Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Will the Catholic Vote Be the Difference This November?

It very well could be. With Obama picking a Catholic, Biden, as VP I get the feeling he is trying to sway Catholic voters to vote for him. It could be a decision that backfires on Obama, because his positions are often in conflict with the Catholic position on many issues - most notably on abortion. If there is discussion about these issues, there could be a major backlash from Catholics. There are some prominent Catholic politicians that are trying to defend their Pro-Choice position, but their argument is not very convincing. Nancy Pelosi in particular is getting some bad publicity for her defense of abortion. You can read the story HERE

I’m glad that a couple of bishops are speaking up on this issue. I read through this article and it sickens me! I did not know Nancy Pelosi was a Catholic before reading this article… her positions on the issues (especially abortion) are even more sickening to me. It is just embarrassing to be honest. The Catholic position on abortion couldn’t be clearer and the fact that she is touting her faith and saying she has done much research on her faith is laughable. If she truly researched the Catholic position on abortion, there is no possible way she could be Pro-Choice. She obviously had an opinion on the issue first and then tried to find justification for her opinion as opposed to discovering the Church's position to help her form an opinion. She wouldn't have to do much research to find that the Church has always and always will be against abortion.Nancy Pelosi is a perfect example of why there are such a large number of Catholics who leave the Church and why there are currently over 30,000 Christian denominations. Many people do not trust that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit to help preserve the Truth. They form opinions based on a lack of knowledge or false assumptions and break away from Church teaching. They then form a new church and make themselves a "pope" or they stay in the Catholic church and try to justify their opinion despite it's obvious contradiction with Catholic teaching. Either way these people are deceiving themselves.

Jesus formed one Church and Jesus is the Truth. There is only one Truth. There are some who do not follow the truth. Some knowingly ignore the Truth and several are simply ignorant of the Truth. It is our responsibility to continually practice and study our faith and through our strength and knowledge in our faith we might be able to educate and evangelize those people who don't know or who may have lost their faith.

Unfortunately many Catholics are not practicing Catholics and even some who say they are, are completely ignorant of their faith. If all Catholics truly understood their faith and participated in the election this November, it is my opinion that McCain would win in a landslide. Why? Simply because of the abortion issue? No. Although the abortion issue is the most important issue for Catholic voters, Obama is on the wrong side of most of the issues. Catholics are a major population in the US and if they would only do some basic research on the candidates and work to understand the Catholic Church teaching, McCain is the next president. Honestly, if Catholics regularly go to Church, listened to the word of God and deeply reflected on their participation in the Eucharist, several of these political issues would become very clear. These “catholic” politicians who distort Church teachings sicken me. There are some good ones like Sam Brownback, but the media is quick to term him and the like as “too radical”. How is a guy like Brownback "radical" and a guy like Obama who has socialistic, Pro-Choice positions not radical? I hope to see more condemnation from the clergy about misleading comments like those made by Nancy Pelosi. Politicians are very influential people, and they often play on the general public's ignorance. The fear is that those people who do not understand the Church's position on important issues may be swayed by these politicians who misrepresent Church teachings. Generally the clergy doesn't speak out on political issues, but in this case I think they hold a responsibility to speak out and clarify the true teachings of the Catholic Church. The Church is responsible for preserving the Truth and the Truth will help clear up issues such as abortion. This is not a problem that is limited to politics. We must always work to preserve and preach the Truth. Every Sunday we say that we will keep the word of God on our mind, on our mouth and in our heart. Go out and spread the word of God. Don't sit by idly. Those who do nothing against evil or the ignorant are actually participating through their inaction. When examining the issues, we MUST MUST MUST prayerfully and responsibly form our opinions. God bless!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One Charity. One Problem. One Goal.

I recently received a personalized invitation from SmileTrain in the mail and it really touched me. SmileTrain is a nonprofit organization focused on solving a single problem: cleft lip and palate. It is amazing to think that just $250 could save a child's life and as little as $25 can make a huge impact. This charity touched me personally because my brother Stephen was born with a cleft lip. He had a couple surgeries, and if you look at him now you might not even know he ever had the condition. It is essential that this procedure is done when the child is still an infant. In many of these poorest countries, the parents can not afford the procedure and children with this condition are often abandoned and neglected. It is hard for me to accept this, especially since my brother was born with this condition. From what I can tell, this charity appears to be one of the best managed and cost effective charities in the world. Please browse SmileTrain's website and consider making a charitable donation. A small sacrifice from each of us could contribute to the saving of a life. God Bless!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

God Excludes No One

In todays readings, there is a common theme of insiders and outsiders. In the first reading, Isaiah writes that foreigners who trust God, keep holy his commandments and the sabbath will be welcomed at God's alter. Those who have faith and do good works will be welcome in heaven.

God welcomes all to join him in heaven. There are no outsiders in God's eyes. When I hear the term foreigner, I think someone who is an outsider, but that is not how God sees it. It is us humans who like to place people in groups. The only group that we should be concerned about joining is the group that reaches heaven. Just because God does not see anyone as an outsider does not mean that all will be welcome in heaven. Rather, all have the opportunity to reach heaven. If we do not have faith or do good works, we can not expect to reach heaven.

Often we find in our daily lives that our faith is challenged. It is during these times that we must be strong and steadfast in our faith. It is an opportunity for us to evangelize. Sometimes what is right is not always what is popular. We may be looked on as outsiders by the mass population, but that must never deter us. We must always stay strong in our faith and follow the Church teachings. In the end, God will be the judge of what is right and good and those who obey his commands and keep the faith will be rewarded. God's "chosen people" are the insiders. These "chosen people" may be rich or poor, native or foreign, popular or unpopular. God invites us all and excludes no one. It is up to us to accept His invitation.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Assumption of Mary

The Catholic Church celebrates the Assumption of Mary on August 15th. This feast day recognizes Mary's passage, body and soul, into Heaven. Mary's assumption into Heaven was a divine gift much like her immaculate conception was a divine gift. The immaculate conception should not be confused with the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The immaculate conception refers to the divine gift Mary received being born free from original sin. Her birth differs from that of our Lord Jesus Christ in that her birth was not a virginal birth. I know I am getting off topic of the Assumption of Mary, but I think it is important to compare these two feast days. Since this is a day to reflect on the Assumption of Mary, I'd like to spend some time reflecting on the life of Mary.

Mary's immaculate conception is a topic of discussion among Christian denominations. The Catholic Church believes that Mary was born without original sin. Some argue that only Jesus, our Lord and savior, could be born without original sin. They say that if you argue that Mary must be free from sin, then wouldn't her mother and the mother before her be free from sin. The easy answer to that is No. God had and has a plan. He chose Mary specifically to be the mother of Jesus, the mother of God. Only she has that title. Jesus is the one we as Christians follow. God is who we worship. Mary is the mother we love and show much respect.

Mary's very life was a prayer to God. She is a model of how we should all live our lives and submit ourselves to God. One other thought that comes to my mind is God's constant reminder of the importance of a mother and a father. He brought his only son, Jesus Christ, into this world to suffer, die, and rise to save us and even He had earthly parents. I think about the courage of Joseph. Unfortunately, we don't know much about him but he had to be a very special man. I know of very few who would have reacted the same way as Joseph did at the news that Mary was carrying the life of our Lord in her womb. He did not run and he did not question. He was not free from sin, but this can be explained. Technically Joseph was not the father of Jesus, but he was a father figure. Joseph's role in the life of Jesus should never be overlooked, but Mary carried Jesus in her very womb. She is the only woman with this honor. This is why the Church has several feast days in recognition for Mary. She is the mother of God! No one can question that this very fact earns her much respect and admiration.

Some of our protestant brothers and sisters do not believe in the assumption of Mary because there is no historical evidence to suggest that this occurred. There is also no evidence to prove otherwise. The question of whether Mary died before she was assumed into heaven is an open question, but one that really is of little relevance as far as I'm concerned. She lived a sinless life, she is the mother of God and the Mother of the Church. She received divine gifts from God. Today we recognize Mary and celebrate her life.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Let HIS Words Prevail

I'd like to start this post off with a quote from Saint John Chrysostom: "Let us submit to God in all things and not contradict him, even if what he says seems to contradict our reason and intellect; let his words prevail over our reason and intellect.

Wow. Talk about difficult. We must submit to God in ALL things and not contradict him. Not only that, but sometimes what HE says might seem to contradict our reason and intellect. I don't know about you, but I don't like it when my reasoning or intellect is challenged. No sir. I like to think of myself as a very reasonable person and although I might not be a brain surgeon, I believe I at least have an adequate level of intellect. So when Saint John Chrysostom says that we must submit to God in all things regardless of whether or not it seems to contradict our reason and intellect, that is a difficult pill for many of us to swallow. He concludes by saying that we must let His words prevail over our reason and intellect. His words are of course the words of God. A curious person likes to ask questions and try to make sense of everything, but God does not always speak in ways we can reasonably explain. It may be hard for us to accept God's word when we can not fully understand or explain it, but that is what we are asked to do. When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden apple tree, they thought that they would possess all the knowledge of God but they did not. We will never fully understand everything God has made or spoken to us, but we should accept the words and trust that God's words will save us.

In the gospel reading today, we hear about the great story of the multiplication of fish and loaves. A young boy offered Jesus just five fish and three loaves of bread (or was it three fish and five loaves, no matter) and Jesus was able to feed a crowd of over five thousand people and had more leftovers than when they started with. Wow. Try to explain that. Imagine you were that young boy and you went home and had to explain to your parents how you came home with more food than you left the house with. I'm sure the parents had to be pretty skeptical. Guess what, that is a miracle. Miracles can not be reasonably explained, but they happen all the time. Miracles do not come from man, but from God. An intelligent person might try to reasonably explain the great miracle of multiplication by saying that the crowd must have had some food and shared their food. Perhaps in the course of telling a good story, there was an exaggeration of either the crowd size or the amount of food. It is hard for a reasonable person to accept miracles because it is impossible to explain. We like to think that we can make sense of and explain all things. If we hear something that doesn't make sense to us, we often try to conjure an explanation. Sorry, but miracles are unexplainable.

Why do we feel we must always explain everything? What good comes from questioning God's word to fit the expectations of our limited mind? God created man, so do you not think that he can also perform miracles? Think about the vast universe. That did not just happen by accident, but it came from God. If He can do these things, who are we to question whether or not he could multiply fish and loaves of bread? It is difficult when our senses do not allow us to feel, hear, taste or see God's miracles. We must rely on our faith alone, and that is difficult for many of us. We must heed the wise words of Saint John Chrysostom and let God's words prevail. This may be difficult for us at times, but submission to God and His word is not a rejection of reason. As a reasonable being, I understand that my limited knowledge will never be able to fully grasp everything that God has made or done. Try to explain how life is formed. Life itself is a miracle. Now we have scientists trying to explain how life is formed by experimenting with cloning. They are wasting their efforts. The creation of life is not a game. The ability for man and woman to be joined together and be able to produce a new life is the greatest gift and miracle that God has given to us. It is unimaginable that we have people who think that they can form human life from some laboratory.

The reasonable person must first accept that not all things can be explained by human reason and intellect alone. The reasonable person must first accept that there is a God, he made and knows all things, and we are not Him. Without these two most basic understandings, the most "reasonable" person doesn't really know anything at all. We must have faith. God bless!


About Saint John Chrysostom: The following was found on www.catholic.org/saints

Feastday: September 13th

b: 344? d: 407

St. John, named Chrysostom (golden-mouthed) on account of his eloquence, came into the world of Christian parents, about the year 344, in the city of Antioch. His mother, at the age of 20, was a model of virtue. He studied rhetoric under Libanius, a pagan, the most famous orator of the age.

In 374, he began to lead the life of an anchorite in the mountains near Antioch, but in 386 the poor state of his health forced him to return to Antioch, where he was ordained a priest.

In 398, he was elevated to the See of Constantinople and became one of the greatest lights of the Church. But he had enemies in high places and some were ecclesiastics, not the least being Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who repented of this before he died. His most powerful enemy, however, was the empress Eudoxia, who was offended by the apostolic freedom of his discourses. Several accusations were brought against him in a pseudo-council, and he was sent into exile.

In the midst of his sufferings, like the apostle, St. Paul, whom he so greatly admired, he found the greatest peace and happiness. He had the consolation of knowing that the Pope remained his friend, and did for him what lay in his power. His enemies were not satisfied with the sufferings he had already endured, and they banished him still further, to Pythius, at the very extremity of the Empire. He died on his way there on September 14, 407.