Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Tough Teacher's Alter Ego

You just never know. . . . but that doesn't take away one single bit of the charity that is shared.

@ St. Francis High School
     Math Teacher, Jim O'Conner

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

10 Ways to Deepen our Relationship with God


Here are a few steps — in no particular order — that can help us draw closer to God.

Archbishop of Philadelphia
Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. CAP.

Over the years I've heard from many good people who want a closer relationship with God.  But they're stymied by what they perceive as God's silence.  What they often mean, without knowing it, is that they'd like God to do something dramatic in their lives; something with a hint of Mt. Sinai that proves his credentials.

But God typically doesn't work that way.  He's not in the theater business.  God wants to be loved and even in a sense "courted" — which means that we can't be passive partners in the relationship.  We need to pursue God as we would the persons we love.
So here are a few steps — in no particular order — that can help us draw closer to God.

First, start by listening to him.  Faith isn't a 12-step action program.  Nor is it an algebra problem that needs to be "solved."  It's a love affair.  As with a spouse, the most important thing we can do is to be present and listen.  This requires the investment of time and focus.  If a spirit of impatience or pretending to listen doesn't work with your spouse, why would it work with God?

Second, cultivate silence.  We can't listen when our world is filled with noise and toys.  C.S. Lewis often said that noise is the music of hell.  Our toys — those things we choose to distract us — keep us diverted from focusing on the main questions of life:  Why are we here?  What does my life mean?  Is there a God, and if so, who is he, and what does he ask of me?

Third, seek humility.  Humility is to the spirit what material poverty is to the
senses:  the great purifier.  Humility is the beginning of sanity.  We can't really see — much less love — anyone or anything else when the self is in the way.  When we finally, really believe in our own sinfulness and unimportance, many other things become possible:  repentance; mercy, patience, forgiveness of others.  These virtues are the foundation stones of that other great Christian virtue:  justice.  No justice is ever possible in a spider's web of mutual anger, recrimination and hurt pride.

Fourth, cultivate honesty.  Complete honesty is only possible for a humble person.  The reason is simple.  The most painful but important honesty is telling the truth to ourselves about our own motives and our own actions.  The reason honesty is such a powerful magnet is because it's so rare.
Modern life is too often built on the marketing of half-truths and lies about who we are and what we deserve.  Many of the lies are well-intentioned and not even very harmful — but they're still lies.  Scripture praises the honest woman and man because they're like clean air in a room full of smoke.  Honesty allows the mind to breathe and think clearly.

Fifth, seek to be holy.  Holy does not mean nice or even good, although truly holy people are always good and often — though not always — nice.  Holiness means "other than."  It's what Scripture means when it tells us to be "in the world, but not of the world."  And this doesn't just miraculously happen.  We need to choose and seek holiness.

God's ways are not our ways.  Holiness is the habit of seeking to conform all of our thoughts and actions to God's ways.  There's no cookie-cutter model of holiness, just as piety can't be reduced to one particular kind of prayer or posture.  What's important is to love the world because God loves it and sent his Son to redeem it, but not to be captured by its habits and values, which are not godly.

Sixth, pray.  Prayer is more than just that portion of the day when we advise
God about what we need and what he should do.  Real prayer is much closer to listening, and it's intimately tied to obedience.  God certainly wants to hear what we need and love and fear, because these things are part of our daily lives, and he loves us.  But if we're doing the talking, we can't listen.  Note too, that we can't really pray without humility.  Why?  Because prayer requires us to lift up who we are and everything we experience and possess to God.  Pride is too heavy to lift.

Seventh, read.  Scripture is the living Word of God.  When we read God's Word, we encounter God himself.  But there's more:  J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Georges Bernanos and so many others — these were deeply intelligent and powerful writers whose work nourishes the Christian mind and soul, while also inspiring the imagination.  Reading also serves another, simpler purpose:  It shuts out the noise that distracts us from fertile reflection.  We can't read The Screwtape Letters and take network television seriously at the same time.  And that's a very good thing.
God wants to be loved and even in a sense "courted" — which means that we can't be passive partners in the relationship.  We need to pursue God as we would the persons we love.
 By the way, if you do nothing else in 2014, read Tolkien's wonderful short story, Leaf by Niggle.  It will take you less than an hour, but it will stay with you for a lifetime.  And then read C.S. Lewis' great religious science-fiction trilogyOut of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.  You'll never look at our world in quite the same way again.

Eighth, believe and act.  Nobody "earns" faith.  It's a free gift from God.  But we do need to be willing and ready to receive it.  We can discipline ourselves to be prepared.   If we sincerely seek truth; if we desire things greater than this life has to offer; and if we leave our hearts open to the possibility of God — then one day we will believe, just as when we choose to love someone more deeply, and turn our hearts sincerely to the task, then sooner or later we usually will.
Feelings are fickle.  They're often misleading.  They're not the substance of our faith.  We need to be grateful for our emotions as God's gifts, but we also need to judge them in the light of common sense.  Falling in love is only the first taste of love.  Real love is both more beautiful and more demanding than the early days of a romance.
In like manner, a dramatic "road to Damascus" style conversion doesn't happen to most people, and not even St. Paul stayed on the road very long.  Why?  Because in revealing himself to Paul, Jesus immediately gave him something to do.  We know and more deeply love Jesus Christ by doing what he tells us to do.
In the real world, feelings that endure follow actions that have substance.  The more sincere we are in our discipleship, the closer we will come to Jesus Christ.  This is why the Emmaus disciples only recognized Jesus in "the breaking of the bread."  Only in acting in and on our faith, does our faith become fully real.

Ninth, nobody makes it to heaven alone.  We all need friendship and community.   A friend of mine who's been married more than 40 years likes to say that the heart of a good marriage is friendship.  Every successful marriage is finally about a deep and particular kind of friendship that involves honesty, intimacy, fidelity, mutual sacrifice, hope and shared beliefs.
Every successful marriage is also a form of community.  Even Jesus needed these two things:  friendship and community.  The Apostles were not simply Christ's followers; they were also his brothers and friends, people who knew and supported him in an intimate way.  All of us as Christians need the same two things.  It doesn't matter whether we're a religious, layperson, deacon or priest, single or married.  Friends are vital.  Community is vital.  Our friends both express and shape who we are.  Good friends sustain us.  Bad friends undermine us.  And that's why they're so decisive to the success or failure of a Christian life.

Tenth and finally, nothing is more powerful than the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist in leading us to the God we seek.  God makes himself available to us every week in the confessional, and every day in the sacrifice of the Mass.  It makes little sense to talk about the "silence of God" when our churches are made silent by our own absence and indifference.  We're the ones with the cold hearts — not God.
He's never outdone in his generosity.  He waits for us in the quiet of the tabernacle.  And he loves us and wants to be loved wholeheartedly in return.
If we're willing to give that love, these steps will lead us to him.

The Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. "Ten ways to deepen our relationship with God." (February 12, 2014).
Reprinted with permission of The Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.


The Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. is the ninth and current Archbishop of Philadelphia, serving since his installation on September 8, 2011. He previously served as Archbishop of Denver (1997-2011) and Bishop of Rapid City (1988-1997). As member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, Archbishop Chaput is the second Native American to be ordained bishop in the United States, and the first Native American archbishop. He is the author of the e-book, A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America, as well as Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, and Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics.
Copyright © 2014 Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. 


Monday, March 24, 2014

HAIL, MARY, FULL OF GRACE: A New Look at the Annunciation

A wonderful article by  

Contemporary artist John Collier tells the story of the Annunciation in a fresh way in this painting, which can be found in the narthex of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in McKinney, Texas.

In Collier’s “Annunciation,” Mary is a young schoolgirl dressed in blue and white.  When the angel Gabriel comes to her, she is reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 7 verse 14, where the prophet proclaims the sign that God will give:  “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

Some of the traditional elements can be found in the painting:  The lilies are a recognizable symbol of Mary’s purity.  The intact glass pane next to the door typifies Mary’s perpetual virginity.  And look closely:  A dove, representing the Holy Spirit, rests on a nearby house—not presuming Mary’s response but awaiting it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Ten Universal Principles

I. Principles of Reason
1) The Principle of Complete Explanation
(Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle) The best opinion or theory is the one that explains the most data.

2) The Principle of Noncontradiction
(Plato and Aristotle) Valid opinions or theories have no internal contradictions

3) The Principle of Objective Evidence
(Plato and Aristotle) Nonarbitrary opinions or theories are based upon publicly verifiable evidence

II. Principles of Ethics

4) The Principle of Nonmaleficence (Jesus, Moses, and worldwide religious traditions) Aviod unnecessary harms; if a harm is unavoidable, minimize it. Silver Rule: Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.

5) The Principle of Consistent Ends and Means
(Saint Augustine) The end does not justify the means.

6) The Principle of Full Human Potential
(Las Casas) Every human being (or group of human beings) deserves to be valued according to the full level of human development, not according to the level of development currently achieved.

III. Principles of Justice and Natural Rights

7) The Principle of Natural Rights
(Suarez, Locke, Jefferson, and Paine) All human beings possess in themselves (by virtue of their existence alone) the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property ownership; no government gives these rights, and no government can take them away.

8) The Principle of the Fundamentality of Rights
(Suarez, Locke, and Jefferson) The more fundamental right is the one which is necessary for the possibility of the other; where there is conflict, we should resolve in favor of the more fundamental right.

9) The Principle of the Limits to Freedom
(Locke and Montesquieu) One person’s (or group’s) freedoms cannot impose undue burdens upon other persons (or groups).

IV. Fundamental Principle of Identity and Culture

10) The Principle of Beneficence
(Jesus) Aim at optimal contribution to others and society. The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río (March 28, 1913 – February 10, 1928)

My son was recently asked to write about a person that he considers to be his hero. This is who he wrote about:

Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río (March 28, 1913 – February 10, 1928) was a young Mexican Cristero who was put to death by government officials because he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. He has been declared a martyr and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005.

. . . . At times they stopped him and said, 'If you shout, "Death to Christ the King" we will spare your life.' José would only shout, 'I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey!'". . . .  Moments before his death, the boy drew a cross in the dirt and kissed it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Alone in a Room of Unbelievers

As Catholics, we all find ourselves in situations where we are the only Christians in a group of people.  It may be in the workplace, at school, the family you marry into, a group of friends or simply a random gathering. I believe it is our perspective that matters most when we find ourselves in these situations. Here are three points that have helped me.

1) You are not entitled to a Christ-loving home, workplace, environment, or country.

We are not owed an easy walk with God.
A believer in a room of unbelievers is an opportunity for miracles. The chances to love others with God’s love are endless. The opportunities to share the Gospel are innumerable, whether by your words or by your actions. Remember,
"preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words."
We need to make the most of where Jesus has placed us in our lives. It is crucial to realize how intentional His plan is for us and that through Him, we have more influence than we realize. Ask the Lord for direction as you build and form relationships with unbelievers, and be ready for God to use you to share His truth with them. Backlash should be expected, intolerance as well . . . offer it up.

2) You are part of God’s family

Being the only Christian in a group can feel lonely or raise defenses. It is important to keep sight of the bigger picture. In God’s family, we are here for each other, we are called to bear burdens together, to encourage one another, to teach, correct and love one another. Praise God for the Sacraments. They fill us with grace and give us courage.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to Mother Mary, the angels and the saints, and each other. Remember that God is the author and perfecter, not us.

3) Changing hearts is God’s job, not yours

Maybe this is the most important reminder.
In Romans 8:37, Paul says, 
         “Overwhelming victory is ours, In Christ, who loved us.” 
Christ already has the victory. He is the author and perfecter, not you. We must remember to submit to His will. Meditate also on Corinthians 3:7,  
          “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
Apart from Jesus we can do nothing, but in submitting to Him anything is possible. Pray for your family and peers. Share the Gospel and the Bible with them, but remember it is God who is working all things together, not you. Be submissive to God working through you. Turn constantly to the Holy Spirit. 


May Christ's peace be with your spirit.

Original Article: Corinne Carver
Heavily edited by: Soutenus

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