Monday, October 24, 2011

Here and Now

This past week, I had the chance to meet a new friend for lunch, who I already don't get to hang out with enough.  As we got to talking before we even had a chance to order, we discussed all matter of "guy" things--our families, business, promotions, plans for our families to move toward more sustainable living.  That discussion led me to ask a question that's been on my mind lately as we contemplate the next chapter in our lives:

How far is too far when it comes to making long-term family plans?  Where do we cross the line between setting goals for our family (location, lifestyle, etc) and grasping at the future?  What is the point where we go from setting necessary and realistic goals--both as individuals and families--to being untrusting of God and his plan for our future?

My friend so kindly reminded me that God used the very particular language, "I AM," (Exodus 3:14) to refer to Himself when Moses inquired how he should refer to God when the people start asking about his encounter.

With that title, God placed himself squarely in the present.  He did not say, "I was," I will be," "I have been, am today, and will be," or any other tense.  He simply said, "I am."  With that, he came as Emmanuel, God with us, here and now, and in every moment from the present into eternity.  Christ continued this use of the present "I am" in his last words to his disciples before ascending back into heaven:

"...and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Matthew 28:20)

Even with his parting words, he remains with us, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Eucharist and in the body of the Church, inviting us time after time to let go trust him with all the details of our life as he commanded us to do earlier in Matthew, 6:25:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on."

As a man who, like other men, is hard-wired to protect and provide for his family, I've decided to wrestle some more with this one.  So, I'd like to start this small discernment by asking you all:

Where is the "line in the sand" between looking out and planning for the temporal good of our family but also trusting God and remaining in the present?  How is a parent--especially a husband and father--called to balance the two?  Or do they need to be balanced at all?

I really, sincerely would like to know what you think, and any tips you might have for maintaining the balance.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Latest Shots in the War for Life

This week was a busy week in the battle between the culture of life and the culture of death. The fight has escalated a few notches, after Archbishop Dolan's warning three weeks ago.

Shot #1:
Last week, Secretary Sebelius, in a strongly worded speech to pro-abortion supporters at a Chicago fundraiser, officially declared war on any opposed to abortion.  She officially targeted "Republicans," but any of us who know exactly what the stakes are in this battle--the life and death of innocent lives and the soul of a society--know that it's about much more than politics.
Florida Independent

Shot #2:
A politically-charged Kansas panel has recommended the suspension of pro-life attorney and former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline's law license, even as the evidence that came from his passionate push to expose Planned Parenthood has resulted in a plethora of criminal charges against the organization's Kansas offices.

Travesty: Panel recommends suspension of Phill Kline's law license - Jill Stanek,

On a positive note, on Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protect Life Act, which would "amend the federal health care bill to include protections against federal tax funding of abortion, as well as strengthened conscience rights for health care providers."  Before the bill was even put up for a vote, President Obama promised to veto it.

As the battle continues to rage, what those who oppose God's plan fail to recognize is that the war, a total war in which the armies of heaven are storming and laying waste to the gates of hell, was won 2,000 years ago.  This age, the age of the Church, are the "closing shots" in that fight.  Although we must continue to fight with everything we have, we also fight with the sure knowledge that we fight with and for the God of the Universe.  Though we cannot always see through the fog of war, we cannot lose.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Guest Post: Why Gay "marriage" Can't be Hitched to the Civil Rights Train

A while back, Leila at Little Catholic Bubble graciously invited me to write a guest post on Civil Rights and gay "marriage," and why the latter has nothing to do with the former.  After many more days than I intended to take, and with a few "Bubble" refinements, here it is.  Thanks again, Lelia!

This past week, Lauren and I had the occasion to visit Birmingham, AL. Although we didn't have time to visit any of the specific Civil Rights landmarks -- we were focused on our little girl's surgery -- it was amazing to think that 50 years ago, in this city that was the hub of the struggle against Jim Crow, we would likely not even have been allowed to marry.

As I thought about that struggle, and the many who sacrificed and literally risked and gave their lives, it began to bother me even more that the "gay marriage" movement is comparing itself to that struggle. The rub of it is that some who fought so hard back then for the equal treatment of those of us whose skin happens to be a few shades darker, including Coretta Scott King, are either not speaking up or, worse, are supporting this wave that would sweep the foundation of the family out from under our culture.

Before getting too far into it, I should start by reiterating the Church's teaching on "Chastity and Homosexuality," from theCatechism 2357-2359. I know that not everyone turns to theCatechism as their first source, or any source at all, but there are so many misconceptions of why the Catholic Church opposes homosexuality (i.e., homosexual activity) and so-called "gay marriage" that the truth, in black and white, has to be laid on the line:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures.  Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (cf. Gen 19:1-29, Rom 1:24-27, 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10), tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are gravely disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. (2357)
Ok, so the Body of Christ stands staunchly, unshakably against homosexual acts. Nothing new there. It's worth highlighting (after the underlining above) that it's the acts themselves, not any tendency or attraction to them, that are wrong. The difference results from one of two very powerful gifts given to us that distinguish us from the animals: our will, or ability to act decisively. (The other is intellect, our ability to reason.)
...They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter… (2358)
If there is any point of commonality between the Civil Rights struggle and the struggle of those living with homosexuality, this is it. Bottom line, we have to love those who are struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction—and all others—without  exception. Loving is the only way that Christians truly imitate Christ. But loving doesn't mean rolling over and accepting actions that are contrary to what the Author of Life has laid out; to do that would be to separate love and truth, falsifying one and bearing poor witness to the other.

The third paragraph hits the nail on the head regarding the "call" mentioned above:
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom...they can and should...approach Christian perfection. (2359)
That is the call of all sexual people, which means...all people. We are all sexual beings, and so we are all called to be chaste -- i.e., to live within God's plan for human sexuality -- regardless of our station in life. As much as society would have us believe that we should be driven by our urges, no matter how superficial or deep-seated they may be, it simply is not true. We are not animals.

So, what does this have to do--or not have to do with Civil Rights? It all comes down to the natural law and choice.

Natural law

First, the natural law. Every human society, from before recorded history, has been founded on the family based in marriage: The bodily union of man and woman, and the children that are generated from that union. Putting aside any religious understandings, marriage has always existed as a natural institution.

Regardless of what flawed civil law has tried to tell us time and time again throughout the centuries, this reality of man + woman = children is not and never has been affected by race. This natural aspect of marriage depends on sexual complementarity that is definitely present in a man and woman of different races, but is positively not in two people of the same gender. Even if children do not come from the marriage (due to bodily disorders), the possibility is still there because the marital act itself is ordered toward procreation, unlike homosexual acts. Lauren and I would not have been able to civilly marry in a lot of places as recently as fifty years ago, but that was because of unjust human (civil) law, not natural law or God's law.


The second reason that the "gay marriage" movement cannot be fairly compared to the Civil Rights movement is that sexual activity contains the element of choice. God gave us the gift of free will, to be able to either (1) choose his (all-knowing, wanting-the-best-for-us) will over our own, or (2) insist on having our way. Marriage is first and most significantly represented in the marital act. That act is an act of choice, just like participation in the unchastity of sexual activity outside of marriage (homosexual or heterosexual) is achoice. It may not seem like much of a choice in the heat of sexual attraction, but the reality is that the choice remains.

Race is not that way. We do not choose our ancestry, skin tone, hair texture, or any of the other characteristics that generally differentiate people of one race from another. We did not choose what we look like, but we absolutely choose how to make use of our sexual faculties. Though our physical characteristics (unchangeable characteristics, not changeable ones like weight, dress, etc.) are amoral and more or less defined at the time of our conception, whether or not we engage in licit or illicit sexual activity is far from a foregone conclusion and has a monumental moral dimension.

These are two very big differences that unfortunately are being overlooked by those trying to hitch the "gay marriage" push to the Civil Rights train. For the sake of the truths championed by the Civil Rights movement, which so many fought and even died for, these realities must be brought back into the discussion.


Another Bishop's Warning

Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, ND
Another Bishop is stepping forward to give caution, but Bishop Aquila's seems to be more directed at Catholics, letting us know that the time is at hand for us to step out of the comfort of the boat into the storm of the cultural war that Christ has put us here and now to fight.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Article: It Is Dangerous to be Right When the Government is Wrong

Yesterday, Judge Andrew Napolitano, of Fox News fame, published an article on Natural Law as a primer to his upcoming book of the same title, "It Is Dangerous to be Right When the Government is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom".  If the title looks familiar, it's because it is a quote by the 18th Century French philosopher Voltaire

In the article, The Judge draws together, with his usual wit and pragmatic examples, the relationship between Natural Law, Human Law, and the danger that lies in the movement we have seen recently to uproot the entire system (which has led to the most prosperous and free socio-economic system on earth) and replace it with the tried, tested, and failed political philosophy of Positivism.

Judge Nap concludes at the end of the article (bolded emphasis mine):

Although we have explored at length how man-made law must be subject to the Natural Law, perhaps the best indication of the falsehood of Positivism is that, deep down, we know that the transgression of our natural rights is wrong. We do not simply disagree with it, but feel a sense of visceral outrage that one human would try to treat us as inferior and subject to his will; it is antithetical to our selfhood. Thus it is in our human nature not just to yearn for freedom, but to recognize when those yearnings are unnaturally restricted. Elsewhere, V referenced Thomas Jefferson when he stated that "people should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." It should be clear that Positivism’s scheme of law relies upon the people obeying laws because they are afraid of the government, not because those laws are in accord with the Natural Law, and therefore just.
If we are to live forever in a legal system founded on Positivism, then we can only hope that we will have laws which, coincidentally, happen to be just. But there is another way, the way of the Natural Law: Rather than be content to follow the will of the truncheon, we can choose to listen to those words which enunciate truth, and our Founders’ promise that those truths will not be denied by government.
This book is about the titanic battle between adherents of Positivism and believers in the Natural Law; stated differently, between Big Government and individuals. As we shall see, the danger that befalls individuals inevitably comes from the government. The government makes it dangerous for us to be right when it is wrong.
Click here to read the full article at

I look forward to reading his book and am going to get started on a post on the dangers of Positivism from the Catholic Perspective, which it seems the U.S. Bishops are just starting to wake up to.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Bishops Warn President Obama

Last Tuesday, New York Archbishop and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Timothy Dolan issued a letter to President Obama, laying out in no uncertain terms what is at stake if the Administration continues its assault against the Defense of Marriage Act.  Speaking on behalf of the USCCB, Archbishop Dolan cautioned the Administration against continuing to pursue its agenda of actions "that both escalate the threat to marriage and imperil the religious freedom of those who promote and defend marriage," while firmly reiterating the Church's recognition of "the immeasurable personal dignity and equal worth of all individuals, including those with same-sex attraction, and [rejection of] all hatred and unjust treatment against any person."  His to-the-point letter concluded with an analysis of the multi-fronted attacks against marriage that have taken place in the past six months, closing with the sternest warning of all:
Archbishop of New York
Timothy Dolan
"Thus, the comprehensive efforts of the federal government—using its formidable moral, economic, and coercive power—to enforce its new legal definition of “marriage” against a resistant Church would, if not reversed, precipitate a systemic national conflict between Church and State, harming both institutions, as well as our Nation as a whole."
His letter addresses marriage specifically on behalf of the bishops and the Catholic Church in America, as the Manhattan Declaration he signed nearly two years ago, along with 54 other Catholic bishops and nearly 100 Evangelical and Orthodox leaders, did for all Christian churches in America.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, penned a separate letter only a few days later, forcefully supporting Archbishop Dolan and specifically addressing the wave of judicial activism that has sought to subvert the will of the people, who time and time again have voted in favor of marriage.
“Archbishop Dolan has effectively given voice to a concern deeply felt not only by members of the Catholic Church, but also by men and women of good will who in twenty-nine states have affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Anywhere that the people have been allowed to decide, marriage has been reaffirmed as that union made clear by nature itself. Furthermore forty-one states have statutory or constitutional ‘Defense of Marriage Acts.’
“Fundamentally the current position of the Justice Department seeks to subvert the clear will of the majority, whose unquestionable sovereignty has the last word in the system of government enshrined in the Federal Constitution. It cannot be forgotten that the federal DOMA, passed only fifteen years ago, was due to the efforts of a substantial, bi-partisan majority in Congress and to then-President Clinton. As a Nation we walk down a dangerous path when appointed officials are allowed to arrogate to themselves the right to call bigotry whatever does not correspond to their agenda.
Archbishop for the
Military Services USA
Timothy Broglio
“The women and men I am privileged to serve place their lives on the line every day to defend the Country whose government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Let us pray that the millions who have died to ensure those liberties did not die in vain.” 
Having met Archbishop Broglio a couple of years ago when he was the guest speaker at a National Day of Prayer Breakfast, I can tell you that he "gets it."  He spends what seems like all of his time with the troops, traveling from duty station to duty station on an unbelievably busy schedule, listening to and address the spiritual concerns of military personnel, both of Catholics and other other faiths.

We have two leading bishops finally stepping out in vocal opposition to the agenda that would seek to snatch  the definition of marriage from the hands of the One who created it.  I hope that this second shot across the bow will help to quiet the elements of dissent within the Church, and maybe--just maybe--get the Administration's attention.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it was written to accomplish both, but at the very least should get the attention of we, the Catholics in the pew, that it was not even addressed to, because whether or not we realize it, the very future of our culture--and of the civilization founded on the bedrock of marriage--is at stake.  If you read nothing else this week, read these letters, and continue to pray for the strength, courage, and holiness of our bishops and priests.

Arcbishop Dolan's Letter:

Archbishop Broglio's Letter:


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday Quick Thought: Be Catholic!

I don't want to start off with a downer after a couple of weeks away, but last Friday's episode of the Vortex reminded me of a stark reality that's so easy to forget when I get into a spiritual and physical "comfort zone."  By all indicators, Western civilization, the society founded upon centuries of Christendom, is coming apart at the seams.  Even more than that, it seems as though the very foundations are crumbling, precisely because we have turned our back on God, and it is as though we are headed into another dark ages. Even Pope Benedict highlighted the stark reality in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia last year.

So what are we to do about it?  The short answer is...

Be Catholic!!!

Live as Jesus Christ has called us to live.  Be willing to stand up for what you believe and, more importantly, the Truth Incarnate as he has revealed himself to us in the Church.  We do not know where this will lead in terms of history, but we are beloved children of an infinitely loving Father and brothers and sisters given assurance of eternal joy beyond imagining by our Divine King and Brother.  We live with the sure knowledge that "everything works together for good for those who love the Lord" (Romans 8:28), and have received the explicit command to "Be Not Afraid" (cf Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 14:27).

This program is from


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We Are Joyful. We Are Unafraid. We Are Catholic.

Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable joy and glorious joy.  - 1 Peter 1:8

Every now and then, I come across a few ideas, no matter how small, that meet my feeble mind in a sequence that can't be described as anything but intended and arranged by Someone.  That's exactly what happened tonight, as I've been praying for relief from a spiritual dry spell and period of wondering, why do we believe what we believe?  Why am I Catholic?

The question was not so much a mental expression of serious doubt as it was a prayer for a spiritual gulp for a thirsty soul. It was precisely then that I came across the passage from 1 Peter above in the Magnificat's August 30 Preface to the Evening Prayer Psalm, Psalm 27:
There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long, to live in the house of the Lord,all the days of my life,to savor the sweetness of the Lord,to behold his temple.
For there he keeps me safe in his tent in the day of evil.  He hides me in the shelter of his tent, on a rock he sets me safe.
O Lord, hear my voice when I call; have mercy and answer.  Of you my heart has spoken:"Seek his face."
It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face.
I am sure I shall see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living.  Hope in him, hold firm, and take heart. Hope in the Lord!
That short preface and psalm snapped the entirety of the faith back into crystal-clear perspective.  We believe because we have been told.  We hunger and thirst for righteousness, and we know that we will be satisfied (cf Mt 5:6).  We know the Truth because he has given himself to us completely, without reserve, and continues to the end of time, in a love greater than the world could ever imagine.  Although we do not yet see him as he is, we live in hope because we know that he lives and longs for our love in return.  We have found our way by getting lost in him.  He desires to dwell with us, and us with him, forever.  He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

Because of his promises, sealed in the victory of his Resurrection, we live with the joy of the Disciples who were his witnesses, the fearlessness of the Apostles after Pentecost, and the tradition of the saints who have gone before us.  We know the Way, and so we walk in him, unafraid.

Shortly after coming across the psalm, as if to put an exclamation point at this end of his reply to my prayer, I felt a nudging to check out Joseph K's blog, Defend Us In Battle, which I hadn't visited for a while.  So I clicked, and came across this beautiful video that he posted yesterday. We Are Catholic is downright powerful, and ends with a timeless quote from our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI:
"Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of your future, nor of your weakness.  The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment in history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world."



Saturday, August 20, 2011

Values in A Time of Upheaval Part Three: Who Needs Guilt?

In Chapter Five of Values in a Time of Upheaval, entitled "If You Want Peace..." the Holy Father begins by introducing two opposing concepts of morality, and the journey that brought him to the Christian understanding of how our conscience must function to create peace within our souls and peace within the world.

Morality of Conscience

The first view of morality holds that conscience is the highest rule, that the fundamental system of accountability in safeguarding human freedom lies in following our own conscience, even when it leads us to oppose authority.  According to this view, conscience ultimately has the last word.  Some even take this so far as to believe that a person cannot go wrong by following their conscience, that conscience is infallible.

Obviously there is some truth to this--we are accountable first and foremost to ourselves--but to argue that the ultimate accountability is to our conscience is just plain wrong.  Our whole person, including our conscience, is subject to the distorting effects of sin.  This is dangerous because it ultimately only leads us back to into our fallen, broken selves, and closes any window that allows us to see the "Other," the Truth that unifies all things.  In that system, the truth about anything becomes subjective and individual instead of objective and universal.
"One must always follow a clear verdict of conscience....But it is quite a different matter to assume that the verdict of always correct, i.e. infallible--for if that were so, it would mean that there is no truth, at least in matters of morality and religion, which are the foundations of our very existence...there would exist only the truth of the subject."
Isn't this view, what Pope Benedict refers to as" the idea of conscience found in liberalism," precisely what we see prevailing in our world today? This is exactly what leads to the phenomenon the Holy Father has referred to as the "dictatorship of relativism."  On the surface, its initial promise, that it would "enable human beings to live together" in peace, without our conflicting views rubbing up against each other, seems tantalizing.  But this quickly comes to an end where it meets the reality of the darkness that remains in the human soul.  We have seen examples of this time after time in history, and what seems to be almost weekly in the news headlines, of the terrible consequences when this darkness festers and erupts into the world in violent, often murderous, action.  If this darkness is not exposed (often painfully) to the outside light, it remains with nothing to quell it, twisting conscience more and more until the conscience itself becomes unrecognizable. Under this idea, even the worst mass murderer would be justified in his actions if, in the deepest part of himself, he believed that what he was doing was right.

So what is the antidote?  In one word: guilt. In a few more words, a properly formed conscience that guilt leads us to recognize we need.

Morality of Authority

This opposing view of morality of conscience argues that, basically, our conscience is fallible and needs help from outside (or, above).  The conscience can be led into error and distorted, and so it is not reliable as a final source of moral authority.  It forces us to look outside ourselves for another, authoritative source.  When we allow the darkness and sin within us to be exposed to that outside source of light, it creates a feeling that is painful, often deeply so.  It's like a cancer being exposed to radiation treatment, but in this case the "radiation" is Divine.  The pain that comes each time the cancer festers and is exposed to light is guilt.  Guilt comes when we recognize the difference between who we are and who we ought to be, and destroys any false notion of the conscience as absolute.  The Holy Father reflects upon this idea of guilt as he first came upon it in an essay by German psychologist Albert Gorres:
"The guilt feeling that shatters a conscience's false claim and the criticism made by my conscience of my self-satisfied existence are signals that we need just as much as we need the physical pain that lets us know our normal vital functions have been disturbed.  One who is no longer capable of seeing his own guilt is psychologically ill..."
Guilt is what sounds the alarm bells that something within us has violated our conscience, but more importantly has violated the objective Truth that conscience is designed to remind us of.  Guilt gives us the ability to look inwardly and realize that, for whatever reason, we have closed the window on that cleansing light, even if momentarily, and allowed the cancerous growth of sin to start accumulating again.  The Pope continues, "Jesus can work effectively among sinners because they have not become inaccessible behind the screen of an erring conscience, which would put them out of reach of the changes that God awaits from them--and from us." This is why, in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), "the tax collector with all his undisputed sins is more righteous in the eyes of God than the Pharisee with all his genuinely good deeds."

The world today, which in so very many places subscribes to the morality of conscience, would have us believe that guilt is a bad thing, something to be done away with. "We have lost sight of truth as such, the absolute, the basic point of reference of our thought," the Holy Father says,  "and this is why...there is no longer any 'up' or 'down.'" There are no directions in a world that lacks fixed points for measuring."  In reality, guilt is absolutely necessary for our proper spiritual and psychological functioning.   We need it to let us know when the compass of our conscience is not working as it should, or that, if it is properly formed, we have disregarded it and allowed ourselves to be deceived that East, West, or South are North.

This all leads to the question of where we can turn to make sure that our conscience works the way it should.  To what--or, to who--can we can look to find the source of cleansing and healing that the Psalmist begs for in Psalm 19:12: "But who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults"?  That, and the "working examples" of the saints, whose lives are lived and whose example lives on for us as benchmarks of properly formed conscience, will have to wait for another post.

In the meantime, please pray for the Holy Father, that he will continue to be blessed with grace and strength as he leads the Church to remain a beacon of light in a world of darkness.


Monday, August 15, 2011

"If You Want Peace..." A Primer

This past week in Britain, and in several less-reported instances in locations across the United States, we have seen the outbreak of violence from a generation of teens and twenty-somethings who, whatever their motivation, had no excuse for wreaking the violence and destruction that they did.  As I sat, browsing news article after news article, each offering a different slant on the unfolding situation and playing the "blame game," I couldn't help but try to probe each perspective looking for a common thread.  Surely, there must be something to explain why all of this pent-up (fill in the motivation) was coming to a head and finding its expression in such senseless violence against fellow citizens, their property, and their livelihoods.

It did not take much longer to figure out what drove them, or better, what did not restrain them from lashing out: a sheer, unadulterated lack of conscience.  Max Hastings put it perfectly in his August 10 U.K. Daily Mail article, "Years of liberal dogma have spawned a generation of amoral, uneducated, welfare dependent, brutalised youngsters," when he said:

"They are essentially wild beasts. I use that phrase advisedly, because it seems appropriate to young people bereft of the discipline that might make them employable; of the conscience that distinguishes between right and wrong.
They respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others."
Where are these rioters' consciences?  Did it not cross one of their minds that acting this way--invoking chaos and destruction--is evil no matter what the supposed justification?  Had they no shame?

Sadly, for many of them, the short answer is no. Growing up in an entitlement, me-me-me, I-I-I, now-now-now culture, many--even those who did not want for anything and had promising futures--either never had theirs properly formed to begin with or, worse, checked them at the door when they decided to step foot into the street.

This topic of conscience and the questions that follow from it are exactly what the Holy Father tackles in Chaper 5 of Values in a Time of Upheaval, an essay entitled If You Want Peace...: Conscience and Truth.

What is our conscience?

How does it function?

What is its purpose, both within our individual self and in the whole of human society?

What is our responsibility to obey and to form our conscience?

Look later this week for an unfolding of the Pope's discussion as he explores and probes the answers to these questions and more in If You Want Peace.

Until then...


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quick Thought: Tyrants and Saints

I didn't get a quick thought out yesterday, but last night an old quote from C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity came into my mind:
"How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints."
As we look around us and back through history, we see so many examples of those who seek their own power over the glory of God.  But then I had to question myself, how often am I doing that in my life?  How often do I seek to control my own affairs, however small they may be, instead of working and offering them to God for his glory, but ultimately leaving the outcome up to him?  It is so easy to fall back into that trap and become a tyrant of the small and mundane, but a tyrant nonetheless.

I realized that I need to make a renewed commitment today, and every day, to invite God into even the seemingly small affairs, and to offer them up as his saints did.  It is only in that offering that we become fully his own, and his grace and radical creativity fully active in us.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An Open Letter to the Catholic Community on Behalf of Ron Paul by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

To say that Ron Paul was an underdog in the 2008 Presidential election would be an understatement.  Now, with our nation drowning in debt and overburdensome regulations, and many of our freedoms--including religious freedom--threatened by continued encroachment of the "culture of death," his unchanging message of liberty and strict Constitutionalism is beginning to get more attention.

This letter was written by Catholic historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr. in the lead-up to the 2008 election, to try to garner more attention to the fact that Ron Paul's unchanging stances, particularly on abortion and marriage, ought to be particularly attractive to Catholics who are trying to "think outside the box" of ways to steer us back toward a culture of life and freedom where the political shell game has failed to do so.  As Woods points out, there is only one candidate who has stood, unmoved and "unowned" against the establishment during his 10 terms in Congress, who has lived out his pro-life and pro-marriage values as a career obstetrician, husband to the same woman for 50 years, father of 5 children and grandfather of 18.  He has been willing to put his unwavering stance on the record time and time again, most recently in Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues that Affect Our Freedom.

The original text can be found at

An Open Letter to the Catholic Community on Behalf of Ron Paul
In the tradition of Walter Block's Open Letter to the Jewish Community in Behalf of Ron Paul and Laurence Vance'sOpen Letter to the Protestant Community in Behalf of Ron Paul, I'd like to say a few words to my fellow Catholics.
Never in my life have I felt as strongly about a presidential candidate — or about any politician, for that matter — as I do about Dr. Ron Paul, Republican congressman from Texas. I've gone from being someone so disgusted with politics that I can't bear to read about it to being a political junkie, avidly following the activities and successes of this great man.
As an American historian, I am not aware of any congressman in American history whose voting record is so stellar, and so consistently in accord with the Constitution.
Beyond that, Ron Paul is not a panderer. He'll speak to an interest group and tell them to their faces that he has opposed and will continue to oppose funding their pet projects. Lobbyists know they're wasting their money if they try to wine and dine him. He recently spoke before the national convention of an organization aimed at protecting the interests of a particular ethnic group, and began by saying: "Somebody asked me whether I had a special speech for your group, and I said, no, it's the same speech I give everywhere."
Already by 1981, Ron Paul had earned the highest rating ever given by the National Taxpayers Union, received the highest rating from the Council for a Competitive Economy, and won the Liberty Award from the American Economic Council for being "America's outstanding defender of economic and personal freedom." 
Dr. Paul, who entered Congress in 1976 and returned to his medical practice in 1984, picked up where he left off when he returned to Congress in the 1996 election. I do not expect to see his like again.
He is also a good and decent man, who really is what he appears to be when you hear him speak. As a physician at an inner-city hospital, Ron Paul provided medical care to anyone who needed it, regardless of ability to pay. He never accepted money from Medicare or Medicaid, preferring to provide free care instead. That's what people in a free society are supposed to do: be responsible for themselves, and then lend their assistance to those who are vulnerable and alone.
Ron Paul is a candidate who doesn't insult his listeners' intelligence, who answers the questions he is asked, and who doesn't simply say whatever his audience wants to hear. And unlike other major names in the race, Ron Paul doesn't have to run away from his record, which reveals an unswerving commitment to peace, freedom, and prosperity that is second to none in all of American history.
Although I would have supported Ron Paul back before I converted to Catholicism, I think Catholics will like what they see when they examine his record. Over at Defend Life, Ron Paul comes out decisively on top in a study of the candidates' positions on the issues according to the guidelines recently established by the United States bishops. (If anything, I think this study understates Paul's compatibility with Catholic teaching.)
On education and home schooling, Ron Paul is the clear winner. Fred Thompson, John McCain, and Duncan Hunter all voted for the execrable No Child Left Behind Act, and Governors Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney have both come out in favor of it. Ron Paul — as did the Republican Party itself not so long ago — opposes any federal role in education, which is the responsibility of parents and local communities.
In other words, Ron Paul believes in a little something called subsidiarity, which happens to be a central principle of Catholic social thought. Subsidiarity holds that all social functions should be carried out by the most local unit possible, as opposed to the dehumanizing alternative whereby distant bureaucratic structures are routinely and unthinkingly entrusted with more and more responsibilities for human well-being.
On home schooling, Ron Paul has proposed legislation giving tax credits worth thousands of dollars to reimburse the educational expenses of home-schooling parents, as well as those of parents who send their children to other kinds of schools. What presidential candidate speaks like this?
Parental control of child rearing, especially education, is one of the bulwarks of liberty. No nation can remain free when the state has greater influence over the knowledge and values transmitted to children than the family. By moving to restore the primacy of parents to education, the Family Education Freedom Act will not only improve America's education, it will restore a parent's right to choose how best to educate one's own child, a fundamental freedom that has been eroded by the increase in federal education expenditures and the corresponding decrease in the ability of parents to provide for their children's education out of their own pockets.
When it comes to abortion, Ron Paul — an obstetrician/gynecologist who has delivered over 4,000 babies — has been a consistent opponent of Roe v. Wade, which he rightly considers unconstitutional. But he has no interest in the failed strategy of the past 35 years whereby we sit and wait for a remedy in the form of good Supreme Court justices. His HR 300 would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over abortion, as per Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. That would overturn Roe by a simple congressional majority. Then we could see who is sincere on the issue, and who is just exploiting it for votes. Few in either party really want to see the abortion status quo overturned, since it means they can't scare their supporters into sending them as much money anymore.
Upon the Pope's death in 2005, Ron Paul paid tribute to John Paul's consistent defense of life. On another occasion, he offered an additional tribute, of the sort few politicians would utter:To the secularists, this was John Paul II's unforgivable sin — he placed service to God above service to the state. Most politicians view the state, not God, as the supreme ruler on earth. They simply cannot abide a theology that does not comport with their vision of unlimited state power. This is precisely why both conservatives and liberals savaged John Paul II when his theological pronouncements did not fit their goals. But perhaps their goals simply were not godly. 
Speaking of John Paul II, it is important to remember that that pope was a strong opponent of the U.S. government's attack on Iraq, sending his personal representative, Cardinal Pio Laghi, to Washington shortly before the commencement of hostilities in order to insist to the president that such a war would be unjust. The Pope's first comments after the war broke out were these: "When war, as in these days in Iraq, threatens the fate of humanity, it is ever more urgent to proclaim, with a strong and decisive voice, that only peace is the road to follow to construct a more just and united society."
Before his election as Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked if a U.S. government attack on Iraq would be just. "Certainly not," came the reply. He predicted that "the damage would be greater than the values one wishes to save."
After the war ended, Ratzinger said: "It was right to resist the war and its threats of destruction…. It should never be the responsibility of just one nation to make decisions for the world." "There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq," he elsewhere observed. "To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war.'"
Hundreds of thousands lost their lives in this obviously avoidable war, a war that was based on falsehoods that we would have laughed at if they'd been uttered by Leonid Brezhnev. But since they came from the White House we cheer as for a football team, and duck the appalling material and moral consequences. A country that (by regional standards) once had an excellent health care system, opportunities for women, liberal gun and alcohol laws, and — yes — lots of immigrants, was turned into a disease-ridden basket case, filled with dead, wounded, and malnourished children, for no good reason.
That's just wrong, and it isn't "liberal" to say so.
Likewise, Ratzinger/Benedict is not a "liberal" for opposing the war. He is a moral conservative, but a man whose conservatism is more mature than the sloganeering jingoism of so much of what passes for conservatism in today's America. Ron Paul is an equally sober and serious statesman, and for that reason was one of very few Republicans with the courage and the foresight to oppose this economic and moral fiasco from the very start.
It is especially satisfying to learn that in the second quarter of 2007, Ron Paul received more donations from active duty and retired military personnel than any other Republican candidate. By the third quarter, he was receiving more than any other presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican. Want to support the troops? Then support Ron Paul.
My main argument to you, though, is not a specifically Catholic one. It's one that should resonate with anybody who values honesty, integrity, and decency. Ron Paul is a good man who believes in justice and the Constitution, and who cannot be bought. His ten terms in Congress have proven that again and again.
And that is why the media fears him. Unlike the rest of them, Ron Paul is unowned.
Now every establishment hack out there wants you to vote for one of the business-as-usual candidates. Are you really so happy with the establishment that its endorsement or cajoling means anything to you? If anything, it should make us all the more interested in Ron Paul — the one candidate the establishment fears, since they know their game is up if he should win.
Far from being in the unhappy position of a candidate whose children won't even speak to him, Ron Paul is fortunate to have family members all over the campaign trail on his behalf. He has been married to the same woman for 50 years, and has been blessed with five children and eighteen grandchildren. There are some family values.
Just think: for once, you don't have to choose the lesser among evils. You can finally vote for someone. You can not only be happy, but actually honored, to cast your vote for Ron Paul.
But don't just vote for him. Find out about him, and get out there and spread the word.November 21, 2007
Thomas E. Woods, Jr. [view his websitesend him mailis the author of How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. He won first prize in the 2006 Templeton Enterprise Awards for The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy, and his book The Church Confronts Modernity was published in paperback this year by Columbia University Press. An editor of The Latin Mass magazine for eleven years, Woods has appeared in Inside the Vatican, Catholic World Report, Catholic Historical Review, Catholic Social Science Review, New Oxford Review, Crisis, This Rock, and the Journal of Markets & Morality.

Copyright © 2007

My wife and I were not convinced of the necessity of electing Ron Paul to office in the 2008 election.  That has changed now, in particularly because we see the dire straits that our nation is in, morally and economically, and the lack of conviction from any lawmakers to do anything about it.  After reading his books, and his definitive stance on the issues as laid out in Liberty Defined, we know now that he is the right man for the job at this crossroads of history.  Any Catholic who is serious about their faith ought to give an equally serious look at this man who has spent his entire political career trying to Restore America.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Values in a Time of Upheaval Chapter 4 Conclusion: Heaven and Earth

In last week's post discussing Chapter 4 of the Holy Father's book, Values In a Time of Upheaval, I highlighted his reflection on the fact that for society, and the government whose task it is to regulate life in that society, to function properly, both society and government most first acknowledge the existence and preeminence of the transcendent Truth that precedes them.  The state is not the source of morality, nor is the will of the people in a democratic society able to "change" what is true.

Pope Benedict ended the chapter with a wonderful reflection, entitled Closing Reflection: Heaven and Earth.  In it, he took a step back from his previous discussion of the historical role of truth in forming the moral and ethical fiber of a society, to the eschatological perspective, the fact we are destined for something far greater, and a citizenship far more significant than that of our pilgrimage on this earth.  As St. Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians (3:20), "Our commonwealth is in heaven."

In his conclusion, the Holy Father pointed out that there has long been a perception among Christians that these two perspectives are separate, that our love and longing for the things of heaven is somehow opposed to and detracts from our "political task" here on earth, and vice versa.  But that perspective is mistaken.  The two are complimentary.  It is ultimately our love for the things of heaven that enables us to carry out the tasks laid before us here on earth.  In the Pope's own words,
"In reality, it is precisely this 'eschatological' attitude that guarantees the state its own rights while simultaneously resisting absolutism by indicating the boundaries both of the state and of the Church in the world.  Where this fundamental attitude prevails, the Church knows that it cannot be a state here on earth, for it is aware that the definitive state lies elsewhere, and that it cannot set up the City of God on earth.  It respects the earthly state as an institution belonging to historical time, with rights and laws that the Church recognizes....By both demanding loyal cooperation with the state and respect for its specific nature and its limitations, the Church provides an education in those virtues that allow a state to become good.  At the same time, it puts up a barrier against the omnipotence of the sounds the cry for resistance whenever the state might demand something genuinely evil and opposed to God." (p.71)
Jesus Christ did not come into the world--and he did not establish his Church in the world--to be a government in the political sense.  That is exactly what Israel expected him to do, but as our Lord tends to do, he defied and exceeded human expectations.  As he answered Pilate's continued interrogation, "My kingdom is not from this world.  If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews" (John 18:36).

On the flip-side, he also did not dismiss political activity and the political power of the secular state in the regulation of the affairs of men (regulation in its original meaning, to "make regular," including self-regulation and being very different than control).  Instead, he established the former as a leaven of the citizens of the latter and entrusted us with the enormous responsibility of maintaining the proper relationship between both.  The bottom line is that the Church was established to work within the world, as an outpost of heaven and a standard of his law and kingdom that will never end.  As the world needs God, so it needs the Church.  And, one step further, mankind needs a healthy functional relationship between the Church and the state.  It falls to Christians, who are both temporal citizens of earth and destined to be eternal citizens of heaven, to see to it that His work of bringing mankind to salvation is continued:
"The fact that Christians are journeying toward the other city does not alienate them.  In reality, it is this that allows us to be healthy and our states to be healthy.  For if men have nothing more to expect than what this world offers them, and if they may and must demand all this from the state, they destroy both their own selves and every human society.  If we do not want to get entangled anew in the tentacles of totalitarianism, we must look beyond the state, which is only one part, not the totality.  There is no antithesis between hope for heaven and loyalty to the earth, since this hope is also hope for the earth.  While we hope for something greater and definitive, we Christians may and must bring hope into that which is transitory, into the world of our states." (p.71-72)

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Glimmer of Hope: Texas Gov. Rick Perry Signs Bill De-Funding Planned Parenthood

I've been focusing a lot on the political implications of the faith lately, and it's not by chance.  As the Holy Father noted in his little-reported Advent address to the Roman Curia, it is difficult if not impossible, for anyone who has eyes to see, to look around and notice the sad state of affairs in the Church and in our society at large.  On so many fronts, its seems that we are descending into another dark age, not unlike that that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, as vice and lack of faith seem to be eclipsing reason and belief:
"For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defence of such structures seem doomed to failure."
Michael Voris of highlighted the address in a December, 28, 2010 spot of The Vortex:

This program is from

Still, once in a while, we catch a small glimmer of hope in what seems like a sea of darkness.  One of those glimmers came this past week, as Texas Governor Rick Perry signed legislation into law defunding Planned Parenthood of $34 million annually in taxpayer money.  I have never been a fan of Governor Perry's sometimes heavy-handed style of governing and remain critical of many of his policies, but on this one he is dead on where it counts.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry Signs Bill De-Funding Planned Parenthood -

Score one for the Lone Star state!

Stay tuned later this week for the second installment of my series on the Holy Father's collection of political essays, Values in a Time of Upheaval, reflecting on the role that we as Christians are called to carry out as citizens of both Heaven and Earth.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cut, Cap, and Balance Is a Moral Duty - The American Spectator

This is a great piece by Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, about why cutting spending and balancing the budget is more than just a political duty.  It's our moral duty to reverse the out-of-control spending that has led us to saddle the next generation with $46,500+ in debt (and counting, from the time they leave the womb.  I may have to go into more depth on why in a future post.

Cut, Cap, And Balance Is a Moral Duty - The American Spectator

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Archbishop Chaput Appointed Head of Philadelphia

Archbishop Chaput responded with humble words that belie the vigor that he has infused in his archdiocese in Denver:

“Philadelphia is one of America’s truly great cities, rich in history and achievement, with an extraordinary community of Catholic faith that goes back to saints like John Neumann and Katharine Drexel,” he said. “I don’t know why the Holy Father sent me here, but I do trust his heart, and I do believe in his judgment.
“I know other bishops would have been smarter than I am, or more talented, or more connected to Philadelphia’s past. But I do promise that no bishop will love the people and priests of this local Church more than I will. No bishop will give more of himself than I will. And no bishop will try harder to help persons who have been hurt by the sins of the past, or work harder to strengthen and encourage our priests and renew the hearts of our people.”

Denver's loss will be Philadelphia's gain; hopefully the healing and restoration of the faith there will continue and flourish under his leadership.

Archbishop Charles Chaput Takes the Helm in Philadelphia

If you have not read it yet, don't miss Chaput's book, Render unto Caesar.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Values in a Time of Upheaval Chapter 4: What Is Truth?

Welcome to the first installment of a series of posts reviewing Values in a Time of Upheaval a little more closely.  As I mentioned in Saturday's primer, I'm starting with Chapter 4 because it is the most striking and aligns precisely with the singular question that drives right to the heart of all of our other questions.

Pilate questions Jesus in The Passion of the Christ
What is Truth?

Those three words, asked of Jesus by Pilate as he stood falsely accused (cf. John 18:38), reverberate through history.  They seem to be amplified today, at a time when so many in our culture searching for the answer without finding it, or worse, have given up asking the question altogether.  Despite the temptation to give up in the face of what seems to be so much diversion and misinformation, the question has to be asked and cannot be avoided, for Truth cannot be found unless it (He) is sought with sincerity of heart.  The greatest danger lies when the seeker asks the question as a "loaded" question, with unmovable skepticism, and refuses to believe that it can lead to any answer other than that it is unanswerable.

The question, and the scene that surrounds it, are the centerpiece of the Pope's discussion in Chapter 4.  He begins the chapter by reflecting briefly on the prerequisite condition of freedom, that eventually leads into the deeper discussion:
The participation of everyone in power is the hallmark of freedom.  No one is to be merely the object of rule by others or only a person under control; everyone ought to be able to make a voluntary contribution to the totality of political activity.  We can all be free citizens only if we all have a genuine share in decision making.
So, to be truly free, we must all be able to contribute our "two cents," and know that our opinions are heard, weighed, and valued.  But being free in the sense of society does not mean being free to act on whatever whim we choose.  That freedom itself has to be anchored, grounded in something:
...the freedom of the individual to order his own life is declared to be the real goal of societal life.  Community has no value whatever in itself but exists only to allow the individual to be himself.  However, if the individual the highest goal lacks contents, it dissolves into thin air, since individual freedom can exist only when freedoms are correctly ordered.
So our freedom must be ordered, or oriented, toward something in order to have meaning.  But, if we have billions of people, each a sovereign, what common goal or purpose can their freedom all be oriented toward?  Probably the most common and widely accepted answer is the "common good" (i.e. the best possible opportunity for each individual to reach their full human potential, not to be confused with the collective good of society at large). But even the "common good" of man remains vague and has to be further defined and grounded.

When it comes to evaluating the ultimate goal of a democratic form of government, digging deeper into the meaning of the common good leads to one of two positions.

1. First, the radical relativistic position, which makes the governing activity itself the highest source of good, by replacing the historical, Christian concept of good and goodness with the idea that will of the majority ultimately decides and comes to occupy the position of "truth."  This is the secular-humanistic view, and is the basis of pure democracy.

2. Second, the "truth first" argument that, to quote the Holy Father, "truth is not a product of politics (the majority) but is antecedent to political activity and sheds light on it.  It is not praxis that creates truth but truth that makes praxis possible." This is the Christian view, and is the foundation of the republican form of government that began to be explored even before the time of Christ by Plato and Aristotle, where certain preexisting realities (what our Founders referred to as inalienable rights) set boundaries on the power of the state, which derives its power, in turn, from the consent of the people.

In his conclusions, the Pope notes that, in order to properly fulfill its role of regulating society the state must "[create] a balance of freedom and good things that allows each individual to lead a life worthy of man." This requires some power to guarantee the law, but it must remain clear that the government must use its power to "safeguard the rights of each individual and the welfare of all.  It is not the task of the state to create mankind's happiness, nor is it the task of the state to create new men. It is not the task of the state to change the world into paradise--nor can it do so."

The bottom line is that, to preserve freedom grounded in truth, that state must "receive from outside itself the essential measure of knowledge and truth with regard to that which is good."  Further,
According to Maritain, the primary right of a people to govern itself can never become a right to decide everything.
This reality--the clashing of  two opposing views--plays out briefly and dramatically in the exchange between Christ and Pilate.  Referring to the German scholar Heinrich Schlier, who wrote against groups within the Protestant churches who cooperated with the buildup of National Socialism, the Holy Father notes that, according to Schlier,
...although Jesus in his trial acknowledges the judicial authority of the state represented by Pilate, he also sets limits to this authority by saying that Pilate does not possess this authority on his own account but has it "from above" (19:11).  Pilate falsifies his power, and...the power of the state, as soon as he ceases to exercise it as the faithful administrator of a higher order that depends on truth.
Jesus didn't comment on which specific form of government would best serve the needs of man and society, but he did lay out, in this exchange, what a government--no matter what its form--could never do.  It could never take the place of God or supplant his truths with the will of a fallible majority.  The minute it seeks to do so, and attempts to eliminate him from the position of ultimate authority, it loses any legitimate claim of power.

If you've made it this far, thank you for hanging in there.  Please chime in with your thoughts about how this political philsophy might apply to us today.  Until the next installment (chapter TBD), God's peace.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Coming Soon: Values In A Time of Upheaval

In January of 2010, shortly after starting this blog, I posted a brief book review of Values In A Time of Upheaval , a collection of essays on political philosophy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI).  A recent conversation with a friend on Facebook prompted me to pick the book up off the shelf, dust it off, and read through it again.  So I did, as it became my source of intellectual stimulation during 30+ hours of air travel this past week.

As I mentioned in the review, the Holy Father’s collection is an incredibly timely book.  Upheaval seems to be exactly what we are seeing in our culture at nearly every turn. In the area of politics in particular, it seems every day that we are becoming more a nation of men and less a nation of laws.  The world, and our society, seem to be changing in so many ways, and few of those changes appear to be for the better.   So, as I was thinking and praying for my next blog topic, it struck me that reviewing the book in greater depth would be perfect.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be taking each of the Holy Father's essays, doing my best to summarize them (without sacrificing the rich genius of his work), and offer my humble commentary.  I’ll begin this week with the chapter that impacted me the most, Chapter Four.  This chapter, the fourth essay in the collection, entitled What is Truth? The Significance of Religious and Ethical Values in a Pluralistic Society, explores the relationship between truth and the democratic process, and how that relationship must remain in proper perspective in order for a society to survive.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks to explore this and the rest of Pope Benedict XVI's essays on political philosophy, and please chime in with any comments or thoughts about his work.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday Quick Thought: Sails in the Wind

According to the Baltimore Catechism, we were created to know, love, and serve God.  To expand on that a little, we were created first to glorify him by loving him with all of our being, and to transmit his love into the world by being living reflections of that love.

To live any other way, that is, apart or distant from God, is to be like a sail that is furled and stored.  Before it is hoisted to catch the wind, it is a useless, sometimes rather heavy piece of fabric.  But once it is unfurled into the power of the wind, it becomes an incredible instrument of propulsion, able to move massive vessels over great distances and high speeds.

Our souls, like sails, are meant to operate and transmit the power of God's love into our world.  So long as we cooperate and "unfurl" our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies to him, there is no limit to what he can accomplish with us.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday Quick Thought: Lessons Learned

Over the past week, Michael Voris has done a series of Vortex spots reflecting on the decimation of the faith that has taken place in Ireland.  In only two generations, the once-vibrant community of faith that thrived for 1500 years has faded into only a small remnant.  He compiled a few lessons learned, which we in the rest of the Church in the west-including America-should take to heart.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Independence Day: Rediscovering our Greatness

Tomorrow, July 4, 2011, we celebrate the day when 56 intrepid men were willing to risk "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor," to sign a Declaration of Independence to King George III, notifying him in no uncertain terms that they no longer considered themselves to be his subjects.  While each of these men himself was a profile in courage (they all had the hangman's noose for treason to look forward to if things didn't work out as they hoped), I have always been particularly impressed by the boldness of Charles Carroll, the only Catholic to sign the Declaration.  Carroll, representing Maryland, signed his name "Charles Carroll of Carrollton," just in case there was any doubt should the redcoats come looking to round them up.

To the point: today, at a time when a majority of Americans believe that America is "off track" (60% according to a May 2011 Politico Poll), it is worth investigating what it took to get here, and what it would take to turn us around.

In a previous post from September of last year, I busted the myth of separation of church and state, at least it has come to be understood today.

MYTH: Church (religion) and state must be kept completely separate. Anyone who holds to the traditional standard as a matter of religious conviction should not seek to impose the traditional standard on the rest of a society.
BUST: The Founding Fathers were not ignorant or simple men. They were geniuses, the most highly respected and innovative doctors, farmers, and lawyers of their time. They were steeped in philosophy, history, and natural law, and drew from this enormous perspective and wealth of knowledge in their drafting of the founding documents (Declaration of Independence and Constitution). Although they came from many different faith backgrounds, almost to a tee they acknowledged and revered the authority of the “Creator God” of the Judeo-Christian faith tradition and the fact that the entire system of Western legal and political thought rested firmly on the foundation of this faith tradition.

While I specifically addressed the peril of abandoning our traditional, Judeo-Christian moorings as relates to the issue of legalizing so-called "gay marriage," the idea also applies in the wider historical context of our nation's past and future.  No nation that has ever completely abandoned its moral footings--in our case, the Judeo-Christian moral structure--has ever survived more than a few generations.  Not one.  More from that post:
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his 1837 documentary book, “Democracy in America,” noted that the strength and “verve” that pulsed so strong in the young country’s veins was due to its strong moral identity, based primary on the tenets of Christianity and Christian morality. He recognized that the churches played a critical role in informing American’s consciences, but also made an ominous prediction that, when the fervor faded with time, the strong and thriving society would descend into a relativistic, anti-religious (especially anti-Catholic and anti-Christian) state the likes of which had recently given rise to the Jacobin regime and the French Revolution.
While the First Amendment (wisely) forbade the establishment of any particular religion as the “official” religion of the new Republic, it also respected the right of citizens to live (not just to worship but to live) their faith, which includes the right to speak, act and vote—to carry out all aspects of living—according to their faith-informed consciences.
If we push the “Creator God” and the unchanging Natural Law that he has stamped as his sort of “fingerprint” on creation to the wayside, the only alternative is a descent into a state of being where fallen, sinful humanity attempts to make up or change the rules for itself, as popular opinion dictates. Man begins—as he has so many times in the past—to try to arbitrarily engineer the political and legal systems to codify his own happiness as an end in itself, rather than as paths to a just society as the Creator has defined it. He begins to “grasp” at happiness and a twisted sense of justice, rather than accepting the standard that has been laid down since the beginning of time. Isn’t that precisely the sin that the serpent tempted Adam and Eve to in the garden, that they did not need God and could make up the rules for themselves?
The Founding Fathers were well aware of this tendency, of its historical consequences (descent into tyranny with relativism as the historical societal standard). It is, in large part, why they went through such painful deliberations to carefully craft an intricate system of checks and balances.

So what do we do to turn this "ship of state," whose birthday we so proudly celebrate, back onto a safe and true course?  It's simple, but much easier said than done.  We need to reconnect with our moorings.  That is, we must rediscover our relationship with our Creator, and properly orient ourselves as his children and subject to his laws, in particular the Natural Law.  We must rediscover the true meaning of liberty and rights in the Christian sense; the freedom and ability to do as we ought, unencumbered by the man-made (and often arbitrary) laws of a government that would raise itself above its God-given role to claim the all-knowing and all-powerful role of God himself.  Our only hope is to return to being a godly and god-fearing people.