Monday, September 15, 2014

Mass Etiquette: 20 Things To Do And Not Do In Mass

Mass Etiquette: 20 Things To Do And Not Do In Mass
  1. Fast before Mass. It is Church law that one fasts for at least 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion. Water and medicine can be consumed, of course. The purpose is to help us prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. 
  2. No Food and Drink in Church. The exceptions would be a drink for small children, water for the priest or choir (if discreet) and water for those who are ill. Bringing a snack into church is not appropriate, because we want to set the church apart as a place of prayer and reflection.
  3. Men take your hats off. It is impolite to wear a hat into a church for a man. While this is a cultural norm, it is one that we ought to follow closely. Just as we take off hats for the Pledge of Allegiance, we do so in church too; as a sign of respect.
  4. Don't chew gum in church. It breaks your fast, it’s distracting, it is consider impolite in a formal setting, and it doesn't help us pray better. Can you imagine the Pope popping gum in during Mass?
  5. Cross yourself with Holy Water on entering and leaving the church. This is a reminder of our Baptism, which made us members of Christ's Church. Just try to remain mindful of what is happening when you do so and don't do it without saying a prayer.
  6. Dress modestly and appropriately. Wear your Sunday Best. As Catholics we believe that God comes down to meet us at every Mass. So, why would we not dress up? 
  7. Show up at least a few minutes early. If for some reason you can't be on time, then try to sit in the back so you don't disturb others. Getting to Mass early allows you to pray and prepare yourself better for Mass.
  8. Cell phones should never be used in Mass for calls or texting. The exceptions are emergencies (big ones, not everyday ones) and if you do use one, please walk out of church to do so. Also, if you are using the phone for readings or prayers, this is appropriate, but try to be discreet.
  9. Don't sit on the edge of the pew if you sit down before others. Rather, sit in the middle so others don't have to climb over you. Furthermore - Gentlemen offer their seats to a any lady (elderly, disabled, etc) who must stand. Some churches, like ours, get packed. We live in Texas (Howdy!). In Texas men don't sit when a woman is standing. 
  10. When we enter and leave Church, genuflect toward the Tabernacle. Christ is present for our sake. By allowing our right knee to hit the floor, we acknowledge He is our Lord and God. If someone is physically unable to genuflect, then a bow is sufficient. During Mass, if you pass in front of the altar or tabernacle, bow reverently.
  11. Please be quiet while in church. Once you enter the sanctuary - it is not the time or place to visit with those around you. If you must talk do so as quietly and briefly as possible. Remember that your conversation might be disturbing someone who is in prayer, which is much more important. Sssshhhhhhhh.
  12. Take loud children to the back. Every parent knows that sometimes the baby is going to have a bad day. Don't make everyone else's day bad as well. Sit on the end of a pew, if you can, and take the kid to the back quickly. Don't wait too long before you make a move. There is no reason to be embarrassed about having to quiet your child in the back of the church. It is worse to allow them to disturb Mass continually.
  13. Prepare your offering before Mass. Christ tells us not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing when you make your offering. Keeping the basket while you get your wallet out can sometimes become quite a scene. For tips on tithing, check this out.
  14. No bulletin reading during Mass. Imagine if you invited a guest to your house and before dinner (or during) they decided to read a magazine instead of talking to you. That is what is happening in God's house when you read the bulletin.
  15. Respect Boundaries others may have. You might want to hold hands to pray, they may not. They might be sick and not want to shake during the sign of peace. These are all OK. Do not make any unnecessary judgment because they worship differently.
  16. Bow before receiving Holy Communion. If it is God, then show your respect with a bow of the head. This is an ancient practice that has continued until this day.
  17. Do not receive from the chalice if you are sick. This is an act of charity and it is not necessary to receive in order to receive the entirety of Jesus' body, blood, soul, and divinity.
  18. Do not leave early. We should stay to the end of the recession and the hymn that accompanies it, if there is one. While there are certainly exceptions to this guideline, most who leave early don't need to and ought not to.
  19. Pray after Mass, if you feel called to do so. It is a good custom, though not required, to offer a prayer of thanksgiving after Mass is over. 
  20. Leave quietly. We encourage you to visit with others, but once you are outside of the main sanctuary of the church so you won't disturb others who want to stay and pray. So, please leave quietly and then have then visit afterward.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Were Early Christians Socialists?

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need.” (Acts 2:44-45)
Is this passage proof that early Christians were socialists? Many believe that is the case. What we can see from this passage, and from others (as well as historical evidence), that many (though not all) Christians lived in a form of society where belongings are shared with others in their group. But, one thing we must be very careful not to do is to translate the Bible into a political statement. Socialism is a form of governmental policy, not a statement on how Christians should support one another. Notice there was no government enforcing this form of society, it was purely voluntary. So, I would be careful to call it “socialism” at all – which is state-ownership of property and means of production.

The Church has never said that one form of government or economic system is the only one we should support. In fact, it warns against the evils that threaten the common good present in all governmental systems. What it does do is proclaim the truths that all governments and economic systems should adhere to. But, any form of government which is compatible with the common good is allowable.
“Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all. . . . Every human community needs an authority to govern it. . . . Its role is to ensure as far as is possible the common good of the society.” -CCC 1897-1898
The only form of government / economic system the Church has said is incompatible with Christianity is Communism. This is because it does not seek the common good and denies the basic rights of human persons; because Communism is an officially atheistic, totalitarian government, and by definition cannot seek what is good for the human person, who has as the greatest good, the search for God. Pope John Paul II wrote:
“the class struggle in the Marxist sense and militarism have the same root, namely, atheism and contempt for the human person, which place the principle of force above that of reason and law.” -Centisimus Annus, 14
The Catechism states:
“Regimes whose nature is contrary to the natural law, to the public order, and to the fundamental rights of persons cannot achieve the common good of the nations on which they have been imposed.” -CCC 1901
“The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with "communism" or "socialism." She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of "capitalism," individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for "there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market."Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.” -CCC 2425
While some forms of socialism, republic, and democracy are valid forms of government, they need to guard against seeing man as a mere means of production or as an end to a means.

One Catholic social justice principle, that is almost unknown by most Catholics, that I think can shed some light on this subject is call subsidiarity. That is, the lower-level organizations should not have their power usurped by higher-level ones. For instance, the family is the original place of education and that authority of the parents to educate their children should not be taken away by a local school district, state, or federal government. Those higher-level organizations need to support and help the lower-level ones, but not supersede their authority.

In the same way we are to support one another and the federal government needs to allow us (and support our efforts to do so) and then if it has to, be a safety net for those that “fall through the cracks”.

Therefore, we cannot see the Bible passage above as promoting socialism. But, it does promote generosity and helping others in whatever ways we need to accomplish that. One way is what is put forward in the passage – giving all we have to be shared with others.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Does Your Life Make Sense?

“You should live your life in such a way that it would make no sense unless God exists.”- Cardinal Souhard
Never be afraid to ask yourself the big questions:
  • Is there truth?
  • Can truth be known?
  • Is truth universal to all?
  • Does God exist?
  • Is the Bible reliable?
  • Is God active in the world?
  • Aren't all religions the same?
  • Who am I?
  • What was I created for?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What is my purpose?
  • How am I to live?
  • What kind of life (vocation) and I called to?
  • Why is there death?
  • Why is there suffering?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why do good things happen?
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • What is love?
  • What happens after someone dies?
  • How do we determine right from wrong?
  • How do I go to heaven?
  • Does God answer prayer?
Are you satisfied with your answers; and maybe even more important a question: are you satisfied with your life or is there something missing? Regardless, don't be afraid of asking big questions, but always be ready for God to provide a big answer.

Never be afraid of the answer to big questions. You were made to ask them, and even more so, you were made to find the answer in a relationship with Jesus.

Fr. Barron hits a home run with this video, while he touches on some of these big questions.
It is a bit philosophical, but worth watching and reflecting on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

20 Steps To A Great Marriage

20 Steps To A Great Marriage
  1. Don't Have Premarital Sex - The statistics show that it means a much higher chance of a successful marriage if you don't ever have premarital sex.
  2. Don't Cohabitate - If you do cohabitate, it doubles your chance of divorcing your spouse! 
  3. Remain Faithful to Your Spouse - Nothing rings the death knell of marriage like cheating on your spouse.
  4. Stay Away From Porn - It is the fastest growing reasons couples divorce today.
  5. Stay Sober and Never Use Drugs - Moderation helps you make better decisions.
  6. Marry For the Right Reasons - You should marry someone because you believe God is calling you to do so and because you love them and they are drawing you closer to God. Marrying someone merely because you have strong emotions about them (which will eventually go away) or because they are good looking (which won't last) isn't the best idea.
  7. Continue to Work on Communication - Communication is a learned skill and one that we are never perfect at. Learn how your spouse wants to communicate with you and work on it together.
  8. Set Boundaries on Work - There is nothing wrong with being rich and successful. But, if acheiving these things costs your family, it isn't worth it.
  9. Learn to be Selfless - Our job is to live for the other people in our house, not just ourselves.
  10. Share a Familly Plan on Money - Money is the number one reason couples argue. It can create additional stress if there is no shared plan or expectation. Talking about money regularly is a must. 
  11. Tithe! - The money is not your own and God lets you keep most of it! For 
  12. Use Natural Family Planning - kids are a gift from God. Couples that use NFP are happier, have better sex-lives, and stay married more than 95% of the time
  13. Talk Positively About Your Spouse - If you always talk positively about your spouse around others, it will spill into how you talk to them as well.
  14. Always Discuss Big Purchases Before Making Them - The next time you want the new model iPhone that costs $600, you should talk about priorities with your spouse first.
  15. Spend More Time With your Spouse than your Friends - Your spouse is your "better-half", so you should learn to enjoy their company more than your friends. Of course you should still spend time with friends, but the proper balance is key.
  16. Let Love Mature - let your love grow and mature into something more than just mere romance or emotions. While neither are bad, they aren't true love, which involves always choosing what is good for the other person, no matter the cost to me.
  17. Go to Church Every Sunday Together and Pray Together Daily - Marriage needs God at the center to truly have the fruit it is intended to.
  18. After Kids - Don't Forget Your Spouse! - Your kids are important and demand a lot of time, but don't neglect your marriage because of them. Give it the attention it deserves!
  19. Marry a Christian - There are certainly marriages that succeed between believers and non-believers, but the least you are doing is putting a strain on a relationship if you marry a non-Christian
  20. Be Open To Growth and Change - Say you are sorry, humble yourself,  make changes when you ought to, and be open to what God wants to do in your life.. 
This list is not exhaustive. If you have an addition, let me know.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What "Judge Not" Means & What It Doesn't Mean

One of the most counter-cultural ways to live right now is to be a faithful Catholic. This means we will not be understood very well, at least by many people. Furthermore, one of the most common phrases you hear in regards to the Catholic Church's teachings (and faithful members) is "judge not". People may use this in different ways and many don't even understand what true judgment is.

Some may think the Catholic Church is merely full of judgmental holier-than-thou people and is incorrect in her teachings. Others believe all truth is relative and you can't tell them they are wrong. Below is an article I wrote years ago on the subject, which may help sort things out on what the Bible says about judging others.
One of the most misunderstood principles of Scripture is judgment. Many conversations have been brought to a screeching halt by the conversation killers of “Judge not” or “who are you to judge me”. Unfortunately the common interpretation of this passage is that we can make no judgment on whether an action is right or wrong. This is not what the Bible is saying, but rather the Bible tells us not to judge the state of another’s soul and therefore their eternal punishment or reward. This kind of judgment is reserved to God alone.

It never fails that when one of the above phrases is uttered, or one like them, the conversation takes a bad turn. This is due to the modern world-view, which is relativistic, meaning that truth is relative to a person or situation. Simply put, many people are offended by the Catholic Church’s teachings about their sin. These sentiments lead to an improper biblical interpretation of judgment.

Don’t Judge Judgment
Judgment is the act of forming an opinion. When we believe an act to be sinful we are judging the act, not the person who performed the act. When we believe someone is going to heaven or hell, we are judging a person’s soul. In Scripture the former judgment is acceptable (and obligatory in some circumstances) but the latter form is never an acceptable form of judgment for individuals to make. As the saying goes “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

Maybe an example can shed some light on the logical fallacy present in many cases of misjudging judgment:
Joe and Carrie are considering co-habitating. Joe is excited and nervous about the situation and is sharing his plan with co-workers. He decides to ask advice and is pleased to find that most are supportive. Sally Catholic decides to tell Joe that she doesn’t agree it is a good thing, because she thinks it is wrong and that such a decision might actually hurt their relationship. Joe tells Sally that the Bible says to “judge not”. The conversation ends, because Sally has no way to respond.

What should Sally do? She must gently inform Joe that his interpretation of the Bible is faulty. This kind of situation is a perfect place to plant seeds. In many cases, the person will not agree with your conclusion at that moment, but that should not be your goal. You should tell the truth and then let the Holy Spirit do what He does best – change hearts.

Misjudging Judgment
This perceived injustice (intolerance, judgment, close-mindedness, etc) is what many in our society – and unfortunately many Catholics as well – believe the Catholic Church and her members are constantly guilty of.But, the reality is that those offended by Catholics making statements of belief are really saying that only they have the authority to determine right or wrong. This is simply moral relativism, which is the false idea that morality is relative to themselves, a situation or time. It is a denial that there is an absolute truth, or if there is, then we cannot know it and we certainly shouldn’t “impose” it on others.

It seems if you profess your belief that an action is sinful or a law unjust, then you are committing an even greater sin, that is, believing something another considers good or even worse, pleasurable, to be sinful. In this view, vice and virtue are indistinguishable from each other and therefore determined by each individual as right or wrong for them. This is why so many object to the authority of the Catholic Church, because she dares to say that moral truth is true for everyone – regardless of one’s opinion about it.

Of course Catholics aren’t the only ones that believe we have the truth. Many Catholics have been told we are going to hell or something even more dramatic, we are pawns of Satan by other Christians. Such things can be a harsh reminder there are Christians who sincerely believe they can determine your final destiny just by your religious affiliation. The error of failing to separate the sin from the sinner is what makes another think we are headed for hell. This is the same error the modernist makes in believing Catholics are being judgmental when we say an act is sinful. They are two sides of the same coin. Both fail to make the proper distinction between sin and sinner. The modernist believes that judging the sin is judging the sinner and the condemning Christian believes that we can judge the sinner by the sin.

Many have the experience of walking down the street in a large city and hearing the shouts of Christians that you will “burn in hell” for your sins.

Judge Not!
So, how then do we balance these two errors? The Bible will offer the solution, of course. Let us start with the favorite of all “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37). To understand what Jesus is saying we must understand the first kind of judgment that we find in the Bible - the ultimate Divine judgment we all will receive when we die. We see this in the Old Testament, including
"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions” (Ezekiel 18:30).
The Old Testament prophets widely spoke of the Divine judgment the Israelites would face if they failed to repent. The prophets leave the Divine judgment of souls for God while speaking the message of repentance. This Divine right to judge our souls’ eternal punishment or reward is echoed by Paul.
“...on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16).
The second kind of judgment we see in the Bible is judging the acts of another person to be good or evil. This kind of judgment must be done in love of others, with prudence, and should be done in order to steer our fellow man to his proper goal, heaven.
Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).
“This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15).
Thus, while we are to avoid the judgment of deciding another’s ultimate fate, sometimes it is necessary and good to direct someone to stop sinning out of love for them. While this isn’t the most politically correct thing to do, Jesus never failed to be politically incorrect when love was at stake. If we truly thirst for the salvation of all men like Jesus did, then in some situations we are obligated to speak the truth about the dangers of another’s sinful actions.

Jesus was also never shy about talking to another about their sin, and taking it a step further, he always told them they should stop. He constantly rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy (John the Baptist was even more harsh), and He told the woman caught in adultery in John 8 (as well as others) to “go and sin no more”.  While in this passage He says that He does not judge (condemn) the woman, He does judge that she has sinned. Jesus never tolerated sin, and He was quick to show others their sinful actions were wrong, but He only did it out of love and with compassion. He knew eternity was at stake.

From this quick look at the biblical understanding of judgment and tolerance we can easily understand what Jesus means when he tells us not to judge others.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
This is referring to the ultimate judgment of someone’s soul that is reserved to God alone. If we continue to read, it becomes even clearer how we are supposed to act in these situations.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye” (Luke 6:41-42).
Jesus is saying to rebuke another out of love, with gentleness and kindness, but do not rub their noses in it.

When another person says not to “judge them” it may be that they are saying that you do not have the right to tell them that what they have done is wrong. However, Jesus tells us that as long as we do it out of love and we don’t presume to know their destiny, we can, and sometimes must, help our brothers and sisters see their own sin. If we then get labeled as intolerant hate-mongers or judgmental bigots, we might do just as Jesus did and correct their error. If they still refuse to listen, then we must do what Jesus taught and shake the dust from our sandals and move on.

Paul, who very well could have the greatest thirst for souls of all the apostles, sums it all up for us while writing to Timothy about the balance that must be brought to a Christian who wants to evangelize and preach the truth.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Do I Have a Soulmate?

The truth is there is a soulmate for you, but it may not be who you expect - it is Jesus! God made you for Himself. Our ultimate relationship is with God, not with another human being, even our spouse.

Of course, the romantic vision of having a soulmate, which comes from movies, romance novels, and love stories sells the idea that there is one person in the world, who is made for us. But, this is more an idea from culture, not Christianity. Our one and only soul-mate is God. Does that mean we could marry anybody and have it work out? No. What it means is that God is not a Divine matchmaker who has a plan and that if we don't get the plan just right, we are thwarting His will. We aren't that powerful.

There are a further problems with believing that God made us for one person in the world. The first problem is the question some have about whether the person they are married to, or planning on marrying, is the "one". This can lead to doubt about the relationship, a feeling of never being fulfilled, and ultimately it can lead to serious problems in the relationship. A second problem is the idea that we are destined to be with one other person. This would be a cosmic swipe at the gift of free-will. It is as if we mess up fate if we don't choose the right person or never find them. Ultimately, this idea of a soul-mate is dangerous and un-Christian.

But, there is another, better, way of thinking about having a spouse to partner with. It is found in the understanding of what marriage does to us. While souls are not fused in marriage, spouses do become "one flesh" with each other and our bonded together, through a Sacramental / covenantal relationship, which is sealed by God's grace. This bond lasts until death and nothing can break it. This is the Christian way of understanding a mutual and exclusive relationship.

Furthermore, love is always a choice, it isn't something we fall into and out of. Love is not something that merely "happens" to us. This respect of free-will and the ability of each of us to choose love is more consonant with Christian understanding of relationships. Marriage isn't just about romance and it isn't about fate at all. It is about love, freely chosen, and being bound together (with God) into the union of man and wife. This is for the good of the spouses, the raising of children, and ultimately it is a call from God.

Finally, we have to build on the reality that there is no perfect human relationship. Thus, marriage is more about commitment and work than it is about perfect compatibility. Since there is no perfect person for you, it means you must realize that marriage is about 2 imperfect people choosing to love each other despite their imperfections and growing closer to God and one another through the process of maturing in love.

After bringing up the idea that there is no soulmate out there for us, someone offered the following verse, which seems to counter that there are in fact soulmates. It says:
"Do not be afraid, for she was destined for you from eternity." -Tobit 6:18
The theology depicted in this verse might seem to be saying God has a soulmate for us. But, I believe it is saying "the one" you are supposed to be married to is the one you choose to marry. The Catechism says:
"To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness." - CCC, 600
So, God would always know who we were going to freely choose to marry and that could be seen from our end as destiny. Rather, it is an affirmation that it is our choice, even though God knows it.

I think this quote sums it up well:
"Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to."
-J.R.R. Tolkien

Thursday, September 4, 2014

THOU SHALL NOT INDULGE: 5 Myths & Misunderstandings of Indulgences and Purgatory

5 Myths & Misunderstandings of Indulgences and Purgatory

MYTH #1 The Catholic Church no longer has indulgences.
This is just not true. Indulgences are a good thing and are still part of the Church's teaching.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church's answer to the question, "What is an indulgence?":
1471 "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."
That is a lot of churchy-speak, so let me break it down. First off - what an indulgence is not. An indulgence is neither permission to sin, forgiveness for a sin, or a way or working oursleves into Heaven. Neither does it make us immune from sinning.

Simply put and indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment (punishment on this earth) which is due us from our sin. Indulgences are not about eternal punishment (hell).

MYTH #2 - Indulgences are a way to "buy your way to Heaven".
Not at all. Underlying this myth is another one - that the Catholic Church teaches we can earn our way to Heaven through works-based righteousness. Not true. We cannot earn our way to Heaven.

There is a lens through which we must look to understand two aspects of God's grace, which may help explain where this myth came from.

The first aspect is operative grace, which is the grace God works in each of us, in which we play no part. The gifts of faith and hope are examples of operative grace. They are gifts of God which no man can merit. God gifts us with a new life in faith, we don't earn it. An analogy is that of a patient in the O.R. who has died and their heart is shocked back into life. The patient didn't earn life from the doctor.

The second aspect is cooperative grace. This isn't where we heal ourselves, Rather it is more like a patient going to rehab. We work with the Doctor (God) to cooperate with the process of healing. Indulgences are an example of this cooperative grace.

Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters see sin as having only one consequence - hell. If you are a sinner who isn't forgiven then you are bound to hell. If you are forgiven, then you go to heaven. But, there are actually two consequences to every sin:
  1. Eternal punishment - of course the most important kind to know about - without having the eternal punishment forgiven, we can't be saved.
  2. Temporal punishment (punishment on this earth) - Think of Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden of Eden and now enduring suffering, David being made to suffer the loss of his child due to his sin (2 Sam 12), or Moses not being allowed to see the promised land. All of these are punishments on this earth for sin. While the eternal punishment may have been forgiven by God, all of these people still had to suffer the temporal punishment of sin.
If I lie to my wife, it isn't good enough to ask God to forgive me, I need to ask forgiveness from my wife as well. We need to do the same for all sin - seek forgiveness for the eternal and temporal aspects. Even physical death itself is a part of temporal punishment of sin; though the Christian who is eternally forgiven still dies. St. Augustine says there is a difference between having the poisoned dart removed from you and recovering from the wound. Indulgences deal only with the healing from the wound - not the removal of the dart, which only God can do.

Now, this isn't in any way adding to God's grace. Rather, the reason we are even impelled to cooperate is because God acted in our lives first. We receive His grace, then respond to it. Christ has won our eternal salvation for us by His blood. If we choose His grace, we will be saved and enter Heaven. An indulgence takes nothing away from this work of God alone.

Yet, the Bible says heaven is a place for only those perfected (in every way) through Jesus:
"nothing unclean will enter it (heaven)." -Revelation 21:27
In other words - to be made ready to go to Heaven, we have to be absolutely stripped of all that is not of Jesus. While Jesus' work on the cross is complete, we don't share perfectly in this work until we are in heaven, where we will have a full share in His perfection. So, we must be purified before we enter into heaven. If we are not perfectly ready to enter into Heaven at the moment of our death, then the purification process will take place in Purgatory.

An indulgence is only good for those who are already in Jesus' grace and who have converted hearts = the elect. So, it adds nothing to what Christ has already done, since He has done it all already.

MYTH #3 - The Catholic Church sold indulgences and then decided it was bad to do so and stopped after Luther exposed it. 
This is absolutely untrue. The practice of "selling indulgences" is opposed to everything the Catholic church teaches about them. The Church did allow people to offer alms (supporting the Church and the poor, which is a good Biblical practice; e.g. Acts 11:29, 1 Cor 16:1, Gal 2;10, etc); along with prayers, Confession, and going to Communion in order to receive an indulgence. But, since abuses started and there was confusion, the Church reformed the practice and no longer allows alms to be given for part of an indulgence to be granted. This was so there would be no hint of a problem anymore.

The confusion was from some individuals who did try to profit off of indulgences, but the Church has never sanctioned such scandalous actions. So, to blame "The Catholic Church" for the abuse of selling indulgences by a few corrupt men is akin to blaming "The Catholic Church" when someone steals money from a parish today.

Was it a scandal that some sold indulgences? Absolutely! Was it part of Catholic teaching? Absolutely not!

The Church saw that there was abuse by some and moved to fix it. So, Luther did had one valid point - you shouldn't sale indulgences. But, the problem was with the abuse, not the indulgence itself! Furthermore, Martin Luther used the scandal as an opportunity to further other theological arguments he had.

MYTH #4 - The Catholic Church invented indulgences in the Middle Ages.
We have record of them in the very early Church, so this is certainly not true.

MYTH #5 - Purgatory and Indulgences are Catholic Inventions and Not Found in The Bible.
Some may say that these words are not found in the Bible. But, neither are the words Trinity, divinity, incarnation, monotheism, etc. Just because a word is not found, doesn't mean the concept isn't there. So, while the word "purgatory" may not be in the Bible, there are certain passages that implicitly contain the basis of purgatory.
"Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny."
-Matt 5: 25-26:
Here we are being told that we will ultimately be held responsible for all of our actions. There are two dimensions to being forgiven for a sin, the eternal and temporal, as we have said above. While we may be forgiven by God, we still have to go to our brother for forgiveness as well. Here it says that if we fail to obtain the human dimension of forgiveness, then God will hold us responsible ultimately. But, the human element does not merit eternal, but rather finite, punishment. So, it leaves open the door to Purgatory, which is finite.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15:
"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."
Paul is saying that we will not enter into our reward until we are cleansed of all unrighteousness. Clearly Paul says we will be "saved", but there will be loss and flames through which one escapes. Also, this loss will be for those things which are not of value.

Lastly, in 2 Maccebees 12 we see the practice of Jews offering up sacrifices for the dead. Any sacrifice for the dead would not do those in heaven or hell any good, so the passage (at the least) points to the Jewish belief in some other state of being in the afterlife, even if some non-Catholic Christians do not recognize the book of 2 Mac to be Biblical.

With all of this evidence we couple some ancient Christian statements on Purgatory and the evidence seems pretty weighty.

As for Indulgences being in the Bible, I have already shown many of the principles of them being in the Bible above. Let me finish with one more.

God forgives temporal punishment through His Church. Ultimately, this is the final point of an indulgence. Scripture says that Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins to men (Matt 9:8, John 20:23, Jam 5:16). But, He also gave them the ability to do "bind" on earth too. Matt 16:19 and 18:18 say the apostles had the ability to "bind on earth" "loose on earth". Binding and loosing cover a number of things: Church practices, discipline, and temporal penalties (including and up to keeping someone from participating in the life of the Church - excommunication).

Now that we know the Church has this temporal authority, we can see how it applies to us. For more, I recommend this article.


*What Is the Deal With Purgatory?
*A conversation on purgatory
*An argument for purgatory
*Early Christians on Purgatory
*How To Get an Indulgence
*Handbook on Indulgences (aka - Enchiridion of Indulgences).

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Aggie Catholic Vocations Update

The Dallas Morning News ran a story on the growth of the seminary in Dallas. We have several Aggies studying there and one of our Aggie Catholic seminarians (and a former Campus Ministry Intern here) was quoted in the article. A snip is below:
Chris Smith, 26, of College Station, considered the priesthood a few years after college. A pre-theology student at Holy Trinity, he earned a marketing degree from Texas A&M University and then went to work for NET Ministries. He visited lots of churches and met many priests.

“I decided I wanted to be the vessel for sharing the sacraments,” Smith said. “After lots of prayer and feeling it in my heart, I knew it was right.”

Smith said he thinks the number of priests will keep increasing.

“There’s a new generation of guys wanting to become priests,” Smith said. “They see a need for it with our culture being more chaotic and all the unrest in the world.” CONTINUE READING.
We have a number of Aggie Catholic vocations. In fact we have about 150 ordained clergy / professed religious + about another 50 in formation / seminary. We should have precise numbers soon.

The Science Of Porn - What Happens To Your Brain & Body

Here are some startling statistics compiled from a variety of academic and popular sources. I am sure you have heard how much money porn makes, how much there is, etc. But, what many don't see as much is the impact porn is having on individuals and society.

Here are some stats I have found (links give sources).

*Porn is more addictive than cocaine or heroin.

*it isn't as widely accepted as some might make you think.
  • 76% of U.S. adults disagree that viewing hardcore adult pornography on the internet is morally acceptable;” 
  • 74% disagree that “viewing hardcore adult pornography on the Internet provides, generally, harmless entertainment;”
*According to a survey published in the Journal of the American Psychological Association, 86% of men are likely to click on Internet sex sites if given the opportunity.

*34% of female readers of Today's Christian Woman’s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn.

*According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, prolonged exposure to pornography leads to:
  • An exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society
  • Diminished trust between intimate couples
  • The abandonment of the hope of sexual monogamy
  • Belief that promiscuity is the natural state
  • Belief that abstinence and sexual inactivity are unhealthy
  • Cynicism about love or the need for affection between sexual partners
  • Belief that marriage is sexually confining
  • Lack of attraction to family and child-raising
*According to sociologist Jill Manning, the research indicates pornography consumption is associated with the following six trends, among others:
  • Increased marital distress, and risk of separation and divorce
  • Decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction
  • Infidelity
  • Increased appetite for more graphic types of pornography and sexual activity associated with abusive, illegal or unsafe practices
  • Devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child rearing
  • An increasing number of people struggling with compulsive and addictive sexual behavior
*The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (divorce lawyers) reported that the most salient factors present in divorce cases are as follows:
  • 68% of the divorces involved one party meeting a new lover over the Internet.
  • 56% involved one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”
  • 47% involved spending excessive time on the computer.
  • 33% involved excessive time spent speaking in chat rooms.
*According to research from Family Safe Media, the largest group of viewers of Internet porn is children between ages 12 and 17.

*According to a study cited in the Washington Post, more than 11 million teenagers view Internet pornography on a regular basis.

*When a child or adolescent is directly exposed to pornography the following effects have been documented:
  • Lasting negative or traumatic emotional responses.
  • Earlier onset of first sexual intercourse, thereby increasing the risk of STD’s over the lifespan.
  • The belief that superior sexual satisfaction is attainable without having affection for one’s partner, thereby reinforcing the commoditization of sex and the objectification of humans.
  • The belief that being married or having a family are unattractive prospects.
  • Increased risk for developing sexual compulsions and addictive behavior.
  • Increased risk of exposure to incorrect information about human sexuality long before a minor is able to contextualize this information in ways an adult brain could.
  • And overestimating the prevalence of less common practices (e.g., group sex, bestiality, or sadomasochistic activity).
*A study of youth between the ages of 10 and 17 concluded that there is a significant relationship between frequent porn use and feelings of loneliness and major depression.

*51% of male college students and 32% of female college students first viewed pornography before teenage years (12 and younger).


*In 1994, a survey showed 91% of men raised in Christian homes were exposed to pornography while growing up (compared to 98% of those not raised in a Christian home).

*In August 2006, a survey reported 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography. 60% of the women who answered the survey admitted to having significant struggles with lust; 40% admitted to being involved in sexual sin in the past year.


Below is a video everyone should watch.

WARNING - Not for the lighthearted! Sex is treated flippantly in parts of the presentation. Nor is it for those that don't want to be shocked by the facts.


**What Is Wrong With Porn?

**Porn and Support for Same-Sex Marriage
**Pornography Research
**Porn is More Addictive Than Cocaine and Heroin

Monday, September 1, 2014

7 Things You Need to Know About The Catholic Church

7 Things You Need to Know About The Catholic Church

1 - The purpose of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus. Too many people have a false understanding of the purpose of the Catholic Church. After Jesus made the Church, He gave a clear mission statement to His apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." -Matt 28:19-20. Everything else the Church does, feed the hungry, perpetuate the Sacraments, etc. is in service to this mission. Evangelization isn't optional.

2- The Church itself isn't what you think it is. Catholicism isn't just a set of doctrines or a hierarchy of clergy. Catholicism isn't just a moral code or social teachings. It is much more than we could ever know. The Church isn't so easily definable, which is why we have so many different ways of describing it - the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the people of God, etc. What we need to know is this - The Church's identity is wrapped up into the person of Jesus and thus shares in the mystery of God. When we think we "know" the Church, we are fooling ourselves. This is why continued education about God's Church is so important.

3 - The Trinity really does matter. Many Catholics wouldn't care if the Pope declared that we don't need the Trinity anymore, because it makes no difference in many Catholics' daily lives. But, it really does matter. Why? Because if God is a communion of persons, a family, and we are made in God's image and likeness, then our families and relationships are called to reflect the same kind of relationship found in the Trinity - the gift of self to another - true love. This is where the paradox of the Gospel finds a foundation. To gain life, we must lose ourselves. To live is to die. To die is to live. All because of the Trinity...and that is just the starting point. Since God is infinite, the Trinity matters an infinte amount.

4 - The Incarnation changes everything. An all-powerful, eternal, all-knowing, divine being decided to create the universe and then he becomes one of the creatures he created. This is mind-numbing. Furthermore, in humbling himself to take on our flesh, he raises up our nature to a greater dignity - one that now shares in his own nature. We share in God's nature. This is flabbergasting. The world is never the same and all of creation and time revolves around this one moment - when God becomes one of us. Our response should be to see God in all of his creation, but most importantly in all of humanity, including ourselves.

5 - The Church is beautiful. Because of the first three truths above, we can now see the beauty of the Church. Is the Church full of sinners? Certainly. But, we sinners are not the source of the Church's beauty, God is. We are called to reflect this beauty as best we can, but true beauty is found in the being of God, who is beauty itself. The Church reflects Christ beauty to the world. Through the Saints' lives, the Cathedrals and artwork, through the music and songs, and through the teachings of the Church. It is in these ways we see God's beauty rise up for a world that focuses all too often on what is ugly.

6 - Catholicism contains the most balanced teaching you will find. Catholicism holds a lot of seeming tensions in balance. They include; 1 God and 3 persons, Scripture and Tradition, Faith and Works, Jesus is human and divine, the Church is both holy and imperfect, we can know God through both faith and reason, we are a people of both prayer and action, and the Bible is written by man and inspired by God. We are a people of both/and, not either/or. While it may seem there are contradictions, there are not. But, there is mystery behind the balance.

7 - The world needs the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has the answer for all the world's problems in the fullness of truth and the fullness of grace she offers to the world. The Church gives us a moral anchor, an answer to broken families, addiction, sin, war, violence, abuse, and all the other issues in our culture. More than ever the world needs the Catholic Church, if our society is to last. This answer is the personal relationship with Jesus that the Catholic Church offers to us all through the Sacramental grace, teachings of the Church, and in our own personal prayer we all need.


Jesus created 1 Church.
We are that Church, the Catholic Church.
If the world needs the Catholic Church, then the Church needs saints.
We need to be holy if we are to change the world.

Time to do our part. Time to be holy. Time to change the world. This is what we all need to know - and do.

Friday, August 29, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and Catholics

The Diocese of Austin has released a statement on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:
ALS Challenge
The ice bucket challenge has become a popular way to raise funds for research for treatment and cure of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The point of the challenge is to raise awareness and research funding for the ALS Association. However, the ALS Association supports using embryonic stem cells in its research, which conflicts with Catholic teaching. Nonetheless, when accepting a challenge, a person may donate to any charity. Catholics who are asked to take part in the ice bucket challenge may do so but should be mindful to support charities that fund research for ALS that is in line with Catholic teachings, morals and ethics. For further clarification, please see the statement from the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
If you would like more details about why Stem Cells are morally problematic, this article should help.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Believing In Yourself vs Believing In God

Fr. Barron has some insightful comments on the modern idea of believing in yourself and what it means in a culture which tries to downgrade God's divinity.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Loud Kids In Mass?

Q - I have little children who are sometimes loud during Mass. Sometimes they just babble a bit or talk a little too loud, but other times they are downright wailing and fussing. I want to participate in the Mass, and I want them to get the graces from being present in the Mass (even if they are wiggly and fussy), but I'm not sure what I should do. I see other families just wait out the crying with their children, but I feel that it might be distracting to other Mass-goers. What do you think? Should I take my fussy child out of Mass, or stay in the pew and hope it doesn't last long and doesn't disturb those around me. Thank you!

A - Thanks for the question. Archbishop Sheen once said that a woman got up during Mass and started to take her crying baby to the back of the church during the homily. Archbishop Sheen said, "My dear lady, that is ok, your baby isn't bothering me." The woman turned and replied, "Maybe not, but you are bothering him!"

For the answers to this issue, we have to look at this from several different perspectives. Both have the same answer - we are called to love others and act with charity.

**From the perspective of others at Mass**
My family is at the stage where my kids are quiet. They might squirm and not pay attention, but they are quiet. So, when I go to Mass, I don't have to go to the back (i.e. take The Walk of Humility), sit in a cry room, deal with noisy kids, etc. But, I do have to listen to the babies and toddlers of others who make a lot of noise. Sometimes I am annoyed, other times I am not. It depends on how well I am handling it exterior distractions that day.

In other words, from my current perspective of someone without small noisy kids, the problem is my own. How I choose to handle it is on me. Distractions in Mass will happen, so the question is how will I handle them?

I am not in control of other parents' crying kids. I am in control of my own interior peace. What might help others in my same situation is remembering where we are and why we are there.

In Mass, we are at the foot of the cross once again. Vatican II says:
"As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on, and, in the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ is both expressed and brought about." -LG 3
So, all of us who participate in Mass are part of one Mystical Body of Christ - the Church - who come together to partake of the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which is most profoundly offered to us, once again, in The Eucharist.

Therefore - these crying babies can be seen as the wailing women of Jerusalem who are crying because the Christ has been re-presented as a living sacrifice for us in the bloodless sacrifice of The Mass!

These children have just as much of a need for grace as we do and as much right to be there as we do. So, if anyone is sinning, it is the person having terrible thoughts about a child or parent who have the right to be in the same place we are. It is most likely you cried in Mass too as a baby, if you were raised Catholic. Children in Mass = hope for the future.

It is an act of charity to not cast judgment on others, but to look interiorly for the answer to your distractions. Remember, these are the only truly sinless saints in the entire building!

Now, having said that, let us look at the other side of the coin.

**From the perspective of a parent of loud kids at Mass**
I know of no parents who want to have their kid wailing loudly in Mass. It isn't as if we go to Mass looking to have everyone give us "the look" or get attention for our kids' behavior. Yet, some parents seem to be oblivious to the fact that their kid(s) might be a distraction to others, when they get too loud.

If you are a parent, then the simple answer is to take your kids to the back (or cry room) when they start making loud noises. Most people understand that kids are going to get loud and the vast majority don't have a problem with a crying baby or a toddler throwing a fit, if it doesn't go on but for a very short time. The problem most people have is with parents who seem to wait forever to take their kids to the back of church (or cry room) where they will be less of a distraction. Remember - the kid is doing nothing wrong by being loud. They don't know any better. But, as a parent, you can help others.

So, parents of loud children need to react fairly quickly to get them out of the situation. Disciplining your children from a young age is a good thing for them. But, it starts by being disciplined yourself in how you parent. No child should be allowed to cry or yell with no foreseeable end to it, while you sit in the pew. Nor should they be allowed to play in the aisle (or back), get food all over, etc.

Because I do not like the cry room and always like to have my kids sit up front (which holds a child's attention better), my suggestions are below. They are based on getting 5 kids through the infant and toddler years, without anyone dying (yet!). 

  • If the baby is under 1 year-old, then take them to the back when they start to cry after a short period of seeing if you can quiet them and they still make noise. Once they are quiet, return to your seat.
  • If the child is over 1, then take them to the back after a short time of crying / throwing a fit, but do not allow them to get on the floor or play. If you give them what they want, they will learn that throwing a fit / crying gets them playtime in the back of church.
  • I like the general guideline of about 15 seconds to try and quiet a child. Some believe this is too long and some believe it is too short. Regardless, try and be prudent about when to take your child to the back.
It is an act of charity towards those who don't handle distractions well, to quiet your child quickly or take them out of the pew quickly. Also, some parents are even louder than their kids when they try to quiet them. Please try and use whispers and a quiet voice when instructing your children in Mass.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” -Matt19:14
One final thought - a church without crying babies is a church with no future.

I hope this helps.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Seven Reasons to Support Catholic Campus Ministry

A great article on why we all need to support Catholic Campus Ministry. This is from our Ragin Cajun Catholics friends, Fr. Bryce Sibley and Paul George. Below is a snip of it:
Seven Reasons to Support Catholic Campus Ministry

The summer is drawing to a close, which means over 20 million students will be heading off to colleges and universities throughout the nation to begin a new school year.

Between purchasing textbooks, attending classes, and getting ready for the first football game of the season, Catholic students have a great opportunity to get involved in Catholic campus ministry.

Today, thanks to groups like FOCUS and The Newman Connection which are committed to promoting the New Evangelization on college campuses, Catholic campus ministry is thriving in the United States.

An effective and fruitful campus ministry can have a profound impact on the lives large numbers of college students, but that impact depends a great deal on the generosity of financial benefactors.

If you’ve never thought about the importance of Catholic campus ministry and the need to support it financially, here is a list of Seven Reasons to Support Catholic College Campus Ministry.
  1. College campuses are mission territory. We are all aware of the temptation and sin that are pervasive at universities today. Christianity and morality are often rejected. Catholic campus ministry provides a light in the darkness and gives students the chance to come to know and accept the love of Jesus and to be part of a vibrant Catholic community. We are often asked to support oversees missions, but let’s not forget that there is mission territory right in our own town.
  2. Students can’t fund it by themselves. Between student loans and living expenses college students cannot provide the financial support to sustain a campus ministry, much less enable it to grow. College campus ministry depends on the generosity of benefactors and alumni in order to provide programming, retreats, outreach, pizza – and all of the other ministries that help to make an impact in the lives of college students.
  3. You can help to keep college students Catholic. 70-80 percent of Catholic students will abandon the practice of their faith once they leave college. Getting involved in Catholic campus ministry while they are in college is the best safeguard for preventing them from losing their faith, but more importantly for them growing in and sustaining their faith even after they leave college.
  4. You can help to create future Catholic leaders in parish and society. Catholic campus ministry is not just about having a place to hang out and eat free pizza- it is about forming life long disciples of Jesus Christ. Catholic campus ministry forms future leaders that will hopefully go out and not only get involved in their own parishes but have a positive impact on society as they become leaders in their local community.
  5. It promotes vocations and faith-filled marriages. Catholic campus ministry can be a powerful tool for helping young men and women discern vocations to the priesthood and religious life. So many priests and religious today attribute their vocation to their involvement in campus ministry when they were at college. For those who will enter into the Sacrament of Marriage, college campus ministry encourages Christ-centered relationships and often provides a great place for future spouses to meet.
  6. You love your alma mater. Like most alums, we are proud of our school’s successes both in academics and athletics. We proudly wear our school’s colors and are passionate about giving back to the institution that gave so much to us. Supporting the Catholic campus ministry at your alma mater is a great way to support the university because students who get involved in campus ministry have a much better chance at succeeding in their education.
  7. You love the the next generation of Catholics. Supporting Catholic campus ministry tells this generation of Catholics that you love them. Knowledge of Jesus Christ and involvement in this Church is the greatest good we could want for someone else because it shows we care about their souls.
Please click here for more information on how you can partner with St. Mary's Catholic Center in serving our students!

Monday, August 25, 2014

10 Things I Wish I Knew My Freshman Year

10 Things I Wish I Knew My Freshman Year of College:
10 - Ask for help before you are in real trouble. This goes for all situations. If you are struggling in class, talk to a professor. If you are struggling spiritually, talk to a priest or campus minister. If you are struggling in another way, find someone to talk to. Remember that the older folks that work in and around colleges are there to help you.

9 - College is not just about getting a job. I am not saying that grades are not important. I am not saying you don't want to get a good job. I AM saying that college is about learning about the big questions - Who am I? What is life about? What plan does God have for me? etc. If you figure this out, college will be a success.

8 - You are NOT poor. You may not have as much money as your friends and you almost certainly don't have as much as your parents. This does not make you poor, so don't say you are. You are rich - you get to go to college, you eat as much as you need, you have a place to sleep, etc. Enjoy not having a lot of extra money and be creative.

7 - Sit up front. I am assuming that you are going to every class (which costs about $100 dollars per class if you skip or not). If you sit up front in class you are bound to pay more attention to the prof and get better grades. You are also a more familiar face to the prof when you go ask for help (see #1). Sit up front in church as well. Easier to focus.

6 - Meet new people and try new things. College is a great time to work on being a better you. A great way to do this is to meet different kinds of people from different backgrounds and with different ideas. You need to stay grounded in your faith, morality, and family. But, you should also learn about the world through relationships with others.

5 - Good friends don't always make good roommates. Sometimes your best friend may not be a friend at all after living with them for a year. Choose your roommates wisely. If you want to study, don't room with a friend who has bad study habits. If you want to be responsible, don't room with a friend who is irresponsible.

4 - Don't go into debt on a credit card. Credit card companies are like vultures on college campuses. They are just waiting for you to say "yes" to the free t-shirt so they can have you ring up tons of debt and be locked into a crazy percentage rate that you carry for years and don't pay off until you are retired. Don't fall for it. Keep a budget and be smart about spending money. You don't need all the toys and latest gadgets.

3 - Shower shoes. All that needs to be said.

2 - Have fun! Balance your academics with a good (and healthy) social life. This means you have to do the following - manage your time, find friends who will make good decisions, and be smart about it all. But, have the kind of fun you won't feel sorry about later on too!

1 - Following Jesus is worth it all. A large number of Catholics involved in their parish during high school lose their faith by the time they graduate college. This is because many decide they want what the world has to offer. The sad part is many don't really know what Jesus has to offer. Following Him is the only way to real happiness, peace, and fulfillment. The rest is all fluff.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How Do You Fulfill The Commandment to "Honor Your Father & Mother" When They Abuse You?

Q - How does the commandment "Honor your father and your mother" apply to people with abusive parents? If they remain unrepentant, how far do obligations to such parents extend?

A - Thank you for the question. Abuse is always a horrible thing, esp. when the innocent are abused. No child deserves any kind of abuse and yet many children still believe they brought it on themselves. This is simply not the case. The one who is abusive is the guilty party.

But, there is always the great blessing of our heavenly Father, who will never let us down. He is the one we should always have absolute faith in.

With this being said, the Catechism spells out the duties of children to their parents. I will emphasize certain parts.
2217 As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so.
As they grow up, children should continue to respect their parents. They should anticipate their wishes, willingly seek their advice, and accept their just admonitions. Obedience toward parents ceases with the emancipation of the children; not so respect, which is always owed to them. This respect has its roots in the fear of God, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In other words, we cannot allow anyone, including a parent, to abuse us. If this means cutting off the relationship from a completely cruel parent, we must. If it means involving the authorities, then we ought to. We can still fulfill the commandment by acknowledging they gave us life and we can still pray for them and hope for the best for them without bearing a grudge or wanting revenge. This is still honoring abusive parents.

We are called to love our enemies, even when they are our parents. Yet, love means choosing what is best for them regardless of what it costs me. Sometimes what is best for another is to put some distance between yourself and others, so there is no more abuse.

When a parent abuses a child, they are not acting with the authority God gave them to parent the child. Thus, the child need not stay in the situation in order to honor them.

Should you still honor your abusive parents? Yes. But, with on the condition that you understand that honoring them may mean some of the following may have to happen:
  • reporting abuse to seek justice and protect others.
  • maintaining a safe distance to avoid abuse - up to the point of ending the relationship if needed.
  • pray for them.
  • not hold on to hatred / grudges / revenge.
  • acknowledge the gift of life they gave you.
  • helping their children (you).
  • never give up hope that God can change them, even if you have to end having a relationship with them.
I hope this helps.
I ask all of our readers to pray for victims of abuse and those that abuse others.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Can We Be Sure The Books of The Bible Are Inspired?

The word "canon" means rule or measure. In terms of the Bible, it specifically refers to the list of the books that are inspired by the Holy Spirit and are thus are part of Sacred Scripture. Therefore, the books in the Bible are called canonical and the books that are not determined to be inspired by God are extra-canonical (AKA - apocryphal).

Almost all Christians believe in the truths found in the Bible, but there are two different lists of what belongs in the Old Testament - the list used by the Catholic Church (and most Eastern Orthodox) vs the list used by most Protestants. The Protestant canon contains 7 fewer books than the Catholic canon. These 7 books are called the deuterocanon ("second" canon). These books were given the name 'deuterocanon' because a few hundred years ago we did not have copies of them in Hebrew and they were not part of some Hebrew Bibles we had manuscripts of at the time. Thus, they were deemed to be part of a second canon written in Greek. In the 20th Century archaeologists made many discoveries of even older manuscripts. Therefore, we now have manuscripts, or partial manuscripts, that show that most, if not all, of the books were written in Hebrew or Aramaic.

Our Protestant brothers and sisters call these seven books of the deuterocanon the 'apocrapha', meaning they believe they are not part of the canon of the Bible.

Thus, although we agree on the books within the New Testament, we have two different lists of what books should be part of the Old Testament.

Many Christians have never reflected on the history of the Bible and how it came to be. They just assume that it is authoritative and we should consider all the books in the Bible as Sacred Scripture.

Here is a brief history of how the Bible came to be put together.
  1. Jesus came and taught his disciples. During the time of Jesus there were several different lists of the Old Testament Scriptures in different Jewish groups.
  2. Jesus' disciples spread his message orally for many years after His death, before writing anything down.
  3. His disciples started to write down the life and teachings of Jesus.
  4. During the time of the early Church, a group of Jews decided to try and set the Jewish canon (the Old Testament). This failed to solve the issue of different lists for different Jews. Thus, the Jewish canon was never decided authoritatively by the Jews. Yet, the Jews no longer had the authority to set the Jewish canon for Christians, because the authority of Jesus was now given to the Church.
  5. Different local churches started to compile different writings. Many of the lists differed from one another dramatically.
  6. The Church started to discern, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, what was inspired and what was not. This goes for both the New Testament and the Old Testament.
  7. Several Catholic Councils of Bishops declared the list of Scripture as we have it today:
    -Council of Hippo, 393 A.D.
    -Carthage, 397 A.D.
    -Carthage, 419 A.D.
  8. This list remained fixed through hundreds of years.
  9. Saints, bishops, Popes and the Council of Florence (1442 A.D.) affirmed the list.
  10. The list is challenged seriously for the first time by Martin Luther, when he rejects the 7 deuterocanonical books. He unilaterally decided to throw them out of his new canon. Thus, the Protestant Bible is first born in the 1500s. He bases this decision on faulty evidence:
    • He claimed they contained doctrines contrary to the rest of Scripture (rather, he didn't like the teachings that supported Catholic doctrines).
    • He claimed that the Jews had set this canon (rather, there were still different lists by different Jewish groups).
    • He claimed that only the Scriptures written in Hebrew were of the canon (rather, he didn't have access to the documents that show they were written in Hebrew).
  11. The list of Sacred Scripture is put down dogmatically in the Council of Trent, which followed the Protestant Reformation. This is because dogma is usually not declared unless first challenged seriously.
Here is some other evidence in favor of the Catholic list of the OT canon.
  1. God never gave the Jews a way to settle the debate over what books should be in the Jewish canon.
  2. In the time of Jesus there were several different groups of Jews with different lists of their Scriptures:
    1. The Samaritans and Sadducees accepted the law but rejected the prophets and writings. 
    2. The Pharisees accepted all three. 
    3. Some Jews used the Greek version called the Septuagint. This is the list that the Catholic Church uses. Textual analysis indicates that most of the New Testament writers quote most often from the Septuagint in the NT, therefore indicating that they used and accepted it.
    4. Some smaller groups with different lists.
  3. The early Christian Church Fathers accepted the deuterocanonical books as inspired.
To summarize - the Catholic Church put together the different books of the Bible, while guided by the Holy Spirit. This list was not challenged until Martin Luther threw out 7 books. Unfortunately, many Christians uncritically accept the lie that the Catholic Church added 7 books, which doesn't square with the evidence. We can be confident that the books in the bible, as ratified by the Catholic Church, are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit for our salvation.

In other words, the reason the Bible is trustworthy is because the Church is trustworthy. The reason the Church is trustworthy is because Jesus Himself is.

I know this is the Cliff Notes version. If you want more details, I recommend the book - Where We Got the Bible by Henry Graham.


**Catholics and The Bible
**Good Catholic Bible Studies
**Catholics + Bible + Personal Interpretation
**The Dos and Don'ts of Reading The Bible