Ramblings from us as we strive to live a holy life in the world, not of the world.

Friday, January 27, 2012

In a Funk

Lately I've been in sort of a funk. Just kind of surviving which isn't like me, I'm usually very busy with the family. But my mood is reminiscent of my college and post college years when I tended to get depressed, or at least blue, every January when it's cold outside and I don't feel like doing much of anything. 

Perhaps the weather has something to do with it or perhaps it runs deeper. I have two very active boys, ages five and three, and my thoughts are often not focused as I'm always concerned what they will break next or who they will disturb. Along with those thoughts has been my muddled prayer time which is spent something like this:

"Oh Lord, today I humbly come to you...."What was that? Where are the boys? Are they into something that they shoudn't be into? Okay, let's try that again. "Oh Lord..." "Okay, I'll get you lemonade in a minute" Let's try that again... 

I feel guilty about my lack of focus but several months ago, I read in Lessons from Saint Benedict, Finding Joy in Daily Life by Donald S. Raila:

What is important is that God is using the desolation to draw us closer to Him. He is telling us that, despite our best of intentions, we are not in control of our prayer and we must learn to trust more in Him. Rather than let the dryness discourage us, we should accept our prayer and ourselves as we are, and then just keep praying as best we can. Our prayer is none the worse when it is dry. In fact, to think that we should be doing “better” can be a subtle form of pride. To judge that my prayer is not acceptable to God when God Himself is ready to accept whatever I have to offer with good intention is to be more exacting than the Lord who loves me as I am. Therefore, we an, in a sense, be consoled in the midst of our desolation by realizing, in faith, that God is with us despite our feelings and is helping us to engage in battle against prideful despondency, which the Devil can use to get us to give up altogether. We must know that God is telling us, “Do not lose hope! I have not abandoned you! Your darkness is a share in My Son’s Cross, and through it you can grow in trust and love.

So even though my prayers are dry or disjointed, I shouldn't be as concerned. As long as I'm giving the best that I can and not letting pride get in the way, then I'm offering the best that I can. I just to keep remembering that.

Now, on to pray a family Rosary. Won't be a totally focused one, but at least I know that God knows my intent.

Bishop Zubik: "The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, “To Hell with you!”

Our beloved bishop is the dominant subject of the blogosphere and airwaves today as he blast the Obama Administration's HHS edict which will force Catholics to violate their consciences. 

But in the words of Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, "we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences." Isn't that nice of the Obama Administration to give us time to figure out how to alter our religious beliefs? Funny, I'm not hearing a peep from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Bishop Zubik's statement:

Decision unchanged on HHS exemptions

HHS Edict Will Force Catholics to Violate Conscience

‘To Hell With You’
By Bishop David A. Zubik
It is really hard to believe that it happened. It comes like a slap in the face. The Obama administration has just told the Catholics of the United States, “To Hell with you!” There is no other way to put it.
In early August, the Department for Health and Human Services in the Obama administration released guidelines as part of the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The guidelines mandated that by Summer 2012 all individual and group health insurance plans, including self-insured plans, cover all FDA-approved contraception, sterilization procedures and pharmaceuticals that even result in abortion.
 A million things are wrong with this: equating pregnancy with disease;  mandating that every employer pay for contraception procedures including alleged contraceptives that are actually abortion-inducing drugs; forcing American citizens to chose between violating their consciences or providing health care services; mandating such coverage on every individual woman without allowing her to even choose not to have it; forcing every person to pay for that coverage no matter the dictates of their conscience.
Let’s be blunt. This whole process of mandating these guidelines undermines the democratic process itself.  In this instance, the mandate declares pregnancy a disease, forces a culture of contraception and abortion on society, all while completely bypassing the legislative process.
This is government by fiat that attacks the rights of everyone – not only Catholics; not only people of all religion.  At no other time in memory or history has there been such a governmental intrusion on freedom not only with regard to religion, but even across-the-board with all citizens. It forces every employer to subsidize an ideology or pay a penalty while searching for alternatives to health care coverage. It undermines the whole concept and hope for health care reform by inextricably linking it to the zealotry of pro-abortion bureaucrats.        
For our Church this mandate would apply in virtually every instance where the Catholic Church serves as an employer. The mandate would require the Catholic Church as an employer to violate its fundamental beliefs concerning human life and human dignity by forcing Catholic entities to provide contraceptive, sterilization coverage and even pharmaceuticals that result in abortion.
There was a so-called “religious exemption” to the mandate, but it was so narrowly drawn that, as critics charged, Jesus Christ and his Apostles would not fit the exemption. The so-called exemption would only apply to the vast array of Catholic institutions where the following applied:
  • Only Catholics are employed;
  • The primary purpose of the institution or service provided is the direct instruction in Catholic belief;
  • The only persons served by the institution are those that share Catholic religious tenets. (Try to fit this in with our local Catholic Charities that serve 80,000 every year without discrimination according to faith. It would be impossible!)
Practically speaking under the proposed mandate there would be no “religious exemption” for Catholic hospitals universities, colleges, nursing homes and numerous Catholic social service agencies such as Catholic Charities. It could easily be determined that the “religious exemption” would not apply as well to Catholic high schools, elementary schools and Catholic parishes since many employ non-Catholics and serve both students and, through social outreach, many who do not share Catholic religious beliefs. Such a narrow “religious exemption” is simply unprecedented in federal law.
Last September I asked you to protest those guidelines to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, and contact your political leadership in the federal government. I asked that you request that this flawed mandate be withdrawn because of its unprecedented interference in the religious liberty and freedom of conscience of the Catholic community, and our basic democratic process.
You did. And you were joined by Catholics throughout the country (and many others as well) who raised their voices against the mandate, raised their voices against a meaningless religious exemption.
On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration answered you and me. The response was very simple: “To Hell with You.”
Kathleen Sebelius announced that the mandate would not be withdrawn and the religious exemption would not be expanded. Instead, she stated that nonprofit groups – which include the Catholic Church – will get a year “to adapt to this new rule.” She simply dismissed Catholic concerns as standing in the way of allegedly respecting the health concerns and choices of women.
Could Catholics be insulted any more, suggesting that we have no concern for women’s health issues? The Catholic Church and the Catholic people have erected health care facilities that are recognized worldwide for their compassionate care for everyone regardless of their creed, their economic circumstances and, most certainly, their gender. In so many parts of the globe – the United States included – the Church is health care.    
 Kathleen Sebelius and through her, the Obama administration, have said “To Hell with You” to the Catholic faithful of the United States.
  • To Hell with your religious beliefs,
  • To Hell with your religious liberty,
  • To Hell with your freedom of conscience.
We’ll give you a year, they are saying, and then you have to knuckle under. As Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded, “in effect, the president is saying that we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”
As I wrote to you last September, with this mandate the democratic process is being ignored while we are being ordered to ignore our religious beliefs. And we are being told not only to violate our beliefs, but to pay directly for that violation; to subsidize the imposition of a contraceptive and abortion culture on every person in the United States.
It is time to go back to work. They have given us a year to adapt to this rule.  We can’t! We simply cannot!
Write to the president.
Write to Secretary Sebelius.
Write to our Senators.
Write to those in Congress.
I have included the addresses in a box accompanying this article. Here’s what you can write:
"Dear (Representative):
“In early August, the Department for Health and Human Services released guidelines that would force Catholic institutions to subsidize through their health care plans contraception, sterilization procedures and pharmaceuticals that even result in abortion.
“It was announced on January 20thby Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, that this mandate is affirmed and that non-profit institutions, including the Catholic Church, have one year to adapt to the mandate.
“This is a direct threat to the religious liberty of Catholics, freedom of conscience and the social service ministry of the Catholic Church. The so-called ‘religious exemption’ in the mandate is no exemption at all as it would require any Catholic institution (that serves non-Catholics or employs non-Catholics) to violate Catholic belief, discontinue to provide health care, or close its doors.
“I ask that you do all possible to rescind the ‘Preventive Service Mandate’ as an unprecedented federal interference in the right of Catholics to serve their community without violating their fundamental moral beliefs.”  
This mandate can be changed by Congressional pressure. The only way that action will happen is if you and I take action.
Let them know that you and I will not allow ourselves to be pushed around (or worse yet) be dismissed because of our Catholic faith.
Let them know that you and I will not allow our religious freedom to be compromised.  
Let them know that you and I will not allow our religious liberty to be rescinded.           
Nobody, not even the president of the United States or anyone who represents him, has the right to say to you and to me as U.S. citizens, as Catholics, or as both: “To Hell with You.”
The president and our elected leaders need to hear from you and me and to listen to us NOW.
And if NOT now, HOW can we get the president to listen to us???  

Contact your political leaders

President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20500 (202-456-1111).
U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, 332 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2565), D-PA District 4.
U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, 1022 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2065), D-PA District 12.
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, 401 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2135), D-PA District 14.
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, 515 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-5406), R-PA District 3.
U.S. Rep. Timothy Murphy, 322 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 (202-225-2301), R-PA District 18.
U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr., 393 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (202-224-6324), D-PA.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey, 502 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (202-224-4254), R-PA. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fr. Barron's response to video "Why I hate religion"

If you've been on any social media the past week or two, no doubt that you've seen the video Why I hate religion, but love Jesus or at least heard of it, where a young man, not much different than I was at his age, laments why religion isn't necessary to love God. It's a perfect example of how the American culture permeates even our religious beliefs. It's a misunderstanding of freedom to mean doing whatever we want, not what we ought.

While this video has all the makings of a well-produced video with catchy music, graphics, and an attractive young man, unfortunately its content is seriously flawed. Several rebuttal videos have been made, but with the popularity of Word on Fire's Catholicism series, Fr. Robert Barron had been asked to rebut this video and he literally tears apart this young man's arguments.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Loving yourself more than loving others?

Yesterday I work up at 4:00 with thoughts swirling in my head from the day before and apparently in my subconscious all night about how we are called to love others but what about self-love? We are called to live in service to others, but does that mean that loving ourselves is bad?

In our society, we're supposed to love ourselves, be good to ourselves, and ultimately seek pleasure for ourselves above all others. It's all about our rights first and any form of responsibility second. While we should always strive to take care of our bodies, our faith calls us to 'love others as we love ourselves.' (Matt 22:39) So can there possibly be a balance between the two?

In my semi-conscious state the other night, I kept recalling various tenants of the faith involving our bodies and love. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and we are called to take care of them. We are also part of the Body of Christ in which we are part of the whole of the Church (1 Cor. 12:27). Finally and most importantly, we are created in the image of God. If we are to love God and God is love than it only stands to reason that we do have to love ourselves or we won't be able to give that love to God or to anyone else. Of course if we truly love God and love His creation then loving ourselves as His created beings would naturally follow. Seems that one without the other can't exist.

The true test of how we love ourselves is how that self-love is manifested in our actions. If we choose to spend all our pursuits reaching goals that don't fulfill our vocation, make the world a better place, or give glory to God, then ultimately our self-love will be selfish love and not the love of oneself that discerns what God's will is in our lives. 

We all have talents that God has bestowed on us. If we recognize those talents and use them properly then we will not only love ourselves but love the Creator who gave those talents to us.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Do you strive to be pretty or hot?

Patrick Archbold's The Death of Pretty in the National Catholic Register has been the talk of the blogospere the last few weeks. Mr. Archbold poses the question of whether women (or girls) today strive to be hot instead of pretty. So I admit, I found myself at Christmas Mass looking at several attractive teenage girls in their scantily clad outfits thinking how pretty they would look if only they wouldn't dress so provocatively. But really, can we blame them? They probably aren't even aware that they are striving to look hot as opposed to pretty, it's what is expected of them.

Interesting to note that many of the comments on the article of 'The Death of Pretty' come from women who don't think that men should write about such subjects. They think that men shouldn't focus on women's looks but should focus on women's intelligence, abilities, and accomplishments.

But isn't that a double standard? On the one hand, women want to be recognized for their intelligence but there are just as many, if not more women who want to be notice for their physical appearance. While looking our best, isn't a bad thing, vanity and a lack of modesty is.

While women's rights groups fight for abortion rights and lesbian rights, they don't fight for the objectification of women which is the result of women who want to look hot and very possibly don't realize that they are displaying their body parts for men to ogle. Where are these groups? Why don't they fight pornography? Why don't they fight for the respect that women deserve.

While some women and men champion the invention of the birth control pill as a liberating wonder drug, it isn't a coincidence that the sexual revolution, rise in divorce, and change in women's dress all occurred relatively shortly after the pill's invention. While some may have viewed the pill as liberating, in reality, it allowed women to be used by men and men to treat women as mere objects to be used. So the result is women who feel the need to compete with other women to advertise their 'hotness.'

Instead of Grace Kelly...

now we have Madonna.

Instead of Audrey Hepburn...

now we have Lady Gaga

Is it possibly to turn back the tide, so to speak? How do we reverse the trend from push-up bras for 10 year-olds, bikinis for seven-year-olds, and make-up for preschoolers and teach our daughters to look pretty, without feeling the need to look hot? We can instill in them that they are created in God's image and because of that, they are beautiful already. 

Besides, while men love to look at the Gingers of the world, in reality they would rather marry Mary Ann.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Free Kindle Books worth a look

I got a Kindle for my birthday in November. Yes, I finally broke down and asked for one. While I think I will always favor the feel of a book in my hand, the ability to have numerous books in one place, including classics that are available for free made the Kindle a bargain in my opinion. In the six weeks since I got my Kindle, I have spent only $12 but have 21 ebooks. Of those, I spent $10 on my book club's selection and $2 on two others. Of course, the question that I keep asking myself is, "Will I ever get around to reading those books?"

Did you get a Kindle this Christmas? Certainly seems like everyone did. Here's a couple of free books worth looking into:

Absolutely Organize Your Family by Debbie Lillard

I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School by Caroline Taggart

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine by John Henry Cardinal Newman

The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated by John Henry Newman

What's Wrong with the World by G. K. Chesterton

A Child's Book of Saints by William Canton

The Path to Rome by Hilaire Belloc

The Ball and the Cross by G. K. Chesterton

The Autobiography of St. Ignatius by Ignatius of Loyola

The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus by Teresa of Avila

Apolgia pro Vita Sua by John Henry Newman

Utopia by Sir Saint Thomas More

Eugenics and Other Evils by G. K. Chesterton

The Education of Catholic Girls by Janet Erskine Stuart

General Catholic Devotions by Bonaventure Hammer

Finally, while not free, for only $.99, this is a steal. To purchase the Summa Theologica in hardback can set you back $250. This is the basis for my blog title, "Aquinas, Car Keys and Dirty Socks," since Aquinas is on my Kindle which is in my purse on my desk. Nice to know that the wisdom of great theologians can fit in my purse.

The Complete Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Deacon Joe's Epiphany Homily

Flood Story...three people sent to save woman trapped in a flooding home. At death, she asks why God didn't save her. He replied, "I sent a policeman, fireman, and coast guard, what more did you want?

There are two lessons in that story.  First, our possessions are not important.  We may need things to get through life, but possessions are not as important, especially to God, as life.  Second, and most importantly, God comes to us to help us, but do we recognize Him when He comes to help us?
The Epiphany is all about recognizing God.  Recognizing God in Jesus Christ, and recognizing Jesus Christ whether He comes to us as an infant, a family member, a neighbor, a co-worker, a policeman, a fireman, someone from the Coast Guard, a stranger, or even in the appearance of bread and wine.  We need to recognize Jesus in others – ALL OTHERS.  God lives inside each of one us.  St. Paul confirms this truth for us in our second reading today by telling us of his revelation that the Faith of Christ is also open to the Gentiles, or in other words, the love of God is for everyone.

In philosophy, no doubt you’ve heard Rene Descartes statement of “I think, therefore, I am.”  Many scholars and theologians, including Pope John Paul II and Thomas Merton, believe Descartes had it backwards.  If we consider “I am, therefore I think”, it’s more in the proper order, and it serves to recognize God in us and gift of life he has given us.
We begin to recognize Jesus by seeking Him.  To seek Him we, like the Magi, must go on a journey.  As children of God, we are all called by God to enter into that journey.

We can learn many lessons from the Magi.  The Magi were called by God to go on their journey.  There were called from their homeland, seeking a King to pay homage to.  They left almost everything behind to seek out that which they were called to find.  The Magi were going to complete their journey regardless of the dangers.   No doubt they were surprised when they arrived at their destination and found the Holy Family, the King they had heard about, lying in a manger amidst animals in a stable.  The magi had to realize, as a result of their journey that their lives would never be the same.

Our journey probably won’t be that dramatic or adventurous, but it could be.  Regardless, we need to go on that journey not so much in a literal, but in a spiritual sense.  We need to leave our selfishness behind and seek our true King.  We need to follow God’s star and we will find our true selves in completeness and fulfillment, and we will never be the same.

I took my family to Philadelphia in search of a star.  Unfortunately, it was my own star.  I was more into my career and accomplishments and prestige for myself, than I was into what God had planned for me.  When we reached our destination, arriving where the “star” led us, it turned out there was nothing, the manger was empty, and I learned that no matter what I did, without God in my life, I would never be able to fill that manger.  By the grace of God, I found His star and it led me back to His manger, where I found, love, joy, peace, and my true calling to the diaconate, and I’ve never felt more fulfilled and complete.  Challenged?  Oh, yes, but I am able to meet the challenges of the diaconate through the fulfillment and completeness I’ve found in following God’s star.  We cannot fulfill ourselves without God and we certainly cannot fulfill the mission God has for us without Him.

The magi give us another example in the giving of gifts to the infant Jesus.  Let’s recall what the gifts of magi represented.  The gold represented Jesus’ future Kingship, the frankincense represented Jesus’ future priesthood, and the myrrh represented Jesus’ future sacrifice. 

We can also give God gifts.  As I spoke of in the Christmas homily, we can give the gift of ourselves.  But we need to realize that no matter what our gift is, we can never repay God or try to influence Him with our gifts.  The gift of life God has given us is invaluable and it would be futile to try and repay God for it.  In the same way, the debt of our sins is so great it would be ridiculous for us to try to repay it.  However, we can give God small gifts of our affection and delight Him.  For example, this Christmas my 5 year old son Matthew gave me this pen.  It says “Major League Dad” on it.  It may not be the world’s best made pen, and it was a fraction of the cost of my new golf clubs.  But it was a gift that touched me very deeply.  That my 5 year old son loved me enough to take the time and the effort to give me a small gift and let me know that I meant something to him meant everything to me.  By taking our time, and making our efforts, we can delight God in that very same way and show Him that He means something to us in our lives.
WE are the magi.  WE are called to make a journey.  WE are called to change by seeking God no matter what the consequences.  In the New Year, together we can seek God’s star and by following it, we will find a manger, which will give us a life full of hope, joy, and love.

What are you doing Epiphany Eve?

Traditionally Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th. Liturgically it falls on January 8th this year. In our family, we've tried to make this a special day as Jesus is manifested to the world. Epiphany actually means manifestation. Even remembering that the three gifts that Jesus received from the Magi is telling: gold, for kingship, frankincense for priesthood, myrrh for the Jesus' future sacrifice on the cross.

In our domestic church celebrations, we've incorporated the theme of 'The Three Kings' throughout our celebration on this day. Every year we have an Epiphany Cake. A bean is bake into the cake and whoever finds the bean gets to be king for the day. Unfortunately, we've had years when the bean wasn't found in any of the pieces that we consumed on the day, so we usually cut the cake on the vigil. I also put two beans in the cake on opposite sides to cut the odds that someone will find one. The person who finds the bean gets to be king for the day. 

M and J had a ball making the crowns and will no doubt enjoy the King's Parade around the house wearing their hats and celebrating that the three wise men (below) finally have made it to the creche.

Finally, we always bless our home. In years past, we've used a blessing similar to this. But with the deacon in the house, he'll probably use his Book of Blessings. We always mark our door. Last year's inscription is still there!

Mark 20+C+M+B+12. The 20 and 12 for the year and the C, M, B for the traditional names of the Wise Men: Casper, Melchior, and Balthasar). But the initials also stand for “May Christ Bless this House.”  Hence, why we've left our inscription up all year!

We would normally have a feast fit for a king, but the Steelers will be playing later in the day, so we'll probably enjoy a casual meal of pizza from the freezer. Well to some Pittsburghers, pizza would be considered a meal fit for a king!

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Cardinals named

From the Associated Press:

Pope names 22 new cardinals, including 2 Americans
Among those on the list are Archbishops Timothy Dolan and Edwin O'Brien. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

On this first day of the new year, I've made a couple of resolutions that I hope to incorporate into my life. Areas of my life where I've started slacking and need to get back on track. You know the typical ones: eat better, organize, etc. But I've also resolved to clean...less. Not that I'm a neat freak, but this new year, I'm resolving to simplify as much as I possibly can by getting rid of stuff and not obsessing about getting everything spotless. Less time cleaning, less time reading newspapers, less time spent on Facebook and more time in prayer, spending time with my family, and more time writing.

Hope no one minds the dust and the clutter. I'm kinda busy.