Sunday, October 30, 2016

Living an Integrated Life as an Example to Others

In Lumen Gentium Chapter V, in what is known as the Universal Call to Holiness, the council fathers declared... 

All in the Church, whether they belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness. … The followers of Christ … have been made sons of God in the baptism of faith and partakers of the divine nature, and so are truly sanctified … It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society”

A few paragraphs earlier,the fathers made it clear that we, as the laity, share in the Church’s mission as priests, prophets and kings when they stated...

“By baptism [the members of the Church, including lay people] are incorporated into Christ, are placed in the People of God, and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world” [emphasis added]

We, the laity, along with members of the clergy, are called to fulfill Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations. It is our role as catechists to not only make disciples ourselves, but to also teach our students how both be disciples and make disciples themselves. 

Unfortunately, we live in a culture which poses particular obstacles to that mission. We live in a time in which many of us have a split between the faith we profess and the way we live our daily lives. The council fathers in Gaudium et Spes 43 said this, “...deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.” Therefore, we, as catechists, must provide those under our tutelage the tools to break down this ill conceived barrier between our faith and daily life.

Randy Hain, in his article, Six Practical Ideas for Integrating our Catholic Faith with Work, provides some great tools we and our students can use in our everyday lives to help answer Jesus’ call to “Go and make disciples of all nations...”

His article begins by highlighting the need to go out into the workplace and evangelize those around us. He points out that this does not consist of running Bible studies at work or loudly evangelizing our co-workers. While Bibles studies are good things, we are more effective evangelizers in the work place by making it known we are Catholics and living a life of faithful holiness and a being light of Christ to those around us. 

Three Obstacles to an Integrate Life

After his introduction, Mr. Hain, identifies three obstacles to integrating our faith into our daily work lives. 

The first obstacle is our tendency to compartmentalize our lives. Many people have their “faith life”, their “home life”, their “work life” and never shall any of them meet. But that is not what God calls us to do. He calls us to be fully Catholic, all of the time. 

The second obstacle is our time. We often view our relationship with Jesus as another event in the day. What we should be doing is adding everything else around our relationship with Him. He should be the center of our day. 

The third obstacle is our refusal to surrender our lives to Jesus. If we surrender our lives to him the first two obstacles are easily overcome. Instead of surrender, we want to, like Adam and Eve in the garden, have it our way.

Six Practical Ideas to an Integrated Life

After identifying the obstacles, Mr. Hain, moves on to provide six practical things we can do to integrate our faith into our everyday lives. Those six are:

1. Devote one hour of each day to prayer and reading.

2. Devote more time to the Eucharist.

3. Be a light for Christ.

4. Let love drive our actions.

5. Practice active stewardship.

6. Start with the end in mind.

I strongly recommend you read his article to see how these can be put into action.

If we really want to follow Jesus’ call to make disciples, we have to go out into the world and do it. One of the best mindsets we can have to accomplish this is to recognize that God gives each of us talents. By using our God given talents, we allow Him the opportunity to put us where He needs us most. Randy Hain’s article helps us down the path of using our talents and with the grace of the Holy Spirit, help us to show those around us the merciful love of the Father and ultimately to bring souls to Him.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016


As taught to us by Jonah

This is a video I created for a class I'm taking. It had it's genesis in England one day when my wife and I were driving out to the Westminster Youth Retreat Center, SPEC. We were on our way to attend mass with their community and my wife asked what the readings were. So I told her the story of Jonah. She laughed.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Lord, Teach us to Teach"

What are we to do?

Something we as catechists need to address when embarking on our ministry is not only the question of what we are to teach but more importantly what God wants us to accomplish. What is our ultimate goal as a catechist when engaging those we catechize? 

We could provide our students with all sorts of information, after all the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “sure norm for teaching” the Deposit of Faith, is made up of 2,865 articles. Sacred Scripture is made up of 73 books, over 1300 chapters and more than 35,000 verses. Add to Sacred Scripture our Sacred tradition which is made up of the writings of 266 Popes, numerous saints and the fathers of the church, and one finds more than a lifetime worth of knowledge to pass on to our students. But knowledge will not bring our students far enough. That is why in the General Directory For Catechesis the Church tells us...

Truly, to help a person encounter God, which is the task of the catechist, means to emphasize above all the relationship that the person has with God so that he can make it his own and allow himself to be guided by God.[1]

Our goal is clear...It is to help our students encounter the living God. But the question now is, how do we do that? 

Let us turn to our Mother, the Church for that answer.

The Pedagogy of God

Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.[2]

God incarnated Himself and became man. In becoming man, Jesus shows us the way to be fully and perfectly human. With that understanding as a basis, we can understand when the Church uses the term Pedagogy of God, she means that we should teach as God teaches and do so with the same end in mind. That end is the revelation of God’s love and His salvific work to restore man to Himself.

In the Old Testament God reveals Himself as a loving father through His works and deeds, through the covenants and promises and through the laws and prophets. He incarnates Himself as Jesus Christ in the fullness of time and we hear from the authors of the Gospels, Jesus’ revelation of the Father. In the age of the Church, the Holy Spirit rules and guides the Church so that she may effectively reveal God to man.[3]

It is this threefold pedagogy of revelation that makes God known to man and accomplishes the guiding of man to God. We as catechists must therefore not rely on our own created methods of instruction. While modern educational theories may be used to assist us instructing, they can not be the guiding principle behind our catechesis. The guiding principle of our catechesis must be rooted in faith in God’s Divine Pedagogy, for He is the only one that can bring man to Himself. We are just the ones who point our students to Him. 

To point our students toward Jesus, we must look to Him to guide our action. He gives us this guidance when we turn to the Gospels. By prayerfully reading and meditating on His encounters with man we can learn from Him they way to guide souls to God. Looking to the Gospel of John in Chapter 15 we see that an important aspect of His pedagogy is establishing a bond of friendship with His apostles. He says, “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”[4] It is this bond of friendship we must build with our students to gain their trust so that we may lead them to Jesus. Without that bond of trust and friendship they will not follow us to Him. 

In Luke 11 we see Jesus teaching the apostles to pray.[5] We too must teach our students to pray, because it is in prayer that we encounter God’s desire for us. Reflecting on the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, the Church recognizes that prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.[6]

There is a wealth of guidance we can glean from the Gospels. Therefore, if we desire to be effective catechists we must be students of the gospels. We must spend time prayerfully reading the life of our Lord. 

Go and make disciples.

The making of disciples, should be the goal of every catechist. It is the task given to the apostles by Jesus prior to His Glorious Ascension. It is the charge that the apostles passed on to their successors the bishops who have handed that role on down through the centuries. And it is our role as lay catechists to support the Bishops in answering that call of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church has given us the way to answer that call and that way is the Pedagogy of God.

1 General Directory for Catechesis(GDC) 139
2 Gaudium et Spes 22
3 GDC 139-142
4 Gospel of John 15:15
5 Gospel of Luke 11:1-2

6 Catechism of the Catholic Church 2560

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cohabitation and the Effect on Marriage
The Formative Nature of Sin

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Virtue and Sin: Forces in Opposition

Virtue and Sin
Forces In Opposition

"An offense against God as well as a fault against reason, truth, and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God. In judging the gravity of sin, it is customary to distinguish between mortal and venial sins." 
Taken from the glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

"A habitual and firm disposition to do the good. The moral virtues are acquired through human effort aided by God’s grace; the theological virtues are gifts of God."
Taken from the glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Many people view Sin and Virtue to be opposites of each other. But the opposition posed between them is deeper and more important than simply two opposite sides of a coin like good and evil. It is that notion and how virtue leads us away from sin that I intend to explore in this post on Sin and Virtue.

The Reproductive Nature of Sin

Sin, by its nature, reproduces and reinforces itself. When man makes a choice, he makes himself to be a person who chooses such an action. Therefore, if a man chooses a sinful act such as theft, he becomes a thief. This aspect of sin is more than merely one of defining or classifying a person by their actions, but rather it is a modification of who and what the person is becoming. 

Through repeated sinful acts, man engenders in himself a disposition to vice. Once that vice has taken root in man's being, it creates in him perverse inclinations. These perverse inclinations result in a clouded conscience and a lessened ability to judge the difference between good and evil. This lessened capacity for discernment of the good results in poor choices which result in sinful acts, which we see is the source of the disposition to vice and the cycle continues in a downward spiral away from the good and away from a participation in the love of God and the love of neighbor.

How do we stop this downward spiral that takes us away from God? 

The Importance of Virtue to the Christian Moral Life

Saint Gregory of Nyssa tells us ...

"The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God." 

... and Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us ...

"Through virtuous living, man is further ordained to a higher end, which consists in the enjoyment of God."

If sin takes us away from God, virtue directs us toward God.

Unlike sin, virtue forms in us firm attitudes, stable dispositions and habitual perfections of the intellect and will. Through a life of virtue we turn towards God not away from God. The Baltimore Catechism tells us that we are made by God to know, love and serve Him. To accomplish that purpose that we must live a life of virtue.

It is virtue that provides a counter to the downward spiral that is the consequence of sin. Let us look at two ways virtue helps us with the battle against sin.

Pride vs. Humility

Pride turns us in on ourself. We want to determine the meaning of our life. It makes us the master of our own little part of the world. But when we turn to humility we open ourselves up to the divine plans of God, He who knows what is best for us. And in turning to God we say "Thy will be done" instead of "My will be done"

Chastity vs. Lust

Many people think that the virtue in opposition to Lust is Puritanism, but this can not be further from the truth. Puritanism, while opposite of lust, is not the solution. Lust is the use of another human being as the means to ones sexual pleasure. Puritanism helps prevent against this but in doing so it views the other as something contrary to the good. The real virtue that opposes Lust is the virtue of Chastity. Chastity is the perfect expression of sexuality, one that is ordered to the profound respect of the other.

Virtue and Grace

"Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God’s help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. The virtuous man is happy to practice them." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1810)

Grace finds its source in Jesus' once an for all sacrifice on Calvary. Grace is God's free and unmerited gift to man which allows us to live a virtuous life and through that break the downward spiral that results from sin.

"...where sin increased, grace abounded all the more"
- Romans 5:20

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Sequela Christi
What is it and can we live it?

"Jesus said to the rich young man, 'If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' " (Mt 19:21)

In Chapter One of Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II uses the term Sequela Christi when reflecting on Jesus' response to the rich young man in Matthew 19. The notion of Sequela Christi, means to live a life modeled after the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus. More simply put it means the following of Christ. John Paul II, in reflecting on this concept, identifies it as the primordial foundation of Moral Theology. 

The simple understanding is this... If, as Vatican II states in Gaudium et Spes, Christ came to show man who he is and what he is called to be, then living a life modeled after Christ will be to live a life in accordance with the nature God gave us. And living a life in accordance with our nature will be the life God wishes us to live, a life of beatitude. 

But, how do we know how to live this Sequela Christi? We must look to the life, teaching, works and Passion of Christ to find an answer to that question. That is what we are going to explore.

Christ as a Model of Prayer

In order to know the path of Christ so we may follow it we must know Him. In order to know someone we must spend time with them. That is done through prayer. We see time and again Jesus praying in the Gospels. We see Him praying for others (Jn 17:9), we seem Him praying alone (Lk 5:16), we seem Him teaching us to pray (Lk 11) and most of all we see Him praying to and with the Father (Lk 22:42). It is through prayer that we learn dependence on God and learn to forgo our prideful ways.

Christ as a Model of Meekness

In our modern world meekness is seen as a something to be avoided. Someone who is meek is weak and open to being walked over by people. But Christ tells us, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Mt 5:5). We see Christ humble Himself for our humanity and join us as a child in a manger. We see Him telling His disciples, "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart." It is meekness and humility that the evil one most fears. It is opposed to pride and the consequences that come with it. Meekness demonstrates a harness and control of power, not a prideful use or flaunting of power. It is through meekness that we can truly relate to those around us who suffer and need our mercy. 

Christ as a Model of Mercy

Pope Francis has declared 2016 to be the Year of Mercy so it is only fitting to see how we can model Christ in engaging others with mercy. We see Christ's mercy in His teaching about the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32). We see Christ's mercy in His dealing with the Samaritan woman at the well when she begins the discussion very dismissive but in the end is basking in the love and mercy of Jesus. (Jn 4:1-29) And we see His mercy taught most poignantly in His passion when He begs the Father to forgive the soldiers driving the nails into His wrists on Calvary (Lk 23:34). It is Christ Mercy we must bring to the world around us, a world is such need of mercy. We can do this tangible by following His dealings with the poor of Israel. 

Christ as a Model of Love for the Poor

Near the beginning of Jesus' ministry we see a scene at the temple when Jesus unrolls the scroll and reads from Isaiah about Himself, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." Christ came to preach the good news to the poor. (Luke 4:16-19). We see His love of the poor when he honors the poor widow who gave all she has to the church. (Mk 12:41-44). We see His love for the poor when he dines at the house of a ruler and says, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (Lk 14:1-16)

Christ as a Model of Love of Neighbor

One day as the Sad'ducees were challenging Jesus, they asked Him, "which commandment is the first of all?" He went beyond just the first and said, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Throughout the Gospel's, we see Jesus teach about love of neighbor. He does so in the Parable of the good Samaritan when asked, "Who is our neighbor?" This example is especially important because when one knows the context and social situation they realize that the Jews and Sammaritan's were not friends, but Jesus calls us to, "Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us." (Mt 5:43) But to do so takes a radical trust in God.   

Christ as a Model of Obedience to God the Father

When God formed man He formed us with free will and in a state of original innocence. But Adam and Even, our primordial parents, chose not to obey God and instead followed the temptations of the Evil One. The consequence of this disobedience is our inability to live the Sequela Christi. It is this obedience we need to relearn from Jesus. It is learned at no greater time in Jesus' life than in His prayer of radical obedience to the Father spoken in the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing that the crucifixion was on the horizon, Jesus still had the strength be obedient to the Father and accept the cup that was being offered to Him.

And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt."  (Mark 14:26)

He could make this prayer because He trusted God.

Christ as a Model of Trust in God

Jesus' will was so perfectly aligned with the will of the Father that He could place His trust in the Father so completely and obey the will of the Father unto death.

Can you do that in your life? Can you follow the apostles lead and drop your nets to follow Jesus? (Mt 4:20)  It takes a radical trust and abandonment of will to do that. It takes an interior conversion of the heart, and an interior conversion that will manifest itself in exterior ways. We can do that and we have guides, fellow pilgrims like Saint Francis of Assisi.

Saint Francis and the Sequela Christi

We can look to the lives of the Saints when we need help in knowing how to drop our nets and follow Jesus. A perfect example of this is Saint Francis of Assisi. His life was one of radical abandonment to follow Jesus, to demonstrate the Sequela Christi.

Saint Francis, A Model of Meekness and Humility

About Saint Francis, Saint Bonaventure says,

"Humility, the guardian and glory of all virtues, abounded in rich fullness in [Saint Francis]. In his own estimation, he was naught but a sinner, whereas in very truth he was the mirror and brightness of all saintliness"

Saint Francis named his brother Minors and that the rulers of his order should be called ministers after Christ's words, "Whoseover will be great among you, let him be your minister". On one occasion on the of the Brothers Minor had a vision of heaven in which the throne left vacant by the fallen angels was reserved for Saint Francis. Upon being informed of the vision, Saint Francis responded, "If any man, howsoever guilty, had received such mercy from Christ as I, I verily think he would have been far more acceptable unto God than I."

Saint Francis, His Devotion to Prayer

Saint Francis lived a life of fervent prayer. On one occasion as he rode an ass through the city of Borgo San Sepolcro he was mobbed by the townsfolk who marveled at his holiness. Btu he was so fervent in his prayer that he did not even recognize the people and upon arriving at the leper settlement he was headed his brothers told him and he had no recollection. Much like Jesus Saint Francis loved to pray in solitude and upon returning from hi solitude he was often changed almost into another man.

Saint Francis, His Radical Trust In God

One of the most famous accounts of his trust in god came from his travels to Persia where the Muslims and Christians were at all out war. Saint Francis traveled to the Sultan of Babylon to preach the Gospel and suffer a martyrs death. Upon arrival in Babylon he miraculously obtained an audience with the Sultan who, rather than martyring Saint Francis, honored and glorified the faith and trust in God demonstrated by Saint Francis.

Do we live the Sequela Christi?

The Sequela Christi is the path to doing "the good", to living the divine beatitude. In order to follow that path we must act as Jesus acted, we must come to know Him, to trust Him and to bend our will to His. The desire sought in the Sequela Christi is summed up in the following prayer of Flannery O'Conner,

Please help me to know the will of my Father—not a scrupulous nervousness nor yet a lax presumption but a clear, reasonable knowledge: and after this give me a strong Will to bend it to the will of my Father.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Understanding the Moral Life Through the Eyes of Divine Revelation and Faith

Understanding the Moral Life
Through the eyes of Divine Revelation and Faith

"Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."                                                                                      - Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est

There is a common perception among modern intellectuals that reason and faith are at odds, especially when it comes to matters of morality.This can not be further from the truth. If God created this existence, than he created it to be intelligible. He created it to be understood by the light of human reason.

Is Human Reason Enough?

We know from Sacred Scripture that man was created in the image and likeness of God. But what does this actually mean? Article 299 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us,

"The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, the 'image of the invisible God,' is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the “image of God” and called to a personal relationship with God. Our human understanding, which shares in the light of the divine intellect, can understand what God tells us by means of his creation, though not without great effort and only in a spirit of humility and respect before the Creator and his work."

From this we can understand and conclude that God has granted us the power of reason to understand both Him, His creation and how we should act in it. Through a reasoned evaluation of existence, we can know a great deal about God's creation. 

But there are obstacles to our effective use of reason. Because of the sin of Adam, the consequences of that Original Sin has been transmitted by propagation to all of man-kind. As a result, we are unable to trust our human reason with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error. 

Because of this we are in need of enlightenment by God's revelation.  

A Need For Divine Revelation

Does it matter? Do we need to trust our reason with ease, firm certainty and no admixture of error? To answer this question we must first ask, "What were we made for?"

The Final Cause of Man

All things in existence have a cause. St. Thomas Aquinas, and Aristotle before him, recognized that causality has four aspects. 

  • Material
  • Formal 
  • Efficient
  • Final 

It is the Final Cause of a thing that explains what it is made for. In order to know the final cause of any thing, we must look to its creator. Only the designer of an object can determine what something is made for. In the case of man, God, the Creator of all existence, is that designer. 

"God created everything for man, but man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him" - Catechism of the Catholic Church 358

We see that if we are to serve, love and offer all creation back to God, it is imperative that we understand our role with ease, firm certainty and no admixture of error. Through an understanding of what we are made for, we can understand how we should act. Concupiscence (the result of Original Sin) has damaged our human reason and placed disordered desires in out heart. It is only through God's revelation that we can know with ease, certainty and no admixture of error how to and serve, love and offer all creation back to God. 

A Need For Faith

"It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls."
- Dei Verbum, 10

Faith is both a gift from God and a human act. Through this act the Christian aligns his will with God and assents to all God has revealed to man. This revelation is, according to the Second Vatican Council, a three-fold combination of Sacred Scripture, sacred tradition and the teaching authority of the Church. Through God's revelation we know that our human response to faith is both a theological virtue given by God's grace and a obligation which flows from the first commandment of God. 

In order to act with faith we must first overcome the concupiscence promulgated to us by our primordial father Adam. God's grace allows us to do that. To have access to the divine wellspring of grace we must first and foremost establish a relationship with Him. Through prayer, fasting, reception of the sacraments and the giving of alms we will establish that close and personal relationship with Jesus. As a consequence of that relationship we will align our will with His and meet our obligations provided in the Decalogue and expounded on by the Beatitudes. It is only through our faith that we will encounter Him, that we will encounter His bride the Church and recognize how we should act. 

An Encounter, Not A Lofty Ideal

We see now, that to be Christian is not merely the lofty ideal we are warned of in the opening quote by Pope Benedict XVI. It is much more than that. But in a world where Christianity is defined by "orthopraxy" divorced from "orthodoxy", we must recognize the importance of the Catholic "both and" in order to refute the false dichotomy promoting an opposition between reason and faith.