Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Standing For Truth

The following is an article that I had to read for my History class by Cardinal Stafford describing his experience at the time of the dissent brought on By Humanae Vitae. It is a little long for a blog post but well worth the read! Let's remember our duty as Catholics to stand for Truth no matter what as we read this article, especially in light of the current Notre Dame and Obama situation. Hope you enjoy!

The Year of the Peirasmòs - 1968
By Cardinal James Francis Stafford

“Lead us not into temptation” is the sixth petition of the Our Father. Πειρασμός (Peirasmòs), the Greek word used in this passage for ‘temptation.’, means a trial or test. Disciples petition God to be protected against the supreme test of ungodly powers. The trial is related to Jesus’s cup in Gethsemane, the same cup which his disciples would also taste (Mk 10: 35-45). The dark side of the interior of the cup is an abyss. It reveals the awful consequences of God’s judgment upon sinful humanity. In August, 1968, the weight of the evangelical Πειρασμός fell on many priests, including myself.
It was the year of the bad war, of complex innocence that sanctified the shedding of blood. English historian Paul Johnson dubs 1968 as the year of “America’s Suicide Attempt.” It included the Tet offensive in Vietnam with its tsunami-like effects in American life and politics, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee; the tumult in American cities on Palm Sunday weekend; and the June assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in southern California. It was also the year in which Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter on transmitting human life, Humanae Vitae (HV). He met immediate, premeditated, and unprecedented opposition from some American theologians and pastors. By any measure 1968 was a bitter cup.
On the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, I have been asked to reflect on one event of that year, the doctrinal dissent among some priests and theologians in an American Archdiocese on the occasion of its publication. It is not an easy or welcome task. But since it may help some followers of Jesus to live what Pope Paul VI called a more “disciplined” life (HV 21), I will explore that event.
The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour. The memories are not forgotten; they are painful. They remain vivid like a tornado in the plains of Colorado. They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968 something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church. It was a Πειρασμός for many.
Some background material is necessary. Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan, the sixth Archbishop of Baltimore, was my ecclesiastical superior at the time. Pope Paul VI had appointed him along with others as additional members to the Papal Commission for the Study of Problems of the Family, Population, and Birth Rates, first established by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1963 during the II Vatican Council. There had been discussions and delays and unauthorized interim reports from Rome prior to 1968. The enlarged Commission was asked to make recommendations on these issues to the Pope.
In preparation for its deliberations, the Cardinal sent confidential letters to various persons of the Church of Baltimore seeking their advice. I received such a letter.
My response drew upon experience, both personal and pastoral. Family and education had given me a Christian understanding of sex. The profoundly Catholic imagination of my family, friends and teachers had caused me to be open to this reality; I was filled with wonder before its mystery. Theological arguments weren’t necessary to convince me of the binding connection between sexual acts and new life. That truth was an accepted part of life at the elementary school connected with St. Joseph’s Passionist Monastery Parish in Baltimore. In my early teens my father had first introduced me to the full meaning of human sexuality and the need for discipline. His intervention opened a path through the labyrinth of adolescence.
Through my family, schools, and parishes I became friends with many young women. Some of them I dated on a regular basis. I marveled at their beauty. The courage of St. Maria Goretti, canonized in 1950, struck my generation like an intense mountain storm. Growing into my later teens I understood better how complex friendship with young women could be. They entered the spring-time of my life like the composite rhythm of a poem. To my surprise, the joy of being their friend was enriched by prayer, modesty, and the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.
Later education and formation in seminaries built upon those experiences. In a 1955 letter to a friend, Flannery O’Connor describes the significance of the virtue of purity for many Catholics at that time. “To see Christ as God and man is probably no more difficult today than it has been. ... For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the law of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and physical reality really are, then I will know what God is. We know them as we see them, not as God sees them. For me it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws. I am always astonished at the emphasis the Church places on the body. It is not the soul she says that will rise but the body, glorified. I have always thought that purity was the most mysterious of the virtues, but it occurs to me that it would never have entered human consciousness if we were not to look forward to a resurrection of the body, which will be flesh and spirit united in peace, in the way they were in Christ. The resurrection of Christ seems the high point in the law of nature.” O’Connor’s theology with its remarkably eschatological mark anticipates the teaching of the II Vatican Council, “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (Gaudium et Spes 22). In those years, I could not have used her explicit words to explain where I stood on sexuality and its use. Once I discovered them she became a spiritual sister.
Eight years of priestly ministry from 1958 to 1966 in Washington and Baltimore broadened my experience. It didn’t take long to discover changes in Americans’ attitudes towards the virtue of purity. Both cities were undergoing sharp increases in out-of-wedlock pregnancies. The rate in Baltimore’s inner-city was about 18% in 1966 and had been climbing for several years. In 1965-1966 the Baltimore Metropolitan Health and Welfare Council undertook a study to advise the city government in how to address the issue. At that time, the Board members of the Council, including myself, had uncritical faith in experts and social research. Even the II Vatican Council had expressed unfettered confidence in the role of benevolent experts (Gaudium et Spes 57). Not one of my professional acquaintances anticipated the crisis of trust which was just around the corner in the relations between men and women. Our vision was incapable of establishing conditions of justice and of purity of heart in which wonder and appreciation can find play. We were already anachronistic and without hope. We ignored the texture of life.
There were signs even then of the disasters facing children, both born and unborn. As a caseworker and priest throughout the 1960's, part of my ministry involved counseling inner-city families and single parents. My first awareness of a parishioner using hard drugs was in 1961. A sixteen-year old had been jailed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. At the time of my late afternoon visit to him, he was experiencing drug withdrawal unattended and alone in a tiny cell. His screams filled the corridors and adjoining cells. Through the iron bars dividing us, I was horror-stricken watching him in his torment. The abyss he was looking into was unimaginably terrifying. In this drugged youth writhing in agony on the floor next to an open toilet I saw the bitter fruits of the estrangement of men and women. His mother, separated from her husband, lived with her younger children in a sweltering third floor flat on Light St. in old South Baltimore. The father was non-existent for them. The failure of men in their paternal and spousal roles was unfolding before my eyes and ears. Since then more and more American men have refused to accept responsibility for their sexuality.
In a confidential letter responding to his request, I shared in a general fashion these concerns. My counsel to Cardinal Shehan was very real and specific. I had taken a hard, cold look at what I was experiencing and what the Church and society were doing. I came across an idea which was elliptical: the gift of love should be allowed to be fruitful. These two fixed points are constant. This simple idea lit up everything like lightning in a storm. I wrote about it more formally to the Cardinal: the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage cannot be separated. Consequently, to deprive a conjugal act deliberately of its fertility is intrinsically wrong. To encourage or approve such an abuse would lead to the eclipse of fatherhood and to disrespect for women. Since then, Pope John Paul II has given us the complementary and superlative insight into the nuptial meaning of the human body. Decades afterwards, I came across an analogous reading from Meister Eckhart: “Gratitude for the gift is shown only by allowing it to make one fruitful.”

Some time later, the Papal Commission sent its recommendations to the Pope. The majority advised that the Church’s teaching on contraception be changed in light of new circumstances. Cardinal Shehan was part of that majority. Even before the encyclical had been signed and issued, his vote had been made public although not on his initiative.
As we know, the Pope decided otherwise. This sets the scene for the tragic drama following the actual date of the publication of the encyclical letter on July 29, 1968.
In his memoirs, Cardinal Shehan describes the immediate reaction of some priests in Washington to the encyclical. “[A]fter receiving the first news of the publication of the encyclical, the Rev. Charles E. Curran, instructor of moral theology of The Catholic University of America, flew back to Washington from the West where he had been staying. Late [on the afternoon of July 29], he and nine other professors of theology of the Catholic University met, by evident prearrangement, in Caldwell Hall to receive, again by prearrangement with the Washington Post, the encyclical, part by part, as it came from the press. The story further indicated that by nine o’clock that night, they had received the whole encyclical, had read it, had analyzed it, criticized it, and had composed their six-hundred word ‘Statement of Dissent.’ Then they began that long series of telephone calls to ‘theologians’ throughout the East, which went on, according to the Post, until 3:30 A.M., seeking authorization, to attach their names as endorsers (signers was the term used) of the statement, although those to whom they had telephoned could not have had an opportunity to see either the encyclical or their statement. Meanwhile, they had arranged through one of the local television stations to have the statement broadcast that night.”
The Cardinal’s judgment was scornful. In 1982 he wrote, “The first thing that we have to note about the whole performance is this: so far as I have been able to discern, never in the recorded history of the Church has a solemn proclamation of a Pope been received by any group of Catholic people with so much disrespect and contempt.”
The personal Πειρασμός, the test, began. In Baltimore in early August, 1968, a few days after the encyclical’s issuance, I received an invitation by telephone from a recently ordained assistant pastor to attend a gathering of some Baltimore priests at the rectory of St. William of York parish in southwest Baltimore to discuss the encyclical. The meeting was set for Sunday evening, August 4. I agreed to come. Eventually a large number of priests were gathered in the rectory’s basement. I knew them all.
The dusk was clear, hot, and humid. The quarters were cramped. We were seated on rows of benches and chairs and were led by a diocesan inner-city pastor well known for his work in liturgy and race-relations. There were also several Sulpician priests present from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore to assist him in directing the meeting. I don’t recall their actual number.
My expectations of the meeting proved unrealistic. I had hoped that we had been called together to receive copies of the encyclical and to discuss it. I was mistaken. Neither happened.
After welcoming us and introducing the leadership, the inner-city pastor came to the point. He expected each of us to subscribe to the Washington “Statement of Dissent.” Mixing passion with humor, he explained the reasons. They ranged from the maintenance of the credibility of the Church among the laity to the need to allow ‘flexibility’ for married couples in forming their consciences on the use of artificial contraceptives. Before our arrival, the conveners had decided that the Baltimore priests’ rejection of the papal encyclical would be published the following morning in The Baltimore Sun, one of the daily newspapers.

The Washington statement was read aloud. Then the leader asked each of us to agree to have our names attached to it. No time was allowed for discussion, reflection, or prayer. Each priest was required individually to give a verbal “yes” or “no.”
I could not sign it. My earlier letter to Cardinal Shehan came to mind. I remained convinced of the truth of my judgement and conclusions. Noting that my seat was last in the packed basement, I listened to each priest’s response, hoping for support. It didn’t materialize. Everyone agreed to sign. There were no abstentions. As the last called upon, I felt isolated. The basement became suffocating.
By now it was night. The room was charged with tension. Something epochal was taking place. It became clear that the leaders’ strategy had been carefully mapped out beforehand. It was moving along without a hitch. Their rhetorical skills were having their anticipated effect. They had planned carefully how to exert what amounted to emotional and intellectual coercion. Violence by overt manipulation was new to the Baltimore presbyterate.
The leader’s reaction to my refusal was predictable and awful. The whole process now became a grueling struggle, a terrible test, a Πειρασμος. The priest/leader, drawing upon some scatological language from his Marine Corp past in the II World War responded contemptuously to my decision. He tried to force me to change. He became visibly angry and verbally abusive. The underlying, ‘fraternal’ violence became more evident. He questioned and then derided my integrity. He taunted me to risk my ecclesiastical ‘future,’ although his reference was more anatomically specific. The abuse went on.
With surprising coherence I was eventually able to respond that the Pope’s encyclical deserved the courtesy of a reading. None of us had read it. I continued that, as a matter of fact, I agreed with and accepted the Pope’s teaching as it had been reported in the public media. That response elicited more ridicule. Otherwise there was silence. Finally, seeing that I would remain firm, the ex-Marine moved on to complete the business and adjourn the meeting. The leaders then prepared a statement for the next morning’s daily paper.
The meeting ended. I sped out of there, free but disoriented. Once outside the darkness encompassed me. We all had been subjected to a new thing in the Church, something unexpected. A pastor and several seminary professors had abused rhetoric to undermine the truth within the evangelical community. When opposed, they assumed the role of Job’s friends. Their contempt became a nightmare. In the night it seemed that God’s blind hand was reaching out to touch my face.
The dissent of a few Sulpician seminary professors compounded my disorientation. In their ancient Baltimore Seminary I had first caught on to the connection between freedom, interiority, and obedience. By every ecclesial measure they should have been aware that the process they supported that evening exceeded the “norms of licit dissent.” But they showed no concern for the gravity of that theological and pastoral moment. They saw nothing unbecoming in the mix of publicity and theology. They expressed no impatience then or later over the coercive nature of the August meeting. Nor did any of the other priests present. One diocesan priest did request privately later that night that his name be removed before the statement’s publication in the morning paper.
For a long time, I wondered about the meaning of the event. It was a cataclysm which was difficult to survive intact. Things were sorted out slowly. Later, Henri de Lubac captured some of its significance, “Nothing is more opposed to witness than vulgarization. Nothing is more unlike the apostolate than propaganda.” Hannah Arendt’s insights have been useful concerning the dangerous poise of 20th century western culture between unavoidable doom and reckless optimism. “It should be possible to discover the hidden mechanics by which all traditional elements of our political and spiritual world were dissolved into a conglomeration of where everything seems to have lost specific value, and has become unrecognizable for human comprehension, unusable for human purpose. To yield to the mere process of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because it has assumed the spurious grandeur of ‘historical necessity’, but also because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, meaningless and unreal”. The subterranean world that has always accompanied Catholic communities, called Gnosticism by our ancestors, had again surfaced and attempted to usurp the truth of the Catholic tradition.
An earlier memory from April 1968 helped to shed further light on what had happened in August, 1968 along with de Lubac’s words about violence and Arendt’s insights into the breaking point reached by Western civilization in the 20th century. During the height of the 1968 Baltimore riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I had made an emergency call to that same inner-city pastor who would lead the later August meeting. It was one of numerous telephone conversations I had with inner-city pastors during the night preceding Palm Sunday. At the request of the city government, I was asking whether the pastors or their people, both beleaguered, might need food, medical assistance, or other help.
My conversation with him that April night was by far the most dramatic. He described the view from the rectory while speaking on the phone. A window framed a dissolving neighborhood; his parish was becoming a raging inferno. He said, “From here I see nothing but fire burning everywhere. Everything has been set ablaze. The Church and rectory are untouched thus far.” He did not wish to leave or be evacuated. His voice betrayed disillusionment and fear. Later we learned that the parish buildings survived.
‘Sorting out’ these two events of violence continued throughout the following months and years. The trajectories of April and August 1968 unpredictably converged. Memories of the physical violence in the city in April 1968 helped me to name what had happened in August 1968. Ecclesial dissent can become a kind of spiritual violence in its form and content. A new, unsettling insight emerged. Violence and truth don’t mix. When expressive violence of whatever sort is inflicted upon truth, the resulting irony is lethal.
What do I mean? Look at the results of the two events. After the violent 1968 Palm Sunday weekend, civil dialogue in metropolitan Baltimore broke down and came to a stop. It took a back seat to open anger and recriminations between whites and blacks. The violence of the priests’ August gathering gave rise to its own ferocious acrimony. Conversations among the clergy, where they existed, became contaminated with fear. Suspicions among priests were chronic. Fears abounded. And they continue. The Archdiocesan priesthood lost something of the fraternal whole which Baltimore priests had known for generations. 1968 marked the hiatus of the generational communio of the Archdiocesan presbyterate, which had been continually reinforced by the seminary and its Sulpician faculty. Priests’ fraternity had been wounded. Pastoral dissent had attacked the Eucharistic foundation of the Church. Its nuptial significance had been denied. Some priests saw bishops as nothing more than Roman mannequins.
Something else happened among priests on that violent August night. Friendship in the Church sustained a direct hit. Jesus, by calling those who were with him his ‘friends,’ had made friendship a privileged analogy of the Church. That analogy became obscured after a large number of priests expressed shame over their leaders and repudiated their teaching.
Cardinal Shehan later reported that on Monday morning, August 5, he “was startled to read in the Baltimore Sun that seventy-two priests of the Baltimore area had signed the Statement of Dissent.” What he later called “the years of crisis” began for him during that hot, violent August evening in 1968.
But that night was not a total loss. The test was unexpected and unwelcome. Its unhinging consequences continue. Abusive, coercive dissent has become a reality in the Church and subjects her to violent, debilitating, unproductive, chronic controversies. But I did discover something new. Others also did. When the moment of Christian witness came, no Christian could be coerced who refused to be. Despite the novelty of being treated as an object of shame and ridicule, I did not become “ashamed of the Gospel” that night and found “sweet delight in what is right.” It was not a bad lesson. Ecclesial obedience ran the distance.
My discovery that Christ was the first to despise shame was gut-rending in its existential and providential reality. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Paradoxically, in the hot, August night a new sign shown unexpectedly on the path to future life. It read, “Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered.”
The violence of the initial disobedience was only a prelude to further and more pervasive violence. Priests wept at meetings over the manipulation of their brothers. Contempt for the truth, whether aggressive or passive, has become common in Church life. Dissenting priests, theologians and laypeople have continued their coercive techniques. From the beginning the press has used them to further its own serpentine agenda.
All of this led to a later discovery. Discernment is an essential part of episcopal ministry. With the grace of “the governing Spirit” the discerning skills of a bishop should mature. Episcopal attention should focus on the break/rupture initiated by Jesus and described by St. Paul in his response to Corinthian dissenters. “You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor 13: 3-5).
The rupture of the violent death of Jesus has changed our understanding of the nature of God. His Trinitarian life is essentially self-surrender and love. By Baptism, every disciple of Jesus is imprinted with that Trinitarian water-mark. The Incarnate Word came to do the will of him who sent him. Contemporary obedience of disciples to the Successor of Peter cannot be separated from the poverty of spirit and purity of heart modeled and won by the Word on the Cross.
A brief after word. In 1978 or thereabouts during an episcopal visitation to his parish, I was having lunch with the Baltimore pastor, the ex-Marine, who led the August 1968 meeting. I was a guest in his rectory. He was still formidable. Our conversation was about his parish, the same parish he had been shepherding during the 1968 riots. The atmosphere was amiable. During the simple meal in the kitchen I came to an uneasy decision. Since we had never discussed the August 1968 night, I decided to initiate a conversation about it. My recall was brief, objective and, insofar as circumstances allowed, unthreatening. I had hoped for some light from him on an event which had become central to the experience of many priests including myself. While my mind and heart were recalling the events of the night, he remained silent. His silence continued afterwards. Even though he had not forgotten, he made no comment. He didn’t lift his eyes. His heart’s fire was colder now.
Nothing was forthcoming. I left the matter there. No dialogue was possible in 1968; it remained impossible in 1978. There was no common ground. Both of us were looking into an abyss - from opposite sides. Anguish and disquiet overwhelmed the distant hope of reconciliation and friendship. We never returned to the subject again. He has since died while serving a large suburban parish. The only remaining option is to strike my breast and pray, “Lord, remember the secret worth of all our human worthlessness”
Diocesan presbyterates have not recovered from the July/August nights in 1968. Many in consecrated life also failed the evangelical test. Since January 2002, the abyss has opened up elsewhere. The whole people of God, including children and adolescents, now must look into the abyss and see what dread beasts are at its bottom. Each of us shudders before the wrath of God, each weeps in sorrow for our sins and each begs for the Father’s merciful remembrance of Christ’s obedience.

J. Francis Cardinal Stafford
Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dare to Know!

I'm currently in a History Class for my graduate program about the Church and the Modern World. This class is completely changing my perception of things and getting me to think and connect the dots of what is going on in our society in amazing ways. How many of us think? How many of us really and truly think? How many of us combine the use of our Faith and Reason to make decisions and evaluate the world around us. This is something I've been making a much stronger effort to do over the last few years. Let's take a quick stroll down memory lane and think about why we are where we are in our world today.

In ancient and early Christian times God was at the center of everything. Man believed truth was something outside themselves. There was belief that some form of higher power existed that was the source of that truth. Atheism was almost non existent because people actually believed in some form of higher power. The world then mainly became Christian and people lived in a world heavily influenced by Christ and his teachings. It was by no means perfect and people were not perfectly moral but people viewed the world in a Christian way.

Then came the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was not a relativistic movement. It did believe in truth. However it throughout faith and taught that truth could be arrived at through reason alone. The great cry of the Enlightenment was "Dare to Know!" The great thinkers of the enlightenment, like Kant, believed if you got a bunch of people together in a room and argued for something on reason alone you would come up with some sort of universal truth. We can all guess why that didn't work. Because when you take God out of the equation and leave it only to human beings to decide truth you're in big trouble. A sub movement that was part of the enlightenment was Romanticism. Romanticism was also not relativistic. Romanticism believed you could come to truth based on your sentiments and feelings. Sound familiar?

The failure of these movements have brought us to where we are today. A Post-Modern world that is in chaos. We began with God at the center. Then Man was at the center. Now, nothing is at the center. We have completely rejected Faith and Reason. People do not think and allow themselves to be manipulated by the media and Propaganda! Why do you think Obama won this election? I honestly believe that if people would have allowed Faith plus REASON to evaluate the situation no human being would have put their trust in this man. First of all CHANGE? Why the heck would Americans want Change? We have the most comfortable lives and have had the most stable government in the world for the last 200 years. Seriously, Change? And HOPE? What exactly does he mean by Hope? Cause I've had Hope for years. My Hope is in Jesus Christ. He has completely altered the meaning of these two words to tug at the heart strings of America and get them to blindly follow based on nothing but their passions and emotions. Hitler and the French Revolution did the same thing. The Pro-Abortion Movement does the same thing as well. I'm not saying Obama is the same as Hitler but I am saying be weary of people who throw out reason and manipulate the meaning of words for the purpose of getting people to follow them. My Professor said something last week in class that hit the nail on the head: "Every Revolution in History began with a revolution of words. He who manipulates and owns the definitions of the words owns the people." Folks It's not pro-choice, it's pro-abortion! If you think otherwise you are kidding yourselves. The pro-abortionists coined the term and manipulated the meaning of the word choice to make their stance sound good. The French Revolution used "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" to rile up the people. All these terms are good things when defined with their true meaning but the French Revolution manipulated their meaning. And if you think Obama did not do that with the words Hope and Change then you're kidding yourselves. Obama's cabinet is made up of some of the most avid pro-abortionists in this country. Embryonic stem cell research and cloning for research purposes is now legal. Our tax dollars are now funding Abortions in foreign countries. All this in less than two months in office. You wanted Hope and Change America, well you're getting it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Living In the Moment

I am about two months away from taking my last graduate school final and and then graduating. It is hard to believe that the two years of grad school I moved out here for are almost up. It feels like just yesterday I was packing my life away and leaving Wichita. Time really does fly and it seems to moving even faster as I get older. I can't belive it has been 7 years since I finished undergrad. My 10 year High School Reunion took place this past fall. Life has definetally been an adventure and I look forward to what is next. But I also can't forget to live in the now and cherish every moment.

The common human tendency is to constantly worry abou the future. We constantly live in worry or excitedment of what is to come. And who can blame people given the current economic climate of things. But you know what? When we do that we might miss something incredible that God is trying to teach us or show us right then. St. Thomas Aquinas talks about how too much worry and anxiety about the future can even be a sin. Plus he says that it is pointless because God gives us grace to deal with trials in the moment. If we spend time worrying about future trials it can cause us a lot of undue anxiety because we haven't been given the grace to deal with them yet, but we will when the time comes.

I have always known this in a sense but it really hit me last night while I was in prayer. I was reading one of the letters Catherine of Sienna wrote to her brother who was dealing with some struggles in his life. Catherine urged him to deal with them patiently and to live for today because life is so short and we can't be certain that tomorrow will even come. I've been doing a lot of worrying lately about the fall and what job I will have, where I will live and how it will all play out. While I have to do what is necissary to secure a job upon graduation I need to not worry so much. God is in control and he will take care of all of it. I only have a few months left here in Denver and I need to soak it in. I'm actually enjoying my Thesis so I should soak in the time I have writing it. I need to soak in what I have left of class. I'm never going to have an opportunity again like this one. Yeah its tough and stressful in many ways but as I look back I have enjoyed it immensely despite the difficulties and trials. I want to continue to cherish what I have left.

I've gotten to go skiing a few times. I've gone on some incredible hikes. I've gotten the opportunity to work for some amazing people that have really helped me grow so much: Fr. Kevin, Jim Beckman, Fr. Payo. I've gotten to learn under some of the most incredible professors: Dr. Reyes, Dr. Gray, Prof. Innerest, Dr. Sri. I've fallen in love with my faith all over again in a more powerful way than I ever thought possible. My view of the world has changed dramatically, it has become more Catholic. I've made some really great friends: Dave, Steve, Jon, John, Wendy, etc. I've gotten to reconnect with old friends: Hugh and Pete. I've met the love of my life. Mary Beth has been such a blessing and calmed me down big time. I'm in my most stressful semester of school and I'm the least stressed I've been out of all the other semesters. I think she is a big reason for that. I've had the joy of witnessing former students work for me through Totus Tuus. This list could go on and on. The good of the decision to come out here definetally outwieghs the bad.

And so I'm here with only a few months remaining. I pray that I can soak it all in and cherish every last moment. Enjoy this time with Mary Beth. Enjoy the friendships I have made. Enjoy the learning and reading. Enjoy another summer of Totus Tuus and the beauty of Colorado!

I have an interview at Bishop Carroll next month some time. I'm not sure what will happen. I do ask for all your prayers that it work out but for the time being I'm going to try really hard and not worry about it. TODAY is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Waiting on the World To Change

Have you ever looked around? I mean really looked around? Have you ever looked inside yourself? I mean really looked inside yourself? I would venture to think most people really haven't done this because if they did they would not like what they saw. John Paul II said the biggest crisis in the modern world is the lack of an interior life. We have stopped being self-reflective. We have stopped evaluating what our senses take in around us. We have become people who are on autopilot going through day to day life without ever taking time out of our days to reflect on what is really going on inside and around us.

We go to movies and watch television shows without ever evaluating what messages they are giving us. As Christians we basically tell ourselves that as long as there is no nudity and the violence isn't too graphic that it is a perfectly wholesome movie or television show. But is it really? Is there actually anything on T.V. or at the movies that doesn't attack our Christian values or tear down the culture in some subtle way?

We listen to music and don't even pay attention the lyrics. As long as there are no explicit lyrics we tell ourselves they are fine. But are the lyrics painting a false picture of what love or reality is?

We spend more time on facebook socializing than we do in person with people. Are we actually communicating and building relationships this way? We sit and text Suzy the entire time we are having coffee with Johnny. We talk on the phone while we are at the check out line at the grocery store barely even acknowledeging the check out person.

We have our kids enrolled in so many activities and work so much that we are lucky to sit down and have dinner as a family once a week. When we sit down and have conversations with people they mainly consist of gossip and the latest episode of LOST or the OFFICE or what Beyonce is singing about. Rarely are conversations meaningful and life changing.

We have forgotten how to pray, how to relate, how to think and use our reason, and how to engage the culture.

I'm not saying watching movies and listening to music is bad or that facebook is the devil or that cell phones are evil or that we should not talk about LOST or the Office with our friends. But I am saying that we need to evaluate what we take in, oursleves, and how we approach our relationships. We need to take our minds with us when we go places or sit in front of the T.V. Our reason and faith need to be used in conjunction with one another to evaluate the culture and engage it.

We have to look inside ourselves. We have to figure out what the sins are we struggle with. We have to work at building virtue. We may not like what we see if we really evaluate ourselves but that's ok, that is why God gives us grace and mercy. We don't like to do this because this may mean we have to change and give up things in our lives that we enjoy. To be a Christian means to be counter-cultural. How do we do this?

We have to look around and us as well and challenge the world to change. I'm not saying be judgmental. I am saying though to fight against the things in this world that are constantly in oposition from reclaiming a Christian worldview and culture. How do we do this?

I'm not sure how exactly to do all these things. If I had the answers I would already be doing them. I'm by no means perfect. I'm a victim of the culture as well but lately I've been really thinking about this stuff a lot more. I've been driving around in my car without music lately and it has given me a lot more time to be reflective. I'm coming to realize how much I need to change and grow in virute but I'm also coming to realize how unhappy people and our world are. How much we are rationalizing our actions. How much we have completely lost use of our reason. We are fooling ourselves into thinking we are "enlightened" and "free". Society has decided that there is no God simply to justify their own immoral behavior. I would venture to say there there are very few Athiests out there that actually believe there is no God, they actually just tell themeselves that so they can sleep at night.

If we actually used our reason and intellect in its fullest capacity we would come to realize that we need God, we need to change, and we are created for a much higher purpose. We aren't created to be society's drones, but that is what we are becoming. How do we fight it?