Monthly Archives: February 2012

New Evangelization 7

Hey folks! We’re finally at the end of journey through Cardinal Dolan’s speech last week about the New Evangelization. The full speech is here, and don’t forget to read Part 1 & Part 2!  Let’s get right into the last part of the Cardinal’s speech.

Pillar 7

“Joy, love . . . and, last point . . . sorry to bring it up, . . . but blood.”

Blood. What we’re talking about here is, of course, martyrdom. In his speech, Cardinal Dolan referenced the connection between the color of his biretta he wears as a Cardinal (red) with his call to shed his blood for the sake of the Church and the spread of the Faith. Let us pray that he will never have to take that step, but that if he does he has the courage to accomplish God’s will.

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” Tertullian tells us in Apologeticum. The witness of the Church’s martyrs shouts out to people and evangelizes in a way that words never could. Eleven of the 12 Apostles died a martyr’s death, all choosing to die for our faith rather than live without it. My patron saint, St. Sebastian, was martyred in the early church during the Roman persecutions. Our Church’s history is riddled with examples of men and women shedding their blood for Christ and His Church.

Martyrdom, however, is not something reserved only for Cardinals and Popes. We all must be ready to shed our blood for Christ. Thankfully, many of us will never be asked to shed our blood for our Faith. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot be martyrs. Several bishops have predicted coming persecution for the American Church, where clergy and laity alike could be arrested for proclaiming the Truth. Among those bishops are Cardinal Burke and Bishop Aquila of Fargo, ND.

Taking a look at current events makes it obvious that this is where our country is headed. Sure, the current HHS mandate may yet be tossed away, or at least provide true exemptions for religious employers. But the attack on our Church will not end there. A time is coming, earlier rather than later, when we will be faced with a choice: either be true to the Church or follow the law. The HHS mandate is only the beginning of the war on the Church. We must be prepared to fight this battle!

What a wonderful thing to think about heading into Lent, right? (BTW, Ash Wednesday is tomorrow. Ready to explain those ashes? I found this piece by Mark Hart to be extremely helpful :)) That brings us to the other reason for this post – Lent. Most years, I hear a lot of people talk about giving something up, fasting from something. I am right on board with that. But not drinking coffee for 40 days really only deals with 1 of the 3 pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.

In order to best participate in Lent, we should reflect on ways we can progress in all three areas of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I’ve found it effective to couple up those pillars. For example, this Lent I will be fasting from watching TV shows. Instead of watching TV, I’ve decided to pray with Scripture more. I found a good “Read the Bible in a Year” plan here (FYI, this one also includes part of the Catechism to finish that in a year too!). See how that works? It’s like killing two birds with one stone.

So, what things do you do routinely that are unnecessary? Do you watch way too much TV like me? How about Facebook? Fast from that, and in place of it take up some prayerful activity. For the almsgiving part, maybe pick up a CRS Ricebowl from your parish tomorrow and fill it with loose change.

One more idea to cover all 3: Skip your morning Dunkin Donuts run for Lent. Fast from your coffee, then give that money to charity. Then, with the time you save by not making that extra stop in the morning, pray a Rosary daily, or head to daily Mass if you can!

Now, last week I promised an announcement of some sort. Well, here it is: every week during Lent (and maybe beyond) I’ll post a reflection on the Sunday readings. Look for them around Thursday of Friday each week (maybe you could even make that part of your Lenten observance; it would definitely be penitential to read what I have to say).

Anyway, after this marathon couple of days blogging, it’s time to take a break. Happy feasting on this Fat Tuesday; enjoy it while it lasts (another 7 hours or so). Stay strong during Lent!

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New Evangelization, 4-6

Earlier today, I wrote about the first 3 parts of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s approach to the New Evangelization. In case you missed it, here it is. Now, it’s time to tackle the next 3 parts.

Pillar 4

Cardinal Dolan:

“…but this Person, Jesus, tells us He is the truth. So, our mission has a substance, a content, and this twentieth anniversary of the Catechism, the approaching fiftieth anniversary of the Council, and the upcoming Year of Faith charge us to combat catechetical illiteracy.”

Our mission has content, and that is the Truth. Today catechetical illiteracy is running rampant in our Church. We don’t know what Truth is, let alone how to express it to others. If we do not have a firm grasp on the Truth, how can we expect to evangelize others? Just like evangelizing begins within each of our own hearts, spreading the Truth must begin in ourselves too.

I often hear from people how they were never taught this or that about our Faith while they were growing up. That’s a common result of decades of incomplete catechizing on behalf of our Church. However, that is no excuse for not to know what we believe as Christians! In his first letter, St. Peter commands us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason to believe” (1 Pt. 3:15). We need to know the Truth is we are going to evangelize! To blame our lack of knowledge on our parish priests or religious ed teachers is passing the buck. But fear not! It is never too late to start learning.

Start with the Bible, specifically the Gospels. Next, try the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Don’t own them? Read them for free at USCCB.org. Also, I would recommend any of the documents from Vatican II, specifically Lumen Gentium. Still need more? Here’s a book list that I find particularly helpful. Any of those would be a great place to go next.

Keep in mind that it’s not necessary to be an expert when evangelizing. “I don’t know” are the three words I say most often when I answer questions about the Faith; there are always questions that I don’t know the answers to. The important thing is that we are humble and honest when we don’t know something, and then find the answer.

Pillar 5

“The missionary, the evangelist, must be a person of joy.”

Who wants to be a part of something that is no fun? There is this weird idea that you can either be Catholic or have fun. Sorry, Billy Joel, but the Saints laugh too, a lot (even the Pope laughs! Cardinal Dolan made him do so in this very speech). Anyone who thinks Catholics don’t have fun has clearly never been to Camp Gray (and why yes, that is me in the Notre Dame shirt!). I’ll let the Cardinal explain the rest of this one with the story he tells next

“A man dying of AIDS at the Gift of Peace Hospice, administered by the Missionaries of Charity in Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s Archdiocese of Washington, asked for baptism. When the priest asked for an expression of faith, the dying man whispered, “All I know is that I’m unhappy, and these sisters are very happy, even when I curse them and spit on them. Yesterday I finally asked them why they were so happy. They replied ‘Jesus.’ I want this Jesus so I can finally be happy. A genuine act of faith, right?

The New Evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown.”

 

Pillar 6

“The New Evangelization is about love.”

The YOUCAT (the Catechism re-written specifically high school and college students) defines love as “the free self-giving of the heart” (YC 402). When we evangelize, it should be out of love. The cross is the greatest example of love the world has ever known. So when we love, it’s supposed to hurt! But when we do it anyway and unite our inconvenience or our suffering with Christ, He transforms it into something so much more. In caring for those around us, we show them the love of Christ. And it is that love that changes souls. Never underestimate the power of that love.

 

Like what you’ve read? Don’t be afraid to comment! And don’t forget to sign up for email updates. Also, if you know people who this blog would benefit, share it with them! Thanks, and come back tomorrow for #7 from Cardinal Dolan’s speech.

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New Evangelization, parts 1-3

It seems I broke a promise in not posting the first part of my take on Cardnial Dolan’s speech on the New Evangelization from last week (get the full text here). My apologies. I really don’t have an excuse; I just got caught up in watching The Dark Knight for the millionth time (hmmm…I’m sensing a post relating that to JPII’s Springtime of Evangelization…). To reward your patience, you can expect 2 entries today: pillars 1-3 now, and 4-6 later today. Number 7 will still be for tomorrow.

To recap, last week Cardinal Dolan of New York City gave a speech to the College of Cardinals in Rome. The topic was the New Evangelization, a term coined by Blessed Pope John Paul II. The New Evangelization focuses on re-proclaiming the Gospel to cultures and people who have grown up in the Church but have experienced a falling away or lukewarmness in their faith, who have heard the Good News but need a refresher. In his speech, Cardinal Dolan outlined 7 ideas to take the New Evangelization to the next level. So without further ado, let’s get this ball rolling.

Pillar #1

What Cardinal Dolan said:

“…we believe with the philosophers and poets of old, who never had the benefit of revelation, that even a person who brags about being secular and is dismissive of religion, has within an undeniable spark of interest in the beyond, and recognizes that humanity and creation is a dismal riddle without the concept of some kind of creator.”

Quite simply, we were created to search for God. His presence is all around us, and yet sometimes we attempt to attribute the beauty of Creation to a coincidence.  I think what Cardinal Dolan is saying here is that even those who seem beyond evangelizing to: the scientists, the philosophers, basically anyone smarter than us, are still in need of salvation. No one is beyond our efforts to evangelize.

Sometimes, I think we are intimidated by evangelization. We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, to make anyone feel uncomfortable. But we need to do it anyway! (more on that in a moment) Jesus calls us to spread the Gospel to all nations and all peoples.  That doesn’t mean one person from each person group, but every single person on this Earth! God loves each and every person in this world perfectly. And Jesus tells us to “be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).

No matter how lost someone may seem, no matter how much they despise the Church, these people are still searching for Something. That Something is God. We must keep that in mind during our encounters with those around us.

Pillar #2

Cardinal Dolan: “this fact gives us immense confidence and courage in the
sacred task of mission and New Evangelization. “Be not afraid,” we’re told, is the most repeated exhortation in the Bible. After the Council, the good news was that triumphalism in the Church was dead. The bad news was that, so was confidence!”

When St. Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he wanted to divorce her. But in a dream an angel appeared to him and told him not to be afraid (see Mt. 1 for the full story). Without St. Joseph’s courage, we may not even have a Gospel to proclaim. Without his protection of the Holy Family, the infant Jesus could have been slaughtered by King Herod (see Mt. 2). And to think if he had just divorced our Blessed Mother.

We too must not be afraid. Is evangelizing awkward? Absolutely. Will we be met with opposition? You betcha. But we have the Truth! Why should we fear? We get our confidence from Christ, and while we must be careful not to be arrogant, we can be sure that when we spread the Gospel, we are doing God’s will. Thankfully, it is not us who change hearts, but Christ working through us.

But don’t assume that just because we do this or do that that everyone around us will magically turn to Christ. Humility is essential in our lives and in our mission to evangelize. When I get a little high on my horse (which happens more often than I would like to admit…) this quote from St. Josemaria Escriva really helps me:

“Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?”

I am a trashcan. All my gifts come from God. Often times my pride gets in the way of leading others to Christ. Instead of lovingly encouraging others to see the Truth, I force them through debate to admit that I am right. I’ve found that to be a very ineffective way to evangelize. But I continue to seek God’s grace to change my heart and humble myself.

Pillar #3

Cardinal Dolan:

“A third necessary ingredient in the recipe of effective mission is that God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus. The invitation implicit in the Missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve — not a something, but a Someone.”

We need to keep in mind that we are not simply trying to convince people to think or act a particular way. When we evangelize, we invite people to have a relationship with our Lord and Savior. Talk of fire and brimstone does not, in my opinion, lead to very strong believers. The power of love conquers all, and it is that love which draws people to Christ. Our Church, our Faith is not simply a list of dos and don’ts, but an engine through which we enter into relationship with the King and Lord of Universe.

When we talk about the New Evangelization, the people we interact with are familiar with the nuts and bolts of our Church. They know what a Bible is, they’ve been to Mass, they’ve abstained from meat on Fridays. What they don’t have is love. They lack a personal relationship with Jesus. Our Evangelical Christian brothers and sisters have this down pat. They KNOW Jesus, and introduce Him to people around them. We do not offer a deal to people when we evangelize, but a person: Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

 

As always, comments are encouraged! Let me know what I’m doing wrong, and what I’m doing right! 🙂 Check back later today for the next 3 pillars from Cardinal Dolan’s speech.

 

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Cardinal Dolan, Lead Us On!

Tomorrow, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan (also the President of the USCCB) will be installed as a Cardinal.  I personally am super pumped for this to happen, because Archbishop Dolan is one of the greatest leaders we have in the American Church.  He is the only Bishop I know of that blogs regularly, that uses social media as well as he does to evangelize and teach. Looking forward, there is no doubt in my mind that Cardinal Dolan will play a very important role in the future of our Church and our country.

In a speech given before the Holy Father and the College of Cardinals today, Cardinal-designate Dolan outlined 7 principles for advancing the New Evangelization in the world today. Here’s the full text. Definitely worth your time. Quick sidebar, the New Evangelization, as coined by Bl. Pope John Paul II and continued by Pope Benedict XVI, is the necessity to re-evangelize to those in Christian countries who have lost much or all of their faith. Recently, Pope Benedict has been all about the NE.

To prepare for Lent (which starts this Wednesday!), over the next few days I’ll be going through each of the 7 principles Cardinal-designate Dolan discussed in his speech. Hopefully, this will serve as a meaningful reflection heading into Lent on what each of us can do better in our own quest to evangelize to those around us. A rough schedule:

Sunday: Principles 1-3

Monday: Principles 4-6

Tuesday: a Fat Tuesday edition of number 7, to go along with something special for Lent, maybe even a special announcement

Stay tuned!

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Form a New Habit

Help me get to the convent!

Very rarely in our society do we see people  make real sacrifice. It seems as if  people only do things for personal gain. “What’s in it for me?” they say. Well, if you’re tired of this, keep reading.

In my time at Camp Gray, I have had the privilege of working alongside a very holy woman of God. She has inspired me to keep learning about my faith, to dig deeper, and to spread the truth to others in a way that is firm but compassionate and loving. Theresa Wilks has indeed affected my life in a profound way.

Theresa (or Mo-T, as she is known around Camp Gray) hopes to enter a convent this fall. Specifically, she feels a call to join the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George. Mo-T is sacrificing all her earthly desires in order to serve our Lord every single day of her life in a very profound way. Her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience scream anything but “what’s in it for me?”

However, Mo-T still has quite a bit of student loans from her undergraduate career. In order to start her formation in September, she must be debt free. To help her do that, she has put together a blog to raise money to pay off her loans. It’s called Giving is Habit Forming (clever, eh?). Here’s a link to her blog, which has more of Mo-T’s story and information on how to donate.

If you’re wondering what to do with some spare cash, perhaps your tax return, please consider helping a great woman of God fulfill her vocation to the religious sisterhood!

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The Theology of “Boondock Saints”

A movie I watched quite a few times in high school and college was The Boondock Saints, a movie about two Irish Catholic brothers living in Boston. In the movie, they take it upon themselves to murder members of the Russian and Italian mobs, believing that they are on a mission from God to cleanse society.

I think it goes without saying that this movie is not an accurate depiction of what goes on in the Catholic Church.  Sure, it brings up a good point by looking a lot like the Conquest in the Book of Joshua, but we’ll save that can of worms for later.  In one scene of Boondock Saints, the FBI agent chasing these mysterious murderers goes into a Catholic confessional while drunk. He has figured out that the brothers are behind the murders, but he admits that he wished he could do what they were doing. He knows that these mobsters deserve to die, and yet his job dictates that he arrest the brothers.

At this point, the priest in the confessional delivers one of my favorite lines from the movie. He tells the FBI agent “the laws of God are higher than the laws of man.” NOTE: I am absolutely not encouraging vigilantism or taking God’s judgement into our own hands. Condemnation of sinners is something reserved for God alone.  However, I want to draw attention to that quote.

“The laws of God are higher than the laws of man.” That is exactly what is being tested by the current presidential administration. By forcing all employers to provide for contraceptive services (including sterilization and abortifacients), our government is asserting that the laws of man are higher than God’s law. In fact, not only are they saying this, but they are trying to force every single person in America to acknowledge that fact. And by refusing to stand up against this attack against religious liberty, we agree with President Obama. To make a stand against this attack, go here. To find out more about the HHS mandate, go the USCCB’s (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website, usccb.org.

So eventually, we all could be faced with the choice of following our consciences (i.e. God’s law) or the law of the United States. This decision will first come to the American Bishops, almost all of whom have denounced the current mandate (along with many non-Catholic religious groups, here’s a short list). They will be faced with the decision of following Obama’s mandate or facing extreme financial and legal consequences of following the Church’s teachings. Please join me in beginning to pray now that they have the courage to do so.

This civil disobedience will not cause change overnight. Only through dedication and perseverance (and God’s grace) can we hope to win this battle. And when we do, it will not be the last fight. I promise that this current attack on religious liberty is only the beginning. It will take courage to disobey our country, but then again, the laws of God or higher than the highs of man. For strength in times like these, I often look to the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel. In the late 1800s, Pope Leo XIII had a vision of great evil approaching in the 20th century. After awakening from his vision, he composed the prayer below. I urge you all to pray it daily, and whenever you feel temptation of sin.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness 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, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

St. Michael, oro pro nobis.

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The First Post

Blogging is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, but I’ve never really had the time or energy needed to make it work. My hope is that this blog stays running for a little while.

Anyway, what really inspired me to start this whole thing was the huge amount of significant events related to my Catholic faith that have occurred in the last few weeks.  First, there’s the GOP nomination race, featuring two fairly prominent Catholics in Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.  Then there was the HHS contraceptive mandate and the uproar of not only Catholics, but many religious faiths concerning our freedom of religion. Lost in all of this (seemingly) was the decision of the Susan G. Koman Foundation to end funding to Planned Parenthood, then cave under political pressure from pro-choicers.

Now, none of those events are exclusively “Catholic,” in reference to the Catholic Church. However, they are Catholic in the sense that they affect every single person in our country, and many throughout the world.  I have a feeling that the next 5 years or so will be a dramatic turning point in our nation’s (and world’s, for that matter) history.   As Americans, we all have the responsibility to speak up when our freedom is threatened, even if it is threatened by our own government.

It is with that duty in mind that I have started this blog.  Ideally, this will be a place to exchange ideas, but more importantly to spread the TRUTH. And that Truth is none other than Jesus Christ, who 2000 years ago established his Church and entrusted it to a few simple fishermen.  These men were as fallible and sinful as you and I, and yet through the power of the Holy Spirit they maintained and preserved the truth.  Their AUTHORITY came from Christ, and that same authority has been passed down until today, where it is still held by the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, the bride of Jesus Christ.

My goal is not only to comment on American politics in light of the Gospel, but to also talk about everyday things.  God is All in All, and for that reason a blog about our faith cannot and should not be limited to politics or social issues. Our entire lives should be an expression of our love for our Father. Therefore, expect to hear some commentary on sports, books, movies, and other parts of everyday life as well.

In his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells us that “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness…” (Eph. 6:12) This “present darkness” is dark indeed, but God’s presence can yet be felt through all the turmoil.  It is my prayer that this blog can help show many that God’s love can conquer all, even in these dark times. Thanks for reading.

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