August 4, 2015

Was Adam from Mars and Eve from Venus? Or were Adam and Eve both from Eden?

Pop Psychology vs. Catholic Theology 

The book Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus tries to explain male/female relationships by examining the differing emotional needs and perceptions of spouses. The Church teaches and Sacred Scripture testifies that men and women were both from Eden before sin and selfishness replaced love and selflessness. When our first parents turned away from God, the source of life, goodness, truth and beauty, it altered every aspect of existence.

Love, courtship and marriage are difficult under the best of circumstances. One thing is clear, men and women, though equal in dignity are fundamentally different so as to complement each other. Some call this a stereotype. Others dismiss it as chauvinism. Our Creator said, "Viva la difference." In making us male and female, God is telling us things otherwise unknowable, about human beings and Himself.

Saint John Paul II observed that in "the beginning," man and woman viewed each other "with all the peace of the interior gaze," and were not ashamed. He reminds us that the person is a divine gift; Adam and Eve were a gift to each other. Their bodies revealed this, speaking a language of love, untainted by lust and desire.

When sin entered the world paradise, was lost, paving the way for the battle of the sexes. Still, the remnant of grace, the echo of original innocence, is indelibly inscribed on our hearts. The life-giving love between husband and wife is a sign of this grace. Even in our fallen state, the differences between the sexes should be viewed as an opportunity to grow in holiness. Unfortunately, they can also lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication and pain. We can overcome this, but only with humility and God’s help.

Center for Medical Progress Releases Fifth Video Showing Intact Fetuses "Just a Matter of Line Items" for Planned Parenthood

Via The Center for Medical Progress:

The fifth undercover video in the controversy over Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted baby parts shows the Director of Research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Melissa Farrell, advertising the Texas Planned Parenthood branch’s track record of fetal tissue sales, including its ability to deliver fully intact fetuses.

In the video, actors posing as representatives from a human biologics company meet with Farrell at the abortion-clinic headquarters of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Houston to discuss a potential partnership to harvest fetal organs.

“Where we probably have an edge over other organizations, our organization has been doing research for many many years,” explains Farrell. When researchers need a specific part from the aborted fetus, Farrell says, “We bake that into our contract, and our protocol, that we follow this, so we deviate from our standard in order to do that.”

Asked specifically if this means Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast can change abortion procedures to supply intact fetal specimens, Farrell affirms, “Some of our doctors in the past have projects and they’re collecting the specimens, so they do it in a way that they get the best specimens, so I know it can happen.”

The investigators ask Farrell how she will frame a contract in which they pay a higher price for higher quality fetal body parts, and she replies, “We can work it out in the context of--obviously, the procedure itself is more complicated,” suggesting that “without having you cover the procedural cost” and paying for the abortion, the higher specimen price could be framed as “additional time, cost, administrative burden.” ...

For more visit The Center for Medical Progress' investigative footage page on their website.

August 3, 2015

Cecile vs.Cecil: Building a Culture of Life in an Age of Relativism, Part 1

Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards and Cecil the Lion

When Cecil the lion was killed last month, many on the Left were apoplectic. Media coverage of Cecil's demise and the subsequent demand for justice has been vociferous and sustained. Meanwhile, videos from The Center for Medical Progress showed conclusively Planned Parenthood officials trafficking aborted babies' body parts for profit. The Left has largely ignored them. The mainstream media has followed suit. The fact that Planned Parenthood kills human babies in the tens of thousands each year, at every stage of gestation, from the 1st week to the 40th, bothers them not. Neither does the fact Planned Parenthood aborts black babies at five times the number of white babies. Since abortion always involves a mother, and over half of the babies killed are girls, 3/4 of abortion's victims are female. Rather than see abortion as the systematic murder and exploitation of women, it is abortion zealots who accuse pro-lifers of "waging a war on women."

We are are called by God to be responsible stewards of nature. An adult, male lion is highly distinctive, a creature inspiring awe and wonder for nature's majesty and for God, at whose word the world came to be. Nonetheless, the murder of a lion pales in comparison to the killing of a human being through abortion. The death of the former is a tragedy. The death of the later is gravely and intrinsically evil. A sin against humanity so serious, it calls out to Heaven for justice.

Why does society recoil at Cecil's death but not Cecile Richards' lies on behalf of the deadly exploits of the organization she leads?

The answer, at least in part, is moral relativism.

The "dictatorship of relativism" of which then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke prior to his elevation as supreme pontiff in 2005, has extended in power and in scope in the decade since. That the butchering of babies on an industrial scale and the selling of their body parts for money garners less attention from fourth estate organs of record than a 30 second commercial is a scandal unto itself. That the death of a lion, however lamentable, has become a veritable cause célèbre warranting non-stop condemnation and media coverage is a reflection of our moral vacuousness. Society has so abandoned its Judeo-Christian roots so as too see nothing wrong with the slaughter and sale of the unborn. The concomitant rise of a politically correct sentimentality has allowed us to elevate the death of a lion above the methodical killing of innocents.

Part 2 will look at building a culture of life in an age of relativism.

August 2, 2015

Thought of the Day — "This is my body."

"The same words used by the Lord Jesus to give life are used by some to justify the taking of life:

This is my body."

 — Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life 

August 1, 2015

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 2, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

Jesus teaches the people by the sea,
James Tissot, c 1894
(Click here for today’s readings)

I hate labels. Not the kind we put on jars or folders, but the kind we put on people to indicate our own superiority. "Liberal" and "conservative," for example, which have legitimate meaning in their own right, have come to be often abused in this way, as a slur against those whose opinions differ from ours.

It’s not so long ago that "Protestant" and "Catholic" were labels of this same kind.

2017, just two years away, will mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The hostilities are no longer what they were. Some, perhaps many, of the disagreements have been resolved, but the most fundamental ones have not. One of these relates to the issue of faith and works.

The Catholic Church placed and places significant value on works, that is, good deeds, and believes that they are important for salvation. Martin Luther, the first Reformer, insisted that we are saved by faith alone.

It is interesting to note how this question shows up in today’s Gospel. "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?" (The King James Version is even more emphatic: "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?") To which Jesus answers: "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent."

The "work" is to "believe!" Work and faith are here treated as one and the same. We might say that faith is the first "work." Good "works" are not a substitute for or an alternative to faith, but derive their meaning, their importance and their genuine value from it.

Roughly 150 years after the Reformation began, a different kind of "reform" appeared on the scene. It began as a philosophical exploration to see how far the mind could go without relying on the "authority" of ancient philosophers or religion. This eventually led to serious and solid science as we know it. Along the way, however, it set itself up as the ultimate authority and became not only independent from but hostile to religion, especially to Catholicism. This attitude was so pervasive it even found its way into Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute. This period is known as the Age of Reason, or the Enlightenment. Those not of the same mind were labeled "unenlightened."

The hostility showed itself in a particularly ferocious way during the French Revolution. Sixteen cloistered Carmelite nuns had been thrown out of their convent—"liberated," according to the revolutionaries—but continued to come together. They were arrested on a charge of "counter-revolutionary assemblies and continuing to live in submission to their rule and their superior." They were also accused of "fanaticism." When one of the nuns demanded to know what the judge meant by that, he replied: "I mean your attachment to infantile beliefs, your idiotic religious practices." That trial took place on July 17, 1894. The nuns went to the guillotine the same day.

What does this have to do with today’s Gospel? Nothing, directly. But it is more than obvious that no "enlightened" person could believe in the story of Moses and the manna from heaven. And the story that served as prologue to today’s Gospel, and next week’s also (and two more weeks after that), namely, the multiplication of loaves and fishes which we read last week, would likewise be cast aside as "infantile."

The more direct connection is to the reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. "You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds." The Gentiles were basically the Greeks, not just those living in Greece but the Greek culture that still dominated most of the known world. One of the most important aspects of that culture was philosophy, the "love of wisdom." In other words, enlightenment.

Paul calls that kind enlightenment "futility." Why? Because it cannot lead to faith. Earlier in the same letter he wrote: "May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his [God’s] call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe."

Faith, then, is the true enlightenment because it puts us in relationship to Jesus Christ who, again in John’s Gospel, calls himself "the light of the world" (John 8:12). In the magnificent prologue of the same Gospel we read that Jesus is "the true light, which enlightens everyone."

The notion of enlightenment is not new in the Gospels. It is the whole point of what is called the "Wisdom Literature" in the Old Testament. In Psalm 119, for example, we find this:
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye.
It is one thing to be enlightened by faith; it is quite another to go around treating everyone else as "unenlightened." Faith is "enlightenment," not in opposition to anything else but simply for what it is and what it gives. It is the "kindly light" that leads us "amid the encircling gloom."

That’s good enough. No labeling is required.

July 31, 2015

If You Only Read One Commentary About This Summer's Planned Parenthood Scandal Read This One

Kirsten Powers is a pro-life Democrat commentator who writes weekly for USA TODAY and is author of the upcoming The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech. Her latest column "Crush Planned Parenthood" is a must read for anyone who cares about human dignity and the pro-life cause. Powers writes:
Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards apologized last week for the uncompassionate tone her senior director of medical research, Deborah Nucatola, used to explain the process by which she harvests aborted body parts to be provided for medical research.
Nucatola had been caught on an undercover video talking to anti-abortion activists posing as representatives of a biological tissue procurement company. The abortion doctor said, “I’d say a lot of people want liver,” and “a lot of people want intact hearts these days.” Explaining how she could perform later-term abortions to aid the harvesting of such intact organs, she said, “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”
A second undercover video released Tuesday shows another Planned Parenthood official talking about using a "less crunchy" way to perform abortions while preserving salable fetal tissue.
This is stomach-turning stuff. But the problem here is not one of tone. It’s the crushing. It’s the organ harvesting of  fetuses that abortion-rights activists want us to believe have no more moral value than a fingernail. It’s the lie that these are not human beings worthy of protection. There is no nice way to talk about this. As my friend and former Obama White House staffer Michael Wear tweeted, "It should bother us as a society that we have use for aborted human organs, but not the baby that provides them."...
Ms. Powers goes on to say that arguments by Cecile Richards and others that the videos in question are heavily edited are demonstrably false. The concluding line of her article should be tweeted and retweeted ad infinitum. Read the rest here.

Vatican Skeptical About Close Encounters with Aliens. No Jesus 2.0

(For more on the question of a second Jesus should intelligent life be found elsewhere see video at end of post.) 
The bible is not a scientific book. If we look for scientific responses to our questions in the bible, we are making a mistake.
— Fr. José Funes, S.J.

According to an article by Agence France-Presse out this morning, the Director of the Vatican Observatory, Fr. José Funes, is skeptical about the existence of rational alien beings and insists in any case, there is no "second Messiah". Via AFP:
The recent discovery of an Earth twin has boosted chances there is intelligent life on other planets. But while Pope Francis's telescope scans the starlit skies, the Vatican is skeptical of ever meeting Mr. Spock.
On a leafy hilltop near the papal summer home of Castel Gandolfo sits the Vatican's Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world, where planetary scientists mix the study of meteorites and the Big Bang theory with theology.
Boasting a prestigious research center at the University of Arizona in the United States, the institute has never shied away from asking whether there could be life on other planets and is thrilled with the discovery of an "Earth 2.0".
(Father) Funes, who has a degree in theology and a doctorate in astronomy, would not be drawn on whether the Vatican would send out space missionaries to convert alien life-forms to Christianity if extra-terrestrial life was found elsewhere.
What is clear, he says, is that while God may have created aliens and planets similar to Earth, there can be no second Jesus.
"The discovery of intelligent life does not mean there's another Jesus," he insisted, because "the incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity, of the Universe". ...

"The discovery of intelligent life doesn't mean that there is another Jesus."

The Culture of Death Personified: What Nazi Doctors and Planned Parenthood Have in Common

July 30, 2015

Thought of the Day — G.K. Chesterton Refutes a Popular Indictment Against Catholics and Catholicism

Many of the Church’s detractors criticize her in light of adherents who don’t “walk the walk.” When encountering such comments, we should remember this quote by G.K. Chesterton:
Most Christians fail to fulfill the Christian ideal. This bitter and bracing fact cannot be too much insisted upon in this and every other moral question. But, perhaps, it might be suggested that this failure is not so much the failure of Christians in connection with the Christian ideal as the failure of any men in connection with any ideal. That Christians are not always Christian is obvious; neither are Liberals always liberal, nor Socialists always social, nor Humanitarians always kind, nor Rationalists always rational, nor are gentlemen always gentle, nor do working men always work. If people are especially horrified at the failure of Christian practice, it must be an indirect compliment to the Christian creed.
 — G.K. Chesterton

July 29, 2015

July's Blog of Note: Convert Journal

July’s blog of note is Convert Journal. Described as “One guy's journey in the Catholic Church”, since January 2010, George Sipe has chronicled his conversion to and exploration of Catholicism — providing insightful, informative observations along the way. A life-long, single denomination Protestant, Sipe was surprised to find himself becoming a Catholic. From the blog:
There are many wonderful Catholic convert stories in print and on the web. This is mine and maybe some part of it will resonate with you. You may have a nagging feeling something is missing in your life. Your church might be changing along a path that does not feel right. Perhaps you wonder what Catholics really believe. I am glad you are here and happy, even if it is just the two of us reading it. …
Convert Journal is a treasure trove of information for the curious and the convert. Even lifelong Catholics, well versed in their faith will gain valuable new understanding from the essays and achieved information contained therein. The site features audio, videos, book reviews, and numerous posts on assorted topics of interest relating to the Church and contemporary society among others. Additionally, Convert Journal hosts New Evangelists Monthly, an informal, dynamic, crowd-sourced “meta-magazine” showcasing the best posts faithful Catholic bloggers publish each month. There you will find many different, but faithfully Catholic viewpoints and perspectives. If you are a blogger who is faithful to the Magisterium, please consider contributing.

Whether you are a cradle Catholic, a convert, or someone in search of the truth, Convert Journal is well worth your time. Visit today and make it a part of your blog reading regimen.

July 28, 2015

Two Powerful Pro-Life Videos That Show the Travesty of Abortion

The following videos from the secular media are forceful, articulate presentations of the pro-life position.

In a July 20 Fox News Special Report, Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume “laid bare the essentially brutal nature of abortion.” His denouncement of the abortion industry followed the July 14 release of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials coldly discussing the selling of fetal body parts while eating lunch.

A compelling debate between GOP candidate Carly Fiorina and Jess McIntosh from Emily's List, on Fox News Sunday (7-26-2015), hosted by Chris Wallace. The discussion on abortion begins at 2:55.

July 27, 2015

Words of Wisdom as a Catholic Mass is Held to Counter Detroit Satan Statue

(Article continues below)

God's words of wisdom are found in Sacred Scripture. He tells us that;

In the face of this... 
Statue of demon idol
We should remember this.
Driven by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness,
Christ triumphs over Satan... CCC §566

Hundreds of people attended Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Detroit on Saturday to protest the debut of an 8 1/2-foot-tall bronze satanic goat statue which depicts the demon idol Baphomet.

According to the associated press, the group behind the display, Satanic Temple, installed the statue Saturday at a Detroit location known only to ticket holders. The unveiling was driven underground due to a large public backlash. Hundreds had lined up earlier to get the tickets as Christian protesters rallied nearby.

The initial plan for the statue was to publicly erect it next to a Ten Commandments monument located at the Oklahoma state capitol before Oklahoma’s Supreme Court banned religious displays on capitol grounds. (Oklahoma's governor challenged this ruling, allowing the Ten Commandments monument to remain for now.)

God is with Us Always

Militant atheists and secular humanist activists are continuing their assault on public expressions of Christian belief. Such attacks will only escalate in the years to come. Whatever evils befall us, God remains sovereign of the universe and Jesus is still it's King at whose name every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and those under the earth. Satan may have his day, but in the fullness of time, even Satan will prostrate himself in obedience to Christ. In the words of our Savior, "Do not be Afraid!"

Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel

In English

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

In Latin

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. Ámen

July 25, 2015

Christ and the Feeding of the 5,000

This Sunday's gospel story from John, the feeding of the 5,000, is the only miracle (besides the Resurrection) recounted in all four gospels. As such, its significance cannot be overstated. It portrays Jesus as the new Moses who will lead fallen humanity to salvation. When the miracle of the multiplication of loaves is told in the Gospel of John, it is related to the manna in the wilderness. The connection between Moses and Jesus, the manna and the miraculous bread is undeniable.

Given the absence of a Last Supper narrative in John’s Gospel, the feeding of the 5,000, is a kind of corporate Eucharist. Upon hearing of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew privately by boat somewhere near Bethsaida. Christ’s healing ministry and preaching had made him renowned. Consequently, large crowds followed him. When Jesus landed and saw them, he was filled with compassion and healed their sick. As evening fell, the disciples came to Jesus saying, "This is a remote place, and it's getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food." The disciples were thinking in human terms about the people’s hunger. Jesus’ reply, "Give them some food yourselves." must have seemed nonsensical. Consider also that the number 5,000 excludes women and children. The real total to be fed was between 10,000 – 20,000.

The disciples find a young boy with five loaves and two fish. These they give to Jesus who takes the loaves and fish, gives thanks, (In the Septuagint the Greek word for "thanks" used here is eucharistia, meaning of thanksgiving, or praise for the wondrous works of God. The word "Eucharist" is a transliteration of the Greek.) and presents them to the disciples to distribute among the people. When they had had their fill, Jesus said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted." So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.

The miracle of the multiplication of loaves is unequivocally about the Eucharist. At Mass we bring the fruits of human labors, bread and wine, in conjunction with the offering of our ordinary lives to the altar. Through the invocation of the Holy Spirit this offering is miraculously transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church Fathers on the Feeding of the Multitude
He multiplied in his hands the five loaves, just as he produces harvest out of a few grains. There was a power in the hands of Christ; and those five loaves were, as it were, seeds, not indeed committed to the earth, but multiplied by him who made the earth.
— Augustine 
For although the Lord had the power to supply wine to those feasting, independently of any created substance, and to fill with food those who were hungry, he did not adopt this course; but, taking the loaves which the earth had produced, and giving thanks, and on the other occasion making water wine, he satisfied those who were reclining (at table), and gave drink to those who had been invited to the marriage; showing that the God who made the earth, and commanded it to bring forth fruit, who established the waters, and brought forth the fountains, was he who in these last times bestowed upon mankind, by his Son, the blessing of food and the favor of drink: the incomprehensible [acting thus] by means of the comprehensible, and the invisible by the visible; since there is none beyond him, but he exists in the bosom of the Father.
— Irenaeus 
He called his disciples, and asked what quantity of food they had with them. But they said that they had five loaves and two fishes in a wallet. . . . He himself broke the bread in pieces, and divided the flesh of the fishes, and in his hands both of them were increased. And when he had ordered the disciples to set them before the people, 5,000 men were satisfied, and moreover 12 baskets were filled from the fragments which remained. What can be more wonderful, either in narration or in action?
— Lactantius 
The feeding of the multitudes in the desert by Christ is worthy of all admiration. But it is also profitable in another way. We can plainly see that these new miracles are in harmony with those of ancient times. They are the acts of one and the same power. He rained manna in the desert upon the Israelites. He gave them bread from heaven. "Man did eat angels’ food," according to the words of praise in the Psalms. But look! He has again abundantly supplied food to those who needed food in the desert. He brought it down, as it were, from heaven. Multiplying that small amount of food many times and feeding so large a multitude, so to speak, with nothing, is like that first miracle.
— Cyril of Alexandria
He (multiplies loaves) not only once but also a second time, in order that we should know his strength. This strength by which he feeds the multitudes when he wishes and without bread finds its source in his divinity. He does this in order to bring them to believe that he himself is the one who earlier had fed Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. And Jesus not only fed them with a few loaves of bread, but he even produced a surplus of seven baskets, so that he might be shown as incomparably surpassing Elijah, who himself also caused a multiplication of the widow’s small quantity of oil and flour.
 — Theodore of Heraclea

Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 26, 2015, Year B

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Director, La Salette Shrine
Enfield, NH

 Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and
distributed them... John 6:11
(Click here for today’s readings)

How much food can you buy for $11,600.00? Maybe 1,365 small pepperoni pizzas. Not enough. Or about 2,900 hamburgers. Not enough. Or about 1,900 rotisserie chickens. Still not enough.

Not enough, according to the Apostle Philip, to feed the large crowd that was following Jesus. "Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little," he says. Assuming today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, times 8 hours a day, times 5 days a week, times 40 weeks, you get $11,600.00.  Not enough to feed this crowd.

This feeding of the multitude is one of the few events that is recorded in all four Gospels. In each case the text specifies five thousand men, and Matthew even notes that this number does not include women and children. The point in each Gospel is that what is on hand, the "supply" in economic terms, can’t possibly meet the need, or the "demand."

It’s no secret that we can easily feel this way in the face of the great tragedies that so often dominate the news, caused by the violence of nature or of persons. "What can I do?" we ask, powerlessly.

Is it enough to say, "Leave it all in the Lord’s hands"? Well, yes and no. Yes, "in the Lord’s hands" is the right place to leave all that troubles us. But no, that is not all we place in the Lord’s hands. What do I have that I can place in his hands, that he can then "multiply"? After all, Jesus started with the bread that was brought to him.

In some cases that means actually giving ourselves. In the late 1750’s a priest named Charles de l’Epée, on his way to visit a parishioner, said hello to two little girls. They did not respond. At first he thought they were being rude, but then discovered that they were deaf. In that moment, he knew he had to do something for them. He began to develop ways of teaching them and in 1760 he founded a free school for deaf children, whether poor or rich, and worked out a more sophisticated system of sign language than was already in use. He had two goals, equally important: first to teach them to communicate, by signs and later through writing; and second, to teach them about God and Jesus and their Catholic faith.

He had already put his entire life in God’s hands as a priest, but a chance encounter prompted him to respond in a specific way to a specific need and so allow the Lord to "feed" a new "multitude."

In other cases, perhaps most, what we place in God’s hands is not and cannot be so all-encompassing. Many people of faith volunteer time and talents and treasure, in what is usually called "stewardship," according to their freedom, ability and means.

What underlies all this is ultimately one thing. St. Paul spells it out: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.

"Now wait just a minute!" you exclaim. "That’s not one thing. That’s seven things." Well, as I said above, yes and no. Yes, if you count them as distinct items on a list, they are seven. But no, if you focus on the unity of the Church that they describe.

I have found this "list" referred to as the "seven unities." A little like the Trinity, where God is one and God is three, so the many dimensions of our Christian life are fundamentally one reality.

It is this relationship with the one body-Spirit-hope-Lord-faith-baptism-God and Father that moves us to desire to respond to others’ needs. How we put that in the Lord’s hands will vary immensely, and so will the wonders, the "signs," as John calls them, that the Lord will accomplish with what we give him to work with. Most often we will never know how or what, but we may have absolute confidence that nothing placed in his hands is ever wasted.

Sometimes, all we can offer is prayer. It is good then to remember the words of the great poet Tennyson: "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."

Do what we can, small or great. Give what we can, little or much. Leave the rest in the Lord’s hands.

July 24, 2015

Being Catholic in an Age of Challenge

I want to draw your attention to the recent pastoral letter by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D. C., Being Catholic Today: Catholic Identity in an Age of Challenge. There is a strong animus today against what we believe and our right to follow our faith convictions as Catholics. Cardinal Wuerl's letter is an excellent reflection on our freedom to be followers of Christ and some of the challenges of our age as we live and share our faith.

After Obergefell: The Church and the "New Normal"

George Weigel discusses the way forward for the Catholic Church in light of the Supreme Court's perilous Obergefell v. Hodges decision. In "The Church and the 'New Normal'" (The Catholic Difference,  June 26, 2015) he outlines seven thoughts:
(1) The Supreme Court of the United States [SCOTUS] has rendered a decision that puts the Court at odds with the Constitution, with reason, and with biblical religion.
(2) SCOTUS has gotten it wrong before. It got it wrong on race in Dred Scott and it repeated the mistake in  Plessy vs. Ferguson (which upheld segregated public facilities). It got it wrong by concocting a constitutional “right” to abortion-on-demand in Roe vs. Wade and doubled-down on that mistake by getting it wrong on abortion again in Casey vs. Planned Parenthood. Now SCOTUS has gotten it wrong on marriage. ...
(3) The marriage battle was lost in the culture long before it was lost in the courts. The foundations of our culture have eroded; now, the New Normal insists that literally everything is plastic, malleable, and subject to acts of human will. The result is a moment of profound moral incoherence in which understandings of human nature and human happiness that have stood the test of experience for millennia are being discarded as mere rubbish – and those who resist trashing the moral patrimony of humanity are dismissed as irrational bigots, religious fanatics, or both. ... 
(4) The Catholic Church in the United States bears its share of responsibility for this incoherence. It was clear sixty years ago that the old mainline Protestant cultural hegemony was fading, that an alternative cultural foundation for American democracy was necessary, and that a new cadre of citizen-leaders, capable of articulating the moral truths on which the American democratic experiment rests, had to be raised up... 
Read the rest here.

July 23, 2015

USCCB on the First Amendment Defense Act

The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has published a PDF explaining the First Amendment Defense Act. It answers questions about the act and its necessity, such as:

What would the First Amendment Defense Act do?

The First Amendment Defense Act (H.R. 2802, S. 1598) would bar the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations based upon their religious beliefs or moral convictions that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage. The Act provides broad protections against adverse federal actions directed toward individuals and organizations that act on such beliefs.

What are some examples of how such individuals and organizations would be protected?

The Act would prohibit the federal government from denying or revoking a nonprofit entity’s tax-exempt status. It would also prohibit the federal government from denying or excluding an individual or organization from a federal grant, contract, or employment. Indeed, the Act would bar any discrimination by the federal government against individuals or organizations based upon their religious belief or moral convictions that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage. The Act would also require the federal government to consider accredited any entity that failed to be accredited because of a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.

Who would the Act protect?

Importantly, the First Amendment Defense Act would protect a wide array of persons, including individuals and organizations – both for-profits and non-profits – regardless of whether or not they are religiously affiliated. Thus, business owners as well as faith communities would be protected.

Why is the First Amendment Defense Act needed?

The Act is needed because of growing intolerance toward religiously-minded individuals and organizations who want to live by their conviction that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage. There are increasing reports of individuals and organizations holding such beliefs being targeted for discrimination by state governments. This bill would prevent the federal government from engaging in similar discrimination.

NYT Magazine: "Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?" and a Work of Mercy in Response

Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine includes the article "Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?" by Eliza Griswold. It is worth your time albiet, prepare to be heartbroken. ISIS and other extremist movements across the region are enslaving, killing and uprooting Christians, with no relief in sight. It is nothing short of a holocaust. According to Pope Francis, "There are more Christian martyrs today than ever."  

You can help Christians suffering under the persecution of militant Islam in the Middle East and throughout the world. was founded by Father Benedict Kiely, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Stowe, Vermont in the Diocese of Burlington, and supported by the people and businesses there to help, in some small way, Christians suffering under the persecution of militant Islam throughout the world. This is a conflict that has been going on for centuries - and it will not end until the final victory of Christ.

Father Kiely was so concerned about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East that he started a website — — making available bracelets, lapel pins and zipper hooks with the Arabic letter designating “Nazarene,” which the Islamic State put on the homes of Christians to mark them for ostracization, harassment, and death. The letter has become a symbol of solidarity with Christians who have been driven out of their homes.

All proceeds from the items sold will go to the efforts of Aid to the Church in Need to help Christians in the region. Says Fr. Kiely, “I decided that the best thing to do would be to have all the money we raise from this project go directly to one charity with ‘boots on the ground.’ Aid to the Church in Need is well-positioned to ensure that those in need will receive the help they need.” 

You can show solidarity with, pray for and actively support Christians suffering under militant Islam. Please visit and contribute to this most noble cause by selecting from among their products or making a donation. 

Like them on Facebook, visit their blog, spread the word on social networks, and by word of mouth.

"Nazarenes at Home and Abroad," National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez Interview of Fr. Kiely

FNC: A symbol of hope for persecuted Christians.

EWTN: World Over - 2014-09-25 – Aiding Christians in Iraq, Fr. Benedict Keily with Raymond Arroyo

Icon of the 21 Coptic Christian Martyrs 
who have been officially recognized as Saints by the Coptic Church.
"So we're using this symbol, the Nasarene, to show the world that we're with our brothers and sisters and try to help them practically in some small way."
                                                                   - Father Benedict Kiely

July 22, 2015

A Prayer to Defund Planned Parenthood

Elizabeth exclaimed unto Mary:
"Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb."
Luke 1:42
Father Frank Pavone of Priest for Life told a Washington D.C. radio show that America and Planned Parenthood should brace for a video a week for the next five or six weeks exposing the ongoing trafficking in fetal body parts.
This is the first time that anyone from the inside of the investigation has hinted at what is to come, and that is an all-summer-long mirror showing America to itself and how many have become complacent with the underlying issue of abortion on demand.
Please recite this prayer to defund Planned Parenthood and for our nation to experience the renewal of human dignity, from conception until natural death, based on The Gospel of Life.

Prayer to Defund Planned Parenthood

Lord of Life and Truth,
Your Providence guides the course of history.
You have conquered death
And have made us the People of Life.
You call us to fight the evil of abortion
And the forces that promote it.
We therefore ask you to grant wisdom and mercy to our nation.
Give our government leaders the courage
To put an end to the funding
Of the largest abortion business in the world.
Give all of us the courage to insist
That public funding only be used
For the protection and promotion of life
Rather than for its destruction.
Give us hopeful hearts and joyful spirits
As we continue to proclaim, celebrate, and serve
The Gospel of Life.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

July 21, 2015

The Three Criteria of Moral Acts

Human beings are moral actors because, as persons, we have the capacity to make choices.  A person has an intellect with which to know and a will with which to choose.  As a result, a person is always a "someone," never a "something." Animals are incapable of sin. Their intellects are governed by instinct and they do not have free will. Only persons can freely choose and act out their choices.

We must weigh three criteria when judging a moral act good or bad:
  1. The act itself
  2. The person’s subjective motive
  3. The circumstances under which the act occurs
Every moral act consists of three criteria: the objective act (what we do), the subjective intention (why we act), and the situation or circumstances in which we act (where, when, how, etc.).

For an act to be morally good, what we do (the act itself), must be objectively good. Some acts are always wrong because they are intrinsically evil (i.e. the killing of innocents, torture, and rape).

The goal or intention is the subjective criterion of the moral act. For an action to be morally good, one's intention must be good. If our motivation is to do something for a bad intention— even something that is good, our action is immoral. The end does not justify the means.

Finally, the conditions under which an act occurs is a factor in considering whether an action is moral. For a husband to make love to his wife at a time when it is medically dangers to do so — and thus threaten her life — would be an example of a morally illicit act. Sexual congress between husband and wife, while normally a good thing, is rendered morally bad by virtue of the circumstances.

In weighing the three criteria, the act, the intention, and the situation must all be good in order for the act to be moral. Two out of three isn't good enough. You can't do the right thing for the wrong reasons. You can't do the wrong thing for the right reasons.  

Variously throughout history have existed alternate moral systems. Popular at the time of Christ, Legalism was a strict adherence to rules. You were good if you obeyed them. You were bad if you didn't.

More common in our time, subjectivism is the notion that as long as you are sincere, as long as you are loving, than your actions are noble. The only thing that matters is feelings.

Most common, Relativism is the idea that there are no moral absolutes. Everything is relative. Consequently, no idea is superior to any other. Morality is simply a matter of weighing factors.

The Christian vision of human morality is diametrically opposed to the legalism of the Pharisees, the subjectivism of hippies and the relativism of secular humanists. Jesus speaks of good and evil, vice and virtue, compassion and conversion. He tells us in no uncertain terms that we will be judged according to our actions. We must love selflessly and live honorably, "even unto death". Love enables courage and self-donation without asking the cost. In the process, faith replaces fallacy, sinners become saints, and what's fallen is redeemed.

Values clarification — that is too say, deciding who to throw overboard in a hypothetical survival situation where you are strained at sea in a boat with dwindling resources — is a poor substitute for knowing the mind of Christ and living his call to love.