Friday, March 30, 2012

Cardinal Dolan on Holy Week

Viva Cristo Rey

In the early 20th century the Church in Mexico underwent fierce persecution when the government outlawed the faith.  Thanks to the brave faithful, both laity and clergy, who become known as "cristeros" (soldiers for Christ) and valiantly fought for their freedom, the faith still exists in Mexico today.  Many martyrs came from this tragic circumstance including Bl. Miguel Pro, who I've mentioned before here, who was a priest during the war which lasted from 1926-1929.  He was martyred in 1927 when he was captured by the government and put before a firing squad.  Before his death he prayed, forgave his executioners and stretched his arms in the form of a cross proclaiming the mantra of the cristeros, "Viva Cristo Rey" (Long live Christ the King).  There were also many other martyrs throughout the cristeros war including members of the Knights of Columbus, many of whom were beatified by Bl. John Paul II in 2000.  There are some really inspiring stories of some of the priests who were martyred here which I encourage you to quickly read.  The stories of lay people also being martyred are quite numerous including the story of Servant of God Maria de la Luz Camacho, who was martyred on the back end of the persecution in 1934.  Her story is published in Saintly Women of Modern Times by Joan Carroll Cruz which shares that drunk and hostile men approached a church in which children were attending Mass, Maria and some other women stood between the men and the doors to prevent the men from entering.  The men shot her and the other women on the steps of the church as she also exclaimed, "Viva Cristo Rey!". 

The cristeros war is the subject of a movie to be released in the U.S. this June called "Cristiada" which has been endorsed by the Knights of Columbus.  The synopsis of the movie from the website is:
A chronicle of the Cristeros War (1926-1929), which was touched off by a rebellion against the Mexican government's attempt to secularize the country.  The film follows the stories of ordinary people from across the country who choose to stand up for their freedom.  Caught up in a full-fledged civil war, they all must decide how far they are willing to go and what they're willing to risk.
The cast includes star of Bella, Eduardo Verastegui.  Enjoy the trailer here:

Prayers for Our Friends at Vanderbilt+Catholic

This week our friends at Vanderbilt+Catholic announced that they will not re-register as a student organization at Vanderbilt in the fall due to a university policy requiring student leadership positions in student organizations to be open to any student whatsoever (for example the ministry would have to be open to allowing a non-Catholic to be in a position of leadership for their Catholic organization) - a policy which basically throws all common sense out the window.  Regardless of whether an organization is Catholic or not, it would make no sense to have leaders who are not in agreement with and living out the mission of the organization.  For example, for the sake of argument, would it make sense to have a vegetarian in charge of the bacon club?  Neither does it make sense to have anyone but a practicing Catholic in leadership for a Catholic organization, a practicing Baptist in leadership at a Baptist organization, a practicing Buddhist in charge of a Buddhist organization, an atheist in leadership of an atheist organization, etc.  You get the point.  It's a contradiction all in the name of false tolerance.  To have someone who believes in and stives to live out the identity of the organization in leadership is not discrimination, it's sensible and logical.  Are all students welcome to be involved at Vanderbilt+Catholic?  Of course.  Can anyone be in a leadership position in representing them?  No and it would be scandalous if the answer were yes.  Here is a portion of what the chaplain, Fr. John Sims Baker, of Vanderbilt+Catholic wrote to students, alumni and friends:
As you well know, the controversy over religious freedom has been brewing all year at Vanderbilt University.   With the publication of the  non-discrimination  policy finally  released last week, it is undeniable that Vanderbilt University has forced our hand.  Vanderbilt+Catholic will not re-register as a student organization at Vanderbilt University, effective Fall Semester 2012.
But we will not cease to exist.  As God has clearly closed this door, He has also clearly opened other windows of opportunity to propose Jesus Christ and to form His disciples at Vanderbilt and at other campuses throughout the city.
The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to Vanderbilt+Catholic students by our student board:
      After much reflection, discussion, and prayer, we have decided that Vanderbilt+Catholic cannot in good conscience affirm that we comply with this policy.  While organizational skills and leadership abilities are important qualifications for leaders of Vanderbilt+Catholic, the primary  qualification for  leadership is  Catholic  faith  and  practice.  We are a faith-based organization.  A Catholic student organization  led by  someone who neither professes the Catholic faith nor strives to live it out would not be able to serve its members as an authentically Catholic organization.  We cannot sign the affirmation form because to do so would be to lie to the university and to ourselves about who we are as an organization.
     While this policy may change our status as a registered student organization, it will not change our mission.  We will continue to serve the Vanderbilt community as a welcoming and faithful Catholic campus ministry, proposing Jesus Christ in all that we do.
I am proud of our student leaders. This is exactly the fruit that an authentic campus ministry should produce.   Their resolve makes our situation a success story rather than a failure. It has become quite clear to the students that we either stand for something or fall for anything.  We choose to stand for Jesus Christ, and we expect that our leadership do the same.              
With Bishop Choby’s complete support, we will continue to serve the students of Vanderbilt as a non-registered ministry.  We will open our doors wider in order to make a greater effort to reach out to the Vanderbilt campus and to all college students in Nashville.
Read the entire letter here.  God's blessings upon them as they continue to serve the students of Vanderbilt as a non-registered ministry.

Cardinal Dolan Makes the Media Rounds

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"God is the source of true joy."

G.K. Chesterton said, "Joy is the gigantic secret of the Christian."  Pope Benedict's Message for World Youth Day 2012 is focused on Christian joy and man, is it good!  Please read the whole thing if you can because it is well worth it.  Joy is necessary for effective evangelization and we Christians have much to be joyful about: 
Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, he is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love him. God created us in his image out of love, in order to shower his love upon us and to fill us with his presence and grace. God wants us to share in his own divine and eternal joy, and he helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God. If God accepts me and loves me and I am sure of this, then I know clearly and with certainty that it is a good thing that I am alive”.
Read it all here.
Thanks to Chris Stefanick for giving a great presentation on the dangers of moral relativism last week on campus and thanks to all who came out to attend.  Student Daniel Ruble wrote a great article for the student newspaper about the event which you can read here.   Here's an excerpt: 
Relativism is the ideology that someone can believe something and someone else can believe something completely different, but they will both be right.
"Relativism is the philosophy that there is no truth," Stefanick said. "There is no reality outside of us. Most people today are relativist with just about everything besides math and science. Everything that is scientifically verifiable is true for everyone. No one is going to say 2 plus 2 is 4, but it might be 5 for you."
Stefanick said the idea that there is objective truth should be realized.
"When we take things like ethics, questions of right or wrong, questions of who God is, and we break it down to the level of personal preference, it's subjective," Stefanick said. "Pope Benedict said that relativism is the greatest problem of our time. We can't get away from it. It's hard to even step outside of the frame work that society holds, and if you dare say something like I'm right about x, y or z it will send a chill up people's spines."
Find out more about Chris and find resources about the dangers of relativism here.

Fr. Barron on Palm Sunday

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Love Women, Fight Porn

Praying to End Pornagraphy: Calgary, Alberta Canada from on Vimeo.

[God] assigns as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman: and simultaneously... he also assigns to every woman the dignity of every man. - Pope John Paul II

There are good men in this world as this video demonstrates.  We ladies should encourage them in striving for holiness and authenticity.  Men need to hear things like this from women:

We believe that you are strong and capable.  We believe that you are made for more than treating yourself and us as objects.  We believe that you can live up to the high expectations of being holy men of God ready to protect, defend and honor all that is true, good and beautiful. Too often the deceiver's lies have crept into your heart making you believe that you are not capable of living up to the mission you have been given; that you aren't good enough or strong enough to be a real man; that you're not needed or that we won't appreciate your self-sacrifice and love you in return.  But we know that with God's grace you have the ability to be who God made you to be.  You were made to be an icon of the sincere gift of self that Jesus Christ gave on the cross for his bride, the Church.  We need your help in knowing who we are as women and the best way you can help us is to know who you are as a man.  Don't let a fear of failure stop you from greatness.  Don't let regret from past mistakes stop you from receiving God's forgiveness and strength.  We believe in you - even if you find yourself in the midst of struggle, we believe that by God's grace and mercy the sins and vices in your life can be overcome and you can be free of whatever is holding you back from becoming the man God has made you to be.  Remember that it's all by God's grace and you were made for more.  The world needs real men to stand up and defend the truth, to be humble before God, to show women that we are worthy of being cherished and protected, to be warriors of goodness - you can do this - God has already put this desire in you and we know you can live it.  Thank you to all the men out there striving for authentic masculinity.  We need your witness because by your gift we are reminded of God's very love poured out for us. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Leap of Faith

My favorite line: 'well, here goes...something...I guess."

We all have moments just like this little girl - where we stand at the top of a metaphorical ski jump.  Standing at the top we look out and see the steepness and think of the speed and the possible consequences - all the 'what ifs' start floating through our minds - 'what if...I get hurt', 'what if...I fail', 'what if...something goes wrong', 'what if...I make the wrong decision', etc.

But what if...we try a different perspective:  'what if...something beautiful comes of it', 'what makes me happy', 'what if...I trust that God will lead me', 'what's the best experience of my life', 'what's the best decision for me right now', 'what if...this will help me become a saint'. 

God will at some time in your life, usually multiple times actually, ask you to take a leap of faith.  The question is will you jump or let fear overcome you?  Probably the most inspiring part of this video is that the girl is nervous and a little afraid at the top, but she has the resolve and courage to go for it.  What she experiences is a great analogy of the spiritual life: we're presented with an opportunity to trust God; we have the desire to follow his will, but we're afraid because we don't know how it's going to turn out; we have to remind ourselves that God is faithful and with him we can do all things ('I'll be fine', 'you can do this'); we have to engage our free will to follow him ('I'll do it', 'I'm gonna jump'); we pray and seek intercession, listening to the encouragement and witness of the saints (listen closely in the background and you hear adults who've made the jump before say things to her like 'you got it', 'you'll be fine', 'the longer you wait, you'll be more scared', and other comments telling her what it will be like and that it will be ok); finally you're given the grace of the Holy Spirit to conquer your natural fear with the supernatural gift of fortitude and you make the jump ('Here...I...go').  Then you land and you notice your fear has given way to joy and with hands in the air you hear yourself, 'Yeah!', ''s so fun!', 'Whooooo!'. 

John Paul II, who was an avid skier, was presented with many opportunities to jump or let fear overcome him, both physically and spiritually. By the grace of God, he jumped.  Perhaps this is why he was such an advocate of encouraging youth to be involved with sports: learning to make physical jumps on skis and spiritual jumps in the heart are connected. "Do not be afraid.  Do not settle for mediocrity.  Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." ~ Bl. John Paul II

Having trust and taking a leap in the direction God calls you isn't always easy, but it is always an adventure full of joy and reward.  God knows what you need and what is best for you.  Don't let a fear of the unknown stop you from following his will for you.  Just remember God knows even when you don't and his love is greater than any fear.

Every Life is Beautiful

Today is World Down Syndrome Day and the International Down Syndrome Coalition created this beautiful video as a witness to the dignity of all human life:

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Motive of Sacrifice

"One cannot love without suffering, or suffer without loving." ~ St. Gianna Molla

Sacrifice and love are intimately linked.  It's actually quite easy to see where a person's love is directed: for whom is this person willing to sacrifice his/her own will/desires/wants/needs? Think of the times that you have willingly sacrificed what you wanted for the good of another person or when someone else has willingly sacrificed for your good.  When we choose to sacrifice, to give the gift of ourselves, for someone we do so out of love for that person.  We love the other so much that we are willing to give up our own often selfish desire - to lay down our lives for the other. After all, didn't Jesus say, 'There is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend.'? 

During Lent as we meditate on the Passion of the Lord we are really meditating on God's love for us.  "For God so LOVED the world, that he gave his only Son...".  God loves us so much that he was willing to give completely of himself, to literally sacrifice himself, for our good - for our salvation. 

From the very beginning God proves his love for us - the very fact that Jesus would leave the place of his glory in heaven to become man is an act of sacrifice for us.  Jesus truly suffered throughout his life, but, of course, particularly during his passion.  In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus experienced the very real human reality of being faced with suffering.  Bl. John Paul II in his Aposolic Letter Salvifici Doloris said:
The words: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt", and later: "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done", have a manifold eloquence. They prove the truth of that love which the only-begotten Son gives to the Father in his obedience. At the same time, they attest to the truth of his suffering.
Jesus was face to face with suffering.  He knew the great pain it would involve because all his life he had seen the sacrifices of the lambs in the Temple.  He understood what was about to happen.  But love compelled him.  His Sacred Heart was so on fire with love of the Father and of us that when faced with sacrifice, he said yes, 'Thy will be done.' 

For some reason one of the most powerful mysteries of the Rosary to me is the scourging at the pillar.  Maybe because that is the first mega-intense moment of his passion and usually the first step can be the hardest.  Sometimes I wonder what he may have been thinking just as the first scourge was about to happen, then if he was even able to think at all through the rest of it due to the pain.  Every time I can only come to the conclusion that he must've been thinking purely of love.  His love for the Father.  His love for our Lady and her Immaculate Conception.  His love for John, Peter, James, the woman at the well, Mary Magdalen, Zaccheus, for you, for me and even for Judas. And as he thought of us as the first whip came hurling toward him his love kept him on the pillar knowing his sacrifice would be worth it - that you are worth it.

The essence of sacrifice is love. Love wills the good of another person even at cost to yourself.  We know God loves us because he proves it on the cross. Love was on his mind as he watched the nails be placed on his hands, as they were driven through and as he hung from them. Love was on his mind because you're worth it. 

"For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." (Luke 12:34).  What you place value/worth on is where you place your love.  And where you place your love is where you place your willingness to sacrifice.  You are God's treasure. You are worth every lash, every thorn, every jeer, every nail, every drop of his most precious Blood.   Your heart is his treasure. Let his heart be yours.
This is great:

Thanks to Marcel.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Strength of the Altar

Two nights ago tornadoes made their way through Missouri and Illinois.  About 100 miles from Cape in a small town there was a church that was destroyed.  From WPSD:
In nearby Ridgway, Illinois, damage included the 200-year-old St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which was heavily damaged during the storms.
Apparently this was one of, if not the, oldest Catholic church in Illinois.  But all was not lost - look closely at this picture:
The high altar containing the tabernacle can be seen still standing in the center-left of the picture.  I assume the Blessed Sacrament was, therefore, unharmed. 

Even amidst destruction, pain and sorrow - all is never lost.  Even when we sin - all is never lost.  Even when we feel forgotten - all is never lost.  Even when we are overwhelmed - all is never lost.  Even when the weight seems like more than we can carry - all is never lost.  Why?  Because God always IS.   No matter what is going on in your life the truth is that you are loved by God and you have a purpose.  Original sin messed things up, but it didn't mess it up completely.  Although we have experienced corruption, we are still intrinsically good and Jesus Christ came to cleanse us of the stains we have accumulated through sin. 

Looking at the photo it's easy to focus on all the destruction that is present, but God wants us to focus on the unharmed altar and tabernacle - there is a reason for our hope and his name is Jesus.