"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why I Label Myself a Liturgical Purist

People like to label other people. Call it a sin, call it a vice; it's really part of our fallen human nature.

We Catholics are as bad as anyone else. Just think for a second and a long list should come quickly to mind:

Hippie Catholic
Conservative Catholic
Catholic-in-name-only
Cafeteria Catholic
Liberal Catholic
Spirit of Vatican II Catholic
Pre-Vatican II Catholic
Traditional Catholic*
Integral Catholic
Homeschooling Catholic
Social Justice Catholic
Pro-Life Catholic
Small "o" orthodox Catholic.

I think you get the point. This doesn't even include all the labeling that results from allegiances to all the various orders - Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, Marianists, etc.

I have a love/hate relationship with labels. I think they're damaging, yet convenient; idealistic and naive; descriptive, distinctive, and divisive. But they're not going away.

So might as well embrace them right?

Personally, when it comes to labeling myself, especially to the "outside" world, I tend to shy away from the "typical" labels, such as those listed above. I am first and foremost a Catholic. That's it. No addendum needed. No clarification required.

However, when, in polite discussion, the topic of Catholicism is broached - which in my conversations is quite common - and greater distinctions are needed for the sake of more thoughtful discourse, I do have a label with which I prefer to describe myself: "liturgical purist."

You might be saying to yourself "What sort of new-agey mumbo jumbo is that?" Or "that sounds awefully hoity-toity."

Well, this descriptor of mine was really inspired by a little twist on James 1:27 which I think (I hope) makes clear what I'm trying to say:
Liturgy that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To give glory to God through the Son and to keep the sense of the sacred mystery at all times.



We Catholics can get very divisive when it comes to labeling ourselves based on our liturgical preference, and I don't think it's not a positive development in the history of the Church. So no, I don't use the term "traddie." Nor do I call myself a "Latin Mass" attendee. And I am definitely not an "onlyist." These labels are especially short-sighted, intentionally alienating, and generally unhelpful.

I think the biggest problem for either side of this discussion, but especially for those on the "traddie" side, is the tendency to worship the Mass (consciously or unconsciously), with all its glory and beauty, as an object of worship in-and-of-itself, instead of worshiping Christ through the Mass. Similarly, I argue there are those who fall firmly in the, let's say, "Spirit of Vatican II" camp who worship the Mass too, but for reasons distinct from why those on the "traddie" side do.

In my view the Mass is a tool for us to give glory to God through the Son by a re-creation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary. That is, I believe, the proper understanding of Mass. I say this with all humility, and I am willing to be corrected on this point if it is in error.

I believe any intellectually honest person will admit there are problems with Mass in the Ordinary Form/New Rite/Mass of Paul VI/Novus Ordo (too many options and lack of clarity in the rubrics, misplaced emphasis, and lessening of the sense of the sacred) just as there are also issues with the Mass in the Extraordinary Form/Traditional Latin Mass (complex rubrics, the difficulty of the Latin language, tendency towards feelings of spiritual superiority).

What we must remember is that we are flawed humans trying to bring a little bit of heaven here to earth. That's a tough assignment. Oh most certainly, the Mass is divinely inspired and the most beautiful thing this side of heaven, so we have some help in the task, but ultimately it is not the Mass itself (meaning the rubrics, actions, words, music, etc.) that will get us to heaven. It is only God and His endless mercy that will get us there - we must always remember that! - but only if we properly take advantage of and use the tools He has entrusted to us, the most vital and important being the Mass (and the sacraments).

Which is why I say the Mass needs to be glorious, reverent, and purposeful. As long as it is, I'm fine with it, no matter the form it takes.

I want liturgy, pure and undefiled before God, because I believe that will help get me to heaven. Is that too much to ask?

------

*A friend of mine even came up with labels specifically for the "traddies" to define just what sort of traditionalist flavor one might come from - "rad" (short for "radical) trad, sad trad, glad trad, and mad trad. I then came up with two more: fad trad (those who attend the TLM just because it's the "thing" to do) and "crad" trad (short for "cradle", i.e., those who were raised attending the TLM, such as yours truly)



Thursday, December 4, 2014

"You Want Change? You Can't Handle the Change!"

 Three Simple Changes You Can Make After Ferguson
"You want change?"

The title of this post might be a little embellished (read: "contrived") from a well-known line delivered by a well-known actor to another well-known actor in a well-known movie. Furthermore, it's not the first time your favorite blogger has embellished this well-known quote, as it is very similar to the title of another [not so] well-known recent blog post of mine. But you have to admit, it's a really good quote! (And the embellishment isn't all that bad either!)

If you think about it for a second, the point this embellishment makes will probably come into focus: in the on-going aftermath of this situation we call "Ferguson" everybody wants change - which is a good thing!

[...wait for it...]

But! (you knew there was a "but" coming didn't you?)

[dramatic pause for effect...]

...The fact of the matter is that we now have a starting point and nothing - repeat, nothing - more. And I'm sorry if that "point" bursts your "bubble." (see what I did there??)

Although my contrived embellished title rips off of some well-knowns, what's not so well known is just how exactly Ferguson is going to change hearts, minds, culture, society, and government. I keep hearing how we want "change," yet no one seems to put forth any concrete solutions.

For example, let's look at what one of the St. Louis Rams football players said regarding their protesty-gesturish-display-thing before Sunday's game against Oakland. Yes, yes, you're probably thinking athletes in general are not known for their rhetorical abilities, but neither are the vast majority of people out there (yours truly included). So let's consider this an example of what the average person might think or say:
“I just think there just needs to be a change... There has to be a change that starts with people who are most influential around the world. There are people that have higher voices than us that can speak out and say something about it. No matter what happened on that day, no matter how the whole situation went down, there has to be a change. From whatever happened on both sides, there has to be change. That’s not cool.”
Amen, brother.

No, seriously. I think we can all agree with this man's sentiments. In fact, many other civic and religious leaders are saying the same thing. Change needs to happen. Everyone in the world knows change must occur. My only contention is that the conversation can't end there. If we don't go deeper, "change" is just a word, a fleeting thought, a spoken sound, a series of letters.

I recently discovered a quote from Winston Churchill. You may have heard or read the second part, but the first sentence was new to me:
"There is nothing wrong in change, if it is in the right direction. To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to change often."
In light of the prime minister's words, I contend that what needs to change is not simply hearts and minds, but souls. Yes, human beings have them, and we all need to change them, and quite often. If we don't, we risk losing them eternally.

I may be a little biased, but I think Archbishop Carlson has it right: "[A]s the Church, we know we have the remedy: Jesus - knowing him individually, letting him re-organize our relations with each other."

Therefore, without careful consideration of my potential future political career, I'm going to lay things out very bluntly and explain three steps we can all take to accomplish precisely the sort of change we actually need.

  1. Know your neighbors.
  2. Strengthen your family.
  3. Give Christ His rightful place as King of your heart. 

I know I am one of the worst offenders in the first category, I fall short in the second, and the third is the ultimate goal, but a daily struggle. However, I am now committing myself to taking concrete actions to get to know my neighbors (and I mean my actual neighbors - the people who live in the houses immediately next to mine. If you don't even know your actual neighbors, how can you truthfully claim to "love your neighbor as yourself"?). I am also working with my wife to strengthen our family as a unit through daily prayer, attending Mass frequently, and working together to address all those various "issues" families deal with. As for the final piece, well, my wife and I had the Sacred Heart enthroned in our home, and I try to pray daily the "Suscipe", the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Take, O Lord, all my liberty. Receive my memory, my understanding, and my whole will. All that I am, and all that I have, come to me from thy bounty. I give it all back to thee and surrender it to the guidance of your holy will. Give me thy love and thy grace; with these I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
Lofty words indeed.

Imagine the authentic change we could accomplish if we all actually prayed and lived these words everyday (myself included). We may fight against it. We may not want that kind of change. It may be too difficult. It may be too radical. We may not even be able to handle the change. But it is beyond a doubt the precise kind of change we need.

Will you join me in working for real change?

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Power and Peril of #HashtagDiplomacy

We live in a brave new media world in the year 2014.

The way we conduct all sorts of business has changed dramatically just within the past few years. The recent unrest in Ferguson has shown the power twitter has to connect people – journalists, citizens, law enforcement, protesters and more. Twitter especially has changed politics in local, national, and even international affairs. Long gone are the days of a simple presidential “fireside chat” with the American people. Instead, we are seeing how political leaders can make statements with a few keystrokes and recent social media trends have demonstrated the impact that a mere hashtag can have even on an international level.

Two recent examples are #UnitedforUkraine and #BringBackOurGirls. If you’re on social media or you've paid attention to the news at all lately, you've probably noticed the attention these trends have brought to their respective issues.

On October 17, BBC News reported  that the Nigerian government agreed to a cease fire with the terrorist organization Boko Haram. Part of the deal will reportedly return the more than 200 girls who were kidnapped around six months ago. However, on November 1 international news outlets reported that Boko Haram's leader denied such an agreement every took place, even saying the girls had converted to Islam and had been married off.

It is true that the attention generated by those hashtag campaigns can be a very positive thing. For example, did you know that there are over 2,000 kidnappings a year in Nigeria? That is powerful information to know. However, knowing how to use that information to accomplish something is even more powerful. The peril is that we do nothing with that new knowledge. We ought to step back and ask some basic but practical questions, such as “What is actually being done?” and “Have these campaigns succeeded in real, tangible ways?

While the answer to the first question is a bit more complex, for all intents-and-purposes, the answer to the latter question is “no”, for the simple fact that fighting is still on-going in Ukraine, and the kidnapped Nigerian girls have not been returned just yet, although that could change very soon. In fact, the leader of Boko Haram mocked the hashtag campaign in a propaganda video released in July.

As you’re reading this you might be wondering how this translates into your daily life, so here’s the point: don’t let social media be a substitute for real, tangible, substantive activity. Instead of posting an interesting article on facebook (like this blog post) and forgetting about it, have a conversation with your friends and share what you learned. Instead of complaining or worrying about a societal issue, take action to address it. Volunteer with your local church, food bank, or non-profit. If you can’t volunteer, find legitimate ways to donate to an organization that is working to address the issue.


#HashtagDiplomacy is just the first step towards raising awareness, and that can be very powerful. But there is peril in not acting on that knowledge. So be real! Take action!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Communion with Christ or Others?

A couple weeks ago, I posted an article on facebook from One Peter Five with the headline "Will the USCCB Ever Revisit Communion in the Hand." The article was written after the USCCB announced that the bishops would meet in Baltimore for the fall general meeting with five liturgical items on the agenda. The five items up for discussion would generally change things that most Catholics would rarely, if ever, be witness to or experience. Not that that makes them unimportant; all elements of the Church's liturgical life are important. It's just to say that these changes probably wouldn't affect the average Catholic's weekly Sunday Mass experience at all or that little.

Having said that, I posted the article because I think the question to ask is "why not?" If you're like me, you notice many things at the average Catholic parish's Mass that fall somewhere on a spectrum between "frustrating, but well-intentioned" to "mind-numbingly irreverent and liturgically incorrect." Poor altar servers, the congregation holding hands during the Our Father, an army of "extraordinary" ministers of Holy Communion, a priest who "improvises" during the Eucharistic Prayer, and bad music are just a few items that could use some critique and review.

Of course, that leaves out the main reason for this post: reception of communion in the hand.

It is true that the USCCB has granted an indult (an "exception") for reception of communion in the hand, but that doesn't mean it should be preferable. In fact, the universal law of the Church makes it clear that reception on the tongue is the preferred method for receiving communion.

Expecting to get a little push-back on the post, I received a private message from friend of mine in which he asked the following question:
"In your opinion, (but feel free to use sources [I'm a history major, I love sources]) what is wrong with receiving communion in hand?"
My friend also explained that he was never aware that there this was a "hot-button" issue. I told him I would respond, and well, it's been a couple weeks, but I'm finally responding.

Since my friend asked specifically for my opinion, I will outline them. But there are others, much more educated than me, who have explained the beautiful reasoning behind communion on the tongue. One such example can be found here. Another example written by a co-worker of mine, though not specifically about communion in the hand but on communion in general, can be found here.

So, in my opinion, there are three main considerations in this matter:
  1. Receiving on the tongue is a sign of submission. Think about it: as a child when you are perfectly helpless and can't feed yourself, you rely on your parents to spoon-feed you that apple/spinach/carrot mush or whatever they decide to blend together on a given day (parents, you know what I'm talking about). We must be the same way in our spiritual life. In Matthew we read Christ's words: "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 18:3) This can apply to any number of things in our lives, but there is hardly a more visible action whereby we can exhibit complete trust in God than by submitting even the reception of our spiritual food to the priest who is an alter Christus. Typically, when communion is received on the tongue it is also received kneeling. Kneeling is another sign of submission, and even goes back to ancient times when soldiers considered the knee a sign of a man's strength. Take out a your opponent's knee and you've reduced his strength and ability to fight. It all makes perfect logical sense. Pope Benedict XVI explains the theology of kneeling in Spirit of the Liturgy.
  2. Vessels that hold the Eucharist are anointed with holy chrism. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    Chrism is used in the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, in the consecration of churches, chalices, patens, altars, and altar-stones, and in the solemn blessing of bells and baptismal water. The head of the newly-baptized is anointed with chrism, the forehead of the person confirmed, the head and hands of a bishop at his consecration, and the hands of a priest at his ordination. So are the walls of churches, which are solemnly consecrated, anointed with the same holy oil, and the parts of the sacred vessels used in the Mass which come in contact with the Sacred Species, as the paten and chalice.

    This is part of the reason why confirmation used to be administered along with baptism, or at least before First Communion, because our bodies need to be anointed with chrism in preparation for reception of the Eucharist, just as the ancient temples and our churches today. In the literal sense, we become temples of the Holy Spirit, prepared to receive the body of Christ. Yet, though my body has been anointed, my hands have not been directly anointed. That is reserved for the priests at their ordination. Knowing that the chalice which holds the precious blood is consecrated, the paten and the ciborium which hold the body of Christ, and specifically the priest's hands, how can I, a mere layperson, presume to receive Christ's body in my unconsecrated hands, even momentarily? In moments of emergency, or to save a consecrated host from being desecrated I would not hesitate to touch it, but in the regular reception of communion, I would never even consider the possibility.
  3. Less chance for abuse or sacrilege. Communion in the hand opens up any number of possible abuses, from theft of the Holy Eucharist itself, to unintentional abuses of the Body of Christ. Because the Catholic Church teaches that any part of the consecrated host, even the smallest particle, is completely and entirely the Body of Christ, then care should be taken to ensure that no part is allowed to fall on the floor, or be left unconsumed. Notice the next time you go to Mass how the priest takes care (at least he should take care) to clean the paten(s), ciborium/ciboria, and chalice after communion. Bishop Juan Rodolfo, former bishop of San Luis, Argentina said "With Communion in the hand, a miracle would be required during each distribution of Communion to avoid some Particles from falling to the ground or remaining in the hand of the faithful." Think about it. Why risk it?
I would consider these my main three reasons for receiving communion on the tongue. I know it doesn't address every possible problem, scenario, or explanation. I'm sure that you or my friend who posed the question to me may have other questions or objections to some of my reasoning. Feel free to start a discussion with me about it.

I will also add that none of what I have said should be taken as a condemnation of any of my Catholic brethren who do receive communion in the hand. Again, the USCCB has granted them that opportunity as an exception to the rule. I think there are many, many Catholics who do receive communion on the hand reverently, but probably do so out of ignorance or naivity. My personal belief is that 75-90% of Catholics would stop immediately if they had the proper upbringing and catechesis.

Ultimately, we must remember that communion is a gift, and not a right. Reception of Our Lord in communion is not merely an act of "communion" or unity with our fellow church-goers, but instead it is primarily about a union with Christ. If we could truly comprehend the mystery of that communion, none of us could ever approach with enough reverence or understanding to receive it worthily.

With that in mind, the question then becomes this: 

If that tiny little piece of bread really is the body of Christ, the King of the Universe, the Son of God, the Lord of All Creation, the Redeemer of Mankind, why not make a conscious and visible effort to show as much reverence as possible?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Red, White, Blue, and Black: The Colors of Ferguson

The tragedy and recent social unrest in Ferguson has, among other things, re-ignited a discussion about racial tensions in our society. Serious questions have been raised – rightly so – about racism in general, abuses of authority, exclusionary practices by local municipal governments, and minority participation in politics. While the situation itself is still developing and volatile, within a couple days of the initial rioting political pundits began analyzing the short and long-term political effects of the situation in Ferguson. And a lot of the analysis comes down to colors.

Colors are important in politics. Red typically denotes the Republicans and blue is used for Democrats. With mid-term elections this November and a major presidential election in two short years, there is good reason to think that Ferguson will have widespread political implications. Whether that benefits the Republicans or Democrats is yet to be seen.

One of the most tangible early effects would be seen in additional voting registrations in and around Ferguson. Many observers were anticipating a surge in voter registrations, especially from the black population in the county, and at first it appeared that was the case when it was reported that St. Louis County had thousands of new registrations. But then the St. Louis County Election Board acknowledged they had made an error in reporting the numbers. Pundits will tell you that black people vote Democrat and white people are split or slightly Republican. So at first glance, you might think the Democrats would benefit. But not so fast.

The more dramatic effect of Ferguson may be seen once the votes are tallied on November 4th. In looking back, it is interesting to note that less than a week before the shooting of Michael Brown, incumbent county executive Charlie Dooley – who is black – lost in the Democratic primary election to county Councilman Steve Stenger – who is white – setting up a battle between Stenger and Republican state representative Rick Stream. In recent weeks, it is becoming apparent that a shift may be taking place among the black population, which is a traditionally reliable Democraticvoting bloc. Just a few weeks ago, a coalition of black Democratic leaders lined up to endorse Stream
for the county executive position. The sentiment being expressed by many in the black community is not that they’re leaving the Democratic Party per se, but that they’re ready for change. In St. Louis County in 2014, the Republicans may be poised to benefit. Will that translate on a national level? Will blue become red, or red become blue? It’s hard to say.


Colors are important in politics. The question to ask is this: should those colors even matter? Should we define ourselves by the color of our skin or the color of a party? Yes, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. The danger here is in politicizing race. White, black, brown, or polka dotted, it shouldn’t matter. No one should be automatically lumped into a group based on the color of their skin. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that a young man lost his life and, guilty or not, a police officer’s life will never be the same. Colors are important. Colors help us identify with each other. But colors can also divide us. They create artificial divides that are sometimes irreparable. Let’s work to build a world where colors are merely superficial. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

An Open Letter to My Fellow Royals Fans... From a Cardinals Fan

Those of you who know me well know that I am unquestionably a St. Louis Cardinals fan. But the Royals have always been my #2 baseball team. As a Cardinals fan, I don't think I'm alone in saying that. Yes, there's a certain generation of Cardinals fan who won't let 1985 go. Yet, the simple fact is that I wasn't even a thought in 1985. Heck, my parents weren't even married in October 1985 when the I-70 Series took place. Plus, since that 1985 Series the Cardinals have won five National League pennants and won two World Series. So there's really no reason for us re-hash ancient history.

Now I may not be a good Royals fan because I can't name most of their roster this year, last year, or the year before, but I can tell you Moustakas, Gordon, Shields, and Escobar are some of their best players right now. I can't tell you what their record was in any year before 2014, but I can tell you they won 89 games this year. Unlike a lot of Cardinals fans, I grew up in the middle of Missouri and spent nearly five years of my life in Kansas City, so maybe that's why I have a soft spot in my heart for the Royals. I'd like to think it gives me a better perspective.

The relationship between the Royals and Cardinals is an interesting one. The best way I can describe the way Cardinals fans feel about the Kansas City Royals to compare it to how two brothers feel about each other. The Cardinals are the older brother who wins all the awards and gets all the notoriety. The Royals are the younger brother, the new kid on the block. They struggle to do things right and just can never quite be as good as their older brother. But by golly, they stuck it to their older brother that one time!

The Cardinals won't admit it, but they like their younger brother. They make fun of him, call him names, and want to beat him every time they play against each other. But no one roots harder for their younger brother than the older, more successful brother (just as long as they're not playing against each other). We Cardinals fans really do want to see the Royals do well... and it's probably a good thing this isn't another I-70 Series.

That being said, to all you Royals fans who are Royals fans first, enjoy this World Series and don't get greedy. This has been a remarkable postseason run. If you're honest with yourselves, you know this has already been far beyond anything you could have ever expected. You could get swept and this season would have been an unmitigated success. Of course winning would make it all that much sweeter, but don't base your happiness on that outcome. You've exorcised the demons. You've put an end to a generation of sports misery. You've put Kansas City on the professional sports map. Now, just enjoy it. I've been lucky enough to see the Cardinals in four World Series in my lifetime and win it all twice. Cardinals fans have been spoiled. But we've enjoyed each one like it might be the last one, because you never know if it will be.

I say all this merely to say that although I'm a Cardinals fan first, I'm a Royals fan second, and I'll be pulling for them in this World Series. If you're a Missourian and you haven't been pulling for the Royals this entire postseason, you might as well just leave. We don't need that kind of negativity here. So, Royals nation, Cardinals nation is behind you. We hope you trounce those Giants. Go bring home the crown.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I'm Back

I'm re-dedicating myself to blogging on a regular basis.

I know I've said that before. It's just that writing takes time, and time is precious, especially with a family. So for a few months now I've spent my extra time doing family stuff. But I'm going to be more purposeful with my time and I'm going to make time to blog.

I've got a couple posts coming soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

#Ferguson

I haven't commented too much on Ferguson because I've been sort of trying to digest it all. This is a bit long, so consider yourself warned.

If you're like me, you don't really live close enough to be *directly* impacted by Ferguson except for what you see on TV, and you may be trying to figure out how the situation impacts you.

This isn't meant to be a criticism nor an endorsement of what's going on in Ferguson, but I did a simple calculation to get some perspective for myself:


Let's assume there are about 2 million people in the St. Louis metro on the Missouri side (Wikipedia says 2.9 million on both sides of the river).

Ferguson has about 21,000 residents.

For the sake of argument, let's say that in the immediate area around Ferguson there are 100,000 people who live, work, shop, or otherwise are *directly* impacted/involved in the municipality and thus what is going on up there right now.

When I say "direct" I'm referring to the "boots on the ground", you-couldn't-get-home-from-work-because-the-street-was-blocked-off-by-a-protest, -type impact.

This is also not to say that the violence couldn't spread to other areas of the metro, or that the police presence up there is taking police away from other areas. I'm not talking about that right now.

What this means that roughly 5% -- or less -- of the metro area is directly impacted.

True, some of the ancillary issues now part of the societal discourse as a result of the crisis -- such as militarization of police, freedom of the press, and "race relations" -- impact us all in less-than-than-direct ways. And we ought to embrace some of those discussions.

However, it just seems to me like a lot of ruckus and coverage is being devoted to this. Yes, tragically, sadly, a young man lost his life. Let's not lose sight of that. We also know he may have also been part of a robbery minutes before. Then some people unjustifiably went crazy because a police officer, and then whole department, probably overreacted.

All this being said, I don't think we'd be having this conversation if this same shooting was done by anyone other than a police officer.

And to prove my point, do you know the name Antonio Johnson? I doubt it. So, go google "antonio johnson st. louis 11 year old" and then explain to me - without bringing race into the picture - why that barely got a peep. Because in my way of thinking, oh I don't know, maybe we ought to value ALL human life, not just the lives that are politically expedient.

Author's note: this was originally a personal facebook post. Because of it's length I also posted it here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Ontology of Boredom and Culture of Death

As much as I would like to claim it, I cannot take credit for the title of this blog. The title can be properly attributed to a YouTube video in which professor Dr. R.J. Snell gives a lecture to an honors class at Eastern University. Dr. Snell has made somewhat of a specialty writing and talking about modern culture from a Thomistic perspective, especially on the topics of love, sex, morality, and religion. A selection of his writings can be found here.

I wish I could begin to summarize the video/lecture for you, but due to time constraints, fatigue, and just general mind-blown-ness, I'm afraid I can't do it proper justice. However, I can tell you that sloth, laziness, boredom, nihilism, freedom, morality, creation, and faith are a few of the topics - that I can remember - which Dr. Snell touches on in his lecture.

Suffice it to say, the lecture is flat-out amazing. If you want an eloquent summary of the plight of modern man and how we got to be where we are, watch this video. If you don't like philosophy, morality, or religion, well, maybe you shouldn't watch this video. If you do decide to watch it, be aware that it is an hour long, so make sure you have the time.

 The Ontology of Boredom and Culture of Death

Friday, May 9, 2014

Five Missouri Elections to Watch in 2014

Usually off-year or mid-term elections feature at least a couple high-profile statewide races, such as a U.S. Senate race and usually a down-ballot statewide office race. But here in Missouri, the 2014 election is a rare instance where only one statewide office – state auditor – is up for election, and that race is all but over. Of course, all of Missouri’s 162 state representative seats and its eight congressional seats are up for election, but few of those will attract much attention. Yet, even with the lack of high-profile races, Missouri has a fair share of intriguing races to watch in 2014.

1) State Auditor

You’re probably wondering how a boring race like the one for state auditor could be the top race to watch in the state. Well, to put it very simply, this race is a trial run for the 2016 race for the governor’s mansion. Governor Jay Nixon is term-limited, so Republican-turned-Democrat Attorney General Chris Koster is the heir-apparent for the Democrat nomination. Current State Auditor Tom Schweich is widely considered to be a top contender for the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination, although he has not officially declared yet, choosing instead to focus on the auditor’s race. Because Schweich doesn’t have serious opposition this year, he may have an advantage over his future 2016 GOP opponents as 2014 will afford him the opportunity to pad his campaign coffers and build valuable name ID for 2016.

2) St. Louis County Executive

The race for St. Louis County Executive in 2014 got a lot more intriguing late in the filing process when State Representative Rick Stream put his name on the ballot against the other Republican, Green Park alderman Tony Pousosa. On the Democrat side, current County Executive Charlie Dooley faces a stiff primary challenge in Councilman Steve Stenger, and whoever survives the bruising primary will most assuredly have a high name ID, but a depleted treasury and potentially tarnished image to go with it. The outcome of this race will have a big impact on the future of the city-county merger debate.

3) State Senate District 22

Two Jefferson County State Representatives are facing off in what may be the most watched race in the state this cycle. Democrat Jeff Roorda and Republican Paul Wieland are gearing up for a messy campaign; one that could be an indication of how future elections will turn out in Jefferson County and beyond. As one of the largest and fastest growing counties in the state, Jefferson County is considered a harbinger of trends in Missouri’s political landscape. This race will be an interesting one to say the least, especially because both candidates have comparable views. However, just this week Roorda has tried to differentiate himself by switching his position on SB 509, the tax cut bill that Nixon vetoed.

4) State Senate District 2

State Representatives Chuck Gatschenberger and Vicki Schneider, and former State Representative Dr. Bob Onder are facing off in a three-way Republican primary that will also determine the next senator in Missouri’s 2nd Senatorial district. Each of the candidates have been campaigning for many months now (about a year in fact), knocking doors and speaking to various conservative groups, each trying to appeal to their conservative base. Even three months out from the August primary it’s hard to tell who has the advantage. Keep an eye on this one; it should heat up just like the weather in July.

5) State Senate District 24

This race may not be so much intriguing for the actual campaigning as for the background that lead up to it being a race at all. The current Senator from the 24th District, Senator John Lamping, has declined to seek another term. Instead, he will be moving with the rest of his family over to – of all places – Kansas so that he can be with his daughter who has been training at a prestigious gymnastics gym in Blue Springs. If that weren’t enough, on the final day of filing, Jay Ashcroft, the son of former Missouri Governor and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, entered his name for the 24th district seat. If you’re a Missouri political junkie, this one will be hard to resist watching.

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This post was originally written for The 9s Magazine blog and was published on May 7th, 2014. Please visit their website and consider buying a subscription.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Taxes, the Tea Party, and the Future of America

Ahhhhhh.

Do you feel that?
If you finally got your taxes done, you know that feeling of relief today unlike any other. Whether you got a nice refund or had to fork over a chunk of your cash to Uncle Sam, it feels nice that it’s all over… at least until next year. Tax day can be a poignant reminder of the influence that government has in our lives, for better or worse.

For a lot of Americans, perhaps you included, the influence has gone too far.


Back in February 2009, we saw the beginning of what is commonly known as the “Tea Party” – a political movement unlike any other America has seen in generations. Like most organic political movements, it is hard to pin-point exactly when and where it began. Here in St. Louis, it started with a rally on February 27th, 2009 when an estimated 1,500 people gathered under the Arch. A few months later on April 15th, 2009, a much larger crowd (some estimated 10,000) gathered in downtown St. Louis.

What was all the fuss about?

The people were complaining about high taxes, overregulation, a sour economy, bailouts for mega corporations, and voiced general discontent with the way things were. Fast-forward five years later and things don’t seem to have changed much. In fact, you can add to that list of negatives such contentious issues like the Obamacare rollout, NSA phone tapping and spying, and foreign policy mishaps.
Now, with five years of history to review, a seemingly more polarized political environment, and your taxes done, it’s a great time to reflect on the question: has the movement succeeded or failed?

I’m not out to indict the ideals of Tea Party movement. Nor am I blissfully unaware of its shortcomings. I consider myself a keen political observer who doesn’t agree 100% with the Tea Party or want to throw the baby out with the bath water. So, here are four lessons I think we can all take to heart:

1) Leadership matters – From the beginning, the Tea Party movement lacked definitive leaders. Its decentralization is part of what made it unique, but can also be its most glaring failing. Local leaders have emerged, but have not been sustained. Is Senator Rand Paul the new face of the Tea Party? We will see. Personality is almost as important as ideals, which means definitive leadership is very important for any type of political movement to sustain itself.

2) Freedom is great – Freedom can be really awesome in its ability to bring about tremendous prosperity and success. To its credit, the Tea Party lit or re-lit the desire for freedom in the heart of many Americans. But freedom can be a nebulous campaign platform because it can lead to stark conflicts. What if one person’s freedom comes into conflict with another person’s? Where does one freedom end and another begin? The Tea Party has reminded us that freedom is great, but has not been as clear as it could be as to where limits must necessarily exist.

3) The Third Party – The Tea Party has not succeeded in becoming a true “third-party” that many thought it could be. This is partly due to a lack of leadership and partly to a lack of definitive party ideals. Simply being for freedom and against bigger government is not the best platform for a movement. For now, the Tea Party more-or-less lives within the ranks of the GOP, effectively keeping it grounded to basic principles of freedom and small government. Is that enough? Can it grow? Again, time will tell.

4) “The people” can make a difference – If the Tea Party experiment to this point is one thing, it is a shining example of how even a loosely organized, organic, and semi-unified group of Americans can make a big impact. The sweeping Republican gains in the U.S. Congress in 2010 were due almost entirely to this movement. However, the failure to win big in 2012 may have been due to the exact same movement. Yet, the mere fact that this discussion is even taking place today proves that average Americans can and do make a big difference in the political landscape, which is why America is so amazing in the first place.

What do you think?

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This post was originally written for The 9s. Please visit their website and consider buying a subscription.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

5 Politicians to Watch in 2014


It's been awhile, but my latest post for The 9s magazine is now posted.

Here's a teaser...
Even though 2014 is a mid-term election year – “off-cycle” as some might say – there will still be plenty of intrigue in the political universe, especially as we look ahead to the presidential election of 2016. For serious candidates taking aim at the White House, this year will be a time to ramp up their activity in strategic locations as they look to build up a political and fundraising edge. Here are five names to watch in 2014 in the build up to 2016.

1) Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)

The junior senator from Kentucky has made it pretty obvious what his intentions are without ever saying it explicitly. Anyone seriously watching knows that all the signs point to Rand running for the Republican nomination for president the next go-round. A conservative-libertarian from Kentucky doesn’t speak to college crowds in Berkley, California, or make friends with his senior senatorial colleague who just happens to be considered an establishment Republican, while at the same time appealing to his base and attending state Lincoln Days (a major annual Republican dinner) around the country, unless that same conservative-libertarian is running for a major office. So, put Senator Paul at the top of your “watch list” for 2014.

Click here to read the rest of the blog over at The 9s.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Big Thanks to Fr. Z for the Shout Out

My day/week/month/year is pretty much made.

I got a shout out from Fr. Z, complete with a link to my recent post about the the Mass, music, and the youth.

Thanks Fr. Z!




Monday, March 24, 2014

"My" Feast Day of the Archangel Gabriel

I have to get this one in before the end of the day.

Today, March 24th is the Feast of the Archangel Gabriel (my namesake and patron) in the traditional Roman calendar. I like to think of it as "my" feast day (Just kidding!)

I wanted to share the Collect from the propers of today's Mass in the tridentine rite (extraordinary form). I find it's a simple yet powerful prayer.
O God, who did choose from among all other angels the Archangel Gabriel to announce the mystery of Thine Incarnation, grant in Thy mercy that celebrating his feast on earth we may reap the effect of his protection in heaven.
I know we're not supposed to "name" our guardian angels, but I've always felt as if I've had the Archangel Gabriel watching over me.

I've always been proud to bear the name of this angel (except of course when someone calls me "Gabrielle." I hate that.). The mystery of the Annunciation, which we celebrate tomorrow, has always felt more real to me because of this connection with the Archangel Gabriel, and in some ways, I've almost felt ownership of it - not in a bad way though. I really think this is part of why the Church says children are supposed to be given a biblical name or a saint's name, so that we can come to more deeply appreciate and connect with the life of the saint, or in my case, connect with this great mystery of the faith.

Does your name make you feel more connected to a particular saint or story?

Feely-Goody Feeliness: Sacred Liturgy, Music, and the Youth

I recently saw this little video.

It's really rather hilarious and includes some memorable lines.

After watching, I immediately had some thoughts, some of which may be obvious (or not-so-obvious) to some readers of this blog.

See what you think. Watch the video yourself first:



Before I go on, I should warn you: if you're easily offended, just stop reading now. There are comments below that could be taken as harsh, hateful, uncharitable, or just generally non-feely-goody. I'm going to discuss aspects of modern Catholicism, namely sacred music, in such a way that I might be labeled a *gasp* "traditionalist." Please don't take offense. Do take the opportunity to comment below if you feel the need. But, I digress...

Personally, I would have to agree with the underlying notion of the video: I'm not a fan of "modern" music during Mass.

I have many reasons why, not the least of which is because if Mass is supposed to give us a glimpse of heaven, then it should be in many ways "otherworldly." If we bring in secular-sounding music, then Mass loses much of that otherworldliness.

The video makes a separate but related point in a comical fashion:

Perhaps it's not the music that attracts the youth (or any demographic for that matter), but instead the content of the faith, and how well they know it.


Maybe, just maybe, young people go to church because of the example they get from their parents AND due to their level of catechesis. Parents are the first teachers. If the parents aren't teaching the faith, do you really think the music will?

Maybe you can't teach a teenager to appreciate the depths of Catholic theology with "Our God is Greater." But, good catechesis can.

Maybe we shouldn't be trying to attract the youth with the latest selections from Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin, and Audrey Assad. We already have the greatest "rock" star of history in St. Peter (see what I did there?). Oh, and don't forget his boss, Jesus Christ fully present in the Eucharist. What more could you ask for? What could be more attractive?

I know, I know. You say "Some people do come because they like that sort of music," and you're right. Some people do. But with shrinking churches, a steadily greying crop of parishioners, and more and more young people rejecting church and not coming back, we should ask ourselves: is this a successful strategy? Is what we've done to sacred liturgy with the music really working? By watering it down and making it sound just like anything else, have we succeeded in filling pews?

I contend that it is not working, or at the very least, that it is not working very well.

Now, I'm not against certain modern Christian/Catholic music. Definitely not. In fact, I find some of the new stuff is quite good, inspirational, and uplifting. I truly do enjoy some of it... outside of Mass.

And that's where it should stay.

One of the biggest problems in the world today is a lack of delineation between the sacred and the profane; between what should be revered and what is part of everyday life.

Take marriage for example. Once thought of as the pinnacle of human interaction and devotion, it has become watered down to nothing more than a social contract due to easy divorce, contraception, pornography, and all other sorts of sexual deviancy. Is the Mass any different?

Once you make Mass less sacred, once you elevate the secular and de-value the divine, when you say "this isn't all that different", then what is important? Next time you're in church, I challenge you to ask a young person or teen (14-30 year old) whether or not they believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. And if they do believe, ask them to explain it. If the numbers I have are correct, 70% of all U.S. Catholics do not believe in the real presence of the Eucharist.

Shocking statistics to be sure. Is the music entirely to blame? Absolutely not. Catechesis in general is desperately needed.

But forget catechesis for a moment; is music at least a part of the problem? I contend it is.

When the musical selections for Mass are no different than what's on your radio dial, then going to Mass doesn't seem all that different. And if going to Mass isn't that different (i.e., otherworldly), then why is it important? If Mass isn't important, then what's so special about the Eucharist? And if the the Eucharist isn't special, then what do you believe in as a Catholic?

There's no denying it's a subtle process. But Satan works in subtlety. He's the father of lies for a reason. He doesn't get you to believe one of his lies immediately; he plants a seed and lets you draw the conclusion.

We know that teens and young people are especially receptive to subtle (and not-so-subtle) messages. That's part of the reason why they want the coolest shoes, the latest phones, and the hippest clothes. Messages are sent and received constantly, subtle or not. So, are we sending the right message through our worship as Catholics?

Next time you go to Mass, ask yourself this: is the message sent by the liturgy at this parish one that emanates holiness, devoutness, and a sense of the divine in our midst, and does the music have anything to do with it? If you're honest with yourself, the answer may surprise you.

If you want the youth to come to church, and a community of faithful that are on fire for Christ, it starts with liturgy that puts on display something not found anywhere else on earth. For that to happen effectively, music is so, so important. Then, once you have truly sacred liturgy, the catechesis to properly explain it will must naturally follow.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

This is the New Evanglization

You've probably already seen this amazing video.

If not, watch it right now...


For us Catholics, we talk a lot about the "New Evangelization." But what does that mean exactly?

[Steps onto soap box; begins rant]

Well, here you have it. THIS is the New Evangelization.

Why?

Because it shows Catholics - a nun in full habit "nun"theless - can be part of society. It proves that we don't have to hide who we are any more than any other group out there.

See, you don't have to be of the culture, but you do have to be in the culture if you're going to make an impact. You don't convert anyone by living in a bubble. Sometimes, I'm guilty of that myself. We construct walls around ourselves and create safe zones. We don't venture out to the world. But didn't Pope Francis recently challenge us to create a "messy" church?

Go out! Be bold! Live your life as a Catholic (or as a Christian of any sort) in public for people to see. Take your 6,7,8,9, or 10 kids to the grocery store. Say a prayer before meals every time you eat out. Tell your friends you have to go to the Stations of the Cross on Friday before you go out. Invite a friend to Church.

Christendom wasn't built by withdrawing to our nice little pre-made "Catholic Land." It's never been done that way and it never will be. Go on the offensive! Don't be afraid of the culture. Know the pitfalls, and be prepared for them, but participate in the culture to the extent that you can. Meet souls where they are, at the coffee shop, at the grocery store, or heck, even in the pew next to you. That person next to you might be wondering about all this God stuff, and need some encouragement. Perhaps they have become too enculturated. It's easy to resign ourselves to let the Holy Spirit do it, or simply to say "someone else will." Nonsense.

Live your faith boldly. This sister is showing us how. I know I can do better. Won't you join me?

[End rant; steps down off soapbox]

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Shoe Perspective

I saw this pictures on my twitter feed a little while back, and had to share:

 

It was supremely ironic that they just happened to show up on my feed in immediate succession. If this doesn't illustrate what's wrong with our priorities in society today, I'm not sure what will.

The second picture, well, you can see that fairly easily. It's a quite sizable collection of "Kobe's", if the caption is accurate. Kobe's, similar to "Jordan's", are the shoe line named after the basketball star, Kobe Bryant. In today's day-and-age, they are quite valuable. I'm no expert, but I'm going to say roughly that a collection like that could be worth as much or more than a new car.

However, don't you think something is a bit off about that?
 
The first picture is obviously cut off, yet you may still recognize what you can see of it since it is a somewhat famous image of a young Austrian boy getting a new pair of shoes during World War II. Here's what you're missing in all its glory...

 

Notice the simple and well-worn shoes on the boy's feet. No "Kobe's" there. Now, notice the shoes he has in his hands: simple, plain dress shoes. Again, definitely not "Kobe's." I don't know about you, but I remember being this age, and dress shoes were definitely not something to be happy about. They were uncomfortable, usually hand-me-downs so they were too big or too small, and in no way were they cool. Actually, my dress shoes now are nothing to get excited about either. Of course, this boy lived in a different day and age, so styles are different now than they were then.

Nevertheless, check out the blissfulness, the sheer mirth on display in this iconic image, and ask yourself: are you truly grateful when you receive something, even the simplest of gifts? Do you let gratitude and happiness encompass your being, or do you sulk and reject opportunities to be grateful? Do you constantly desire what others have?

We can only imagine what this young boy has been through in his few years on earth. I have no idea how much tragedy, loss, and pain he had gone through in the days, weeks, or months leading up to receiving those shoes. Living in a ravaged Austria during WWII would have been nightmarish. But, in that moment, it all seems to disappear. They are only shoes, simple material objects which we are not supposed to become too attached to; yet, the joy on display in this picture one might think the boy had seen Christ Himself, and in that there is a lesson.

In fact, if there is anything to learn from this picture, I think it boils down to three general ideas:
  1. Be simple. "Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?" Mt. 6:26. You don't need the coolest shoes, the hippest jeans, or the bestestest phone ehvar to survive. You need the essentials. Sure, material creature comforts are nice, but even in those, simpler is better: a nice fire on a winter night, a good beer, or a warm shower. Live simply and don't desire more than you need or what others have. 
  2. Gratitude is the best attitude. Have you ever given something to someone and not gotten a "thank you"? Or worse yet, have you gotten a "thank you" but merely a half-hearted one? Don't share that sort of attitude with others. Be thankful for what you have. When given something, even if it's not to your liking, show the person the gratitude they deserve. I know it can be hard, but who wouldn't want to be like the young boy in the picture above? Who wouldn't want to live with others who were just as joyful?
  3. Let joy fill your life. In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Guadium  (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis admonishes some Christians "whose lives seem like lent without Easter." The Holy Father goes on to say "an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!" So, be happy! And not just happy, but joyous - even to the point of mirth. Live your life like the boy in the picture who has just received something priceless to him, because you have received a priceless gift in the death and resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ. Go about your life with a smile on your face and joy in your heart. If anything can change their world, it is the joy found in Christ's redemptive sacrifice.
What lessons can you learn from the boy in the picture and the outlandish collection of Kobe's above?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

8 Things I'm Doing for Lent This Year

What is your plan for Lent?

Are you going to give up candy and sweets? Maybe refrain from coffee? Or TV?

Maybe you're committed to some nebulous version of being "holier" or even simply being a better person.

Even though the season of Lent has already begun, maybe you're still not entirely sure what you're going to set about doing.

Or, perhaps you're not even Catholic and you're wondering what in the heck all us Catholics are getting so worked up about. "Isn't Lent all about fish fries?" you ask.

Personally, while I am excited - the most subdued of ways - about the upcoming fish fries (If you want a nice map of fish fries around the St. Louis region, check out this map), I am more excited about the opportunity to renew and deepen my spiritual life in faith and prayer during this penitential season. For a good Catholic, Lent should be like the secular New Year's Day when most people come up with some resolution that will change their life. Lent is a profound moment to renew our spirituality in preparation for the celebration of the summit of Christian theology at Easter - and not just by refraining from something.

Sure, resolving not to partake in some pleasure is fine. But we would be remiss if we went through Lent year after year with the mindset to simply "give up" some habit, vice, or activity. Lent should not be a passive encounter with Christ and His suffering. Lent should be a flourish of activity, in addition to giving up things, with the goal to redirect our soul towards Our Lord.

In a hypothetical situation, you might ask "How are you going to do that?"

"Well, I'm glad you asked," I would hypothetically respond.

Then, in this hypothetical situation, I would proceed to explain what I plan to do this Lenten season, just like I'm actually going to explain now:
  1. Workout everyday.
    • Okay, I know "working out" isn't a "spiritual" thing, but it is an act of self-discipline, and what is our prayer life if it's not an act of will and self-discipline? So, in order to train your mind and soul, I believe, you need to train your body and bring it under control of your will. So, working out every single day is a priority of mine this Lent.
  2. Pray a rosary everyday.
    • I must be a heathen because I don't already say a rosary everyday, right? But I admit it: I'm not as diligent as I should be. Sometimes I get a rosary in; sometimes I don't. There have been periods in the past when I've been a lot better than I am now, and I need to get back to that point. So, Mother Mary, here I come!
  3. No TV.
    • I didn't used to watch as much TV as I do now (I blame my wife. I love you honey!). So, this Lent I'm really going to try to keep the TV turned off - even for basketball! We'll see how long this lasts...
  4. Read More.
    • Because the TV is going to spend a lot of time off the next several weeks. I'm hoping that means I'll be able to get more reading done. This doesn't just include spiritual reading, although I do want to delve more deeply into the Catechism and scripture; it means I'm going to read some books for - *gasp* - pleasure.
  5. Refrain from alcohol.
    •  I definitely don't go crazy when it comes to drinking. But I have noticed that I've been having a beer just about every night with dinner lately. And Saturday afternoons on the couch, there's not much better than enjoying a cold frosty brew with chips & salsa and sports on TV. So, this Lent, I am going to refrain from alcohol (for the most part). Although, there is an open bottle of wine in the refrigerator right now, and it'd be a pity to waste it...
  6. Give up sweet tea.
    •  If you know me at all, you know that I don't drink coffee. Instead, my drink of choice is sweet tea. Because I enjoy a nice tall glass of sweet tea from McDonald's or QuikTrip, I'm going to give that up this Lent. Maybe I'll even donate the money I save to the poor.
  7.  Reassess my time on social media.
    • I spend more time than I would like on social media. But I'm not giving it up completely, because, 1) it's actually part of my job, 2) it's very difficult to stay in touch if without being on social media, and 3) someone told me it's part of the "New Evangelization," so I guess there's that. Nevertheless, I want to re-think how much time I spend on facebook and twitter when it's not work-related. So, this Lent I'm going to be seriously cutting back on the mindless browsing portion of social media.
  8. Bread and water for lunch.
    • This is a tough one. I'm a big guy and I need a lot of food to keep me going. But, I know that we as a society make waaay too much out of food than we need to. We're a decadent country and society, there's no arguing that. Even though I'm in no danger of being obese any time soon, and losing a few extra calories may actually do me more harm than good, I'm going to eat bread and water for lunch, at least on Fridays. Last year during Lent I ate bread and water for lunch every single day. I'm not sure if I can do that again. But I'm going to give it a shot. At the very least, lunch on Fridays are bread and water only.
There you have it. That's my Lenten plan. It's nothing too special, but I think it'll make a big difference.

Before I close, one quick disclaimer: I'm not putting this out here in a brazen attempt to prove how pious I am. Rather, I'm hoping that by showing you what I'm doing it can inspire you to do something similar (if you're not already), or to encourage you in your own pursuit of holiness. Also, by writing this down it provides me with a level of accountability to myself.

Blessings during this Lenten season. Feel free to share your thoughts or what you're doing for Lent in the comment section below.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why I Climb

I am participating in the Fight For Air Climb on March 22nd. "The Climb", as it's sometimes very simply referred to, is not just another 5k, or something-something-a-thon. No. The Fight for Air Climb is a "race" to the top of the Metropolitan Building in downtown St. Louis. That's 40 flights of stairs in about 10 minutes, depending on fitness level (my fastest time was about 6:30 a couple years ago).

As the race nears, I would appreciate your help.

You see, a few weeks before I started dating my wife, her dad, Robert Farley, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Sarah and I had been friends for a couple years prior to dating, so when she and her family learned of the diagnosis, it was obvious that something changed in her. She was obviously deeply saddened by this new situation but knew that whatever happened would be God's will.

For the next 2 years and 49 weeks, her dad battled the disease despite the tolls on his body.

Then, one Monday morning he went to the hospital for what seemed like a common cold. The next Monday, he passed away, a mere 5 months before we were married. He was the father-in-law I never had.

This is now my fourth year participating in the Fight For Air Climb with "Bob's Builders." The first two years I participated for multiple reasons, not the least of which was to satisfy my competitive nature. I even took 3rd place in my age group one year.

But now it's different.

I'm a little older, not quite in the same shape I was while playing college basketball, but I'm still submitting myself to 10 minutes or more of grueling physical activity in memory of Robert Farley and his valiant two year and 50 week battle with lung cancer.

Please consider joining us by making a generous donation to the American Lung Association to support our FIGHT FOR AIR.

Thank you for joining this important fight for children with asthma, teens who are pressured to start smoking, people with lung cancer and emphysema, and everyone who wants to breathe healthy air in our communities. And thank you in advance for your contribution.

Please click here to make contribution.

Friday, February 28, 2014

"How would u feel if your child turned out to be gay?"

This post was originally a comment on a facebook thread that began when a friend of mine posted the comment: "Freedom of religion is a farce if it promotes the freedom of intolerance."

I replied to that post with the comment: "Tolerance is a farce if it promotes religious discrimination."

A few comments later, another friend chimes in and asks the question which is the title of the post.

Here is my response...

First of all, let me point out that this is an old, tired, predictable question that people like me who believe in the procreative purpose of sex always get asked of them. Frankly, I'm frustrated that it keeps getting asked, and nearly offended by it (I say "nearly" because I don't really get offended) because those who ask desperately want me to say something bigoted, hateful, and inconsistent with my other beliefs. Well, I'm not going to do that.

So, how would I feel if my child turned out to be gay?

Well, ultimately it doesn't matter how I "feel." Feelings are irrelevant to a discussion of morality. We are obsessed with "feelings" and being "nicey-nice" - it's that whole "everyone gets a trophy so they feel good about themselves" mentality. It's complete crap.

This isn't to say I wouldn't still love my child should he turn out to be homosexual, because I absolutely would love him. But love is not simply an emotion, it is an act of the will. I already love my son beyond expression. (Actually just now I had to step away from typing this in order to clean spit-up off my 4-month-old's face and hands. If you want to know what love is, that's it ;)) However, "love" is not blindly supporting everything that someone does. Should my son go commit murder, I would still love him, but I would not condone or support the action. If you understand love at all, it is not blind acquiescence. Love means you want the best for the other person, and sometimes love requires a little toughness; a little tough love. Their feelings ultimately don't matter.

This also applies to his sexuality. Just as how I would "feel" doesn't matter, neither does his sexual identity matter when it comes to his dignity and worth as a human being. As humans, our sexuality should never define us. I don't go around telling people I'm heterosexual; that's not my identity. I'm a Catholic first and foremost. I'm also a husband, a father, a son, a brother. Those are my identities. Catholics never want people to be identified by mere temporal qualities. All this means that I want Robert and all my (God-willing) future children to live a life trying to follow the will of Christ. So long as they do that, who am I to judge? (sound familiar?)

That does not mean if my child has homosexual tendencies that I would support and encourage him to act on those homosexual tendencies, because I would not, just as I would never encourage my child to act on his heterosexual tendencies improperly. Homosexual actions are no different than any other sexual action that is not part of a unitive and procreative union, and a unitive and procreative union can only be found in marriage between a man and a woman. Would I ever support and encourage my homosexual child in a homosexual relationship? Never.

But make sure you understand my point: Sexual activity including, but not limited to sex before marriage, anal, oral, masturbation, contraceptive use, non-procreative sex within marriage [note: by "non-procreative sex within marriage, I'm referring to actions taken by the couple to avoid having children; it does not refer to infertile couples], pornography, etc, etc, is all the same if it's not cooperating with God in bringing about new life. Everyone is called to live a life of chastity, and chastity is so much more than mere abstinence from sex before marriage. It's modestly, humility, obedience, meekness, and so much more. Living a life of chastity means you understand that our sexuality is not for mere pleasure; chastity is to understand that we are sexual creatures, and sex is good. But the purpose of sex is procreation in accordance with God's will.

Now, am I perfect? Absolutely not. I'm the first to admit I'm a sinner, and a sinner in the realm of sexuality to boot. But, I'd also like to think that I'm trying to live a life of goodwill in cooperation with Christ's commandments. That means acknowledging my sins and resolving never more to commit them. Do I stumble? Oh yeah. But I'm doing my best to live a life of chastity because that's God's will.

I want my child(ren) to do the same, regardless of their sexuality.

Call me hateful, spiteful, old-fashioned, stupid, bigoted, or whatever. You'll never be able to call me inconsistent.


*This post was edited from the original comment on facebook to remove names, to correct minor grammatical errors, and to clarify certain points.