Monday, January 31, 2011

"From frat boy to priest, a determined man seeks to serve and transcend" - St. Petersburg Times

When I saw the title -- From frat boy to priest, a determined man seeks to serve and transcend - St. Petersburg Times -- I had no idea to what priest the newspaper was referring. Clicking on the article, I was thrilled to read a profile of Fr. David Toups, a young priest who served in Washington, DC, when I was a graduate student.

The secular article is quite thought-provoking, contrasting two Florida priests -- one who left the priesthood and Fr. Toups, who maintains that personal holiness is necessary to serve as priest. I highly recommend spending a few minutes to read about Fr. Toups' commitment to what it means to be "father."

TimeLapse March for LIFE DC 2011

This clip has made its way all over Facebook, but I wanted to pass it along for any who have not yet seen the immensity of the March for Life. Reports have said that the 2011 March was the biggest ever ... though those reports certainly coming from secular sources, who largely ignore the annual event.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

DC Armory youth rally homily

I know I mentioned Fr. Patrick Riffle's outstanding youth rally homily in my reflections on the March for Life, but it's worth highlighting again. This is the type of homily to read, print out, file, e-mail to friends, read again, quote, and keep on hand for future reference.

A couple of nuggets to get you started:

The Gospel of Life is proclaimed first and foremost in the living out of our
Catholic faith in daily life. If you as a Catholic want to be pro-life, you must
be pro-Christ. That means that you must seek to live out your Catholic Faith in
its entirety. There is no room for half-heartedness, a picking and choosing to
believe in those parts of our faith that appeal to me, that is how the
relativism, which is the Culture of Death, is able to grab hold.

The best way that you as a young person can really be a living witness to the Gospel of Life is through living lives that are chaste and pure. It is one thing to say for a day, I respect and believe in the dignity of each and every person, and it is another to live it out in daily life each and everyday. You see when you live chastely, you are saying to those around you that you know the dignity that God has given them and that you know the dignity with which you were created, and nothing or no one can take that away. Keeping sex within the context of marriage, not viewing pornographic materials, keeping your Facebook page free from inappropriate materials all reaffirm your belief in that the dignity that belongs to each and every person. Men, you need to take the charge in this. So often the media and advocates for abortion would like to portray life issues as a woman’s issue, but it is an issue for both women and men alike. We are naturally the protectors of life. Never do anything that seeks to objectify or lessen the dignity of anyone, yourselves included, but most especially the dignity of a woman.
Read it all here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cast Your Nets!

All high school students are invited to Cast Your Nets, an Archdiocesan event for young people to spend an evening in prayer, praise, fellowship and encouragement. Ruah Woods' Theology of the Body Education Coordinator, Courtney Brown, will be the keynote speaker. Sacred Heart Radio's Anna Mitchell is emcee. Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr.

The event is free and will be held on Sunday, Jan. 30, from 5-9 pm at Good Shepherd parish in Montgomery. More info is available here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Understanding the Priesthood through the Theology of the Body

Fr. Kyle Schnippel looks at the priesthood through the lens of Theology of the Body in his latest Catholic Exchange article:
Understanding the Priesthood through the Theology of the Body.

"Why we have children"

This article is a must-read. "Why we have children" is a poignant articulation of one father expressing his love for his baby daughter. While it is deeply personal, Timothy Dalrymple also expounds upon why children are a gift.

Real love on American Idol

Both Reflections of a Paralytic and The Anchoress linked to this powerful story featured on American Idol:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Awesome March for Life 2011 video

"Because we have been sent into the world as a 'people for life,' our proclamation must also become a genuine celebration of the Gospel of life." -- John Paul II ("Evangelium Vitae" #83).

Quote book

“We do not pray in order that we may change God’s will; rather, we pray to change our own.” -- Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Dysfunctional love songs"

Be sure to check out Chris Stefanick's latest article: Dysfunctional love songs. He does an excellent job examining the distorted messages we are given through today's music.

Reflections on the March for Life, part 3

A continuation of my thoughts on this year's March for Life ...

Monday, January 24

March for Life day began around 4:30 am, with layering, packing, breakfasting and cleaning on the to-do list. There was just enough time before loading the bus for a quick interview with the Son Rise Morning Show. By 6:30 am we were headed to the DC Armory for the overflow youth rally.

At the youth rally, we met up with other Cincinnatians, found old friends, belted praise and worship, prayed the Rosary and prepared for Mass. There were a couple of interactions that were particularly noteworthy.

1) A young man who was in the youth group with which I was traveling (as well as a former TOB for Teens student) is in his first year of college seminary. When he walked into the DC Armory, he was surrounded suddenly by dozens of teens who knew him from youth group. In his cassock, this young seminarian was beaming, as were his friends who saw his joy and peace. Another chaperone reported that an adult walked by and commented, "They are treating him like a rock star." Later, one of my brothers told me that it really was like a celebrity interaction because the joyous reunion was broken up by security, who had to clear the aisles before the beginning of Mass. Seeing this young college seminarian in his visible commitment to discerning God's will was such an inspiring sight for all of us.

2) Before Mass began, I noticed Archbishop Schnurr near the back of the Armory. Since my first March for Life in 2003, I have wanted to see my bishop present at the annual event. At the youth rallies, the bishops' names and dioceses are always mentioned, and I have long desired to hear, "from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati" in the list. This was the year! I thanked the Archbishop for his presence. He shared that he was present because last year the high school students attending the March asked when he would march with them, and he promised them he would do so in 2011. Not only was Archbishop Schnurr a concelebrant of the youth rally (in the picture to the right, he is second to last in the procession), but he also participated in the March for Life with groups of Cincinnati high school students. What a gift to be led by our local shepherd in the pursuit of a culture of life!

The Mass at the DC Armory youth rally was wonderful, with Cardinal DiNardo as the celebrant. The homily by Fr. Patrick Riffle was outstanding. Fr. Riffle issued a tremendous challenge to all present -- to be pro-life we must first be pro-Christ. He linked living chastely with being authentically pro-life, as both are expressions of an understanding of the dignity of the human person. The homily is available online, and I cannot recommend it enough.

After the rally, we headed outside to walk approximately 4 miles to the outdoor March for Life rally. As always, the sheer volume of people present was incredible. Yet, once again consistently with my weekend reflections, the beauty of this gathering is not the volume of people but the uniqueness and unrepeatability of each one present.

There were signs and smiles and tears and frustration and hope and youth and not-as-young and chanting and singing and silence. The walking was very slow to accommodate for all of the people. There were handwarmers and scarves of every color of the rainbow. There were new marchers and veteran marchers. There were Catholics, Protestants, Jews and other religions. What every person had in common was that they had received life as a gift. We were born. And each of us present on January 24, 2011 (estimates say between 250,000-400,000 people) want every human person to be given this gift as well.

When we arrived in front of the Supreme Court building, the Dominicans with whom we were marching, sang the Salve Regina as a closing prayer. We then walked to a House office building to meet the congressman and congresswoman who represent Cincinnati.

Eventually we were back on the bus with a nine hour overnight trip ahead of us. Early in the journey on Monday night, the youth were invited to share their reflections on the weekend. For an hour and a half we heard beautiful reflections, profound insights and moments of deeper conversions. We heard about the teens' attempts to consider the dignity of every person during our DC travels. We listened to appreciation for the youth rally homily. We were told of deeper understanding of the beauty of the pro-life movement. We were given hope and inspiration and encouragement and joy.
Every March for Life offers a new experience. This year my own reflections centered on the inestimable dignity of each human person, precisely as a unique person. And yet again I was reminded that when we view others as persons whom Christ deemed worthy of being saved, then the culture will be transformed. But the only way to pass from a culture of death and a civilization of use to a culture of life and a civilization of love is when we see the dignity of each and every human person -- from the unborn to the defenseless to the elderly -- as a life created by God and redeemed by Him.
Traveling through DC in the days preceding the March allowed us all to see more clearly that we can march for life in our daily interactions. By our joy, peace, and awareness of the gift of dignity and value given by God, we are proclaiming the beauty of life to all whom we encounter, whether we are eating lunch, walking through a museum, standing in front of a monument, riding a bus or strolling down a busy street. And in the daily march for life through life, we are witnessing that life is a gift worth defending.

Reflections on the March for Life, part 2

Continuing my experience of this weekend's March for Life trip ...

Sunday, January 23

Day 2 of the March for Life trip began by heading on the bus for a drive to Arlington National Cemetery. It's a sobering sight to see thousands of white tomb stones cascading down the hillsides of the cemetery, each one representing the death of someone who fought for the country (or a spouse or child). We rushed to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in order to be present for the changing of the guard and were also able to see the presentation of a wreath.

Seeing the incredible dignity given to the "unknown soldier" is yet another reminder that each human person has inestimable worth, just by being a person made in God's image and likeness. The fascinating aspect of this particular tomb is that it does not simply represent all members of the military who died "unknown," but it honors one particular person, while simultaneously honoring all who have died fighting for our country. It's an action like this that shows the dignity of each and every person.

When I see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I can't help but hope that one day we will have a national monument of the Tomb of the Unknown Baby. At my alma mater, Franciscan University of Steubenville, there is a tomb of the unborn, under which seven aborted babies have been buried. Each of them has been named. Each of them is a person. There seems to be no greater way to honor the unborn than to reveal the personhood of a few.

After seeing the burial place of John Kennedy, our group made a brief stop in front of the tomb of Harry Blackmun, the Supreme Court justice who authored the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Together we prayed in front of his tomb for mercy on all who have supported abortion, for healing for men and women who have made abortion decisions, and for a culture of life to flourish in our nation.

We left Arlington and headed to the Smithsonians for lunch and brief tours. From there, our group walked to the Holocaust Museum. It is always a chilling visit, and one that makes for an important stop on a pilgrimage for life. Each visitor to the museum is given an identification card with the name, picture and story of a particular survivor or victim of the Holocaust. Once again, the theme of individual persons, and not just a mass of humanity, as victims of dehumanization was manifest. I could walk through the museum and consider how Maria Sava Moise, a Romanian Gypsy, was impacted by the Nazi regime. Numbers and statistics were not destroyed, but people were.

There is much that can be said about an experience in the Holocaust Museum. Much of it cannot be expressed in words. It is frightening to see how one human person could pulverize the dignity of another. But to walk through the museum and know that a similar act of dehumanization is occurring in our nation every day -- and like the Nazis is protected by law -- is agonizing. I went to Auschwitz in 2006 and will never forget standing along the train tracks with no words. Another girl came up to me and said, "Maybe you are here because God wants you to be able to tell people about the connection between this atrocity and abortion." The connections go deeper than we often realize, and yet how often do we turn a blind eye to abortion, while chastising those who refused to speak or act on behalf of those persecuted and killed in Europe in the '30s and '40s?

After the Holocaust Museum, we traveled to the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Although this was my seventh March for Life, it was the first time I have been present for the Vigil Mass for Life. We arrived three hours before Mass began and were fortunate to get one of the last side chapels with a television screen view of the Mass.

I have heard stories about the magnitude of this particular vigil Mass, and being present for it did not disappoint. The opening procession really did take 40 minutes, with hundreds of seminarians, priests, bishops and cardinals making their way to the altar. When the first opening song began, I was struck by the resonating male voices that boomed throughout the basilica. We speak about a crisis in manhood and a crisis in fatherhood in our world today. Yet here were hundreds of men who have dedicated their lives to being true men and true fathers, who have given their lives in service of their bride the Church. And in that moment of song, I was reminded that our Church is in the capable hands of servants of God who wish to provide and protect with their very lives.

Cardinal DiNardo's homily was excellent. He especially thanked the young people for their witness in the culture of life, exhorting the youth to live their pro-life values through their zest and joy for life.

When 10,000 people pack the largest church in North America for what is probably the biggest annual Mass of the country, there is no way one can leave without renewed hope. A culture of life does not begin with pro-life laws, but with hearts that respond to God's love. And 10,000 hearts is not a bad place to start.

Back at our quarters for the weekend, we closed the day in prayer, with a talk about seeing the value of each person. It brought us back to Arlington National Cemetery, to the war memorials, to the Holocaust Museum, to see that what we had witnessed that day was not a mass sea of humanity, but individual human persons made in God's image and likeness. And the image is no less significant when it comes to the unborn.

More reflections on the March for Life trip to come ...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reflections on the March, part 1

The March for Life in Washington, DC, yesterday, was once again more than incredible. There is something so moving about standing amidst hundreds of thousands of people standing for life, making a statement not only with their presence but with their very lives, that life is a gift. This was my seventh March for Life, but my first as a chaperone.

In considering how best to "report" on the March, I decided that the best way might be to present my own experience on this year's journey. Rather than give a news report, I think it might be more interesting and more fitting to the message to share one perspective of the weekend. Yet, with a lack of sleep and waning intelligence, this reflection will take more than just this afternoon to write. For now, I give you day 1:

Saturday, January 22:

The morning of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade found 46 teenagers piling into a bus, clutching their pillows and loading their bags under the vehicle. It was 8 am when they began arriving in the church parking lot, eager to head to the nation's capital. For some, it was their first trip to the March, while others were veteran attendees.

So, we spent our nine hours on the bus, praying the Rosary, watching "Bella," talking, performing a talent show and enjoying the time. One young man later remarked that he found it interesting that most of the young people engaged each other during the entire trip, rather than leaning on the crutch of iPods and earphones in order to pass the time.

When we arrived in DC, there was much oohing and ahhing over the White House and Capitol Building, which we passed during our drive. Following dinner, we headed back to the bus and into the brutal cold for a nighttime tour of the monuments.

Walking past the World War II monument, seeing the names on the Vietnam War Memorial and looking at the statues of the Korean memorial made me think about the people that these landmarks represent. We could just focus on the idea of the war, or on the number of names represented. But no matter how many names there are, these are not simply words but people. And each person has a story to tell, an experience to share, a life that was lived. And in this case, a life that was sacrificed for our own freedom.

This was the theme of my weekend's reflections -- that a person is a person. That sounds ridiculous and possibly quite simplistic, but it's a profound truth we often ignore. People are not ideas or numbers or statistics. Each person is "unique, unrepeatable, someone chosen by eternal Love," as John Paul II described the person in Theology of the Body. But when we get bogged down in the ideas, the words, the statistics, then it can be hard to see the true personhood of others, and instead people become commodities or countable objects.

In front of the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, I was struck by the attention given to these two men for their defense of freedom. Yet, we were remembering the 38th anniversary of the legalization of the termination of the right to life of the unborn. How ironic that numerous people who support abortion might walk through these memorials and think nothing of the fact that unborn babies are killed each day.

At the same time, it should give hope, that at some point in our nation's history, Jefferson's articulation of the "right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was unwritten, and Lincoln's leadership of the country during the battle against slavery was more than controversial. Many years later, we almost universally look to these men as leaders of our country, whose actions changed the world in which we live in today. Why would we doubt that one day there will be national monuments to the unborn and to those who defended them?

More March for Life reflections to come ...

Monday, January 24, 2011

March for Life

Please pray for all who are marching in the nation's capital today to honor and defend the more than 50 million babies who have been aborted since January 22, 1973. The mainstream media rarely report on the hundreds of thousands of people standing up for life, but I hope to have a full report when I return from the March tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Msgr. Pope is dreaming big for the March for Life

Msgr. Charles Pope, of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, recently shared his dream of a future March for Life. Read his vision here. I won't give away his ideas, other than to say that it involves a pope ... and that is not a reference to Monsignor's own last name.

Quote book

"At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to your generation. Like the great Apostle Paul, you too must feel the full urgency of the task: "Woe to me if I do not evangelize" (1Cor 9,16). Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life. The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of Life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people’s hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love. Now more than ever, in a world that is often without light and without the courage of noble ideals, people need the fresh, vital spirituality of the Gospel."

"Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (Cfr. Rom 1,16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (Cfr. Matth 10,27)." -- John Paul II, World Youth Day 1993

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How do you memorialize more than 50 million people?

Every year the death toll from abortion climbs to even more staggering heights. Today we mark 38 years of legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy in the United States. And today we mourn the lives of more than 50 million pre-born babies, whose lives were brutally taken from them. 50 million. It's an unfathomable number. And sometimes it's so overwhelming that we go about our daily business as if abortion was not happening, because to admit that it is, leaves us with a level of responsibility.

An irony in getting caught up with a number like 50 million is that it almost results in the depersonalization of those children. They become a number and no longer a face.

So for today's anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I want to share a reflection I wrote years ago about an encounter with one woman who was scarred by abortion. The event occurred during a summer-long pro-life walk I did in college. It is one story, portraying the lives of a few people that were forever changed by abortion. And even as the numbers of victims (both babies and mothers) climb higher, each of those numbers is not merely a number -- it's a human person. That's precisely the point.

June 16, 2004:

Four of us were standing outside of a New Hampshire Planned Parenthood. We didn't really want to be there. In fact, if the feeling of knowing we had to be there did not supersede our nauseousness, we probably would have joined the other walkers before we had even arrived at the abortion mill. Nevertheless, we knew God wanted us to be there, even though we noticed that the building wasn't open. We were singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet when a woman approached and silently watched us We stopped singing, thinking she wanted to speak with us, but she made no move to begin a conversation. So, we continued the Chaplet, while she sat on the steps of Planned Parenthood. When she had finished, she simply said, "That was beautiful." She worked across the street, saw our shirts as we were praying, and stayed to hear the Chaplet, after coming closer to see us.

We soon learned that she was raised Catholic but has not been to the Sacraments in years. We could tell by the longing in her voice that she desperately wants to come home to the Church. She confided that several years ago, she and her husband had a young son. He was less than a year old when she discovered that she was pregnant again. Not thinking she could devote enough to both children, she had an abortion. Less than a year later, she found herself pregnant again, and again she had an abortion. To ensure that she was not in the position a third time, she was given birth control pills. We listened in silence as she told us that she now has breast cancer. She told us that she believes she has breast cancer because of the abortions and Pill, which have been linked to breast cancer in various studies.

It was so hard to listen to her heartbreaking tale, knowing how much we want to prevent women from enduring this suffering. Even with the sorrow in her voice, she still insisted that she would have done nothing differently, if given a second chance. Yet, as we continued talking with her, apologizing that no one had offered to help her when she was pregnant, and encouraging her love of the Church, she admitted that the "wheels were beginning to turn" in her head. She said she still had not changed her mind, but she was thinking in a way she never had.

With promised prayers, we left her. One of the young men in our group, however, remained. He gave her a Miraculous Medal, and spoke with her about the beauty of confession. Now all we can do is pray for her, her healing and continued conversion. Obviously God had a reason for us to be in front of that Planned Parenthood today, and I pray He continues to cultivate the seeds we have planted.

For information on post-abortion healing organizations, visit NOPARH, Silent No More, or Rachel's Vineyard.

Friday, January 21, 2011

This is brilliant!

From Nurit Weizman, of Modestly Yours, comes this wonderful imaginary conversation:
Betty: “How’s college going?”
Shirely: “Great! I love it!”
Betty: “Wonderful! What are you majoring in?”
Shirley: “What do you mean?”
Betty: “I mean…what is your major?”
Shirely: “Betty…are you from like the 1950s or something? No one has a major anymore!”
Betty: “They don’t?”
Shirely: “No way! Why settle with one major, when there’s so much to learn about in the world!”
Betty: “Uhh…”
Shirely: “We’re not tied down to any field! Why should one field of study take control over my life? What, am I slave or something?”
Betty: “Uhh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to..”
Shirley: “No, no don’t worry about it. How could you know any better? You just need to start being a bit more mature and honest about yourself. You know, we weren’t created to have one occupation.”
Shirley: “We weren’t?”
Betty: “Of course not! Look at the human brain! There are so many different ways to apply yourself. If we were created to be stimulated by so many different things, why not experiment in everything? I don’t plan on leaving college or thinking about a profession for 20 years!”

Obviously every analogy has its limitations, but I think this one is a good conversation starter. Be sure to read her thoughts in the full blog post here.

French religious sister reveals details of John Paul II miracle :: EWTN News

EWTN News has the scoop on the miracle attributed to John Paul II, which was necessary for approval of the late Holy Father's beatification:

The French religious sister, Marie Simon Pierre, has revealed new details about the miracle that paved the way for John Paul II’s May 1 beatification.

Sister Marie spoke Jan. 14 with both the French television network KTOtv and the Italian network RAI. She recalled that the miracle took place June 2, 2005. “That morning,” she said, “I was totally disabled and could no longer go on.”

The sister said that she thought about calling the superior of her community “to resign from my job at the maternity ward,” where she managed a number of staff members. “I felt so terrible and said to myself: I need to stop and resign from serving.”

Sister Marie’s request to step down was gently declined. Her superior invited Sr. Marie to instead ask John Paul II's intercession for a cure.

“We experienced a deep change in her office that lasted for several minutes. It was great peace and serenity, and I felt at peace and so did she,” Sister Marie revealed.

Her superior then asked her to write John Paul II’s name on a piece of paper, but the Parkinson’s disease had progressed such that she was experiencing severe trembling in her left arm. Her superior then suggested she try writing with her right hand. “I told her I couldn’t because my right hand also trembled.” However her superior insisted, “you can do it, you can do it,” Sister Marie recalled.

She wrote illegibly on the paper but thought, “Perhaps a miracle will happen if I just believe.”

Read the rest here.

Local pro-life events this weekend

Cincinnati Right to Life has provided a list of local events for those unable to travel to Washington, DC for the national March for Life. If you can't make it to DC, please take some time this weekend to stand up for life in your own backyard.

Clark County RTL Educational Fair & Memorial for the Unborn, January 15, 1-4pm, Clark County Public Library - Gaier Room, 201 S. Fountain Ave., Springfield, OH; speaker Dr. Dennis Sullivan, Cedarville University Center for Bioethics (937/521-2401,

Helpers of God's Precious Infants Pro-Life Mass & Prayer Vigil at Planned Parenthood, January 22, 8 a.m. at Holy Name Church, Auburn Ave., Cincinnati (513/984-6742)

27th annual Pro-Life Rosary Procession, January 22, 11 a.m. Cincinnati City Hall to Fountain Square Rally; shuttle service from Fountain Square parking garage to City Hall after 10 AM to 10:50 AM; speakers include Katie Walker of American Life League and Congressman Steve Chabot (513/731-8771)

All Saints Church Pro-life Walk and Memorial, January 22, beginning at 1:00 p.m. in front of All Saints Church, 8939 Montgomery Rd., Cincinnati 45236. There will also be a Eucharistic Benediction and prayer service beginning at 4:00 p.m. prior to Mass at 4:30 p.m. Open to anyone of all ages.

Butler County Right To Life 27th Annual Prayer March for Life around the Butler County Courthouse, January 23, 2-3 p.m. Signs provided and event will take place regardless of the weather. (513/523-6449 or 513/867-1832)

Archdiocese March for Life Student Bus Sendoff, January 23, 7:15 pm, Good Shepherd Parish, 8815 E. Kemper Rd., Cincinnati; presider Father Len Wenke. Archdiocese Director of Pastoral Services; Archbishop Schnurr is attending the March for Life this year (513/421-3131)

March for Life in Washington D.C., January 24; area individuals, schools, groups and buses traveling to attend (

Diocese of Covington Day of Prayer & Penance for an end to abortion, January 24; all parishes requested to set time for Eucharistic Adoration and ten designated parishes conducting Holy Hours for Life 7 p.m. (859/392-1545)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Something to do on a snow day

Well, here we are in the midst of another "snow day." I'll still maintain that this is nothing like the two blizzards in one week we received in Washington, DC last year (see picture), but regardless of the actual snow accumulation, many readers might be looking for something to do. More accurately, you might be looking for a distraction from the work you should be doing.

So, may I offer you an article with three video suggestions? With the 38th anniversary of legalized abortion in our country on Jan. 22, it is fitting to spend some time with these videos portraying the dignity of all human life. Read and watch here: Spark of Goodness.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A new view of the brutality of abortion

I was a little shocked to read this news story about a Philadelphia abortionist who is being charged for multiple counts of murder. Shocked not only because of the brutality of what he is charged with having done, but also because of the clarity of the reporting from a secular news source.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is facing a charge of third degree murder of a female patient in his facility, as well as charges of the death of several babies, who were killed after their birth. While it is believed, according to the article, that Dr. Gosnell has killed hundreds of born babies, he cannot be charged for them all, since no records exist.

Perhaps when people hear of the practices of one Philadelphia abortionist, they will begin to see the brutality of all abortion. What makes the difference between killing a baby during the few seconds before their birth or the few seconds after? What makes the difference at any point during the pregnancy?

Read the whole account, though I will warn you that it is a graphic description: Philly Abortion Doctor Facing 8 Counts Of Murder « CBS Philly – News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of Philadelphia

Learning from the heroes of the Holocaust

The "Catholic Herald" of Great Britain shared, "Ten Catholic heroes of the Holocaust" today. It's an extraordinary look at Catholics of various states of life who dedicated their lives to defending the lives of others. As we prepare to mark the 38th anniversary of legalized abortion in the United States this Saturday, it's an appropriate time to consider the bravery and love of those who risked their own lives (sometimes losing their lives) in order to witness to the dignity of the human person.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can you say "commodity"?

Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman's daughter, born to a "gestational carrier" is garnering lots of attention.

So, the quote of the day comes from a fertility specialist in Boston, Dr. Alan Penzias: "I have seen couples of modest means who save up their money to have one child," he says. "People save up for a house or a car. Some people say they want their money for something much more important."

One more articulation of the mentality of children as commodities.

Aggie Catholics: Would You Take Jesus To Taco Bell?

Marcel LeJeune of "Aggie Catholics" has a wonderful reflection today: Would You Take Jesus To Taco Bell?:

Do you know any misers? I am not talking about someone who prudently spends their money frugally, but someone who selfishly hoards it. A hypothetical example might help illuminate what a miser is.

Imagine you were dating someone who asked you out to dinner. But, the only place they are willing to take you is Taco Bell. It isn't because they think that Taco Bell is good food, but they know they can keep the date cheap. Now imagine that this happens every time you go out on a date. They only want to take you to fast food joints because they don't want to spend their money on taking you anywhere else.

This kind of person is a cheapskate. They selfishly value their money over you. They show just how little they value you by their actions.

How would you feel about the prospects of this relationship continuing? Doesn't sound much like marriage material in my opinion.

But, don't be too quick to judge. Too many Catholics treat Jesus in the same manner. How? Many of us don't tithe, but rather give when it is convenient and easy.

Most Catholics are tippers, not tithers. Many don't sacrificially give to God, but tip Him when they feel like it.

Read it all here.

The topic of tithing is an important one that is rarely addressed other than in terms of, "Tithe so God is more generous to you." It seems a rather self-serving approach. But if God has given us everything, then how can we not respond with generosity? How can we not entrust him with 10% of our finances? If we can't trust God with a portion of our income, then do we really trust Him in other areas?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ignoring vows to speak new ones

The New York Times ruffled many feathers in their recent write-up of Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla in their "Vows" section. Most of the article is pasted below with my comments in dark blue/bold. You can read the whole article here.

WHAT happens when love comes at the wrong time?
What do you mean by love, and what do you mean by "wrong time"? If it's merely a surprise or a seeming inconvenience, that is a different matter than a "wrong time" marked by a wedding band from a different person on one's left hand.

Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla met in 2006 in a pre-kindergarten classroom. They both had children attending the same Upper West Side school. They also both had spouses.

Part “Brady Bunch” and part “The Scarlet Letter,” their story has played out as fodder for neighborhood gossip. But from their perspective, the drama was as unlikely as it was unstoppable.
Love is rooted in the will, not in emotions, so it can hardly be described as, "unstoppable." Instead, the two individuals in question had the ability to make a decision of whether or not to put their marriage before a new relationship.


The connection was immediate, but platonic. In fact, as they became friends so did their spouses. There were dinners, Christmas parties and even family vacations together.

So Ms. Riddell was surprised to find herself eagerly looking for Mr. Partilla at school events — and missing him when he wasn’t there. “I didn’t admit to anyone how I felt,” she said. “To even think about it was disruptive and disloyal.”
If nothing else, this is a good warning for all married couples -- or those who will marry -- marriage does not make a couple immune to temptation. There is a tremendous responsibility to avoid occasions that might foster inappropriate relationships or friendships. When unwelcome feelings arise, there is a need to follow stricter boundaries to protect one's marriage and family.

What she didn’t know was that he was experiencing similar emotions. “First I tried to deny it,” Mr. Partilla said. “Then I tried to ignore it.”

But it was hard to ignore their easy rapport. They got each other’s jokes and finished each other’s sentences. They shared a similar rhythm in the way they talked and moved. The very things one hopes to find in another person, but not when you’re married to someone else.

Ms. Riddell said she remembered crying in the shower, asking: “Why am I being punished? Why did someone throw him in my path when I can’t have him?”

In May 2008, Mr. Partilla invited her for a drink at O’Connell’s, a neighborhood bar. She said she knew something was up, because they had never met on their own before.

“I’ve fallen in love with you,” he recalled saying to her. She jumped up, knocking a glass of beer into his lap, and rushed out of the bar. Five minutes later, he said, she returned and told him, “I feel exactly the same way.” Then she left again.

As Mr. Partilla saw it, their options were either to act on their feelings and break up their marriages or to deny their feelings and live dishonestly. “Pain or more pain,” was how he summarized it.
This phrasing is interesting for a couple of reasons. For one, feelings are not fully in our control, though we have a will to choose what to do with them. So to "deny their feelings" would be to subordinate their emotions to their will, which should be integrated with their love for their spouse -- willing the good of the other. Additionally, the idea of living "dishonestly" is ironic. In fact, by denying their marital vows, the couple was living dishonestly by lying with their bodies. Instead of communicating free, total, faithful and fruitful love, they were ignoring the inherent language of their bodies to communicate authentic love.

“The part that’s hard for people to believe is we didn’t have an affair,” Ms. Riddell said. “I didn’t want to sneak around and sleep with him on the side. I wanted to get up in the morning and read the paper with him.”
If this is supposed to make the relationship sound better, I'm not convinced. Whether or not sexual activity was part of the relationship, the couple was not faithful to their vows in their pursuit of a new marriage-like relationship.

With that goal in mind, they told their spouses. “I did a terrible thing as honorably as I could,” said Mr. Partilla, who moved out of his home, reluctantly leaving his three children. But he returned only days later. Then he boomeranged back and forth for six months.
How does one do a "terrible thing as honorably as I could"?

The pain he had predicted pervaded both of their lives as they faced distraught children and devastated spouses, while the grapevine buzzed and neighbors ostracized them.

“He said, ‘Remind me every day that the kids will be O.K.,’ ” Ms. Riddell recalled. “I would say the kids are going to be great, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives making it so.”
This line is particularly difficult to read. Studies and real life experiences have shown that children of divorce are terribly hurt by their parents' decision. To believe that one's self-seeking, individual choices will not impact children is to continue to concoct an imaginary world where my own desires come first.

The problem was she could not guarantee that.

All they had were their feelings, which Ms. Riddell described as “unconditional and all-encompassing.”
Once again, love is not a feeling. It is a movement of the will, a decision to will the good of the other. Feelings cannot be "unconditional and all-encompassing," as feelings can change, ebb and flow in intensity, and be directed toward another person. The couple's first marriages should attest to the fact that "feelings" are not enough to make a marriage.

“I came to realize it wasn’t a punishment, it was a gift,” she said. “But I had to earn it. Were we brave enough to hold hands and jump?”
Try as I might, I can't even put words to my thoughts on the twisted logic of this statement. The poor "former" spouses and children!

They did jump. Both officially separated from their spouses by late 2008, though they waited until July 2009 before moving in together.

“I didn’t believe in the word soul mate before, but now I do,” said Mr. Partilla, who is 46 and in January is to become a chief operating officer of Dentsu, a Japanese advertising agency.

They finalized their divorces this year. “I will always feel terribly about the pain I caused my ex-husband,” said Ms. Riddell, 44 and working freelance. “It was not what I ever would have wished on him.” Or on her children.
If this is the case, then marriage has no meaning. Vows to commit to lifelong love for another (willing the good of the other) mean nothing if one can seek one's own good at the expense of another.

“My kids are going to look at me and know that I am flawed and not perfect, but also deeply in love,” she said. “We’re going to have a big, noisy, rich life, with more love and more people in it.”

On Nov. 15, the couple were legally wed at the Marriage Bureau in New York by Blanca Martinez of the City Clerk’s office.

Then on Dec. 11, Ms. Riddell donned a Nicole Miller strapless gown for a small ceremony in the presidential suite of the Mandarin Oriental New York hotel. As if on cue, the hotel room phone rang as she began to recite her vows.

Mr. Partilla’s 10-year-old daughter answered. “We’re in the middle of a wedding,” she informed the caller, while her younger two siblings and two soon-to-be step-siblings spun off like small planets freed from the pull of gravity.

“This is life,” said the bride, embracing the messiness of the moment along with her bridegroom. “This is how it goes.”
"Embracing the messiness of the moment" -- I guess marriage here really is what one defines it to be. And in this case it's a change in life motivated by "feelings." Feelings, in and of themselves, are self-centered, because they are focused on how I feel. So in a world like this, marriage is no longer a structure or form of love created by God, in which I participate. It's no longer an opportunity to commit my life to love and sacrifice for another person. It's no longer focused on the "other" -- both spouse and children. Rather, it's a change of life for my sake -- to define my own path of happiness. It's a sad state of affairs (no pun intended) if we celebrate a couple's decision to leave one marriage, so as to enter another. What's to stop this arrangement from being dropped in favor of a third?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Be a man!"

Rocky, at Pregnancy Center East, has some great thoughts about what it means to be a man.

I very seldom hear "you're the man" in good context, and it usually has to do
with picking up a girl or "getting some" from a girl (a.k.a robbing your sister
in Christ of her innocence) and not actually caring about them. Very rarely do
you hear "you're the man" after dating the same girl for a year in a chaste
relationship, or being married for 50 years, or telling guys to stop talking
smack about that girl that has no dignity left. You just don't hear that phrase
in the right context, almost EVER!

Why am i sharing this, you ask?
Because i want to rebel, I am starting now, we are going to change that phrase.
It is time for real men to be called out and called on again. I want to start
pointing out guys that are being men and tell them "you're the man" when they
are being chivalrous, when they are calling their brothers on to holiness. There
are too many men out there that don't get the compliment they deserve because
the phrase has become "watered down" and "used up" on the opposite.

Read his challenge to men here.

Fishers of Men

As Vocation Awareness Week comes to an end, be sure to watch the Grassroots Films' production, "Fishers of Men." Absolutely beautiful and inspiring!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Modern teenagers ... want depth"

Amen, Amen, Amen to this article, profiling the ministries of Bob Lesnefsky and Mark Hart.

A couple of gems:

One of Dirty Vagabond Ministries' core principles is that "the greatest intimacy
with Christ is found in the sacramental life of the Church." Lesnefsky admits
that many inner-city youth don't have a foundation of faith, so exposure to
Church and the sacraments can be "a little jarring" for them. But by sharing
family-style meals and attending Mass together, these young people undergo "a
beautiful awakening."


Hart has discovered that "Modern teenagers . . . want depth. They want deep
relationships; they just don't know how to have them. They're really drawn to
the mystical. When you start walking them into the mystical elements of the
sacraments and the depth and breadth of the mysteries of the church, their
hearts become enlivened." Hart sees part of the problem in reaching youth to be
adults who talk at them, not to them. He points out, "We should take a lesson
from Christ on the road to Emmaus. He walked and listened before He taught."

Despite the challenges of reaching teens, Hart concludes, "People talk
about all the negatives of teenagers (but) . . . I am consistently amazed and
blown away by the quality of our young people."

Read it all.

Quote book

"Jesus Christ is the stable principle and fixed center of the mission that God Himself has entrusted to man. We must all share in this mission and concentrate all our forces on it, since it is more necessary than ever for modern mankind. If this mission seems to encounter greater opposition nowadays than ever before, this shows that today it is more necessary that ever and, in spite of the opposition, more awaited than ever." -- John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis (emphasis added)

Friday, January 14, 2011

What the pro-life movement needs to do better

Abby Johnson, former director of a Texas Planned Parenthood and author of the new book, unPlanned, shared some reflections on problems within the pro-life movement in a recent interview with Christianity Today. In particular, I have to agree with her criticism of pro-life infighting among organizations. You can read the interview here.

13-year-old boy sacrifices his life for his family

In Australia's recent flooding, one 13-year-old boy begged that his rescuer save his younger brother first. When his brother was saved, Jordan Rice, who was afraid of water, insisted that his mother be saved next. Tragically, both Jordan and his mother were swept away in the rushing waters.

It's a devastating story, and yet testifies to the courage and manhood of Jordan Rice, who sacrificed his life for his family. Read the full account here.

John Paul II's beatification

You know it's going to be a good day when you wake up to a text message that informs you that John Paul's beatification will be on May 1, 2011. When I first saw the date, I thought it was a strange day to schedule the event. It only took a couple of minutes of thinking, however, to realize that May 1 of this year is Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast day which the late Holy Father instituted. A little while later I was also struck by May 1 ("Worker's Day") as a day often associated with communism. What a fitting way to allow John Paul's witness to counter a communist vision of the human person once again.

The text for the decree of John Paul II's beatification is available here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nine Days that Changed the World -- coming to Cincinnati!

The new documentary chronicling John Paul II's first papal pilgrimage to Poland, which became the beginning of the end of Communism, will be shown at the Cincinnati Museum Center at 7pm on Feb. 2. Newt and Callista Gingrich, the makers of the film, will be present for the screening.

For more information, go here.

And make sure to watch the trailer:

The Cosmopolitan Life | First Things

David Mills' take on the enslaving mentality embraced by Cosmo is worth reading, especially by young women inundated by the "Sex and the City" lifestyle.

Two particularly insightful paragraphs:

That is the Cosmo ideal. A love that lasts only as long as you want it to last. A love that you can speak of as if it were eternal, then drop when you want to. A love that is “special” though there is not a clergyman in sight.


But better still, infinitely better, would be to be one of the strong single women of Christian culture, the Dorothy Days and Mother Teresas, the nuns, and others not so prominent. Blessed are they who do not worry about finding and keeping a man because they know the Man.

Read it all: The Cosmopolitan Life First Things

A step closer to Blessed John Paul II

Vatican insiders are expecting Pope Benedict XVI to approve the beatification of John Paul II tomorrow. There is a strong possibility that the beatification will take place on October 16, the anniversary of his election to the papacy.

Apparently, there are also preparations to bring John Paul's tomb to the main church of St. Peter's Basilica. The side chapel is next to the Pieta. You can read about the process here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One woman speaks out about abortion-suicide connection

This morning on the Son Rise Morning Show, I heard Donetta Robben share the story of her niece, who committed suicide only months after having an abortion. Intrigued by the interview, I found a 2001 article written by Donetta Robben. It is a painful story, but one that needs to be heard.

Here is an excerpt:
Donetta Robben gazed at her brother sitting across the rectangle table in the
investigator’s office. Both were anxious for answers.

The investigator
looked sympathetic as she sat down with the family. The words became blurred and
blended together: death, journals, drinking, pills, hurt, abortion. Abortion?

The word pierced.

Just two days ago Edwin Gillespie
had buried his daughter. Now he, along with his two children and his sister were
trying to understand why.

Shelly was a 22-year-old college student at
the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She was pretty, worked hard – keeping two jobs
along with school and liked to have fun – go to bars – party with friends. A
typical college student, or so the family thought.

Then, the call came.
Shelly was dead. An accidental overdose, or so read the autopsy report.

The answers to Shelly’s death were not in the report, nor were they in
the investigator’s office. The answers were written in Shelly’s journals –
several notebooks, where she poured out her internal pain, her moral struggles,
her broken relationships, her failure as a mother – as a daughter of God.

Shelly did have an abortion five months prior to her death. The family
did not know. Shelly thought they might hate her. So, instead, she became locked
in her own internal prison where the bars became heavier and heavier until she
felt crushed under the weight.

The trauma began before Shelly even left
for the clinic. She writes in her journal, "Dear Lord,
I sit here alone with
my thoughts wondering if you will ever find it in your heart to forgive me. Why
do I continue to fail you? I’m failing you because I’m turning away from the
precious gift of having a child. A child. A breathing, living, beautiful life
that I created but too selfish to accept from you. Will you still love me as a
child of yours? Will I still love me after today?"

Read the rest: As Abortion Advocates March, Woman’s Death Reveals Horror of Abortion

Beauty Will Save the World

Catholic Exchange published my latest article today: Beauty Will Save the World.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Place, love and gift: Hannah Coulter

There have been so many “Brave New World” real-life scenarios circling the Internet in the past few weeks, that I had to escape to the refreshing pages of Hannah Coulter, a novel by Kentucky farmer and writer Wendell Berry. It was required reading for our Book Forum at the JPII Institute. With classes, mile-high readings and other assignments, I can’t say that I fully enjoyed the book that time around. But this time, the book was absolutely refreshing.

Hannah Coulter is the kind of book that can only be properly read in silence. It’s not because of difficult vocabulary or puzzling theological insights. But the fictional reflections of Hannah make one yearn for a silence that we now have to look for in our world. Silence is no longer simply given. It has to be sought.

The same goes for other things – generosity, faithfulness, family life. Of course these things always required grace and the will and freedom and God’s love, but today they are often forgotten. Today they are often not desired.

So Hannah’s simple yet profound reflections on her life bring us from one world into our present situation. And as the book progresses we see the clash between the world she shared with her husband, Nathan, and the world her grandchildren know. We are led to our own reflections on commitment, education, community, marriage, and the pressures on anyone living in western culture today. Hannah Coulter gives us room to think.

What does this have to do with a blog dedicated to issues of life and love? Hannah’s own witness is a witness to the dual simplicity and profundity of marriage. She offers a vision of her own journey in love that we have lost sight of. She puts words – or at least the beginnings of words – to thoughts that have no words.

It’s not necessarily a book about marriage. It’s a book about life. A book that shows us that each person has a story to tell, whether it would make a blockbuster movie or not. A book that implicitly reveals what our world is missing in giving up on authentic community.

So, may I recommend that you spend some time this winter, sitting in a quiet corner with Hannah Coulter to reexamine the world in which we live? And you can hear her wisdom in thoughts such as this:

“Watching him and watching myself in my memory now, I know again what I knew before, but now I know more than that. Now I know what we were trying to stand for, and what I believe we did stand for: the possibility that among the world’s wars and sufferings two people could love each other for a long time, until death and beyond, and could make a place for each other that would be a part of their love, as their love for each other would be a way of loving their place. This love would be one of the acts of the greater love that holds and cherishes all the world” (67-68).

Monday, January 10, 2011

"I will love you and honor you all the days of your life ..."

Elizabeth Scalia linked to this touching story of a 76-year-old man who saved his wife's life in the Arizona tragedy this weekend. You can read the full reflection here, but first meet Dorwin Stoddard:

Like many men, Dorwin Stoddard had stood before an alter and promised God and those present, that he would love, cherish and protect Mavy for as long as they both should live. On Saturday, he made good on that promise in no uncertain terms.

The Arizona Daily Star reported Sunday that the retired couple was standing in line waiting to meet Giffords when a gunman, later identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, reportedly began shooting a semiautomatic weapon. Dorwan immediately pushed Mavy to the ground and covered her with his own body. He was shot in the head and for a few minutes was able to talk with Mavy before he quit breathing.

Fr. John Harvey: A portrait of courage

Soon after the new year, Fr. John Harvey, a 92-year-old priest passed away. The National Catholic Register recently published a portrait of his life. Fr. Harvey was known for founding an organization called "Courage," which aimed to assist those with same-sex attractions to live lives of chastity. Fr. Harvey's courage, commitment and service to the Church are worth reading about in the article.

The beauty of baptism

So often we think of the Sacrament of Baptism as a few seconds of an infant's life mingled with holy water. Baptism, of course, is so much more than that. In the moment of our baptism, we become incorporated into the Body of Christ. Literally. No longer are we able to live for ourselves alone. Everything that we do is for and with others.

For yesterday's feast of the Baptism of Christ, Pope Benedict shared some wonderful reflections.


VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2011 ( Benedict XVI is encouraging the faithful to "rediscover the beauty of being baptized and belonging to the great family of God."

The Pope made this invitation today, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

He called the commitment of baptism "a great responsibility, which comes from a great gift!"

"I would like to encourage all of the faithful to rediscover the beauty of being baptized and belonging to the great family of God," the Holy Father said, "and to giving a joyous witness to their own faith so that they might bear the fruits of goodness and concord."

The Pontiff noted how each baptized person "acquires the character of son from the name Christian, indisputable sign that the Holy Spirit brings man to be born 'again' from the womb of the Church."

He continued: "Blessed Anotonio Rosmini says that 'the baptized person undergoes a secret but most powerful operation by which he is raised up to the supernatural order, he is placed in communication with God.'"

The Bishop of Rome concluded by entrusting to Mary, Help of Christians, the "parents who are preparing their children for baptism and catechists as well. May the whole community share in the joy of being reborn by the water of the Holy Spirit!"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

JPII's "Theological Juvenology"

Fr. Roger Landry, a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and graduate of the JPII Institute in Rome, has a wonderfully articulated summary of John Paul's way of sharing the faith with youth. It is an inspiring read, especially for those who have the gift of working with young people.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Quote book

"We need to work to change the culture. And that demands a lifelong commitment to education, Christian formation and, ultimately, conversion. Only saints really change the world. And there lies our ultimate victory: If we change one heart at a time, while we save one unborn life at a time, the day will come when we won't need to worry about saving babies, because they'll be surrounded by a loving, welcoming culture." -- Archbishop Charles Chaput

Friday, January 7, 2011

Man saves 80 babies from abortion, raising 50 of them

This is an incredibly beautiful story of one man's pro-life convictions in action. The video is a must-see.

Contrast his selfless actions with an Australian couple's decision to abort their twin boys because they want a daughter. (Now the couple is pursuing designer baby IVF in order to "produce" a girl.)

Teaching the young how to be an object

In French Vogue's recent edition, I'm not sure which is more disturbing -- the photographers who thought shooting sexualized images of six-year-old models was a good idea, or the parents who consented to allowing their daughters to be used for magazine sales and goodness knows what creepy-minded "readers."

Yes, the French edition of the fashion magazine published a 15-page photo spread of kindergarten-aged girls, all dolled up in clothes worn by those a couple of decades older. They were placed in poses and situations intended to evoke sexual imagery. Their make-up is dramatically done. Their hair is arranged identically to adult models. Their heels are inches (plural!) high.

And they are six.

I will never forget an 11 or 12 year old girl shyly explaining to me in a classroom that she had to give up reading teen magazines because they made her feel worthless, ugly and a failure. Her classmates snickered, but I greatly admired her bravery, as well as her willingness to forgo cultural norms (to some, cultural necessities) in order to grow in authentic womanhood.

It's not just a handful of little girls who recently graduated preschool who are affected by Vogue's photo shoot. Moms will receive their subscriptions, and their little daughters who want to be just like mom will leaf through the pages innocently, only to be confronted with other children their age, or younger, who already look like mature, stunning, articulate adults. And won't that inspire a raid of mom's closet to find the heels and the make-up and the clothing? Or won't it begin a transformation of the girl's thoughts as to what outfits she wants to buy at the store? Who she wants to look like?

There are so many angles from which to decry the photos -- the photographer, the editor, the parents, the "readers," the children who will find the pictures. And through it all, the little girl on the left page of the picture above has eyes that are begging for someone to recognize that at age six, she is more than an object. In fact, that she's not an object at all. That she's a person who deserves to be loved unconditionally for who she is, not what she can do. Someone to tell her that her future model-inspired temptations to anorexia, self-hate, 24/7 make-up and revealing clothing can be thrown out the window for a love that has already been given to her by a God who created her beautifully in His own image and likeness. But who is going to tell her?

Egypt's Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as "human shields" - Ahram Online

This was a touching story, captured even in the headline: Egypt's Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as "human shields" - Ahram Online. Catholics are beings persecuted to death (literally) in the Middle East and surrounding areas, and we need to keep them in our prayers.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New book by former Planned Parenthood leader

Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood leader and employee, will release her new book, Unplanned next week. Abby was the keynote speaker at Cincinnati Right to Life's October banquet. The book is her account of the inner workings of Planned Parenthood and her own conversion experience.

Enormous book sales on the release date (January 11) will send a resounding message to Planned Parenthood.
It sounds like a phenomenal read that will hopefully soften many hearts to the beauty of a culture of life.

More good news is that Marcel LeJeune of Texas A & M campus ministry says that Abby is currently in RCIA to become Catholic.

Pope Benedict visits children in the hospital

Pope Benedict XVI helped children at the Gemelli hospital in Rome have a happier Epiphany when he stopped by for a visit yesterday. His brief remarks are translated in this article describing the visit.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Great news: Bishop Cordileone named chairman of USCCB Defense of Marriage committee

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops just announced their appointment of Oakland's Bishop Salvatore Cordileone as the chairman of the Defense of Marriage committee.

In the USCCB's press release, Bishop Cordileone said:
“I am grateful for the leadership of Archbishop Kurtz and humbled by this
opportunity to serve the bishops of the United States, the Church and our
country on this most vital and defining issue of our day,” Bishop Cordileone
said. “Marriage and the family are the essential coordinates for society. How
well we as a society protect and promote marriage and the family is the measure
of how well we stand for the inviolable dignity and good of every individual in
our society, without exception. The consequences for our future—especially that
of our nation’s children—cannot be greater and must not be ignored.”

Bishop Cordileone was instrumental in defending marriage in California's Prop 8 campaign.

In the fall of 2009, Bishop Cordileone traveled to Washington, DC, for the inaugural John Paul the Great Legacy Project. You can listen to his phenomenal talk here.

Let's keep all those involved in the Defense of Marriage committee in our prayers. They are engaged in great, but difficult, work for the good of the Church and the society.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Santo Subito: 2011?!

Word has it that John Paul II's miracle necessary for the beatification process has been approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This means that his beatification is likely to occur in 2011. John Allen has the scoop: Report: Beatification of John Paul II likely in 2011 National Catholic Reporter.

While rumors circulated in 2009 and 2010 that the late Holy Father would be beatified on April 2, 2010, the fifth anniversary of his death, the idea eventually became absurd when rumor-spreaders and receivers learned that April 2, 2010 was Good Friday. I still maintain that this "coincidence" of dates provided an eloquent reminder of the meaning of John Paul's life and death.

In any event, the beatification has been long-awaited, with many of us never thinking we would be heading into a sixth year since the Holy Father's death without a "Bl." or "St." before his name. An October 16 beatification would be an incredible gift to the Church and would leave plenty of time for travel arrangements to be made for those who want to line St. Peter's Square for the big event.

"The Unborn Paradox"

The final line of Ross Douthat's New York Times piece, "The Unborn Paradox," reflecting on MTV's recent abortion special contrasted with the infertility crisis is quite thought-provoking:

"This is the paradox of America’s unborn. No life is so desperately sought after,
so hungrily desired, so carefully nurtured. And yet no life is so legally
unprotected, and so frequently destroyed."

Be sure to read the whole article.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Beauty will save the world

I’m in the mood to write, but I’m not sure what subject to which I should take pen, er, keyboard. There were days in college when I would sit in front my laptop and begin typing. Typing anything that came to mind. My keyboard would bring me zigzagging down various topics and avenues, taking sharp turns and U-turns and surprise turns, before stopping at a place at which I could reflect on all that I had written. But, as this is a blog and others are subjected to reading my meandering thoughts, I suppose I shouldn’t meander too much.

But here’s something I’ve been considering – in reading George Weigel’s concluding volume on John Paul II’s life, The End and the Beginning, I was struck yet again by the beauty of Polish culture. It strikes me whenever I read tales of Catholic Poles secretly and even dangerously protecting their identity through various cultural expressions. They would share poetry, act out Polish plays, enjoy a concert. And through their culture – poetry, music, plays, art – they were able to preserve a sense of their dignity and of their identity as Poles. In the face of horribly demeaning, dehumanizing behaviors surrounding them, they looked at the beauty of art and true culture and were raised to something higher.

But what do we have? I wonder if we were underground Catholics attempting to reinvigorate our sense of dignity and our American identity, what would we share? Would we reminisce over Shel Silverstein poetry, risk our heads over some Lady Gaga tunes, and illegally perform SNL skits? What “culture” have we cultivated in the last fifty or so years, and would it be worth risking our lives over? Is it even culture?

In his, “Letter to Artists,” John Paul II wrote about the importance of true art, even going so far as to say that “the Church needs art.” Artists have a calling to represent the beautiful, and beauty has a key role in our lives. The late Holy Father wrote, “Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savor life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: ‘Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!’” (#16).

Do we surround ourselves with beauty? Our dear Polish brothers and sisters of yesteryear were willing to risk their lives for beauty. We have all legal freedom to visit the art museum, listen to Mozart or watch a Shakespearean play, but how often do we enjoy these things? How often do we encounter true beauty?

I think true beauty is so foreign to us that many times we can’t appreciate it. True beauty requires the patience of taking time to appreciate it. For me, John Paul II’s poetic language is deeply beautiful, causing me to highlight, underline and asterisk much of his masterful imagery. Yet time and time again I hear people complain that John Paul’s writing style is too much for them. I hear variations of, “I mean, come on, John Paul, just get to the point!” But maybe the beauty and the poetry and the necessity of patience to receive it is part of the point. And we are missing it.

On that note, let me quote the Holy Father in his aforementioned “Letter to Artists” when he challenged, “Artists of the world, may your many different paths all lead to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy” (#16).

Let’s make 2011 a time of seeking true beauty, for as Dostoevsky once wrote, “Beauty will save the world.”

Sunday, January 2, 2011

An interesting take on MTV's abortion special

Matthew Archbold discusses what MTV's not showing an abortion on their "abortion special" says about the reality of abortion in this National Catholic Register post.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Still looking for a new year's resolution?

We all know that the new year is supposed to be a time of more workouts, less eating, no smoking and better habits in the realm of keeping in touch. But there are plenty of other ways to make the new year an excuse for improvement. If you want to make the first day of 2011 an opportunity to commit to something new or to recommit to something you've lost sight of, here are a few unique ideas:

  1. Read about the saint of the day every day. You can buy a book of saints or check out's saint of the day section.

  2. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

  3. Read Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audience.

  4. Take a class at Ruah Woods.

  5. Commit to praying for young people and for the teens involved with Kenosis. This work is absolutely impossible without great prayer support.

  6. Spend five minutes in silence each day. No radio, no iPod, no computer. It's quite easy to have silence in the car. After awhile, you will begin to crave times of silence.

  7. Find at least one thing to be truly grateful for each day.

  8. Read a book about Theology of the Body. (Need suggestions? I can give you a list to last the rest of your life.)

  9. Listen to Catholic radio.

10. Write an occasional real, handwritten letter to friends as a way of keeping in touch and showing them that they are worth the extra time of picking up a pen rather than pounding on the keyboard.

Quote book -- Happy Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God!

"She is the one whom every man loves when he loves a woman -- whether he knows it or not. She is what every woman wants to be when she looks at herself. She is the woman whom every man marries in ideal when he takes a spouse; she is hidden as an ideal in the discontent of every woman with the carnal aggressiveness of man; she is the secret desire every woman has to be honored and fostered; she is the way every woman wants to command respect and love because of the beauty of her goodness of body and soul. And this blueprint love, whom God loved before the world was made, this Dream Woman before women were, is the one of whom every heart can say in its depth of depths: 'She is the woman I love!'" -- Archbishop Fulton Sheen