Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Do we really still need a Pope and a Magisterium?

I am a gun guy. I have enjoyed shooting and teaching others to shoot for over thirty years now. There are many factors that go into being able to hit the target accurately. Proper breathing and trigger control are important but if I do not have a good sight picture I will miss every time. Even being just a tenth of an inch off can cause me to miss by eighteen inches or more at just twenty-five yards. Shooting old school with iron sights there are three parts that make up the sight picture – target, front sight, rear sight. All three must be lined up properly for the bullet to have any chance of accuracy.

The human eye cannot concentrate on three things at one time so all focus it set on the front sight. It is placed on the target where I want the bullet to go and then the rear sight is brought into alignment. If I do everything right my bullet will fly true along the path I have selected.

Our spiritual life can be thought of in much the same manner. Our target is heaven. Jesus is our focus, our front sight. Our rear sight is our religious instruction. The bullet is our life and the path it follows is our faith.

The devil will do anything he can to keep us from hitting our target. One of his tricks is to get us to turn our focus off of Jesus. If we do not have Jesus as our front sight, our focus, we have no chance of hitting our target of heaven. The devil can also succeed by moving the rear sight. Even if moved just a little it could cause us to miss the target entirely. Remember, the rear sight is our religious instruction.

Catholics believe that the Catholic Church has the fullness of Christian truth. We believe that the teachings we have come directly from Jesus, handed down through time by the successors of the original twelve disciples. Jesus taught the twelve who taught their disciples and so on.

In the mid-fifteen hundreds there was a Catholic priest who did not agree with everything the Church was doing. You know him as Martin Luther, father of the Lutheran church and Protestantism. Martin Luther was absolutely correct in pointing out the abuses of power the Catholic Church was committing. It was necessary in stopping the abuses. He was absolutely wrong to use it as an opportunity to stray from Church teaching and introduce his opinion as doctrine.

Luther removed books from the canon of scripture that he thought were there in error and he wanted to exclude others because they did not support his way of thinking. He went further by adding things to scripture that he thought were missing, most notably one word that created the Lutheran motto – "Sola Scriptura” - Scripture Alone. It was Luther’s way to throw out fifteen-hundred years of Catholic Tradition and teaching and make the bible the sole source of instruction, which he could interpret in a way that suited him. When Luther was asked why he had added the word “alone” to a particular phrase in the bible he answered that Luther did it and that should be justification enough.
Probably the most destructive thing Luther did was when he changed the Mass from a sacrifice to an instruction of the faithful. He changed the Mass from being centered and about Jesus to being centered and about the congregation. It ceased being a Mass and became nothing more than a service with some nice bible instruction in it.

What Luther did was open the door for anyone to interpret Holy Scripture anyway they saw fit to support any idea that may have had. As a result we have over 40,000 different protestant churches each teaching their own flavor of the truth. This greatly amuses the devil. All it took was a small nudge to the sights to get humanity off target.

There are not 40,000 “truths”.  Jesus said, “I am the truth, the way and the life.” The only truth is that which Jesus taught his disciples. As Catholics we have the Magisterium. The Magisterium is the Pope in communion with all of his bishops and is the teaching arm of the Church. They have the responsibility to ensure that we receive the teaching that Jesus gave to his disciples. They have the responsibility to ensure this teaching stays true to the teaching of Christ and that it is not corrupted by any person or group of people over time. In short, it is their responsibility to ensure that we keep our sights properly aligned.

Other Christian religions cannot make this claim, in fact, they claim that they do not need such a thing. They say that the bible is self-interpreting and each person can come to the correct meaning on their own. That works so well that we have seen churches split in half when their two ministers can’t agree on what the bible says among themselves.

So do we really need a Pope and a Magisterium? I for one am extremely grateful that we have them.

How Old is Your Church?

If you are a Lutheran, your religion was founded by Martin Luther, an ex- monk of the Catholic Church, in the year 1517.

If you belong to the Church of England, your religion was founded by King Henry VIII in the year 1534 because the Pope would not grant him a second annulment with the right to remarry.

If you are a Presbyterian, your religion was founded by John Knox in Scotland in the year 1560.

If you are a Congregationalist, your religion was originated by Robert Brown in Holland in 1582.

If you are a Baptist, you owe the tenets of your religion to John Smyth, who launched it in Amsterdam in 1605.

If you are of the Dutch Reformed church, you recognize Michaelis Jones as founder, because he originated your religion in New York in 1628.

If you are a Protestant Episcopalian, your religion was an offshoot of the Church of England founded by Samuel Seabury in the American colonies in the 17th century.

If you are a Methodist, your religion was launched by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744.

If you are a Unitarian, Theophilus Lindley founded your church in London in 1774.

If you are a Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Joseph Smith started your religion in Palmyra, N.Y., in 1829.

If you worship with the Salvation Army, your sect began with William Booth in London in 1865.

If you are a Christian Scientist, you look to 1879 as the year in which your religion was born and to Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy as its founder.

If you belong to one of the religious organizations known as 'Church of the Nazarene," "Pentecostal Gospel." "Holiness Church," "Pilgrim Holiness Church," "Jehovah's Witnesses," your religion is one of the hundreds of new sects founded by men within the past century.

If you are Catholic, you know that your religion was founded in the year 33 by Jesus Christ the Son of God, and it is still the same Church today.
Borrowed from EWTN

Thursday, January 22, 2015

An Angel Weeps

An Angel Weeps

A tiny life is growing inside her
so fragile from the start
developing fingers and toes
pretty blue eyes and a nose
fighting for her life with
each of her tiny heartbeats

All her mother can think about
is how cold those stirrups are
as she lays on the table and waits
for the doctor to remove this inconvenience

In a corner an angel waits
to take Heaven’s newest resident
home in her loving arms
and she weeps

Lord, I pray to you today for those innocents without a voice. I pray for the aborted, the miscarried, the stillborn. Bring these innocents into your heavenly kingdom and let them know your love. Have mercy on the mother's who have aborted for they know not what they do. And have mercy on us all for allowing such a travesty to occur.

Watch over those at the March for Life who peaceably demonstrate against the legalization of child sacrifice. Turn the hearts of those who believe it is right to be able to murder the most helpless among us. Send your favor to the parents who have embraced life and have openly accepted your call to co-create.

Through Christ, your son, my Lord.


42 years is too long. Let's end legal abortion now.

An unborn baby is a life to be celebrated, not a burden to be terminated.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mass needs more crying babies.

Across the sanctuary a baby is crying. A few pews over a little boy is sitting on his mother’s lap playing with a stuffed animal. In the cry room a toddler is screaming. My six-month old is busily making raspberry noises as loud as she can. Those close to us smile because it is just too cute. Yet, there are others in the congregation who are annoyed at one end and very upset at the other by the disturbances these babies cause. I used to sympathize with them and even stopped attending Mass for a while when my youngest son started getting rambunctious and the parish we were in didn’t have a cry room. I thought it wrong to disturb those who come to worship when my kid couldn’t sit quietly like a little doll. Then I learned about the true power behind a baby’s voice.

God shared with man something he did not share with the angels – the ability to co-create a life. Man and woman come together to form one flesh, a baby, in which God incarnates a soul. God, man and woman work together to create a new mortal being with an immortal soul. This so enraged the devil that he willfully separated himself from God and fell from heaven. He has made it his sole purpose to separate God from his beloved mankind.

He started by tempting man, introducing sin into God’s perfect creation. Death entered the world and man fell from God’s grace. We were separated from our heavenly Father by a great chasm, one no man could ever bridge. Only a sinless man could ever be considered worthy of inheriting God’s kingdom, his royal nature. Only divine blood held enough worth to pay the ransom of death and free man from eternal imprisonment. In his infinite love for his children the Father sent the Son, the Word, to be incarnate and become like us in all things except sin.

Jesus is fully human and was subject to temptation as all of us are. Not born with original sin, he did not have the attraction to sin that we suffer with. I believe the devil tempted Jesus relentlessly. If he could have gotten Jesus to sin Jesus would not have been worthy to bridge the chasm. But perfection cannot sin against itself. Jesus is also fully divine and by his death and resurrection he became our salvation. His royal blood spilled for us paid our ransom and he became our redemption. The path to paradise was restored.

The devil had failed in keeping the path between God and man closed. Now his only option is to get man to willfully separate himself from God just as he and the other fallen angels had done. As the father of lies this has been an easy venture and he has spent all of human existence convincing people that God does not exist. He muddies the path to God so people get lost along the way and wonder unknowingly in the wrong direction. He has gotten cultures to sacrifice their children to him under assumed names and purposes. Even today we sacrifice our children to the gods of convenience, time and desire. We don’t look upon it as murder of a human but a woman’s choice, her right, to do as she pleases. Human sacrifice is human sacrifice despite whatever name we call it or justification we give it. This greatly pleases the devil.

In as much as getting a man to willfully deny God pleases the devil I believe he has found something that pleases him even more. The devil is jealous of man because of his ability to participate in creation and bring forth new life. What could be more pleasing to satan than to get man to walk away from this great honor we have been given? Before the invention of artificial birth control when a woman had sex with a man she did so at the risk of her own life. Death of the mother during and through pregnancy was common. A woman who accepted this risk gave her entire self over to the man she had sex with. It was the self-sacrifice the marital act was supposed to be. If the woman got pregnant a real man would take responsibility for her and his child.

After the invention of artificial birth control sex was no longer about sacrifice. It was about pleasure and recreation. Pope Paul VI wrote an encyclical issued on July 25th, 1968 called Humanae Vitae “Of Human Life” re-affirming the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding married love, responsible parenthood and the continued rejection of artificial birth control. In it he made four predictions of what would happen if the use of artificial birth control became widespread:

1: The widespread use of contraception would lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.

2: Man will lose respect for the woman and no longer care for her physical and psychological equilibrium and will come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.

3: The widespread acceptance of contraception would place a dangerous weapon in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies.

4: Contraception would lead man to think that he had unlimited dominion over his own body.

One does not have to look too far to see how right Pope Paul VI was when he wrote Humanae Vitae. If there is any hope that our culture will survive studying and enacting the teaching of Humanae Vitae in our personal lives is the first, the greatest step we can take. It would restore marriage and family back to the proper place they are meant to be.

With the invention of artificial birth control the devil gave us the ability to say no to God’s plan of co-creation of new life. He then concentrated on turning us self-centered, it’s all about me and what I want right now. Sex was no longer a sacrifice, a gift of value freely given to a beloved. Sex was all about one’s self and one’s own pleasure. This greatly slowed the rate at which new life was born.

Then the devil went back to work on convincing us humans to sacrifice our children to him. He couldn’t stop all pregnancy so now he had to concentrate on ending as many as he could. On January 22nd, 1973 the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the unlimited domain of a woman over her own body by allowing her to terminate a pregnancy in the first trimester – Roe vs Wade – the case that made abortion legal. It did so based upon the fact that this country has never officially defined when a human life actually begins. The court did not recognize a life beginning at conception so limited the state’s right to regulate abortion only after a fetus is considered viable outside of the mother, around 26 – 28 weeks.

And so it became legal for a woman to end a growing life inside her and we began to sacrifice our children to the gods of convenience, time and desire ever since. Over 57,500,000 babies have lost their lives in the United States alone since abortion was made legal in 1973.

The voice of a baby is painful to the devil’s ears. It reminds him of the gift God gave man in co-creation. Every whine, every cry and especially every laugh a baby makes is a reminder to the devil of where he has failed and love has succeeded. A baby crying at Mass is not a disturbance, it is a song of joy and praise to heaven above. Be thankful for those crying babies and the families who have said yes to God’s great plan. Without them there will be no Church in twenty, thirty or forty years. When you see parents at Mass with four, five, six or more children struggling to keep chaos from ensuing thank them for their willingness to say yes to God and accept life as it has been given to them. They really need to hear it.

Please join the pro-life movement and those participating in the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on January 22nd in praying that we come to our senses and put an end to the legal murder of the most innocent among us.

An unborn baby is a life to be celebrated, not a burden to be terminated.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What is Agápe?

At a management seminar I once attended the instructor had everyone in the class tie air filled balloons around our ankles with a one foot piece of string. He then told us that anyone who still had an inflated balloon attached to their ankle at the end of two minutes would win the exercise. The second he yelled to begin the room became a frenzy of foot stomping people desperately trying to flatten another’s balloon without having theirs flattened in the process. Within a minute there were no inflated balloons to be found as those who could not keep their balloon safe ganged up on the few who remained.

The instructor gathered the class together and asked, “What did you have to do to win the exercise?”

“Keep our balloon from being popped.” someone answered.

“And who told you to pop the other balloons?” he then asked.

We all stood around giving each other dumb looks. We could all have been winners if we had done nothing more than stood still for two minutes. Given the competitive nature with which we have been raised it was not enough to just have an un-popped balloon – we had to pop as many as we could in the process. In order to be successful we had to make others fail.

This is often the same approach we take with God. We try to make ourselves look better by making others look worse. We try to justify our shortcomings by comparing ourselves to those who have much greater shortcomings, at least in our eyes.

“The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ “  - Luke, Chapter 18, Verses 11 and 12

We silently echo the words of that tax collector in our minds as the bells ring during the presentation of the Sacred Blood immediately following the consecration of the Holy Eucharist during Mass.

“God, be merciful unto me, the sinner!” – Luke, Chapter 18, Verse 13

The truth of the matter is that there is no competition in God’s eyes. He loves Mother Teresa the same as he loves Adolph Hitler. God IS love, and not just any type of love, but agápe.

The English language is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to the word love. We have one word that has been given a dozen different meanings. I love my wife. I love my pet squirrel. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. One word, many different meanings.

In Greek, the language of the New Testament, there are many different words for love that each has specific meanings. One is Éros from which we get words like erotic. It refers to a physical love of an intimate nature. Another is Phillia from which we get words like Philadelphia, city of brotherly love. That is exactly what type of love Phillia is – brotherly love, affectionate regard or friendship.

The last word for love that I will talk about is Agápe. This is an unconditional, sacrificial type of love that does not hope to be returned. It is the kind of love that is placed before all else. To better understand the New Testament try substituting the word sacrifice where you see the word love.

God is love – God is sacrifice – God is agápe. God has power, God has knowledge, but God IS love.

Let’s look at probably the most used passage at any Christian wedding and substitute the word sacrifice for the word love:

“Sacrifice is patient, sacrifice is kind and is not jealous; sacrifice does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, Verses 4 - 7

That is the kind of love God has for each and every one of his creation, his children. That is the kind of love that we are called to have for each other. It is definitely the kind of love that is needed to have a successful marriage or to be a good parent and it is the reason why there is no competition with God. He loves us all the same, unconditionally, sacrificially, agápe. We cannot get him to love us more by getting him to love someone else less. He loves us all completely and wholly.

If I want to find favor with God I do so not by competing with, but by serving my fellow man. I am called to be the one who sacrifices my balloon so that you can win the exercise. If we all were willing to sacrifice for each other we all win together.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” – Luke, Chapter 10, Verse 27

This is what agápe means.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Technology is the devil's folly.

Technology increases our efficiency, productivity and brings us closer as a people. At least that is what we are meant to believe. Like with every good lie there is some truth to that statement but in reality technology is nothing more than a brilliantly disguised tool of the devil. We are meant to believe that we are more efficient, more productive and closer as a people but closely examine your own life and you will find that this is not close to being true.

Let’s look at one piece of technology that none of us can live without – the telephone. Back when it became popular every house had one. It was found in a centralized location mounted to a wall or on the counter and you had as much mobility as far as you could stretch the two foot cord. The first innovation was to create a longer cord, some long enough that you could stretch them all the way into another room. Then we went cordless allowing the user free roam of the entire house.

When you wanted to talk to someone you called their house and hoped that they would answer. If they didn’t you hoped that someone else would so you could leave a message. Out of necessity the answering machine was invented so you would never miss a call again. Land lines gave way to cell phones so you could get a call no matter where you were. This was done all in the name of efficiency, productivity but mostly convenience.

When I entered the work force there were no such things as cell phones. I went to work, did my job and came home. Work was work - home was home. The two did not cross. Work had a phone in case there was an emergency but it hardly ever interrupted my work. Today I carry a cell phone for work and am accessible twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, even on Christmas Eve. I even can do all of my emails directly from my phone.  I never really leave work and if I leave my phone on my desk because I need a break I usually come back to a bunch of voice mails and texts from people worried something happened to me because I did not answer the first seventeen times they called. It has become easy for anyone to call me anytime for any reason no matter what I am doing.

But telephones have shrunk the world and brought us closer together. I no longer have to take a couple hours of my time and go visit my mother. I can now give her a quick five minute phone call once a month to let her know I care. How efficient is that? Even conversations are becoming things of the past.  I can type out a few words in a short sentence and send a text. I don’t even have to use words.  I can use emoticons and cute text abbreviation. RUOKJ?

We  have a world of people addicted to their phones, many of who could not function without them. Several people I know even carry two or three phones with them at all times. They are constantly jumping from one to the other. Try having a conversation with someone today that isn’t interrupted by a call or text message. We have become a distracted people. I sat at a red light one day as nine cars made a left hand turn in front of me. Out of the nine cars, seven of the people were either on a call or were trying to text while making the turn. It has gotten so bad that we even have to sadly announce before each Mass, “Out of respect of our liturgy please turn off all cell phones or set them to vibrate now.” And even then it is not a rare occurrence when someone’s goofy ringtone goes off in the middle of Mass. I was even present when a priest’s cell phone rang right at the end of the service.

A distracted people is exactly what the devil wants us to be. He wants us to pay attention to anything other than what is really important. He loves it when instead of actually visiting with family all we do is check out their Face Book page to see what’s new in their lives. He is tickled pink that the very things that were suppose to make out lives more efficient, productive and bring us closer together has filled our lives with so much noise that we don’t have the time for anything or anyone. I would volunteer at the soup kitchen but I just don’t have the time. Hey, I made it to Easter Mass what more do you expect? I know I was ten minutes late and complained about not finding a seat but I made it for communion. I would have stayed until the end but I had other places I had to be…

One of the best things a family can do is to eat an evening meal together. Very few families actually do this anymore. Our lives have become so efficient from the technology that no one has the time. Even when they do many times the family members sit in silence as they thumb away at a tiny keyboard on some electronic gizmo. Time and experiences are no longer shared. If I want to know how my daughter’s day went I have an easier time finding out by looking at Face Book.

In many ways I envy the Amish. They have their own issues but they still eat together as a family and gather as a community. Their focus is on work, family and prayer and not on what Miley Cyrus did today or who wore what where. I secretly hope that a massive solar flare comes one day and makes them the technologically superior people.

I am an engineer and a father of five in the modern world. I won’t be trading my cell phone for a horse and black hat anytime soon.  But I can recognize the hand of the devil at work and do my best to keep my priorities where they should be. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but if I did I would resolve to live the next year as simply as I could, actually caring for those around me and using the tools of the devil as little as possible.