 pm with music and entertainment by the Jon Paul Hebert Band. The event is free and open to the public.

For more info and a downloadable flyer, visit http://www.kenosislife.com/.

If you have never heard Jason before, now is your opportunity to hear his gift of articulating the message of chastity.

"Purity is not about following a list of rules so that you'll avoid hell. It's about wanting heaven for the person you love." -- Jason Evert

"Jesus says to each man, 'Look at a crucifix. This is how I got my bride to heaven. How else do you think you will get yours there?" -- Jason Evert

Unshakeable hope

The world says that young people are practically predetermined to make bad decisions -- that they aren't smart enough, good enough, faithful enough, interested enough, selfless enough. I would have to agree with John Paul II that the opposite is the case.

"Unshakeable Hope" is my blog as Theology of the Body Education Coordinator at Ruah Woods. It is written with the conviction that young people are called to great things, and with God's grace are capable of great things.

When I was standing in a field in Toronto in 2002, listening to John Paul II address thousands of us at World Youth Day, he spoke these words:

"You are young and the Pope is old, 82 or 83 is not the same as 22 or 23. But the Pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakeably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. You are our hope, the young are our hope.

Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son."