Friday, May 29, 2009

Lord of the Ringtones

Are we addicted to our gadgets? Have iPods become our igods? I was struck by this article on a few levels... and I'm not gonna lie, at first glance, we were nervousss, preciousss... that they wanted to take it from usss, preciousss!
The main point addressed was captured here: So, the answer seems simple: Like the One Ring, mobile electronic devices are too powerful for mere mortals to wield without corruption. They inevitably lead to disturbance, disruption, and disaster. Or do they? ... On the spiritual side, anyone can reference prayers, sacred texts (in the traditional sense), and fellowship with co-believers anytime, anywhere. (One of us spent the Jewish holiday of Purim tracking the reading of the scroll of Esther on his iPhone, complete with special noise-making software. The other enjoyed Lenten prayers using this iPhone app.)
Hmmmm... read on!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Boy Who Saved Us

God sure knew what He was doing when He decided that the human species would be able to procreate and raise little humans. For one thing, I see it as His ingenious way of getting the male component outside of their own heads once and for all. Ladies, I imagine you need sweet liberation from your own mental gymnastics of self-seeking fulfillment too, from time to time.
I have discovered that babies have the potential to pull the selfless out of the selfish. When you become a Mommy or a Daddy, powers are unleashed that could not have been extracted in any other way, except perhaps through some great trauma or suffering or epiphany. It's amazing, exhausting, exhilarating.... "It is life nearest the bone where it is sweetest."
Our nearly 9 month old baby boy continues to astound, capture, and captivate our hearts on a daily basis. We wake and walk the halls at 3am, and love it. We hear him cry and we run to him. He poops, or should I say explodes, and we think, get this, that it's cute. And we want to clean it up. We sing to him all day long, and Daddy, over-productive, always reading, writing, e-mailing, planning, or presenting Daddy has been wasting time, squandering time, spilling out time doing nothing (read here everything) with his son. Including making random YouTube videos of his antics... The Boy Wonder discovers the Blues!
Rebecca and I look back at the now seemingly short 5 years of infertility that began our marriage; the days of waiting and longing for a life to share our life with, of the periods when literally everyone we knew was pregnant, or holding a little one in their arms. Our days of seeking help, of discovering adoption at the embryonic level, of Snowflakes, of more sorrows, of miscarriages and then moments with our little Gracie, so sweet and so sad and so short-lived. We were in the Barren Desert, again and again. We were trying hard not to grasp at children as if they were a right. We still hold fast to the truth that all life is a gift, and the timing is in God's time.
That time is now! Now this most unexpected gift of our son has come! And the years dissipate like thin wisps of mourning mist. And the years of "just us" (which in itself was so full and so rich) has only served to heighten our senses and sensitivities to this Small Wonder of a Boy. Every smile, every giggle, every tear, every thing is a grace. So God surely knows and knew what He was doing. We just had to wait it out, and will again in some new form down the road, I'm sure. I just hope we remember the simple truth that "good things come to those who wait."
And that, my friends, is the understatement of the year!

Moral Theologian Says Christopher West's Work is 'Completely Sound'

Dr. Janet Smith holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. In her article at, she responds to Dr. David Schindler's critique of Christopher West's approach to the Theology of the Body. For his article, click here. For the origin of this debate, click here!
Here, I want to offer a brief, partial, response to Prof. David Schindler’s assessment of West’s work. The fact that Nightline got a lot wrong about West’s work is not surprising. In fact, it is surprising how much it got right. Those of us who work with the media know that potential martyrdom awaits us at the hands of an editor. West has likely been suffering a kind of crucifixion over the past week. What is puzzling is that an influential scholar chose this moment to issue a weeping, negative critique of West in such a public forum. I have great respect for the work and thought of Schindler and realize that it must be difficult to be on the receiving end of criticisms of the work of one of their most high profile graduates. I wish, however, he had found another occasion to express his reservations about West’s work.... (continue reading)
For the latest response from Dr. Michael Waldstein, click here. He is the Max Seckler Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University. He previously served as founding president of the International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria, and was the St. Francis of Assisi Professor of New Testament there. He is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Family and is a Distinguished Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He holds the degrees of B.A. from Thomas Aquinas College in California, Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Dallas, S.S.L. from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, and a Th.D. in New Testament from Harvard Divinity School. His published works include his definitive translation of John Paul II's Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, The Common Good in St. Thomas and John Paul II (Nova et Vetera), and Dietrich von Hildebrand and St. Thomas Aquinas on Goodness and Happiness (Nova et Vetera).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Promise

Remembering Your touch, your kiss Your warm embrace I'll find my way back to you If you'll be waiting...
Think of times in your life you've waited for Love's reply. Will the call come, will the heart respond to mine, will that face I've longed for turn the bend and come to me, turn her face and look on me.
I've longed for you and I have desired To see your face your smile To be with you wherever you are
Waiting.... hoping, and with it comes such a surge of emotion, tied inseparably to the deepest cords of the soul (for our bodies and souls are one). Longing not just for the physical sensation of nearness, but for the mystical, the spiritual, the infinite of which human love touches only the hem.
These days before Pentecost are the days of waiting, this is the age of the Holy Spirit... remembering those expectant hearts of those ancient men and women of Israel; Peter, John, Mary, James. Seeing them, hearing them; warm breath, beating hearts, fearful, clustered together like birds in shadows.
"Wait...." Jesus had said. This is all they knew to do. Not knowing they lie at the turning point of human history, those happy few, soon to be quickened by the Breath of Divinity and numbering in the billions! Here at the embryonic level, the Mystical Body of Christ was sewn together again by the grace of God through the Virgin of Galilee; this Body of believers was "knit together in its Mother's womb." For Mary knew about waiting, about being open to receive the Holy Spirit.
Together again It would feel so good to be In your arms Where all my journeys end If you can make a promise
If it's one that you can keep,
I vow to come for you If you wait for me and say you'll hold A place for me in your heart.
Let's look up as the Wind builds and the Flames gather on the eastern rim of the world. A Divine Heart is beating, ageless as the sea, coming with Water and Fire and Wind to wash, burn and break over us again. That's the Promise...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Play Me

(This is my latest post from Twisted Mystics! Hope you like) OK, I know that when you first saw this dazzling pic of Neil in his technicolor dreamcoat, you were tempted to go and google the etymology of "cheese" or something; anything rather than consider that Neil Diamond might have something deep to say to you today. Maybe you thought "Twisted Mystics" was about young hipsters, youth in angst, or mainstream rockers and rollers. Well it's time to broaden them horizons! I was first introduced to Neil as a young lad, through the big, bulky "Jazz Singer" soundtrack my mother owned on an 8 track tape. Those tapes were awesome and could double as coasters, or a hammer if you were desperate and really needed to hang that painting. Anyhoo, back to Neil. Let's take the following words and set them into the mouths of lovers... of a husband and wife. This is what we do here at Twisted Mystics; we transpose. We find the theme and set it to a theological melody. We take a rambling branch and graft it to the Divine Vine from which all branches break forth. She was morning And I was night time I one day woke up To find her lying Beside my bed I softly said "Come take me" For I've been lonely In need of someone As though I'd done Someone wrong somewhere but I don't know where Come lately You are the sun I am the moon You are the words I am the tune Play me Ah the Cosmic Dance of masculine and feminine! "She was morning... and I was night time." It's common knowledge that men and women are different. Common knowledge but commonly misunderstood, or seen as some kind of obstacle ("the battle of the sexes"). Today, there also appears to be a great effort to level the playing field.... to asexualize our sexuality and invite people to "pick" which one they want, as if from scratch. But if we scratch below the surface, we discover an extremely damaging agenda here. In the olden days (before Neil Diamond) people used to conform themselves to reality. This is a very sane thing to do. Today we are insane. We try to conform reality unto us. Rather than discover in our creation as male and female something of the mystery of God's image and likeness, we determine that we will make ourselves after our own image and likeness. The problem with this is, aside from a cosmic arrogance, we don't have a clue as to who we are. "When we lose sight of the Creator, the creature vanishes," so spoke Vatican Council II. Our origins, revealed in Genesis, tell us so much about what masculinity is and what femininity is, if we could but sit still and listen. The mythic elements (not myths) in Genesis speak of man being formed from the earth, with Spirit (God's ruah in Hebrew, breath) whispered into us. Is this why men seem to be more independent, detached, more comfortable beingalone, distant at times? But in all our land-locked travels, we long to return to the heart. For I've been lonely In need of someone As though I'd done Someone wrong somewhere but I don't know where Men, despite the sometimes tough exterior, long to be in love, lost in it, we long to swim in an ocean that is deep and mysterious. That ocean is made from us, flows from us, flows to us from God.... and from Woman. Then God took a rib from Adam, and formed from his side Woman. The “first man and the first woman must constitute ...the model... for all men and women who, in any period, are united so intimately as to be ‘one flesh’”- Pope John Paul II, TOB, 50). In Hebrew, the rib bespeaks the whole person. Bone is emblematic of the whole body, the whole person. Woman then is formed from the side of a rational human person. Is this why women tend, generally speaking, to be more relational, intuitive, contemplative, nurturing, gentle, emotional? Songs she sang to me Songs she brang to me Words that rang in me Rhyme that sprang from me Warmed the night And what was right Became me Men and women were never meant to clash with but to complement each other. Sin is at the root of this conflict. And so the remedy to the poison brought by the first Adam and Eve, is revealed in the gift of the new Adam and Eve. Never has there been a duet more beautifully sung than that of Jesus and Mary. In their words we learn how to untwist all of our twisted ramblings. For He is the Sun, and she is the Moon, He is the Word and she is the Tune... And so it wasThat I came to travel Upon a road That was thorned and narrow Another place Another grace Would save me

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wicked Good

Good and Evil. Remember them? Many believe they were invented by theologians in the Middle Ages and later popularized by animated angels and demons on the shoulders of cartoons and comedic actors. But check this out: they are really real, and really old, and always present to the soul in every choice.
But we live in an age where words like Good and Evil just sound so.... awkward. They are so glaringly crisp; their edges so.... sharp. We prefer a nice dulled handle on things today, don't we? Something curvy and cushy; kind of like a "sport grip" that contours to our particular touch. "Oooo, nice. This works for me!"
This talk of things being objectively Good or Evil just feels so heavy in the hand, so cold to the touch, like the hilt of a sword. We like things to "give a little" today. Now call me crazy but I have this sense that we're dead wrong here (oops, another awkward word... I mean non-right). I think western civilization is up to its neck in a quicksand of relativity. We're just looking at each other saying "Isn't it nice and warm in here? So niiiice!" as we slouch deeper into a Quagmire of Comfortability. Soon we'll completely lose our heads in this quicksand. Many already have it seems.
Am I being judgmental? Heck yes I am. We have to make judgments all the time. It's not a dirty word. When approaching quicksand my reason dictates that walking on it would be a poor judgment, because we're made to walk on solid ground. The solid earth, like everything in nature, is meant to remind us of its supernatural counterpart - the moral universe. Right and Wrong, Good and Evil.
We must do the Good, we must walk in its Way, and trying to negate it only creates dead air. It removes the bridge and leaves an infinite abyss. We must make solid choices again, simply because they are Good. They are True. We must steer clear of certain places and situations today because they are Evil or Wicked. Decisions must be made not just because they "make me happy" but rather because than make me holy. Not just because they feel good, but because they are Good.
At the end of the day, let's remember (or discover) that this objective truth about the Good is not an enemy, but a remedy. Objective truth actually corresponds to the deepest yearnings of our subjective experiences. And although it may take awhile to get our "land legs" back after living on this sea of relativity, every solid step we take takes us closer to the deepest peace. And that peace is a GOOD thing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vatican Meets iPhone

As a Catholic Nerd with an iPhone, I am very excited about what's coming this Sunday, in honor of this year's World Communications Day.... check it out here. If this doesn't justify you making the switch to the world's greatest phone / ipod / game device / calendar / internet browser / e-mail / camera / mosquito repellent (yes, there's an app for that), than I don't know WHAT will. Here's the snazzy new website the Vatican has just launched.
"The site and its applications were developed by Italian Father Paolo Padrini, a diocesan priest from Tortona. He also helped develop the iBreviary application for the iPhone and the Catholic Facebook application called Praybook, which allows users to access and share with others traditional Catholic prayers and texts from the Liturgy of the Hours."
- from the CNS article "I would like to conclude this message by addressing myself, in particular, to young Catholic believers: to encourage them to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world."
- Pope Benedict XVI

Sunday, May 17, 2009

On Angels and Demons - Fr. Barron's Review

When will it end? More DaVinci Load served up on the silver screen to distort the truth, history, and real relationship between the Church and Science for millions of movie goers. Let's all grab a hot cup of coffee, kick back, and watch this excellent unpacking of it all by Fr. Robert Barron, and then read this beautiful letter - On Faith and Reason - by Pope John Paul II, and THEN (refill your coffee, grab some cookies) and peruse this "illuminating" website that shows the harmonious relationship of faith and the sciences -
“Science can purify Religion from error and superstition; Religion can purify Science from idolatry and false absolutes.”
- Pope John Paul II

Friday, May 15, 2009

Has Christopher West Gone South?

(The videos embedded in this post show a more articulated and contextual unpacking of key points in the Pope's teaching on the Theology of the Body and are a necessary addition to the news interview mentioned below. I hope they help!)
In the past week since ABC Nightline aired a 6 minute video interview on Christopher West, articles have tried to articulate, posts have posited, and Twitter has been twittering with people's reactions to its content. Many have been overwhelmingly positive, seeing through the roughly 10 substantial distortions and misquotes from the 6 minute piece (each clarified by Christopher here), grateful that even a glimmer of the Church's beautiful teaching slipped through the mainstream to potentially 4 million viewers. Others have used up large pockets of cyberspace to attack and belittle one of their own rather than the slanted ABC interview.
Samples of this attack:
"He (Christopher West) is one of the many self-help gurus out their that market their perspectives, attract people who are spiritually foundering, and make a living off their presentations, books, and dvd's... In my diocese (that would be Philadelphia, folks), all those into West have no real spiritual foundation. They follow cultural phenomenon, become spoke people for this "New" understanding and wind up in the end with the usual nothing... Give him time, and he will self-destruct like the rest of them."
- GM
“I’m shocked and horrified by the words that he uses. His mere mention of Hugh Hefner is to my mind an abomination.”
"From what I have read, both in the article and from respondants to it, Mr. West has become inflated by the success of his venture. Humility and purity go hand in hand, and it seems he has lost both virtues."
- C
I felt a deep sadness and frustration in reading some of these comments. It seems the Pharisees are alive and well in the Church today. Here is a deeply faithful, prayerful, humble, and yes, very passionate man who has given his life to unpacking the very dense and philosophical truth in the Theology of the Body for hundreds of thousands of people who may never have had the chance to read or hear it, while some of his brother and sister Catholics sit in their pews and criticize him. Jesus was called a drunkard, he was mocked for eating with tax collectors and sinners and talking to prostitutes. He was completely misunderstood and misrepresented by the religious leaders of His day. And every person who follows in his footsteps and tries to engage the culture and bring them the Water of Life gets the same wagging finger from the self-righteous.
Of course the media gave a skewed reading of this teaching. The lens with which it looks is still cracked. But some of the Truth could still be seen through that camera, and it has cut like a surgeon's knife right into our Manichean tumor that has thought the body evil or dirty, and sex something we shouldn't talk about in public. But if the Church doesn't speak of this beautiful mystery of human sexuality, who will? We all know the answer to that question.
The silence on sex in the pulpit and from many of our parents regarding sexuality since the 60's has not prepared any of us well for the media tidal wave that is sweeping away another generation. I say God bless Christopher for speaking this truth.
Has he perhaps gone too far south in his work? Is he too "vulgar"? Well the word means the "folk speech, the common tongue." Maybe going south is exactly where the Spirit is leading him. Deep south... into the heart...
The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter... - Pope John Paul II
Some who severely critiqued Christopher rather than the interviewers have clearly never read the Pope's words, let alone Christopher's. They are crucifying a man based on a distorted 6 minute news clip. Read the Theology of the Body. Be still with it, pray... and pray for God's flawed and faithful servants who have the courage to face the culture, and speak to its heart.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Pope's Assassin, Ali Agca, Becomes Catholic?

CN CathNews reports: In a letter written from a Turkish prison, Mehmet Ali Agca, author of the failed attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981, claims to have renounced Islam and embraced the Catholic faith. Italian weekly Diva e people donna published the letter, French journal 7s7 reports. "I am looking for an Italian woman, who wants to correspond with me. Obviously (I hope) she is Catholic because from May 13 2007, I decided to renounce the Muslim faith and becoming a member of the Roman Catholic Church," Agca writes. "I have decided to return peacefully to the (St Peter's) square and to testify to the world of my conversion to Catholicism," he says in the letter written in Italian. - Read the full article here

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


The Sadness and Madness of Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger, the foundress of Planned Parenthood, has recently been awarded a place in the National Portrait Gallery. She is quoted as saying that the poor and mentally handicapped are "human weeds" that "clog up the path.... drain out the energies and the resources of this little earth." Her solution? "We must cultivate our garden." The more I read about this woman, the more bizarre it gets. And this is the woman that Hillary Clinton is in "awe" of for her heroic work? Sanger was a massive proponent of eugenics and quite clearly a racist. Her own words convict her, as cited in her letters and books captured in this disturbing video. And our tax dollars are supporting her agenda by honoring her in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. God help us to see the lie behind the curtains of these so-called Planned Parenthood "clinics." Please watch and learn from the video for yourself.

For a more in depth look at Margaret Sanger's thought, watch a 1957 interview with Mike Wallace here (the transcript of the interview is available as well). It's a bizarre interview, be warned. Aside from Sanger's thoughts on human life, marriage and the Catholic Church, Mike Wallace holds no punches, and keeps plugging Philip Morris cigarettes! Weird.

PS - Wallace quotes the Church as saying the sole purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. The full teaching is that marriage's end is two-fold: unitive and procreative, that is, it is for the love and union of hearts and for the fruit of that love and union.... life. In this sense, I feel Margaret's pain when she fights him on this point. It seems in her experience, women were looked on as merely baby-making machines and subjogated by marriage and pregnancy. Clearly the vision is skewed here. For the ideal vision and definition of marriage, read this!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Theology of the Body Hits Mainstream Tonight on Nightline

Please pray for a great outpouring of grace tonight as the potential to reach millions with a little taste of Theology of the Body hits ABC's Nightline. Here's a link to the article, and the time tonight is 11:30ish EST.
Taken from Christopher's website:
About the Theology of the Body
A New Sexual Revolution Pope John Paul II devoted the first major teaching of his pontificate to what he called the Theology of the Body. This teaching is being hailed as a “new sexual revolution,” because it calls everyone to an authentic understanding and living out of what it means to be created male and female in the image and likeness of God. There are good reasons why the Theology of the Body is in such demand around the world. It is renewing marriages, awakening vocations, healing deep personal wounds, and setting people free to live the life of greatness for which they were created. This is no passing theological fad, but a rich, refined understanding of our Catholic Faith.
Post Script: Visit this link for more info and
clarification on points mentioned in the interview!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sending Out an SOS

Suffering can set us free. Crying out can often lead to a catharsis. Sorrow affords us a chance to struggle and squirm our way out of the black cocoon of self and into the wide expanse of the world of the Other. The song Message in a Bottle by the Police captures this journey of self-discovery through suffering. Sting, the lead singer of the former band, is a much revered icon in the music world today. He confessed to Jools Holland of the BBC that Message in a Bottle is his favorite song. Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh Another lonely day, with no one here but me, oh More loneliness than any man could bear Rescue me before I fall into despair, oh In the late and great Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, the Holy Father seeks to answer two questions that I feel everyone in their heart of hearts asks at some point in this life: What does it mean to be human? How can I be truly happy? In the first question, he looks into our origins, our history, and our destiny to discover just what it means to be to be human. The Pope's early life was fraught with sorrows - loss of family, Nazi occupation, friends sent to concentration camps, and a Communist takeover of his beloved Poland. But he didn't let these sorrows exile him to an island of isolation. To make sense of it all, he dove into a heartfelt reflection on our beginnings as man and woman. One of my favorite reflections in his Theology of the Body centers on the idea of Original Solitude. That is the experience of Adam, in the beginning, as a being that is in fact "alone." I'll send an S.O.S. to the world I'll send an S.O.S. to the world I hope that someone gets my I hope that someone gets my I hope that someone gets my Message in a bottle, Message in a bottle... Alas, Adam cries out, I see myriads of creatures, beautiful and diverse, but not another person I can love who can return my love! Sending out an SOS is Adam's first "prayer." (Read the rest at Twisted Mystics!)

Talking to Your Little Ones About the Big Topic of Sex

A much repeated sentence we hear at our Theology of the Body retreats and courses is "I wish I heard this when I was younger!" ...