Ash Wednesday throws a bucket of cold water on the culture. "Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return" is just about as heretical as you can be in our culture. For the culture far from being non-religious is in fact very religious and dogmatic at that. It embraces not the faith of Christians but the faith of Peter Pan. The faith of Peter Pan simply states that those who age will die. The secret to immortality then is to remain perpetually a child, wishing on a star and having a Nanny to take of you.
With all our nips and tucks and anti-aging formulas and creams we can at least fool ourselves temporarily into thinking we are perpetually young. The push toward being "trans-human" promises that we will fix our nature so as to never actually die. That's why smearing ashes on our foreheads and denying ourselves the pleasures of the flesh are considered morbid and hopelessly masochistic. I know Jesus tells us to accept the faith like a child but he doesn't extol childishness. In fact he tells us to "deny our very selves" in order to find ourselves. Quite different than wishing on a star.READ MORE
In light of the recent measles out break and discussion on vaccines here is some helpful answers from the National Catholic Bioethics Center:
What is the Church's teaching about the use of certain vaccines that have a distant historical association with abortion?
There are a number of vaccines that are made in descendent cells of aborted fetuses. Abortion is a grave crime against innocent human life. We should always ask our physician whether the product he proposes for our use has an historical association with abortion. We should use an alternative vaccine if one is available.
What does it mean when we say that these products are made in "descendent cells"?
Descendent cells are the medium in which these vaccines are prepared. The cell lines under consideration were begun using cells taken from one or more fetuses aborted almost 40 years ago. Since that time the cell lines have grown independently. It is important to note that descendent cells are not the cells of the aborted child. They never, themselves, formed a part of the victim's body.
Because I have friends who love me a lot I was able to attend the Super Bowl for the first time. As a long time football fan and someone who appreciates the precise nature of the game watching two teams that execute the game with amazing precision and detail was quite a thrill. So here are some first thoughts, last thoughts and miscellaneous thoughts.
My first impression of the whole Super Bowl experience was overwhelming and unapologetic GREED. The fans who week-to-week go to the games, cheer on their teams are mostly an after thought when it comes to the Super Bowl. The face value of a ticket is exorbitant and very difficult to come by. The NFL releases a percentage of tickets to the teams to offer, by lottery, to the season ticket holders. Corporate sponsors like Pepsi, Verizon then can buy up more than their share. Any one else who wants to go must go through a ticket broker. That's where the real greed comes in.READ MORE
From the start the Catholic community in Tempe has provided for the education of its parish children. As far back as the 1880's a Catholic school was part of the Mt. Carmel community. Our present school has been in operation continuously since 1945. Which means this year we celebrate 70 years of Catholic Education at Mt. Carmel! That is a history we can be proud of and a reason for hope for the future.
Today the educational landscape has become quite diverse: Public schools, charter schools, private schools, parochial schools and home schooling. Diversity in education certainly is a benefit to our society. Still there are many voices that push very strongly for a single educational system run by the state. That however might provide uniformity but it would also most certainly create a sort of educational inbreeding that would not benefit society. The fact that so many parents and communities fight hard to keep Catholic Schools open or to form Charter Schools gives parents greater choice in providing for the educational needs of their children.READ MORE
"Rep. Joe Crowley, a New York Democrat, is asking his fellow lawmakers to help defend a member of the House who has endured online attacks because of his religion. Rep. André Carson of Indiana, who took office in 2008, was recently appointed to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The appointment has fueled online commenters to levy personal attacks at the 40-year-old Democrat, reports Politico."
"Crowley wrote to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Thursday about the issue.
"It has … come to my attention that there have been a shocking amount of comments made in conservative publications and on social media to the effect that Rep. Carson's integrity is somehow in question as a result of his religion," Crowley wrote."
"One of the great strengths of our nation, and indeed the Congress as well, is the diversity of experiences and beliefs that we are able to draw from to inform our policy goals," Crowley wrote. "It is a true tragedy if members are targeted for their religious beliefs as somehow weakening their ability to serve, as opposed to strengthening it."READ MORE
Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, a fierce defender of the Church and an expert at sniffing out anti-Catholicism got himself into a bit of a rabbit hole over comments he made about the recent terrorist attacks at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The magazine is an equal opportunity offender, printing vile and the worst kinds of stereotypes of Jews and Catholics as well as Muslims. The editors I'm sure knew that Jews and Catholics would react to their publications by writing letters to the editor, organizing protests and boycotts or filing defamation lawsuits. But they also knew that printing the same kinds of satires on Islam and Muslims could bring extreme reactions. Much to their credit they understood this and accepted it because they felt standing up for the principle of freedom of speech was worth it. In that way they chose not to be victims. That does not in anyway justify what happened or imply that they deserved what they got, which is what Bill Donohue was accused of implying.
I share Bill's outrage at the vulgar way in which religious figures of all stripes have been depicted by the French magazine. Still it is important to note that satire is a necessary and important tool for a healthy and free society. Unfortunately a publication like Charlie Hebdo used poorly those tools often passing off adolescent bathroom humor or borderline pornography as serious satire. Satire can often effectively speak truth to power and is especially important in a society where political speech is policed. At the same time poorly done satire can be harmful by dehumanizing and demonizing others and help create cynicism in a society where people do hateful and harmful things based on untrue stereotypes. While there are dangers in satire there are worse dangers in regulating it.READ MORE
Over the past several years Switzerland has become famous not for its cheese, chocolates or Alps but for suicide, specifically assisted suicide. The Swiss have permitted "suicide clinics" to open where you can go and do yourself in. (Though I do applaud the Swiss for forbidding medical professionals from participating as the clinics are lay run. Physicians and nurses should not be in the business of killing their patients.)
Those who come to the Clinics, especially from outside of Switzerland are referred to as "suicide tourists". Suicide tourism is becoming its own industry in Switzerland. One elderly couple from the United Kingdom, Sir Edward Downes (85yrs old) and his wife Joan (74 yrs. old) decided to go to Switzerland since Sir Edward lost most of his eyesight and decided assisted suicide was the bon vage for him. His wife, Joan who was healthy, decided she did not want to live without her husband of 54yrs and decided that she would also participate. So husband and wife with the help of others took their lives.
The couple had many supporters and many who cheered on their "right" to die in the manner they choose without interference.READ MORE
These exotic figures we call the Magi, traveled a long distance to bring their gifts to the child born in Bethlehem. They represent the first people who were willing to put their gifts at the service of Jesus Christ. Since that time disciples of Jesus have been doing the same. And what is so wondrous about it is that no matter how small the gift or seemingly insignificant, like the widow’s mite or the seven loaves and two fish, Jesus uses it in a big way.
Next weekend we will be blessed once again to have with us Eddie James and many of his “kids”. I say “kids” because Eddie travels long distances, like the Magi, to bring the gift of faith to young people who are abandoned, hopeless, family-less, abused, drug addicted or suicidal, and they in turn consider him their spiritual father. The last time Eddie and his Gospel Singers were with us was an Easter Sunday. After that Mass we had to put a new roof on the Church because they ripped it right off! I am sure this visit will be no less an energetic worship experience.READ MORE
Love, joy, peace are often attached to the infant in the manger in Bethlehem. But truth be told the best way to describe him: subversive. His birth undercuts all worldly power and assumptions. Even at the moment of birth there was "no room in the inn", and as CS Lewis often quipped, "God had to sneak clandestinely behind enemy lines". This world would not receive this newborn King and has found ways to reject him ever since. The swaddled child is an immediate threat to the political order and an object of panic to the religious community. Herod wanted him dead; the Temple officials wouldn't tolerate this version of a Messiah. From this point onwards Jesus turns the worldly powers on their heads, he subverts the old religions and those who dare to follow him are hunted down as revolutionaries, disloyal citizens who threaten the status quo.READ MORE
Many have found this helpful, for those it applies to, so I reprint it around Christmas in hopes it will help still more to "rock around the Christmas tree" and not "throw rocks around the Christmas tree".
Each year thousands of American children are informed that their parents are divorcing and that there will be new living arrangements with the children alternating time between parents. Adults who experienced divorce as children frequently report that the holidays were especially stressful for them during their own childhood. This means that divorced or separated parents have to take time to figure out and discuss what the holidays should look like for their children and not what suits the parents or the custody arrangements. After all we say, "Christmas is all about the children" but do we really set it up to be so?READ MORE
At the height of the sex abuse scandal in the Church, when one Grand Jury after another was issuing reports that were often short on facts and that created the suspicion that all Catholic priests were pedophiles, a dear friend of mine who was a DPS Officer pulled me aside and reminded me that too often law enforcements officers are all smeared because of a few bad apples on the force. He understood the pain and the frustration of not being able to do much about it and the injustice that comes when your entire profession is cast under a pall of darkness. That moment of solidarity gave me great comfort.
Since the Grand Juries in New York and Ferguson did not bring back indictments law enforcement officers are being put under the suspicion of racism. And not just racism but homicidal racism. So I say to our law enforcement friends what my DPS friend said to me: you are good men and women who do your best under difficult circumstances to protect our rights and safety and despite whatever vilification you are now experiencing many of us are grateful for your service, integrity and willingness to put yourself in harms way for the rest of us. This too shall pass.READ MORE
The land that is mentioned the most in the Bible is of course Israel. The land that is most mentioned next is Iraq (home of Nineveh, Babylon, Eden to name a few.) Today, the largest community of Iraqi Christians lives in… Chicago. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Christians in Iraq have had to flee their homeland and now with the advent of ISIS the very existence of Christianity in Iraq, to which the Gospel was first preached by Thomas the Apostle, is teetering on extinction.
As bad as this is it gets worse. Near the ancient city of Nineveh ISIS goons captured four children all under 15yrs old and told them to "say the words" acknowledging Allah as Lord. But the children all said, "no but we love Yeshua (Jesus), we have always loved Yeshua". "Say the words" and they refused. Then their heads were cut off.
When we teach our children to sing that wonderful "O, how I love Jesus" do we ever envision that might mean the difference between life and death? Do we really let them know that by loving Christ they are in effect taking sides? And that can cost them dearly someday.READ MORE