Friday, May 24, 2013

World Day of Prayer for China

Beginning with Pope Benedict XVI, and now continued by Pope Francis, May 24 is the World Day of Prayer for China. It's so important that we keep our brothers and sisters in this nation in our prayers!

Please join in this prayer written by Pope Benedict a few years ago:

Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians,"
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously co-operated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.

From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence.

Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"What Makes a Baby"

There's a new children's book out, whose title describes its topic, "What Makes a Baby." With cartoon-like illustrations aimed at an audience of 3-7 year olds, it might come as some surprise that a "certified sexuality educator" would have to write it. But this book isn't the usual, "Mom and Dad loved each other very much and their love grew into you!"

Rather, as one reviewer shared:
Indeed, the book doesn't even mention the word "mommy" or "daddy". Instead,What Makes a Baby explains that "Not all bodies have eggs in them. Some do, and some do not;" and that "Not all bodies have sperm in them. Some do, and some do not." Similarly, sex isn't so much tip-toed around as it is relegated to one unspecified option among many. "When grown ups want to make a baby they need to get an egg from one body and sperm from another body. They also need a place where a baby can grow."

The book is proudly lauded as appropriate for all "family styles," no matter how nontraditional. By removing gendered terms and family language, it attempts to communicate the origin of a child as some sort of raw scientific data that can occur inside a person or in a petri dish or in a doctor's office.

But is this really generosity to children?  To attempt to write books that water down the meaning of their existence as pure gift and mystery and love in order to find a way to excuse the technological and production-like vehicles invented to "make a baby"?  What does this say to the child?  What will our future world be like if all adults learned when they were five that to "make a baby" one simply needs an egg, a sperm and a place for the baby to grow?  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

God's calling in the produce aisle

I decided to resurrect an old post of mine that originally appeared on Catholic Exchange's now retired Theology of the Body site.  It was written in the spring of 2010, but the message is still timely.


Rushing out of my study cave with the great cloud of comprehensive exam induced stress hovering above my head, I plotted out my plan of attack for the grocery store shopping to which I was heading.  Nothing was going to stand between the milk aisle and me because any second lost was a second I would not be fervently studying.

My perfectly constructed plans reached a fork in the road after two steps into the store, when a salesman invited me to sign up for a gift card giveaway.  I stood hesitating, attempting to decide between blowing off the opportunity to win $100 and surrendering some of my study time.  For some reason, I chose the latter.

As I filled out the raffle ticket, the salesman invited me to sign up for a newspaper deal.  Still in a hurry, I explained that I would be moving in three months, so a 26-week subscription to a DC paper wouldn’t do me much good.  And like any good salesman, he began a conversation: Where was I moving?  First time there?  Why was I in DC?  What was I studying?  What would I be doing after graduation?

That was the moment when I began to realize that God was calling me to share Theology of the Body.  In the middle of the produce aisle, I began explaining, now with genuine enthusiasm in my voice, how the late Holy Father spent the first five years of his pontificate developing this beautiful teaching.  Instead of a microphone in my hand, I held my shopping list, and instead of standing in a room full of people eager to hear about the pope’s words, I stood amidst the broccoli, bananas and bell peppers.

“See, a lot of people think the body is bad.  They assume that when we die, only our soul will go to heaven.  Or they think that the body is bad, and the soul is good,” I explained. 

“But John Paul spent five years explaining that our bodies are good.  He talked about how we are made in the image and likeness of God, and that includes our bodies.  We can tell by the fact that He created us male and female, that we are called to love.  We are called to give ourselves to each other – whether it be in marriage, or even in a smaller capacity like volunteering to help others.  God isn’t sexual, but He is love, and in our bodies we are able to image that.”

Surprised, the salesman (who was also taken aback at having met someone who has never left the Catholic faith) asked if Theology of the Body is only for Catholics.  I assured him that it isn’t, and that it applies to everyone.  I gave him the example of a Protestant church I’m aware of planning to host a series of Theology of the Body study groups this year.

And right there in the middle of the apples, asparagus and arugula, the salesman shared the story of when his father, a Protestant minister, first explained to him that God is love. 

In those few minutes, the salesman wasn’t making any commission, and I wasn’t memorizing what Aristotle wrote about matter and form.  But God was calling.  He was asking that the work be set aside for a moment, and that He be given the priority.

As I walked away, a little slower than before, I chuckled at God’s insistence that I remember what’s really important.  There I was, placing my exams above everything, nearly ignoring the opportunity to talk to a person about God’s plan.  Ironically, isn’t it for people that I am taking these exams and completing these studies?  Isn’t my desire to help others come to see the beauty of Theology of the Body? 

It’s a lesson we need repeated frequently.  When preparing Sunday’s homily, or researching for next week’s CCD lesson, or reading a new book about Theology of the Body, how often do we get lost in what we have to get done and forget why we are immersed in this work in the first place?  If it’s not about our love of God and neighbor, then haven’t we missed the point?

John Paul seems a wonderful example of a man whose work was for his love of God and neighbor.  His encyclicals, letters, addresses and even Theology of the Body audiences weren’t an academic exercise for their own sake – they were for people.  John Paul wrote, spoke and lived for the man working in a rice field in China, for the woman oppressed in Sudan, for the Polish couple contemplating marriage, for the El Salvadorian family having difficulty putting food on the table. 

In Laborem Exercens, he wrote:
[H]owever true it may be that man is destined for work and called to it, in the first place work is "for man" and not man "for work. […] in the final analysis it is always man who is the purpose of the work, whatever work it is that is done by man – even if the common scale of values rates it as the merest "service", as the most monotonous even the most alienating work. (#6)

No matter where God calls us, reminding us of the constant necessity of reordering our priorities, it’s a lesson worth heeding.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Are you coming to Camp Echo?

Time is running out to register for Cincinnati's first Camp Echo, a unique Theology of the Body camp for high school students.  The registration deadline is May 30, so you have 10 days to pray and apply.  We would love to see you there!

Spread the word to any high school students you know, as well as young adults who play a unique role in the camp.  Teens come from far and near, so don't hesitate to share the news with young people who are a plane ride away from Cincinnati.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A different perspective on cohabitation

Most arguments against cohabitation are based on an outsider's perspective, but Verily Magazine is featuring the story of one young woman who shares her personal experience of moving in with her boyfriend.
It didn’t take long, however, for the fairy-tale sheen to wear off my new living situation. Admittedly, I was saving a considerable amount of money not having to worry about rent and utilities, but the truth of the matter is that it created an intense emotional imbalance. I felt forever beholden to Jake and, as a result, I felt that I couldn’t refuse or refute him in anything. Worse still, living together completely abbreviated the get-to-know-you process that dating before marriage is designed to accomplish. The priority became maintaining the household peace instead of probing one another’s souls. Living together bred a thorough complacency that came to slowly rot our relationship from the inside-out.

One evening, for example, it became apparent that he and I did not share the same values regarding working motherhood. I was completely aghast at the things he said to me that night; I felt like I had gotten the wind knocked out of me. Who was this man that I was living with and how could this be his expectations for our – my – future?

But I didn’t say anything. I had class the next day, dinner to clean up, homework to do, and I just could not face such a serious conversation with no place to retreat to in case it went poorly. In a non-cohabitating situation, I probably would have broken up with him right then–it was that bad–or at least taken time to seriously reevaluate our relationship. But I did neither of those things. I told myself that I could maybe change his mind sometime in the future and left it there. We went to sleep that night as usual.

This situation played itself out over and over again. These silences grew into unacknowledged mutual grudges that lived ominously under the surface until a disruption in our lives brought them to the surface.

Read it all here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Kermit Gosnell found guilty

Former late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of 3 of 4 counts of first degree murder of newborn babies.  He was also convicted on involuntary manslaughter of a woman who underwent an abortion in his clinic.  There are more than 200 other counts.  You can watch live coverage here.

Saving lives on the Golden Gate Bridge

Defending the gift of life can take many forms and occur at various stages. Kevin Briggs saves life in an incredible way:


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

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

Happy Mother's Day to all spiritual and physical mothers!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

I had the great privilege of attending the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in DC bright and early this morning.  Papal Nuncio Archbishop Vigano was present to send the greetings of Pope Francis.  After breakfast, two speakers -- one lay and one a bishop -- addressed the crowd of over 800 people.  

Helen Alvare, always a delightful speaker, said it was difficult to compress in ten minutes a synthesis of all that has happened this year.  From the Year of Faith to a new pope, from the US government's accusations of the Church's "war on women" to a stronger than ever push for a redefinition of marriage, it has been quite the year.  Still, in only 10 minutes, Helen Alvare gave an outstanding speech with a few of the following highlights:

  • Today many people urge Catholics to leave the hot button issues alone and talk about the weather instead.  But this is an application of the Good Samaritan parable -- which human rights issues do we see?  We don't get to choose which moral issues we engage.  They are put in our path based on the place in time we occupy.  The question isn't what we respond to, but how should we respond.

  • We have resources today that our grandparents did not have.  We have Theology of the Body articulating the dignity of the human person.  We also have decades of experience with failed theories on how to care for women and the poor.  We don't have to theorize or prophetize (ala "Humanae Vitae") anymore.  We just have to face the problem and get to work.  

  • We have to be fearless in defending the poor and women.  The poor are not being cared for, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  There is a poverty of marriage among the poor too, and this needs to change.

  • "The Catholic approach has something to ruffle everyone's feathers" when it comes to economic, social and political issues.

  • Pope Francis is fearless both with the poor and in linking sex, marriage and parenting.  We need to become fearless too.

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs next addressed the gathering.  He focused on the link between marriage and the new evangelization.

  • "Evangelization makes the Person of Jesus known in His love and His mercy."

  • "Evangelization must always lead to conversion."

  • The Second Vatican Council document on the Church (Lumen Gentium) says (in other words) that marriage and family life are inextricably bound up with the new evangelization.  

  • John Paul II continued this by saying that Christian couples are missionaries of love and life.  They evangelize through their lives and also through their words.

  • Marriage is integral to the new evangelization.  It has a unique way of evangelization.  Parents evangelize each other.  They evangelize their children.  Sometimes, children even evangelize their parents.  

  • Marriage isn't new, but every person is new -- unique and unrepeatable.

  • Stable marriage and family life builds culture.

  • The new evangelization can lead us to a renewal of marriage.  

  • Love is a commitment that demands generosity and responsibility.

  • To the married couples in attendance  he closed by saying, "I admire you for the love and sacrifice that defines your life together."  He prayed that this love may be a source of joy, and gave a reminder of having Christ "at the center of your life and your relationship."
The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast will be rebroadcast on EWTN on Friday and on Saturday. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy birthday to Archbishop Fulton Sheen!

It's the 118th birthday of Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.  Anyone who has listened to his talks or watched a few moments of his network television shows knows how captivating Archbishop Sheen was in his delivery of the faith.  And then there are his books that taught with a simplicity and a depth that are quite remarkable.  

In honor of the day, here are a few of my favorite quotes from Archbishop Sheen.

  • To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood.  When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her.  The higher her virtue, the more her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her.  The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.” ("The World's First Love")

  • "There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing."

  • "Those who glorify the ego, or the seeming-self, often develop a vicarious interest in solving problems which do not concern them, as a substitute for tackling their own problem of selfishness.  One wonders if the contemporary interest in movie murder mysteries, thrillers, and newspaper horror stories is not an admission that millions of men feel the need to solve important personal problems; but rather than facing the riddles of self, which are indeed difficult, they shift the problem and study baffling events in other lives, instead.  The man who has horrors tormenting his own soul may like to hear of greater horrors in others, or to see them on the screen, in order that he may for a moment forget his own hell within." ("Lift Up Your Heart")

  • "But the Catholic mother finds a model of pregnancy in the Mother who began the bringing of God to man. Physical trials become more bearable when she sees herself a co-worker with God in the making of life.  A dying man in a country region of France, unable to receive the Eucharist, asked that poor person be brought to him so that he might at least have Christ in a lesser way.  The woman with the child may sometimes be unable to receive Holy Communion, but she can, with an act of faith, see that she already is bearing a lesser host within the tabernacle of her body." ("Three to Get Married")

  • "All love craves a cross by the very fact that love is forgetful of self for others." ("Three to Get Married")

  • "A woman may love God mediately through creatures, or she may love God immediately, as Mary did, but to be happy she must bring the Divine to the human." (The World's First Love"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

An encouraging moment for a culture for life

I'm not in the habit of sharing grocery store commercials, but have you seen this?  It's a beautiful depiction of motherhood, the dignity of the unborn child and the simplicity of family life.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The ordination class of 2013

I look forward every year to the USCCB's focus on the year's ordination class in the United States.  They always provide the names of the of those to be ordained, photographs of each man (if provided) and a list of random facts about each soon-to-be priest.

For this year, you can see the photographs here, the "People might be surprised to know" section here, and the study from CARA about the men here.

Let's pray for all of these men who in the coming weeks will become our newest priests.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

If you were homeless, what would you do with $250?

An elderly homeless man saved up the money given to him by strangers and gave $250 (in singles) to the local St. Vincent de Paul.  He said he still wanted to help others, despite his own trying circumstances.  You can read more here.

It certainly gives one pause before tithing from surplus amounts on Sunday morning.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

What are you doing this June?

If you're in high school or college, hopefully Camp Echo's Cincinnati debut is on your calendar.  If not, after you watch this preview, hopefully you'll be heading to Ruah Woods' registration site before the May 17 deadline to sign up for this incredible opportunity.


Thursday, May 2, 2013


Live Action just released a new video in their Inhuman campaign.  I'm still in shock at the casual way that this 23 week old baby is described and handled.  It truly is inhuman.  


Why do girls put their hands on their hips in every photo?

I've noticed a funny phenomenon in pictures of high school and college girls lately.  

The hand is always on the hip.  

You're probably noticed it too.  Every social media picture of young women between the ages of 12-22 involves whoever is standing on the ends -- which might be a picture of two people or of ten --positioning herself in such a way that her figure is more accentuated by a hand on the hip.  It even happens with one girl in a solo shot (ala celebrities).

I wanted to know if I am alone in thinking this trend is a bit strange.  So, off to google I went. I was not the only one asking.  In general, the "answers" to the omnipresent question, "Why?" were focused on the fact that the hand-on-the-hip accentuates the figure, makes one look skinnier and is "girly."  Some people offered their inkling that the hands-on-hip maneuver is a means of "showing off."  

There's so much more freedom and originality here! (Source)
I don't know why this picture craze bothers me so much.  I'm certainly not insinuating that it's a sin to pose in this way.  But, I really would like to know why girls today are under the impression that the only valid picture is the one taken with a stomach sucked in tight, a head tilted, and a hand on the hip.

What happened to just being oneself?  Why do young women feel compelled to conform to a particular pose, no matter the occasion, in order to take a proper picture?  Why are all pictures nearly identical when the people in them are so different?  Why is "showing off" the only way to be beautiful?  Before putting the hand on the hip, these are questions to reflect on and consider. 

(What will we think in 20 years when we look back at these photos?  Will 2010's parties in the future feature massive photo-ops of hands-on-hips poses?  These are more questions to ask, possibly related to how ridiculous I find this trend, but these are not nearly as important as the considerations above.)

There's something about the whole pose that cries, "Here I am, everybody!"  But the beauty of beauty is that it is silently, yet powerfully, calling another to rejoice.  Beauty isn't about neon lights and loud noises that tell us to stop and look.  Beauty is about something so intriguing, so surprising, that we can't help but stop, look and rejoice.  Authentic beauty doesn't require an announcement.  True beauty trusts and doesn't focus on self.  Beauty is a gift from God who is all Beauty, and beautiful revelations in our lives can't help but point back to Him.  

This doesn't mean we should walk around in the most haggard appearance possible, trusting that beauty is here, so what I say and do don't matter.  But on the other hand, if beauty is a gift we receive that invites others to an encounter with the Author of Beauty, then what does putting my hand on my hip really accomplish?  

This is just a humble plea for a rebirth of originality, being one's self and smiling authentically instead of asking behind gritted teeth (and a hand on the hip), "Does this make me look less fat?"  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Is John Paul's canonization set for Oct. 20, 2013?

It's the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and the second anniversary of Bl. John Paul II's beatification.  It was such a blessing to be there for the big event (which you can read about here, here and here).

This is a great opportunity to send out the friendly reminder that Bl. John Paul II's canonization is not yet approved.  One Catholic media figure used Facebook and Twitter to announce a definite Oct. 20, 2013 date, but there is no documentation about this.  

Let's just review what has occurred, with the help of Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli (emphasis mine):

It all happened in great secrecy, with maximum confidentiality. In January, the postulator of the cause, Mgr. Slawomir Oder, submitted a presumed miraculous healing to the Vatican Congregation for the Saints for a preliminary opinion. As it is known, after the approval of a miracle for the proclamation of a blessed, the canonical procedures include the recognition of a second miracle that must have occurred after the beatification ceremony.

Two doctors of the Vatican council had previously examined this new case, and both gave a favourable opinion. The dossier with the medical records and the testimonies was then officially presented to the Congregation, which immediately included the examination in its agenda. In the past few days it was discussed by a committee of seven doctors, the council (presided over by Dr. Patrick Polisca, Pope John Paul II's cardiologist), Pope Benedict XVI's personal physicians and now Pope Francis's. The medical council also gave a favourable opinion, the first official go-ahead by the Vatican, by defining as inexplicable the healing attributed to the intercession of the blessed Karol Wojtyla.

This is the overcoming of the first fundamental hurdle, given that the alleged miracle must now be approved by theologians and then by the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation, before being subjected to the Pope for the definitive "yes". In any case, the approval of the council is considered the most important step; in fact, neither the theologians nor the cardinals are involved in the clinical evaluations concerning the case.

So, the cause is still underway, but not yet approved, and certainly not on the calendar. Could it be on October 20, 2013? Certainly. But let's not forget that right now it's a could, not a will. In other words, hold off on the plane tickets for now.  We might have to wait awhile.  In fact, wouldn't it be beautiful if the canonization plans were officially announced at World Youth Day this July?