Final Exam

05-31-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

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?
Liquid state


The Road Less Traveled

05-24-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

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.


Who's Fault is It?

05-17-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

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.


Here come everybody!

05-10-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

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.


We Have Been Warned: Part II

05-03-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

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."


We Have Been Warned...

04-26-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

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.


RFRA Indiana Version

04-19-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

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.



04-12-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

"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.

Pro-Life Fashionista

04-05-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

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.


Let's Get Engaged!

03-22-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Survey Says…! In November I asked you to fill out the Gallup ME 25 Survey. Thankfully many of you did which allowed the survey to have some statistical teeth. Before getting into the details of the results a word about surveys is in order. I believe it was Mark Twain who once quipped, "there are statistics and then there is the truth". The challenge with survey results or any kind of statistical analysis is that they are a lot like bikini's: they reveal a whole lot but leave the most important parts concealed.

What we (myself and the Parish Council) were looking to measure was the "condition of the spiritual condition" of the parish. So we were not looking for a demographic analysis or a customer satisfaction survey. While those things are important and can yield worthwhile information the heart of a Catholic Parish is really found in how well we are fulfilling our mission as disciples of Jesus. From that point of view we opted for a survey that attempts to measure the spiritual side of things.


With Malice Towards None....

03-15-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

"Beware the Ides of March", so wrote William Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar. The ides of March (the 15th) is generally considered the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated and the Roman Republic turned into the Roman Empire. Simply put this happened because there were some in Rome that believed the country could be better ruled by an Emperor than by the People and the Senate. (If you go to Rome today you will see SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanus, the Senate and the People of Rome stamped everywhere. Even after the Emperor took over they continued to use that phrase to make the people think their government was still a government of the people or a Republic.) The republican form of government tried people's patience with its never-ending political gridlock and so the thinking went that an Emperor could solve that problem. There is a good lesson in there for us.


The Unforgivable Sin

03-08-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Recently I have watched Rev. Franklin Graham (son of Rev. Billy Graham) interviewed several times on News shows about the slaughter of Arab Christians by ISIS. Each time he began his answer he started with: "First let me say that God loves all people. And to the terrorist who torture and murder, God will forgive you if you open you heart to Jesus Christ and accept his forgiveness." Rev. Graham always finds a way to proclaim the Gospel. How refreshing.

Yet as he sneaks in his proclamation of God's love for all people, the TV host is polite but doesn't quite know what to do about it. Instead they move right along and ask him about political solutions to the problem. Therein lies the challenge: while politics is part of the solution it is not the whole solution. We are engaged in a theological battle over the true nature of God and yet we don't know how to talk about it or even take on the challenge. We hide behind secularism and act as though we are embarrassed by our religious history. We act as though if standing up for the biblical values upon which Western civilization was built is a grave offense against Islamic terrorists. The God of the Bible clearly rejected murder and slavery and violence. The answer lies in whether the Islamic world will permanently reject violence, slavery and theocracy in the name of God or not.



03-01-2015Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

One of the very celebrated rages to hit college campuses in recent years (including lots of Catholic Colleges) was a play entitled "The Vagina Monologues". The play is a series of monologues by women about, well figure it out. Recently one college, Mt. Holyoke College, an all women's college in Massachusetts has now cancelled any further performances of the play since it is not in conformity with its values. The reason the once Christian college gave for cancelling the play on its campus is that it is exclusionary. The play excludes 'women' without vaginas (wwov's) and is not in conformity with its new admissions policy of admitting any "qualified student who is female or identifies as female" (i.e. wwov's).

While acceptance of transgendered persons (people who dress and try to act as the opposite gender) is all the rage in our society and our government and even our military are going into overdrive to push the cause not everyone is on board. A group identifying as radical feminists "insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women's facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women" according to an article in the August edition of the New Yorker. The article quotes Robin Morgan: "I will not call a male "she"; thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title "woman"; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers' names and in our own, we must not call him sister." So now we have women with and 'women' without at odds.


Belonging or Believing?

--Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

In Luke 14:28 Jesus tells us: "For which of you desiring to build a tower does not first sit down and count the cost whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'this man began to build and was not able to finish'."

For us these are instructions from Jesus himself to measure if we have what it takes to build the Kingdom. Very specifically it means we need to sit down and understand the necessary ingredients that go into becoming one of his disciples. We do this as Catholics by building communities or parishes that embody the Faith of Christians and pass that faith on generationally. As I pointed out previously though 93% of Americans state that they believe in some sort of deity and 95% of those agree that Jesus is the Son of God, a full 50% of those are unconnected to a Church or Parish. We ourselves are not "churchless Christians". So what should a Catholic Parish that is successfully carrying out its mission look like? How do you measure that or sit down and count the cost of discipleship?