Frank discussions, advice, and opinions from a Catholic Director of Religious Education.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (December 26, 2011)

Kenosis: The voluntary renunciation by Christ of his divine privilege. In accepting his life as a man, Jesus emptied himself and rejected even those rights which were naturally due to him as God. (Etymology: (Greek) Kenosis, an emptying)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 13)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 154)

1. I am going to be SOOOOOO tired... As I write this at about 8:46 PM, my wife and I still need to pack, load the car and do some last minute cleaning and dishes before we leave for North Carolina. As I wrote in an earlier post, we are surprising my mother for Christmas (see number 7), but we have to leave the house at about 3:00 AM with a sleepy, and most likely unhappy, infant. Grumpy infants generally lead to annoyed mamas and annoyed mamas often cause disgruntled dadas. So prayers are appreciated for the long day of travel ahead.

2. My wife and I have been saying the rosary each night as part of our Advent observances. It gets so hard to find time to pray together during the year that I think we should try to continue this practice now that we are in the habit. I don't know if it will last, but I'd at least like to try. At this point I think the key will be just sheer will.

3. I've been watching Grimm on Hulu. My wife hates it, but I think it is pretty decent. It isn't... well it isn't very original or bright, but it's entertaining enough to help me lose myself in a fantasy world.

4. Speaking of fantasy worlds, why do we still have so many GOP contenders? It seems like some of them ought to be dropping off pretty soon. I don't know who we will get after the next election, but I don't foresee a great future in any scenario.

5. We recently had two events at our parish that didn't fare well (attendance was very low for one and we had to practically get on our knees, beg and offer our first born children to get volunteers for the other). I don't know what it is, but participation is sorely lacking. Parents just don't seem to care. I would attribute this to the holidays, but this has been a problem for some time now. On top of it all, I can't stop thinking about fig trees...  weird... 

6. This is Eddie's first Christmas (and he probably isn't going to "get" the whole present thing yet) so we will see what happens. My bet? While we all open gifts he will see something shiny in the other room and bolt for it.

7. I hope all of you have a very merry Christmas and blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Of Saints and Santas

I don't think I like this...Mama?
My wife and I have been talking a lot about how to celebrate Christmas now that we have our son. We both reject the commercialized hallmark holiday formerly known as Christmas, but I think it's going to be harder than we think to actually separate ourselves from that secular vision. For example, take Santa.

Santa means saint and Santa Clause is based off St. Nicholas, a real saint who was Bishop of Myra (part of modern day Turkey). He was famous for surprise gifts and one legend, at least, presents him with some real "Santa" characteristics. As the legend goes, a poor man had three daughters who were coming of age. Without the money for a dowry, the daughters would almost certainly be unable to find a husband and therefore be forced into prostitution. The bishop learned of this and, on the eve of each daughters coming of age, he threw a bag of money over the roof and into the chimney. The bag fell all the way down and into the stockings below (which were hanging to dry over the embers). 

Now, that is a great story of charity about a real saint. It gives a great reason to hang stockings and even to leave little treats in them, yet how many kids will learn instead about flying reindeer? And that, my friends, is the problem. The fictional, elf enslaving, flying reindeer traveling, "Santa" has become so crucial to children's experience of Christmas that it's going to be very difficult explaining to those around us that we appreciate their desire to give our child a happy memory, but we would rather teach the truth (which is much more amazing, by the way) and focus on the real meaning of Christmas.

Case in point: All my mother wanted for Christmas was a picture of little Eddie with Santa. Now, this seems fine (although Santa has quite a racket by forcing you to buy his overpriced pictures), so long as we emphasize the "St. Nick" part, but this is just one example of a "oh, but you HAVE to" moment that I can see getting out of hand if we don't stay vigilant. I guess what I am saying is that it's OK to indulge in fun Christmas traditions to a point, but the secular, commercial version of Christmas is like a giant black hole that sucks you in. If you don't stay on top of things, I could see it getting out of hand really fast.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (Christmas Edition)

Incarnation: God become man. Through this teaching the Church maintains that God became, truly and completely, a human being. His life was not a symbol. He did not fool us by an illusion. He did not work another human being like a puppet. The creator of the universe, who lived a life of pure love and joy, never experiencing lonliness, pain or fear, actually became a man in every way but sin in order to save us. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 12)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 154)

1. My wife and I stumbled on this and it was just too good not to pass on. Isn't history fun?

oh! and this...

2. Speaking of cool history, Fr. Z posted on the possible discovery of Sodom and Gomorrah. How do the archaeologists think the city was destroyed? A "heat event".
3. Is it just me, or does anyone else despise "Mary did you know?" Well, I found this the other day.

4. Christmas is right around the corner, and that means hundreds of parishes will be having their Christmas pageants during the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. Now, I am not a liturgist, so maybe there is some allowance here that I am not aware of. If you know anything about this please instruct me, but I am pretty sure that these little plays aren't supposed to be held during Mass. I don't know about the rest of you, but I find them terribly distracting. This is the point where we are all supposed to be worshipping God, focused completely on Him, and yet we have this strange "creation" bleating at us, practically screaming, "Look at us!" The focus is, inevitably, on the cute children. Parents snap photos. Grandparents look on warmly and dirty looks are thrown at the naysayers like myself. Still, I persist. Why not just have the pageant BEFORE Mass?

5. The Anchoress linked to a great piece on Ten Myths About Introverts.  My favorite is number 1: Introverts don't like to talk. I LOVE to talk, just not as an end in and of itself. You can also find a link there for a personality test. I am an INTJ: The Mastermind. Coincidentally, so is my wife. What are you?

6. We had our second round of evaluations for the second grade classes on Wednesday. They are being tested for their first confession. I was very pleased with the results. Several are still far from ready, but there has been improvement. Prayers are always appreciated.

7. Next week we fly to North Carolina to visit our parents. My mom still doesn't know we are coming (my Dad is sneaky like that). I can't wait for her to see us on the doorstep right before Christmas. It's going to be great!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 11)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 154)

1. YES! I know I've been gone almost a month, but I have good reason (plus I should be back to regular postings now). Essentially, I had a week long trip with my youth group to NCYC (where I got sick), then a week long trip back to North Carolina to visit my parents and in-laws, followed by a week of frantically catching up on both school work and Anyway, I should have some regular postings now that things are a little more calm.

Holy Mass at NCYC
2. Speaking of NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference), it was really good. I am hoping to have a whole post devoted to this topic soon, but what you need to know right now is that it is a gathering of about 25,000 Catholic teens and chaperones. It occurs every two years and it really gets the teens excited about their faith. If you use it right, it can be a good tool for building your youth group. If you use it poorly, it can be a great way to waste your funds giving a few kids an awesome party.

3. My wife and I are on a "negative news" fast for Advent. I think we both recognized that negative news was affecting our perspective a bit. I know for myself, a lot of the blogs and websites I was reading dealt with some pretty negative things. The sites and stories were not bad in and of themselves, but too much negativity starts to slant your world view and make you a little crabby. I confess that I have broken this fast a few times out of boredom, but generally I've held to it and I think it has been for the best. I'll try to let everyone know around Christmas how it ultimately went.  

4. I could use some prayers for someone I know who just found out she was pregnant (not my wife). She is a "high risk" pregnancy and it is still early so anything could happen. I just think this family has a lot of love to give and would do so well with another child. They could use some prayers for the mother and the safe delivery and health of the baby.

5. Speaking of babies, this latest news (quick take #4) has my wife thinking she has special fertility powers. Many women in our lives suddenly became pregnant in the time period surrounding my wife's pregnancy, including some very unexpected ones. Coincidence?   

6. I miss my family in North Carolina, but there are perks to living so far away. You say it's time to go Christmas shopping? OH! You mean it's time to send our moms a check for the presents they bought and wrapped for our siblings. Lazy? Yes. Ashamed? No.  

7. I hate cats. This Thanksgiving I spent several days in my in-law's house with my wife's old cat. I spent the first night wheezing (I'm allergic) and generally struggling to breath. Any recommendations for meds to help with a cat allergy?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (November 14, 2011)

Indult: Temporary favor granted by the Holy See to bishops to permit them to do something not otherwise allowed. This does not mean that the Pope can give permission for something evil, but rather that he can dispense with certain aspects of the Church's law or liturgical practices. For those unaware, the reference to the "Holy See" is a reference to the authority of the Pope. In Catholicism, the bishops are invested by Christ Himself with authority to shepherd the Church. The Pope, or Holy Father, is the chief shepherd and all other bishops must be in communion with Him. For a good explanation of this relationship, see the Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus).


Monday, November 7, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (November 6, 2011)

Invincible Ignorance: A lack of knowledge for which a person is not morally responsible. For instance, if you were born in a remote region of Africa, and had never heard of Christianity (or Judaism), then you wouldn't be responsible for observing the third commandment (Keep holy the Lord's day). The reason you are not culpable for breaking the third commandment is because you could not possibly know of its existence. This is not the same as Christians who feign ignorance because they chose not to learn about God's commandments. It also does not apply to those who break the natural law (murder, theft, perjury, etc.) which all men can know through  reason and adequate reflection.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

You too can be the perfect parent!

...says someone who wants your money. I just got done reading an excellent post about parenting and heartache. I have to admit, every now and then I think, "If I just do this exactly right then my kids will be saints" or "If I can just work out this program properly then the teens will start going to Mass." Now, those thoughts don't last very long because inevitably I mess up and realize that God is their only hope (as it should be). Still, when you love your kids and know the dangers that are out in the world you want a certain degree of certainty regarding their everlasting soul. Unfortunately, out of all the amazing gifts God has given us, scientific, unquestionable certainty isn't one of them. Go check out What I'm Never Going to Tell You at In the Heart of My Home.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 10)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 149)

1. It's been a weird news week. So, apparently this seven year old boy is a cross-dresser? Besides his parents allowing this behavior, which is awful, the Girl Scouts are actually accepting him as a member! Really? Are we really going to do this? Put next to My Princess Boy and Storm (the genderless baby), I think we need to seriously ask whether modern feminism seeks domination rather than equality. What are we doing to our future young men? There is a balance and, like it or not, masculinity is a good thing. If someone feels trapped in their own body then something is wrong with that person. We don't need to pretend gender doesn't exist, we need to help that person be ok with who they really are. If nothing else, this has sealed the deal for me and, if God so blesses us, our daughters will never be Girl Scouts.   

2. Speaking of unnatural and wrong, some dude has 150 kids thanks to his "donations". Now, thanks to situations like this, everyone who has been conceived via IVF gets to wonder if they are attracted to their sibling. Yeah! Well, at least when they aren't thinking about that identical sister mom chose to  kill. But it's ok, honey, mommy loves you because you were on the left. She much prefers the left.

3. That concludes the pessimistic doom saying portion of my quick takes. On a more joyful note, Eddie had a good first Halloween. We didn't go Trick or Treating because I felt weird, as a grown man, going door to door with a baby who could barely crawl. Still, he wore his costume and looked really cute. We even did Facetime via iphone so that Grandma got to see the fun.   

4. Unfortunately, not all phone conversations are fun. I have the distinct displeasure this week of calling all the Confirmation students who have been skipping Mass and explaining to their parents why, if they don't start coming to Mass, their children will not be Confirmed. Why is this so hard? This isn't a party for your kid. It is a sacrament of God's Holy Church to strengthen your child to live life as a Catholic in a dangerous world. A life which, I might add, holds as foundational the nourishment of the Holy Eucharist which is, except for extreme circumstances, only to be had at MASS. If I offered $500 to Mass attendees I would have a full Church every Sunday. Unfortunately all we have is the body and blood of the savior of the world.

5. Sorry, I went back to doom saying... I know that I said I was done, but I'm weak. Its been that type of week. I feel like righteously smiting something. Anyone have a dragon?

6. G.K. Chesterton Quote of the Week: “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

7. In atonement for all my doom saying, I propose the counterweight of Nyan Cat!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Souls Day

"In the Christian faith, there is only one dogma, splitting like light into a rainbow of colors. This one dogma is like a living body expressing itself in manifold members, each dependant on the others."
- Hans Urs Von Balthasar

The "no contraception" block was very important...
If you've been reading this blog for a little while, you know that I tend to get a bit sore when people ignore portions of Church teaching for convenience. The quote above is a beautiful explanation of why that is a dangerous practice. If Von Balthasar is too lofty for you, though, I can simplify it. Doctrine forms the Jenga tower of faith. When you start removing blocks, your tower becomes that much weaker and, ultimately, can't support itself.

Now, this doesn't mean we teach third graders at a university level, but it does mean we don't leave gaping holes in their catechesis. In my experience, this temptation to gloss over Church teaching has been most powerful regarding death and the last things. This goes especially for purgatory. This teaching just doesn't fit in with the happy-clappy, "I'm ok, you're ok" view of catechesis. Hell? Well, yeah! That makes sense for people like Hitler and Stalin, but the rest of us just fall asleep and see our long gone puppies and eat ice cream all day while floating on a cloud. Yup!

We just don't want to consider the possibility that maybe we aren't all that great. The Church knows this, and that is one reason why we have All Souls Day. On that day we remember the faithful departed and pray for the souls in purgatory. In doing so, we both perform an act of charity for our brethren in need and remind ourselves that

"...the work of each will come to light...and the fire will test the quality of each ones work.
If the work stands that someone built upon the foundation, that person will receive a wage.
But if someone’s work is burned up, that one will suffer loss;
the person will be saved, but only as through fire. "
1 Corinthians 3:13-15

These are very important reasons for observing All Souls, but I think there is another reason, just as important, which strikes at the very heart of salvation and justifies Von Balthasar's statement. Before we delve into this, we need a quick introduction to the Catholic view of sin and purgatory.

Essentially, Catholics believe there are two types of sin: Mortal and Venial. The mortal sin is akin to spiritual suicide. It is a conscious rejection of life with God and is therefore the reason why people go to hell. Three conditions must be met, together, for a sin to be mortal. These are:

1. Full Knowledge: You need to fully understand that what you are doing is against God's will.

2. Full Consent: You choose this course freely.

3. Grave Matter: The sin must be sufficiently grave (serious). This is tricky, but generally the 10 Commandments are a good point of reference.  

If any one of the conditions above is lacking, the sin is not mortal, but venial. It wounds our relationship with God, but doesn't reject it. We have plenty of evidence both from Sacred Tradition and Holy Scripture to prove that this is the historical view of Christians, but the following verse will be sufficient for now:
"If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly." 1 John 5:16 

Now, we know from scripture that nothing unclean shall come before the Lord. We also know, from the discussion above, that some sins do not warrant damnation. It is reasonable to assume, then, that some poor souls die with sins on their soul, but without meriting hell. For the Catholic, then, purgatory is necessary as a state of purification before some souls can enter heaven. This explanation is the dime novel version, of course, but we need to have this foundation because we are now going to delve into Von Balthasar's comment.

Each doctrine of the Church bolsters the others and protects against heresy. You might choose to reject the Church's teachings on purgatory, but think for a moment about what you would be embracing. By denying the need for, or at least possibility of, purification, we must embrace the idea that many of our protestant brethren have already championed. Namely, we must embrace the idea that Christ's sacrifice only "covers" our sin. In other words, as the famous saying goes, we must look at the forgiven man's soul as a "snow covered dung heap", somehow fooling God into letting us enter paradise.

This idea presents Jesus more as a clever teen trying to sneak his friends past Dad in the middle of the night than a transforming, redeeming savior. It limits God by saying that He can't fix us and tries to make us settle for a new coat of paint. The Catholic view, on the other hand, states boldly that the savior of the universe cleanses and transforms His creatures. If that transformation is taking place, but not complete by the time of death, God finishes it in purgatory, thus bringing to fulfillment the work he had started.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week: Halloween Edition

Demonology: Science or doctrine concerning demons (malevolent, evil beings bent on the destruction of human souls). In the Nicene Creed, the Catholic Church professes her belief in angels and demons (I believe in one God...maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible). Fallen angels, referred to as demons, were permitted to retain their superior intellects, powers and faculties despite their choice to rebel against God. If you believe that you or another person are under demonic attack, please contact a Catholic priest. In the meantime, St. Michael is the great angelic warrior and defender of Christians.

  St Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host - by the Divine Power of God - cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 9)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 148)

1.Jesus-Ween? This seems like a good way to get your house egged...

I think these people have good intentions, but there needs to be a happy middle point. I'm not sure where that is, but I have a funny feeling that it lies between slutty cat costumes and awkward evangelizing efforts. Maybe dressing up as a saint? (AFTER their conversion)  

2. Speaking of Halloween, Eddie will be Yoda on Monday. I'm even putting him in his baby back-pack carrier (think "Empire Strikes Back") and bringing a little glowing "light saber". It's going to be awesome. 

"Change my diaper, you will..."

3. On an unrelated note, Blogger stinks. I ALWAYS struggle to put pictures or video in and the controls have been freezing a lot lately. Most of the time, Blogger either won't respond or does something stupid like push my text 50 lines down. Any ideas?

4.  I can't believe it's almost November. I heard the other day we might get some flurries within the week. I'm what you'd call an "inside" husband, but even I'm dreading winter. Minnesota winters are awful. You could go for months on end without showing any skin, and that's just inside your home. Don't even think of going outside unless you want to lose your favorite digits.  

5. I wanted a hover board SOOOOOO bad. When I first saw it in Back to the Future, I thought I was going to explode if I didn't get one soon. It was the coolest thing next to a light saber.  

6. Conscience? No, you don't need to worry about that. The government will make sure everything is fair. You know, like how they do in Britain with foster care and cafe owners.

7. I'm going to steal from George at Convert Journal. I really liked his inclusion of a quote in his quick takes, so I'm going to include one this week that seems to keep appearing for me. 

 “Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is.
Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.” -G.K. Chesterton 

Also, special thanks to Jen for the information about when to post this at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Dear Demons: Lust

By: Satan

Junior Tempters, I’d like to speak about a subject close to my heart today: Lust. No doubt, you’ve all been schooled in the general idea, but I want to focus on the real point of this great sin.

The Enemy has made both objects and people. He wants His creatures to both enjoy using the objects they have and to love one another. He considers this "good". Our job is to reverse the order He began. Make your teen love objects and use people. That is the purpose of Lust.

Lust helps us to turn the opposite sex into an object, and not just in the obvious way! When this sin is embraced by your teens, it carries over into everything else. Parents become tools to get things instead of a mother and father to love. Friends are chosen based on what they have and the poor and weak are ignored. Yes, push Lust, my denizens, and you will see the world become a store, communities become a marketplace and people become commodities!

                                -Non Serviam, Satan

Satan's column ("My Dear Demons: Advice for Junior Tempters") appears in monthly editions of Ed's Youth Group Newsletter. To submit a question to Satan, leave a comment below.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (October 24, 2011)

Aggiornamento: Updating. Specifically, under Pope John XXIII, the word carried two distinct meanings: 1) internal renewal and 2) external adaptation of Church law and institution to the times. As a result, this word is connected to the Second Vatican Council which Pope John XXIII called.

Bonus Word:

            Zeitgeist: Spirit of the times.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 8)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 146)

1. My wife won't shut up about knitting socks. (She said to write that. Really.) She's knitting socks for my brother-in-law (Christmas) and they look really nice. She says its..."fair isle" knitting? I don't know what that means, but apparently she's never done it before and is very excited.

2. Eddie said his first word yesterday: "Da Da." My wife is trying to convince me he isn't really saying anything (just noises), but I'm not buying it. I said "Da Da?" and he responded "Da Da".  Done deal. He's also really getting into imitation. We're having a lot of fun asking him questions and getting him to shake his head "no." Maybe too much fun...

3. I had an important lesson about quality and quantity the other day. I had been preparing for a "Minute to Win It" youth group night for the middle school kids and only a handful actually came. I was a little annoyed, but decided to make the best of it. The kids seemed to really have a wonderful night, though, and I think they got a lot from it. At the end of the night, we went into the church (completely dark except for candles) and thanked God for everything He'd done for us. When I finished leading the prayer, I expected the kids to get up and start heading for the door, but they stayed and silently kept vigil with the Lord. After a few minutes I excused myself to clean up and the kids chose, on their own, to stay a little while longer in the front of the tabernacle in silent prayer. How wonderful!

4. I am still far from excited about my presidential options. I think my pastor hit it on the nose. He told me he sat down to watch some t.v. the other day and really needed a comedy. He was pleasantly surprised when he saw that Saturday Night Live was on and decided to watch their presidential debate parody. After a few minutes, he realized it was the actual debate! That about sums up my feelings too. Obama obviously needs to be out. He is the most radically anti-life, anti-religious liberty president we've ever had, but that doesn't mean his competition is that great either.

5. Speaking of anti-liberty policies, this hermit cannot accept donations. We are coming into a time of greater persecution. I don't know how the health care mandates forcing Catholics to go against their conscience will work out, but I know it is only the tip of the iceberg. The solution? Pray for our leaders. Radically live the gospel. History has shown us that the Church generally benefits from such things. My view? The more pressure that is applied, the more Christian denominations will grow closer together and become stronger for it.

6. Off to work in a moment. I am going to try to create some events for catechists to continue their own religious education and get some time apart from the kids. I think we'll have the youth group provide child care and cater a decent dinner. I'll have to check the budget.

7. I am actually up early enough to where I think this could be first (or very close) on the Conversion Diary list. Wow.

UPDATE: Per number seven, how early are you people getting up? Goodness.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Be Nice

"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well." -Matthew 5:38-39

I am prideful. When someone verbally strikes me, my first thought is often "how badly can I hurt them back." Thanks be to God, this impulse is receding. Recently, I've had some experience with personal attacks and I was suddenly struck with a long ago memory of Roadhouse, through which I think God was talking to me. Enjoy. (Warning: Some explicit language)

  Yes, Patrick Swayze is God in this analogy. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (October 17th, 2011)

Communion of Saints: The unity and co-operation of the members of the Church on earth with those in heaven and in purgatory. In other words, death has no dominion over the Mystical Body of Christ. Those Christians who have entered into heaven continue to aid their brethren on earth by way of their prayers. Christians on earth honor the saints in heaven and aid one another and the souls in purgatory through prayer and works of mercy.  Souls in purgatory, remaining in the Body of Christ and being ever more purified, continue to benefit from the prayers and works offered for them and, according to some Doctors of the Church, offer prayers for the world.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why do our children leave the Church?

Mary's Aggies has a great post about why young people leave the Christian faith. It all centers around a recent five year research project conducted by the Barna Group. The study highlights six main themes cited by youth for leaving their faith behind. They have some great analysis, but I just wanted to highlight two of the themes myself.

Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.

I've been saying it over and over. STOP. WATERING. DOWN. THE. FAITH. Young people want to be challenged. They want something to rebel against. They know something is terribly wrong in the world and they aren't fooled by the happy-clappy catechesis they've been getting. I'm not saying we do away with crafts and break out the nun's discipline rulers, but I am saying we need to start teaching the whole of our faith and we need to do so in a way that emphasizes dynamic formation and real world application (including relationships with peers).

Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
 Again, we need to start teaching the truth. I think we tend to fall into one of two major errors. The first is that we shriek in fear whenever our kids encounter another religion or philosophy. We don't engage these ideas (when applicable), but quarantine them. The second error occurs when we pretend other faiths (or even denominations) are exactly the same and there are no differences. This is exactly how we get Buddhist poetry read at Mass. Niether of these errors is in keeping with the truth and so niether of these errors can ever be truly loving. In the words of G.K. Chesterton: "Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind." We have to accept the truth that there are real and serious differences between faiths, but that doesn't mean we can't love each other and be decent human beings.

Catholic Word of the Week (October 10, 2011)

Dormition: The feast of the falling asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Also known as the Assumption of Mary, this feast is celebrated August 15th and is a Holy Day of Obligation (unless it falls on a Saturday or Monday). Assumption is a more fitting term for the feast since it celebrates not only the end of Mary's earthly life, but the fact that she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 7)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 146)

1. First, this guy is awesome!

2. We had our first Whole-Community Catechesis night this past Wednesday. Our subject was "The Moral Life in Christ" and it went really well (with the exception that I ordered too much food). Our K-5 session used a mosaic craft to show how each of the choices we make throughout the day form a picture for God. That picture shows God who we really love and where we want to be. The parents and kids really seemed to like it and we gave the extra food to a local charity so, all in all, I count it as a success.

3. Do Ghost's Exist? Sort of. This Sunday we are having our first "Theology on Pop" discussion session for the year. We have about 15-20 high school students coming to learn about Ghosts, Hauntings, Demons, Heaven and Hell. Fun stuff, right? I had so many kids ask me last year about "Ghost Hunters" that I thought this would be prudent. Also, I've worked in a bonus for myself by having a section of the day devoted to debunking astrology and new age beliefs! I am giving each of the kids a personalized astrology "reading" (pre-typed with their name and birth date from their registration forms). What the kids don't know is that everyone has the same thing. The idea, of course, is to show them that their "reading" is so general it could apply to anyone.

4. My mother-in-law is coming for a visit. And I'm really excited. We haven't seen family for a few months (most live in North Carolina or Virginia) and it's going to be nice for her to see how big Eddie has gotten. Also, BABYSITTER! We're taking the youth group to an amusement park next Saturday and now my wife and I can chaperone with Mimi watching Eddie. Win, Win, Win.

5. My parents had their 30th wedding aanniversary. With marriage in the state it's in throughout the country, this is really something to be celebrated. I know in Minnesota we are facing a marriage amendment vote next fall and our Bishops are really trying to get people informed on this subject,but if we fail and marriages continues to degrade I'm not sure how many more 30th anniversary's we'll be seeing.

6. Cheesy Jokes.

What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground Beef

What is brown and sticky? A stick

7. Finally, this guy is awesome too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Didache Series

I've posted previously about the Didache series, but I really want to say again how wonderful these books are. (I DO NOT work for Ignatius Press or profit from this, by the way.) We use the Introduction to Catholicism text for our 9th and 10th grade students, but I've looked through the other editions and they are all top tier. 

Each chapter references the catechism and has a saint's story at the end, but I think my favorite part of this series is the way in which it asks students to engage the material. It often uses scenarios that force students to think about real world apologetics and there are plenty of great discussion questions for applying the lessons.  All in all, this is one of the best series for high school students I've seen and it's a great buy if you're looking.    

Monday, October 3, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (October 3, 2011)

Eschatology: Study of the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell. Purgatory is not one of the four last things because its existence is only temporary. Purgatory is a state of purification for souls on their way to Heaven. Once the last soul leaves purgatory, it will cease to exist.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sleep Out to Fight Youth Homelessness

Last night we had our 2nd annual "Sleep Out" night. Basically, this is the main event for a fundraising drive by local churches to raise money to help young people who are stranded or kicked out of their homes. We sleep outside in cardboard box "camps" to raise awareness and increase solidarity with our homeless brothers and sisters. I'm dead tired, but I'm really glad we went. We had some good prayer time, a few snacks, live music and several fires to combat the cold. All in all, about one hundred kids showed up for various denominations and we raised about $1,600. 


Thursday, September 29, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 6)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 144)

1. And They're OFF... We had our kickoff night this past Wednesday for Lifelong Learning (our religious ed. program). Each year we try to do something a little different to start things off. This time, we started with a prayer service where our catechists received a blessing from Father and then moved on to a barbecue cooked by our men's club. I also rented a bouncy castle and the super cool obstacle course to the right. BIG hit with the kids.  

I've seen sillier...
2. Every Dollar Counts. I try to double up whenever possible so during our kickoff night I thought the youth group could provide a little entertainment and raise some money as well. I made a bunch of signs with things the kids would do for $1. Parishioners could have the kids make bad balloon animals (advertised as such), follow other parishioners and tell cheesy jokes. We also had a group of girls you could pay to STOP singing (they made a LOT). I think we actually got close to $100! For what it was, I was really impressed.

3. Young Adults Group. We are going to get some additional help in the office and maybe start a few new programs. I know we are certainly going to start a young adults (20-39) group. I have some good ideas for individual events, but the form for something really lasting is still elusive. Any ideas?

4. Low Participation. Still struggling to get people involved at the parish. Everyone seems to like the events we have, but getting them to actually commit and come is a struggle. For instance, my assistant was having a retreat for girls in the 4th-6th grades. Plenty of mothers expressed interest, but we still don't have many signed up. I can only hope that as we keep having events our rate of participation will climb.

5. Virtus Training. We just made the move to VIRTUS for our safe environment training. Our volunteers took it pretty well considering that many of them got trained on the old program last year (which was supposed to be a one time deal) and had to go through it all over again this month. Still, we had some good conversations about keeping the kids safe and got through it in one piece.

6. Close to Crawling. I am sure my son is going to crawl any day now. He can get on all fours, lifting his stomach off the ground, and rock back and forth. He REALLY wants to go...anywhere...

This game is SO much fun.
7. Settlers of Catan. OK. I want it. I was trying to let it go, but after playing Settlers of Catan with some friends a few weeks ago I want the game. My wife and I have really embraced German board games (Carcassonne, Dominion, etc.) after being introduced to them by another couple and now I fear that we are too far down the road to turn back. We're addicted. Hello, my name is Ed, and I'm a German board game-aholic. 

Found what you were looking for?

Truth time. I like to read heretical publications. Why? Endless reasons, but my favorite is that I get to puzzle out how I'd respond. It keeps me in my apologetic prime. Anyway, I was reading one such publication a few days ago when I came across this gem: "I no longer look to the church and see any of my values, my priorities, my convictions reflected back at me..."

It left me dumbfounded for a few moments. I always have a hard time understanding these types of comments. I've never thought about the Church as something that should reflect back what I already thought. On the contrary, the more my faith has deepened, the more I've seen how necessary it is that I change the way I think. The Church is supposed to challenge me to move out of my comfort zone and radically change my life. The more I thought about the comment above, the more I saw our society gazing into a mirror, adoring itself. It doesn't want to be challenged. It doesn't want conversion. It wants happy-clappy, feel good, affirmation of the grandeur of ourselves.

As I pondered this, I remembered the words of our Lord: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you..." I think we all need to really sit down and ask what we're seeking, because as I thought about all this I got the growing sense that this verse can read two ways. I've always thought about this as a comforting verse, assuring us that if we seek Jesus we will find Him, but now I am realizing that the flip side is that if we seek ourselves we will find that too, for eternity. Hell isn't other people. Hell is no other people. Hell is looking in a mirror forever, and being sick with what we see. At the end of time, we will find what we were looking for.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Catholic Word of the Week (September 27, 2011)

Concupiscence: Often called the "tinder" of sin, concupiscence is the inner weakness of mankind after the fall. Ever wanted to do something you knew you shouldn't? Of course you have! That is concupiscence. This doesn't mean you must sin (you still have free will), but it does mean you WANT to sin.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 5)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 143)

7 Reasons Distributism Has Me Interested
(Not committed, mind you, but interested)

Before I get to my list, you may be wondering what in high heaven Distributism is.
You're not alone. A good resource would be located HERE.

1. The People Who Recommend It. I was first introduced to Distributism via Mark Shea, a solid Catholic. As I looked into it, I found that G.K. Chesterton was one of the initial formulators of the philosophy and it was specifically created to apply Catholic social teachings. A very good start.
2. Too Big To Fail. Remember that? We were told that certain banks and businesses had become so big that their bankruptcy would ruin the economy. Too many people depended on these institutions for their livelihood and so, as a result, they could make whatever bad decisions they wanted with the certainty that the taxpayer would bail them out. Distibutism prevents companies from becoming so big that they can essentially hold us hostage.

3. Increased Competition. I remember hearing a story some time ago which sums up the current situation quite nicely. A potato chip company was having a meeting and the boss asked a simple question: "What is our goal?" Someone responded, "To be the best company around." "Nope", said the boss, "It's to be the ONLY company around." Our current system doesn't foster competition, it fosters war. The goal? To be the last one standing. By keeping corporations from the "too big to fail" level, Distributism would necessitate a larger pool of smaller companies all competing with one another. Since companies would get to a point where they could no longer expand, they would have to give up their desire for sole dominion and focus on being the "best" to stay in business.

4. Smaller Government. I think socialists might have a point when they criticize the wealth disparity in our world. When too few have too much they can hold the rest of us hostage (see number two). The problem is that Socialists think transferring the excess wealth to another small group (the government) somehow changes that. I fail to see how making citizens reliant on the government for handouts is any different than relying on two or three mega corporations. Distributism does not redistribute wealth, but works toward a more even distribution of the means of generating wealth (ie: productive property). It also encourages the principle of subsidiarity and thus the primacy of local organizations and communities.  

5. Property Has Purpose. Our current system tries to get people to buy, buy, buy! The thinking goes that the more you buy, the better the economy! By the way, it doesn't matter what you buy, so long as money is spent. Distributism views property as a tool needed for a dignified existence. In other words, Distributism recognizes the need for property without encouraging the extreme materialism we currently have. 

6. Consumers Are People. I am more than a consumer of widgets. Our current system tends to view people as tools to drive the economy (see #5). Distributists tend to put human beings in the center and recognize that Distributism is the tool which is supposed to serve mankind.   

7. Catholic Social Teachings. I am not saying that capitalism isn't compatible with Catholic social teaching, but rather that Distributism ALSO happens to be compatible. There are, happily, many roads to get to the same destination in this case. As a result, we only need to work to find the best of many. I won't consider something that goes against the Catholic Church's teaching, so #7 is a big deal if I am to consider Distributism.  

For more "Quick Takes" check out Jennifer at Conversion Diary!