Archive | September, 2013

Canonize Lino Rulli? His new book shows how we’re all saints in the making

September 28, 2013

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photoThe Catholic Church calls each and every one of us to answer the call to holiness and strive toward sainthood — even in light of our obvious weaknesses and everyday struggles with sin.

It’s a daunting task for most, but Lino Rulli is up to the challenge. In fact, the St. Paul native and host of Sirius/XM Radio’s “The Catholic Guy” show would like to get there a little faster than the rest of us. In his new book “Saint,” he makes the tongue-in-cheek case for why the Church should canonize him today. (After all, why trust your friends to push your sainthood cause after you die when you can do it yourself?)

In all seriousness, however, the book has a deeper purpose: to encourage you to focus on your spiritual growth and help you “to realize that you might not be as big a sinner as you think, and that, with God’s help, you might just become a saint.”

“Saint” is a follow-up to “Sinner,” Lino’s first book of short, humorous and inspiring stories aimed at encouraging us to live out our faith despite our imperfections. In “Saint,” Lino turns once again to short stories about his life — some funny, some painfully honest, and many with a short nugget of reflection about lessons he learned along the way.

At the end of one story, for example, about an instance when he successfully resisted what can be described as a “temptation of the flesh,” Lino writes: “A saint isn’t someone who has never been tested; a saint is a person who has been tested and, with God’s help, has passed — or, with God’s help, has gotten up the next morning and tried again.”

Saints you can relate to

While Lino was in town yesterday to talk about his book, I asked why he would invest the time and energy to remind people about the call to sainthood. Here’s what he said:

“I guess the reason people like [‘Sinner’] is because a lot of them could relate to it. But, the other side of that coin is the fact that we do need to be reminded that we’re not just a bunch of miserable losers because we fail. For whatever reason, God loves us and we’re still called to holiness. It’s sort of a contradiction in our lives, but it’s the reality of our lives.”

And where can average Joes like myself draw that affirmation and inspiration, other than from Lino and the stories of people who already have a place in the Church’s catalog of saints?

“I get inspired by the average person in church. When I see the mom and dad in church Sunday morning with kids running around like maniacs and you’re going to lose your mind, it inspires me. They don’t have it all together, but they know it would be ten times worse if they didn’t try to go to church. . . . Those are the saints who inspire me: the guy who says I went out Saturday night but I’m still waking up and going to church Sunday morning. Or the single mom. Or even the older people who have their own problems and struggles. I really do look around and I go: We’re all called to be saints, but we’re all saints in the making.”

Chances are future generations won’t be reading about St. Lino in the Church’s official catalog of saints. But he — and the rest of us — should always be striving to be counted eventually among those in heaven.

“Saints” concludes with these wise words:

“Sometimes you chase me, Lord. Sometimes I chase you. But the only time I’ll quit running, the only time I will finally feel at peace, will be when I’m at home with you: there in heaven. That’s when I’ll truly be called a saint.”

Read more about Lino and his new book on his website. You can also order the book from Servant Books.

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Bow hunting highs and lows

September 25, 2013

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This morning, I did my fourth sit in a treestand trying to harvest a deer with my bow. And, for the third time, I did not see a deer.

Yet, I was not disappointed. It was a beautiful morning, crisp and cool with only a whisper of wind. As I looked to the east out into a marshy area, there was a layer of fog hovering over the cattails.

I imagined a deer suddenly appearing in the tall grass on the edge of the marsh, much like last Friday morning, when I saw not one, but four deer materialize in the brush behind me.

A little before 8 a.m. that day, I got my closest shot at a whitetail with a bow – only 8 or 9 yards. One of the two does milling around swing around behind me, then came out into the grass to my left.

It gave me a broadside shot, which I took. Unfortunately, my placement was a little off, and I ended up hitting the shoulder. The deer ran off with most of the arrow outside its body. It is about impossible to get arrow penetration through the shoulder, and my 6-hour tracking effort revealed that this deer had suffered nothing more than a flesh wound.

As it turned out, I still needed to learn more about proper shot placement. As my friend and mentor, Steve Huettl, explained, “I ALWAYS am aware of the shoulder and will ALWAYS tell myself to aim a little farther back from the shoulder than I think I am.  You need to avoid that shoulder at all costs.”

Lesson learned. I kept his advice in mind when I was sitting in my stand this morning. Wouldn’t you know? I didn’t get a chance to put it into practice. But, there is lots of season left, and I am confident I will get another opportunity.

What I like about the spot where I saw the four deer is that there are lots of acorns falling out of the oak trees around me. Both Friday and today, I could hear them falling constantly. I’m sure the deer hear them, too. I’ll bet that sound is what drew them on in Friday, though I can’t explain why none showed today.

Oh well. That’s deer hunting. Every day is different, and just because you saw them on a previous day doesn’t mean you’ll see them the next time.

Strange as it may sound, I’m kind of glad I missed the deer the way I did on Friday. It got me thinking much more about shot placement, and I believe I will get it right eventually – hopefully, on the next shot.

The nice part is: the best is yet to come. As we get into October, the bucks will get more interested in breeding. They will start cruising more. Then, when the first does start coming into estrous, things will really break loose.

I want to be there when that happens!

 

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Women’s roles change, not inherent worth and dignity

September 24, 2013

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For many women changing roles means changing outfits. But the feminine genius about who women are as well as what they do. Photo/Steve A Johnson. Licensed under Creative Commons.

If changing clothes is part of changing roles, I think women wear a lot of hats—and outfits–in a day. From mom-in-sweats to workplace wear to work out to soccer match casual.  I’m not a mom but I’m used to changing clothes often for different roles in life.

Beyond the roles women find themselves in, there is much to be said about their inherent importance and dignity.

In the much publicized interview released last week in America magazine, Pope Francis again brought up the issue of women’s role in the Church and called for a new theology of women.

The pope said that deep questions need to be answered. But he distinguished between women’s importance as persons and their roles when he talked about the Blessed Mother:

Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity.

He echoed Bl. Pope John Paul II’s 25-year-old apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem in which Bl. John Paul writes that women represent a particular value because they’re human persons and at the same time, that they’re particular persons because of their femininity. This he calls the “feminine genius”, notwithstanding capabilities, accomplishments—or roles:

“…The Church gives thanks for each and every woman: for mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for “perfect” women and for “weak” women…for all women as they have come forth from the heart of God in all the beauty and richness of their femininity; as they have been embraced by his eternal love…”

As strong and beautiful as the feminine genius is, it reaches its fullness together with the masculine genius, as the two are complementary, John Paul II writes.

 …together with men, they are pilgrims on this earth, which is the temporal “homeland” of all people and is transformed sometimes into a “valley of tears”; as they assume, together with men, a common responsibility for the destiny of humanity according to daily necessities and according to that definitive destiny which the human family has in God himself, in the bosom of the ineffable Trinity.

Whatever women are doing, they offer their being to help the Church and the world, according to Deborah Savage, theology and philosophy professor at St. Paul Seminary who spoke recently in St. Paul on Mulieris Dignitatem at an event sponsored by the Siena Symposium, an interdisciplinary faculty group at the University of St. Thomas dedicated to rebuilding families and culture through scholarship and insights of the Catholic faith.

Are we, you and I, at the center of the salvific work that could be and should be taking place in our homes, our workplaces, our culture? Are we reflections of the supernatural reality that is the full expression of the feminine genius?

Even in this era of androgyny, not all outfits fit everyone, and some roles are suited for feminine or masculine genius. But there are many roles and the Church needs women’s unique gifts for this salvific work. According to Pope Francis:

 “The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. …We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”

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2 things Pope Francis told Catholic gynecologists

September 21, 2013

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Photo by Naomi O'Leary

Photo by Naomi O’Leary

On Thursday, September 19, an article was released in  Jesuit publications. In this interview Pope Francis discussed the church’s emphasis on controversial social topics. He suggested instead a merciful and less judgmental church.

The next day The Holy Father met with a group of Catholic gynecologists. Here are two strong anti-abortion things he told them:

1. Abortion is a symptom of our “throwaway culture.” He urged them to refuse to perform the procedure.

2. “Every child that isn’t born, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord.”

Way to go, Papa!

(Compiled by a New York Times article that ran in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Saturday, September 21, 2013.)

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U.S. air strikes and Church teaching on war, peace

September 13, 2013

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 St. Joan of Arc followed God's direction as she entered battle. Photo/dbking. Licensed under Creative Commons

Whether or not she studied just war theory, St. Joan of Arc followed God’s direction as she entered battle. Photo/dbking. Licensed under Creative Commons

God only knows if the U.S. will launch a military strike against Syria, but it looks like the threat has been averted for now.

As negotiations aimed at convincing Syria to surrender its chemical weapons continue, Catholics may be asking what the Church teaches about an attack. Would it be justified?

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has spoken quite a bit on the subject of war. At last week’s prayer vigil for peace in Syria, he said:

  …look upon your brother’s sorrow, and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: ‘No more one against the other, no more, never! … war never again, never again war!’

‘Never again war’ probably would be most people’s desire, but are there times when an armed conflict is morally permissible such as in the case of self-defense or to avoid a greater evil?

Conditions for Just War

The Church holds that there are strict conditions requiring rigorous consideration for legitimate defense by military force. The Catechism states, “the gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy.” (CCC 2309)

The conditions are laid out in the Catechism as part of just war theory, developed by St. Augustine and later by St. Thomas Aquinas. According to this theory about acts of war, at one and the same time:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of        nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be          impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. (CCC 2309)

According to the Catechism, those with responsibility for the common good in their “prudential judgment” are to evaluate these conditions.

Resolve conflicts together

Since the US government’s potential action would not be for its own defense and because it could act together with other nations, the Church says that such international or regional organizations “should be in a position to work together to resolve conflicts and promote peace, re-establishing relationships of mutual trust that make recourse to war unthinkable,” according to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. 

The best outcome of this crisis would be for our leaders to continue their current talks and reach a peaceful solution. If they exhaust that possibility, hopefully they will follow the tenets of just war theory in making any decision on the matter.

At Vatican II the Church Fathers left no doubt about their hopes regarding war:

 Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until the coming of Christ; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and they will make these words come true: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Gaudium et Spes 78)

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Britain’s Got Talent–an act that shows the gift of life

September 12, 2013

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This powerful performance by a shadow theatre troupe brought the show’s judges to tears–even Simon Cowell! The performance is by Attraction–a group from Budapest which was founded in 2004 by Zoltan Szucs. They became well-known when they danced at the Hungarian Olympic Oath Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics. This performance (shown below) won the seventh series of Britain’s Got Talent which was on June 8, 2013.

I love the beating heart of the unborn baby and the adoration the son has for his aging mother. What magnificent messages! (For other faith-filled stories visit News and Faith.) Enjoy!

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First Friday devotion–a dialogue between two hearts

September 6, 2013

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Jesus pours out many blessings on those who have devotion to Him in His Most Sacred Heart. Photo/San Antonio Abad Parish Maybunga, Pasig City.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

Jesus pours out many blessings on those who have devotion to Him in His Most Sacred Heart as part of the First Friday devotion. Photo/San Antonio Abad Parish Maybunga, Pasig City. Licensed under Creative Commons.

The Catholic Church has no lack of devotions. We can choose from dozens of novenas, prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for the intercession of the Blessed Mother or almost any saint. But whether we lack devotion–the whole point of praying the prayers—is another question.

For a long time I bypassed the First Friday devotion. When the first Friday of the month came up–like today–It just seemed like another thing to keep track of when I had enough trouble getting to Mass on time (still do) and making time for prayer.

First Friday devotion, I’ve learned, is about Jesus. He should be the main focus of our love, so a devotion that centers on Him and His Sacred Heart is set apart from other devotions, according to the Sacred Heart Legion. First Friday devotion started in the 1600s when Christ began appearing to a French Visitation nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

So what exactly is the First Friday devotion? Most simply, it calls for receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist on the First Friday of nine consecutive months in honor of His Sacred Heart. That sounds easy enough, but along with that we should have:

  • A true love of Jesus Christ and His Sacred Heart, the source of His excessive mercy, help, graces and blessings.
  • Special respect for, and veneration of, the Blessed Sacrament.
  • A desire to make Reparation for the neglect, indifference and ingratitude of the majority that results in Jesus Christ being left alone, abandoned and forgotten on our altars, never visited to offer consolation for such neglect, though He has given us the miracle of His Divine Presence in the Blessed Sacrament as a supreme gift to us in His desire to be always with us. (Acts of reparation to pray on First Friday are available to download.)

If necessary to receive communion in a state of grace on First Friday (or any day), we should go to confession before Mass.

Many graces available

The Lord offers many graces to those who have devotion to His Sacred Heart. As Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical Haurietis Aquas, (On Devotion to the Sacred Heart):

It is altogether impossible to enumerate the heavenly gifts which devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has poured out on the souls of the faithful, purifying them, offering them heavenly strength, rousing them to the attainment of all virtues.

Among these heavenly gifts, the Lord gave St. Margaret Mary 12 promises for those who are faithful to the First Friday devotion:

1.“I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.”
2. “I will establish peace in their homes.”
3. “I will comfort them in their afflictions.”
4. “I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all in death.”
5. “I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.”
6. “Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.”
7. “Tepid souls shall grow fervent.”
8. “Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.”
9. “I will bless every place where a picture of My Heart shall be set up and honored.”
10. “I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.”
11. “Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.”
12. “I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”

Evidence the Lord reaches out to us

The point of First Friday devotion is to show real devotion to Jesus and His Sacred Heart but the promises are an added incentive. They are evidence that the Lord is reaching out to us in our busyness and indifference.

Biographer Rt. Rev. Emile Bougaud wrote about this in his “The Life of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque,”

“Every new evidence of coldness on the part of man causes God to descend a degree in order to touch the heart from which He cannot succeed in detaching Himself.”

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3 powerful paragraphs on sexuality from Archbishop Nienstedt

September 5, 2013

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“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gn 2:24)

Licensed under Creative Commons by charm2010

Licensed under Creative Commons by charm2010

Men and women are different on the inside and the out. There’s no doubt about it. We were made to interconnect and be interdependent.  This is the nuptial meaning of the body–the eternal mystery of self-giving love.

Christopher West, author of Theology of the Body for Beginners, says, “The whole reality of married life, of course, is a sacrament. But nowhere is the ‘great mystery’ more evident than when the two become ‘one flesh’.”

This union is a miracle really, which is all in God’s marvelous plan for life.

Cooperating with the Creator’s plan

As I read the August 29, 2013 edition of The Catholic Spirit I was in awe of the beautiful way Archbishop John Nienstedt explained the complimentary differences between husband and wife:

“A woman’s body is obviously made in such a way so as to welcome a man’s body, and his is made to respond in kind. Their unimpeded conjugal union is designed to be reproductive, bringing forth new human life that needs to be protected and nourished. The natural context for such a relationship is the life-long, mutually exclusive union of husband and wife in what has, until recently, been called ‘marriage.’

The woman’s body has both fertile and infertile cycles, so as to allow for human reproduction as well as human intimacy and pleasure. Programs of natural family planning teach a couple how to read the signs so as to gain knowledge of how they should respond. It takes much of the guess work out of conception. True, it also takes discipline, but that leads to self-knowledge and virtue.

Natural family planning is not a Catholic version of contraception. Far from it. It is a valued and valuable method by which the married couple cooperates with nature and its laws, all of which have been designed by God ‘from the beginning’.”

The purpose of life

Why is it so difficult for some people to understand this? It should be simple to comprehend. It’s elementary, my dear Watson! It’s biology. It’s the law of nature. It’s black and white. Yin and Yang. Married love. The physical manifestations of male and female.

We are not opposing forces. We interact to form a whole greater than either separate part.

What is the purpose of this beautiful reality?

Christopher West explains it this way (p. 29):

“If you are looking for the meaning of life, according to John Paul II, it’s impressed right in your body–in your sexuality! The purpose of life is to love as God loves, and this is what your body as a man or woman calls you to. Think of it this way: A man’s body doesn’t make sense by itself. Nor does a woman’s body. But seen in light of each other, sexual difference reveals the unmistakable plan of God that man and woman are meant to be a ‘gift’ to one another. Not only that, but their mutural gift (in normal course of events) leads to a ‘third’.”

Yes, life is a gift. Why not embrace it?

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