Monday, April 30, 2012

St. Gianna's second miracle

St. Gianna's feast day was celebrated on Saturday, and I just came across this detailed description of the second miracle that paved the way for her canonization.  St. Gianna was the last saint canonized by Bl. John Paul II.    

The picture above was taken by yours truly when I had the incredible gift six  years ago to travel to St. Gianna's hometown, as well as to the cemetery where she is buried (the image above).  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Totus Tuus

This is such a beautiful piece that I have enjoyed hearing the Dominicans sing. I'm glad that at least a minute of it is available online. Enjoy listening on the feast of St. Louis de Montfort!  Thanks to the St. Joseph Province of Dominican Friars for sharing this.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Living with purpose

An inspiring mother and a joyful little boy amidst incredible suffering:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"The grass is brown on both sides"

Fr. Damian Ference does a remarkable job looking at the sufferings that are part of both the vocation to celibacy and the vocation to marriage.
 My terrible habit was to compare the Good Friday of celibate priesthood to the Easter Sunday of marriage. I would think of all the hard things priests had to do and all the sufferings that came with the vocation of holy orders, and then compare that to the most beautiful and wonderful blessings of sacramental marriage. And from my warped perspective, marriage seemed a lot easier.
 Read it all here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The adventure of life

Sorry for the supposed silence since Monday.  Yesterday I was on my way to the airport when the bus broke down on the highway.  Then there was seven hours of waiting for a new plane, since the last one had prepared for take-off while I was watching cars speed by on the parkway.  This morning Courtney Brown and I led the morning sessions as a local high school retreat for juniors.  And now it is time to prepare for our final TOB for Teens class of our spring session.

Quite busy!  These sorts of days always remind me of Bl. John Paul II's wonderful quote, "Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure."  When was the last time you stopped to realize that the Lord is leading you through the adventure of a lifetime, your lifetime?  The perspective changes everything!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A little girl's message to her brother who has Down Syndrome

Unfortunately, this video doesn't have a link to embed it within the blog, but I assure you it is very worth clicking here. A little girl made a video about her brother who has Down Syndrome, and it is an eloquent testimony to the precious gift of every life.

(Thanks to Andrew and Cristina who mentioned the video on their blog. And please keep the prayers coming for this newly married couple and their unborn daughter, Maria Isabella.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Quote book

"The person who does not decide to love forever will find it very difficult to love for even one day." -- Bl. John Paul II

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A voice we don't usually hear

In the last several months, I have come across several blog, articles and videos about "third party reproduction." Some of the most striking come from children of sperm donors. It's a voice we don't usually hear as we debate the merits or consequences of artificially creating life. But it's a voice we need to hear. As Jennifer Roback Morse often says when discussing same-sex adoption, we need to focus on giving children the parents they need, not on giving parents the children they want.

So, here's a moment of reflection from someone whose coming to be involved a petri dish and a biological father who is unknown:

But this question does reveal something else to me - I do feel and always, it seems to me, have felt, an ambivalence towards my very existence. I have felt worthless and depressed and unworthy of love and life and at times suicidal. A failure. Never good enough. Incapable of pleasing.

I am now convinced this has something to do with my parents' ambivalence towards my existence.

I was proof of my father's fertility in public, a source of his shame in secret.

I was my mother's dream come true, and a source of her guilt in front of her husband for getting her genetic child when he didn't get his, which is why she probably allowed him to appropriate me and sabotage my relationship with her from the very start, when he persuaded her she couldn't nurse me, although she wanted to.

I was someone who constantly had to be lied to and about.

The whole reflection is short, but sobering, and so necessary to hear.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"It's not easy being a woman"

My latest contribution to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's new blog is online today.

Kermit once said, “It’s not easy being green.” Such is no longer the case. Green is “in.” Green is hip. Green is as convenient as purchasing the cloth grocery bag, conveniently located right next to the convenient scan-it-yourself aisle. Green is available at farmer’s markets and specialty stores and even regular grocery stores. Green is loudly touted by the media, by the teachers, by the government.

But, you know what’s not easy? It’s not easy being a woman.

This thought struck me as I opened a new bag of bread on Monday morning. As I untwisted the tie, I realized that staring back at me was a bikini-clad beach volleyball player. My first thought wasn’t about how many crunches I would have to do to try to look like her. Instead my first thought was, “Poor woman!” Here she is living as an athlete, and a view of her body that only her husband should see is plastered on plastic bags holding bread. Men, women and children throughout the country are being treated to her body while they make their daily sandwich, and her dignity, her mystery, her treasure is completely disregarded.

I managed to swallow my sandwich before heading back to my computer. Good thing too, because I next came across this story about a new app that tells its users about nearby women. The app, “Girls Around Me,” is in a bit of trouble for not seeking permission to share information from Foursquare and Facebook to alert men as to what women may be within reach.

Some may read these stories and rightly cry, “Objectification!” But sadly, many, many women view these as compliments. Many women today find their sole value in how they look, what they wear, how many catcalls they hear as they walk to their school or their place of employment. There is a lost sense of sacredness.

It’s why we see women of all ages running errands in tank tops and spandex. It’s why there is such a sense of competition between women regarding their clothes, makeup and hair. It’s why we view our treasure as our salary, our GPA, our ability to be Superwoman, instead of as being a precious daughter of God.

Read the rest on Being Catholic.

TOB for Teens training -- middle school edition

It's the last day to receive the early registration discount for Brian Butler's "Theology of the Body for Teens: Middle School Edition" training on May 4 or May 5. Visit for more information or to register.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What will happen if I don't stop?

Last night we were very blessed to have Fr. Earl Fernandes, academic dean of the Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati, as our guest speaker for Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life. Fr. Fernandes addressed the topic of same-sex attraction.

After a brief overview of the Church's teaching on marriage, sexuality and same-sex attraction, Fr. Fernandes showed the USCCB's video about sexual complementarity, "Made for Each Other." He then answered dozens of questions written by the teens.

Several questions dealt with how to speak of the topic of same-sex attraction and behavior with family or friends. One questioner wanted to know if anything should be said to a friend who is struggling in this area.

Fr. Fernandes mentioned common interpretations of the Good Samaritan parable that describe the priest and the Levite as "too busy" to stop. But, Fr. Fernandes said that the road to Jericho was very dangerous. Consequently, some interpret the priest and Levite as asking themselves, "What will happen to me if I stop?"

The difference of the Good Samaritan was his question -- "What will happen to this man if I don't stop?"

Similarly, we are called to ask, "What will happen to my friend, to my relative, to this person, if I don't say something, if I don't share the beauty of my faith? What will happen to this person's salvation if I remain silent?"

Although the topic of same-sex attraction is a delicate and controversial one, we can remain confident that the Church's teaching is one of authentic love, as She longs for the eternal happiness of all of her children.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divine Mercy Sunday!

"Those who sincerely say ‘Jesus, I trust in You’ will find comfort in all their anxieties and fears."

"There is nothing more man needs than Divine Mercy – that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights to the holiness of God." -- Bl. John Paul II

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Enjoy life while you can!" -- Are we being well prepared for marriage?

It’s not every day your run across a piece like this: Harvard law graduate turned mother shares her thoughts about young women today being groomed to be executives with no real training for wife and motherhood. She shares thoughts like this:

Recently, a possibly tragic event took place: a highly educated young woman I know got married. Radiant in her delicate lace dress, full of joy and optimism about the future, this blushing bride was not yet aware of the reality of her situation: that she has been groomed through her many years of education to be, well, the groom – and this fact is very likely to cause friction for her and her family as she tries to achieve the deepest hopes and dreams of her heart.

My post doesn’t directly deal with Lea Singh’s thoughts, so I highly recommend at the conclusion of this, that you take a detour to her entire post, “The bride who was groomed for a career.”

She is quite courageous for speaking of this. But many Catholics might read it and say, “That really doesn’t apply. We’re quite pro-family here, thank you very much.”

But I have to wonder how much this really is the case.

To boil it down to the two extremes, (which of course are not the only two options on table), there seem to be two types of single women in the Catholic world. On the one hand, there are the husband hunters who are so intent on capturing a new last name that the man who is going to give her the title of “Mrs.” becomes a means to an end, an ironic object in the quest for marriage and motherhood.

On the other hand of the spectrum are the single women who want nothing to do with being a husband hunter and so are focused in pouring their all into where they are now – career, friendships, adventurous expeditions. And at first glance, this second option seems a good one – to be fully present to the place one currently is, to experience life with joy and creativity.

Such is all the case, and yet there is an inherent danger that must be avoided. In seeking to not self-identify by what is lacking in one’s life, one may become used to, trained in a sense, to view life in terms of what I do and what I experience – my job, my friends, my hobbies, my freedom. And the “my” mentality can lead to a tyranny of unintended selfish consequences.

So that when Mr. Right waltzes onto the scene, the single in the second situation may find it difficult to pry her hands off of her career, which she may love, or her weekend adventures, which a family may make a bit difficult.

But, at the same time, Single Lady #2 is doing something right in living her singlehood in joy and peace. But when she hears people say at every turn, “Enjoy it now, honey, because when you get married, your freedom will be GONE,” it can be difficult to envision marriage and family life as something attractive or worth making sacrifices.

I think the question boils down to this – why is one embracing her career, investing in hobbies, etc? Is it to truly live out this time of single life that God has given, or is it to escape something? Is it to take the attachment of Single #1 to the man of the future and to attach it instead to things – career, clothes, girls’ nights? Or is to live fully, to live present, to live with a detachment that says, “I am ready to sacrifice this when God invites me to do so.”

Instead of eagerly dishing out advise to Catholic singles to pour forth everything into career and “all of the opportunities you will no longer have when you’re wearing a ring,” perhaps we need to reconsider how to properly prepare for a married life of giving all away. How do we live singlehood in a way that doesn’t view marriage as a prison of “no more freedom” but as a lifelong gift of sacrifice and gift of self for others? Perhaps it’s as simple as occasionally skipping that $3 coffee and tithing the money instead, or of spending girls’ night in the soup kitchen to serve others.

Whatever the concrete details may be, I think we need to examine how the desire of Single #1 to live for Mr. Right in the future and the desire of Single #2 to live for something in the present can meet in Single #3 whose singlehood is very much a preparation for a vocation of service, without instrumentalizing Future Husband as the tool to achieve the goal. And if perhaps single life is perpetuated longer than planned or hoped for, then one can rest assured that she has been learning to live for God in a selfless way even though her concrete circumstances are not within an objective “Vocation.”

Now, if you’ve forgotten where that tangent began, you can return to Lea Singh’s thoughts here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Quote book

"Vocation is like a yoke. It's a burden in a sense because it's what we need to do God's work. Finding your vocation is a matter of finding the yoke that fits best." -- a Kenosis teen

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Does chivalry matter?

Emily Stimpson does a wonderful job articulating the good of chivalry in her recent post, "Ryan Gosling, Manly Men, and the Witness of Chivalry." It's a good read.

Now, is there any guarantee that a man who opens car doors for a woman won’t use his strength to overpower or insult her? Hardly. Likewise, will letting a man open those doors automatically prevent a woman from being shrewish and selfish? Most definitely not.

But that doesn’t mean those gestures don’t help some. Nor does it mean they aren’t good in and of themselves. They are the embodied proclamation of the beauty of sexual complementarity and, when properly understood, help cultivate the virtues of humility, charity, and generosity. In more ways than one, chivalry puts the “civil” in civilization.

That’s why, whatever way you slice it, abandoning chivalry has made the world a more hostile place for women and a less human place for men. If we lived in a culture where men routinely gave up their seats on crowded subways (and women let them), I suspect fewer people in general would be spewing invectives online about people they’ve never met.

And the rest is here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Easter again!

Contraception's effect on children

Tom Hoopes has a sobering reflection on contraception's emotional effect on children whose parents use it.
I still remember the day I found out that I, the third child in three years, was never meant to exist at all. And I wouldn’t exist, at all, if pharmacies in Tucson kept later hours on Saturdays in the 1960s.
Read it all here.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

"Christ is truly risen! Alleluia! Today too the Church continues to make the same joyful proclamation. Christ is truly risen! These words are like a cry of joy and an invitation to hope. If Christ is risen, St. Paul notes, our faith is not in vain. If we have died with Christ, we have risen with him: we must now live as risen people. ...

Everyone needs this saving Word: to everyone the risen Lord brings it personally. Dear parishioners, share this message of hope with those you meet at home, in school, at the office, in the workplace. Reach out especially to those who are alone, who are suffering and in precarious conditions, the sick and the marginalized. To each and every one of them proclaim: Christ is truly risen!" -- Bl. John Paul II

Friday, April 6, 2012

Stations of the Cross meditations, Part III

Our Kenosis teens prepared these Stations of the Cross meditations during this Holy Week. We hope and pray that they present you an opportunity for fruitful reflection during this Triduum.

Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

The nails pierced the median nerves. Pain shoots not just through Christ’s hands and arms but through His entire body. These nerves. This body. The same sensory system that allows us to feel joy, is causing such great physical pain.

Lord, the depth of Your suffering is only a shadow of Your love for me. When I am sorrowful or happy, these are only a glimpse of the profundity of Your plan for me. A plan for happiness, for eternity.

Jesus, help me to accept the grace You offer to bear my own pains, with my eyes always heavenward towards the point of it all.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the cross.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

Dear Jesus, You died on the cross for love of us. You forgave those who hate You, and even as You died, You prayed for them. You taught us that there is no greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friend. Even when we are treated unfairly and we feel like we are alone, help us to know you are there, encouraging us and teaching us to love those who sin against us.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

Lord, as Your body was taken down from the cross – bloody, bruised, pierced, wounded – you were surrounded by Your mother Mary, your disciple John and Joseph of Arimathea. The world would look at Your body and shun the blood, the violence, the mangled limbs. But the eyes of faith of those who surrounded You most closely told a different story. This was no meaningless death, no waste of a life. It was a sacrifice of love. Each nail mark radiated the pure light of love. Each mark of blood represented infinite sacrifice. Each wound poured forth a gift – a fruit of love given to the end.

While looking at Your body, most would walk away in disgust, yet Your disciples, along with their grief, could experience even a glimmer of joy, knowing they were loved to the end. Please give us the grace to look at You and Your sacrifice with eyes of faith and hope and to embrace the fruit of suffering in our own lives.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

When You laid in the tomb, the earth mourned, the trees wept, the seas wept and the land barren. At this moment the world stood still and the cosmos paused, but Your body laid waiting for the victory. Oh, the anguish, darkness, and emptiness we all feel at times, Lord, You knew in the tomb. The joy You knew in what was about to be accomplished. You allow us Lord at times to experience emptiness in order to purify the gift. Teach me Lord to find joy in the emptiness as You did.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stations of the Cross meditations, Part II

Today we continue the meditations written by Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life.

Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

Dear Jesus, thank you for the example set by Veronica to console the injured and abused in their weakest times. Help us to follow in her footsteps and not be afraid to do what we know is right and to help those in need. Like Veronica, give us the courage to stand up for the voiceless souls who are mistreated and condemned and to wipe away any hurt that may be stained on their hearts.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Seventh Station: Jesus falls a second time.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Becaus
e by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

Jesus accepts another fall. God’s own flesh is torn open, and He is humiliated by His children. Even knowing the suffering that would follow, He accepts another fall, not to force His children into salvation, but open the invitation to us, even in our sinfulness. Though He falls, He is able to get back up with the hope that just one of His children will get to enter heaven.

Jesus, fighting for the salvation of souls is demanding and exhausting. We are often humiliated, and when we aren’t it is because we were too afraid to stick up for You. Help us to persevere even after we fall. Help us suffer toward Your cross of our own salvation. Help us to fight for what is true and not to count the cost. Amen.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

“A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for your children.” – Luke 23:27-28

Jesus, walking along the road to His death and carrying the heavy wooden cross, is still able to maintain a kind and loving presence to those around Him. If you think about the last time you had a bad day, did you act in a similar manner? Chances are, you were grumpy, annoyed, and tried hard to close yourself off to the rest of the world. Jesus, though, sets us the perfect example of how to remain joyful in our sufferings. Instead of reacting with bitterness to these poor women, He reaches out to them and comforts them even when He is the one who is in most need of comfort.

Jesus, help me to always imitate Your joyful and kindly demeanor, even if I’m going through the most difficult of times.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Ninth Station: Jesus falls a third time.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

Lord, you have fallen again. The crown of thorns pushes more forcefully into your head. The weight of the wood crushes your shoulders. Passersby mock and scorn You. In the pain and humiliation You say, “Yes.” You say yes to loving the world – each person unique, unrepeatable, loved into existence. You say yes to every moment of pain, physical and emotional, knowing that it will bear fruit. You see a young man in 2,000 years receiving forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and you say yes. You see a woman living several centuries away whose child is dying, and you say yes. You say yes so that all those who follow You can suffer with meaning. You say yes so that every man and woman can live eternally with You. Even when it means repeatedly falling, you stand again to say yes.

Jesus, we ask for the grace to unite our yes with Yours, that You will open our suffering to Your own and to Your incredible love.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of His garments.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

Oh Lord, how is it that our God would take on our flesh to suffer and personally take on our guilt? Your poured Your life out like a libation. You gave Your life as a selfless gift in order to open our hearts to receive that gift. Still Lord, you allow Yourself to be stripped of all in order that You can give all. Lord, teach me to get rid of all attachments in order that I may be a total gift to You and to others. There are times, Lord, when I have nothing to give, but teach me to give that nothing. Jesus, it must have given You great joy to know at the moment Your cloak was stripped from Your body, Your complete selfless gift would change my heart this very moment. Thank you for the gift.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stations of the Cross meditations, Part I

Once again, Kenosis: Teen Disciples for Love and Life spent the Holy Week meeting creating meditations on the Stations of the Cross. This time we asked that the meditations focus on the joy and fruitfulness of suffering. And once again, the meditations are too good not to share. I hope they give you an opportunity for fruitful prayer as we prepare for the Triduum.

First Station: Jesus is condemned to death.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

“And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your king!’ They cried out, ‘Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I
crucify your king?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.” – John 19:14-16.

Jesus, knowing he was completely innocent of any crime, accepts the fate that the Jews and the Romans dictate. He knows that by doing this he will have to suffer greatly, and yet He continues anyway because He places the good of each of us above His own comfort. His words in the garden echo in our memory, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet, not as I will but as You will.”

Jesus, help us to show this same selflessness that you did, even in the face of situations that cause us harm.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Second Station: Jesus takes up His cross.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

Dearest Jesus, Your example of self-gift and humility inspires us to give of ourselves and offer up our sufferings to You. Through Your willingness to accept Your cross, You gave us a model to follow and a way to face our struggles with joy and hope in our hearts.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Third Station: Jesus falls the first time.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.

All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

Jesus’ first fall shows the weight of the cross, how heavy our sings are. How much more joyful we should be, then, that such a burden has been lifted from our shoulders. His falling and rising shows that He is with us at every moment, even when we fall. He is with us, helping us carry our crosses, and just as He didn’t give up on us on His way to Calvary, He doesn’t give up on us now. The fall wasn’t the greatest pain He endured for our sake, but it shows us that He is with us not only in our greatest trials, but also smaller ones. Jesus’ rise after His fall points to His resurrection, which is the ultimate example of hope because of suffering.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Fourth Station: Jesus meets His mother.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

As Mary looks at her suffering Son, her heart burns with desolation. The angel Gabriel had promised that her Son would redeem the world, but now He is walking from the sinful world to His death. It is at this moment that Mary reflects on the joy of her first yes at the Annunciation, and the grace that has come from the suffering she has endured. If her small suffering in saying yes to God could make God flesh, what could limit the power of the suffering of God? Mary is able to trust that he agony, united to her Son’s plays an active part in the salvation of the world.

Mary, help us to see how God has used our suffering to make Himself visible to our family and those around us. Help us in our agony to know that Jesus is meeting us with a deep understanding of the sufferings of our heart.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry His cross.

Leader: We adore you O Christ and we bless you.
All: Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

It was not long into the journey up the hill that it was recognized that our Christ was not going to make it on His own. The soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into helping. How blessed was Simon to be allowed the great honor to share in the suffering of the Lord.

But we can be sure that this is not how he felt. At least, not initially. What overwhelming joy, would Simon have, when Christ rises, and His true nature is known, that he played some small part.

Each time I suffer, I am given the opportunity to join in the suffering of Christ. But too often I cannot see beyond my broken heart. I refuse to see beyond the unfairness of my situation.

Lord, take my heart, all my suffering, all my faults, all my talents. Help me to focus them towards You; towards joining them with Your way of the cross; towards uniting with You in the Eucharist. Only in placing them in You, can they be transformed in the Resurrection into JOY. Please not let it be after the fact that I see the beauty and fruitfulness of this suffering.

Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory Be …

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An afternoon with Wendell Berry

I've written about Wendell Berry before. This past Saturday I was able to see him for the first time. There's something rather fascinating about stepping into a small town along the Ohio River, where the community has a yearly book club. Can you imagine walking to get the mail and asking your neighbor, "Have you read the book yet?" Or asking fellow parishioners, the grocery store clerk or the mailman?

So, this is the small town community I traveled to for this particular event -- a book club with the author.

Wendell Berry, with his sparkling blue eyes, incredible wisdom concerning the reality of our world and his dose of hope amidst the craziness of modernity addressed us all in the public library. (If they had more people than the room could hold, arrangements had already been made for all present to walk a few feet to the church, which could accommodate more.) And with his 77 years of experience of living, Mr. Berry proceeded to share some thoughts, many instigated by questions from the audience.

This might seem a bit random, but the thoughts he shared on Saturday might be just the little push you need to pick up "Hannah Coulter" or some other work of Wendell Berry to get a sense of his thought. He's not a Catholic, nor is he explicitly teaching about Theology of the Body or marriage and family, but his ideas implicitly form and educate along the same lines.

So, from Mr. Berry --

  • After World War II, industrialization affected everything -- agriculture, entertainment, health care. Local people stopped telling local stories and instead talked about what they saw on television. That's a profound change. Real culture consists of conversations between old people and young people. Without that, something is really lost.
  • There are two parts to what has happened in our cultural clashes right now. There are people who would like to see communities remade. This often begins with a desire for local food, which turns into something social. People come to the farmer's market and spend the day talking with each other. This is hope-giving. Secondly, there is outside pressure -- fuel costs, long commutes, etc. So, the pressure on the outside and the effort on the inside can end in good together, but are the people on the inside together enough before the pressures on the outside become too great?
  • Leadership from the bottom is people who see something needs doing and just do it.
  • It's getting harder to mature. One reason is that the experience of young people is too uniform (manufactured or media-driven, but not local). We also surround young people with so many alternatives. To say you can be anything you want to be is a horrible lie from the start. I could never be a ballet dancer. In Amish communities, for example, the kids don't have such a scattered mind of who they're going to be. We now have the idea that you have no appointed place to go, no vocation (no calling). We now have a kid cast loose into the economy for just a job.
  • Hope is a virtue, which means it's not optional. You're expected to have it. If you're concerned with the issues I'm concerned with, you're going to come to the limit of your hope and you're going to need some more.
  • The word "inevitable" I hate ... That's a lazy person's word.
  • On the role of education -- My education implied all along that you can't amount to anything from a place like where I came from. I think it is a good idea to leave. I wouldn't want any of my children to stay without leaving first. But if you think to make the people at home in the place where the education is happening, then the education would look a lot different. Instead of departmentalized specializations, it would be a conversation among disciplines. Higher education has been oversold by the higher education institutions. The president is the CEO. Their success is reckoned by the number of buildings they have. Children of farmers can't become farmers after college because they're too in-debt to farm.
Learn more about Wendell Berry here. But Mr. Berry wouldn't learn from the Internet, so be sure to buy one of his books to really learn more.

ConfessItAll Commercial

Monday, April 2, 2012

Bl. John Paul II

It's been 7 years today (at 3:37 pm, our time, I might add) since Pope John Paul II went to his Father's house.

Two years ago I wrote the following article for his fifth anniversary of death, which coincided with Good Friday. Much of it is still relevant today.

As the world watched, stomach in knots, tears streaming from sorrowful eyes, lips silently moving in prayer, faces lit by the glow of the television set, the cry of “Santo Subito!” was already heard. Whether we knew the Italian phrase or not, millions of people accompanying John Paul II on his journey home to the Father on April 2, 2005, considered him a saint.

Many of us predicted that our beloved late Holy Father would be beatified on the fifth anniversary of his death. Little did we realize that April 2, 2010, is Good Friday, a day hardly appropriate for recognizing a new saint. Rather than be disappointed, however, I think we should view this timing as a reminder of the meaning of John Paul’s life. Instead of focusing on the late Holy Father, we will be devoted to the One to whom John Paul pointed during his life and death.

Images and video footage of John Paul in the early years of his pontificate show a vibrant, strong man, lifting high the papal crucifix and proclaiming the message of Christ’s love for the world. As time went on, one can see that John Paul gradually moved from lifting the cross to leaning on it for support.

The suffering of John Paul’s life, and especially in his pontificate was not without great significance. Most noteworthy are four key signposts of suffering through which he taught the world what it means to give our lives to Jesus Christ out of love for Him and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

On October 16, 1978, Karol Wojtya’s world changed in an instant. As the cardinals approached him to ask if he would accept the responsibility the Holy Spirit had inspired them to choose him for – to lead the Church by serving her – he realized life would never be the same. His beloved Poland, his friendships, his ski trips, his ability to control his own schedule could not be the same anymore. And in that instant, he had to choose whether or not to accept God’s will for his life.

Notice that this decision did not involve him alone. Can we even imagine how different the Church and the world would be today if John Paul had responded, “No, thanks.” He heard God’s call and he accepted. His yes to Jesus Christ’s request that he be the 263rd Peter entailed adventures, sufferings, joys and decisions he could not possibly have known or foreseen in that moment.

In our lives too, we are met with moments of encounter with Jesus Christ, who asks us to give Him everything – even what we don’t know or realize might be entailed in our gift of ourselves to the Lord. These moments of Christ asking us to give Him all can be frightening or exciting, but we can rest assured, that like He did for John Paul, the Lord is always standing right by us, holding our hands to lead us along His path for our lives.

On May 13, 1981, John Paul was about to give another general audience as part of his Theology of the Body messages and to announce the founding of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He was shot. He nearly died.

Persecution and suffering – though not necessarily assassination attempts – are part of our journey in following Christ. Many times they signal that we are exactly where God wants us. If God leads us on a particular path, then Satan will be hard-pressed to trip us in an effort to frustrate our desire to follow God’s plan. In these moments too, we can take the suffering offered to us and return it, in all of its pain and strain and offer it as a gift to God.

Above all, this requires trust that God remains with us and will not leave us orphans. Whether we can see clearly or not what God’s purpose is in allowing our suffering, our challenge is to focus on Him and surrender ourselves to His care, knowing that “all things work for the good of those who love Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:28).

Trusting that suffering is not meaningless but can be part of God’s plan for our lives and the salvation of the world can be seen in the third signpost.

In 1994, the world was dangling on the precipice of falling headlong into the culture of death, as the United Nations’ Cairo Conference on Population and Development prepared to meet, with potentially disastrous consequences for families. John Paul was adamant in his defense of the family and of life. It was during this battle that he fell and required hip surgery that was not adequately performed. During the same year, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

On the Sunday following his hip replacement, John Paul addressed the Church and the world, explaining that he saw his suffering as a gift:
“I understood that I have to lead Christ’s Church into this third millennium by prayer, by various programs, but I saw that this is not enough: she must be led by suffering, by the attack thirteen years ago and by this new sacrifice. Why now, why this, why in this Year of the Family? Precisely because the family is under attack. The Pope has to be attacked, the Pope has to suffer, so that every family and the world may see that there is … a higher Gospel: the Gospel of suffering, by which the future is prepared, the third millennium of families, of every family and of all families” (Witness to Hope, 721).

Certainly we can all learn from this lesson. In the midst of our ministries, or family life, or career challenges, we can transform our difficulties by “offering it up,” allowing the suffering to be meaningful and a blessing in our particular circumstances. We can offer our sufferings as the fertilization for the soil of the conversion of those around us, in whatever capacity God may call us to intercede.

And for the remaining 11 years of his life, John Paul suffered. He suffered physically as his tremors became stronger, his face began to lose its power of free expression and he was no longer able to walk. He suffered emotionally from the loss of his physical abilities, from the ache of having to decrease travel and interaction with his flock. Above all he suffered spiritually – he suffered for Christ, for us.

John Paul was our Peter – the man whom Jesus Christ chose to lead His Church. It is no coincidence then that John Paul was a living witness of this encounter between Christ and Peter:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me." (John 21:15-19)

This brings us to the final witness of John Paul’s life – his death. Everything happened so quickly in that Easter week of 2005. With peace, surrender and great love, John Paul offered his life, lovingly lived, back to the Father, in the final act of surrender in death.

The fact that the fifth anniversary of John Paul’s death coincides with Good Friday is another reminder that the purpose of the late Holy Father’s life was to point the world to the love of Jesus Christ. What a profound witness for each of us, all called to offer the entirety of our lives, and finally our death, in surrender to God who has given us everything and who loves us beyond measure.

John Paul lived and died in this way – as we are called to as well – because of what happened on Good Friday. That our God became man because He loves you so immensely that He gave everything in order to offer you a life of communion with Him forever.

Let’s pray this Good Friday that we can offer our lives as a gift to the Lord. We can be assured that John Paul will be interceding for us.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Quote book

"If God were to show a soul all the suffering that life has in store for it, the soul would die on the spot. If God were to show a soul all the joys it would experience in life, it would die on the spot. God knows this, and he measures things accordingly. The soul does not know, but it abandons itself in God who loves it." -- Chiara Lubich