Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Catholicism Trailer

New trailer on Fr. Barron's Catholicism series (**if you want to see the series in its entirety you may want to attend Catholicism 101 on Monday nights at 7pm this semester and/or RCIA on Thursday nights at 6pm):

h/t Matt Warner

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Don't Eat the Cheetos*

A new study shows that infant baptisms in the Catholic Church have been declining year by year along with the birth rate in the U.S.
When life in the womb is rejected, is it surprising that life in the spirit gets rejected also?  It's time for a new evangelization. 

It's not a coincidence that you are alive right now - God has placed you here at this moment in time to receive his grace and change the world.  God has called you by name to be a builder of the new evangelization.  I think of other moments in history when 'new evangelizations' were needed and the saints that stepped up and answered the call to get in the mud and dirt and start laying the foundations and their followers who began putting on the mortar and bricks to rebuild the Church - people like St. Francis, who literally heard God say to him, "Rebuild my Church", St. Dominic, St. Ignatius, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, etc., etc.  Now it's your time and God is calling you.  It's time to let go of the lure of mediocrity and tell comfort that you weren't made to be comfortable.  God is completely, totally, head over heels enamored by you - that's why you're here and why you feel like there is something more to life than just sitting around eating cheetos* and watching Jersey Shore. This is how 'enamored' is defined:
1. to fill or inflame with love
2. to charm or captivate.
God is INFLAMED with love of you!  How much He wants you to be who He made you to be!  We have so utterly downplayed what it means to be human that we don't even expect anyone, especially ourselves, to live lives of holiness and greatness anymore - and I'm not necessarily talking about becoming president or CEO of anything - I'm talking about listening to the voice of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit to be fully human and make a gift of yourself everyday - to love to the utmost EVERY day.  This is the call of the new evangelization - to become who you are.  Bl. JPII believed that you have the capability of becoming the greatest saints of the Church.  You're probably thinking that that's crazy, but let me remind you of the words of Jesus, "What is impossible with men, is possible with God." (Lk 18:27).  You were made for this moment in history to proclaim the new evangelization, to proclaim Jesus Christ, to a world desperately in need of Him.  Do not settle for the cheetos*.  They're fake and they don't satisfy.  Rise up and let the love of God cast out all your fear.  Sustained by the Eucharist and led by the Holy Spirit in the will of the Father,  you have absolutely nothing to fear.  All that is ahead of you is beauty.  You, saint of the third millenium, do not doubt the one God or the greatness to which He has called you.  "Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the third millenium!" (Bl. JPII)

Place all your trust in Him and be not afraid to take the leap of faith:

*No disrepect to the makers of Cheetos - I actually find them to be quite delicious but this is obviously just an analogy :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dreams Do Come True

Remember this post about the oldest cloistered nun in the world (103 yrs old) who has spent 84 years of her life in the cloister and wanted to meet Papa B when he was in Madrid for World Youth Day? 
Dreams do come true:

College Do's, Don'ts and Other Advice

Marcel has some good suggestions for new (and returning) students on college campuses in 10 Things I Wish I Knew My Freshman Year.  Here are a few:
 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 money and be creative with it....
 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.

1 - Church shouldn't be optional. 80% of active Catholics in high school lose their faith by the time they graduate college. So, how do you expect to keep your faith if you don't get active in your parish or campus ministry in college? Do yourself a favor and get involved in the Sacramental, social, service, and faith life at your campus ministry. You won't regret it.
Read the rest here.

I would also add "Know what poison ivy looks like and how to avoid it" - my first few days in college were spent with lots of calamine lotion. :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fr. Barron on Sexuality, Sacrifice & Love


Looking Back at WYD 2011

Favorite Quote from each of Pope Benedict's Addresses: Message for World Youth Day 2011:
Part of being young is desiring something beyond everyday life and a secure job, a yearning for something really, truly greater. Is this simply an empty dream that fades away as we become older? No! Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough. St Augustine was right when he said "our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you".
The desire for a more meaningful life is a sign that God created us and that we bear his "imprint". God is life, and that is why every creature reaches out towards life. Because human beings are made in the image of God, we do this in a unique and special way. We reach out for love, joy and peace. So we can see how absurd it is to think that we can truly live by removing God from the picture! God is the source of life. To set God aside is to separate ourselves from that source and, inevitably, to deprive ourselves of fulfilment and joy: "without the Creator, the creature fades into nothingness" (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 36).
The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations. They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life. But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected....
But, with all my heart, I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way he saved us.
Welcoming Ceremony by the Young People at Plaza de Cibeles:
Above all, seek the Truth, which is not an idea or an ideology or a slogan, but a person: Christ, God himself, who has come into our midst! You rightly wish to plant your faith in him, to ground your life in Christ. He has always loved you and he knows you better than anyone else.
Homily, Liturgy of the Word, Celebrated with Youth at Plaza de Cibeles:
Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves. They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment. These temptations are always lying in wait. It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God. We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation. God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with him and love him. Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in him, we give wings to our freedom. Is this not the great reason for our joy? Isn’t this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?
Meeting with Women Religious
Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. This is all the more important today when "we see a certain 'eclipse of God' taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity" (Message for the 2011 World Youth Day, 1). In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.
Meeting with University Professors (this was one of my favorite addresses):
I urge you, then, never to lose that sense of enthusiasm and concern for truth. Always remember that teaching is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people. You need to understand and love them, to awaken their innate thirst for truth and their yearning for transcendence. Be for them a source of encouragement and strength.
For this to happen, we need to realize in the first place that the path to the fullness of truth calls for complete commitment: it is a path of understanding and love, of reason and faith. We cannot come to know something unless we are moved by love; or, for that matter, love something which does not strike us as reasonable. "Understanding and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in understanding and understanding is full of love" (Caritas in Veritate, 30). If truth and goodness go together, so too do knowledge and love. This unity leads to consistency in life and thought, that ability to inspire demanded of every good educator.
In the second place, we need to recognize that truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp. We can seek it and draw near to it, but we cannot completely possess it; or put better, truth possesses us and inspires us. In intellectual and educational activity the virtue of humility is also indispensable, since it protects us from the pride which bars the way to truth. We must not draw students to ourselves, but set them on the path toward the truth which we seek together. The Lord will help you in this, for he asks you to be plain and effective like salt, or like the lamp which quietly lights the room (cf. Mt 5:13).
Way of the Cross in the Plaza de Cibeles:
The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving in love that extends even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life. The Father wanted to show his love for us through the embrace of his crucified Son: crucified out of love. The Cross, by its shape and its meaning, represents this love of both the Father and the Son for men. Here we recognize the icon of supreme love, which teaches us to love what God loves and in the way that he loves: this is the Good News that gives hope to the world.
Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surroundings that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.
Visit to San Jose Foundation for Disabled Youth (this entire speech was awesome):
..."the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer … A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through 'com-passion' is a cruel and inhuman society" (Spe Salvi, 38). These words reflect a long tradition of humanity which arises from Christ's own self-offering on the Cross for us and for our redemption. Jesus and, in his footsteps, his Sorrowful Mother and the saints, are witnesses who shows us how to experience the tragedy of suffering for our own good and for the salvation of the world.  These witnesses speak to us, first and foremost, of the dignity of all human life, created in the image of God.  No suffering can efface this divine image imprinted in the depths of our humanity.
Prayer Vigil with Young People:
Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in his love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.
If you abide in the love of Christ, rooted in the faith, you will encounter, even amid setbacks and suffering, the source of true happiness and joy. Faith does not run counter to your highest ideals; on the contrary, it elevates and perfects those ideals. Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.
Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: "Who do you say that I am?" Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: "Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me"....
...Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so "on his own", or to approach the life of faith with kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.
 Post-Angelus Address at Cuatro Vientos Airport:
Dear friends, before we say good-bye, Successor of Peter I entrust all of you present with this task: make the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ known to the whole world! He wants you to be the apostles of the twenty-first century and the messengers of his joy. Do not let him down! ...He sends you out to be his witnesses, courageous and without anxiety, authentic and credible! Do not be afraid to be Catholic, and to be witnesses to those around you in simplicity and sincerity! Let the Church find in you and in your youthfulness joyful missionaries of the Good News of salvation!
Meeting with Volunteers of the 26th WYD:
Perhaps many of you felt a very simple question forming in your hearts, faintly or forcefully as the case may be: What is God asking me to do? What is his plan for my life? Is Christ asking me to follow him more closely? Should I not spend my whole life in the mission to proclaim to the world the greatness of his love through the priesthood, or the consecrated life, or marriage? If this question has surfaced, let the Lord be your guide and become volunteers in the service of the One who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). Your life will achieve fulfilment in ways you cannot imagine.
Young people readily respond when one proposes to them, in sincerity and truth, an encounter with Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer of humanity. ... There is no reason to lose heart in the face of the various obstacles we encounter in some countries. The yearning for God which the Creator has placed in the hearts of young people is more powerful than all of these, as is the power from on high which gives divine strength to those who follow the Master and who seek in him nourishment for life. Do not be afraid to present to young people the message of Jesus Christ in all its integrity, and to invite them to celebrate the sacraments by which he gives us a share in his own life.
Ok, so it ended up being more than just 'a favorite quote' from each of Papa B's addresses - it was more like 'favorite paragraphs'!

St. John of Avila: 34th Doctor of the Church

Pope Benedict announced during WYD that he will proclaim St. John of Avila as the 34th Doctor of the Church. 
St. John of Avila was born in 1500 in the town of Almodovar del Campo, 155 miles south of Madrid. A Christian of Jewish descent, he studied law at the University of Salamanca before being ordained a priest. He went on to become a great preacher, author and mystic, writing works that influenced St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Francis Borgia among others. 
His best-known works include “Audi Fili,” a tract on Christian perfection, and his collected spiritual letters to his followers. He was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970, with his feast day falling on May 10.
The title of ‘Doctor of the Church’ is bestowed upon a saint whose writings are deemed to be of universal importance to the Church. The Pope must also declare the individual to be of “eminent learning” and “great sanctity.” Other Doctors of the Church include St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Catherine of Siena.
Continue Reading

So this brings the list of Doctors of the Church to (in no particular order):
St. John of Avila
St. Catherine of Siena
St. Therese of Lisieux
St. Teresa of Avila (Avila is obviously one holy place!)
St. Bede the Venerable
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Augustine
St. Jerome
St. Ambrose
St. Gregory the Great
St. Athanasius
St. Basil the Great
St. Gregory Nazianzen
St. John Chrysostom
St. Ephraem the Deacon
St. Hilary (not Hillary - St. Hilary was a guy)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
St. Cyril of Alexandria
St. Leo the Great
St. Peter Chrysologus
St. Isidore of Seville
St. Peter Damascene
St. Anselm
St. Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Anthony of Padua
St. Albert the Great
St. Bonaventure
St. Peter Canisius
St. John of the Cross
St. Robert Bellarmine
St. Lawrence of Brindisi
St. Francis de Sales
St. Alphonsus Ligouri
Learn more here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin

CCC 966: "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:
In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.
Learn more about this dogma here.

Saint of Auschwitz

Yesterday was the memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe who was canonized by Bl. John Paul the Great on Oct. 10, 1982.  This guy was holy.  He was a Polish Franciscan priest and missionary travelling in Asia spreading the faith as well as utilizing print media to evangelize which is why he is considered a patron of journalists.  He had a deep love for Our Lady and was a strong advocate of consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary.  He founded the Militia of the Immaculata to encourage devotion to the Blessed Mother.
Bl. John Paul the Great in 1979
placing a vigil candle in the block
where St. Maximillian Kolbe died.
He is mostly known for his martyrdom on August 14, 1941 at Auschwitz.  As you'll learn in the video below: After the escape of a prisoner, the commandant ordered 10 men from the escapee's bunker to be selected and thrown into a cell block to be starved until they died.  One of the men selected expressed sorrow for what would happen to his wife and children were he to die.  Hearing this, Fr. Kolbe stepped up to the commandant, told him he was a Catholic priest and offered to take the man's place.  The commandant agreed and the man's life was spared.  Fr. Kolbe along with the other nine chosen men were taken to the block where they would be starved for several days.  Fr. Kolbe was a great spiritual support to the other men.  Most of them died from starvation but Fr. Kolbe continued to live along with three others. It was decided that the block was needed for other purposes, so on August 14, the vigil of the Solemnity of the Assumption (very fitting considering Fr. Kolbe's devotion to the Immaculate), the four men were injected with carbolic acid. 

"No one in the world can change truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it." -- St. Maximilian Kolbe

Friday, August 12, 2011

WYD from Cape Girardeau (or wherever you happen to be)

World Youth Day is quickly approaching August 16-21.
For those of us that can't make it to WYD in Madrid there are several ways in which we can still see and hear the main events and liturgies. Here is the info for tuning in to television stations or online streaming so you can participate in WYD from home:

Broadcast Region: Canada on cable or satellite
Live Streaming Online?: Yes

Broadcast Region: Worldwide on cable or satellite
Live Streaming Online?: Yes
Online Live Steaming (Roll over 'television'; 'Live-English'; 'US'; click and a pop up player will appear)

Broadcast Region: United States on cable or satellite
Live Streaming Online?: Yes
Online Live Streaming (click on 'Watch CatholicTV Live' on the top right hand column for a pop up player)

So I just found out about this but you still have a month and a half if you want to participate.  Hosted by the JPII Institute this is the first annual Fr. Michal J. McGivney Essay Contest in which junior and senior year college students are asked to write an essay on a particular aspect "on the themes of culture, person, God, love, marriage, and family, especially as developed in the theological work of John Paul II and Benedict XVI."  The topic for his year's contest seems to be on the relationship between freedom and truth:
Commenting in 1993 on problems in modern ethical thought, John Paul II spoke of a general tendency of "detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth" (Veritatis Splendor, 4).  He also made the following claim: "The attempt to set freedom in opposition to truth, and indeed to separate them radically, is the consequence, manifestation and consummation of another more serious and destructive dichotomy, that which separates faith from morality" (Ibid., 88).  What does it mean to speak of an "essential and constitutive relationship" of freedom to truth?  If freedom needs truth, does truth need freedom?  How do both need faith?  Write an essay discussing these questions.
Ok, so get out your Veritatis Splendor, Fides et Ratio, Love and Responsibility, Caritas in Veritate, etc. and get to writing! The winner will receive $2000 and the runner-up will receive $750.  Find out more details here.


This made me laugh out loud.  I love being Catholic.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

World Youth Day pilgrims have been inundating Europe this week as many are taking the opportunity not just to travel to Madrid but also to make pilgrimages to other holy sites in Europe such as Lourdes, Rome, Fatima, etc.
The Knights of Columbus and the Sisters of Life are hosting an English-speaking pilgrim site at the Palacio de Deportes in Madrid called the Love and Life Center.  This place is gonna be hoppin' with fabulous speakers, musicians, etc.
I'll highlight just a couple of the musicians and speakers briefly:
Mike Mangione and the Union - ya'll remember Mike and the band when they were here last April - you can be reminded of their awesomeness here:
Offering by LLRLRR

L'Angelus - family Cajun and Irish influenced band originally from Louisiana; taking their name from the beautiful Marian prayer traditionally prayed at 6am, Noon and 6pm, so-called because of the opening line: “the angel of the Lord declared unto Mary...”.  Here is a video of their performance at last January's FOCUS Conference held in Nashville:

Chris Stefanick: Steubenville graduate, Director of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver and talented speaker. Here's some video clips from a talk he did also at a FOCUS Conference:

Fr. Robert Barron who makes regular appearances on the blog.
You can see the list of all the other performers and speakers at the Love & Live Center here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Great video.  If you're a regular reader or CCMer, you'll see why I think so when you watch it :)

St. Dominic and the Order of Preachers

Today is the Feast of St. Dominic who is an incredibly important saint in the life of the Church.  St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers in the early thirteenth century.  The Order was widely successful in refuting the Albigensian heresy which taught that all matter was evil.  The Dominicans are still known for their charism of preaching and have had a profound effect on the life of the Church throughout history.  The Pope even wears white because of the Dominicans (whose habit is white - when St. Pius V was elected to the Papacy he wanted to retain his white Dominican habit and it basically stuck).  Many great saints were members of the Dominican order whether as friars, sisters or layperons, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Martin de Porres, St. Catherine of Siena, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, etc.  Another interesting fact is that the Dominicans and Franciscans are so closely tied that both orders refer to the others founder as 'Holy Father Dominic/Francis' and so today is a solemnity not only for the Dominicans but also for the Franciscans.  You can read more about the life of St. Dominic here and here (this link has a lot of miraculous stories which are pretty cool).

This day actually provides the opportunity to start something that I had been thinking of lately which is to highlight a particular religious order on the blog around once a month, and so today we will begin with the Dominican Province of St. Joseph.  This particular province has friars located mainly in the northeastern part of the United States with some located as far west and south as Kentucky.  Many of our students will recall visiting the Dominican House of Studies in D.C. during our trip to the March for Life (pictured above) which serves as a priory for members of the province.  I really encourage you to check out their website (which I'm quite impressed with) - they have a lot of great information including videos, blogs, articles, etc. For all the young men who are discerning a call to the priesthood or religious life as a brother, this order is definitely worth checking out. They have 'Come and See' weekends coming up which you can find out about here.  And speaking of vocations, many of the brothers will be making solemn profession this Saturday, August 13th at the Dominican House of Studies, so I'm sure they would appreciate some prayers on that day.  There are nine brothers professing, including my great friend, Br. Peter Martyr.  All in all, the Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph are quite simply awesome.

This is a great video featuring 21 young men receiving the habit as novices and 8 novices making simple profession.  One thing about this order that is striking is that their numbers are growing at an amazing rate - 21 new novices in this video!  God is still calling people to give everything to Him and His people in a beautiful gift of self.  Young people want truth, not watered-down fluff.  The orders that are unwaveringly committed to the Truth and orthodoxy are the ones that are growing - and this is proof:

Leaving All Things Behind from Province of Saint Joseph on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"If we really understood the Mass,
we would die of joy."
- St. John Marie Vianney

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pregnancy is Not a Disease

You may have heard at this point that health insurance in the U.S. is now going to be required to include contraceptives with no co-pay.  This is seriously alarming, particularly for Catholics and other Christians who recognize the harm that contraceptives do to women, marriages and newly conceived children (as contraceptives can also work as abortifacients).  If you would like to see some reasons why contraceptives are harmful you can see Marcel's list here.

In reading about this turn of events I was shocked (sort of) by the statements that were being made regarding this new mandate and the use of contraceptives.  For example, Kathleen Sebelius reportedly said the following:
Not doing it [providing contraceptive coverage] would be like not covering flu shots.
How did this disordered thought process of thinking that a human life is like a virus creep into our mentality?  As Cardinal DiNardo said in his statement:
Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible....I can only conclude that there is an ideology at work in these recommendations that goes beyond any objective assessment of the health needs of women and children.
Cynthia Pearson of the National Women's Health Network, which is apparently quite happy about free contraception, had this to say:
Over a span of generations from grandmothers to granddaughters, we have come from birth control being a hope and a wish — and almost luck — to being recognized as a part of health care that improves women's health.
Improves women's health?  In fact, particularly if we're talking about the pill, contraceptives may endanger women's health. The Mayo Clinic says the following:
Side effects of combination birth control pills may include:
An increased risk of deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke and cervical cancer
Elevated blood pressure
Breast tenderness
Mood changes
Etcetera.  Dr. Rebecca Peck of Physicians for Life recently wrote an article titled: "Significant Risks of Oral Contraceptives (OCPs): Why This Drug Class Should NOT Be Included In a Preventative Care Mandate" which you can read here. Not only may it cause both major and minor health risks but contraceptives have undeniably led to a tremendous increase in women being treated as objects, as well as an increase in abortion rates (which may be linked to breast cancer increases), all of which may also lead to a decrease in emotional and mental health.  Then of course there are the abortifacient properties of oral contraceptives:  the pill works in three ways - 1) it suppresses ovulation; 2) it thins the cervical mucus making sperm migration more difficult 3) it thins the lining of the uterine wall thereby causing difficulty for a newly fertilized egg (ie. a new human life) to implant in the womb. Now I'm not a doctor, so I'm not saying that there are absolutely no health benefits whatsoever, but after examining the evidence I certainly would not classify contraceptives as "improving women's health".

I echo Cardinal DiNardo's comments:
The IOM [Institute of Medicine] missed an opportunity to promote better health care for women that is life-affirming and truly compassionate.  I once again urge the Department of Health and Human Services to focus on the need of all Americans, including immigrants and the poor, for basic life-saving health coverage – not on mandating controversial elective practices in ways that undermine the good of women and children, the consciences of employers, employees and health plan providers, and the common good.
Speaking of consciences, the mandate obviously violates the conscience rights of American citizens.  It seems there is some kind of religious exemption, but there are serious problems with it.  Cardinal DiNardo:
Although this new rule gives the agency the discretion to authorize a ‘religious’ exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers....For example, under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics...Could the federal government possibly intend to pressure Catholic institutions to cease providing health care, education and charitable services to the general public? Health care reform should expand access to basic health care for all, not undermine that goal.
Thankfully there is a bill being co-sponsored by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (who by the way, is a fellow Franciscan University of Steubenville alum and who gave the most recent Graduate Commencement address at the University which you can watch below) and Dan Boren called the "Respect for Rights of Conscience Act" which you can read and see who else is signing on to the bill here.  Cardinal DiNardo said of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act:
It’s now more vital than ever that Congress pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act to close the gaps in conscience protection in the new health care reform act, so employers and employees alike will have the freedom to choose health plans in accordance with their deeply held moral and religious beliefs.
So this is all to say: 1) pray for a renewed and right understanding of human sexuality and who we are made to be; 2) contact your representative and let them know that you do not want this contraceptive mandate and urge them to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011.  At this time, according to the Act's bill summary it looks like it has 36 co-sponsors with only one rep. from Missouri and one rep. from Illinois (the two states from which most of you reading this are probably from).  So to make it easy for you all you have to do is click here to find out who your rep. is and contact them at the address or phone number that comes up.

To wrap it up, I think Cardinal DiNardo says it best:
HHS says the intent of its ‘preventive services’ mandate is to help ‘stop health problems before they start, but pregnancy is not a disease, and children are not a ‘health problem’ – they are the next generation of Americans.
Wow, that was a long post - and we didn't even get into the philosophical or theological problems with contraceptive use.  Maybe we'll do that in another post. :)

In the meantime, enjoy Rep. Fortenberry's commencement address - don't forget that amidst all the turmoil, hope is always present: 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Video of CCM Pilgrims in Europe

Rita Jo Dirnberger and Chris Horan, two of the pilgrims who went with CCM to France, Spain & Portugal this summer, put together a nice video of pictures from the trip - check it out:

Fr. Barron on Lasting Friendships

I'll be writing some on this topic as regards Bl. JPII's Love & Responsibility because he addresses this very concept in the first chapter - I've been slow on my follow up posts on L&R but I hope this week to catch up with it...