The Prophetic Message of Humanae Vitae

It’s been 50 years this July 25th since Pope Paul VI released the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (On Human Life).

There’s even a documentary about it that is being screened across the country.

There’s so much to be said about this prophetic letter, negative and positive. Most people talk today about the negative effects – how it caused such a rift between the Church, between priests and bishops who didn’t agree with the Pope’s message, between Catholic couples who ignored it altogether, between secularists who thought the Church was being old-fashioned and “should just get with the times.”

No matter what your feelings are on the Church, one cannot help but read the letter (it’s only 6 pages) and come to understand that, tragically, what Pope Paul VI predicted has come to fruition.

Section 17 of the document is the most “famous” for what the Pope saw as the notable and disastrous effects on society if birth control were to be embraced, namely – increased marital infidelity, a general lowering of moral standards, reducing women to mere objects, as well as the government and public authorities imposing their use on everyone.

Plenty of theologians and people smarter than I have written extensively on Humanae Vitae. I added a new section to the blog specifically for it.

As for me and this post, I just thought I’d offer some common sense logic as far as this document goes and express my thoughts on what I came to understand after reading it for the first time a few years ago.

First, a fun fact: Did you know that long before Pope Paul VI wrote HV, there already was a 100% guaranteed effective method of preventing pregnancies? It’s called abstinence.

Not the most glamorous word. Not a word that gets us very excited. It’s pretty blah, I admit. But maybe that’s because it’s not a virtue. It doesn’t take PRACTICE to be abstinent.

It DOES take practice to be chaste, though. And that challenge of practicing chastity, especially with someone we love and are deeply and completely devoted to, is difficult for people to adhere to. And I think, at least in my opinion, this is a key reason why so many folks became bitter and dissident from HV. They don’t like being told what to do.

And all they saw/heard when this document was released was “No.” But they never heard the WHY. They just heard a Rule and didn’t hear the love behind it. It’s really a pity because Pope Paul VI was just trying to do what the Church does – Mother us. Guide us. And protect us from going down a destructive and sinful path.

So let’s look at each of the main predictions and see how they match up to today’s reality:

  • Decline in morality and uptick in divorce

Last I checked, despite the controversy over the ACTUAL percentage, it looks like around 42-46% of marriages end in permanent separation or divorce.

Among some studies I found, many of them ask participants open ended question of why they got a divorce and infidelity was in many of the top 5 most common answers.

So what’s the link between infidelity and contraception? Well, I had never thought of it this way, but think about it – Men who cheat/women who cheat won’t do it if there’s a possibility of their spouse finding out, right? But how would they know? If the woman gets pregnant.

So where does the Pill come in to play here? Well, if a woman is taking a contraceptive that prevents her from becoming pregnant, you can clearly have an affair much more easily. And if she does become pregnant, she can always get an abortion and the “problem” goes away. And no one is the wiser.

What is argued from the pro-life Catholic perspective is that the Pill tells the man and the woman that sex is all about pleasure. We’ve eliminated the possible outcome of a pregnancy so we can just “have fun” with no consequences.

But that’s not pleasure – that’s USE. The man uses the woman for her body only. And the saddest part is hearing other women argue against this and say that this is crazy talk. But it’s not. It’s the truth. Maybe that’s not the INTENTION of the woman. Because of course, who the heck wants to be used and then discarded once the man gets tired of her? But this is exactly what the pill/contraceptives do.

Another way women are treated as objects is through exploitation in prostitution and human trafficking. According to Mary Leary of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, sex trafficking and prostitution is a $40 million industry in D.C. alone.  “Women are seen as one-dimensional objects – commodities – to be bought and sold in this “modern-day slavery.”

And then you have women being used for their eggs through surrogacy, egg donation and in vitro fertilization.

Seriously though, what happened to our moral compass?  I try to think, for me, personally, how was I influenced as a youth/young adult? Who did I look to and who was I influenced by when it came to what was immoral vs moral? Of course, the Church. And the 10 commandments. But, I was also easily influenced by the culture. And when I think of the culture I think of tv and what was popular in those years. For me, when in high school and college, the biggest hit tv show that I think *most* of my generation watched was “Friends.”

Watching some of the repeats now on syndication, I am shocked at how much every single episode is literally about sex. Apparently someone with a lot of time on their hands counted 2,000 references in all of the episodes. And this was on NBC, this wasn’t HBO’s Sex and the City. This was one of the most popular sitcoms on TV in the 90’s-early 00’s.

And I would argue the quality of the tv shows on today haven’t gotten much better as far as morals. And let’s not get started on movies. Fifty Shades of Grey ring a bell?

I’m not about to blame the decline of morality on one tv show or one movie. It’s just that we have to admit at some point that things started to take a turn for the worse.

Abortion stats are widely known.For those that aren’t aware, we’re at just over 60 million unborn babies killed in the womb in the United States since Roe v Wade.

The stat on children born out of wedlock is staggering – about 2/5th’s of all births are to unmarried women. In the African American community it’s extremely high at 72%. 

I found the reason for this increase from an article particularly fascinating:

“The increased availability of contraception and abortion made shotgun weddings a thing of the past. Women who were willing to get an abortion or who reliably used contraception no longer found it necessary to condition sexual relations on a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy. But women who wanted children, who did not want an abortion for moral or religious reasons, or who were unreliable in their use of contraception found themselves pressured to participate in premarital sexual relations without being able to exact a promise of marriage in case of pregnancy. These women feared, correctly, that if they refused sexual relations, they would risk losing their partners. Sexual activity without commitment was increasingly expected in premarital relationships.

That last sentence is particularly of interest. That’s the definition of the hook-up culture. Sex without commitment. It’s happening right now. It’s happening on college campuses at this very moment. And with the internet and online “dating” sites like Tinder and goodness knows what else (do we really want to know? I sure don’t) the hook up culture shows no signs of slowing down or stopping.

Keep in mind that quote above is from an article in 1996. I would argue things have only gotten worse in the past 20 years.

  • The lack of respect for women and treating them as objects

I’ve already covered this with the hook up culture and sex outside marriage (sex without commitment) but I would throw in the rampant use of online pornography and the now infamous #MeToo movement. 

  • Government would forcibly use contraception abortion and sterilization for population control.

In other words, if two people can control their own family population, what’s to stop the government from enforcing their own population control onto their countries?

The most glaring example of this was the Obama Administration and the HHS Mandate; forcing pro-life/religious organizations to provide their employees with contraceptives and abortifacients.


So what’s the Good News?

I think there’s a lot of hope for the future. I think many women, especially young women, are waking up to the fact that the sexual revolution sold them a bunch of lies. Freedom does not equal happiness and empowerment. There’s nothing empowering about raising a child alone because the father left and wasn’t ready to commit. There’s nothing empowering about taking a level 1 carcinogen that could possibly cause you to have a stroke. There’s nothing empowering about getting a ride to an abortion clinic to kill your unborn child. And there’s nothing empowering about waking up next to a man in bed after a one night stand. There’s nothing empowering about your spouse leaving you for someone else. There’s nothing empowering about finding out your infertile because you were on birth control for decades because your doctor told you as a teen that it would clear up your acne. And there’s nothing empowering about selling your body for money or drugs.

This is empowering? No, this is degrading. And women, and men, and children, all deserve better.

The answer to how the Church can fix this mess is still the one it’s always been and continues to be – Prayer. And speaking the truth in love. Women are speaking up. Mothers are speaking up. Priests and Bishops are speaking up.

Keep the conversation going.

Let’s not wait another 50 years before we speak up again.

 

 

Close Encounters, Last Chance Mass and a Lesson on the Basilians

St. John Neumann – Canton, MI – January 2nd

Celebrant: Fr. Manny Chircop, CSB (Congregation of St. Basil) – Appropriate he was the celebrant on this, the feast day of St. Basil “and some other guy.” 🙂

Initial Thoughts: I saw the words “Established 1978” on the wall as I walked in to the gathering space. But as I walked into the worship space I thought, “No. There is no way this place looked like THIS in 78.” Turns out, SJN did indeed have a reconstruction revamp about a year ago. I would be curious as to what it looked like prior to this, but needless to say, it looks very up-to-date and modern. Lots of natural light.

Homily Reflection: Fr. Manny apologized for going “off script” but he couldn’t let this feast day go by without a word about the Basilian Fathers, which is his order. So the homily was about his experience with this order and how he came to join them. In a nutshell, he was a teacher at an inner city school, they were looking for a place to have a retreat, found a retreat center in Pontiac, Michigan run by Basilians, he was so impressed with how they ran the retreat that he joined the retreat house and then later, joined the order.

He was most impressed with how the Basilians tried to blend in with most of the laity. They didn’t wear a collar nor any outstanding garb that would make them stand out as Fathers. They didn’t push their values on anyone. They didn’t want anyone thinking that they were better than anyone else.

Fr. relayed this back to the Gospel by saying that John the Baptist could have taken on a high and mighty role/attitude – But he was not there for himself – he was there for the people, as if to say, “No, don’t pay attention to me, pay attention to the one who is to come.” Fr. concluded by asking us to pray for this group of men, the Basilians, to remain humble and simple, to educate and to teach in school and in all walks of life and to continue to inspire young men to their order.

Holy Moments: Fr. asked before the end of mass if there were any birthdays or anniversaries that day. A woman behind me, named Sarah, was pointed out and so the whole congregation sang Happy Birthday to her. A sweet idea!


26231970_928056427362721_5702370253614707561_oEncounter Ministries Conference – Christ The King- Ann Arbor – January 4th, 5th and 6th

Forgive the longevity of this experience but I promise this is the shortest I could make it:

I’m not even sure where to begin but I will just say this was my very first experience at Christ The King, which is a charismatic parish in Ann Arbor. Encounter Ministries is described as a ministry that “exists to train and equip disciples to manifest the love and power of the Holy Spirit in their own sphere of influence.”

I heard about this particular conference on social media and at the urging of a friend, and after seeing my pastor, Fr. John Riccardo as well as Dr. Mary Healy listed as keynote speakers, I registered. I didn’t even do any research on Encounter Ministries prior to registering, except for watching this YouTube video of Fr. Mathias a couple of days prior.

The first night of the conference was Thursday night. I saw a ton of people from my own parish of OLGC but I actually ran into a young adult friend from Cleveland, who was there with many of her classmates from the University of Akron. After speaking with her for several minutes, I found a seat next to my good friend Karen. I told her this was my first time at something like this and she remarked that I was “going to be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit,” or something to that effect. I was really excited and just prayed for continued receptivity to whatever I was going to experience.

 

Fr. Mathias began the evening by speaking on sort of an “Intro to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit” but also spoke about his own journey and how he felt called to a healing ministry. He made several references to Scripture from the book of Acts but wanted to focus more on getting the message that this is for everyone, not just for extroverts or missionaries. Everyone needs the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He asked us to think about the apostles BEFORE and then AFTER Pentecost = Before, they were afraid, they hid and they denied. But AFTER, they couldn’t shut up! Without Pentecost, there’s no power and there’s no evangelization. The same is true today.

And so that’s what he called us to – a New Pentecost for a New Evangelization, a renewed desire for prayer, for praise, to read Scripture, to share the gospel, more victory over sin, a desire for community and most of all – JOY.

There was a lot more that was said but those are as far as my notes got me. He then asked us to bow our heads and he was going to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. I’m still a little confused as to this whole thing but all I know is I almost immediately started crying as soon as he asked us to bow our heads. It came out of nowhere. But then it wasn’t so much sadness as much as it was repentance, or at least a feeling of repentance. Fr. was speaking words into the mic but I can’t recall all the phrases he was saying, I just remember feeling a sense of tingling and warmth coming over me.

A short time later we were instructed to have the person next to us pray over us. So that meant Karen laid hands on me and prayed over me. I felt that same warmth and although I didn’t shed tears, I felt like God was trying to say something. I even felt, at one point, like I was weightless, almost like I could float away any minute. VERY strange but a GOOD strange. Luckily, Karen seems to have some gifts that the Lord has blessed her with and said that she felt the Lord asking me to praise him out loud (more). I don’t really praise God as much as I thank God out loud. But I thought, if this is what the Lord is asking me to do, then I’ll be obedient to that. So if that was the only message I was to receive the entire Encounter conference, I was content with that. I mean, God has given me the gift of gab. He wants me to speak His name more? I can definitely do that. 😉

Friday night was Fr. John’s turn to give his talk. I would categorize it as a call to back to reality.  It was a nice balance, I think. He started out discussing the famous Rublev icon of The Trinity, which he’s given a homily on before, here (around the 5:30 mark) . He then discussed Matthew 9:35-38. Jesus has compassion – meaning internal turmoil. Why this response? Because we are like sheep without a shepherd – meaning we are torn, weary, ripped apart, mangled, helpless, tossed aside, thrown down. Before he discussed what Jesus did, he mentioned exactly what Jesus doesn’t do:

He doesn’t throw his hands up in frustration

He doesn’t yearn for the good old days

He doesn’t vent on social media

He doesn’t condemn those who are lost

He doesn’t act – He tells the disciples to pray for HIM to act and to reclaim His creation. But only if we’ll be the kinds of laborers He has in mind.

After a brief reflection on St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. John then went into details of why some people are not healed. Why do some people suffer? Why does the Lord allow this to go on? In his opinion, (and I concur) he said that perhaps God wants to conform us to His Son, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If we all long for an encounter of His love, then how far do we go? How much do we look like Jesus? Do we have the Sacred Heart of Jesus? And what does that look like? Fr. remarked that to have the heart of Jesus means you are present, you are attentive to the needs of others, you express care and concern for the other. He asked us to pray to God and show us: “How far is my heart from Jesus?”

Saturday, Dr. Mary Healy spoke before the vigil mass. Her talk was AMAZING.  She spoke about so many things but my favorite part, aside from an unexpected reference to the movie The Bourne Identity, was her explanation of the Prodigal Son. She talked about the older son/brother and how we as a Church can sometimes have that same attitude towards others, especially those who are new. How can we help the lost if this is our mentality? And here was the kicker question: “What if the prodigal son would have ran into the older brother and NOT the Father as he came home?” What if that’s what it’s like when someone approaches US? Are we like the Father or are we like the older brother? Wow. Convicted much?  I could sit and marinate on that for hours.

Fr. Ed, the pastor of Christ the King, gave a great homily on Saturday but for some reason, I didn’t take notes. You would think, my first charismatic mass but no notes. Not one! Big time fail on my part.

After mass was dinner in which I made a fool of myself gushing over Dr. Healy for the second time so that was nice and embarrassing for me. After dinner, was the big Worship session followed by testimonials from 3 different people.

All of their experiences were different but the underlying theme was “I wasn’t so sure about this. I had my misgivings/doubts, but I knew God wanted me to use this gift.”  I had no reason to doubt their personal experiences of healing others. But a very small part of me, thought “This is good for them, but I’m not so sure that’s my gift.”  I would LOVE to be able to pray over someone and heal them but is this really a gift that God grants to all of us? Even if we ask for it? Something to think about…

To conclude, if Fr. Mathias desired for all of us there to have a personal Pentecost so we can have the courage to share our experiences with others, then I would say that desire was met in me: I experienced a personal Pentecost of the Father affirming me in my identity of being a beloved daughter, I’m using the gifts He has given me, especially with regards to teaching, and He is pleased with what I’ve done so far. He wants me to openly praise Him more often, to remember that all that happens is because He wants union, and that all the work He has done in my life is due to my obedience to His will, not my own. All glory to Him! 


St. John’s Chapel – 7pm – Sunday January 14th

Celebrant: Fr. Walt

Initial Thoughts: This chapel is part of a large retreat center and banquet hall, hence the long and narrowness (is that a word?) of the layout. I’ve grown accustomed to sitting across from one another since this is the same set up as the chapel at Domino’s Farms. I walked in 30 minutes early so was able to get the pictures, although there are better ones on their website .

Something I noticed right away was there was no crucifix, but I happened to be sitting across from the 12th Station of the Cross, so I gazed on that for awhile. I was trying to figure out who exactly comes to this last chance mass (which, I found out is NOT the last chance mass in the area – apparently there’s a 9pm in the area). But it was a pretty packed chapel with various types – singles, couples, families, older. A true variety pack.

Homily Reflection: A month from today we’ll be in Lent! Today’s readings remind us to be be still and allow ourselves time to get away from the noise. Not just the audible noise but the noise we see, like social media feeds and Instagram photos and news headlines on the tv and internet. Samuel, in the first reading, quieted his heart so God could speak to Him and that’s what we are called to do during this Ordinary Time.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus’ very first words he spoke. He asked a question: “What are you looking for?” Well, what are WE looking for? Jesus tells the apostles, “Come and see.” He extends the invitation into His life. They could hear and see clearly because they were receptive, and that’s what we are called to be as well.

Holy Moments: The cantor and the music minister on the piano were both outstanding! I don’t know if it’s because this place has awesome acoustics or what, but both were really pleasing to listen to. You know how you can tell someone is smiling as they are singing? I think she was that way, especially for the final song.

If I ever want to end my weekend on a high note, especially in the evening, I’m coming back to St. John’s, most definitely.

Until next time…


Be A Saint and Sleep in on Saturdays – Daily Mass Project Detroit

Be a Saint

Having the day off because of a holy day of obligation definitely has its perks. Besides getting a ton of stuff done during the week when places are open, I found a 12pm mass at nearby St. Colette. All Saints Day is such a great feast day – It’s a reminder of what we are all called to be. And while it’s not easy, we can find little moments of opportunity to be “saint-like” with those we interact with on a daily basis. Enjoy!


Saint Colette – Livonia – Solemnity of all Saints – 12pm

Celebrant: Fr. Mike Loyson

Initial Thoughts: Got there early enough to snap the photos (above) as well as take a look around. They had photos of their dearly departed parishioners lining the window sills in anticipation of All Souls Day (the following day). There was also a large white banner with the names of all the parishioners who had passed away since last November.

I also loved the side chapels (altars? or side chapels? Someone tell me exactly what these are called because I feel like I should know by now). Mass started with the commentator asking everyone to stand and introduce themselves. I’m ridiculously used to this by now and I love it, although if you had asked me that a few years ago I probably wold have rolled my eyes. I was pretty anti-social when it came to mass. Thank God I changed my attitude about that.

The only “downside” is that the mass didn’t conclude with the prayer to St. Michael. So I ended up praying it to myself afterwards.

Homily Reflection: Echoing some of the thoughts I shared above, Fr.Mike mentioned that we need to “storm the heavens.” We are saints in the making. But how do we get to heaven? By putting on the attitude of Christ. Taking all of the beatitudes (todays Gospel reading) such as humility, meekness, peacemaker, etc. and living as Christ calls us to. He ended by saying, “We’ll meet up with the Saints in heaven, and what a party that will be!”

Holy Moments: The Adopt-a-Seminarian table caught my eye. They had a basket of prayers cards with all the seminarians and their names/years on them to take. I may have taken more than 10. But I couldn’t help myself! These boys need our prayers! (I mentioned this quite a bit in my last blog but always worth repeating.)

Final Thoughts: So how many versions of the Gloria are there exactly!? I have to laugh at myself as I try desperately to  figure out the tone and tempo of any given parishes’ version of this.  I feel like as much as I try to get it all in, I end up just singing in a monotone for fear I sing “Have mercy on us” in a high pitch or I come in too soon, throwing myself all off. It’s comical. But can we just have one version maybe? I thought Catholic meant “universal.” 😉


Thursday November 2nd – Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) – St. Joseph Oratory – 7pm – Requiem High Mass

It’s really difficult for me to describe a Latin mass. As I attempted to blog about it before (here) words aren’t sufficient. It’s not really the kind of thing to Blog about, to be honest. It’s an experience. I want to make it a point to attend these once a month.


Sleep in On Saturdays

So guess what? I found out I have an option for Saturday daily masses if I happen to oversleep (totally did this past weekend). A 12:30pm Mass in Detroit at Old St. Mary’s. I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilled I was to find this out. No more waking up at 7:30am on a Saturday to roll out of bed and get to an 8am mass. I mean, Saturdays were MADE for sleep…didn’t God say that in Genesis somewhere?

Saturday – November 4th – Feast of St. Charles Borromeo – Old St Mary’s – Greektown – 12:30pm

 

Initial Reaction: Wow.

I really have no other words to describe what you feel or think when you first walk in. And of course, the pictures don’t do it justice. I could have spent the entire day there just sitting and looking and praying and staring and basking in the glow. 🙂

Homily Reflection: I think I know more about St. Charles than ever thought possible. It was great! Very thorough job by the presider. I couldn’t help but think of all my friends and family who belong to St. Charles at home in Cleveland. So I said a special prayer for them during communion. Fr. mentioned that St. Charles was “totally giving of himself, helping people, exhorting people.” His whole entire mind and heart was dedicated to doing the will of Jesus. He died while tending to people in Milan during an outbreak of a plague. As for the Gospel, St. Charles was also like the good shepherd that Jesus says He is. Like a good shepherd, when the sheep get out of line or wander off, the shepherd is there to get them back in line. Those among us who have no faith in the Lord, non-religious people or non-Christians, these are the people who need to hear the voice of the good shepherd. And St. Charles was a great example of that. We need to do the same if we want to be saints.

Holy Moments: I got here early enough to pray Morning and Daytime prayer and to do some Lectio Divina with the Gospel. Leaving at least an hour beforehand when it’s quiet and the only sounds are the people making their way into the creaky pews is soooo good for the soul. It’s great to prepare for mass like this. I highly recommend trying to get to mass as early as you can to really enjoy these moments of silence. (I’m sure those with small children will dismiss this as ridiculous advice, to which I would just say – 20 minutes of quiet time before you get ready to LEAVE for mass is also a great way to start the day. We all need moments of silence. Get it any way you can!)


So the bummer of the week is that the Church Tour of Old St. Mary’s, Sweetest Heart of Mary and Sacred Heart Major Seminary was canceled. But, the good news is that I’ll be attending the Beatification of Blessed Solanus Casey at Ford Field on November 18th. Along with thousands of other Catholics in Detroit. That’s probably going to out-blog anything I could have written about the Church tour. In the meantime, as my buddy Patrick Coffin likes to say, “Be a Saint! What else is there?”

Time Well Spent on Priesthood Sunday

Aerial of St Albert The Great-11

I just spent a very short weekend at home in CLE to celebrate my Dad’s 75th birthday. This morning, I found myself at our neighborhood parish of St. Albert the Great for 9:30am mass which was not in my “plan” at all. I actually thought I’d attend 5pm mass here in Plymouth but something, or someone, nudged me to go to Albert’s this morning.

I do tend to feel better when I go to a morning mass on Sundays. I don’t know what it is about evening masses that make me feel all “off.” I think it’s like how I felt growing up: If I was up late on a Sunday night, it felt weird because I knew I had to be up early for school the next day. And no one wants to think about school on a Sunday night. That’s the worst. feeling. ever. (Did I get all my homework done? What if there’s a Math test tomorrow? Please let there be a snow day!)

So as I walked in, I actually took a bulletin and sat down, which I don’t normally do. I find reading the bulletin distracting for me but something compelled me to reach for one.

As I knelt in the pew, I actually started to pray a slightly different prayer than I normally do. I felt compelled to write it down afterwards:

“Help me to remember that everyone is here is loved by You. Help me remember they are created in your image and likeness and that they are created to love and to be loved. I need to remember that and I pray that they know it too.”

The reason I am sharing is because this is very closely related to the Gospel this Sunday, which was from Matthew when Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question about which commandment is the greatest: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And then Jesus says the 2nd is like this one: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So that was my first sign that perhaps I had actually been “quiet” enough this weekend to allow the Holy Spirit to help me remember the message of this Sunday’s readings before I even had time to open the missal, hence the prayer.

I decided to open the bulletin to read it, which again, something I rarely do, when I saw the note from the pastor that a seminarian friend of mine named Joe was invited to be the guest speaker before mass. He was going to talk because this was Priesthood Sunday and he was going to share his story of his vocation.

He spoke before mass started (Excellent idea, by the way, most people are attentive before mass begins than after it’s over, in my opinion). He gave such a wonderful testimonial of his journey to the seminary. It was also very timely for me as Joe emphasized to everyone there, not just young men, but for everyone to discern their vocation. So this isn’t just for religious or priests, it’s also for marriage.

“We need more vocations in our Church,” he said. And he’s so right! We don’t just need more priests and religious sisters but we also need more marriages. More joy-filled marriages! And I would add, more vocations from women to consecrated virginity but that’s very rare that Joe would even mention it. But it just struck me as being so timely that I was there to hear a talk on vocations, as I have been discerning consecrated virginity for a couple years now.

Joe asked for prayers as he is halfway through the seminary along with 79 other men  in Cleveland. 80 seminarians is huge! And I must say I’m pretty proud of the Cleveland Diocese for being in the top 3 or 5 (not sure exactly?) of number of men in the seminary. Now that I’m in Detroit, I feel like I need to pray even harder for these young men here at Sacred Heart. And we need to pray overall for an increase in vocations. The priests in my own life have been instrumental in my spiritual journey. So please thank your priest/pastor next time you see them.  Thank a religious sister too, while you’re at it. They need our prayers but they also need to be thanked. They sacrifice a lot and I don’t think many of us truly give them the acknowledgement they deserve. And of course, thank God for them most of all.


Speaking of great priests, Fr. Joe Kim celebrated this mass and had a really great homily. He’s a sweetheart of a priest. I was blessed to attend his first ever mass (a daily mass) at St. Albert’s when he started a year (or has it been 2?) ago. He’s from Korea so he has a very noticeable accent but it really doesn’t deter him from delivering a heartfelt and sincere message.

He asked us to think about how much do we love God and how much do we love our neighbor?

He said when we love something, like our favorite sports team, we usually have a lot of gear/apparel like hats and jackets and t-shirts with their logo on it. But how much do we love God that we are willing to accessorize for Him to show others that we are Christian? Maybe we wear a crucifix or a cross, or maybe we have a rosary or a statue of Mary in our yard. But is that enough?

What about time? Mass on Sunday is 1 hour. But if we love our football team we’re probably watching all day on Sunday, and then again on Monday and Thursday night.

What else do we love? Fr. mentioned how much he loves ice cream. The man confessed to having it 4 times a day! I don’t know if he was exaggerating to prove a point but it was hilarious to think about this priest indulging in ice cream for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a dessert at night time. He also said he loves sleep. And working out. So the point was all this other stuff that we love adds up.

And soon we realize, “Where and how much time in the day am I spending loving God and my neighbor?”

He offered just a small piece of advice: Spend small amounts of time in prayer frequently instead of trying to pray for a long time at one point during the day. For example, saying a prayer in the morning when you wake up, before meals, and before you go to sleep at night. It’s easy and simple and most of all, attainable. Then (and he didn’t say this but I would suggest) that you can add in more prayer times as you get into a routine. Even praying in the car during your commute is preferable.

He also suggested spending time in the adoration chapel. He said, and I strongly agree, that the St. Albert’s adoration chapel is probably the most beautiful one in the diocese. I spent many many hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament there and it’s just so needed because it’s peaceful and quiet and, you know, Jesus is there.

 

Today, in our noisy, loud world, we are in desperate need of silence. It’s perpetual, which I REALLY miss here in Detroit. There’s not one perpetual (24-7/365) chapel in this diocese. 😦 However, there IS one in Ann Arbor, which is the Lansing Diocese and it’s right where I work so I’m very lucky. (And if there is a Perpetual Adoration chapel in Detroit, someone let me know!)

I wanted to share a photo of our seminarians in Cleveland and here in Detroit but could only find the one of my CLE boys.

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The best thing I ever heard from someone was to take these posters and bring them with you to a chapel to pray individually for these young men. I think it helps to have names and faces as you say a Hail Mary or an Our Father for them. And then, God-willing, one day you may meet them in person and say, “Ahh! Joe! I prayed for you when you were just a seminarian. Congratulations on being ordained a Priest!”


Just so people don’t think I’m giving my hometown of Cleveland all the praise, here’s a very recent article from Sacred Heart Major Seminary on how they are having one of their best years for enrollment. So Thanks be to God for them too! 🙂

 

 

 

The Truth Does Not Change

I wish I knew where this reflection on this Sunday’s gospel came from in order to give credit to whomever wrote it. I’m going to assume, since I found it in my church’s bulletin, that it came from the USCCB. I felt compelled to share it, particularly because of this line: “Our world is growing more and more hostile to the message of the Gospel.” 

Was it always this hostile or is it just me? Maybe it’s an age thing. Maybe I’m feeling the hostility because I’m interacting with more people? No idea. Perhaps the world was always this angry but because we are all communicating and sharing more than ever, it’s just becoming more and more apparent that the hostility was always there – we just didn’t see it.

For reference, the reading is Luke 4:21-30

“When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.” Why were these folks furious? Because they didn’t like what Jesus told them. They took offense at his teaching that “no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Jesus was implying that his fellow Nazarenes in the synagogue were blind to who he really was. And this made them mad. They didn’t like being told that they were wrong. But Jesus told them anyway. He knew that these people needed to hear the truth, even if it mean that he would be unpopular. In fact, he spoke the truth even at risk of his own life. “They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.”

It can be tempting to confuse Jesus’ kindness and goodness with passivity, mistakenly imagining him as a person who would never ruffle any feathers because he was so concerned about being “nice.” This one-sided image of Jesus can lead us to excuse our own passivity about the falsehood and evil that surrounds us.

We can justify our silence or inaction by convincing ourselves that we shouldn’t upset anyone. But the fact is that Jesus upset people on a regular basis. That wasn’t his goal, of course, but he was willing to deal with resistance for the sake of truth and justice. And we should be willing to do the same.

Our world is growing more and more hostile to the message of the Gospel. When we simply live our faith authentically, it makes some people angry. But we should not recoil from this reality. Jesus’ witness made people furious too. But when they got mad, he didn’t cave in.

Whether people like it or not, the truth does not change.

Too Scared to Speak

In the past 6 months I have shared many articles on social media about pro-life and bioethical issues that are most controversial in our world, especially concerning those about abortion and birth control with the occasional post about homosexuality, gender identity, and so-called “same sex marriage.”

It never seems to fail that each time I post, one of my Christian friends privately messages me and thanks me for speaking up and not being afraid for saying what they wish they could say. At first it was random, but lately it’s been a more frequent occurrence. And the verbiage is usually similar – A common theme of fear.

“I’m not brave enough like you to say anything. ”

“It’s so great that you have so much courage to speak up on such controversial issues.”

“I can’t speak up like you do, I’m a wimp.”

Courageous? Brave? It’s strange that people use these words to describe a simple keystroke. I mean, really, how difficult is it to click the word “share?”  But what is even more strange is the “fear” that people have in their own hearts.

What are we afraid of? If we know this is truth, what is there to fear?

I suppose the biggest fear is fear of losing an argument. Fear of losing friendships maybe. Fear of looking foolish. Fear of what others think of us.

But something I think we need to be more fearful of is Ignorance. If we don’t stay informed of these pressing issues, then this allows misinformation to spread. And let’s keep in mind one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to “Instruct the Ignorant.” So that means, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy issued by Pope Francis, that we not only have a duty to seek the truth ourselves, it means we need to share the truth. (The “ignorant” isn’t meant to be an insulting term here; it simply means the “uninformed.”)

For example, the controversial undercover Planned Parenthood videos:

I have met with and conversed with a few people who have never even seen a minute of any of the undercover video footage from the Center of Medical Progress and journalist David Daleiden. Not surprising when you read that none of the major media outlets gave it more than 39 seconds of coverage.

But just today, a grand jury in Houston has found Planned Parenthood not guilty of any wrongdoing and decided to bring charges up against Daleiden himself. Oh and one of the DA’s is on the board of Planned Parenthood. Sigh…

To those of us in the pro-life movement, this would seem like a huge step backwards, especially considering the March for Life in D.C. and the Walk for Life in San Francisco were so successful.

But see, I think of this as a misstep by Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. I think, rather, I pray, that this will be their undoing. How?

Because now they will be forced to take the stand. Of course, nothing is going to stop liars from lying, even under oath. But I predict one of these doctors will have a major conversion.

If “Jane Roe” could have a conversion, would it not also be possible that one of these abortion doctors could have one as well?

Today in the Catholic Church we recognize the Conversion of St. Paul. St. Paul had the biggest conversion ever. Like, if there was an award for conversions, this dude would receive the award, hands down. The  guy was pretty awful when he was Saul, persecuting followers of Jesus left and right.

Reading about him was one of the catalysts for me when I myself “came back” to the Church after a short departure.

Reflecting on him tonight I can’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be great if one of these PP docs or workers had a conversion? Wouldn’t it be awesome if they decided to find a way to give life instead of taking it away?”

Do you know what’s stopping them?

Probably the same thing that stops you from sharing or speaking up on controversial topics like abortion: Fear.

They probably have no idea how to leave the industry. Think about it – What would they do if they left? How would they make a living? What would their co-workers think?

Enter the awesome website run by Abby Johnson called And Then There Were None. She seeks to help former abortion workers (yes, even doctors themselves) to leave the industry for good. To date, they have helped approximately 200 workers out of this darkness and on to the path to healing and recovery.

She helps them speak up when they are too afraid.

So let’s set the example and show people we aren’t afraid of a little debate, of a little controversy, of a little action.

We have truth on our side.

  • Looking for ways to help the unborn from the inside out? Consider writing a “Love Letter” to abortion clinic workers in your city/state. Before someone can be converted, they need to know they’ll have support when/if they leave. This means we don’t shout obscenities and awful things to them when we stand outside abortion clinics. This means we love them and pray for them. We hate what they do for a living. But we always love them because they are humans and worthy of respect and dignity.
  • If you’re looking for simple ways you can help the unborn and promote the pro-life message, here’s a short article from Word on Fire.
  • For other helpful websites that speak the truth when it comes to bioethics and the Catholic Church teachings, especially the unborn and human dignity, I recommend the following:

National Catholic Bioethics Center

Life Site News

Live Action

LifeTeen

EWTN

 

 

 

Running with the Rosary

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“The ROSARY is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the Rosary is beyond description.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Way to Inner Peace)

As some of you may already know, I’m a Personal Trainer and overall obsessed gym rat. Recently, I’ve been trying to find a way to blend my favorite things together – my faith AND my love of fitness. There are others out there with this same problem goal and I’m always in awe to see people and companies who have blended this successfully.

Some examples:

What Would Jesus Deadlift? They are all over social media, especially Instagram where followers take pictures of themselves in WWJD gear. (Of course, I’ve bought a two shirts myself as soon as I discovered them). From their website:

Have you ever finished your set and thought, What Would Jesus Deadlift? Wear this comfortable shirt at the gym to motivate you and those around you while you workout to meditate on what Jesus lifted. That weight on that cross was all of our sins, yours and mine. Just as Jesus picked up that cross, you can pick up that weight!

Our Vision: We are not here to just sell shirts and become rich. We are here to help send a message with this design. God has called us to challenge others to put some thought to “What Would Jesus Deadlift?” What does that mean? How does that relate to my fitness lifestyle? My spiritual journey? Am I taking what Jesus did on that cross for granted?

Think about it. Make others do the same.

Our Mission: We are here to give back. With every purchase you make, we make a local impact here in Fresno, CA as we reach out to others by giving them a free t-shirt, help with food, talking and ministering to others on “What Would Jesus Deadlift”. We hope you can be part of it!

PrayFit MinistriesThe mission of PrayFit Ministries is to help the collective church with humble, bodily stewardship, and to help those in the health & fitness industry toward a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

In The PrayFit Diet, NYT best selling author Jimmy Peña shows us how faith is the most powerful tool we have to conquer all of life’s obstacles, and that includes our health. More importantly, God wants you to be at your best, physically and spiritually. By combining perfectly proportioned meals with Biblically based motivation, The PrayFit Diet will give you all the tools you need to live a life that will both inspire you and honor the Lord.


So what about me?  I don’t have a clothing line…I’m not a best selling author….I’m not a professional figure competitor with a large following.

How can I use my faith to promote a healthy life and help others do the same?

I discovered one small way this morning during my long run.

I’m training for a marathon in October and I was scheduled to run 8 miles today. I started out listening to music from iPhone which I normally do to keep me motivated. To run in complete silence is definitely do-able but not ideal when you have a run longer than a couple miles.

Today, it was about 80 degrees during my run which means I probably felt like it was around 85-90 degrees. To say this was challenging would be an understatement.

After 3 miles in this time, I decided to try something different. I stopped the music and started my Rosary App. (Yes there’s a Rosary app, there’s an app for everything isn’t there?)

The app is pretty simple; it has simple graphics and an audio (voice) that goes through the entire rosary. You choose which “Mystery” you’d like to pray and just hit “play.”

I grabbed my Mom’s rosary that she had with her for the final years of her life while she fought lymphoma. It was a perfect way to pray a rosary because, as you can see from the picture, it fits right around your thumb!

I made it from mile 3 to mile 7 praying through the Luminous Mysteries as well as the Sorrowful Mysteries. Each Mystery takes about 25 minutes to pray through so for me, given how slow of a runner I am, that equated 2 miles.

The Pros:

I was actually able to meditate and pray without getting distracted too much. Anyone who knows their rosary knows getting distracted while reciting the same prayer over and over again is a common occurrence. But I think because I was actively moving (running, in this case) I was surprisingly able to stay focused.

The time it took to get through this sweaty run went by very quickly. While most of the time, listening to music DOES kinda get the blood flowing and the legs moving, it still seems like it takes FOREVER for me to complete my miles. This time, I felt motivated by the words being prayed. Kind of like a chant? Whatever it was, it helped pass the time.

The Cons:

Due to the heat and the fact that I didn’t have a water belt on me, I was SUPER thirsty. This was increased due to the fact that I was trying to SAY the Rosary out loud along with the app. Of course, even though I’m not that fast of a runner, I still couldn’t quite get the words out. So it was more of a breathless whisper instead of speaking out loud. But even just this whisper caused me to feel like I constantly needed water. I took a few walk breaks but I attempted to time them when I finished a decade which I found to be kind of a good “break.”

I think Running with the Rosary has some potential. But, I would probably be hesitant to promote it as the BEST way to pray it. I think any super Catholic would suggest that you should really be still and silent or at least in a chapel to pray the rosary “best.” But, for those who say they are too busy to pray or too busy to say a rosary, why not just say one Hail Mary while you’re running? And then if you feel like you can do more, add a few more. Then you might add more until you’ve said a whole decade.  My personal feeling is that as long as you show Mary her proper reverence and can get in a few rosaries while running, I think she would say, “Run with me! Just don’t run FROM me!” 🙂


 

For those who have no idea how to pray the rosary, or how to stay focused when distractions come up I have a few good resources listed here.

From: Understanding the Rosary – A Wake Up Call by Kat Franchino

Tiny Cheat Sheet: Rosary Edition

  • The word rosary itself is Latin and translates along the lines of “a garland of roses.” The story goes that St. Dominic developed the Rosary sometime between the 12th and 15th centuries after having a vision of the Virgin Mary, but prayer beads and cords were used way before St. Dominic’s vision.
  • The Rosary is divided into decades, with each decade starting with a mystery. A mystery is a short reading that focuses on an aspect of Jesus or Mary’s life, with the word mystery meaning “a truth of the faith.” Still a little baffled by that translation of mystery. There are three traditional mysteries (Joyful, Sorrow and Glorious mysteries), as well as the Luminous mysteries, added by Pope John Paul II in 2002. When praying a decade of the Rosary (the Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, Glory Be and the Fatima prayer), Catholics meditate on that decade’s mystery.
  • The Rosary is said for a variety of reasons. We say it because of our devotion to Mary who intercedes on our behalf. Saying it gives us an opportunity to meditate on key moments in Jesus’ life. The Rosary also helps us become more intentional and thoughtful in our prayers.

From: The Beginner’s Guide to the Rosary

Offering Intentions

Practically everyone who prays the Rosary “offers” the Rosary to God and Our Lady for an intention. Some people offer particular intentions before each decade. You can ask God to grant you a favor, heal a sick person, or convert a sinner. Some people offer the same intention every day–sometimes for years on end–especially when asking the Father for the conversion of a particular person. Intentions are as varied as the people who pray.

Ask for big and small gifts. Be bold! In this sense, the Rosary is an exchange of gifts between friends.

It is widely known that Our Lady answers seemingly impossible intentions to those who are first beginning to pray the Rosary. This is her way of drawing you closer to Her and to Jesus. If you are praying your first Rosary, or returning to the Rosary after years of not talking to Our Lady, ask for something big, spectacular, “impossible.” She’ll often surprise you.