Is Your Decision God’s Will?

How do you go about making decisions or trying to decide what God’s will is for you.  If you are a young person and are deciding which college to go to, are you going against God’s will by choosing one over the other?  If you are deciding between cities to move your family, if you choose Chicago over Kansas City, is one of those not God’s will? 

I find this topic, as probably most people do, to be fascinating.  So when I discovered Peter Kreeft’s latest article Discernment – (How can I learn God’s Will for me?)  I was hot to trot to read it and I’m glad I did, because it really clarified for me some questions I had and it is probably the best article I have read about this subject.  


God gives us free will, not to watch us screw up but to really give us choices.  Neither Chicago or Kansas City – or Harvard v. Yale are sinful or bad choices.  They are just choices.  If we have prayed to know his will and know what the church teaches about a certain topic and our consciences are clear, we should pick the one we want with no fear.  Yes, Yale might be good, but if you are leaning to Harvard because you like the town better, the girls are prettier or you have friends there, that is just fine.  Go with what you want.  It’s common sense, really.  God gave it to us – let’s use it.

You’ve Got Questions?

I’ve recently discovered a gold mine of great info that I thought I would pass on.  Aggie Catholics, a service of St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University, is a great blog.  They have a fantastic Question & Answer section dedicated to the questions they have received from the ordinary Catholic.  The list is extensive and the questions people have asked are answered in a knowledgeable and compassionate way. You’ll probably learn a lot by just browsing through to take a look.

Getting Mad at God

One of my favorite podcasts is Catholic Under the Hood by Fr. Seraphim Beshoner, TOR a Franciscan Priest at Franciscan University in Stubenville, Ohio. He has a great podcast I have mentioned before, about the spirituality and history of the Catholic Church.

Since Fr. Seraphim has over 200 podcasts, I’ve been working my way through old episodes and found one today that I thought many of you may find helpful. Getting Mad at God takes a look at whether it is OK to be angry with God, how we should deal with our emotions about suffering, and how to pray when you are angry so that Christ can enter into your life more deeply. If you have been struggling because of life’s difficulties this may be for you.

Holiness the Key to Overcome Abuse Scandals

I belong to a wonderful international Catholic mothers email group. One of my friends there, Susan, saved an important article from 2002 that has deep meaning today. I thought I would share it with you.

When your friends, family and co-workers disparage the Church, insult you, keep telling you priests are all phonies, or how they left the church because of the scandals. Remember this article.

A Catholic Response Amid the Sex-Abuse Scandals
Holiness Is the Key, Says a Priest in Massachusetts

BOSTON, Massachusetts, MARCH 6, 2002 (Zenit.org).- To put perspective on the pedophilia scandals involving priests in the Boston Archdiocese, ZENIT is publishing an adapted excerpt from a recent homily by Father Roger Landry.

Father Landry delivered it Feb. 3 at Espirito Santo, a parish church in Fall River, a city in a nearby diocese of the same name.

* * *

The headlines this past week did not focus on the Patriots? march to the Super Bowl, or on who would QB, Drew or Tom, or even on the president?s State of the Union address and his comment that there are many al-Qaida operatives in the U.S. like “ticking time-bombs.” None of these was the top story. The headlines were captured by the very sad news that perhaps up to 70 priests in the Archdiocese of Boston have abused young people whom they were consecrated to serve.

It’s a huge scandal, one that many people who have long disliked the Church because of one of her moral or doctrinal teachings are using as an issue to attack the Church as a whole, trying to imply that they were right all along.

Many people have come up to me to talk about it. Many others have wanted to, but I think out of respect and of not wanting to bring up what they thought might be bad news, have refrained, but it was obvious to me that it was on their mind. And so, today, I’d like to tackle the issue head-on. You have a right to it. We cannot pretend as if it didn’t exist. And I’d like to discuss what our response should be as faithful Catholics to this terrible scandal.

The first thing we need to do is to understand it from the point of view of our faith in the Lord. Before he chose his first disciples, Jesus went up the mountain all night to pray. He had at the time many followers. He talked to his Father in prayer about whom he would choose to be his Twelve Apostles, the Twelve he would himself form intimately, the Twelve whom he would send out to preach the Good News in his name.

He gave them power to cast out demons. He gave them power to cure the sick. They watched him work countless miracles. They themselves in his name worked countless others.

Yet, despite all of that, one of them was a traitor. One who had followed the Lord, who had had his feet washed by the Lord, who had seen him walk on water, raise people from the dead, forgive sinners, betrayed the Lord. The Gospel tells us that he allowed Satan to enter into him and then he sold the Lord for 30 pieces of silver, handing him over by faking a gesture of love. “Judas,” Jesus said to him in the garden of Gethsemane, “Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Jesus didn’t choose Judas to betray him. He chose him to be like all the others. But Judas was always free, and he used his freedom to allow Satan to enter into him, and he ended up betraying God and getting him crucified and executed.

So right from the first Twelve that Jesus himself chose, one was a terrible traitor. Sometimes God’s chosen ones betray him. That’s a fact that we have to confront. It’s a fact that the early Church confronted. If the scandal caused by Judas were all that the members of the early Church focused on, the Church would have been finished before it even started to grow. Instead, the Church recognized that you don’t judge something by those who don’t live it, but by those who do. Instead of focusing on the one who betrayed, they focused on the other Eleven, on account of whose work, preaching, miracles, love for Christ, we are here today. …

The media almost never focus on the good “Eleven,” the ones whom Jesus has chosen who remain faithful, who live lives of quiet holiness. But we, the Church, must keep the terrible scandal that we’ve witnessed in its true and full perspective.

Scandal is unfortunately nothing new for the Church. There have been many times in the history of the Church when the Church was much worse off than it is now. The history of the Church is like a cosine curve, with ups and downs throughout the centuries. At each of the times when the Church hit its low point, God raised up tremendous saints to bring the Church back to its real mission. It’s almost as if in those times of darkness, the Light of Christ shone ever more brightly. I’d like to focus a little on a couple of saints whom God raised up in these most difficult times, because their wisdom can really guide us during this difficult time.

What should our reaction be then? Two great saints who lived during difficult times can guide us in this our own difficult time.

Once, St. Francis de Sales was asked to address the situation of the scandal caused by some of his brother priests during the 1500s and 1600s. What he said is as important for us today as it was for his listeners then.

He stated, “Those who commit these types of scandals are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder,” destroying other people’s faith in God by their terrible example. But then he warned his listeners, “But I’m here among you to prevent something far worse for you. While those who give scandal are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder, those who take scandal — who allow scandals to destroy their faith — are guilty of spiritual suicide.

They’re guilty, he said, of cutting off their life with Christ, abandoning the source of life in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. He went among the people in Switzerland trying to prevent their committing spiritual suicide on account of the scandals. I’m here to preach the same thing to you.

Another great saint can help us further. St. Francis of Assisi lived in the 1200s, which was a time of terribly immorality in central Italy. Priests were setting terrible example. Lay immorality was even worse. St. Francis himself while a young man even gave some scandal to others, by his carefree ways.

But eventually he was converted back to the Lord, founded the Franciscans, helped God rebuild his Church and became one of the great saints of all time. Once one of the brothers in the Franciscans asked him a question. The brother was very sensitive to scandals.

“Brother Francis,” he said, “What would you do if you knew that the priest celebrating Mass had three concubines on the side?” Francis, without missing a beat, said slowly, “When it came time for holy Communion, I would go to receive the sacred Body of my Lord from the priest’s anointed hands.”

What was Francis getting at? He was getting at a tremendous truth of the faith and a tremendous gift of the Lord. No matter how sinful a priest is, provided that he has the intention to do what the Church does — at Mass, for example, to change bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood, or in confession, no matter how sinful he is personally, to forgive the penitent’s sins — Christ himself acts through that minister in the sacraments.

Whether Pope John Paul II celebrates the Mass or whether a priest on death row for a felony celebrates Mass, it is Christ who himself acts and gives us his own body and blood. So what Francis was saying in response to the question of his religious brother that he would receive the sacred Body of his Lord from the priest’s anointed hands is that he was not going to let the wickedness or immorality of the priest lead him to commit spiritual suicide.

Christ can still work and does still work even through the most sinful priest. And thank God! If we were always dependent on the priest’s personal holiness, we’d be in trouble. …

And so, again, I ask, “What should the response of the Church be to these deeds?” There has been a lot of talk about that in the media. Does the Church have to do a better job in making sure no one with any predisposition toward pedophilia gets ordained? Absolutely. But that would not be enough.

Does the Church have to do a better job in handling cases when they are reported? The Church has changed its way of handling these cases, and today they’re much better than they were in the 1980s, but they can always be perfected. But even that is not enough.

Do we have to do more to support the victims of such abuse? Yes we do, both out of justice and out of love! But not even that is adequate.

Cardinal Law has gotten most of the deans of the medical schools in Boston to work on establishing a center for the prevention of child abuse, which is something that we should all support. But not even that is a sufficient response.

The only adequate response to this terrible scandal, the only fully Catholic response to this scandal — as St. Francis of Assisi recognized in the 1200s, and as countless other saints have recognized in every century — is holiness!

Every crisis that the Church faces, every crisis that the world faces, is a crisis of saints. Holiness is crucial, because it is the real face of the Church. There are always people — a priest meets them regularly, you probably know several of them — who use excuses for why they don’t practice the faith, why they slowly commit spiritual suicide. It can be because a nun was mean to them when they were 9. Or because they don’t understand the teaching of the Church on a particular issue — as if any of these reasons would truly justify their lack of practice of the faith, as if any of them would be able to convince their consciences not to do what they know they should.

There will doubtless be many people these days — and you will probably meet them — who will say, “Why should I practice the faith, why should I go to Church, since the Church can’t be true if God’s so-called chosen ones can do the types of things we’ve been reading about?” This scandal is a huge hanger on which some will try to hang their justification for not practicing the faith. That’s why holiness is so important. They need to find in all of us a reason for faith, a reason for hope, a reason for responding with love to the love of the Lord. The beatitudes which we have in today’s Gospel are a recipe for holiness. We all need to live them more.

Do priests have to become holier? They sure do. Do religious brothers and sisters have to become holier and give ever greater witness of God and heaven? Absolutely. But all people in the Church do, including lay people! We all have the vocation to be holy and this crisis is a wake-up call.

It’s a tough time to be a priest today. It’s a tough time to be a Catholic today. But it’s also a great time to be a priest and a great time to be a Catholic. Jesus says in the beatitudes we heard today, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of slander against you falsely because of me. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward in heaven is great.”

It’s a great time to be a Christian, because this is a time in which God really needs us to show off his true face. In olden days in America, the Church was respected. Priests were respected. It?’ not so any more.

One of the greatest Catholic preachers in American history, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, used to say that he preferred to live in times when the Church has suffered rather than thrived, when the Church had to struggle, when the Church had to go against the culture.

It was a time for real men and real women to stand up and be counted. “Even dead bodies can float downstream,” he used to say, pointing that many people can coast when the Church is respected, “but it takes a real man, a real woman, to swim against the current.” How true that is! It takes a real man and a real woman to stand up now and swim against the current that is flowing against the Church. It takes a real man and a real woman to recognize that when swimming against the flood of criticism, you’re safest when you stay attached to the Rock on whom Christ built his Church. This is one of those times. It’s a great time to be a Christian.

This is a time in which all of us need to focus ever more on holiness. We’re called to be saints and how much our society here needs to see this beautiful, radiant face of the Church. You’re part of the solution, a crucial part of the solution. And as you come forward today to receive from this priest’s anointed hands the sacred Body of your Lord, ask him to fill you with a real desire for sanctity, a real desire to show off his true face.

One of the reasons why I’m here in front of you as a priest today is because while I younger, I was underimpressed with some of the priests I knew. I would watch them celebrate Mass and almost without any reverence whatsoever drop the Body of the Lord onto the paten, as if they were handling something with little value rather than the Creator and Savior of all, rather than my creator and savior.

I remember saying to the Lord, reiterating my desire to be a priest, “Lord, please let me become a priest, so I can treat you like you deserve!” It gave me a great fire to serve the Lord. Maybe this scandal can allow you to do the same thing.

This scandal can be something that can lead you down to the path of spiritual suicide, or it can be something that can inspire you to say, finally, “I want to become a saint, so that the Church can show your true face, O Lord, to the world, so that others might find in you the love and the salvation that I have found.”

Jesus is with us, as he promised, until the end of time. He’s still in the bark of Peter and will prevent its capsizing. Just as out of Judas’ betrayal, he achieved the greatest victory in world history, our salvation through his passion, death and resurrection, so out of this he may bring, and wants to bring, a new rebirth of holiness, a new Acts of the Apostles for the 21st century, with each of us — and that includes you — playing a starring role.

Now’s the time for real men and women of the Church to stand up. Now’s the time for saints. How do you respond?
 

Being Catholic With Infertility

Like many couples, my husband and I suffered with infertility. Our first child was conceived easily, but it wound up being 8 years before we had another child. During that time we underwent most of the standard tests and encountered the usual problems, such as doctors who casually recommend IVF as if it was no more problematic than having your tonsils removed.

I dismissed it immediately because I knew the Church teachings, but even my non-religious protestant husband thought it was wrong. “It is just the wrong way to bring a child into the world,” he said. He instinctively knew IVF was an affront to human dignity, although he did not phrase it that way. I wish we had known about NFP and charting and also some of the links below.

Many Catholics have absolutely no clue as to what the Church teaches about fertility, infertility and all the “reproductive technologies” like In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Many don’t really want to know either, if they suspect it may not allow them to do whatever they want.

Infertility is inherently a painful, stressful time in couples lives. But it can also mean a time of growth and a time of learning to trust God completely. That is what happened with us. After all the years waiting, crying, prayers and licit procedures, we finally decided to stop trying. I told God that if He wanted us to have another baby I will trust that He will send us one, but that I needed to go on with my life. I could not continue to go on like this. And that is what we did. Several years later, we discovered we were unexpectedly pregnant. It was all in God’s time, not our time. We wanted kids 2 years apart. God had other ideas.

I thought I would share with you some articles and resources to help you and your spouse if infertility is in your lives.

Perfect Work at InsideCatholic.com

The Pope Paul VI Center uses the Creighton Model and NaPro Technology to help couples conceive naturally. There are doctors trained in this technology all over the country. If you are having trouble conceiving, this should definitely be one of the places you check out. Read one couple’s experience with NaPro at CatholicInfertility.org

Here is a series of articles from Catholic Exchange about
The Gift of Infertility: Part I, Part II, Part III & Part IV by Dr. Jameson and Jennifer Taylor.

You might also be interested in Catholic Infertility Resources

Gearing Up For Lent

Lent begins in a couple of days with Ash Wednesday.  How will you be trying to get closer to Christ this Lent?  Here are some resources to help get you started:

EWTN’s Lenten & Easter Meditations 2010

Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten Message for 2010

You need to go to confession. Here is a fantastic website from the Archdiocese of Boston about The Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka: Confession) TheLightIsOnForYou.org   It has lots of resources and examinations of conscience. 

I have discovered a fantastic podcast called Into the Deep.  Three married lay men discuss how to get closer to Christ through prayer and learn about what the Catholic faith teaches.  They are so enthusiastic and it is great to listen to them.  Here is one set of podcasts to get you started: How Lent Makes You Holy: Part 1 and Part 2.

CatholicMom.com brings us a Woman’s Stations of the Cross

One of the most fruitful things you can do during Lent is read some good, solid Catholic books.  Try one of these four Lenten Reading Plans to get you started.  This is very well done! 

Eric Sammons at his Divine Life blog has some great tips for bringing silence and peace in your life this Lent  Snow & The Beautiful Sound of Silence

You must go to this site, they have a great comprehensive Lenten post.  If you want to know something about Lent, it’s here: Aggie Catholics Annual Lenten Mega-Post

Finally, A little Lenten humor – There’s a little black spot on your head today 

May God bless you this Lent and my you grow closer to him every day.

Real Love

 
In March of 1920, a bachelor police officer, decided it was time to seriously look for a wife, so – there being no computers or internet then – he used the current technology and put an advertisement in the newspaper.

“Middle ranking civil servant, single, Catholic, 43-years-old, immaculate past, from the countryside, is seeking a good Catholic pure girl, who can cook well, and who can do all housework, who is also capable of sewing and a good homemaker in order to marry at the soonest opportunity.  Personal fortune would be desirable but is not however a precondition.”

The ad did not work.  He received a promotion at work, and decided to try again. He placed the ad again in July.  This time a woman named Maria Peintner, 36 years old and a cook, answered the ad.  There was no personal fortune.  They met at a coffee shop and were engaged a few days later.  The wedding was in November.  The last of their three children was born in 1927 and they decided to name him after his father…Joseph. 


Joseph Ratzinger… Later to become our Pope Benedict XVI.  
No one knew how Joseph’s parents met, but later Peter Becker, a former editor of the newspaper, Aotoettinger Liebfrauen Messenger, found the ad and sent it to the Pope who was touched.  The Holy Father said he was reminded of the quote from Albert Schweitzer who said: “Coincidence is the pseudonym that dear God chooses when he wants to remain incognito.”
The elder Joseph died in 1959, and Maria died in 1963.  By all accounts they had a long and happy marriage.  How is it that until about 40-50 years ago divorce was uncommon?  As always, it is a combination of several reasons, but love was different then.  Not so “romantic” but more filled with an understanding of sacrifice and hard work.  There was also not an expectation of finding a “soul-mate,” someone who is the only one who can “complete” you and make you fundamentally happy .  Joseph and Maria met, decided they had the same goals, and were willing to sacrifice whatever it took to make the marriage work and raise their kids.  From that came happiness.  A happiness in God.  
May you have a blessed and Happy Valentines Day.  A happiness in God.

Advice for Someone Returning to the Catholic Church

A few weeks ago, a woman emailed our parish, of which I am webmaster, to say that she would like to return to the Catholic Church and asked what she should do? She had been baptized Catholic but had not attended since. This is quite a common occurrence, so I thought I would share with you what I told her, in a slightly adapted version. It would be good advice for a new Catholic as well.

How wonderful for you! I’m so happy for you to take this step!

First, I would advise you call the Religious Education Office at your chosen parish to register for RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which is the program you will need to take to learn about the faith and to get your sacraments. This usually starts in the Fall.

Second, I would recommend for you make an appointment with one of your parish priests to have a chat to get you started in your spiritual life. I’m sure he would love to meet with you. Don’t be shy.

Third, I would start attending Mass every week, if you aren’t already. Even though you can’t take Communion, you can make a Spiritual Communion at any time, but especially during Communion time at mass. The Spiritual Communion prayer is found here:

Fourth, get a Catholic Bible (protestant bibles don’t have all the books of the bible, so you want a Catholic one) The New Catholic Answer Bible: The New American Bible is excellent. The Leather version is called The New Catholic Answer Bible – Librosario It is beautiful, and is the bible we gave our son for his Confirmation. Start reading it in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) & Acts. Mark is a great one to read first because it is short.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you might want to check out these websites and books to help nourish yourself along your journey – of course, at your own pace.

Catholic Answers
A Simple Guide to Christian Meditation
How to Pray the Rosary
EWTN Faith Teachings
Envoy Read back issues & articles
New American Bible Online
Catholics Come Home

Books:
Prayer Primer : Igniting a Fire Within – Fr. Thomas Dubay
Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism An easy must-read by Scott & Kimberly Hahn
The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You Michael Dubruiel
7 Books for New Catholics

Also, see if there is a Catholic library at your parish or a neighboring one. There are also great podcasts online to help nourish you too. You can listen to them on an MP3 player or on your computer. See my list of podcasts on the left side of this website.

If you need any information or have any questions about the Faith, please don’t hesitate to contact me so I can send you in the right direction.

Congrats on this great step in your life,
God Bless,
Marcy

UPDATE: You might also find helpful the Catholics Come Home website.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

This is a great video! My parish needs one of these! Look how many guys it takes to do this. Thanks Patrick Madrid for passing it on.

Update: My pastor, Fr. Alejandro Roque, OMI has been to this Cathedral and has seen this. He says it is phenomenal. The coals inside it glow bright red and as it swings it looks like a comet going at great speed. I really would love to see it now.

A Call to Conscience


This past Friday, November 20th, a group of Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians issued a document called the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience. This document originally signed by over 125 prominent religious leaders, is a 4,700 word call to Christians to stand by their convictions and not abandon their consciences when it comes to the defining issues of our day.

Normally, I don’t include any political references in this blog simply because others say it much better than me, and my forte is resources not politics. But I feel this is an important document and I have signed it. If you are interested in learning more, or in signing it (and the names are kept private) I urge you to visit The Manhattan Declaration website or their Facebook Page. The entire text and also the names of the original signers are here.

I was glad to see that several important Catholics, including bishops and cardinals have officially signed it. Their names are:

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Denver
Most Rev. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop, Diocese of New York, N.Y.
Dr. William Donohue, President, Catholic League (New York)
Fr. Joseph D. Fessio, Founder and Editor, Ignatius Press (Ft. Collins, Colo.)
Dr. Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College & Kings College (N.Y.)
Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky.
His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop Emeritus, Diocese of Detroit
Most Rev. Richard J. Malone, Bishop, Diocese of Portland, Maine
Most Rev. John J. Myers, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.
Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop, Diocese of Kansas City, Kan.
Most Rev. John Nienstedt, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop, Diocese of Phoenix
His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan, Bishop, Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo.
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics & Public Policy Center, Wash D.C.
Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
Most Rev. David A. Zubik, Bishop, Diocese of Pittsburgh