Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.
A portrait of a murderer as a young man.
Much has been said and written about the motivations and causes for the young man who massacred nine people at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. For sure we can never fully unravel the twisted darkness of evil but we can at least examine it by parts to learn how to disarm it.
The first thing that always crosses my mind when I hear of these violent tragedies is "what chemicals was the perpetrator using or withdrawing from"? In this case we quickly learned (often the drug history of killers is kept from the public under the guise of medical confidentiality) he was a regular drug user including the prescription drug Suboxone (which is more recently being used by the medical industry to treat symptoms of narcotic withdrawal, especially heroin and other opiates and to replace methadone since users don't have to go to a clinic to obtain each dose). The drug is indicated for short-term use but many people stay on the drug for a very long time. While it does not have the intoxicating power of heroin it does distort thinking and reflexes (which is why most psychotropic drugs including alcohol and medical marijuana, have warning labels that tell you not to drive or operate heavy equipment while taking the drug). Additionally Suboxone is known to push young people into highly anti-social and destructive behavior. As usual the focus is on guns but it is time we start looking at the role psychoactive and mind-altering drugs play in these mass shootings.READ MORE
Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit's dead,
There's something wrong
Can you hear me Major Tom
Can you hear me Major Tom….
—"Space Oddity" by David Bowie
An Election Oddity. As things shape up for the next presidential election cycle my brain is starting to short circuit.
Since the 1980's our society has overdosed on the notion of "diversity". You're simply not acceptable to polite society unless you represent diversity of a very narrow and specified Zeitgeist. Even corporations, institutions and organizations have all contorted themselves to be able to proclaim: "we are diverse". Even though the Church is very diverse, members from every nation, ethnic, cultural and language group on earth, it obviously, so we were told, flunked the diversity test when the cardinals failed to elect the first ever black, Jewish, lesbian Pope and instead elected as usual a old celibate Bishop from Argentina. So much to my befuddlement as I look at the candidate line-up I see on one side running for president: two Hispanic men, one black man, one woman and a few middle aged white men. On the other side I see one elderly white woman and a few middle aged to elderly white men. But I am told the latter really represents diversity and not the former. What am I missing here?READ MORE
In one of my first letters of the year I wrote that the push for Assisted Suicide would become harder and fiercer as the year progresses. Right on cue the Gallup Organization published the results of a poll that showed a 20% increase in support for assisted suicide but with one caveat: support increases when assisted suicide is described euphemistically rather than accurately. Support increases to 70% when people are asked if they support "aid in dying" or as the poll asked: "allow physicians to end a patient's life by some painless means". However support decreases to 51% when the process is described as "allowing physicians to help patients commit suicide". (As we head into another election cycle be very careful to read how polls phrase questions because the phrasing of the question and not the actual issue determines how people respond.)
You can see why the pushers of Assisted Suicide press hard to change words and use propaganda to sell death on demand. Even the Euthanasia Society has changed its name twice since 1976 first to the Society for the Right to Die and now know as Choice in Dying. It all sounds very lovely and democratic but though the words changed the underlying reality did not but they count on your ability to be easily fooled. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" well in this case words can actually kill you.READ MORE
Admittedly I am stupefied by the lightening speed with which the issue of transgender and transsexual lifestyles has been normalized in our culture. The issue is probably best symbolized by the very public transformation of former Olympic Gold medalist Bruce Jenner known now as Caitlyn. The way in which the media has promoted his change to her with thunderous applause and the highest accolades outdoes any other historical issue in my lifetime. And as expected no journalist has dared to report on the dark underside of making such a lifestyle change. There are plenty of people who went down this road and deeply regret it (see: "Sex Change Surgery: What Bruce Jenner, Diane Sawyer and You Should Know" www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/04/14905/ ).
This is a major cultural shift that is the crowning achievement of those who want to deconstruct the Judeo-Christian understanding of the human person. And I say cultural because culture is what drives everything: change the culture and you will change people's value system. Pope John Paul II understood this well and it is why he so heavily challenged us to shape a culture of life. Our efforts in that area have certainly born fruit, though there is still a long way to go. As with Abortion, trans/lifestyles, once you understand fully the issue and other solutions you have to ask yourself, "what really is the most loving thing to do" in order to help those with this struggle?READ MORE
Graduations abound this time of year. Here's a reminder that education is supposed to teach you how to think. The student who took this test apparently learned how to think and quite humorously but not exactly as the teacher would have liked:
In which battle did Napoleon die?
His last one
Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
At the bottom of the page
River Ravi flows in which state?
The "road less traveled" is not the smoothest road. Anyone who takes being a Christian seriously will eventually find him or herself on that road. I don't just mean because of the challenges that come from without, whether persecutions, hostility or suffering personal loss because of your beliefs. Often the most difficult part resides within our own spiritual journeys. God has a way of being very exacting of his children. And for good reason: He wants us to live the abundant life. It's just that sometimes it seems as though He makes the grade in the road especially steep!
One of the reasons for this is that the Christian life is a life of virtue. And virtue is honed through experience. It is very easy to be virtuous when all is well; the road is smooth and difficulties scarce. It's another thing when the road less traveled is rough and uphill. That is where our true character is revealed and we see whether or not we have really internalized the life of grace and virtue.
It's relatively easy to practice charity when you have a lot to give. But when times are lean are you still willing to give? Remember the "widow's mite", Jesus praised her willingness to give from the little she had. She did not rationalize withholding her gift but despite her meager circumstances she freely gave and did not consider not giving. She practiced virtue when it mattered.READ MORE
I’ve seen this scenario too many times unfortunately: Dad’s a heavy drinker and Mom and the kids know that when Dad comes home from work or wakes up on Saturday or Sunday there better be beer in the refrigerator or else there will be hell to pay. Mom is dutiful in making sure the refrigerator is well stocked at all times. Except one day the kids are sick and Mom has been running around to doctors and pharmacies and forgets to restock the beer. Dad goes to get a beer and doesn’t find any and proceeds to beat the hell out of his wife. Now some of Mom’s friends and family will tell her that she brought that beating on herself. After all she knew what would happen and should have been more responsible. She is even called a dumb, insensitive b#$!% who provoked Dad.
This is classic blame the victim rationale. It is exactly what I have been hearing regards the latest incident in Garland Texas. The organizers of the “Draw Mohammed Cartoon” Contest have been blamed for the violence that took place. They have been told that they “brought it on themselves”, “they only have themselves to blame”, “they knew what would happen and should have been more responsible”. And the main organizer has been referred to as a “dumb, insensitive b#$!% who provoked the terrorists. Blame the victim.READ MORE
Within the span of one minute I often hear: "hey Father from all the screaming babies I heard during Mass your parish has a great future, lots of life here!" and then the next person, "hey Father can you tell these parents to control their children?" Frankly I get whiplash.
To the latter statement I often think, "good luck with that. Did you ever try to control a squirrelly 3 year old or a 2 year old that is having a melt down?" The fact is that taking little children to Mass, which tends to be on the adult level is challenging and I admire the parents that do. At any given Mass a young child will decide to have a melt down, scream so loud they break the sound barrier or just decide that they need to talk as loud as the priest. Then there are those ones in diapers that will have a bowel movement that would make a horse jealous. And everyone around them knows it! So it goes with the baby human.
As far as I can see parents do their best to help shape their child's behavior in Church. But how can they do it if they don't ever bring their child to church to learn? Sometimes during Funerals people I don't know will come with their adolescent children and just by the way they act I can tell they have no idea how to act in public settings like a Church. Obviously they were never brought to Church as children. So while we offer childcare during Mass as an option it is an option and does not need to be a must.READ MORE
Here is Part II of the late Cardinal Francis Georges column of September 2014.
(Part I can be found on our website under Bulletin of 26 April or on our Mobile site under Letters:
When the recent case about religious objection to one provision of the Health Care Act was decided against the State religion, the Huffington Post (June 30, 2014) raised "concerns about the compatibility between being a Catholic and being a good citizen." This is not the voice of the nativists who first fought against Catholic immigration in the 1830s. Nor is it the voice of those who burned convents and churches in Boston and Philadelphia a decade later. Neither is it the voice of the Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850s, nor of the Ku Klux Klan, which burned crosses before Catholic churches in the Midwest after the civil war. It is a voice more sophisticated than that of the American Protective Association, whose members promised never to vote for a Catholic for public office. This is, rather, the self-righteous voice of some members of the American establishment today who regard themselves as "progressive" and "enlightened."READ MORE
With the passing of Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago, it is worth reading a column he penned in September 2014 prior to retiring. This writing is one of the most insightful and thought provoking articles written about our historical moment and the challenges we face moving forward as religious believers in America. As the US Supremes take up the issue of SS-Marriage this week, the Cardinal's words are more prescient than ever.
Once upon a time there was a church founded on God's entering into human history in order to give humanity a path to eternal life and happiness with him. The Savior that God sent, his only-begotten Son, did not write a book but founded a community, a church, upon the witness and ministry of twelve apostles. He sent this church the gift of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of love between Father and Son, the Spirit of the truth that God had revealed about himself and humanity by breaking into the history of human sinfulness.READ MORE
So the Indiana Governor signs into law a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and gay freak out ensues, political propaganda feeding mob hysteria. Here in AZ we experienced a similar brouhaha in March 2014 (I explained it all in my letters of 2 & 9 March '14). Simply put the original RFRA was first signed into law by President Clinton after almost unanimous congressional support. It was one of the few times that Congress was able to effectively reign in the power of the Supreme Court by restoring the "balancing test" that the court had used for decades in deciding cases of religious liberty but jettisoned in a 1990 Court case.
That case involved a small Native American group that used a psychoactive substance in their religious services. The substance fell under the Controlled Substances Act and therefore was illegal to possess. The court ruled that a law of general applicability like the Controlled Substances Act did not specifically target religion and therefore in this case trumped religious freedom. In other words a religious exemption could not trump a law of general applicability. Up to that case the court had used the "balancing test" to see if government had a strong enough compelling interest to restrict religious rights, the balance between governmental interest and religious liberty. After that ruling the liberals and conservatives in Congress got up in arms and accused the court of restricting religious liberty. Hence was born the 1993 RFRA.READ MORE
"Ch, ch, ch, changes, turn and face the strange". You're either too old or too young to remember that David Bowie song but not too old or young to notice changes to our Bulletin format.
The way Church Bulletins work is that parishes contract with publishing companies that provide the weekly Church Bulletin at no cost. Basically the publishing company provides the software for a parish to assemble the Bulletin which in turn electronically transmits the Bulletin to the company that prints it and then delivers its. The way publishing companies make a profit on Church Bulletins is through the advertising, which they solicit and then print in the Bulletin.
Over the last few years providing Bulletins at no cost is becoming difficult. Businesses have migrated their advertising to the on-line world. Additionally a smaller amount of businesses do not want to advertise in Church Bulletins for fear of a backlash (especially if said Church does not support certain cultural innovations). That is the case with the publisher of our Bulletin. So they have cut the size and coloring down which means we have less space for information and events. Our Parish will use the current Bulletin format until the end of our contracted period (Oct. 16).
For now we will be as judicious as possible in assembling what information to place in the Sunday Bulletin. All other information will be available on line through our website or Social media pages. At some point in the future I am sure we will be 100% digital. So let us know what is important to you to find in the weekly bulletin. And know you can always check out my weekly letter, upcoming events, schedules and information about Sacraments etc. on our website.
Love, Fr. John B.
It was 20yrs ago, March 25, 1995 that Pope St. John Paul II issued one of his greatest encyclical letters: Evangelium Vitae and introduced into our lexicon the phrase: the "culture of death" and called upon all the disciples of Jesus to overturn it. Not too long before, at World Youth Day in Denver he challenged young people to embrace what he termed "a culture of life". The force of that teaching pushed the moral teaching of the Church on human life to the front of our consciousness and empowered us to tell the truth that abortion is the human rights injustice of our times. And it is making an impact.
If you participated in or saw any coverage (in the Catholic Media as the MSM just ignore it, hoping it will just go away) of the Annual March for Life in Washington D.C. over the last few years you would have noticed how populated it was with young people. Teens and young adults more and more reject abortion as a solution, which demonstrates that the teaching of St. John Paul has indeed taken root. Subverting the culture of death is a long-term strategy and the change can at times be imperceptible. That's why it is important that we notice that the seeds planted 20yrs are germinating and growing. Now we have to keep tending to them.READ MORE