Thursday, October 13, 2005

Reduced Eucharistic Veneration and its Correlation with Reduced Vocations to the Priesthood

Many Catholics appear to be rightly concerned about the reduced number of vocations in particular to the priesthood. Apparently, so is the media – whose mocked concern is centered upon the need to discredit the Catholic Church, the priesthood, chastity etc etc... at every possible opportunity that avails itself.

In our parish, probably like in many other parishes around the US, we have set up a vocations committee to address the issue of reduced vocations to the religious life and in particular to the priesthood, and to try and find a way of promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life among the parishioners and in particular among the youth. It is a problem that should be on everybody’s agenda – every priest, deacon, brother, nun, and lay person – irrespective of what our vocation is. As I stated in a previous posting, the word “vocations” is derived from the latin vocatio which means summons, and from vocare to call. We are ALL CALLED – and we tend to forget that!

Problem 1 – The lack of understanding of the greatness of the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

A. The Stats

Statistics show that the national Catholic population has just under doubled since 1965, while priests have decreased. From my rough estimation, it appears as if, at the moment, nationally there is 1 priest per 1500 Catholics. Two confounding statistics to this data, which I do not have available as I write this, are –

1. the percentage of those “Catholics” that attend Mass and are practicing of their faith &

2. the percentage of the priests that are not near or at retiring age

B. The Problem

We can be and tend to be judgmental about the current situation in the Church, often pointing fingers in all directions, while forgetting that in pointing one finger towards someone else, we point three towards ourselves. However, I assert with great conviction that the problem is not simply rooted in the paganism of modern society that surrounds each and every one of us, but it is also and probably more detrimentally rooted in the lack of faith that WE as Catholics have. These two factors explain the reasons for the state of society and our Church.

We are coming to the close of the Year of the Eucharist. It is fitting therefore, in the context of my discussion here today, that I discuss this great mystery at this point and to some extent, since I truly believe that the lack of appreciation of this, most Holy of all Mysteries, is probably the primary causative factor for all the problems we face today as a Church and society. I believe it is the sole cause for the decrease in numbers of priests, the decreased attendance to church, decreased youth participation etc.. etc… We have lost the conviction the apostles had. We have lost our Faith.

The Lord said, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this sycamore tree, 'Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6) and again “He said to them, "Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt 17:20)…..How true ring these words of chastisement! We are all guilty of this at some point in our life. We all need to work on it & now more than ever. Christ’s words are echoed by a modern day saint living among us … Mother Angelica of the Nuns of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama, who has said that “If we are not ready to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous”.

To summarize – I believe that the problem is nothing more than a lack of serious Faith in God. This ultimately becomes reflected in how we perceive the Mass, the sacraments, Eucharist etc. etc. resulting in a withered faith.

C. Transubstantiation, the Body of Christ & the Priesthood

Faith confers community, vanquishes loneliness. He who believes is not alone”[1]. This is a concept we need to grasp. St. Paul greatly emphasizes the fact that we comprise the one Body of Christ. To the Corinthians he writes “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the load of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf” (1 Cor, 10:16-17)

Therefore, being “one in the body of Christ”, can only be possible if Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and therefore present in us when we receive Him. This is an essential pillar, an essential dogma of our faith – and it is essential that we believe and proclaim this – it is what makes or breaks us. There is no other way around this argument for several reasons:

1. Blood in an infusion bag in a hospital is nothing more than just that – blood in a bag & belongs to no particular person. On its own it serves no function – it is meaningless. However that blood becomes part of a person once it is infused. Furthermore, it is all and not part of the blood that now becomes an integral part and gives life to the body. Likewise, with the Body of Christ. Simplistically explained, we can only be part of the Body of Christ if we receive Him (c.f. blood in my analogy) i.e. only if He is truly present in the Eucharist. To extend the analogy further, if a finger becomes disconnected from the body and the blood of that person stops running through it, that finger is no longer part of that body. Thus it is with the body of Christ – It is only with His true presence in the Host that we can be part of His mystical body. If, then, Christ was not truly present in the Host, we would not be part of His mystical body – we could not be. Moreover, as with blood, where all and not part of it returns to the heart and lungs to be re-oxygenated so as to give life to the body, so it is that we receive the whole of Christ’s Body, Blood and Divinity in order to be whole in Him and have life in Him.

2. Christ was not speaking figuratively when he said “Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:53-56).

When Christ wanted to speak figuratively he did so and he explained teachings in parables. When he said this statement however, he never backed away from it, never reworded it. In fact “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). Seeing this did not change what He had said. On the contrary He turned to His apostles and challenged them -”Do you also want to leave?” (John 6:67).

Christ’s words are not easy to understand and yet we need to believe and have faith in what he taught us for “blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29). Let us have more faith then many of his disciples did. In the same chapter where Jesus reveals to us His true presence in the sacrament that he was about to institute on the last day of his life, John also tells us that “there are some of you who do not believe”. Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him." (John 6:64). Given the context of this whole discussion in John’s gospel it appears that this was the downfall of Judas. Let is not let it be our downfall too. However believing it is not enough. We need to proclaim it.

So what is the connection between the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the priesthood? In Dominicae Cenae – On the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II said “The Eucharist is the principal and central raison d’etre of the sacrament of the priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, and together with it……… The priest fulfills his principal mission and is manifested in all his fullness when he celebrates the Eucharist….”[2]

In his speech as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on October 1st, 1990, the then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said “If Church usage calls ordination to the ministry of priesthood a “sacrament”, the following is meant: This man is in no way performing functions for which he is highly qualified by his own natural ability nor is he doing the things that please him most and that are most profitable. On the contrary, the one who receives the sacrament is sent to give what he cannot give of his own strength; he is sent to act in the person of another, to be his living instrument” [3](my emphasis).

It is thus very clear that the two – priesthood and the Eucharist - are intricately linked. In all of this “The priest must be a true believer”[4]. And this IS the punch-line. The priest MUST be a believer….. But the priest is not born of a special lineage of believers!!!! He is born part of the same society that you and I live in…. Thus the “believer syndrome” needs to start from society – most importantly from the FAMILY.

To summarize – We, as lay Catholics, as individuals, as families, as parishes etc etc need to foster greatly the true appreciation and the true belief in the Holy Eucharist and the true presence of Christ. Having achieved this, we are sure to have more young people, who, recognizing the immensity of the sacrifice of the Mass, would WANT to be and would HEED Christ’s call for more workers in the vineyard. Simply put without one (true belief & veneration of Christ in the Eucharist), we won’t have the other (priests).


Problem 2 – The Youth and their unrealistic expectations

The second major problem facing our Church and society in general is the attitude of the youth. While it is easy to point the finger to the youth however, it is well worth remembering that three other fingers point to US. Who formed the youth of today? Which generation brought forward and formed today’s generation? We only have ourselves to blame and our ancestors. Today is a consequence of yesterday. However tomorrow is also a consequence of today – and therefore there still is the potential to change the course. We CAN, if we want, change the situation. However we need to have the will to do so.

Where do the youth, their formation and their expectations come into the problem with vocations? Many years ago, I recall listening to a psychologist speaking about the reasons for the earlier onset of depression (from age 25 to 15 – if I recall correctly). He gave three reasons that could not be more valid:

1. The lack of recognition and acceptance of a superior being/God in whom one can find anchorage

2. The lack of necessity to actively earn their way through life (i.e. finding everything laid out on a plate for them)

3. The lack of acceptance of proper emotions (and with it I would add the exaggeration of false ones)

I summarize these into three simple terms respectively:

1. atheistic narcissism: self absorption; self-deification – at the cost of sanity, since the finite created human mind cannot provide the stability that can be provided by the infinite, ever present, creator, God.

2. psychophysical lethargy: being self absorbed, and unable to see the greater picture of reality, has to result in lethargy – boredom – for how long can a person dwell upon his/her own self?

3. Emotional deconstruction: I refer to it a deconstruction because rather than developing emotions appropriately, society, through denial and falsification of emotions, has led to a break down in emotions which has ultimately led to an exacerbation of psychiatric problems.

The above three concepts can be further summarized as an inability to accept REALITY. It appears that the famous quote of William Penn, English religious leader and colonist (1644 - 1718), the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania may as well have been buried with him "No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown." We do not comprehend William Penn's message anymore because we do not want to deal with reality anymore. The ultimate consequence is psychological instability and the multitude of psychiatric problems that our current society faces. For, it can truly be said that, a common trait of any psychiatric disorder that incorporates madness as a symptom involves an inability to experience reality.

Being a neuroscientist, I have delved and still do into the brain and its workings. I find the work fascinating and certainly an eye opener as to the greatness of God’s creation. However a nagging aspect that stands out like a sore thumb, and one that would certainly be looked upon in horror by many of my fellow neuroscientists, and is sure to discredit me in their eyes, is that in all that I do and in all that goes on in science, I cannot but realize that the decision making aspect in humans, and therefore human acts, are driven by a level that is above and beyond the relative simplicity of the processes that exist in animals. To me this is nothing more than the soul – the part of us made in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26 and 2:7)[5]– that transcends the physical. It is an underlying fact, that I am sure others have also observed but few scientists dare approach it or mention it – it is a taboo subject – most only want to deal and accept what can be proven experimentally – which is limited and finite in its capacity to provide us with solutions. To some, however, including some Catholics, this is a phenomenon they cannot and will not ever grasp!!! Ultimately this incapacity to observe and accept, is nothing more than
pride and conceit and ultimately a total obstinate rejection of reality, and consequently God, who being infinite in all respect, being Yahweh (the “I AM who AM”[6]) as He said to Moses, is therefore eternally present, and thus IS the ONLY reality.

It becomes clear how detached youth have become from the REALITY / God when one listens to their comments about Mass - about how boring Mass is - who ever said that Mass was meant to be entertainment? Was Christ partying on his last evening with His closest friends? If the answer is "no" then how can one expect the Mass to be any different? Grant it that in celebrating the Mass we also celebrate the risen Christ. However, what a distorted concept of celebration the youth have!!!!

The then Cardinal Ratzinger summarizes this misconception well saying that “By its very essence, by its very nature, Christian belief is “glad tidings”…..the joyous character of Christian faith does not depend on the effectiveness of ecclesiastical events. The Church is not a society for the promotion of good cheer, whose value rises and falls with the success of its activities. If the events of such a society are boring and without humor, it has become superfluous. The joy it gives depends on its activities. But the strength of the Christian message lies deeper” [1].

What is it that does not enable people to see the greatness of what happens in the sacrifice of the Mass? How could we so blatantly shut the door in Christ's face? Whose fault is it? - There certainly is an easy response to the last question - It is EVERY CATHOLIC's fault. At some point or another we have all been neglectful. Maybe at times more than others and some more than others. Every form of negligence eats into the sturdiness of our faith, of our Reality/God. Once that goes, all else falls apart - and this is what is happening with our youth today.

Therefore, with such poor formation, and such unrealistic expectations, how can the youth ever appreciate the priesthood and its intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, who IS God and is therefore the only reality?

To summarize: The problem with our youth and our society in general then, is that we are refusing to incorporate God in our lives as much as we should. The result is a detachment from reality and this is particularly visible in the expectations and behavior of the youth of today. With the unrealistic expectations and the detachment from reality/God present in many youth, it becomes impossible for them to consider the priesthood. One can never wish for the fruit he/she never saw or tasted.

What the Priesthood is All About – A Married Man’s perspective

To me the priesthood was always something to be admired. Although I never appreciated the priesthood the way I do now, it was always something “awesome”. God called me to another vocation. That, did not in anyway diminish the respect and love I had for the priesthood. In fact it made it stronger. Contrary to the way certain people portray the priesthood, I have never felt intimidated by the position of the priest in the Church. I have never seen the priest as being superior to me, although I have recognized the difference of his call, a call to a closer relationship with Christ, a higher call to serve. I see the priest as the vessel that through the Eucharistic sacrifice carries to God, my needs, my thanks, my whining and all that I am and all that I have. Should I have a problem with that? NO not unless I do not understand what Christ and His Church are all about.

An associate pastor, at the parish of which I am currently a member, once said words during the homily to the effect that he was irritated at the fact that the Church always portrayed the priest as “up there” while the congregation “down there”. I challenged him on this after the Mass. He was not happy with what I had to tell him – he ran away from the truth!!!!

I gave him the analogy of a river. It starts in the mountain, and flows down. There is a waterfall at some point, it is a large river at another, it may be a narrow one at another, finally a stream – I challenged him to tell me if the water at the beginning was any less important than the water at the end; whether the water at the top of the waterfall was any different to the water at the bottom. So it is with the priesthood and each of our vocations. Our vocations and our life are a continuum. It all ultimately flows to God and from God. The end of the water flowing into the sea would be nothing without the beginning of the water flowing down the mountain. That is what the priest is to me – a person called to a greater dedication to God, an intermediary between me and God. It does not remove anything from his humanity nor his equality to me. His role remains however DIFFERENT to mine.

To me a priest or any Catholic person that complains about this as a “hierarchy” is a person that has lost the focus at the center of Christ’s Church i.e. Christ himself. Unfortunately many have lost this focus. Even more unfortunate some priests have as well!!!! This becomes evident in the way Mass is celebrated by these particular priests. They take liberties to change and ad lib, to make the Mass into a show. They literally lose the plot of the Mass and all that it means. With that they lose the people who given the daily attacks on their faith, the last attack they suspect is from within. It confuses their faith. Given the immense depth and sanctity of the Mass and the immense repercussions on souls of abuses, is it any wonder that such behavior is sacrilegious?

To summarize: I could say much more but I think I can summarize my thoughts by one sentence that I said above: “I see the priest as the vessel that through the Eucharistic sacrifice carries to God, my needs, my thanks, my whining and all that I am and all that I have.”

Conclusion - The Loop: Eucharistic Veneration, The Priesthood, Reality and the Youth

The topics discussed above seem broad. I could not possibly discuss them to the extent that I wish to do so, without spending my life doing solely that. What I wish to do below is to link the all that I said in as few sentences as possible.

  • The Eucharist is the principal and central raison d’etre of the sacrament of the priesthood, which effectively came into being at the moment of the institution of the Eucharist, and together with it……… The priest fulfills his principal mission and is manifested in all his fullness when he celebrates the Eucharist….”[2]

  • "No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown." William Penn (1644 - 1718)

  • “The priest must be a true believer”[4]

To conclude – To have an increase in vocations, we need to have a greater appreciation of the Eucharistic mystery. We need to believe it. The priest has to be the foremost believer, since his belief will mold/shape the faith of those whom he shepherds. In the most Holy Eucharist, and in venerating the Holy Eucharist, we experience God and therefore we experience the ONE and ONLY REALITY. The youth and society also need to come to this comprehension. Youth in particular, nowadays face a great challenge in coming to understand reality. Society is constantly bombarding them with false hopes and realities. In forsaking God, they and those of us guilty with them, have forsaken REALITY. How can there be an increase in vocations to the priesthood unless there is an acceptance and consequently and increase in adoration and veneration to HIM whom a person called to the priesthood would be serving in a more profound way?

I will revisit this topic many more times in the future. In one of the next blogs I wish to delve further into the link between the lack of prayer, Eucharistic adoration etc. and their consequences on our Church, vocations, our life as Catholics and society in general.

God Bless (+)

Stephen

..............................................

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology
[2] Pope John Paul II, Dominicae Cenae, 1980
[3] Cardinal Joseph Ratiznger, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, The Nature of the Priesthood, Speech given on October 1st, 1990
[4] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, from A New Song for the Lord, tr. by Martha M Matesich, NY: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1996, and quoted in Magnificat for Holy Thursday, March 24, 2005.
[5] Genesis 1:26: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth" and Genesis 2:7 "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul"
[6] Exodus 3:14


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Open letter to Barbara Walters re: The Catechism of the Catholic Church

One has to comment on your apparent familiarity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the September 22 episode of “The View” where you described a part of the Catechism that obviously repulses you. Your direct mockery of the teachings of the Catholic Church relating to homosexuality, celibacy and the role of women in the Catholic Church truly highlight a warped mind. The saddest part is that, in what you and your co-hosts did, you only clearly reflected 1. your ignorance 2. your lack of work ethic and capacity as a TV presenter/host etc. to be objective and ultimately 3. your clearly dysfunctional moral standards. These reflect upon you negatively and say much about the type of person that you are or are not!!! The most negative aspect they reflect is your ignorance and a lack of true understanding of the true teachings of the Church. They reflect your cowardice, as I am sure, you would not have the courage to make the same disparaging comments about the Muslim faith, the Jews, or for that matter probably most other religious organizations.

Let me clarify very briefly what the church says. I include some statements that will enlighten you on how clearly the Church is directing its attention to the action/sin and the need for this to be avoided, rather than attacking, as it is often portrayed, the individual. On the contrary the Church’s teachings seek to console. In the “LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS” issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1986 it is stated (all emphasis is mine) “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” The same document continues to state (what is by nature obvious) that “Homosexual activity is not a complementary union”.

The document speaks with compassion of homosexual persons stating that “This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent.” The document also reprimands discrimination against such persons stating that “It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

I also have to refer you to some statements in the document “Homosexuality and Hope” issued in 2003 and again this year (2005) without changes by the Catholic Medical Association. It is interesting to see such comments as those of Robert Spitzer, M.D., who was directly involved in the 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association's list of mental disorders stating in an interview that he is now convinced that “many people have made substantial changes toward becoming heterosexual” admitting that he came into the study as a skeptic but now thinks otherwise.The document interestingly further states that “almost without exception, those who regard therapy as unethical also reject abstinence from non-marital sexual activity as a minimal goal”. Shockingly or maybe really not so shockingly, the study continues to state and describe that some studies “even support a lessening of restrictions on sex between adults and minors or deny the negative psychological impact of sexual child abuse”.

This is truly not so surprising. Once the moral fabric of society starts disintegrating and such behaviors become so openly acceptable so as to be thought nothing as reflected by your comments and those of many others, it leaves very little that is not acceptable or doable. Why should we be so awe struck with the happenings around us? Don’t we reap what we sow?

One last comment, highlighting to you the wisdom in the teachings of the Church and pertaining to your comments on celibacy – a recent paper by Hallfors D.D. et al published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine 2005: 29 (3) pp163-170 entitled “Which comes first in Adolescence – Sex and Drugs or Depression?” the authors’ results indicate that “sex and drug behavior predicted an increased likelihood of depression, but depression did not predict behavior”. Sounds familiar? What the Church in its wisdom has taught for over two thousand years, science is finally “discovering” to be fact.

Loss of God from the center of people’s lives leads to a total disintegration of moral standards and social disarray as people try to fill the resulting void, and then they get caught in an unending circle of never ending problems. In defending morals and encouraging such behaviors as chastity, the Church is standing by the Natural moral law – described in the Catechism as being “immutable throughout history”, the “necessary foundation for the erection of moral rules and civil law” (see §1979).

Society will only find solace once it comprehends and heeds the message of Christ. That is all the Church is doing. How true rings 1 Corinthians 1:25-26 - "For the Foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength"!!!
God Bless (+)
Stephen

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Social Degeneration – Is Inappropriate Attention to Education the Cause?

An Invertebrate Society

The spine of society has totally degenerated. We have become a truly invertebrate society. The cause – I truly believe is really simple. We removed God and we removed morality from our vocabulary, from our thoughts and from our actions. Need I really explain more?

We live in a society that is so truly spineless that the principle dogma that rules human behavior is “political correctness”. We are a society that has lost its foundation, and political correctness is the outcome. Nothing can be wrong, nothing can be right, black or white don’t exist – everything is a shade of gray. Are things truly so bleak? Well, the facts are in front of you on a daily basis – reflect and come to a conclusion – the murders, the abortions, the greed, the poverty….. The outlook is pessimistic in terms of direction. There is an OPTIMISTIC perspective however – and that only centers on Christ. There, we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. However, how many of us get it, is another story…..Let me explain in more detail in relation to what I refer to as deterioration….

From the medical field I will simply quote from the original Hippocratic Oath where it is stated that “To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death. Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion.” I don’t believe I need to give more detail or an explanation – Everyone that reads this knows to what extent we have watered down our perception and understanding of the sanctity of human life - As an invertebrate society we continue to remove what fabric is left.

The great writer C.S. Lewis in his book “Mere Christianity” describes morality as rooted in three concepts:

1. inter-individual harmony (the relationship between individuals)
2. internal harmony (the relationship with ourselves) and
3. the general purpose of human life (the relationship with our Creator).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes different but interrelated expressions of moral law (see §1952). For the purposes of what I am writing here I mention two of them – Eternal Law – “the source, in God, of all law” and Natural Law – described as being “immutable throughout history”, the “necessary foundation for the erection of moral rules and civil law” (see §1979)

On the subject of morality I will end here, for now, with a quote from C.S. Lewis.

“When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less” C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity

So what does all this discussion about morality have to do with Education?

Education - The Weapon

In the last sermon of Joseph Ratzinger prior to the start of the conclave in which he was elected Pope, he said “How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another…… Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

How do you combat relativism? How do you combat the degradation of moral principles in society? How do you prevent your boat being “tossed about by the waves”? I truly believe that there is ONLY one answer – and that is Education and a Christian Education for that matter rooted in the true teachings of Christ.

Here is what the Church teaches about Education. I quote from Gravissimum Educationis which is the declaration on Christian Education by Pope Paul VI, with some cross referencing to the Code of Canon Law - any emphasis is mine:

“To fulfill the mandate she (Holy Mother the Church) has received from her divine founder……..she has a role in the progress and development of education.” See also Can. 796 §1.

“The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children.” See also Can. 800 §2

“This Sacred Council of the Church earnestly entreats pastors and all the faithful to spare NO sacrifice in helping Catholic schools fulfill their function in a continually more perfect way, and especially in caring for the needs of those who are poor in the goods of this world or who are deprived of the assistance and affection of a family or who are strangers to the gift of Faith.”

Thus the Church sees Education as an intricate part of its mission. Little needs to be said about what the Church is asking us to do here. Little needs to be said about the emphasis it is putting on the importance of Education.

But how does all this relate to moral standards and equate to society redeveloping a backbone?

The Church continues to teach us in Gravissimum Educationis that “men are more aware of their own dignity and position; more and more they want to take an active part in social and especially economic and political life”. The document continues that the school (as the source of education) “is designed not only to develop with special care the intellectual faculties but also to form the ability to judge rightly, to hand on the cultural legacy of previous generations, to foster a sense of values, to prepare for professional life.” Is this not what Morality is all about? Hence the link between education and morality.

Being educated, and not just with any education, but being TRULY educated in the true sense of Christian living gives us as humans a dignity, a respect, a knowledge, a sense of values – in other words a moral backbone. Once that aspect of it is achieved, our daily lives will emanate the concept to our friends, family, work colleagues – and that’s how society gets its spine again!!!

Need more be said?

God Bless (+)
Stephen

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Word (& Not the Last) on Vocations

It is my belief that the success of living our Catholic faith is reliant on how well we develop three important concepts. These concepts also happen to be the goals of the parish I belong to. They are the goals that the Parish Council seeks to achieve and execute:


  1. Spiritual growth

  2. Education

  3. Unity

It is not my aim in this particular blog to discuss these three goals, however I WILL discuss them at a later date and in great detail. I mentioned them because what I am going to say follows as a development of the first goal – The spiritual growth of SELF, FAMILY, PARISH, NATION etc etc etc… It all starts with the SELF being FOCUSED on CHRIST….. The rest emanates from there!!!

We are called to witness to Christ’s teachings by being proactive in the work of vocations for “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few, so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Lk 10:2). Our goal, individually and as a community, should be to assist the pastor of the parish we belong to in animating a threefold ministry of vocation awareness, vocation education, and vocation identification at the parish level. The ultimate objective should be to build an understanding of vocation among adults, children and youth. However we need to understand that we are ALL CALLED. That is what vocations means - it is derived from the latin vocatio which means summons, and from vocare to call. We are ALL CALLED.

Our call, be it to priesthood, deaconate, religious life, to married life or to single life, IS NOT a call to a rank in the Church. Let us recall how Christ chastised several times the apostles’ for squabbling about who was the most important or who wanted the seat at His right hand (Mk 10:42), and therefore let us remember that a vocation IS a call to complete the body of Christ in his Church. Like the little stream of water flowing in the forest, to the larger lake, to the river and ultimately to the great ocean, no drop is greater than the other, but the stream of water would never get to the sea were it not to flow through the river, or the lake. However, some of us ARE called to a higher level of service and commitment to Christ and his Church. Such is religious life. We highlight in particular the sacramental ministry of the priesthood “by which a man receives the power to do what he cannot do alone…… [where he is] sent to give what he cannot give of his own strength; he is sent to act in the person of another, to be his living instrument.” (By Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, On the Nature of the Priesthood ,October 1, 1990)


Thus we are ALL called to be part of that continuum that leads us ultimately to eternal life with God. So I challenge YOU the reader:

  1. I ask you to invite others, particularly youth, to consider religious life.
  2. I challenge you to urge your friends and families to discuss the possibility of religious life and priesthood in their homes.
  3. I ask you to support by your prayers those who have expressed a desire to explore religious life or priesthood. Let them know that there ARE people ready to support them.
  4. Finally, find out if there is a vocations committee /group in your parish who would act even simply as moral support for people with an interest in vocations

Let us take up Christ’s challenge to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch." (Luke 5:4), a call echoed by our Pope John Paul II. Let us like Samuel, answer “Here I am Lord” when God calls us, and like Mary our Holy Mother say: “May it be done to me according to your word”.

I ask you in doing this to remember Christ’s call to be the light of the world (Mt 5:14) and to ensure that we are sharing this with our youth in particular. Let us give them a hope beyond what earthly wealth can offer and ensure that OUR lack of motivation or interest is not one big reason why they would turn to the wrong alternatives in life. I ask you to energetically participate in the building of God’s Church.

Here is what YOU CAN DO. If not already implemented in your parish, encourage and actively work for vocations:

  1. Through prayer during Sunday Liturgy and also privately and with your family.
  2. Through conversation with others about the importance of vocations. Consider if God is calling you to the priesthood deaconate or religious life.
  3. Through encouragement of others especially the young to explore the possibility of serving our Lord through ordination or consecrated life.

    Let’s for once be PROACTIVE for the KINGDOM OF GOD!!!!

    God Bless (+)

    Stephen

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Why I Taught Cathechism & Why I Will Teach Again

A. Why Teach?


This previous year was the first experience I had at teaching catechism. The reasons I wanted to teach included:

  1. I always wanted to contribute more to Parish life.
  2. I always enjoyed sharing my faith with others and I felt this was an other opportunity to do so
  3. I have observed a great thirst among many Catholics, in particular the youth about the teachings of Catholic Church and I wanted to learn more myself and then reach out and share this knowledge with others.
  4. I always felt that I would be a hypocrite if, on the one hand I complained about the dwindling numbers of faithful in the church or the lack of interest in youth in what we be believe as Catholics, while on the other hand I did not start sharing and reaching out to others about what this faith meant to me.

B. What I got out of it……


I learnt a lot…..A LOT.

  1. More about the scripture in the bible, the history of the bible, the writers and further insight in the “truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation”

  2. I learnt and confirmed that there is an unquenchable desire for the truth in the youth and contrary to common belief watering down the principles of our faith does NOT attract them but confuses them more.

  3. I learnt that, in these youth going through their teenage years, there is a lot of confusion and very often a great desire for the Truth, but often they do not know where and how to start seeking.

C. What I hoped to do for the kids…..

  1. I hoped to show them by how I taught that my faith is the cornerstone of my life and therefore the most important aspect of my life and that I was not teaching to just pass the time
  2. That my faith is what keeps me sane in the craziness that exists around us.
  3. I wanted to show them that they can have comfort in Christ’s words that He would be with us and help us carry our cross. I wished upon them the same comfort that the presence of Christ and my faith brought to me.
  4. I wanted to challenge them to go against the current of modern day life and to seek their strength in the teachings of Christ through His Church and to do this with conviction.

D. To others – to think about teaching Catechism…..

We are living this life with an ultimate purpose…..eternal life. From all the people of this world, we have been chosen and given the GIFT of FAITH through our baptism. We are not to be unappreciative of this gift and HAVE A DUTY and ARE CALLED to share it with others as Christ clearly tells us to be the light/salt of the world. This was the primary reason why I wanted to get involved given that my children are not involved in this program since they attend St. Mark’s.


I encourage others to be more open and share this great gift and its significance in their life with these kids. It means everything to them. One day in their late teenage years or their adult life, it could be the ONLY thing they have to hang on to. If we don’t share this great Truth with them and encourage them to nurture it, OUR lack of motivation or interest may be one big reason why they would turn to the wrong alternatives. This I sincerely believe.


SO WILL YOU TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE? WILL YOU SHARE THE GIFT GOD GAVE YOU?


God Bless (+)


Stephen

Friday, September 16, 2005

Recent Events and Our Need to Stand up for our Faith

I wanted to write about the recent (9/14/05) declaration by the U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton saying he would sign a restraining order banning the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in some California school districts.

It is very well known that this is an overwhelmingly theistic nation (>90% as a conservative estimate). As such the majority needs to stand up and defend its right to practice WHAT THEY BELIEVE, while accepting that we have NO right to impose on others our beliefs.

The Judge ruled “Under God” unconstitutional – the question is how much more unconstitutional is it to prevent those who want to say it from saying it? Is this law not unconstitutional in itself by “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” as the First Amendment states about religion? Is it not more constitutional to say that if one is an atheist he/she has every right not to recite it while everyone else is doing what they wish to do?

The irony and bigotry of some of those who interpret the law reflects their limitations as humans with simple minds and lacking in humility. Furthermore this becomes evident in the double standards that are applied.

Considering another case (9/15/05), the state Legislature in Massachusetts voted Thursday to override the governor's veto of a measure that will expand access to emergency contraception by requiring hospital emergency room doctors to offer the medication to rape victims. A provision that exempted Catholic hospitals was dropped from the legislation. Is this not contrary to the First Amendment? Is it not “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion? Why can’t I as a Catholic refuse to participate in what I believe is morally wrong? Is it not more constitutionally correct to allow Catholic hospitals/pharmacists to be exempt from this while the patient has every right to go and fulfill their wishes elsewhere? While the law is there to protect everyone from having beliefs imposed on them, the law is there ALSO to protect our right as Christians/Theists/Catholics etc. to practice our faith and yet incompetent interpreters of the law and the Constitution are depriving us of our rights.

Thus in one case we have the Constitution being used to prevent the "imposition" of religion on non religious while in the other we have the "imposition" of immoral concepts on an institution.... Does this not highlight a bias in the interpretation of the Constitution? Does it not clearly highlight how foolish certain interpreters of the law are despite all their pretention of being wise? How true rings 1 Corinthians 1:25-26 - "For the Foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength"!!!

With these examples at hand, is it not time that we got of our comfy chairs and said “STOP: THIS IS MY RIGHT”?

Here is what you CAN do - An organization, called Grassfire.org is urging Americans to take immediate action by signing our petition urging our lawmakers to move to protect the Pledge once and for all through the Pledge Protection Act of 2005 (S. 1046). It is a good group!


The petition reads as follows:


"As a concerned citizen, I am signing this petition to express my support for the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance and my outrage at efforts to ban the Pledge from public schools. The Pledge is a vital reminder of our nation's heritage and a strong support for the values that make our nation great. I oppose any efforts through the courts or the legislature to ban the Pledge.
In addition, I support efforts to protect the Pledge of Allegiance, including the Pledge Protection Act which would prevent federal courts from declaring the Pledge unconstitutional."


Please click below and join me in signing this crucial petition and have your petition delivered to the Supreme Court and Congress:

http://www.grassfire.org/14/petition.asp?PID=9666164&NID=1

Thanks so Much and God Bless (+)

Stephen

Thursday, July 07, 2005

An Intro - What I Aim to Achieve

Why Discuss?

Philosophy is defined as "the rational investigation of questions about existence and knowledge and ethics". It is exactly this that this website intends on doing - do "philosophize"/discuss and come to a better understanding. In this particular case I wish to put forward a website where Catholic teachings are put forward and discussed/investigated with every intention of abiding by what the Church teaches in every way.

Aims & Purpose

The aim of this blog is to put forward and discuss in an educated manner the teachings of Christ as they pertain to our daily life. I am a lay Catholic and my faith is very dear to me. This is the experience I want to share.

What I seek to do is to as correctly as possible represent

1. What my faith means to me and how I feel it is of benefit to believe in God
2. What the teachings of the Church mean in my daily life.

What I hope to achieve, is that through the postings, I share the deep spirituality that I feel should exist in our daily lives. I wish to make people that come across the website THINK. I wish to CHALLENGE them to a deeper spirituality.

I will also include in the website links to relevant websites that are excellent references.

Whoever you are, Wherever you may be, I hope you accept my invitation to travel spiritually with me.

Thanks & God Bless

Stephen