Friday, March 30, 2012

Prayers please

Courtney Brown and I will be speaking to students from all of the Catholic high schools in northern Kentucky today. Please pray for us and for the openness of the students. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to share the message that we are "made for more" with so many young people.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

World Youth Day message 2012

While there is no World Youth Day gathering this year, the Holy Father always has a World Youth Day message. This year it's all about joy. What, specifically?

The Church’s vocation is to bring joy to the world, a joy that is authentic and enduring, the joy proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds on the night Jesus was
born (cf. Lk 2:10). Not only did God speak, not only did he accomplish great signs throughout the history of humankind, but he drew so near to us that he became one of us and lived our life completely. In these difficult times, so many young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is a
message of joy and hope! I would like to reflect with you on this joy and on how to find it, so that you can experience it more deeply and bring it to everyone you meet.

Now, you can read Pope Benedict XVI's reflection here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Happy feast of the Annunciation!

"... [A]fter the Our Father, the Hail Mary is the most beautiful of all prayers. It is the perfect compliment the most high God paid to Mary through his archangel in order to win her heart. So powerful was the effect of the greeting upon her, on account of its hidden delights, that despite her great humility, she gave her consent to the incarnation of the Word." -- St. Louis de Montfort

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Br. Joseph-Anthony Kress, OP, recently reflected on the nature of fatherhood -- spiritual and physical in his article on the Dominicana blog. In what way are men called to relate to their children?

As I reflected on this event, I realized that the manner in which a man holds a child manifests something about his role as a father. A man holds an infant in a way that raises the child up to his own perspective. A father does this as if to say, “Son, you are now a part of this world. I will teach you how to navigate its paths.” A father is responsible for much more than providing food and shelter, for he also has a vital role in educating children in the faith and how to live uprightly in the world. The Second Vatican council states explicitly that “the active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation” (Gaudium et Spes 52:1). This “active presence” of the father begins with his leading of the family. If the father is a leader in the home, then the Catechism’s statement, “the home is the first school of Christian life and a school for human enrichment,” has particular import for men (CCC 1657).

Read the rest here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Anti-divorce doesn't equal Pro-marriage

Have you noticed the recent trend in articles about marriage? I would say it has everything to do with the fact that I have recently come across these articles, but I suppose I should admit preparation for my own upcoming marriage probably makes the headlines appear in bold in my mind.

This piece by Eve Tushnet is a fascinating look at how our culture's more recent fear of divorce has not equated into a love of marriage. In fact, she argues, many of the ways in which people exercise their dislike of divorce set them up for a "no" to marriage.

Possibly in response to divorce scripts like “We just fell out of love” or “It just happened,” which emphasize powerlessness, the contemporary delayed-marriage script attempts to crack the code, figure out the formula, and do it right. Anxiety is managed through attempts at control. The fact that marriage, like parenting, is mostly about acceptance, forgiveness, and flexibility in the face of change and trauma gets suppressed.

But that might not matter if the script itself worked most of the time. If premarital sex and cohabitation were really the most practical paths to lasting love, our culture would look very different. Instead, these actions—valorized by young people, and often by their parents because they’re thought to prevent divorce—are divorce risk factors. Cohabitation with one partner is no longer correlated with increased risk of divorce, as it used to be, but serial cohabitation still is. In other words, if the only romantic partner you move in with ends up marrying you, your statistical prognosis is rosy; otherwise, not so much. In other words, “test-driving” the relationship only works—or rather, remains statistically neutral in terms of later divorce risk—if the relationship is already strong enough for marriage.

The whole piece is certainly worth a read.

Friday, March 23, 2012

An intensive school of love

I recently came across this excellent interview with Msgr. Cormac Burke regarding marriage, love, happiness and freedom. This would be an excellent piece to give engaged couples.

Just to whet your appetite:

Q: How does marriage achieve, deepen, mature and make permanent one's personal happiness?

Monsignor Burke: Above all by drawing out of ourselves. We will never get started on the way to happiness until we realize that the main obstacle is our own self -- our self-centered concerns, worries and calculations. Paradoxically all these are absolute obstacles to personal happiness.

The paradox should not be difficult for the Christian to understand, for it goes to the heart of Christ's teaching on those who selfishly, calculatingly seek their lives: "Whoever seeks his life will lose it; whoever loses it for my sake, will find it." The phrase "for my sake" points to all that is good, generous, pure and worthwhile.

One of the most common modern errors is to think that happiness comes by calculation. We think that our happiness depends on thinking things out cleverly and accurately: "Will this plus that, minus the other, make me happy?" It is not so. Personal happiness and the happiness of marriage depend mainly on generosity and sacrifice.

Be sure to read it all!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"It's all about the bride!"

My debut with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's new blog, "Being Catholic" appears today:

My fiancé and I stepped up to the customer service desk and simply said, “We need to begin our wedding registry.” Immediately the sales clerk beamed a smile and said with great enthusiasm, “Congratulations!” She proceeded to pick up the phone and to announce over the intercom in a voice that resembled that of a woman who has just been given a free trip to Hawaii – “Sales associates, we have a bride at the customer service desk! Please accompany her to the wedding registry.”

I’m not the type who likes attention, but what bothered me more than the intercom announcement was the fact that she had only said “the bride” was at the counter. Clearly, I had not arrived alone.

I whispered something about this to my fiancé, who then said to the sales clerk, “What about me? I’m here too.”

The sales clerk smiled again and then shook her head and said, “Yes, but it’s all about the bride, you know. If you don’t know that yet, you’ll see.”

It’s an attitude I have confronted in every wedding-oriented decision thus far, but it’s an attitude that couldn’t lead me further from the reality of getting married.

Read the rest at "Being Catholic."

"What NFP Isn't"

As always, Jenny of, "Mama Needs Coffee" has an incredible way with words. She was recently a guest blogger on Camp Patton, contemplating the ways in which we frequently misunderstand Natural Family Planning.

It is a wonderful piece -- intelligent, articulate, funny, thought-provoking all in one.

The point is, with NFP a couple is confronted with reality. It isn’t masked by a thin sheath of plastic or suppressed by a precise blend of synthetic hormones. It’s right there, staring them in the face once each month in the form of undeniable signs screaming out: “Hey, you’re fertile! If you have sex right now, you might make another person … isn’t that wild?”

Contraception denies the reality of sex. And it isn’t that it must lead to new life each and every time, but that it is ultimately designed to do so. And not necessarily at our beckoning.

NFP says to nature – and to God – “We bow our heads before this great mystery, and we choose either abstinence or possible parenthood.”

Contraception throws a paper bag over the mystery, believing that what you can’t see can’t hurt you. Except the truth is still there. And sometimes, paper bags tear.

You can read the rest of Jenny's thoughts on the topic here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Where is God calling? -- Sisters of Life

I'd like to begin a new regular series, "Where is God calling?" wherein I plan to highlight various religious orders. Consequently, those who are discerning God's call may hear His voice in a particular direction, and all of us will be made aware of another order for whom we can pray.

First up is the Sisters of Life, based in New York City:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mandatory free sterilization coverage for college women

Does the headline sound like it comes from a Communist country, or perhaps Nazi experimentation in concentration camps? No, not this time.

It's our own country. Apparently, last Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that free sterilization must be offered to all women of college-age (enrolled in college or not).

First of all, why are we not hearing this? There are a limited number of news services where I have seen the story, and unfortunately, this one, covers the story, but also shares a mostly "uncovered" picture of a celebrity in the margin, which I must warn you of before proceeding.

Secondly, why, oh why, would we ever think that offering 18-23 year olds free sterilization is a good idea? It's demeaning. It's degrading. It's heartbreaking. It says fertility is a major disease. It says we don't believe life is good enough to say yes to in the future. It says we don't want to be generous with love and life. It says we are incapable of self-sacrifice.

It says a lot ... and I could vent about it for a long time. But for now, please know that we must be vigilant about the anthropology of our government -- an anthropology that says I am made for this world and nothing more. Don't we want the beauty of knowing we are called to be more?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Amazing meditation about St. Joseph

Wow! This left me a bit speechless. Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB, has the most amazing insights and stories, this time about St. Joseph and his attitude toward Mary's conception of Jesus. Quoting a piece doesn't do it justice, but to begin the journey:

Let us turn now to the Scriptures to see how the drama of St. Joseph's life unfolds. Throughout the ages, the "Masters of Suspicion," as Bl. John Paul II names them, read the Annunciation to St. Joseph with the suspicion that no one, even St. Joseph, could have sufficient purity of heart to see the mystery of God's love in the unexpected pregnancy of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This presumption colors the interpretations of key biblical passages, supposing that St. Joseph saw Mary as an adulteress. Modern Scripture scholarship and the Doctors of the Church help us to reread these passages in the light of truth. The passage in question comes from St. Matthew's Gospel and we hear it each year on the Solemnity of St. Joseph: "Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly." (Mt 1:19)

First, we need help with two Greek words—namely the verb "deigmatizo", translated here as "expose to shame" and "apoluo" translated here as "divorce." While we cannot go into all the details, a valid re-translation of this passage is proposed by the Jesuit scripture scholar Fr. Ignace de la Potterie, "But Joseph, her spouse, who was a just man, and who did not wish to unveil (her mystery), resolved to secretly separate (himself) from her." (Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant, p. 39)

Be sure to read the rest.

Happy feast of St. Joseph!

" St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood. It is precisely in this way that, as the Church's Liturgy teaches, he "cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation" and is truly a "minister of salvation."(21) His fatherhood is expressed concretely "in his having made his life a service, a sacrifice to the mystery of the Incarnation and to the redemptive mission connected with it; in having used the legal authority which was his over the Holy Family in order to make a total gift of self, of his life and work; in having turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of self, an oblation of his heart and all his abilities into love placed at the service of the Messiah growing up in his house."(22)" -- Bl. John Paul II, "Redemptoris Custos" #8.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quote book

"One cannot desire freedom from the cross when one is especially chosen for the cross." -- St. Edith Stein

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Vatican's Stations of the Cross

Pope Benedict XVI chose a married couple from Italy to write this year's Stations of the Cross meditations for Good Friday at the Colosseum. The meditations will follow the traditional stations but focus on the family.

Danilo and Annamaria Zanzucchi are members of Focolare, the lay movement which Bl. Chiara "Luce" Badano was also a member.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Prolonged adolescence of young women

When most hear the relatively new phrase in sociological circles “prolonged adolescence,” images come to mind of twentysomething men in their favorite college hoodies gathered around the Playstation with a stripe of tomato sauce on their faces from the day-old meat lover’s pizza left on the counter. The picture is complete with fear of commitment, loud burping, living in the parents’ basement and piles of dirty dishes in the no-longer-visible sink.

But do young ladies experience their own version of prolonged adolescence in today’s me-driven culture? It seems that women’s prime symptom of prolonged adolescence is glimpsed in their friendships with other young women.

Perhaps in their search for faithful, committed relationships, young women are using their female friends as replacement “spouses.” In their fear of losing another relationship, young women are clutching on to their female friends as tightly as a little child holds a plastic trinket. In their determination to not let go, they simultaneously are unable to open their hands to receive new friendships. When these new friendships include the possibility of a romantic relationship with a young man, the result is often Mr. Committed walking away wondering why the girl he pursued won’t open to receive his gift of self.

It’s not that young women aren’t generous, loving or eager to give. In fact, their close female friendships can be full of giving, sharing and generosity. But they become so focused on the security blanket of their female friends – who can’t “break up” with them – that they often become unconsciously closed to others.

All of the compliments, presents, affirmations, backrubs and chats in the world offered within the fearful hoarding of prolonged adolescent female friendships ironically become me-focused instead of other-focused, turning generosity on its head.

For men, prolonged adolescence involves a security blanket of maintaining the activities, locations and friends of the past. The comfort zone of women takes the form of close, and even closed-in, friendships with one another.

Could this fear of loss of commitment turned overly committed friendship syndrome arise from the prolificacy of divorced families of origin? Could our fears, concerns and desire to safeguard relationships come from our lack of examples of faithfulness?

There is also a fear of vulnerability. Rather than expose a desire for love, women take what they have and hoard, hold and suffocate in a frenzied panic not to lose what they have. Rather than open themselves to the possibility of hurt, disappointment or rejection, young women create a sense of commitment, possession and independence that unsuspectingly can counter their desires for love. While they create walls to protect the love and friendships they have, they are consequently building an impenetrable fortress through which the new love and relationships they desire can barely hope to pass.

Just as the prolonged adolescence of young men results in an inability to foster good relationships, female prolonged adolescent friendships affect women’s ability to love rightly. Not only is there a lack of vulnerability, but young women who unconsciously treat their female friends as their make-do “spouses” are unconsciously emasculating their future husbands.

Rather than appreciate Mr. Right as the man he is, they question his inability to determine who is the right match for Susie, why Peter’s text message seemed abrupt and which bridal gown is the best style for a particular celebrity. When he can’t behave as her best friend does, then what is wrong with him, they wonder. In reality, Mr. Right has been given the impossible standard of being like his girlfriend’s female friends. Taylor Swift’s Saturday Night Live skit last year illustrated this reality.

Giggles over crushes, whispers over guys’ “cuteness” and games of “who likes who” seem to lend themselves more to one’s future pre-teen daughter than to friends in their third decade of life. Certainly this can’t be any more attractive to men than their stereotypical piles of dirty dishes are to women.

All of this is not to deny the gift of female friendships. Young women are right to cultivate friendships with one another. There are innumerable ways in which same-sex female friendships can assist each party in growing in holiness and growing in an identity rooted in Christ. The beginning to a true friendship rooted in Christ is the realization of its presence as a gift to be received and appreciated, and not as an object to be grasped and hoarded.

Perhaps when young men chuck their 24-hour video game marathons to admit to their need for something more, and young women widen their circle of friendships to admit they are longing to give and receive a total and faithful gift of self, we can begin to implement the challenge of John Paul II:

“The skill in giving and receiving which is typical of love is exhibited by the man whose attitude to a woman is informed by total affirmation of her value as a person, and equally by the woman whose attitude to a man is informed by affirmation of his value as a person. This skill creates the specific climate of betrothed love – the climate of surrender of the innermost self" ("Love and Responsibility," 129).

*** This article originally appeared on Since the site no longer exists, I am re-posting many of my old articles on my blog.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A strike that underscores a lack of dignity

In an effort to garner support for mandated contraceptive coverage, a group of women has decided to embark on a strike. A sex strike. No sex for a week, they say, to prove to men that men benefit from women having "reproductive choices"too.

So, what's ironic about this?

Well, to start with, these are the same people who would say that Natural Family Planning is a laughable endeavor because it involves periods of abstinence. Times of abstinence, in fact, that average about a week to ten days each month. So, if they can abstain for a week to prove a point, then why is it "impossible" to abstain for the same duration (or a few days more) every month for a greater purpose?

Secondly, do these women realize what they are saying by this strike? "I realize that you value me for the sex I give you. I am a dispenser of sex, not a unique and unrepeatable woman with dignity." Who wants to be treated as an object? Yet, this is precisely what these women are saying: "I am going to strike against being treated like an object, which ironically proves that I allow myself on a regular basis to be treated like an object." How sad!

Thirdly, what is the vision of men here? Men who make their decisions based on a week without sex? And men who must abstain involuntarily. That's a far cry from women who embrace Natural Family Planning ... they can't go it alone. If it becomes necessary for serious reasons to abstain, then both husband and wife unite together in their abstinence. It's not a matter of one person greedily grabbing for control for some sort of power trip. It's a matter of two people discerning how to love one another and their family in the best way possible. Abstinence doesn't become the lack of a gift; it becomes a gift of self in a different way. For "Liberal Ladies Who Lunch," where are the men with courage, self-control, generous hearts and self-sacrificial desires?

Fourthly, do these women realize what they are saving about sex? It's a bargaining tool. It's something useful that can get me something. Where is the dignity, sacredness and mystery of sex? If sex deserves such flippancy, then why is it worth withholding as a bargaining tool anyway?

So, as the "Liberal Ladies Who Lunch" gather women to strike for a week, I'm left feeling very sorry for them. They see their bodies as objects. They see men as sex-hungry monsters. They see sex as a bargaining tool. And contraception? Well, apparently, they see that as the key to freedom.

Seeing the world as a body

Simcha Fisher reflects on this idea in her latest post:

When I was about six years old, I would lie in bed, falling asleep as I gazed at the dark green maple leaves pushing against my bedroom window screen. Each leaf was just the size of a hand—so many hands, all gesturing in the breeze, saying more things than I could keep track of. I remember gazing at my mother’s hands as she sewed a patch on a pair of corduroys. The veins on her hands—the veins on those leaves: the pattern was not lost on me. This is a world with something to say. My mother’s hand darted up and down so quickly that I was terrified of her needle, but I couldn’t get myself to back away. She never did make a mistake: the needle went where her hands wanted it to go, briskly mending until the cloth was whole again.

Read more:

"A Letter to My Children About Marriage"

This is a wonderful, simple piece about the nature of sacrifice and love in marriage from a mother to her children:

To my girls:
Marry a man whose first pursuit is Christ. After that, he is not hard to please. Admire him, cheer him on and show gratitude, and he will fall over himself trying to please you. Smile often, speak well of him always, and do whatever necessary to try and maintain a pleasant mood about you so that it transfers to your home, making it a place where he and your children love to be.
You’ll have bad days of course, crying days even, and that’s when you go to your bedroom, kneel on the floor and beg the Lord to carry you. Then get up, get a fresh perspective (crayons will come off the wall), and try again. Above all else, make a home.

To my boys:
Marry a woman whose first pursuit is Christ. After that, she may be hard to please only if you don’t know “the secret”. What is that? I’m glad you asked.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Do Mothers Matter?"

Elizabeth Marquardt does an excellent job articulating the state of our current culture, which views motherhood as dispensable. It's at least implicit in the rise of egg donation and "gestational carriers" who provide opportunities for children to be born without present mothers. In fact, she points out that people are paying for this situation.

Or look to in India where, in 2005, a middle-aged accountant, Amit Banerjee, became that nation's first known single father by choice. His doctor enthused that the new father "was a perfect candidate for ART. As a physician I could not deny him the available technology that hundreds of childless couples are opting to fulfill their dreams of a family." A reporter asked, what about the child's loss of ever knowing his mother? The doctor replied with a question: "What about a child whose mother dies on the delivery bed?" In other words, some children already begin life under the gravely tragic circumstances of their mother dying in childbirth. Is it not the right of would-be parents intentionally to create such children -- and is it not the obligation of doctors to help them do it?

Read the brief article here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saying "I do" to an unknown future

Perhaps you remember reading the thoughts of Cristina and Andrew, a young engaged couple who blogged about their reflections on marriage and their meeting with Archbishop Dolan several months ago. They are now married and expecting their first child -- a baby girl, Maria Isabella.

Cristina and Andrew have learned that their daughter has Spina Bifida. After much prayer, thought and medical consultation, they have decided to undergo prenatal surgery this Wednesday.
Please pray for this new little family. And stay updated on their inspiring embrace of the journey of life and love on their blog.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fr. Barron comments on Effective Evangelization

It's good to hear a confirmation that the philosophy of our Kenosis program is on target.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Who is the JPII Generation?

Fr. Seamus Griesbach has a fascinating look into the role of the John Paul II generation on his blog. He explores his own experience being formed by the writings and example of the late Holy Father, as well as musings of the way in which this generation has been equipped to evangelize ... and how they have not been fully equipped. It's a fascinating read.

Just a glimpse (though, note that World Youth Day was in 2002, not 2003):

It was all coming down around us in that summer of 2003, the summer of World Youth Day. And I think it was then, as we looked upon the humble yet strong frame of that man of God, John Paul II, that many of us realized that the generation before us had sold us a useless bill of goods, rather than the Gospel. We had not been taught the fullness of the faith, we were not given adequate tools to handle real life – to deal with evil, to seek what is good. We were not trained in the virtues, we were not given a solid foundation in logic and critical thinking, we were not exposed to the cultural and religious treasures of our western heritage. Instead, we had been brought up by a generation that was convinced that the way to show their love for us was by being likable and entertaining us. The youth ministry mantra was, I’ll never forget, the “4 F words”: food, fun, friends, and faith.

But in the face of terrorists trying to kill us, criminal priests, divorce, substance abuse, psychological illnesses, violence, and promiscuity, the 4 F words just didn’t cut it, being likable and entertaining didn’t cut it either. Many of my peers left the faith, tired of being around a bunch of people who seemed obsessed with being likable, rather than being good. Who didn’t have any answers for the larger questions of life. Who didn’t seem to want to talk about suffering and death and desire and addiction.

But there were some of us who, through God’s providence and grace-filled guidance, were able to hold on to our faith. And with much struggle and prayer, we began an arduous transformation, a fundamental shift in the understanding of what it means to love and be loved as Christ has shown us. To this day we are trying to make that shift, even as we remain a conflicted generation, this JPII generation.

And it's all available here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Quote book

"The greatest expression of freedom is not the search for pleasure without ever coming to a real decision; this apparent, permanent openness seems to be the realization of freedom, but it is not true. The true expression of freedom is the capacity to choose a definitive gift in which freedom, in being given is fully rediscovered." -- Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Jennifer Fulwiler wants to stop asking children what they want to be when they grow up. Why?
Because the expected answer to this question is always a type of job, it reinforces the idea that the way to find identity and value is through career. Our society is already saturated with messages that the title on your business card is directly connected to your worth as a human being. When kids are bombarded by the questions about which job they’ll eventually hold, it trains them to view adult life through the lens of their place in the workforce.

Read more. It's a an excellent point to ponder.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Prayers please

May I ask for your prayers for St. Gertrude's youth group retreat this weekend? Courtney Brown and I are providing the talks for the weekend. It's a great group of about 60 teens. Please pray for their continued openness, and the grace of all those presenting and serving this weekend to be open to the way which the Lord wishes to speak.

Thank you!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The theology of Mary Poppins

This is quite brilliant. I haven't had the opportunity to read it all (it is massive!) but the "Vestal Morons" blog has an interesting look at the movie "Mary Poppins" from a Catholic perspective. Ever thought of Mary Poppins as a symbol of the Blessed Mother? Bert as St. Joseph? "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" as a treatise on grace and suffering?

Well, read away!

It makes me want to watch "Mary Poppins" again, which I haven't done in a very long time.