Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

Who Are We To Judge

Recently, I was asked to be part of a Catholic Q&A panel along with two priests for an evening of beer, pretzels, and theology. With ingredients like that, it was bound to be a fun evening, and it was. I was honored to be asked to take part, as both priests were faithful and articulate.  The format made for an evening that was as challenging as it was interesting. We had no prep time, as the questions were presented to us with an immediate expected response.  Due to the packed house, we received two hours worth of questions from a very broad spectrum of issues. I enjoyed myself immensely. Any Q&A involving the teachings of the Catholic Church will soon attract controversy, and after about an hour into the evening, this event was no different. Our moderator drew a question that I knew would be coming: “My son is gay and is happy. Who are you (or the Catholic Church) to say otherwise?” A deafening hush ensued. Everyone’s gaze transfixed on the dais where my clerical colleagues and I were expected to attempt an answer. The question was worded so as to provide no easy escape. How does one question another’s experience without sounding utterly judgmental? The question’s wording implied that no objective moral standard could justly condemn activity that makes for a happy man. Fortunately, I was the last one to reply. Each priest responded well, I thought, by pointing out that we don’t judge people but acts, and that God wants our happiness, too. He knows best what makes us happy as He is the one who designed us. Therefore, He sets the terms on happiness, not us, and He has condemned homosexual activity outright (see Rom...

An American Experience and the Inconsistency of Civil Rights...

A few nights ago I watched an interesting documentary on PBS called American Experience. This particular episode was entitled, “1964.” The makers of the show examined that particular year as the year that ignited the social revolution in America. The issue that caused the combustion: Civil rights; in particular, the efforts of northern white college kids who headed to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 in order to assist southern black citizens to register to vote. As the show progressed, my sentiments certainly followed the trajectory of the show’s emotional appeal. The civil rights movement revealed both the ugly and the beautiful struggle of a certain segment of American citizenry to gain political access to a rule of government that is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. I greatly admired the efforts of these Northern white college kids and black civil rights activists in the face of possible violence and even death—as was the case when three volunteers met their doom one night when they encountered some Klansmen. Their bodies were later discovered in shallow graves near a dam in the process of being constructed. Yet, I was also aware of a particular undertone during the entirety of the program. This undertone became clear when, later in the episode, a historian made a statement that both shocked and rankled me. He said that these white kids returned home from their experiences in Mississippi with the stark realization that everything their parents had told them about America was a lie! America as a society, he opined, was utterly bankrupt. His statement was followed by footage of police brutality, footage of the Klan beating people and terrorizing citizens, footage of Republican senator Barry Goldwater...

Our Lady of Guadalupe and 50 Million Names...

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe—indeed, the whole of the Advent season—reveals and reminds us of the utter importance of innocent life and its innate dignity. When the young virgin appeared miraculously to Juan Diego on Mount Tepeyac, she made it known to him that he would have a significant role in converting to Christ 9 million Aztecs who worshiped their false gods with human sacrifice. The indelible image left upon his cloak was that of a young, dark-skinned woman standing on the moon, shrouded in glory with a mantel of stars covering her head. Around her waist, she wore the black sash that young mothers wore in Mexico at that time, indicating she was with child. This image conquered the world, as it not only secured a foothold for the holy faith of Christ in Mexico, but it also proved pivotal in one of the grandest battles in the history between Christianity and Islam not 40 years later, at Lepanto, Greece. Giovanni Andrea Doria, one of the Christian naval commanders, prayed before a replica of this very image in the early morning hours before the commencing of the great sea battle. By 4 in the afternoon, Doria, on behalf of all of Christendom, celebrated victory over the much larger Muslim fleet. All of the Christian naval commanders along with the Pope credited the victory to Our Lady’s intercession. Thus, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a beautiful reminder of the powers and victories of this Virgin Mother of God over the forces of death and darkness. Unfortunately, these forces are reasserting influence on contemporary society in manifold ways. In the United States of America, abortion slays millions of innocent lives annually, and the coercion exerted on young mothers to rid...

A Kid Calculus for Couples...

I was at the grocery store last night and saw that the current issue of TIME Magazine has the cover story, “When Having It All Means Not Having Kids.” I opened it up to the story itself and saw that the attached artwork was an image of a childless couple on the beach, indolent and beautiful and happy. Next to them on the beach was a harried father lugging a mass of inflatable beach crap, and an exhausted mother urging two sullen children across the sand. The message of the story (subtitled “The Cons of Procreation”) was pretty clear, and the image really drove it home: if you want the fullness of what life has to offer, don’t have kids. Now this is a very interesting concept, and one I’ve heard quite often. It’s the concept of tradeoffs as applied to children. If you want X, then you can’t have Y, and vice versa. So you have to weigh X and Y and see which is ultimately worth more. You have to weigh the value of KIDS against the value of COMPETING GOODS and see which one tips the scales in your own personal balance. And folks at TIME Magazine are suggesting that COMPETING GOODS is probably a better bet. I think the first thing to notice about this system of measurement is that nobody applies it once kids are actually in the picture. No one would say to a mother, “Suppose I offered you some great opportunities in exchange for little Timmy?” Somebody who went around making those kinds of offers would be reported to the authorities. Why? Probably because we know Timmy’s not the sort of thing that can be exchanged for goods, services, luxuries or career...

Loving Good Music and the Soul...

…there is a special quality in the essence of beauty, a special quality in the status of art: the conviction carried by a genuine work of art is absolutely indisputable and tames even the strongly opposed heart…Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn In his 1970 Nobel acceptance speech in Literature, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offered an address entitled, Beauty Will Save the World, a title he borrowed from Dostoevsky. Solzhenitsyn argued that Dostoevsky was not simply offering a passing thought when he articulated this phrase, but instead was providing a prophetic insight into how modern man may be saved from his own self-destructive tendencies. A world paradoxically convinced of the truth of relativism is a world lost in incoherence and inconsistency, the final result of which is cynicism. If one is proclaiming a so-called truth, that person must have the ulterior motive of simply trying to impose his truth on me so as to control me, so the cynic concludes. Thus, when evangelists seek to save such a world by proclaiming the truth of Christ, they will be seen as intolerant busybodies imposing their truth on others. It was for such an era that Solzhenitsyn, through Dostoevsky, offered these words. We are that era. I have run across this same phrase in several different places lately, especially in a  Fr. Robert Barron Word on Fire video discussing this very idea.  As Fr. Barron so eloquently articulates, beauty saving the world is a strategy for re-evangelizing the culture. My work with catechizing Catholic school teachers and parishioners has convinced me that these thinkers are on to something. Relativism is so ingrained in our culture that truth-seeking/finding is now viewed as a bigoted position. In a shocking and strange twist, it is Christians now who aren’t tolerated...

Fear and the Liturgical Year...

Christians are afraid. I read it in their blogs; I hear it in their voices. Recently, I, too, experienced a deep sense of foreboding. A couple of nights ago, I had trouble sleeping.  I had watched some rerun from the 1970’s and noticed something in this program—a program my family watched in my youth—that I hadn’t noticed before: the early stages of the inculcation of the homosexual agenda. Although subtle, from our present perspective, the intention was nevertheless apparent. I went to bed thinking, ‘My Lord, they have been working out their strategy for almost 40 years! No wonder this push is coming from so many different directions. The purveyors of this agenda have been at it for years and years while we have been asleep at the wheel. We are doomed!’ Not exactly the ideal closing thoughts to the end of the day of a trusting Christian. The next morning, just as I was beginning my prayer time, I asked the Lord to really speak to me that day regarding my fears. ‘I really need to hear your voice, Lord,’ I told Him, ‘to break through the darkness being caused by my fears and worries!’ As I opened the readings for the Mass, He spoke. The first reading was (surprise, surprise) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These wicked cities were destroyed by God’s angels precisely because of their sexual impurity and licentiousness. The destruction, however, was the result of there being found no good person within the districts of these cities. This result was brought about but the refusal of the citizens in these towns to repent and live. They chose their end based on the warped response given to angels of light sent to them from...
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