Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How birth control changes attraction

For those who prefer a video version of the article I posted from the Wall Street Journal recently:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quote book

"Spouses love each other with a love that is greater than themselves, in fact, with the very love that brought them into existence in the first place!" -- Carl Anderson and Fr. Jose Granados, Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body, 88.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A gender storm leaves us all in danger

When I was studying at the John Paul II Institute, one of my professors would frequently remark that the world's conception of freedom, when logically carried out, would make choosing one's own gender the ultimate act of freedom. Since we see freedom as the ability to choose between A and B without any desire or pull or "claim" from A or from B, then "freedom" would have to lead us to ignore our bodies and our gender as already "deciding" something for us.

We would all ponder our professor's words, knowing that they made sense. But what happens when one is confronted with a news story that makes his words also prophetic?

A Toronto couple is raising their child, Storm, without gender. They refuse to tell anyone whether or not they have a son or a daughter. And their other two sons, Jazz and Kio, are encouraged to experiment with how they defy gender stereotypes. So, they pull out their dresses and pigtails and pink sparkly bikes just because they want to. And the parents stand proud that their children aren't going to bow down to any preconceived notions of gender.

The article startlingly underscored the exact reasoning of my professor:

When Storm was born, the couple sent an email to friends and family: “We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...).”


Witterick and Stocker believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females. Some say their choice is alienating.

In an age where helicopter parents hover nervously over their kids micromanaging their lives, and tiger moms ferociously push their progeny to get into Harvard, Stocker, 39, and Witterick, 38, believe kids can make meaningful decisions for themselves from a very early age.

“What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,” says Stocker.

Jazz and Kio have picked out their own clothes in the boys and girls sections of stores since they were 18 months old. Just this week, Jazz unearthed a pink dress at Value Village, which he loves because it “really poofs out at the bottom. It feels so nice.” The boys decide whether to cut their hair or let it grow.

Like all mothers and fathers, Witterick and Stocker struggle with parenting decisions. The boys are encouraged to challenge how they’re expected to look and act based on their sex.

So, we have reached a world where the body doesn't matter. And if the body doesn't matter, then being male or female doesn't appear to make much of a difference.

If, on the other hand, we see that God is Love -- literally, a Communion of Persons -- and that He creates us in His image and likeness, with the ability to give and receive love, then we also see that our bodies have a language. Our bodies matter. Our bodies aren't some sort of "dumb matter" that just so happens to exist. Our bodies are saturated with meaning -- and that meaning is love. Since love requires giving and receiving, we also see a concrete reminder of our call to love in our masculinity and femininity. Our gender is expressed biologically because our bodies express something more. They point us to our origin and destiny of love.

But the inherent meaning of the body is something we have largely forgotten. Now, instead, we have parents content with experimenting with their children, as if they were animals rather than human persons:

Dr. Ken Zucker, considered a world expert on gender identity and head of the gender identity service for children at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, calls this a “social experiment of nurture.” The broader question, he says, is how much influence parents have on their kids. If Ehrensaft leans toward nature, Zucker puts more emphasis on nurture. Even when parents don’t make a choice, that’s still a choice, and one that can impact the children.

When asked what psychological harm, if any, could come from keeping the sex of a child secret, Zucker said: “One will find out.”

Is "one will find out" really an attitude we want to have to our children?

And finally, we have the closing line of the article:

“Everyone keeps asking us, ‘When will this end?’” says Witterick. “And we always turn the question back. Yeah, when will this end? When will we live in a world where people can make choices to be whoever they are?”

And we're brought back to my professor, who said that in the world's logic of "freedom" the only logical conclusion would be that choosing one's gender would be seen as the ultimate freedom. Most of us will read this story and shake our heads in outrage -- and we should -- but maybe the problem is lurking much deeper than one couple's alarming decision to raise a "genderless" child. Maybe if we saw freedom as a matter of being in relation, masculinity and femininity as a gift and not a curse, and life as a road to God and not an arbitrary nothingness, then children like Storm would have a very different life.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pray for Malta!

I received a prayer request from a friend in Malta, as the country debates legalizing divorce. She says, "The country is divided in 2. Everyone is so tense. Please pray that God will shine His light over our small country, and we will avoid a plague like this! Please ask others to pray as well. WE NEED YOUR PRAYERS!"

The referendum is tomorrow. Please pray for the protection of marriage as a lifelong institution in the country of Malta.

For more information go here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fake dating

Well, the New York Times has done it again. I'm quite certain that I should avoid sipping my coffee when I venture onto their Fashion and Style page. My computer would probably fail to operate, as the coffee would likely land on the keyboard in my shock.

So, what is it this time?

"Cloud Girlfriend" -- a new website that allows users to create a fake profile in order to find other people with fake profiles to begin a fake relationship, with the thought that perhaps the fake relationship could become real.

No, I'm not kidding.

From the story:

The new incarnation of the company raises interesting questions: Can two consciously misrepresented people flirt privately and rewardingly? And can that experience blossom into a relationship?

The online gaming world indicates there’s potential. Mr. Fuhriman has described the site’s current iteration as a combination of Match.com and Second Life, an online role-playing game wherein users create avatars — idealized selves — to navigate virtual worlds. Players in such games have fallen in love and even married.

Sarah Smith-Robbins, a professor at Indiana University specializing in social media, said that because avatars are highly customizable forms of self-expression, other players can infer things about the player’s true personality from them.

Relationships starting with total fabrication could succeed, she guessed, but perhaps not often in meaningful ways.

“It’s going to be the equivalent of a nightclub,” she said, adding, “Maybe you hit it off, and you go home together, but the next day it’s a completely different world.”

It looks like this new venture into online dating has completely missed the magic ingredient of a relationship -- two human persons. How can there possibly be a relationship in which two people are knowingly and willingly attempting to be someone else? But the website's promo video advises, "Feel free to be creative. Remember, you're creating the ultimate you."

There is inherent risk and vulnerability in a real life relationship. Difficult? Certainly. But to take this important ingredient out is to ensure that one's "relationship" will be meaningless, unfulfilling and ultimately degrading. Instead of a relationship that affirms the value of both people, this website can't help but enhance a lack of confidence in who one truly is. And if we can't find ourselves except in a sincere gift of ourselves, and if we can't give of ourselves unless we have an awareness of who we are and what we are giving, then how can a site like this be anything but a dead end street, walking us right into heartache, disappointment and futility?

The logic of "Cloud Girlfriend" is a far cry from the beauty of "Love and Responsibility," in which the future John Paul II ponders the dignity of the human person and how this inherent beauty and goodness can be best affirmed in a loving, chaste relationship. After all, a person can only be loved and never used as an object.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's that time of year ...

It's Wednesday. We all know it as the middle of the week. But in this particular week, I find myself in between an ordination and a wedding. Last Saturday, I was sitting at the cathedral in Cincinnati, witnessing the ordination of three new priests. On this coming Saturday, I will be sitting at a parish outside of the nation's capital, witnessing the marriage of two friends and fellow graduate school alumni.

'Tis the season for ordinations and weddings, yet having these two events within one week of each other highlights their complementarity. We often think of priesthood and religious life as the only path to holiness, and marriage as the path for those who aren't selfless enough to give their entire being to God. But both priesthood/religious life and marriage are paths to holiness. Both are invitations to give of oneself -- totally and forever -- to God. Both are concrete manifestations of our universal vocation to love.

And how often do we sit in the pew at a wedding or at an ordination and ponder the incredible gift of witnessing these irrevocable vows to reflect God's love to the world? We are present in a moment that is the height of receiving one's life as a gift from God and responding with the gift of oneself. And if it's true that "man cannot find himself except in a sincere gift of self" (Gaudium et Spes #24), then we are witnessing a moment of profound self-realization before God and others.

So as we survey the landscape of the middle of the week, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to contemplate the gift of those whose lives -- either by their vows of obedience and celibacy (and poverty, if in the religious life) or by their vows of "till death do us part" -- are reflecting God's total and forever love for us. Thank God for the gift of priesthood, religious life and marriage, and the ways in which they complement one another in revealing the incredible love God has for us as our origin and destiny.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Radiant Magazine

It's exciting to learn of a new Catholic magazine for young women. It's even more exciting to recognize the movers and shakers of the publication from the halls of one's college dorm. Yes, a group of young women from Franciscan University have begun Radiant Magazine, "a Catholic magazine for the fun, fashionable and devout woman."

You can look at several issues online here. I'm looking forward to watching the growth of this new publication.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Twenty and Engaged"

Elizabeth Hanna celebrates her decision to be married at a young age in this article. She raises some great points, including:

But now we think it’s better if man is alone. So we tell children to live for themselves as long as they can; to establish their careers before all else; to have self-satisfying flings, and date for the fun of it; and to hold off marriage as long as they can, because life ends on the wedding day. It’s no surprise that when they grow up and marry, they remain alone, with separate careers, separate bank accounts, separate bedrooms, separate friends, separate beliefs — separate hearts.

Read it all here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Quote book

"Purity of heart is not found primarily in what we turn away from, but in Whom we turn toward." -- Fr. Brian Bransfield, The Human Person According to John Paul II, 246.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Good news: Three new priests!

It seems we've had a recent phase of depressing, thought-provoking, the-world-is-crumbling-by-the-minute stories on the blog. So, now something exciting and refreshing: The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will have three new priests today, following the 11 am ordination. What a gift for the Archdiocese!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Do human persons or breathing objects look for jobs?

Elizabeth Scalia shares some thoughts from her college-aged son who is looking for summer employment. The piece is striking in its ability to convey the current climate of employers looking for future employees as objects, rather than people.

Here's a bit:

Regular readers know that Buster is one of those people born about 70 years too late, and he bemoaned the impersonal nature of the modern job-search, and the dearth of human connectedness. “You know, if there was a personnel department you could walk into, with other people, you get a chance to meet someone, fill out a form, chat a bit — you could make an impression! Someone might say, ‘hey, he’s got the build for moving things, or, hey, he’s got a good personality; he seems like he’ll mesh well,’ but no — there’s no opportunity to put yourself forward or stand out. There’s no opportunity to shine, a little.”

Individuality does seem to be undervalued, these days.

I reminded him that unemployment rates for people in his age group — and for all youngfolk looking for summer work — are sky-high. “There is something to what you say,” I agreed. “My first job, I walked into the personnel office, met someone, filled out a form, took a quick test, and had the chance to chat for a few minutes to the personnel manager, who called me later and hired me for the staggering wage of $2.10 per hour. It was all pretty painless.”

Seems there is no chance of that, now. Employers have more applicants than they need for $7.25 per hour jobs; they don’t have to put any effort into finding the ‘right’ person. They’re not even looking for a ‘person,’ they’re looking, as Buster noted, for cogs in the wheel.

Read it all here.

A divorce party?

The New York Times always has some new social arrangement to discuss. This time it's a party to celebrate the divorce of Charles and Bonnie Bronfman. You see, they've decided that their differences make them better friends than spouses. And why not take a little time to celebrate with 100 of their closest friends? If you received an engraved invitation to attend the event, then you would have seen their words: “As we change the parameters of our relationship, our mutual admiration and caring is constant.”

Last time I checked, marriage was an institution whose parameters were unchangeable. Yet somewhere along the line, we've decided that marriage can morph into whatever it is we want, and that we can raise our champagne glasses to inaugurate the change.

Mr. Bronfman said in an interview with the paper:

“Our differences were in everything we do. We thought those differences could mesh, but we found out the opposite. So we thought, why not tell our friends and thank them for helping us out?”

If there is no realization from the beginning that marriage is a lifelong commitment between two people who are different (let's start with the fact that they are male and female), then I'm not sure the shocking reality of experiencing the perpetual difference of another as a blessing will ever really settle in. Marriage enables us to welcome another who is different, to see that we can never encompass the whole of reality, and to accept the invitation to be brought out of our self-centered existences into the path of another, walking together toward the same goal.

That's why the marriage party I am looking forward to attending is one in which this reality is accepted, welcomed and celebrated -- the upcoming wedding of two JPII Institute grads.

While we pray for those who are preparing to enter the Sacrament of Marriage, let's also remember people like the Bronfmans, who haven't yet realized the gift they were given three years ago.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

If we don't have time for beauty, do we really live?

Marcel LeJeune recently reflected on a social experiment conducted by the Washington Post a few years ago. Joshua Bell, a world-renowned violinist, took his $3.5 million violin and played for 43 minutes at a busy Metro stop in Washington, DC, during the morning rush hour. During that time, 1,097 people passed by. Only seven people stopped to listen.

The rather lengthy article chronicling the experiment was fascinating, yet almost painful to read. Here is a man who is considered extraordinarily talented – even “genius” in his musical abilities, and yet people were too busy to take notice. People were too busy to take a moment to appreciate the beauty. People were too busy to reflect for a moment, to disengage from their morning monotony.

Perhaps the article was all the more painful for me to read because I lived in Washington, DC, for two years. I passed by many street musicians in the hurried world of the Metro. Many times they made me smile, but did they ever know that I appreciated what they were giving?

I do recall one Sunday morning in particular. I was sitting outside on a beautiful day, sipping my Starbucks and reading theology, when a young man and woman began playing and singing feet away from me. It was beautiful. I remember being struck by their talent and by the gift of hearing music that I hadn’t requested or turned on with my iPod – a gratuitous soundtrack as I labored with von Balthasar or de Lubac or Aristotle or whoever I was attempting to understand at the moment. And I remember debating with myself whether or not to give them money. It was so beautiful, and it was so appreciated, that I wanted to say, “Thank you,” and a small tip was all I really knew how to do. I can’t remember if I ever worked up the courage to place a few dollars in the violin case (though I think that I eventually did).

But all of this circled through my mind as I read about busy commuters of the District, who were set on the agenda of their day with no room for rest, reflection or receiving beauty.

Somewhere in the midst of reading, I considered how much different it would be for a child to encounter Joshua Bell. I thought of how children would stop and appreciate and just be, without the pressure of the day, without worrying about getting to work late, without fighting through the crowds, pushing anyone who dared not walk briskly on the left side of the escalator.

And then I read this:

A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her preschooler emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She's got his hand.

"I had a time crunch," recalls Sheron Parker, an IT director for a federal agency. "I had an 8:30 training class, and first I had to rush Evvie off to his teacher, then rush back to work, then to the training facility in the basement."
Evvie is her son, Evan. Evan is 3.

You can see Evan clearly on the video. He's the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at Joshua Bell, as he is being propelled toward the door.

"There was a musician," Parker says, "and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time."
So Parker does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body between Evan's and Bell's, cutting off her son's line of sight. As they exit the arcade, Evan can still be seen craning to look. When Parker is told what she walked out on, she laughs.
"Evan is very smart!"

The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother's heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.

There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.

So, it would seem that childhood and beauty go hand in hand. Children are so much more perceptive of the beautiful, appreciative of the beautiful and willing to take a few moments to truly enjoy the beautiful. Adults are too busy, too jaded, too preoccupied. How do we think we have reached maturity and understanding when we fail to truly live in the world around us?

Then there was this dramatic irony:

And then there was Calvin Myint. Myint works for the General Services Administration. He got to the top of the escalator, turned right and headed out a door to the street. A few hours later, he had no memory that there had been a musician anywhere in sight.

"Where was he, in relation to me?"

"About four feet away."


There's nothing wrong with Myint's hearing. He had buds in his ear. He was listening to his iPod.

For many of us, the explosion in technology has perversely limited, not expanded, our exposure to new experiences. Increasingly, we get our news from sources that think as we already do. And with iPods, we hear what we already know; we program our own playlists.

The song that Calvin Myint was listening to was "Just Like Heaven," by the British rock band The Cure. It's a terrific song, actually. The meaning is a little opaque, and the Web is filled with earnest efforts to deconstruct it. Many are far-fetched, but some are right on point: It's about a tragic emotional disconnect. A man has found the woman of his dreams but can't express the depth of his feeling for her until she's gone. It's about failing to see the beauty of what's plainly in front of your eyes.

What kind of world do we create for ourselves, instead of enjoying the one we have been given? How different would our lives be if we cultivated an awareness of beauty?

As I reflected back in January, how different would our world be if we took the time to savor the beauty that has been given to us and allowed it to transform our culture?

I think the reason the article from the Washington Post was most unsettling was that it presented me with an unanswerable question: What would I have done if I walked by the Metro when Joshua Bell was playing? Do I perceive and appreciate unexpected beauty, or do I merely write about it?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy birthday, Blessed John Paul II!

Bl. John Paul II was born 91 years ago today!

"Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God. The loftiness of this supernatural vocation reveals the greatness and the inestimable value of human life even in its temporal phase." -- John Paul II, "Evangelium Vitae" #2

He wasn't kidding when he said, "Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure."

Would you give a teen a condom?

This is so sad! For an ABC television program, a 15-year-old boy asks passersby at a pharmacy to buy him condoms since the cashier knows his mom. While most of the people he asks seem rather uncomfortable, many of them just laugh or make comments about the young man's good decision to be "safe."

The argument of "Teens will have sex anyway, so we might as well give them 'protection'" is infuriating! We hear it all the time. Funny that we don't hear, "Kids are going to drink and drive anyway, so why don't we just tell them to drive really slowly." Or, "Teens might want to use drugs, but we should teach them not to share needles."

So, why is sexuality so different, so casual, so joked about? Why do we attempt to give out Band-Aids instead of seeking the root of the problem -- a desire for authentic love?

So, what would you say to this young man if he approached you in the pharmacy? I think it's a question worth contemplating.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quote book

"St. John Chrysostom suggests that young husbands should say to their wives: I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. . . . I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you." -- St. John Chrysostom, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2365

Monday, May 16, 2011

Loveland's prom king and queen

Does that seem like an unlikely heading for this blog? True, prom news isn't typically a subject on Unshakeable Hope, but Loveland High School's prom king and queen this year are a young lady and young man with Down Syndrome. The Cincinnati Enquirer features them in this article, which includes reactions from Toni Alten-Crowe and Drew Anderson's families, friends and teachers.

A couple of years ago, I reflected on a similar story in this article. With approximately 90% of pre-diagnosed (or at least thought-to-be diagnosed) Down Syndrome pregnancies ending in abortion instead of birth, our world needs to be reminded that those with Down Syndrome are people. Beautiful, loving, unique, unrepeatable people.

Why do so many adults in our world seem to forget that, while children and teenagers are blessedly aware of the dignity of all people?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Offering it up"

Elizabeth Scalia has such a beautiful, refreshing writing style. She is using her gift well to discuss suffering and the idea of offering it up.

Pondering the crucifix, and the immensity of what Christ endured, we wonder what could possibly be ‘lacking’ in his afflictions. But then, gazing upon His outstretched arms, we see an invitation. If we accept that no act in human history can begin to match the power, the healing, the victory and the justice that was achieved in the crucified suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, then attaching our own trials, minor or major though they be, to that still-resonating act of generosity and self-abnegation exposes them to all of the good contained in Christ’s sacrifice, and it assists in the salvation of the world.

We know that Jesus’ pain is occurring even in this instant, and that right now—in commingling our suffering with his—we can bring ourselves close to him. Christ’s agony and death released the dew of mercy, dropping from heaven and bathing us all; it was a wholly and holy vertical transaction.

But “offering it up” can speed this salvific action horizontally. Any such offering, even if it is initiated by a feeling of resigned helplessness, has the potential to unleash an expansive love upon the world. It cannot be otherwise. To offer one’s aches and pains, one’s disappointments for the sake of others is always love-in-action, a redemptive act. There is a particularly true and hardy love that springs from an offering made for the intentions of another.

Read it all here.

"The Tricky Chemistry of Attraction"

The Wall Street Journal is reporting a long-known (but little known) fact -- that hormonal contraception affects the way in which men and women react. Attraction is altered by the chemicals, and often in very detrimental ways.

There is also accumulating evidence indicating men react differently to women when they are on birth control. A 2004 study in the journal in Behavioral Ecology used the T-shirt study methodology but instead put the shirts on 81 women. A panel of 31 men, smelling the T-shirts, experienced the greatest attraction for the non-pill-using women when they were ovulating. Twelve women on the panel didn't detect any difference.

A study on primates appears to support the idea that hormonal contraceptives change mating preferences. Duke University researchers studied hormones secreted by female lemurs before and after the animals received a hormonal contraceptive. They also studied males' preferences for these scents.

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences this year, showed that the injection of Depo-Prevara, a long-lasting contraceptive that is approved for use in humans, dramatically altered the chemicals that female lemurs give off to indicate their identity and how genetically healthy they are.

The females given the contraceptive became overall less appealing to the males than before getting the injection, says Christine Drea, a professor in Duke's evolutionary anthropology department and senior author on the study. The contraceptive erased all the normal information the odor signals conveyed, she says.

Get the scoop here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thirty years ago today ...

Thirty years ago today:

Can you imagine how different life would have been if Blessed John Paul II had died thirty years ago instead of five?

- No "Evangelium Vitae," "Ecclesia de Eucharistia," "Fides et Ratio," "Veritas Splendor" and so many other encyclicals.
- An unfinished Theology of the Body.
- No Luminous Mysteries.
- No World Youth Days.
- No witness of a Pope forgiving his would-be assassin.

We could go on and on, but let's just say, "Praise God" for the gift of the spared life of John Paul II!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

"Love is possible"

One of my guest professors at the John Paul II Institute (where, incidentally, I graduated one year ago today), Stanislaw Grygiel, and his wife Ludmilla, share their reflections on John Paul II's pre-papal ministry to young married couples and their families. The Grygiels knew John Paul in Poland.

The article is quite beautiful, but I must highlight a portion:

He was a spiritual father and teacher, but also a student. He learned the truth of love that links a man and a woman, and of motherhood and fatherhood, from the laypeople he served. This knowledge is expressed in his letters and literary works, especially in the book Love and Responsibility, and in the plays The Jeweler's Shop and The Radiation of Fatherhood. It was obvious that the knowledge he imparted, first as a priest and later as pope, was not merely a result of theological and philosophical studies, but also of pastoral ministry and personal experience. John Paul II was certain that a beautiful and pure love is possible and that Catholic married life does not require the impossible. This certainty made him a trustworthy mentor for the young around the world.

A good example of this took place in 1980, when Czesław Miłosz, a Polish writer lecturing at the University of California, Berkeley, visited Rome with his son after receiving the Nobel Prize. We were invited along with them to Mass with the pope in a private chapel and then to breakfast. At the end of the conversation, Milosz's son turned to John Paul II requesting him to relax the Church's "too strict" teaching about conjugal morality. By requiring premarital abstinence and prohibiting contraception, he argued, the pope would lose a great chance to raise young people to the Church, because these teachings were impossible to follow in the 20th century. John Paul II, after hearing this argument with a kindly smile, assured the young interlocutor that the teaching of the Church was feasible and, what is more, that he personally knew many young people who lived according to the Church's teachings. In saying this, he certainly had before his eyes numerous friends who formed happy families in accordance with the Church's wisdom.
Be sure to read it all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"This is absolutely disturbing."

It's interesting that my reaction to this clip on Fox News is the words of one of the interviewees. First, let me explain ...

A police officer in Toronto, quoted as saying, "Women can avoid rape by not dressing like sluts" and subsequent "Slut walks" were the occasion for a little chat about modesty on Sean Hannity's program. All participants in the debate agreed that rape is never the fault of the victim. The question on the table, however, was whether or not women can reduce their risk of abuse and rape, and if so, whether or not choices in dress can be a factor.

The two women facing off were Tamara Holder, a Fox news contributor, who sported a plunging neckline and a rather angry demeanor. Rebecca St. James, well-known in Christian circles for her song, "Wait for Me," had a more conservative, though attractive, outfit, and seemed to be operating from a sphere of peacefulness and joy, which perhaps spoke louder than her words.

A couple of segments that found my mouth on the floor:

Rebecca St. James: "There has to be a responsibility for what the woman is wearing ... personal responsibility. [...] Purity and modesty go hand in hand. I think when a woman is dressing in an immodest way, a provocative way, she's got to think about what is she saying by her dress, because to a lot of guys -- and I just wrote another book about it called, What Is He Thinking, I interviewed these guys and they're saying ..."

Sean Hannity: "One of them is me."

Tamara Holder: "This is absolutely disturbing."
Later in the interview:

Rebecca St. James: "Tamara, I mean, what are women saying by dressing provocatively? I mean, I think they're saying, 'I'm easy. I'm asking you to look at me as a sexual object, rather than a woman worthy of respect.' And I think women who are marching and saying, 'I should be able to wear whatever I want' ..."

Tamara Holder: "There is nothing wrong with looking like a sexual object."
I suppose these words can only be truly horrifying to those who understand what they truly mean. In other words, Tamara Holder cannot possibly know what she is saying, or she could never say it. In effect, she would be saying, "I am not a woman. I am not a person. I am an animal, an object. I do not need to be loved or to love. There is nothing wrong with using me or with me using others." And the irony of this logic is that it undermines the first reason these two women were on the show -- to acknowledge that women should not be used, abused or raped. But to say, "There is nothing wrong with looking like a sexual object," is to say there is nothing wrong with being perceived as a sexual object, which is really to say there is nothing about my dignity as a human person that should preclude me from being treated like a sexual object.

Interestingly, I think the whole argument of whether or not rape is wrong stands on this ground -- am I an object or am I a person? If I am an object, then I can be used as a tool to satisfy someone else's desires. Likewise, I can use others as a means to an end. But if I am a person -- if I have gifts, talents, a history, a personality -- then I can only be treated with love. Nothing else befits my dignity. And therefore, rape, abuse or using of any sort can never be justified.

So maybe arguments about the necessity or not of modesty are much more integral to the question of how women should be treated than many will concede. If we look at modesty as a constricting command to hide inside a potato sack, then we aren't understanding the gift that it is. If we look at modesty, however, as an opportunity to radiate the truth of who we are in God's image and likeness, as a means of protecting the gift of ourselves and of inspiring love and respect, then modesty can only serve to further defend the incredible dignity of each human person -- never to be used, always to be loved.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Modern Love: The forgotten gift of presence

When I read this year’s New York Times’ Modern Love college essay contest winner, I cried. It wasn’t to be unexpected, I suppose, because I cry every time I read the 2008 winners as well. They are heartbreakingly honest and chillingly despairing. But somehow I allowed a spark of hope to form in my heart that maybe, just maybe, this year’s winners would capture a more shining spirit.

And then I read this description of the entries:

When we first held this contest three years ago, the most popular essay topic was hooking up: the “no strings attached” sex that for many wasn’t turning out to be so carefree. The question that seemed to hover over hundreds of such accounts was: How do we get the physical without the emotional?
What a difference three years make. This time the most-asked question was the opposite: How do we get the emotional without the physical? The college hookup may be alive and well, but in these entries the focus shifted to technology-enabled intimacy — relationships that grow and deepen almost exclusively via laptops, webcams, online chats and text messages. Unlike the sexual risk-taking of the hookup culture, this is love so safe that what’s most feared is not a sexually transmitted disease but a computer virus, or perhaps meeting the object of your affection in person.

I felt a knot in my stomach, but I slowly clicked on the winning essay – “Even in Real Life, There Were Screens Between Us.”

As always, the winning essayist, in this case, Caitlin Dewey, articulates herself with exceptional word choice. But the crispness of her words do not indicate beauty in the message.

It’s heartbreaking, really, to read the personal account of a young woman whose relationships are mediated by a screen. It’s not to say that Skype is bad, texting is evil, facebook is unbearable. But to root one’s relationships in a technologically-based foundation ultimately leads toward treating the other as an object, an instrument, a lifeless tool for emotional connection.

So we read Caitlin’s account of g-chats and Skype nights, and eventually her real-life encounter with Will, the young man with whom she had spent hours communicating.

Caitlin philosophizes:

The Internet brings these people together with hash tags and message boards, but it never satisfies them. No matter how much you love someone’s blog or Twitter feed, it isn’t their posts you actually want.

But when it came to real life, for Caitlin and Will, technology was still in the way.

“But after we kissed and ate pizza and went back to his house, we struggled for things to talk about. In real life, Will stared off at nothing while I talked. In real life, he had no questions about the drive or my work or the stuff that waited for me when I went back to school.

He took me out for dinner and read his e-mail while we waited for our food. He apologized profusely, but still checked his Web site’s traffic stats while we sat in his living room.

He took me to a party at his friends’ house where they proceeded to argue for hours about Web design while I sat on a futon and stared at the ceiling, drunk and bored and terribly concerned that I looked thinner online. At points, he grabbed my hand and gave me small, apologetic smiles. It seemed like a strategy game: a constant dance of reaching for me and pulling back, of intimacy and distance, of real life and Internet make-believe.

Although many of us may have not participated in a Skype-only relationship, our society at large deals with many of the same issues, particularly the inability to be truly present to another person.

It’s a lost art – the gift of presence. We think our value lies solely in what we do, what we can accomplish, what we can describe or list or materially give. We’ve forgotten that the very presence of another – just being – is a tremendous gift. And if it’s even remotely presented to us, we get scared and run because to give and receive the gift of presence is to be vulnerable. There is no screen behind which to hide. There is no keyboard on which to pound out 160 characters worth of feelings. There is simply real life.

The key is that real life isn’t so simple after all. It’s quite profound, and beautiful, and possesses its own fullness and depth that can only be responded to with wonder and gratitude.

Somehow we’ve lost that.

We talk to friends and simultaneously text another. We tweet the funniest lines at a party. We update our facebook statuses in the middle of dinner to avoid an awkward silence. We talk about meaningless, superficial things in order to avoid conversations that might make us uncomfortable, conversations that might challenge us.

And we downplay the gift of presence – both our own and of others.

But what would life be like if we looked around us and strove to see others as unique, unrepeatable persons loved into existence by God? People who didn’t have to exist, but who God wanted to exist. People with an unfathomable depth, an incommunicability, a never-ending mystery. If we saw others in this way, then surely we would view any encounter with another – even without conversation or accomplishing anything on a To-Do list or being “productive” – as a gift. Because in that presence of another, I can catch a glimpse of the gift of another, a gift from God, and a gift to me.

It breaks my heart that the Modern Love college essay contest underscores that our society has forgotten the art and gift of presence. If we live this gift in our own lives, however, then slowly it can transform the world.

And in three years when the New York Times sponsors another contest, maybe the essays will echo with hope instead of despair.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Welcome home, Bryan Kemper!

What tremendous news! Bryan Kemper, a long time pro-life advocate, came home to the Catholic Church this Easter. I have known Bryan for five or six years, and remember having discussions over the years about the faith. God is good!

The National Catholic Register has an account of Bryan's journey here.

A Tribute to John Paul II

The Vatican is hosting an awesome site with pictures, prayers and information about Bl. John Paul II. It's beautifully put together. If my Internet weren't so slow right now, I would spend the rest of my afternoon exploring the site, so maybe it's a gift in disguise that the pages are not loading for me right now. In any event, be sure to check out the site here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Quote book -- Happy Mother's Day!

"Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God's own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child's first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life." -- John Paul II, "Letter to Women," #2

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Part III: Beato Giovanni Paolo II

I think I squealed with joy when it fully hit me that I had made it to St. Peter’s for the Basilica. Yes, before I made it back to where I was staying I had been standing for 14 straight hours and went without a bathroom for 18 hours. Yes, I was achy and tired. But I was so close to Pope Benedict XVI in the moment when he declared that Papa John Paul will forever have a “Blessed” in front of his name. And I was there to witness it, to share the joy of it, to sing “Amen” to it, and to carry the intentions of family and friends to it.

While we hugged the barricade, still thinking that the Holy Father would go past us, police and volunteers came to those around us and told them they had to move. But for the hour or so that they approached those next to us – even shoulder-to-shoulder with us, they never told us that we had to leave. Chuckling and mystified, we began to wonder if we were invisible. And I turned to my American friend in Rome and said that John Paul was clearly taking care of us.

But our invisibility changed quickly when we were approached by a journalist who requested an interview. He arranged for us to stand on the other side of the barricade and began asking various questions about John Paul II, all being filmed for an Italian news service. He hadn’t even walked away when another journalist approached – this one from Catholic News Agency – requesting another interview. And so more JPII questions began, all being filmed.

But this wasn’t the end. During the entire beatification Mass, one camera or another would frequently be zoomed in on me. I’m not sure why. At one point there were three different cameras, all pointed at my face. Perhaps I looked like a pilgrim – tired eyes, sunburned face, greasy hair, mismatched clothes, but despite it all tears on my face, expressive eyes and a smile. Whatever it was, I guess will never know if my joyful participation was reflected onto televisions in Brazil, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, the United States. Even Al Jazeera was there.

Before the beatification Mass began, the crowd sang the Divine Mercy Chaplet in several languages. There were meditations before each decade.

At 10 am, the music began, and soon Pope Benedict XVI was waving and smiling from his popemobile (which, unfortunately, did not pass by the barricade we were so firmly convinced he would). The crowd cheered as we saw the Holy Father on the jumbotron. Before Mass began, volunteers distributed prayer cards of John Paul II and beautiful books with the prayers and music of the Mass.

The actual beatification took place after the Kyrie and before the Gloria. Cardinal Vallini came to the microphone and presented John Paul II for beatification. He then proceeded to read a biography of the late Holy Father. Even though I understand minimal Italian, I was able to decipher many of the words the Cardinal was saying. And I had tears in my eyes as I heard the legacy of John Paul II. What an incredible gift to the Church and the world! His writings, his travels, his passion for families, his interest in people. The young people cheered as Cardinal Vallini mentioned John Paul’s love of youth. After all, that was why we had waited all night long to stand with one or two million others from around the world. Because John Paul had come to us.

After the reading of the biography, Pope Benedict XVI made the official announcement, declaring Blessed John Paul II and his feast day of October 22. We cheered and clapped for ten minutes. The applause wouldn’t stop. The banner of the new blessed was unveiled as the cheering continued. What a gift to the Church! And what a gift to be there, to be able to sing, “Amen” after the proclamation and to able to cheer and thank God for the gift of our newest blessed.

When the applause had subsided, the choir began the “Gloria.” Mass proceeded. Receiving Communion seemed nearly impossible, with bewildered priests unsure of which direction in which to turn next, as they found themselves surrounded by pilgrims wishing to receive the Eucharist. Communion was distributed solely on the tongue.

The Holy Father blessed us. We all cheered. The Polish flags continued to wave. John Paul was now a blessed.

And now the chaos of leaving the Square began. Bl. John Paul II’s tomb was available for veneration inside the basilica, yet we were all herded out of the Square. Once again, I was pushed, pulled, and moved throughout the mass of humanity. A thread in my new scarf got caught in a Polish woman’s backpack and acted like a fishing rod, attaching me to her. Eventually, she was stopped by a man who saw my dilemma, and I was able to continue shuffling through the Square.

It took about two hours to return to where I was staying – there was walking and waiting and impossibly crowded bus riding, followed by more walking and the refreshment of a can of coke (complete with a straw, as this is the Italian way). I had enough time for a brief nap, before a long walk to the tram (the buses were still running irregularly, due to the crowds miles away from the beatification), which took me to the train station, which eventually brought me to the airport. I spent Sunday night at the airport, fighting to keep my eyes open after nearly 48 hours of being awake.

Monday morning found me on a plane to Brussels, then to Chicago, and finally back to Cincinnati. The last leg left me 69 hours without normal sleep (do catnaps on a plane really count?), but the sleeplessness, blisters, swollen ankles, and tired joints were worth the sacrifice, and were really part of the prayer of the trip.

And that is how I participated in the largest beatification in history. How remarkable our Catholic faith – that a man who I never met personally but who has so radically impacted my life would inspire me to travel thousands of miles and go three nights without sleep in order to be one of 1-2 million celebrating the declaration of his holiness in person! And how remarkable our Catholic faith – that I would be able to thank a man I never met who impacted me (and continues to impact me), and know that he can hear my gratitude. And I can count on his prayers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Part II: Getting to the most crowded beatification in history

On Saturday, April 30, I was set to meet a friend from the US who is studying in Rome at 11 pm to wait in “line.” My American mind considered that the line for the beatification would consist of a long, narrow, snaking but orderly chain of people, patiently waiting for the gates of St. Peter’s to open at 5:30 am. When we neared the basilica, however, I remembered that I was in Europe. There was certainly no order to the sea of humanity. There were sleeping bags and cardboard boxes, guitars and bongos, backpacks and plastic bags, waving flags and Vatican-“emblemed” inflatable hands. So we weaved through the crowds, attempting to find a comfortable place to set up camp for the night. Eventually, we found an open side street that feeds onto the Via de Conciliazione – the main street leading to the Vatican, which was closed at 11 pm.

Amidst a pack of pilgrims from around the world (but in our corner of the street, the majority were from Poland), we set up camp. For about an hour or so, we listened to Polish hymns, praise and worship and a beautifully sung Rosary. We watched with humor and horror as more people attempted to cram into the already-full street. At times, young people would yell, “No!” as they saw more individuals squeeze through the crowd, stepping on people, knocking faces with heavy backpacks and fighting forward with iron wills and determination. Those in the crowd who were attempting to get some sleep, stared at the sky with wide-open eyes, hopefully grateful that they at least had a couple of feet in which to lie down, as opposed to the mere inches the rest of us were fighting to keep.

At about 1 am, there was a crescendoed whisper among the crowd. Within seconds everyone was on their feet, scrambling to pack their few belongings, deflate air mattresses, roll sleeping bags and save guitars from a (literally) crushing fate. And then the smushing began. Each pilgrim seemed to believe that no millimeter in the street should be left without the comfort of a human person filling it. And so we were pushed, pulled, moved, tugged, and contortioned for several minutes, always inching forward toward the Via de Conciliazione.

It wasn’t long before the barricades in front of the main road leading to the Vatican were removed, and overly eager pilgrims began pushing themselves past the guards, ignoring booming yells to “Fermare!” (stop!). A few official volunteers, designated by their yellow vests (which aptly said in Italian, “Be not afraid” on the back), assisted the police in holding back the crowds … or at least those of the crowds obedient enough to wait a few moments before cramming onto a new street. Once onto the Via de Conciliazione, pilgrims would run with startling urgency to get as close to the front as possible.

Eventually we made it onto the main road, deciding to stay close to the barricade, which we assumed would guard the popemobile in the morning. And there we stood for the next several hours. Yes, stood. The sixty or seventy year old Polish woman to my right scooted her plastic stool to touch my foot. Another woman behind me tapped me on the leg and asked me in another language to move forward. Move where? I gestured. Moving was impossible. In fact, the greatest crisis of the middle of the night was the consistent call to police and volunteers from members of the crowd for a bathroom. One man whined in Italian, “Look at me – a grown man crying like a baby!” Another responded to police who pointed out a portalet on the other side of the road, “I want to see you get over there in this crowd!” So, in the Italian’s casual, laid back style, individuals were let past the barricade throughout the night in order to be escorted to bathrooms within St. Peter’s square. The rest of us simply waited.

We stood. We watched people of varying ages and constitutions pass out throughout the night. Each was led to the barricade, while a volunteer held his feet in the air and dumped a packet of zucchero (sugar) into his mouth. Eventually the individual would be escorted away – either back into the crowd or to a medical assistance tent in a different area. We saw some stretchers and some wheelchairs. We watched the medical personnel take turns smoking cigarettes as they paced back and forth, telling jokes to each other or to members of the crowd, leaning on the barricade.

We stood. We leaned on the barricade. We talked about how this event (which was more aptly a pre-event, and not an event in itself) resembled a World Youth Day, but without an age limit. We marveled at the men and women in their sixties and seventies who had resolutely determined to find a spot in St. Peter’s Square, even if it meant sacrificing a night of sleep.

We stood. We prayed that the rain predicted to fall at 2 am would pass us by. We took a deep breath when a rain drop or two fell in the middle of the night. Amazingly, those few drops were the only ones to fall.

We stood. We watched the clock, wondering if perhaps the police would let us into the Square before 5:30 am. As 5:30 inched closer, the crowds became more restless, deciding to attempt the impossible feat of cramming even closer, as if a fraction of an inch meant the difference between passing through the Square or remaining in the street.

When the Square was finally opened, we waited for 2-3 more hours, creeping along the barricade, hoping to get a spot within the arms of the Church. And finally at about 8:30 am, we made it! Finding a spot along the barricade, just feet outside of the technical Square, but within the St. Peter’s area and near a jumbotron, we decided to stake out our spot. What a miracle! Still standing, with perhaps a million or more people behind us, we had arrived at our destination.

Part III: Beato Giovanni Paolo II ...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Part I: Arriving in Roma

I promised a full account of my recent pilgrimage to the Eternal City, and I have finally made up my mind to pound furiously on my keyboard until the story is on paper (or more accurately, on the screen). What a trip! It was really a whirlwind, with only 4 days in Italy and 2 travel days. I suppose a benefit of barely sleeping on a trip in a different country is that jetlag is nonexistent. Exhaustion takes its place, but in this case was well worth it.

On Wednesday, I departed from Cincinnati to Dulles, where I awaited my transatlantic flight. While we sat on the runway, seconds from take-off, the pilot informed us that severe weather was upon us. When sitting on a runway, at the window seat, this is not the most welcome news. In my mind, I heard my great aunt, who spent Easter weekend recounting the stories she had heard about a plane in St. Louis that was picked up off the runway by a tornado. So, I sat slightly amused and maybe a little worried, watching the torrential rains and staccato lightening, while feeling the plane sway a bit from the wind. After three hours of waiting on the runway, we finally took off into a lightning-studded sky. It felt a bit like landing in a war movie, with bombs lighting up the evening sky. It didn’t take long for me to decide to close the shudder on the window, so as to not watch my impending death.

And of course the impending death did not occur. I landed in Rome, mid-morning on Thursday. There is something almost breathtaking about walking away from an 11 hour flight, groggy and disoriented, and then looking up to see a poster of John Paul II’s beaming smile, with the words he spoke to the youth from his death bed: “I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.” That was all the confirmation I needed that the long journey was worth it. (And that the subsequent blisters, sleeplessness, cramped quarters and crazy adventures would be worth it too.)

John Paul was everywhere in Rome – in the airport, on the sides of buses, smiling from lampposts, waving in church doors. Souvenir stores were bursting at the seams with JPII memorabilia – postcards, key chains, medals, stickers, candles, bookmarks, prayer cards, mouse pads, pens, pins, tapestries, T-shirts. And lines of people waited to buy items with John Paul’s face or with the date of his beatification imprinted.

St. Peter’s Basilica was the place to be, even days before the beatification. And the area nearby was the place to see people – Carl Anderson (Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, who I was able to thank for his support of my alma mater, the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family), papal biographer George Weigel, Catholic evangelist Fr. Robert Barron. There were friends from college who I would “randomly” run into, and thousands of strangers from around the world. Poles were everywhere! I think I saw more red and white flags than the Italian red, white and green.

In the days before the beatification, I was able to spend some time praying at various sites in Rome – St. Cecilia’s tomb, St. Paul’s tomb, St. Mary in Trastevere (where I was able to spend time with some dear Italian friends and attend Mass for the benediction of the new office of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships).

On April 29, the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, I prayed at her tomb in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. They open the back of her glass-enclosed tomb on her feast, allowing pilgrims to step inside the glass, resting their hands and rosaries on the cement that covers her body. Only in Rome!

Part II: Getting to the most crowded beatification in history …

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quote book

"God loves us; we need only to summon up the humility to allow ourselves to be loved." -- Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

And I'm back!

Ciao, ciao! I have returned from the Eternal City, after the incredible gift of witnessing John Paul II's beatification first hand. I know I promised a full report, and I still intend to give one, but the pictures and descriptions may not make it onto the blog today.

But, I would like to say -- Blessed John Paul II, pray for us!

Monday, May 2, 2011

10 favorite quotes from Blessed John Paul II

In honor of the newly beatified John Paul II, here are ten of my favorite quotes from his epic legacy (although, honestly, limiting this to ten was very difficult!):

10) "Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure."

9) “Chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving kindness which it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness” (Love and Responsibility, 172).

8) "Trust Christ because Christ trusts you" (World Youth Day 2002).

7) “In any case, in the path of love which life entails, always remember that above every love there is one Love. One Love. Love without constraint or hesitation. It is the love with which Christ loves each one of you.”

6) "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. It is time to preach it from the rooftops (World Youth Day 1993).

5) God "has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman" (TOB).

4) "In fact, femininity has a unique relationship with the Mother of the Redeemer, a subject which can be studied in greater depth elsewhere. Here I simply wish to note that the figure of Mary of Nazareth sheds light on womanhood as such by the very fat that God, in the sublime event of the Incarnation of his Son, entrusted himself to the ministry, the free and active ministry of a woman. It can thus be said that women, by looking to Mary, find in her the secret of living their femininity with dignity and of achieving their own true advancement. In the light of Mary, the Church sees in the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement" (Redemptoris Mater #46).

3) “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal” (World Youth Day 2000).

2) “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer "fully reveals man to himself". If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity. In the mystery of the Redemption man becomes newly "expressed" and, in a way, is newly created. He is newly created!” (Redemptor Hominis #10)

1) “Life is a talent (cf. Mt 25:14-30) entrusted to us so that we can transform it and increase it, making it a gift to others. No man is an iceberg drifting on the ocean of history. Each one of us belongs to a great family, in which he has his own place and his own role to play. Selfishness makes people deaf and dumb; love opens eyes and hearts, enabling people to make that original and irreplaceable contribution which, together with the thousands of deeds of so many brothers and sisters, often distant and unknown, converges to form the mosaic of charity which can change the tide of history" (World Youth Day 1996).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Jesus, I trust in you"

Divine Mercy Sunday! What a gift to be able to celebrate the incredible mercy of the Lord. It's the perfect day to go to confession, pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and reflect on the goodness of God.

And I'll be doing that from St. Peter's Square (I hope!) for the Mass of John Paul II's beatification.

Let's make our motto that of St. Faustina -- "And so, trusting in Your mercy, I will walk through life like a little child. Offering You each day this heart burning with love for Your greater glory."