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Hidden Treasures, Blessed Adventures in Italy

Posted by on Sep 23, 2014 in Current Events, featured, History, Interior Life, Theology, Uncategorized | 6 comments

Hidden Treasures, Blessed Adventures in Italy

Pilgrimages reflect and remind the pilgrim of his sojourn on earth. They are not vacations, but, rather, journeys into God’s providence. It is a time of recognizing what is our true goal, union with God in heaven, versus what is merely the means to get there, our life on earth. We often get those two mixed up. I recently returned from leading a pilgrimage to Italy. I was reminded several times that I still lack patience and charity, and so my earthly pilgrimage still has a long way to go in achieving its end. Nevertheless, this pilgrimage was for me a truly blessed adventure. God never allows our own weaknesses and sins to completely deter Him from accomplishing what He wants to do in us. He only asks that we allow Him the opportunity. I experienced profound grace at every destination. It would take too long to recount the entire journey, but there were some hidden treasures that are worth sharing. Our pilgrimage started in Florence. Florence possesses some of the greatest art treasures on earth and is an art-lover’s paradise. One of the sites that really struck me was the convent of San Marco. This ancient monastery is less known compared to some of the other art museums in the city. 600 years ago, inside this old Dominican cloister, lived a friar and master-painter named Fr Angelico, Blessed Fra Angelico, as St. John Paull II beatified him in 1982. He was asked by his superior to paint frescos inside each monk’s cell. Those frescos are still there, and their splendor has not faded with the passing of the centuries. The holiness of Fra Angelico radiates through his work. Michelangelo said of him, “he must have seen heaven to paint heaven.” The elegance and gracefulness of his paintings actually encourage one to be silent. In fact, I think that they can only be appreciated fully in contemplative stillness, the same atmosphere in which they were created. I was captivated. I left San Marco feeling as though I viewed heaven, and was touched by grace.   We then traveled to Assisi. The entire town is so quaint and clean, you wonder if you have been transported to the middle ages. It doesn’t take long to experience the real attraction of Assisi, St. Francis. His spirit permeates the village. Outside of the Holy Land, I have never been to a place that so conveys the spirit of another. There is so much to see in Assisi, I was glad that we stayed three days. The one place that left our group speechless more than any other was the visit to Eremo or Carceri Hermitage. Francis came here with his friars to sleep in caves in an extended retreat. The hermitage was built by hand by the friars after they became too large to stay in the few caves. One of the oratories was even built by St. Bernadine of Sienna. The footpaths that trail out of the hermitage are so peaceful and beautiful, one could understand what inspired St. Francis to write the Canticle of Creation. Stone altars used by his priests for Holy Mass are still there and are still used for the sacred sacrifice. The beauty, simplicity, and solitude of the hermitage landscape mirrors the beauty, simplicity, and solitude...

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An American Experience and the Inconsistency of Civil Rights

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Current Events, featured, History, Morality, Politics | 6 comments

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 stating publically that he didn’t support the civil rights movement, more revelations about the Klu Klux Klan and their involvement in southern politics, etc. Then the documentary shifted focus a little to Betty Friedan and her popular book The Feminine Mystique, which argued that homemakers and mothers, the backbone of the social fiber in America, were secretly sick and tired of the lives they were living, feeling trapped and desperate to get out and live lives freed from the constraints imposed on them by men. Again, the moral was clear: something was deeply, deeply, flawed with America. The good ol’ U.S. of A. not only was not good, but was morally broken and corrupt! Radical change was needed, and the true heroes of this change discovered their cause and their voice in 1964. This episode of American Experience was interesting and eye-opening. The program challenged me to have a deeper appreciation for the courage of the leaders of the civil rights movement. But the implied conclusion seemed to be if one is a compassionate, civil rights-caring American, one is liberal. However, the day after the airing of this program something happened that disputes the conclusion that the show seemed to advance—the annual March for Life. It took place in Washington, D.C. with hundreds of thousands of protestors marching through freezing temperatures and blizzard-like conditions to reveal the corruption of our day, abortion, and the 55 million citizens who not only will ever have the right to vote, but won’t even have the right to live! Who is leading the charge...

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Mars Hill and the Blueprint for the New Evangelization

Posted by on Oct 22, 2013 in featured, History, Theology | 4 comments

Mars Hill and the Blueprint for the New Evangelization

“The times of ignorance God overlooked but now he commands all men everywhere to repent…” (St. Paul’s address to the Areopagus in Athens, Act 17:30.) I just recently returned from a pilgrimage of the footsteps of St. Paul to Greece and Turkey. I went with my wonderful Archbishop, Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, as well as the Midwestern region of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. While journeying the ancient mission routes of St. Paul and companions, this eleven-day pilgrimage proffered many interesting sights and experiences. I don’t have the space to recount them all here, but encountering the ancient Roman provincial cities where Paul preached and proclaimed the Gospel left me speechless at times. There was one experience, however, that exceeded the others, and because it was so amazing I must recount it for you. On the last day of the pilgrimage, we celebrated Mass on Mars hill, the famed meeting place of the Athenian governing council known as the Areopagus. Our tour guide knew of a perfect place on the craggy hilltop to celebrate Mass. The ancient Greeks had carved some steps and a flat spot out of the rocky face to use as a meeting space. Our guide told us that these carved steps predated the time of St. Paul. As this was the only spot on Mars Hill that had level ground with what was clearly intended to be used as a platform, an exciting question sparked my mind: could this be the very spot where St. Paul addressed the Areopagus some 2000 years prior? Although there is no way of knowing, I was nevertheless sure of his powerful presence there. Msgr. Brier asked me to offer the reading for the Mass. I also had time afterward to offer a brief catechesis on Paul’s address. Msgr. chose the passage from Acts where St. Paul confronts the leading men of Athens with his Gospel message. Here, this bold saint offers us a five-point blueprint for evangelizing the culture: “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” (Act 17:16.) Point 1: Boldness in proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ in the face of obvious error. The idolatry of the Athenians motivated Paul to be so bold as to proclaim the Gospel any place where he thought he would have a hearing—the synagogue, the market place, the pagan temples, engaging groups of people as diverse as observant Jews to Greek philosophers. The error and confusion he found in them only motivated him all the more to engage the culture. He was not put off by their selfish pride and false pretenses of intellectual superiority. He engaged in actions but also in word! He was not concerned for his own personal well-being. ”Now all the Athenians and foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.” (Act 17: 21.) Point 2: Knowing your audience and crafting your approach in order to engage it. By pointing out this detail about the Athenians, St. Luke, the author of Acts, reveals his own keen awareness to detail. This audience, unlike others, occupied themselves with novel ideas. So, on the one hand, they would show interest in Paul’s proclamation...

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Religious Liberty and the Mandate: A Historical Examination of the Modern Loss of Faith

Posted by on May 22, 2013 in History | 1 comment

Religious Liberty and the Mandate: A Historical Examination of the Modern Loss of Faith

The Health and Human Service Department from the Obama Administration recently made a shocking decision regarding a new health care mandate for insurance companies. In an egregious affront to the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, this department, headed by a so-called Catholic from Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, declared that all insurance companies must offer—free of charge—coverage for contraceptives and abortion-causing pharmaceuticals like the birth control pill and the RU- 486, otherwise known as the ‘morning after’ pill, over and against one’s conscience. Thus, for Catholic institutions like hospitals and universities, this, in effect, forces them to offer this coverage to employees, with the employer, i.e. the Church, footing at least part of the bill by means of paying the higher premium costs by the Insurance providers. Obviously, the Church cannot and will not formerly cooperate with evil in such a way, which this mandate expects. If nothing changes, the results will be devastating. This administration has now made it clear: the state has made itself the opponent of the Catholic Church—or, rather, views the Church as an opponent, rather than an ally—when it comes to providing health for the poor.   This move will obliterate the Catholic Church’s involvement in the sphere of public service for health and higher education. The Catholic Church can neither morally support nor financially offer coverage for employees regarding contraception, sterilization, and/or abortifacients, as the new HHS policy mandates. Catholic hospital or university employers will be forced out of business as they will be unable to offer health insurance benefits to their employees, who will, in turn, be forced to find employment elsewhere. The other alternative, one which at least one Catholic hospital system in California has already chosen, is to sever ties with the Catholic Church.   If history serves as any teacher, these unfortunate results may be just the beginning. For example, if we at first broadly examine the historical situation in Europe, we will find many similar instances of state/Church conflict over social institutions. Many European countries accepted similar restrictions placed by the state on the Church. These restrictions not only limited the Church’s involvement in social institutions in the health and educational spheres, but curtailed the very public mission of the Church by subordinating it to the state. The end result has been tragic: the complete loss of faith. Since the time of the French Revolution, there have been many battles between Church and state, with the state viewing the Church as at least an obstacle—if not an enemy—to secular designs for society. Germany’s Kulturkampf, Italy’s Wars of Unification, and the emergence of the French Republic all arose from a particular pessimistic view of the Church that sprang from the Enlightenment, declaring the Church to be too closely aligned with the ancien régime and therefore an enemy of progress. These newly formed secular states forcibly excluded the Church from operating public missions in the areas of health care, charitable work, and education through legislative mandates. Leaders in these various states viewed the goals for industrial modernization as being in competition with the Church’s claims of Christ’s supremacy over the world. This religious intrusion, these radical secularists contended, prevented scientific growth and offered a theocratic rival to their newly reconfigured secular state.   In the case of the French Third Republic, we...

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