Sunday, August 26, 2012

Goodbye Blog

Well, this is the last post I'll be writing for this blog.  We had a good couple of years. 

This blog will still exist, so you can go back and read and re-read your favorite posts!

My new blog is The Christian Event.  I will be using this new site primarily as a teaching tool.  I get a ton of great questions from teens (and adults) and can use this blog to benefit myself (by cataloging answers) and everyone else (so you can see the answers I provide!).  Keep sending questions my way!

Additionally, we are launching a new site by teens and for teens - Training in Devotion.  My fellow comrade on Core Team - Annie Mitchell - will be organizing posts from our team of teen bloggers. These posts will be on living out the faith - at home, at school and with friends.  Enjoy! 


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Letter from God-not-God

I recently read an article on CNN about the Aurora shootings and the New Atheism.  The article is pretty interesting...you can read it here.  There are some heart-wrenching stories of atheists who have been hurt by people of faith, which may provide a lot of insight into their position (and perhaps the war on religion - which is often fueled my more pathos than reason - note the "Reason Rally")

But for now, I want to provide a quick brainstorm to this post on reddit, which apparently attracted quite a few comments:

"Dear Christians:

God here. I thought I would take the time to personally explain my absence in the Aurora shootings. While I was at it, I thought I would also explain my absence during every murder, massacre and crime that has ever taken place in world history, and in every war, in every famine, drought and flood.

You see, I do not exist. I never have. Did it really make sense to you that I would create an entire universe with billions of billions of planets and wait about 13,700,000,000 years just so I could focus on a few Jews from Palestine about 2,000 years ago while ignoring the rest of the 200,000,000 people on the planet at the time? Did I make those few Jews or did those few Jews make me?"

Obviously laden with satire, this smug (not-to-mention absurd) post does little to advance any position, as can be illustrated with a similar response:

Then again, why waste time trading barbs, when distinctions can be made and common ground sought.

First, I would argue that God is not absent at any point - never ever.  This can be put forward from philosophical (especially metaphysical) and theological foundation (salvation history).

That the murders happened shows that God respects our free will - a human being performed the act, not God's absence.  Human free will and corrupt human nature killed Jesus by hanging Him on a cross, not God's absence.  Perhaps these (killings, floods, famines) are also permitted because they serve to remind humanity of its weak nature and fundamental dependence.  We could also note that precisely because evil exists, God exists.  How do you know what darkness is if it weren't for light.  Or, cold if it weren't for hot.  I have an answer to evil.  I can only wonder what the atheist has to it (especially because most people have experienced some sort of transcendent good).

I'm confused by the second half of the letter from God-not-God.  First of all, an example.  Does it really make sense that a man would buy an extravagant 8000+ sq. ft. mansion for his wife and kid?  Isn't that a little excessive, and, well, stupid?  Or, does it reveal something about this man and His intentions?  Does it reveal something about his power?  The extent to which he would go to care for His family?  If human beings are excessive at times, yet with a distinct purpose or intention, could God, the God of the universe, not be the same? 

The second question deals with exegesis.  God revealed himself to His people more than 2,000 years ago.  Not sure if this guy is starting things off with Jesus or what.  And, any serious biblical study realizes that the Jews were called to be holy, different and set apart - for the sake of the population of the rest of the world.  The whole problem of the OT was that they didn't want to differ from the rest of the world.  Sweet story to make up about your God and your heritage of messing up, getting fixed, then messing up again.  Maybe the Jews did make God up, and this would obviously explain why they fought, died, were exiled, persecuted, and watched their city burn in 70AD - all because of a tall tale that got them real far here on earth...


Same could be said about the Church nowadays.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

After another day of mission work, we had Mass and an awesome chicken dinner. Then, we spent some time on a one hundred foot slip-n-slide and engaging in some shaving cream whiffle ball.

This evening, Dcn. Russ gave an awesome talk on why we need Jesus (in order to live out the greatest commandment). He then launched into the awesome story about St. Lawrence and the way he saw the poor and the lame in the city of Rome as the true riches of the Church. He had the eyes of Christ.

He then challenged us that if our eyes our not changed in how we see others by the end of this week, we have missed something. So the question that lingers is, how were your eyes changed today?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Today was our first day at our mission sites. It sounds like the groups all had a healthy combination of challenges/sufferings and joy. One thing is certain, God is here and He is working!

This evening, we had an outing to Washington Park (just across the street from Music Hall). It is a beautiful park and there were tons of people hanging out, playing sports and enjoying the fountains. I've got some pictures below.

Later this evening, we heard a talk from a missionary priest from Uganda - Fr. Ruffino of the Comboni Missionaries. He talked about Moses and God's calling him to reach out to Israel - because of God's desire to be merciful. He reminded us that the world is also thirsting and hurting right now, and that it is up to us to share God's love with the world, along with hope in Christ. Amongst many other wise things, he shared stories of meeting JPII and Mother Teresa, and called us to live a missionary life this week that is rooted in prayer.

After Father's talk, we heard some testimonies from the teens. Many stories related seemingly small and insignificant experiences that had tremendous impact when seen with the eyes of God. Stories like holding hands with kids in OTR, watching a woman bring her newborn baby into Pregnancy Center East, speaking to people who were mute with any means possible, and even picking up sticks and pulling weeds.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Opening Day

God in Cinci 2.0 is off to a great start. This morning our small groups for the week had some competition (friendly, of course) before an afternoon of serious reflection about why it is that we are here for mission. This has allowed us to focus on the fact that we are called to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Next we looked intensely at the works of mercy, before ending the afternoon with a session on humility (are we working for our own glory, or for God's?).

Now we gear up for the evening session...

Here are a few pics from the new fad - nine-square.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Group Pics

Check them out! Don't miss out on www.steubenville.org if you want to recall some of what you heard last weekend, or if you want to know more about what we did in Steubenville.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

More Quotables

You are not better at sinning than God is at forgiving, so get over yourselves. - Brian Kissinger

If the Church comes from God and is our source of truth, then in holding any dissenting position, you are going against who? - Sean Forrest

I want God on my own terms. I create God in my own image, setting Jesus up as a false idol. This is my Jesus, what he looks like and what he says. But, we want the authentic Jesus...not an idea or philosophy or a pat on the back, but life in the full, flowing to us from God's grace flowing through the Church. - summary of thoughts from Fr. Dave and Sean

How would we know about Jesus if it wasn't for the Church. - Kissinger

Saturday

Today we had Mass with Fr. Dave Pivonka, before sessions with Matt Smith (who was on Real World in 2002) and Sean Forrest (who might be almost as funny as Brian Regan).

The afternoon sessions split up the boys and girls.

Tonight, we heard an awesome talk by Sean on the existence of God and how he came to believe in Jesus Christ. I am told that all of these talks will be available online next week, so parents and families will be able to tune in as well!

Adoration was sweet.

Quotable

God loves you enough that He comes to meet you where you are. But He loves you too much to leave you there. -Brian Kissinger

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday Night

We had an awesome night of worship. I am not sure I have been to a Friday night session where the teens were so ready to enter in right off the bat.

Our teens are excited to be here. It seems like they are hungry for more.

Gearing Up

A few pics of our group getting ready for last night's session. Please keep us in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Animal or Object



Circumstance had it that I had to pass through a group of high school boys several times on Saturday night.  I actually passed through them a few times because they are teens, and thus good at congregating near doorways and stairs in such an immovable fashion that the only way to get to where one wishes is to go right on through them.

Usually when I find myself passing through a conversation it is either about something ridiculous (and therefore, amusing) or the conversation stops completely and I am forced to awkwardly pass in silence.

Saturday was different.

The boys kept up their lively conversation which centered entirely upon various sexual acts with the opposite gender.

In situations like this one, I wish I had that impeccable gift of quick-  coupled with pastoral concern.  Usually I have one and not the other (or neither, as was the case that night) and I say nothing at all in the moment.

So, I will say it now:

Are we animals who have no constraint over our sexual organs, therefore making all forms of "sexual messing around" an accepted norm (even in conversation at very public events), or, the opposite gender is purely an object for use and selfish gratification. 

Based upon what I heard the other night, it is one option or the other for these youngsters.  Either way, personhood is reduced to nothing.

Let us continue to pray for the conversion of our own hearts in the midst of a society willing to reduce the human person to material as its norm.  And let us pray for an increase in purity and understanding of the body within the Catholic Church.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Senior Testimonies - 5/20/2012

Here is the audio from the End-of-the-Year Party (Annie Mitchell and I had a miscommunication and missed Anna's talk - sorry Anna!):

Check it out!

This is good stuff...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

St. Gertrude Goodbye - by Emma


Thinking back, I realized that it has been a year and a half since I proposed to you all at Fall Retreat in 2010.  Back then , my love and gratefulness for you was enough for me to "propose," and my love for you has continued to grow.  But, I'm ready to accept the fact that God's vocation for all of us is probably not to get married.  So out of this sacrificial love I now write to you to say one last thank you and goodbye.
                 
God has made all of you so incredibly beautiful-even the gentlemen-and I'm even more incredibly blessed that He has opened my eyes to see the unique gifts you all have.  There's just something about being here with all of you even if I barely know you or sometimes forget your name or call you Beth when your name is Hannah.  God has really created this community to be light in the darkness especially the darkness of my own life.
               
I don't know, but I think that without this community, I would have been exhausted trying to follow Jesus a long time ago, but it is here that I am best reminded of the beauty and universality of our Church.  It is here with you all that I am reminded of my need for Christ and constant conversion.  It is here that I am reminded of the source of my joy and my heart grows in its desire to do nothing but proclaim this crazy intense Truth to every soul I encounter.  Okay, so I can't say I crazily proclaim the intense Truth of Jesus to every soul I encounter, but I desire to, so pray that I one day can!
                 
Boys, as much as I in all my pride, am uncomfortable to admit this.  You guys are literally awesome, and I even must admit as a girl I've been a bit jealous about the bond you have together.  Truly men after St. Joseph's heart.  Because you rejoice so much in your identity as men of God, you have led us as daughters of the righteous king to understand our beauty, worth and mission as women that has been so distorted in our culture.  I guess I can't speak for all the girls, but I know personally that you Tobias men have helped restore my knowledge of self-worth and gently led me into Mama Mary's heart.  This is a good place to be as God gently leads me to my vocation-whatever it may be-so thank you.
                 
For the girls, I am most grateful for the joy you've all brought me.  Finding true, solid, edifying friendships in high school is difficult, but I think that's because in the confusing time of growing up it is easy to only focus on oneself.  Being here in a place where all you girls rejoice in your compassionate and nurturing femininity and care totally and selflessly about others, friendship has been easy to find, and now very hard to move from.  I don't know if I could tell you how much you all have inspired me.  Your care for me, all the crazy things we have done together, accepting my vegetarian Westside differences, and witnessing to me about how Jesus is kindling the fire of His love in your hearts are all things that I will keep in my heart as I wait to meet the beautiful women Jesus puts in my life next.  Know I am still here for you too so all that little pointless pop song goes-just call me maybe!?
               
I think I will end with something I learned at the Matt Maher concert:  Jesus needs me.  I think this alone is why I'm semi-ok with leaving you all and moving on.  He needs me for the world, for the darkness. He may have created me just to bring one soul to heaven, and if I don't follow I may miss out on my crazy beautiful call to take part in the salvation of the world.  What is even more beautiful is that you all have this call to, and it has been you all, and core team, and Brad and Fr. Albert who have inspired me to know, love and serve for this call.   You all are the ones who help remind me of my vocation to greatness.  You all are the ones that have brought the words of Pope Benedict to life showing me that my call to greatness is not an ethical choice or a lofty idea but an encounter with the person Jesus Christ.  Our call to greatness is a call to a person-Jesus-and I thank Him for being able to learn more about Him through you.  Before I go I would like to pass on a family heirloom to Maggie Drew.  This antique has been a prized possession of mine after winning opposite war the fall retreat I got engaged.  Do not worry, for unlike Greco, he promotes the complementarity of men and women, but must be protected from little children desperate for sugar.  Treasure him and pass him on to a well deserving freshman like yourself when you're a senior.

Know I am praying for all of you that you may receive your Creator with a wide open heart and with His help fight the lies of the flesh, the world and the evil one that tell you that you are unfixable and unworthy.  I challenge you to continue to pursue Jesus who is the greatness you are being called to.   And with one last week of Easter-Alleluia!  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pope Benedict on Prayer

Here is an excerpt from a recent audience...good stuff:

A first element that the Apostle wants us to understand is that prayer should not be seen merely as a good work that we carry out for God, an action of ours. First and foremost, it is a gift, the fruit of the living, vivifying presence of the Father of Jesus Christ in us. In the Letter to the Romans he writes: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (8:26). And we know how true the Apostle’s saying is: “We do not know how to pray as we ought”. We want to pray, but God is far off, we do not have the words, the language, to speak with God, nor even the thought to do so. We can only open ourselves, place our time at God’s disposition, wait for Him to help us to enter into true dialogue. The Apostle says: this very lack of words, this absence of words, yet this desire to enter into contact with God, is prayer that the Holy Spirit not only understands, but brings and interprets before God. This very weakness of ours becomes -- through the Holy Spirit -- true prayer, true contact with God. The Holy Spirit is, as it were, the interpreter who makes us, and God, understand what it is we wish to say.

In prayer we experience -- more than in other aspects of life -- our weakness, our poverty, our being creatures, for we are placed before the omnipotence and transcendence of God. And the more we advance in listening and in dialogue with God, so that prayer becomes the daily breath of our souls, the more we also perceive the measure of our limitations, not only in the face of the concrete situations of everyday life, but also in our relationship with the Lord. The need to trust, to rely increasingly upon Him then grows in us; we come to understand that “we do not know … how to pray as we ought” (Romans 8:26).

And it is the Holy Spirit who helps our inability, who enlightens our minds and warms our hearts, guiding us as we turn to God. For St. Paul, prayer is above all the work of the Holy Spirit in our humanity, to take our weakness and to transform us from men bound to material realities into spiritual men. In the First Letter to the Corinthians he says: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths in spiritual terms” (2:12-13). By means of His abiding in our fragile humanity, the Holy Spirit changes us; He intercedes for us; He leads us toward the heights of God (cf. Romans 8:26).

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Comments from the Archbishop



Archbishop Schnurr’s Seven Observations Regarding Ministry to Youth
Notes by Brad Bursa
Presentation given on May 2, 2012

The following notes are both observations and directives from Archbishop Schnurr regarding Youth Ministry in the Archdiocese.  Here, we are speaking not only about Youth Ministry (as we may commonly think of it), but all religious education that happens on our campus for adolescents and young adults.

1.  Aim of Youth Ministry – turns us back to the Baltimore Catechism.  The first question in the Catechism is “who created you?”  The second is “Who is God?”  And, the third – “Why did God make us?”  Archbishop sees this third question is the launching point for Youth Ministry.  God creates for a purpose, which leads into vocation (in the broad sense – call to holiness – priesthood, consecrated life, marriage, chaste single life).  An answer to the question “why did God make me?” provides for a fullness of life.  (We were created with a purpose – a heavenly purpose – beatitude, eternal happiness). 

2.  We cannot underestimate our young people.  Need to challenge them, and encourage them to be not afraid.  Young people want to hear everything the Church has to say, and they will make the decision themselves.  Young people don't want to hear that they are not ready for certain content.  

3.  Youth Ministry cannot be endless fun and games, and Religious Education cannot be endless classroom teaching.

4.  It is important on occasion to have bigger events, because young people need to know and appreciate that they are part of something larger than the parish/school.

5.  Need to balance big events with a need for silence - retreat experience.  Archbishop recommends that the youth spend quiet time in prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament.  They need to first meet Jesus – encounter the Person of Christ.  Then, they will be more inclined to want to know/learn about Who they just met.

6. Need to involve young people in the life of the parish.  The youth have something to offer the Church right now.  

7.      Ministry needs to involve the youth themselves - need opportunities for peer ministry.  

Of few of my own comments:

  • An increase in parental support – Parents are the primary educators of their children – especially with regard to the faith.  Not only would I hope that parents encourage their children to attend our programs at the parish, but that parents continue to learn more about the faith, and draw deeper into conversion, so as to teach their children about Jesus and the Church.  Our programs exist to supplement what is happening in the home.
  • Urgency.  As we have become increasingly aware of - especially since January - the faith is not something that we can simply take for granted.  We are challenged to freely assent to Christ and to his teaching, and to work for virtue and conversion in our lives.  This necessarily means that our priorities are straight, and constantly re-straightened.  The busyness of families nowadays often pushes faith formation, prayer, family meals, etc. to the back burner.  The Church needs strong, faith-filled families, because the world needs the witness of these families.  The issues the Church is facing cannot be played out only on the judicial level – these issues demand that each Catholic re-examines his/her own life and accounts for his/her faith – which means saying “yes” to Christ once again, and re-establishing priorities accordingly. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Pope's Birthday Homily

Pope's Homily at Birthday Mass


I know "his light is stronger than any darkness; that God's goodness is stronger than any evil"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Monday at a Mass marking his 85th birthday and baptism anniversary.
* * *
Lord Cardinals,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On the day of my birthday and Baptism, April 16, the liturgy of the Church points to threewhich indicate to me where the road leads and which help me to find it. In the first place, there is the memoria of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes; then, there is one of the more particular Saints of the history of the Church, Benedict Joseph Labre; and then, above all, is the fact that this day is always immersed in the Paschal Mystery, in the Mystery of the Cross and of the Resurrection, and in the year of my birth it was expressed in a particular way: it was Holy Saturday, the day of God’s silence, of the apparent absence, of the death of God, but also the day in which the Resurrection was proclaimed.

Bernadette Soubirous. The simple girl of the South, of the Pyrenees – we all know and love her. Bernadette in the France of the Enlightenment of the 19th century, in a poverty difficult to imagine. The prison, which was abandoned because it was too unhealthy, became, in the end – after some hesitations -- the family’s dwelling, in which she spent her childhood. There was no possibility of school formation, only some catechism in preparation for her First Communion. But precisely this simple girl, who was pure and genuine in heart, who had a heart that sees, was able to see the Lord’s Mother and, in her, the reflection of the beauty and goodness of God. Mary was able to show herself to this girl and through her to speak to the century and beyond the century itself. Bernadette was able to see with a pure and genuine heart. And Mary indicated to her the source: she was able to discover the source, the living water, pure and uncontaminated; water that is life, water that gives purity and health. And through the centuries, now, this living water is a sign on Mary’s part, a sign that indicates where the sources of life are, where we can be purified, where we find what is uncontaminated. In this our time, in which we see the world in so much anxiety, and in which the need of water bursts out, of pure water, this sign is that much greater. From Mary, from the Mother of the Lord, from a pure heart, pure, genuine water also comes which gives life, the water than in this century – and in the centuries that might come – purifies and heals us.

I think we can consider this water as an image of the truth that comes to us in faith: truth not simulated but uncontaminated. In fact, to be able to live, to be able to become pure, we are in need of having in us the nostalgia of the pure life, of the truth that is not distorted, of what is not contaminated by corruption, of being men without stain. See how this day, this little Saint has always been for me a sign that has indicated where the living water comes from of which we are in need – the water that purifies us and gives us life -- and a sign of how we should be: with all the knowledge and all the capacities, which also are necessary, we must not lose the simple heart, the simple look of the heart, capable of seeing the essential, and we must always pray to the Lord that we preserve in us the humility that enables the heart to be clear-sighted – to see what is simple and essential, the beauty and goodness of God – and thus find the source from which the water comes that gives life and purifies.

Then there is Benedict Joseph Labre, the pious mendicant pilgrim of the 18th century who, after several useless attempts, finally found his vocation of pilgrim as mendicant – without anything, without any support and not keeping for himself anything of what he received except that of which he had absolute need – pilgrimaging through the whole of Europe, to all the shrines of Europe, from Spain to Poland and from Germany to Sicily: a truly European Saint! We can also say: a somewhat particular Saint who, begging, wandered from one shrine to another and wished to do nothing other than pray and with this give witness to what matters in this life: God. He certainly does not represent an example to emulate, but he is a, a finger pointing to the essential. He shows us that God alone suffices, that beyond all thatin this world, beyond our needs and capacities, what counts, the essential is to know God. He alone suffices. And this “God alone” he indicates to us in a dramatic way. And at the same time, this really European life that, from shrine to shrine embraces the whole European continent makes evident that he who opens himself to God is no stranger to the world or to men, rather he finds brothers, because on God’s side, borders fall, God alone can eliminate borders because thanks to Him we are all only brothers, we are part of one another; it renders present that the oneness of God means, at the same time, the brotherhood and reconciliation of men, the demolishing of borders that unites and heals us. Thus he is a Saint of peace precisely in as much as he is a Saint without any exigency, who is poor of everything yet blessed with everything.

And then, finally, the Paschal Mystery. On the same day I was born, thanks to the care of my parents, I was also reborn by water and the Spirit, as we just heard in the Gospel. In the first place, there is the gift of life that my parents gave me in very difficult times, and for which I owe them my gratitude. However, it is not taken for granted that man’s life is in itself a gift. Can it really be a beautiful gift? Do we know what is incumbent on man in the dark times he is facing – also in those more luminous ones that might come? Can we foresee to what anxieties, to what terrible events he might be exposed? Is it right to give life thus, simply? Is it responsible or is it too uncertain? It is a problematic gift if it remains independent. Biological life of itself is a gift, and yet it is surrounded by a great question. It becomes a real gift only if, together with it, one can make a promise that is stronger than any misfortune that can threaten one, if it is immersed in a force that guarantees that it is good to be man, that for this person it is a good no matter what the future might bring. Thus, associated to birth is rebirth, the certainty that, in truth, it is good for us to be, because the promise is stronger than the threats.

This is the meaning of rebirth from water and the Spirit: to be immersed in the promise that God alone can make: it is good that you are, and it is true regardless of what happens. From this certainty,  I have been able to live, reborn by water and the Spirit. Nicodemus asks the Lord: “Can an old man be born again?” Now, rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must grow continually in it, we must always let ourselves me immersed in God’s promise, to be truly reborn in the great, new family of God which is stronger than all the weaknesses and all the negative powers that threaten us. This is why this is a day of great thanksgiving.
The day on which I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. Then it was usual to anticipate the Easter Vigil in the morning, which would have been followed again by the darkness of Holy Saturday, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of the light in a dark day, could be almost an image of the history of our days. On one hand, there is still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ there is already the anticipation of the “yes” of God, and on the basis of this anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear his speaking, and through the darkness of his absence we perceive his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection in the midst of a history that evolves is the force that indicates the road to us and that helps us to go forward.

We thank the good God for this light he has given us and we pray that it will always be with us. And on this day I have reason to thank Him and all those who have always made me perceive the Lord’s presence, who have accompanied me so that I would not lose the light.

I am facing the last lap of the course of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light  of God is, that He is risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness; that God’s goodness is stronger than any evil of this world. And this helps me to go forward with confidence. This helps us to go forward and in his hour I give my heartfelt thanks to all those who continually make me perceive the “yes” of God through their faith.

Finally, Cardinal Dean, my cordial gratitude for your words of fraternal friendship, for all the collaboration in all these years. And a big thank you to all the collaborators of the 30 years in which I have been in Rome, who helped me bear the weight of my responsibility. Thank you. Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Talk Notes from Divine Mercy Sunday

In case anyone missed the short talk I gave on Sunday night, or heard it and wants to revisit it, here it is:

Romans 6:23 - the wage of sin is death. The natural consequence of sin is death.  For our sin, we deserve death.    The conscience places demands on us to be perfect as the Father is perfect.  We are imperfect, we are fallen and we deserve death - eternal death.  This is merely just.  When we choose sin, we choose a lesser good, we choose to break our relationship with God.  We choose against being united with God as his children.  The just consequence of sin, the just punishment for sin is death.
 
So what is mercy and why is it important?

"Mercy as it is here contemplated is said to be a virtue influencing one's will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another's misfortune."  See etymology of St  Augustine - misericordia -  "a Heart which gives itself to the miserable."  Mercy is a completely gratuitous act - it is compassion - literally entering into the passion/suffering/misery of the other, so as to alleviate misfortune.  
 
If the consequence of sin is death, the consequence of mercy is freedom from sin and freedom for new life. 

Jesus, his death and resurrection are the ultimate act of mercy.  Augustine says that "Christ is God's mercy."  We experience God's mercy most profoundly in the sacraments, we encounter Christ most intimately in the Sacraments - where God's mercy, His grace, His life is poured out for us.  The question that we have to answer, and keep answering is if we will believe and accept it. 

Probably the most intimate place we experience God's mercy is in the sacrament of reconciliation.   We experience this mercy every time we receive forgiveness in Confession.

We also experience mercy in the Eucharist, God's ongoing sacrifice of love for us.  Just as Adam and Eve fell to sin through eating the forbidden fruit, we gain life through eating the body of Christ, the Bread of Life.  He has poured himself out for you. 

Dynamism between adoration and communion:  Adoration is an extension of the Mass.  In adoration, we look upon Him and our hearts yearn to grow in devotion, our hearts yearn to receive Him.  And, in receiving Him at Mass, our hearts yearn to remain forever in His presence.

Challenge tonight [heading into adoration] - to invite God's mercy into your life, which is nothing other than inviting Christ into your life, for the first time, or the thousandth time.   Christ is the Heart which gives itself to the miserable.  What does it mean for your life that God has mercy on you?  What does it mean that His heart longs to save you from yourself and from your sin? What does it mean that he longs to draw near to you? Why do you push away from Him?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday Reflections

I've been meaning to blog all week.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.  But, today is as good a day as any, plus it is my mom's birthday (shout out!).

Here's what I've been thinking about today...perhaps this random spattering of thoughts will provoke some of your own:

  • To me, Holy Saturday is one of the weirdest days of the year.  Just yesterday we found ourselves at stations of the cross, proclaiming the passion narrative and venerating the wood of the cross.  It was a day of death.  Today is a day of expectant waiting.  It is not unlike Advent.  In both cases, we are awaiting something - the infant child, and the resurrected Lord - and we, thanks to our being born after the Christian Fact happen to know what comes next (liturgically).  I think it is important to not wait with preconception, but with an expectant and hopeful heart.  When my 2nd daughter was born, I sort of new what to expect, yet the newness of life enfleshed before my eyes brought about a great sense of surprise and awe.  In a mysterious way, this same thing happens at each Mass - and in a heightened way at Christmas and Easter, when expectation is especially high.  This will be the case tonight as that Easter candle makes its way into the dark church - when that Easter light fills the darkness of our hard hearts and fills us with surprise and awe. 
  • I often wonder what sort of disappointment the Apostles must have felt on this day nearly 2000 years ago.  Disappointment in themselves and their fearful flight from the cross and their friend.  Disappointment in the "failed" Messiah.
    • These Apostles must have felt that "God is dead" in a way that Nietzsche could never express.  
I wish I could try to type out a bit more, but we've got to get the children ready for the Easter Vigil...should be an interesting experience! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Trifecta

I will let all of you in on a movement (on more than one level) that is taking place in our house - The Trifecta. 

You see, our two-year-old got into the habit of saying what sort of waste she emitted from her tiny body, be it pee, poop or "just gas."  One day, as I was doing my daddy-duty (ie. wiping) after she finished on the toilet, she told me she had just gone all three.  I blurted out that she had just achieved the rare feat of "Trifecta." 

And, she took delight. 

With great pride she began announcing her accomplishment around our house.  In just three weeks, Trifecta went from non-existence, to a daily goal.  I've even received phone calls in the office proudly making known its happening. 

That is really all I wish to say on this topic.  Perhaps I just gave you (teens) your first valuable parenting advice when it comes to toilet-training.  For that, you can be eternally grateful to me!

On a completely unrelated topic, yet in light of the upcoming parish forum on contraception, you may find this article enjoyable. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Now, One From the Girls!


AMDG
JMJ
Dear Gentlemen,
First, we just want to thank you for being her this weekend. We’re sure there are other things you’d rather be doing, but we respect you so much for coming here instead. It makes you different from 99% of the guys in the world. We want you to know that we’ll be praying for you in your faith, and would like to ask for your prayers in return. Also, we know as girls how much it means to have our future husbands praying for us, and we want to ask you all to do the same for all your actions, first think of what Christ would want for you, and then think of your future wife. Your relationship with Christ should always be first in your life. As his love leads you, let that be a model for how you lead others. Thanks so much for always building us up. We know we can trust you to protect us. Know that we see you as brothers, and that we care for your genuine happiness. We can always count on you to make us laugh.  Lastly, we picked this verse for you guys, so please take it home and reflect on it.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.” (John 4: 11-12)
Love,
Your Sisters in Christ

Friday, March 9, 2012

Crumbling Away

There is not space in this blog post to fully expound the following problem.  This will count as a start.

In last Sunday's Gospel, we heard the story of the Transfiguration - a name that's as mysterious as the event.  Most of us will recall the story:

Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain and is transfigured before them, meaning the his appearance changed, and his clothing too!  Moses and Elijah show up for this event and Peter wants to construct some tents. 

I care to focus on the last few lines of this episode, as reported in Mark's Gospel.  Those lines read:

"As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant."

Why does Jesus always do this sort of thing to people?  "Here, let me perform a miracle for you, heal your mother-in-law, or even be transfigured before you.  But, you shall not tell anyone what happened."  Is he ashamed of his abilities?  Doubtful.  Does he want to avoid being pegged a magician?  That certainly could be true.  Is he purely afraid of the authorities finding out about him?  They already knew, plus he wasn't afraid of them on any other given day.

I can reflect back upon my own encounters with Christ, whether they happened at Mass, in prayer, on retreats, or going about my daily business - they were all decisive and profound, and nearly all of them very difficult to express in words after the event, especially immediately after.  Many of us have had instances like this, where you're telling a story about a retreat experience, or even the experience of traveling overseas, and as you're telling someone the story, it's as if this precious gift is crumbling away in your hands.  You can't share enough detail, or give them enough background information to help them understand what was going on at these precise moments.

Frustration, impatience, and even skepticism can result - either from your inability to explain adequately, or the other's inability to grasp fully what you experienced.  This is almost always my experience when trying to explain a retreat to people who were not in attendance.  Perhaps it helps us to understand why Jesus so often spoke these words to people - "go home, don't tell anyone."  Perhaps it is for our own benefit.

We read in Luke's Gospel of how Mary, who had the most time and encounters with Jesus, treasured these experiences in her heart and pondered them.  Maybe we ought to do the same.  Instead of so quickly trying to share exactly what it was that happened in an encounter with Christ, it may be more fruitful to remain in the encounter, to dig deeper into its meaning for your life.  By no means does this mean that you never share the experience with anyone - obviously the Apostles who saw the Transfiguration did eventually.  But, remain where the fruit is - rooted in the experience, and rooted in, sharing that experience with those who were with you when you experienced it.  This is why a special type of community forms amongst those who attend retreats - they experienced something together, and when they come together to further discuss and understand those experiences, the memories take on new life and provide greater fruit.  The Apostles in the story of the Transfiguration do this as well, keeping the matter to themselves, and questioning various meanings.

The good fruit borne from a retreat, fruit that you continue to ponder and pray with, still bears fruit - even if you don't share the whole story of what happened with everyone you know - in the life of the believer, because the life itself is converted, transformed, and cannot remain the same.

I'll end here.  I just thought this was a timely Gospel for all of us who finished up retreat last Sunday.  Remain patient and diligent in praying through your experience with Christ last weekend.  Eventually, the time will come to share your experience with many, when it becomes integrated into your very being.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Another Group's Letter to the Girls

Dear Sisters in Christ, 

As daughters of God you deserve to be protected, comforted, honored, and loved by us men. As God's beautiful creation you definitely merit a pure and honest love, a love that is going to recognize that you are completely beautiful both on the inside and out. A love that focuses on praising you for passionately pursuing Christ and modeling yourself after Mary. A love that honors all of your talents and gifts, and loves you for who you are. A love that is strong enough to be there when you are struggling and hurting, a love that tries to heal all past scars, a love that will be there when you just need someone to listen to, a love that will always be there and a love that promises to bring you to Christ, who is the ultimate healer and the ultimate lover. A love that will always sacrifice for you and will always pursue a selfless love modeled after our Savior. A love that is rooted in friendship, a love that promises to chase after you heart and protect it. A love that always recognizes what a blessing you are. Lastly, a love that you most importantly rooted in Christ and modeled after Him. A love that has the humility to follow and listen to God's will. And a love that knows its primary role is to pass you on to Jesus Christ, so that you will be eternally happy and eternally loved.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Letter from a Group of Guys to the Girls (on retreat)

The following letter was read to all of the females in attendance at our Spring Retreat that concluded today: 

Daughters of God,

We men thank you for your beauty, companionship, and grace.  We encourage you to persevere in your relationship with Christ so that these gifts are magnified in him and so that we men may  discover our fulfillment as men through you.  Thanks to your purity, sensitivity, and caring, we will be led to the eternal good together. Finally, we commend your dignity to Mary, and we too desire to protect your goodness, looking to St. Joseph as our noble example, so that your splendor,  sweetness, and light will one day shine among the angels in the presence of our God who is love.

With love and respect,
Yours truly,
The JP 2 the G squad

Friday, February 17, 2012

That Love is a Farce if Death is the Absolute End of Human Life

A brief note on this post:  Four people passed away this week.  I knew some better than others.  Many of the reflections in this post have been inspired by their deaths.  While this post is not the end of the story (I intend to write a follow-up...maybe this week),  it does its best to grapple with the problem of love and death on a purely human/philosophical level.  I am certain that philosophers have been dealing with this issue for ages, so I contribute very little, I'm sure. 


Once I got married and we started having children, I became morbid.  This was by no means intentional on my part, though it perfectly illustrates the tension of love and death.

The strongest longings of the human being (intellect and affection) seem to me to be love and truth.  In this case, I intend to focus on love - true love, selfless love.  This sort of love wants nothing other than giving of the self for the good of the beloved.  A total self-emptying, kenosis.  This sort of love gives life a great purpose and a great meaning.  Perhaps we could even go so far as to say that love is what makes life meaningful, or worth living...even if it remains in a state of potent hope.

My wife and I share a great love, yet each day I'm reminded that there is more love to be had - more to know about her.  There are always new ways to love her and sacrifice for her.  I have only seen a touch of the love we share in our relationship.  I know this because there is always more, always a new surprise or a new circumstance.  Our love seems to be moving toward some end, or fulfillment.  The process is gradual, and the steps lead to greater and greater union.  Truth and love are similar in this way, that they are symphonic.  They unify. 

Our love has borne fruit. This is the procreative element of love.  Love empties forth and creates a new life.  Children have caused me to love in ways I did not know possible.  While the struggle with selfishness remains at the fore, the truest desire of my heart is to empty myself for my children.

And, all of these relationships that happen within the communion of family are growing.  These relationships are dynamic and are moving toward some end – which appears to be communion.  The dynamism of love is that of an insatiable desire.  The human mind and heart longs for more love – greater unity. 

Death.  Death is the ultimate destroyer.  As I meditate upon death, my own or the fact that those I love the most will die, I am struck by nothing but fear, doubt, hopelessness.  I am paralyzed.  Life is inconclusive.  Love is without an adequate answer, or end.

Death breaks apart unity.  It is an unfitting end to any relationship of love.  It is corruption and brokenness in the extreme.  It is at once most natural, and completely unnatural. 

Whatever oneness of being existed prior to death appears as an illusion in the face of the reality of death.  Death’s finality trumps a life of love.  Death breaks apart unity.  It ends unity. 

The human being, reason and affection (all the factors of his being), equipped with freedom, can respond to the tension between love and death in an extreme fashion, by either affirming reason or affection to the highest degree.  In affirming reason, one rightly acknowledges the finality of death and therefore affectively shuts down.  This could be likened to times in my life when, fully recognizing that I would have to be leaving Katie for a time, I would shut down all emotion, hours before I actually had to depart.  This heads us down the path of stoicism, and truncates human love from going anywhere, stripping it of all potency.  On the other hand, one could affirm affection to an infinite degree, flying emotion in the face of death and, so consumed by passion, ignore the reality of death entirely.  This is pure recklessness.

Only the middle path, one that fully engages my reason and affectivity, one that acknowledges the dynamism of love and the finality of death, does true justice to the height and depth of this situation.  This position embraces the subtlety or greatness of all the factors at play. 

Since I got married and began having children, my entire perception of death has shifted.  What was once a far-fetched imagining, light-years removed from my teenage invincibility, now stands before me as the ultimate frustration.  Its finality is quite literally “killer.”  It strips love of an ultimate end. 

Love, because of death, seems to be pointless – literally without a point, an ultimate purpose or end.  Perhaps this is what Sartre describes when he speaks of man’s inability to gain synthesis, and draws the conclusion that “man is a useless passion.” 

Love, in its truest sense, in its search for an ultimate communion and self-emptying, appears to be a farce in the face of death.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Petitions

This is just funny:


On another random note, I've been getting multiple petition requests from various sources each day.  All are appealing the HHS Mandate.  While I'm signing all of these petitions, I might add something to them:  a petition to enforce a mandated siesta between the hours of 1-3pm. 

This matter has already been discussed with several teens and Core members.  It seems that the Europeans have things completely right when they shut down business and school for an extended lunch/nap time.  The "powerful" Americans that we are try to plow our way through those drowsy hours, and end up failing to do good work.  Why not give in, and admit human weakness.  Just let me take a short nap and I'll be doubly productive.


Then again, I suppose nobody monitors my office, so a daily snooze happen easily enough. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

De-Baptism: Is it possible?

Check out this NPR article.

This topic is fitting given all of the discussions on the HHS mandate, religious liberty and conscience. 

Here, we have the French government clearly imposing itself in the sacramental matters of the Church.  While we could discuss Church and State, I think it's worth providing a few comments elsewhere:
John the De-baptizer?
  • Even though a person has been baptized (we may presume that in LeBouvier's case, he was an infant), human freedom remains intact.  One can walk away from the faith at any time.  
  • The Church cannot un-invoke, un-effect a sacrament's happening.  When the sacrament happens, it happens.  Grace is effected.  This is not unlike the name you were given at birth (which, though altered, nick-named, or even renamed, can never be entirely revoked).  We could also liken it to the family you are borne into.  One does not have a choice (he does not will himself into a certain family) in this regard.  We are born.  We are given a family, an identity.  No matter how much one pushes back, rebels against, or even divorces his or her family, the fact still stands.  You came into being through in this particular family.  The article speaks of French law stating that one can leave an organization if he wishes.  This seems to be what LaBouvier did.  Why should an organization need to strike that person (who was initiated) out of all records?  If I were to leave my job, which I am free to do, certainly my employer would not act as if I was never there.
    • Annulling a marriage is only possible, annulment is only granted, when it is determined that between the two parties involved, not all of the necessary elements for the sacrament of matrimony were present.  Divorce is the dissolving of a marriage - once married, now not.  Annulment says that one was never truly married in the first place.  In other words, the marriage was not valid (validity boils down to free consent, vows of validity, permanence and openness to children, freedom from impediments to marriage, and necessarily following the sacrament properly).  
    • In the case of Baptism, presuming that it was indeed valid and therefore a sacrament, one cannot nullify this saving action.  It happened.  Grace was imparted.  Man can be transformed.  But, man remains free. 
  • It is also curious to ponder who LeBouvier, the free thinker, cares so much about "dissolving" his baptism.  Why does one who reportedly no longer believes in God care so much about some silly ritual that took place at the dawn of his life?  Unless, of course, this is not merely a silly ritual. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Risking a Question or Two

I'm going to risk sounding quite depressing, pessimistic and maybe even nihilistic with the questions I want to pose today.  But, ask I must.

Here are some facts about life that many would agree with (or so I presume):

-Life, as we know it, ends with death.
-A human being faces suffering.  Typically, this happens on a daily basis.  Suffering tends to come and go given the seasons of life and the coming of old-age and the deteriorization of the body. 
-The deaths of people we love are incredibly painful events (unless one is perfectly apathetic).
-Throughout life, one inevitably encounters a variety of factors, influences and circumstances that may prove to be beneficial or painful.  Life is certainly a mixture of both, and not purely one or the other.  (The economy, relationships, politics, etc).
-Life is filled with joyful moments, though they often appear to be blips on a screen that is tremendously ordinary (some would even call it boring) and often seem to be outweighed (at least in quantity) by struggle, pain and suffering. 

Given this list of conditions (that is by no means exhausted here) that a human life encounters, why is that life worth living?  Why, especially given the emptiness of death and the oft-injustice of suffering, is your life meaningful?

I realize this opens into an ocean of questions.  My hope is that they are answered personally.  I also hope that we can entertain just one more:

-Why, given the facts of life (listed above, amongst many others) do human beings seem to desire parenthood (which is a phenomenon I've seen in more and more of my friends in their 20s, both religious and non-religious alike)?  Why is it worth bringing life into a world so cruel and filled with pain?  Why watch your children experience the same/similar struggles, sins, fears, hurt, etc. that you went through?  Why, in light of the apparent finality of death, is life continuously worth bringing into the world?  (Because it doesn't always just happen that...poof!  Here is a child!  Leaving the parents scratching their heads...While certainly this may happen often, we cannot dismiss this desire for children, and the reality of the fact that a natural end of sex is procreation). 

I pose these questions on the eve of our journey to DC in an attempt at some serious thought throughout the weekend.  God bless!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian - What?!

Back in 1990, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the arm of the Roman curia that oversees the doctrines of the faith, released On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.  The title may sound daunting, but the purposes of the document are quite simple - What is the role of a theologian?  What is the role of the Magisterium?  How does theology fit within the framework of the Church's Magisterium?

I intend to provide some commentary on this document, which I had to read for one of my grad courses.  But why would/should high schoolers (primary audience of this blog) care about this?  Because most of them have had religion courses, and not all religion courses are equal.

In my own Catholic school experience, I have had teachers who blatantly taught against the Church, teachers who started off tangents by saying, "The Church says x, but in my opinion, I think y should be okay," and teachers who had phenomenal intellects and were faithful to the Church.  I imagine that I am not alone in this.

I hope a brief commentary will help Catholic students (past, present and future) to better discern classroom situations and respond appropriately and in charity.

More to come over the next few weeks!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jesus > Religion

The newest viral sensation is a video entitled "Why I love Jesus but hate religion."   


Although I am sure I don’t have to tell you that.   As this was posted three whole days ago, to most of you this might already be old news. 


Be careful to only click on the original.  They will put anything on the internet…

Pros: Good cinematography.  Well filmed and dramatic music.  The kid makes SOME good points in which the humanity of the Church is apparent.

Cons: The majority of what he says are heretical one-liners wrapped up like candy.  It becomes pretty apparent that by religion he actually means Church, our Church. 

Before you go sucking down this stranger-candy, take a moment to think about your relationship with the person of Christ.

Does your experience of encountering the person of Christ through the Roman Catholic Church line up with what he is saying? 

After you have used your OWN reason to form an opinion about this video, check out what Marc Barnes from Bad Catholic has to say on the subject.  I think you might find that he puts words to the tension you feel after watching this video.

You can access Barnes' article HERE.

Let's be cautious and prudent about sensation. 

-Post by Katie Bursa

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Future of the Blog

Yesterday I received an invitation to write for a new blog site operated by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.  I am happily accepting as a regular contributor to that site.  This is all fine and good, but, as you may have noticed, my time is becoming stretched and posts are becoming more and more scarce.  So, I have a new plan...

I intend to use this blog for three purposes:

-Youth Ministry updates (for example:  you can access the talk from Sunday's Youth Night by clicking HERE).
-Guest posts from teens and adult Core members.
-A place where I can provide commentary on the materials I am reading for my grad Theology work.

You can access my work for the Integrated Catholic Life here.  This site is more of an e-magazine, which asks for longer pieces.  I intend for these pieces to have a slight philosophical bent.

I will be getting information soon about the Archdiocese of Cincinnati site.  My presumption is that those posts will be on living out the faith/teaching the faith.  This is yet to be determined. 

For the time being, you may enjoy thinking about this quote in today's New York Times:  "I definitely think in 2012, what was good enough even five years ago, is no longer good enough."  This is from Michael Duffy, the former director of New York City's charter school office.

While he is referring specifically to schools, the question is applicable across the board.  Very few things we have, hear or see that are 5+ years old are still "good enough."  Technology has had a dramatic influence.  My question in response to Mr. Duffy's poignant observation is simply is anything timeless?  Is there anything lasting in this world of transition and obsolete material?  Are those "things" really worth anything nowadays?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Eschaton

I'll share a quick reflection my wife and I had yesterday.  First, read yesterday's Gospel:


Gospel Jn 1:35-42

John was standing with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God."
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
"What are you looking for?"
They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher),
"where are you staying?"
He said to them, "Come, and you will see."
So they went and saw where he was staying,
and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.
He first found his own brother Simon and told him,
"We have found the Messiah," which is translated Christ.
Then he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said,
"You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas," which is translated Peter.

Katie asked me why these men might have been so quick to recognize Christ and follow him.  By no means did I provide a complete answer, nor do I provide one here. 
I think it is important to note the longing of the nation of Israel.  They were waiting and waiting for the Savior.  People were looking for him all over the place.  Surprise! 

Interestingly enough, the early Church (read from Acts on) also had this sort of anticipation or expectant waiting - for Christ's second coming.   And...surprise!...that still hasn't happened!  

This eschatological approach is actually quite central to Christianity, though often overlooked, forgotten or conveniently put on the back burner because death and end times make us a little nauseous.  But, let's not forget this necessary sensation of expectant waiting for our final destiny, and the amazement ("We have found the Messiah.") that results.