Friday, September 30, 2011

"Exquisite and Excruciating"

Pat Gohn has a lovely piece about the Sacrament of Marriage and the nature of "til death do us part." Here's a glimpse:

When couples exchange marriage vows in a Catholic Church grace abounds. The dignity of the human person is verified when we pledge ourselves to the love and welfare of the beloved whom we believe has inalienable, inestimable, and unrepeatable value. Of course, they were made that way long before we ever loved them, their dignity conferred from being made in the image and likeness of God. We just grew to see and fall in love with that amazing attribute, and so much more.
Essentially our love is meant to validate what God first declared about our spouse: that he or she is cherished forever and their worth will never be diminished; the spouse must never become disposable or an inconvenience, or reducible to the status of, say, a pet or an object.
It's well worth reading. You can find it here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Michael, Gabriel and Raphael -- Pray for us!

How's this for a great feast day?

We have St. Gabriel, the archangel who brought the Good News of our Savior, bringing God's invitation for Mary's "fiat."

We have St. Raphael, who is a patron of looking for one's spouse. (He did help Tobias, by the way.)

We have St. Michael, our defender in spiritual battle, who is always ready for us to call on him for help.

Any day that brings the Annunciation, the Book of Tobit and spiritual protection together, is going to be great!

Happy feast day of the Archangels, Sts. Gabriel, Raphael and Michael.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's a shame how we think of shame

There always seems to be a great deal of confusion surrounding John Paul II's explanation of "Original Nakedness" (the ability of Adam and Eve to see one another as pure gift before the Fall) and his discussion of shame after the Fall. In our American minds, we tend to hear, "shame" and think of guilt, embarrassment over something bad or a hiding in fear. So, consequently, we hear people infer that a truly redeemed person should be able to embrace nakedness. Recently, I heard someone remark that the problem comes into play when God asks, "Who told you that you were naked?".

Yet the issue when God asked Adam and Eve this question wasn't the fact that they knew they were naked ... it was the fact that distrust, fear and a grasping for self-fulfillment had entered into the logic of the gift. When sin entered the picture, the reverence for the other that had existed from the beginning had to be lived in a new way. And this is shame.

Shame, then, is good. No, it's not the perfect, all-beautiful plan that God had for us from the beginning. But it is a way protecting the spousal meaning of the body, of recognizing our call to greatness. Shame serves two purposes -- to protect oneself from being used by another, and to inspire love.

Perhaps "modesty" is a term that we can relate to a bit more easily than "shame." Either way, we have to see that shame is not some sort of evil. It's actually a good. And it's meant to protect a good.

If you have your doubts, check out Genesis 3:21 -- "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them."

Yes, God gave Adam and Eve clothes. He provided for them and protected them in a new way in the face of sin. He invited them to cover themselves not out of fear or embarrassment, but out of love.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Love, Limits, and Loss"

Elizabeth Scalia has another beautiful piece at First Things. "Love, Limits, and Loss" is well worth your time.

A snippet:

A neighbor of mine works as a therapist for Alzheimer’s patients, both high-functioning and low. She recently described one sixty-ish daily visitor. “He is a saint. Every day he brings his lunch and eats with his wife. She doesn’t recognize him, so every day she is meeting a new friend. When we told him he needn’t come so often he said, ‘But she is my bride; if I did not see her, I would miss her.’”

The man’s wife had changed, but if she was no longer capable of seeing her groom, he still beheld and adored his bride. Their marriage, then, is the microcosmic reflection of the macro-love of God for his people and the love of Christ for his church. Love without limit, love without fear, love without desertion; love in joy and in pain, love in the shallows and the depths, love without end.

We cannot see God except as he is made manifest through us, and in the covenant of marriage his faithfulness is beautifully reflected. We look to this manifestation—in all its turbulent courses—to get an inkling of him. When we cannot see the great love of God reflected so near to us, we are diminished.

When love is rationalized into limits, we have sold love, and ourselves, short. If God is love, we have sold God short, too. We have chosen to walk around a fire, rather than through it, chosen not to trust that our sufferings have meaning and that they are, on balance, the crucibles of our commonalities, which mold and strengthen our societies.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Deception in Discernment"

Br. Gabriel Torretta, OP, has some excellent insights into the nature of discernment in his recent piece in "Dominicana."

See what I mean?

Vocation is not a shell game in which I have to outwit God and find the perfect life He has hidden among all the options in the world. Vocation is a call of love to love. God moves our hearts to love Him, to answer the one, universal call to holiness. The Christian’s task is to respond to that love concretely with the complete gift of himself. To give himself utterly, he needs the honesty, generosity, wisdom, and prudence that come from God, for which he must pray. Then, when his heart burns with a specific desire to love God with this woman, or this religious order, or in this diocese, then he decides and commits himself irrevocably into God’s hands. This is the mystery of vocation. This is the mystery of love.

Read it all here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Parrhesia young adult conference

Mark your calendars for Oct. 22, if you are between the ages of 21-35. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is hosting a young adult conference about the New Evangelization. Read more here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why bishops and priests need witnesses too

I was really struck when reading an account of an engaged couple in New York who recently met with Archbishop Dolan to discuss their upcoming marriage. In their reflection, the couple wrote:
He mentioned that our testimony (and the testimony of all other young people living and spreading the freedom of chastity) is what encourages him when he finds himself attacked from all sides, that only by the witness of faithful and fruitful marriage will the Church stand strong in our time.
Wow! Archbishop Dolan is a man I look up to greatly for his joy, enthusiasm and dedication to witnessing to the truth of the Gospel. What a responsibility and honor to know that he looks to
young people dedicated to living the beauty of chastity to encourage him.

It made me think: Why would the witness of young people encourage him? And then I realized what it might be. Archbishop Dolan, and others like him, see in these young people the joy and peace that reminds them that this is the experience they wish for all people. It makes it "worth"
defending then, because it is seen as good. Not just as "good" in the sense that one knows it is right, moral, correct. But "good" in the sense that it is truly the way that will lead to authentic joy. When confronted with living witnesses of this truth, how could it fail to inspire the leaders of the Church in relentlessly defending the truth of marriage, family, love and chastity?

In our own lives, do we consider that the way we live has an effect on others? Do we realize that Archbishop Dolan needs us and that we need him?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Engaging college students with TOB

The ever-on fire campus minister Kristen Rainey shares her passion for the faith and the gift of Theology of the Body in her reflection for the TOB Institute, "Hope for the Future."

This summer I was approached by a supporter of the Southeast Missouri State Catholic Campus Ministry who shared her observations about how enthusiastic and faithful our students are. “They're so engaged!”, she said. Then came the big question, “How? How are students at Southeast Missouri State University, a secular campus, so on fire with an ardent love of the Catholic faith?" Reflecting on this question, my heart kept returning to Theology of the Body.

College students are faced with a vicious identity crisis in which they are being lured into believing that they aren't worth more than a hook-up. They're desperately seeking love, but are often following a map that leads to nowhere. Many students have been saturated with the false idea that they are not worthy of another's sacrifice, they have nothing great to offer anyone and life is nothing more than filling voids with temporary highs over and over again. How do we combat these lies? How do we help them recognize their own worth and dignity? How can they see that Jesus Christ is the answer to their desires for love and happiness? Asking these questions led to bringing Blessed John Paul II's Theology of the Body into the heart of our ministry and transforming the hearts of students.

You can read Kristen's entire piece here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"The $6.15 Christ"

Oh, this is a good piece! Please take a few minutes to read Tim Drake's brief reflection, "The $6.15 Christ." I'll give you a start, but I assure you it's worth clicking the link because it probably doesn't end the way you would expect.

It’s been a tough summer financially. Our Buick unexpectedly died and had to be replaced. My pneumonia led to unexpected doctor’s bills. Our riding lawnmower bit the dust. As a single-income family, we’ve come up short and it’s kept me up many a night. It’s at moments like these that I question our commitment to a single-income and home-educating our children.

As the primary provider for our family, I have tried to shield our children from this reality as best I can, but they’ve still felt the results.
Hoped-for piano lessons for the children were eliminated. Eating out has ceased. I increased the insurance deductibles on our vehicles. A planned long-distance trip to see America’s approved Marian shrine has been put on hold. We’ve prayed together as a family that God would provide for our most immediate needs.

So, a week ago when I celebrated my birthday, I wasn’t expecting any gifts, least not the one I ended up receiving.

Read more.

Monday, September 19, 2011

And the most attractive thing is ...

... according to Kevin Lowry from Grateful Convert, it's feminine holiness. Find out why he thinks many eighty year old women are the most beautiful by reading his article.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

An archbishop reflects on World Youth Day

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who was such a joy to watch and listen to at World Youth Day in Madrid, shares his thoughts of the experience over at Catholic Exchange. His joy and enthusiasm for the youth is contagious!

Just got back from Madrid, the fifth World Youth Day I’ve been to. I feel as if I’ve got a million-and-a-half new friends from all over the world.

That’s how many young people packed the magnificent, sun-baked capital of Spain. To a person, these Catholic youth were beaming with joy, radiating exuberance, proud to be followers of Jesus, members of His Church.

“We’ve been dreading this,” confessed a resident of Madrid next to me at a coffee counter. Between his imperfect English and my lousy Spanish, we had a decent chat.

“We’ve been worried these young people would be noisy, disruptive, obnoxious. But, they’ve won me over with their happiness, their courtesy, their faith.”

Read it all here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Kenosis promo video

The new promo video is finally available! I hadn't realized before that I was posting a password-protected version. Two Kenosis teens created this piece. Take three minutes to see the good that God is doing in the lives of our young people.

Ruah Woods Prom Video from Zachary Auciello on Vimeo.

Seeing God's plan in the cross

It's a great week to ponder the cross in our lives. We had the Exaltation of the Cross on Wednesday, and Our Lady of Sorrows yesterday. It's fitting that I came across a beautiful reflection from Above the Norm blogger Sebastian.

Here's a piece of it, but read it all here.

For those of you who don’t actually know me, I have entered the Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and am discerning my possible vocation as a Roman Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

It is the first time I have ever been away from home for longer than a week.

And I have been quite homesick.

But out of my suffering, it appears the Lord has worked in His usual, mysterious way. In my prayer, desolate though it was at the beginning, I came to this remarkable conclusion.

My grandfather moved from Lima, Peru to come to the United States to work as a physician. Initially, he had not intended on staying. That was in 1961.

Having just married my grandmother weeks earlier, my grandfather left everything he knew in his home to come here. He had to accustom himself to a different culture, a different language, a different climate. Nothing felt the same, sounded the same, tasted the same, or was the same. My grandmother did not join him until another six months had passed. Aside of my great uncle, with whom my grandfather lived, he was alone.

But he stayed. He endured.

And his endeavor resulted in the birth of two of my aunts, an uncle, and my mother. By that time, he had bills to pay, and a family to care for. He could not leave. That was all by 1970.

Somewhere in that time, my grandfather had returned to Peru but once, to visit his father. My grandfather knew that would be the last time he would ever see him.One year later, he died.

Finally, in 1978, my grandfather, having lived as a legal resident for 17 years, became a citizen of the United States of America.

Several years later, my mother met my father, and for some strange reason, she decided to marry him.

And several years after that, five to be exact, their life was made complete with the birth of their third and most consistently difficult child (also, the most proud and likely to write a blog post such as this.)

So, you see, I am the result of destiny.

My grandfather never had to stay in Cincinnati. He could’ve returned to his home anytime he wanted to.

My mother never had to marry my father. She could’ve remained home awhile longer.

And I, myself, never had to come here. I could’ve gone to school back home in Cincinnati. And even now, I do not have to stay here.

But, I owe my existence to the fact that God made man and made man to endeavor and endure the sufferings that come only as blessings in disguise. I owe my existence to a brave, young Peruvian who loved his family too much to leave them and, as a result, brought about the chain reaction that would end in my birth.

And in that thought, I am comforted.

To know that God always has been watching over me, even before I was a thought in any mind but His, and to know that He will always watch over me until the end of days, and to know that He has blessed me with as strong a man as my grandfather and my father and my grandmother and my mother and all of my family who I know will always be here to do the work of His hands, His will…and in that, I am comforted.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows

Yesterday was the Exaltation of the Cross. Today is Our Lady of Sorrows. It is certainly not accidental that they are back-to-back.

In his encyclical, "Redemptoris Mater," John Paul II portrays with aching emotion the journey of faith Mary undertook.

"At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self- emptying. This is perhaps the deepest "kenosis" of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; but in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened. On Golgotha, Jesus through the Cross definitively confirmed that he was the "sign of contradiction" foretold by Simeon. At the same time, there were also fulfilled on Golgotha the words which Simeon had addressed to Mary: "and a sword will pierce through your own soul also."

Yes, truly "blessed is she who believed"! These words, spoken by Elizabeth after the Annunciation, here at the foot of the Cross seem to re-echo with supreme eloquence, and the power contained within them becomes something penetrating. From the Cross, that is to say from the very heart of the mystery of Redemption, there radiates and spreads out the prospect of that blessing of faith It goes right hack to "the beginning." and as a sharing in the sacrifice of Christ-the new Adam-it becomes in a certain sense the counterpoise to the disobedience and disbelief embodied in the sin of our first parents. Thus teach the Fathers of the Church and especially St. Irenaeus, quoted by the Constitution Lumen Gentium: "The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith." In the light of this comparison with Eve, the Fathers of the Church-as the Council also says-call Mary the "mother of the liing" and often speak of "death through Eve, life through Mary."

In the expression "Blessed is she who believed," we can therefore rightly find a kind of "key" which unlocks for us the innermost reality of Mary, whom the angel hailed as "full of grace." If as "full of grace" she has been eternally present in the mystery of Christ, through faith she became a sharer in that mystery in every extension of her earthly journey. She "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith" and at the same time, in a discreet yet direct and effective way, she made present to humanity the mystery of Christ. And she still continues to do so. Through the mystery of Christ, she too is present within mankind. Thus through the mystery of the Son the mystery of the Mother is also made clear."

May Our Lady of Sorrows stand at the cross with us, as we grow in obedience of faith to her Son.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy birthday, Kenosis!

Today is the first birthday of Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life. What a year! It is not accidental that our birthday is on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The model of Kenosis is the self-emptying of Christ, which was a fruitful gift of self.

And a birthday gift of a good quote on suffering and the cross is in order. That's not to say that the first year of Kenosis has been a cross! But on this day when we reflect on the joy of embracing the cross leading to the resurrection, it seems like a fitting reminder --

"Suffering is like a kiss that Jesus hanging from the cross bestows on persons whom He loves in a special way. Because of this love He wants to associate them in the work of the redemption." -- St. Bonaventure

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pope Benedict: Do not be afraid!

Pope Benedict XVI recently closed his visit to Ancona, Italy with an address to engaged couples, as seen in the video in my last post. To read the entire address, click here.

"Dear young people, do not be afraid to face these challenges! Never lose hope. Have courage, also in difficulties, remaining firm in the faith. Be sure that, in every circumstance, you are loved and protected by the love of God, which is our strength. Because of this, it is important that an encounter with him, above all in personal and community prayer, be constant, faithful -- precisely as the path for your love: to love God and to feel that he loves me. Nothing can separate us from the love of God!"

Pope Benedict speaks to engaged couples

Monday, September 12, 2011

"A Great Yes to Love"

If you don't receive the Knight's of Columbus "Columbia" magazine, or if you don't know someone who does, be sure to read Kate Iadipaolo's thoughts in the August issue.

To give you a start:
Before I was married, my own vision of marriage was overwhelmed by a darkly grim sense of duty. The overture to the drama was simply, "Make it work, make it work." To me, marriage seemed to be a heavy yoke of meeting responsibilities. Only when I met the one God prepared to be my husband did that veil of grim duty lift. My future husband made me laugh. He listened. We prayed and studied and danced, and our love became more gift than duty. Our relationship, engagement and marriage brought more in the way of peace than anxiety.

As with any marriage, there are difficult moments — moments that cost us something of our independence or the sinfulness to which we sadly cling — but we have experienced that vast horizon of the other. The beauty of it points me onward, reminding me that the prize is worth the bumpy ride.

Sometimes the demands are not as simple as spinning my daughter about in the laundry basket. Sometimes, my "Yes" requires more in the way of self-mastery. How often have my own husband's legitimate wishes been met with joyless reluctance, hesitation or even worse, silence? Counting my husband and three children, my home boasts four sets of the softest brown eyes I have ever known. In these eyes, I have beauty enough to last me a lifetime.

One would think I would realize that the greater the costs, the more abundant the blessings. But I, yet a fearful pilgrim, am still caught up in counting costs more than blessings. I am comforted by the pope's reminder that the one-flesh union of marriage journeys the path of our lives "until the man and woman become one spirit as well." Speaking in his May 13 address, Benedict added that a our bodies teach us "the value of time, of that slow maturation in love." There is time for me yet.

But it really is a terrific read! Find it here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Quote book

"After all, young people are always searching for the beauty in love. They want their love to be beautiful. If they give in to weakness, following models of behavior that can rightly be considered a 'scandal in the contemporary world' (and these are, unfortunately, widely diffused models), in the depths of their hearts they still desire a beautiful and pure love. This is as true of boys as it is of girls. Ultimately, they know that only God can give them this love. As a result, they are willing to follow Christ, without caring about the sacrifices this may entail." -- John Paul II

Friday, September 9, 2011

What's Kenosis all about?

Ruah Woods' banquet was last night. What a wonderful event!

Check out the Kenosis promo video we unveiled at the banquet. The video was created by two Kenosis teens and features the testimonies of many of our high school students from the Tri-State area.

Ruah Woods Final from TheUG on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Ultimate Chivalry Week

I am continually impressed by the Catholic campus ministry at Southeast Missouri State University. It's not just because their campus minister is a very good friend of mine. Every year they have an outstanding list of programs and opportunities for students to engage their faith.

Thus, it wasn't a total surprise -- but still exciting -- to read of one of the students' latest initiatives: Ultimate Chivalry Week. The Catholic men involved explain:

We want to show the young women on campus that they're worth ourt time and effort. Here's the plan. Every day next week dress up. Church clothes. Show the ladies they deserve your best ... your best dress but more importantly your best actions. Take the time next week to be a gentleman. That means women won't need to touch the doors to the UC, or Towers, or any dorm, or any building. Try other stuff: pick up a girl's tray when she's done eating. Help a young woman in your dorm carry her clothes hamper to the elevator. Whatever you do, show women they deserve respect.

Thursday will be the all out day. We're asking for suit and tie if you can pull it off.

Some clarifications. First, we're not trying to say women are inferior. They can open doors and carry trays. That's not the point. The point is that women are so awesome they deserve to be served.

Second, this isn't an opprotunity to be a player. We're not doing this to look good. We're doing this to show good...the good in every girl's heart. That means be prudent in how you approach the chivalry thing. If you keep asking to carry the same girl's books, she might get the wrong ideas. You'll have the rest of your life to find Mrs. Right. Next week isn't that time.

Finally, invite other men. If only a handful of guys commit to this, there won't be much of a message. How awesome would it be to see every guy on campus dressed up by next Friday? Let's shoot for it! Thanks and God Bless!

It would be awesome to see similar movements on college campuses throughout the country. For more info, see the facebook event page here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Theological Juvenology

The Ruah Woods' banquet is tomorrow, which means my blogging time has been severely curtailed. However, this offers the perfect opportunity to encourage you to read our banquet keynote speaker's wonderful reflections on John Paul II's "theological juvenology." John Paul II's method is also the "method" we use in Kenosis. It is so encouraging for me to read and reread Fr. Landry's articulation of the late Holy Father's approach to the young.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's that time of year again

Kenosis meetings begin for the school year tonight! It's hard to believe we are ready for year #2. We have a great year planned -- awesome teens, a great adult core team, interesting topics and a readiness to be surprised by God's plan for us this year.

Monday, September 5, 2011

TOB Day!

Today, 32 years ago, Blessed John Paul II began delivering the collection of audiences we now know as Theology of the Body. I'm not sure how one may go about celebrating an event such as this, but it's worth celebrating.

For my part, I plan to celebrate by beginning the course I am offering at Mt. St. Mary's Seminary (of the West) on Theology of the Body. It may be Labor Day, but how many people are able to begin teaching about a particular work on its birthday?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Quote book

"Humility is the safeguard of chastity. In the matter of purity, there is no greater danger than one not fearing danger of falling. It is almost an infallible sign that he will fall, and with great danger to his soul." -- St. Philip Neri

Friday, September 2, 2011

"The Love of Husband and Wife"

What is true love? It's a question posed often, but how frequently is it given an honest answer? Read one eloquent response to the question here.

*** Thanks to Alicia from Pregnancy Center East for posting this on her blog recently.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Way - Official Trailer [HD]

Having just been in Spain where talk of "The Camino" was frequent, this much anticipated film seems to have even more relevance.