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Showing posts from 2014

The Man, the Woman, and the Child

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This mammoth oil on canvas called “Nativity” is the work of Brian Kershisnik, a resident of Provo, Utah. He is a husband, father, and an artist deeply inspired by the unseen world. When people learn he is an artist and ask him what he paints, Brian replies “I paint Heaven and Hell, and getting there.” Let’s allow our gaze to move over this work, and see just where it takes us.

There is a dynamic surge that dominates the scene; a rush of angels billows and breaks over the canvas like a foaming wave, grabbing our attention by the collar and nearly pulling us into its celestial current. I can imagine if you were standing in front of it (the canvas is 17 feet long and over 7 feet high!), you’d feel the need to brace yourself against being swept away in the resounding gloria about to burst from this multitude of heavenly messengers. Their expressions range from reverent wonder and incredulous delight to a passionate cry to the world to “come and see” what wonders God has done.

Read more he…

There and Back Again: A TOB Speaker's Tale

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I had the incredible honor of traveling half way around the world to speak on St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body this autumn. As a devotee and teacher of the pope’s rich legacy of catechesis, an added grace for me was landing in a place that St. John Paul II graced three times in his own life; once as priest, twice as pope.
I found myself in Papua New Guinea (PNG), a land that in some ways is as fresh and unspoiled as Eden. It has only felt the touch of modernism in the last 80 years or so. Grandparents of some of those I met actually recall seeing WWII bombers flying overhead and mistakingly thinking them to be giant birds! At the same time PNG is a land suffering from fallen humanity as much as any land, with greed, corruption, domestic violence and child abuse.

It's home to lush rain forests, beautiful coastlines and coral reefs, with over 800 dialects and hundreds of different tribal identities. But it is also a place where, in certain places, women and children suffer …

The Mess of Christmas

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It seems far removed from the cold of December where I sit and write this reflection for you, but I'd like to take us back to the heat of summer, a year and five months ago to the day of this Christmas, July 25, South America. In the Cathedral of San Sebastian, Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis held an impromptu gathering of young people. There a line was delivered that I believe deserves our deeper consideration in this time of Advent preparation. Pope Francis said,

“What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! ... I want to see the Church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!”
I want a mess. If you've been following the words and ministry of Pope Francis since that summer day, it would certainly appear that he has b…

Bacon and the Glorious Subterfuge of Christmas

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After Mass yesterday, which inaugurated the First Sunday of Advent, we took the family (and me dear ole' Da who's visiting from Maine) to a fairly new breakfast venue in town called The Bacon Press. They had an incredible array of bacon themed and bacon saturated fare, and needless to say, I felt as if I were still participating in the afterglow of the Heavenly Banquet, yeah, as if the source of all grace flowing from the altar at St. Patrick's had indeed perchance sent a little trickle of glory into said establishment. If anyone is scandalized by what I just wrote I apolo... no, you have not yet tasted bacon. 
I believe the Jews were kept from eating pork not because it was evil, but lo, because they could not yet withstand the wonder of bacon until the Messianic age, when bacon's light would be set properly in its place as a secondary good, i.e. "You have a greater than bacon here." - Matthew 12:41b
During breakfast, as I was enjoying some pancake-battered,…

U2?

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If you've had your finger on the pulse of our culture in the last few years, then you've certainly become aware of one particular movement, a certain throb in the veins of the zeitgeist as it flows through the muscles of the news and media outlets that surround us; it’s a fixation on homosexuality.

We have been inundated of late by politics, popular music, film, television, and even the world of business and finance with anything and everything “gay.” The scope indeed seems all encompassing, from an official proclamation from the President in 2009 declaring June to be "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month” to the most recent announcement of Apple's CEO Tim Cook on Oct. 30: "I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

Just a few weeks ago, U2 released the cover art for their new album, Songs of Innocence (pictured above). The image is one of two shirtless men in an intimate embrace, with an older man’s…

Brittany Maynard and the Way of the Cross

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Brittany Maynard was a 29 year old woman who, on Sunday, November 2, 2014, decided to take her own life before a terminal brain cancer took it first. She became a kind of heroine of "the right to die” movement, and has been praised by an astounding number of people from across the globe for the “courageous” way in which she took charge of her life, and died the way she wanted to die.
The picture most often connected with Brittany’s story (above) captures her in a seemingly shining moment of life; happy, a beaming smile, cuddling her dog, relaxing in a deckchair under the sun. 
In addition to leaving behind a husband and some extended family members, she also left the world with this assemblage of final words from her Facebook account:
“Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more. The worl…

The Humanum Series... Coming Mid-November

LOST and Found in Heaven

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"Brothers and sisters: You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God..."
- St. Paul, Ephesians 2:19

Sometimes, when I'm boarding a plane to somewhere, I have this strange recurring thought; what if this trip turned into an episode of LOST?

Remember ABC's smash hit series about a motley bunch of airline passengers from all walks of life and all manner of back stories, who find themselves stranded on a "deserted" island? We learned as the series progressed about all of the baggage (no pun intended) that these passengers brought with them. Soon enough, original sin reared its ugly head in that island paradise and fear, and fighting, and grasping was par for every episode.

In the fifth episode of Season 1, Jack Shephard, one of the leaders quelled an uproar among the survivors with what became an iconic line for the entire series:

“If we can't live together, we're gonna die a…

Saving Iraq

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The following is a heart-felt letter from a dear friend of our family, Mother Olga Yaqob. Please read, make any I effort you can to assist, and share with as many people as you can to help these poor souls at this horrific hour of their crucifixion. 
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“We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological  differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be.” - USCCB on Solidarity
Dear Brother and Sisters, Peace and blessing to you. I pray this letter finds you all well. First, I wanted to take this time to express my deep gratitude to you, your families, your parishes and your communities for your care and prayerful support for the people of Iraq, who have suffered such a catastrophic tragedy in recent weeks. 
Second, inspired by today’s request from Pope Francis: “I ask all Catholic parishes and communities to offer a special prayer this weekend for Iraqi Christians,” I thought to ask for your assista…

7 Reasons Why Theology of the Body Must be at the Center of the World Meeting of Families

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1. St. John Paul II'sTheology of the Body offers the most comprehensive understanding of our creation as male and female and our call to the life-giving communion of persons known as the family. 

2. It was the first major catecheses of the Bishop of Rome, John Paul II, shepherd of the universal Church, and one he slowly unpacked over a five year period at the beginning of his pontificate with incredible precision and passion.

3. The assassination attempt on St. John Paul II took place in the middle of those catecheses. That's got to mean something.

4. The theme for the World Meeting of Families is "Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive!" The Theology of the Body's central theme, which runs like a ribbon through all of his other work, is the family, as St. John Paul II wrote in his Letter to Families, 19; "The Church cannot therefore be understood as the Mystical Body of Christ... unless we keep in mind the "great mystery" involved in the creatio…

Let Us Make God in Our Image, After Our Likeness 'Cause It'd Be Awesome

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This might hurt your brain, but stay with me friends.
Imagine if he came the way we wanted him to? Imagine if Jesus answered the problem of evil with a punch rather than his paschal mystery?
He would've kicked the devil's butt. He would've been ripped, with muscles on top of his muscles. A combination of brains and brawn. Bolder than Bourne, slicker than Spider-Man, more convicted than Captain America and every move in slo-mo. The lance set to pierce his heart on the Cross would've bounced off and snapped like a toothpick! Nothing would break him. He'd have busted up the Romans and religious leaders in a Divine Smackdown the likes of which the world had never seen!
"Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" (Luke 9:54)
"Yes, I do. Let's kick some taḥat!" (Luke 9:55, revised)

Yes, if God were made in man's image... we'd all be wowed, then bored to tears.
"That was awesome! What else is on?”
I saw the latest X-…

To Be Inspired and Inflamed

This July 9-11, there will be a gathering in historic Philadelphia, PA, of renowned experts and enthusiasts on the incredible thought of St. John Paul II. He devoted the first major teaching project of his pontificate – 129 short talks between September of 1979 and November of 1984 – to providing a profoundly beautiful vision of human embodiment and erotic love. He gave this project the working title “Theology of the Body.” Far from being a footnote in the Christian life, the way we understand the body and the sexual relationship “concerns the whole Bible” (TOB 69:8). It plunges us into “the perspective of the whole Gospel, of the whole teaching, even more, of the whole mission of Christ” (TOB 49:3). Christ’s mission, according to the spousal analogy of the Scriptures, is to “marry” us. He invites us to live with him in an eternal life-giving union of love. The repercussions of this teaching, in essence of the Gospel itself, are boundless, touching every person in every walk of life …

The Pope Saint and Fatima

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Taken from Jason Evert's excellent new book, St. John Paul the Great: His Five Loves

"May 13, 1981 was a typical Wednesday in the Vatican. As was his custom, John Paul invited guests for lunch, hosting the renowned French geneticist Jerome Lejeune and his wife to discuss Natural Family Planning and other pro-life matters. After the usual course of afternoon meetings and prayer, he descended to Saint Peter's Square to participate in his weekly Wednesday audience with the faithful. He was approaching the halfway mark of his lectures on the Theology of the Body.

He climbed aboard the Popemobile and crisscrossed through Saint Peter's Square, kissing babies and blessing the 20,000 pilgrims who had gathered to see him. At 5:17 P.M., moments after blessing a two-year-old girl and handing her back to her elated parents, blasts from a 9mm semiautomatic pistol rang out. Pigeons throughout the square scattered skyward as John Paul fell backward into the arms of his secretary, Mo…

When God Sleeps

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Epic fail. It didn't work. He's dead at only 33. His own disowned him. Betrayed, his friends abandoned him. What a waste. Everything the Lord did in his life on earth was meant to be a kind of catechism for us. His every divine word but also his divine actions were an answer to the mystery of human life for us; after all, he came to teach us how to live. "Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself, and makes his supreme calling clear." (Gaudium et Spes, 22) The birth in poverty. Jesus the toddler. Jesus the teenager. The blue collar work. The callused hands. The hidden years, all 18 of them. The lack of formal "education" and having anything written down for posterity. Then the false accusations. The criminal's death. The awkward silence of Holy Saturday. But we know now he was waiting. In silence. For a Jew, three days meant the soul had definitely left the body. He was dead. The "prayers" of the embalming perfumes set in, and soaked his dead …

The Naked Christ

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"It's scandalous to see this nearly naked Christ," some critics said, as the story goes, when an initial draft of Ford Madox Brown's Christ Washing the Feet of Peter was viewed. Brown lived through the majority of the 19th century as an English painter in a Victorian climate, where the sight of a woman's ankle might be seen as improper. It's ironic to think that those whom Christ stripped himself to serve would be scandalized, not by his act of love, but by his physical appearance. When Peter was scandalized, it was because of his interior unworthiness. The Victorians were shocked by his exterior "impropriety."  What does this tell us? It tells us that we have issues, in every time and place, with the realm of sexuality and the body. Deeper still, with the realm of trust and vulnerability, of which nakedness is the physical sign. Nakedness is a spousal call to see the other, to enter into the vulnerable mystery of the other.  And it tells us that the…

The Clarity of Christ, the Muddiness of Man

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"So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”" - John 13
When I was "discerning" my vocation I was an expert in mental gymnastics. I could think myself into a million different moves, different scenarios, in and out of twists and turns, yet ironically ending up in the same place every time. In my starting position, on the mat. 
Gathering information is great. We all need to do a little recon now and then in life before a major leap. Like Caleb and Joshua in the book of Numbers, we gather our intel on our expedition into Canaan. But when they reported their findings, and spoke with their own clarity about the move (essentially they were the only ones saying "Let's do this!"), the muddiness of mental gymnastics began. The others spread discouraging reports "Well, uh, they're uh... giants. They'll eat us. Yeah. We need to reconsider this."
"Caleb, however, quieted the people before Moses and said, “We ought to go up an…