Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mysterious Parallel

The International Man of Mystery is a lot like mystery meat. 

You are pretty uncertain when you encounter mystery meat, but quite certain it was bad for you afterward. 

I guess the International Man of Mystery corresponds to the first part about uncertainty.  The difference lies in the fact that only half of the people regret meeting him.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


What do we make of this?

Different religions?  Secular society? 

No reason to be afraid, according to Pope Benedict.  Check out this Q&A from Light of the World:

Q:  The Catholic Church sees herself as the locus of God's unique revelation.  She claims to give expression to God's message, which raises man to his highest dignity, goodness, and beauty.  The only problem is that this is increasingly hard to convey to people nowadays, especially when you consider the quantity of what you might call competitors in the religion market.  During a meeting with artists in Lisbon, you said that the "dialogue with the world" involved a coexistence of truths.

A: It is not the same this to say that Christ is the Son of God in whom the full presence of the truth about God finds expression and to say that various kinds of truths are also present in other religions, that they have something like fragments, or beams of the great light, that, in a certain respect, they even represent and inner movement toward him.  The claim that God is present in Christ and that the true God himself thus appears and speaks to us in him does not rule out that the other religions also contain truths - but that is just the point:  truths that, as it were, point to the Truth.  In this sense, dialogue, which is meant to make reference to him evident, is an intrinsic consequence of the situation of humanity. 

This is a remarkable point.  Yes, we are to safeguard the Truth above all, and never compromise.  But, we do so in charity.  Running away, condemning, these do not get us anywhere, nor do they evangelize society. 

The Pope reminds us that if God is the Creator, His entire creation contains his signature.  Sure, some have taken it and mangled it so that it is barely recognizable.  But, if you are willing to do the work, and "be not afraid," even in an increasingly secularized world of competing religions, you can find truth.  This is the starting point of conversation.  Condemnation is not. 

This is why great art (even "secular") is profound, why the Greek tragedies shed light on Christ, why I love rock and roll.  You can, if you look hard enough, find fragments of truth, and the "religious longing" in every human heart made manifest in everything we do. 

This reminds me of a lesson from St. Therese of Lisieux that she explains in Story of a Soul:

There was a particular sister who got under her skin.  Therese realized this and began a new practice of focusing on the other sister's virtue, instead of only on her vice.  Eventually the other sister realized Therese's charity and said, "Tell me, Soeur Therese, what it is that attracts you to me so strongly? I never met you without being welcomed with your most gracious smile!" St. Therese writes: "What attracted me was Jesus, hidden in the depths of her soul, and I answered that I smiled because I was happy to see her (not adding, of course, for spiritual reasons only)."

The lessons of Pope Benedict and St. Therese speak loudly, as we often encounter those who differ from us in many ways.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mother Earth

Again turning to Light of the World, the conversation book with the Holy Father, I'd like to highlight the chapter entitled, "The Global Catastrophe," which addresses the growing problems on the global in, our physical globe, the earth (climate change, holes in the ozone, natural disasters).  I was especially grateful for the Pope's insights, as a few teens had recently asked me questions about the Church's thought on this subject. 

Pope Benedict begins his statements by addressing progress, knowledge and power.  He says:

"Surely we are doing something wrong.  I think that the problematic nature of the concept of progress has some bearing on it.  The modern era has tried to find its way according to the fundamental concepts of progress and freedom.  But what is progress?  Today we see that progress can also be destructive.  In this regard we should reflect on what criteria we must find so that progress really is progress...Knowledge is power.  That means: if I know, then I can also control.  Knowledge brought power, but in such a way that with our own power we can now also destroy the world that we think we have figured out intellectually" (43).

The understanding here is simple, and one that many would probably agree with.  Consumption of knowledge for the purpose of gaining power/control/progress doesn't mean we're actually progressing in the right direction, for the right reasons, and with beneficial consequences.  The Pope goes on to explain that the neglected questions have become, "What is good?  Where should knowledge lead power?" (43).  Where is our progress leading humanity?  Is this a good direction for the future, or simply satisfying the desires of the moment?

Obviously, one could write on and on in dealing with a topic like this one.  I won't do that here.  But, I will make one final point based upon the Pope's words.  This point also echoes one of the conversations I had with a teen in our program.  His question was, "What does all of this have to do with me?"  How does a global issue translate to my life and yours?

In answering, Benedict's first point is that society as a whole needs to make "a major examination of conscience."  It seems that this process has already begun in some socio-political arenas, but the process in these arenas will not succeed.  The Pope goes on:

"It becomes clear that the political will ultimately cannot become effective unless there is in all mankind - especially on the part of the chief supporters of development and progress - a new, deeper moral awareness, a willingness to do without, which is concrete and which for the individual also becomes and acknowledged value for his life.  The question is therefore: How can the great moral will, which everybody affirms and everyone invokes, become a personal decision?  For unless that happens, politics remains impotent." 

And so, it comes down to a moral decision for each of us, one that hearkens back to the original point on knowledge, power and progress.  How do we stand in front of Being itself?  Do I stand in front of God as one who has created himself, who has made his own progress and gained power through knowledge achieved?  Or, do I stand in recognition of my life as gift from God, and therefore, everything around me begins to be seen as gift.  Here, the groping for power, pleasure, material, can begin to relinquish its hold on our lives and we can recognize where we can go without and why we would want to.

Monday, March 14, 2011

About Time

Mid-March.  Tournament time.

Really, is there a more exciting 3 weeks in sports?  68 teams.  67 games, played all across the country. 

I have enjoyed bracket season pretty much my entire life.  My dad fills out about 12 brackets a year.  He follows the games diligently and carefully marks down each score and highlights the games he got right.  It becomes something of a spectacle. 

It didn't take me long to hop on board. 

I was probably in 5th or 6th grade when I began paying a small entrance fee for my bracket.  The older kids in grade school would run it...collect 2 bucks for each bracket.  Nothing ever came of those entries, and I don't know who actually won.  Maybe they just kept the money...

I won't bore you with anymore of my miserable bracket history.  But I can give you a few final highlights to chomp on while you fill out your bracket.

  • I once watched 12 straight hours of basketball.  I literally began watching at noon and did not stop (except to change venues - I went to my friend's house - during halftime of one of the games) until midnight.  This was the clear highlight of spring break from college that year.  
  • Two years ago I picked Michigan State to win the tournament.  I was the only person to do so.  This was the closest I ever came to winning a pool.  Michigan State made it all the way to the finals, playing as a huge underdog in games down the stretch.  UNC demolished them in the finals.  I was sitting at Woody's Pizza and Pub on Evans in Denver, watching the world unravel before my eyes.  I finished in second place and didn't get anything...not even my money back.  As you can tell, it still burns. 
  • The Giant Bracket.  My senior year of high school, 5 of my buddies and I covered Luke's basement ceiling with a giant bracket.  It spanned about 10" x 12".  That is 120 square feet.  It was massive.  You could sit on Luke's couch and lean back and behold the entire madness of March playing out before your eyes.  The paper used for the bracket and for each team were held up with thumb tacks - which I'm sure left a nice impression on his parents' ceiling.  The bracket lasted 6 years.  This was pretty amazing because as soon as the championship game ended in 2004, I think his parents began threatening to take it down.  Here are some pictures that do no justice to its grandeur:

  • And, cliche as it might be, I can't post this without bringing up the buzzer beaters.  Many times during the tournament I sit and hope for close games so that I can experience the rush of the buzzer beater.  It's sick, really, but it's my life for 3 weeks.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Conversation with the Pope

Last week I started reading Light of the World by Pope Benedict and Peter Seewald.  Pretty quick read so far.  It's all Q&A, which provides a lot of insight into how Pope Benedict thinks.  I think I've got big issues to deal with...they are like grains of sand compared to issues the size of the world that Benedict faces.  The book has helped me to put things in right perspective.  I will take a little time over the next couple of weeks to comment on a few of the many notable points.

"That Christianity gives joy and breadth is also a thread that runs through my whole life. Ultimately someone who is always only in opposition could probably not endure life at all" (Light of the World, Pt. 1).  

Pope Benedict provides a keen insight in these two sentences.  These lines came to mind during a conversation I was having with a couple of teens the other night.  We were discussing conscience, objective truth and relativism. Eventually it came up that when presented with an opposing view during a recent conversation, this teen became defensive (as many of us have in those situations).  

How crippling would this emotion be if it dominated all of our lives - which for some, it does.  If we approach every situation in a spirit of opposition (to use the Pope's word), it becomes quite difficult to endure.  Life, the conversation you are having, the secularism around us, becomes too much a burden...because you and I are incapable of shouldering it alone.  

Christianity, the fact of the victory of the cross, of a God who takes on our flesh and conquers evil, allows us to face every circumstance in life with grace, peace and courage.  We need not hide or fight everyone all of the time.  We need not face the world afraid and with our hands covering our eyes so as to not see reality.  

Christ is present and Christ has already won.  In this Fact we take confidence.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

From Rocky Rhoades

As all of you know, the Chastity Educators from Pregnancy Center East will be guest presenting on Sunday...after our Battle of the Sexes game.  Check out Rocky's preview of the night:

"Get excited because what is happening this Sunday at St. Gertrude’s is sure to blow your mind and you don’t want to miss this once in a lifetime event! The “In Control” chastity educators are joining us for a discussion on the hot topic of DATING. They will also be sharing about how to be a true man or woman in today’s anti-love culture. Don’t miss out on this once in a life time event!"

"Be sure to check out the In Control Chastity Blog for other cool topics within this realm of interest

Rocky also gave me a few other alternate endings for the last line above:

"It’s gunna be ok, but I understand if you cant make it!"
"If you miss this, I’m going to call your parents!"