Behold Your Mother

Everyone has a mother. Maybe you don’t know your mother. Maybe she wasn’t a very good mother. Maybe, like me, you had the best mother in the world. Regardless, you had a mother.

Motherhood deserves recognition because you would not exist otherwise. They for whatever reason decided to have you.

In honor of this special day, I would like to take a moment to showcase mothers in the Bible.

Biblical Mothers

There are a lot of good mother figures in the Bible. Samson’s mother and Hannah stand out to me.

In Judges 13, we learn that Samson’s mother was barren. God told her that she would bear a son, who would deliver the Israelites from Philistines. God instructs her to not drink wine or strong drink and to not eat anything unclean.

Hannah’s story is similar. She was also barren. Hannah prayed in the temple. She vowed that if God looked on her affections and gave her a son, she would dedicate him to God. (1st Samuel 1:11)

I think the actions of these Old Testament women foreshadowed Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary, the mother of Jesus

John 19:27 Then he said to the disciple, “behold your mother” and from that hour the disciple took her into his own home

In Luke chapter 1:28, the angel greets Mary as being full of grace. In Luke 1:42, Elizabeth exclaims that Mary is blessed among women. Last Jesus in John tells us to honor her as a mother.

Easter Vigil: Why You Should Attend!

Imagine entering a pitch black sanctuary. The only light to guide you is the soft glow of a candle. Up ahead is the light of the Paschal candle. As you file into the sanctuary looking for your seat, you hear the priest chanting the Exulet:

This is the Easter Vigil.

It gives me goosebumps.

I love the setting and atmosphere. Thus, the Easter Vigil is my favorite liturgical service. I have other reasons for liking it too.

Old Testament References

The Easter vigil starts with The Exulet, which has the following line:

This is the night, when once you led our forebears, Israel’s children,

from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea

Jesus’ death and resurrection did not happen in isolation. Rather God has always rescued his people. The references to the Old Testament continue throughout the night. It starts with the creation story in Genesis and ends with the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus.

Thus, I am reminded that God can rescue me.

Symbolism is on Point

For starters, the paschal candle represents the light of Christ. We all receive this at baptism. When I carry my own candle into the sanctuary, I remember that the light of Christ is always with me.

One of my favorite moments is when the lights are turned on for the first time. I am reminded of how Christ can take away the darkness in my life. Christ’s resurrection offers hope.

Music

Music impacts my life and is a passion of mine. You can read what I’ve written about music here

In my apartment, there is an assortment of posters from all the concerts I have been to over the years. I’m always discovering new bands and artist. When I began to explore Christianity, it wasn’t well-reasoned arguments, but rather music that moved my soul.

The music of the Easter vigil moves my soul.

Not only is most of it beautiful, but it is also joyous.

I like to sing.

After every reading, there is an optional psalm to be sung. Hence, there is a lot more opportunity to sing.

Baptizing Adults

I am a convert to the Catholic faith. The struggles convert face is close to my heart. Thus, I like to support those entering into the Catholic faith. Seeing people receive baptism fills me with joy, It gives me hope for the Catholic Church.

Conclusion

I believe every Catholic should attend the Easter vigil at least once. It is a beautiful liturgy filled with meaning, symbolism, and great music. Yes, it is three hours long. Yes, it is late in the evening. Yet if you attend it will move your soul!

Lent- Transformation or diet plan?

Desert with sand dunes reminds me of Lent

As a young person, I gave up T.V. for Lent.

Yes, you read that correctly. As a twelve-year-old, I wanted to give up T.V. As a young person I believed wrongly that Lent was about giving up something. My twelve-year-old self thought that we earned God’s love through our Lenten sacrifice. My parents supported me. In fact, they liked it so much, the no T.V watching became the household norm.

I grew up.

As I re-entered the Catholic Church and matured in my faith, I began to see the real beauty of Lent. I have learned that Lent is much more than a diet plan. When approached correctly, it can radically change your life. I know that it has changed mine.

Purpose of Lent

Lent has a three-fold purpose: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These practices help us empty ourselves so that we can be filled with God’s presence.

Prayer

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is week Mathew 26:41

Every morning is a battle. The alarm goes off and I am faced with a choice: to snooze or not to snooze. My tired eyes beckon me to sleep for five more minutes. Yet my soul knows that those five minutes I could be spending with God. Jesus tells us that prayer protects us from temptation. In my life, I am tempted to fall into despair. In those moments I turn to the Divine Mercy prayer.

Eternal Father, whose mercy is endless and whose treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly on us and increase in us Your mercy, that in difficult moments, we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your most holy will, which is love and mercy itself.

Prayer has helped me fight my inner demons. Nowhere has this become more clear than during Lent. I discovered the Litany of Trust during the fourth week of Lent. I decided to pray it every day during Lent. Since then I have seen my confidence grow and God doing impossible things.

Fasting

I like food.

I am the worse when it comes to fasting. It seems like every Friday I get a craving for fried chicken. One time I had left my Friday holy hour hungry. I decided to go through KFC drive through because I could not wait. As soon as I had the food in my hands, I remembered that it was a day of absence from meat. I reluctantly ate it as to not waste food.

In my moments of weakness I recall Jesus’ example:

And he fasted for forty days and forty nights and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “if you are the son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “it is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:2-4

I know that if I was Jesus, I would have given into the devil’s demands. By forcing us to fast, Lent reminds us of our human weakness. Every time I’m tempted to snack on some crackers or gorge on fried chicken, I realize how much I need God’s grace.

Alms Giving

I am frugal with money.

I struggle with Works of Mercy because I keep to myself and help myself. God decided to shake me up. One Saturday after confession, the priest told me to do a random act of kindness as part of my penance. As someone, who keeps to themselves, this was completely out of my comfort zone. I agonized over the decision. Ultimately, I ended up buying a cup of coffee for someone in line behind me. God must have a sense of humor. It turns out that the people in line behind me were buying together. When the cashier asked me if I wanted to pay for both, I awkwardly said yes.

I’ll admit that it did feel good to buy them coffee. Ever since I have looked for ways to do random acts. I hope to one day get to the point where my Lenten sacrifice involves doing an act of kindness every day. Until then God has a lot of work to do.

Lent reimagined

Lent was never intended to be a self-improvement plan or a diet regimen. It transforms us by making us walk in Jesus’ footsteps. Like Jesus, we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to the desert. We can be tempted by hunger, greed, or business, but we will not give in. Instead, we will find that we need God.

Shiro and LGBT in Children’s media

legs and feet on bed in front of TV which says Netflix

Introduction

Dear reader, I apologize for the late post, but I was gone all weekend. Also, this blog post contains spoilers for the Dragon Prince and Voltron. If you do not want them spoiled, please do not read.

Relational ministry is one of the key components of youth ministry. In relational ministry, one seeks to form a relationship with the youth. This relationship usually begins through discussion of tv shows, movies, or music. As someone, who aspires to work with youth, I find that it is important to know what they are watching. While working with the youth this year, they introduced me to The Dragon Prince and Voltron. Both shows have been heavily criticized for their handling of LGBT characters. In my own personal opinion, a diversity of people in any show, but especially a kids show, is welcomed. I am unique in that 1. I don’t expect media to have Christian values, and 2. I don’t get upset when a show incorporates new world views to consider. I do however get upset when the world views are not fully depicted or have no effect on the story. I realize that this topic can be divisive. When it comes to media representation I tend to take a midline stance on such issues. Yet I fear that carless representation will continue and ruin otherwise good stories. I will discuss the dragon prince characters, Annika and Neha, and Voltron’s character Shiro. Both are not a good depiction of LGBT characterization.

The Dragon Prince

The Dragon Prince is made by some of the same people who worked on Avatar the last Airbender. In a nutshell, The Dragon Prince is a fantasy show about 3 people. They discover a dragon prince egg and go on a quest to return it. Season 2 came out on February 15th. It was highly anticipated and received good reviews. It has been described as Game of Thrones for kids and teenagers. The comparison is not inaccurate. The show covers dragons, magic and political intrigue. Most of the characters are morally grey and have various motivations. It even quotes philosophical ideas such as The Veil of Ignorance. Thus I am sad that such a smartly written show must cater to LGBT diversity PR. The dragon prince avoids some of the mistakes of Voltron. I also have problems with the depiction of the LGBT as normal and without struggles.

Annika and Neha

According to the fandom Wiki, those are the names of the two queen mothers. They first appear in flashback during the episode Break The Seal. In this episode, Viren is trying to start a war but needs the permission of the surrounding land. In his meeting with the nearby kingdoms, the viewer meets Aanya. Viren tells her the story of her parent’s death in order to persuade her to aid in the war. In the flashback of the story, we see Aanya has two mothers. This is problematic.

Problems with representation

My problem is not that two lesbian queens exist. My problem is that they did not develop the concept far enough. As an adult viewer, I have a basic understanding of biology. I know that two mothers cannot give birth to a child with equal genetics. The child does have genetics from a male sperm donor. Perhaps Aanya is adopted rather than biologically related. If this is the case, then how can Aanya have a legitimate claim to the throne. The writers chose to make the queens have a lesbian relationship. By this choice, the show takes on more questions than it wishes to answer. Furthermore, the writers killed off the lesbian queens in a past battle. This makes the reputation feel forced. The writers need to provide answers. If not, they shouldn’t show a lesbian relationship with a child. Otherwise, it comes across as an attempt to convince kids that two women can have a kid normally. The reality is that it is not normal and always involves a third party.

Voltron

If guardians of the galaxy, transformers and power rangers had a baby you would have this show. It centers around 4 main characters. While studying at a military space academy, they discover the blue lion. It is one of the lions that form Voltron. Voltron is the protector of the universe. The 4 Characters are Lance, Pidge, Hunk, and Keith. All 4 people find the lions and throughout the series save cultures from the Galra, an evil alien race. The 4 teenagers end up being led by Shiro, who is a military space officer.

Shiro

The show depicts Shiro as a leader and space explorer, who is happiest while flying. He endures a lot of hardships including PTSD like symptoms. Despite this adversity, he becomes a hero. The only hint that Shiro is a gay character occurs in season 7 episode 1. The main story of this episode centers on Keith and Shiro’s relationship. Shiro is recruiting young teenagers to join the space academy. During recruitment, Shiro discovers Keith’s natural ability to fly. Shiro becomes a mentor and father-like figure to Keith. In this episode, the viewer also discovers that Shiro has the early onset of a muscular disorder. Thus he is being pressured to retire. About 17 minutes into the episode, the viewers get a one-minute interaction. with a fellow cadet Adam, who warns Shiro not to go on the mission. Adam asks, “how important am I to you?” Adam says, “if you go, don’t expect me to be back.” It could be taken as a concerned friend or a romantic partner.

Towards the end of the series, we see Shiro visibly upset over Adam’s death. In the final minute of the show, we see Shiro with another man. They are getting married. The show ends with them kissing.

Problems with representation

This depiction is problematic because of no development. This depiction implies that the only way for Shiro to be happy is to be openly gay and married. Yet Shiro’s priority was not marriage but flying. Shiro never struggled with his gayness and that is unrealistic. Some argue persuasively that it is Liberal PR move.

What I want going forward

I want a story first narrative. Writers should ask, “does making a person LGBT effect the story in a meaning full way?” I also want writers to not shy away from depicting openly gay characters because they do exist in life. Similarly, writers should not be afraid to depict same-sex attraction people, who choose to find their identity in other areas. Shiro could have been the latter. The media would rather try to win brownie points for being progressive.

March for Life Controversy: A Response to Covington

Last Friday, January 18th The March for Life took place in Washington D.C. People from all walks of life come to protest against the legality of abortion. For this reason, the event has become highly politicalized. I attended The March for Life myself three years ago. I went with the Young Adult group at Holy Spirit parish. We attended The Life Is Very Good Rally in Fairfax, Virginia. Then we traveled from Fairfax to Washington D.C for The March. It was very crowded and we had a hard time finding parking. Nevertheless, I marched with a thousand others all united behind one idea. This gave me an exhilarating feeling. The event empowered me to want to help defend the vulnerable and defenseless. For this reason, I am sad to hear about the controversy that surrounded this year’s March for Life.

The Controversy

During this year’s March For Life, an altercation occurred. The altercation was between Covington Catholic high school students and Native American protesters. There appears to be a standoff between one of the high school boys and Nathan Phillips. In this post, I will attempt to break down what happened. I will then state some problems that occurred. I will attempt to draw a non-partisan neutral conclusion.

For those interested, the above is a link to an hour-long unedited video of the event.

The Players

The first party on the scene is the Black Hebrew Israelites group. If you have ever been to Washington D.C you have seen this group. I had the unfortunate luck to run into them in Chinatown. They tend to preach a lot of racist and nasty things. The first hour of that video attests to this fact. It should be noted that they say some nasty things about the high school youth as well

The second party on the scene is the Covington Catholic boys. They start appearing around 58 minutes in the video along with other young people. They were done with the March and waiting for their bus. At 1:09 in the video they appear to get anxious and rowdy. They claim they were chanting their school song. In my opinion, it looks no different than the way we behave at a basketball game or football game. I cannot make out what they are saying. One young man does take his shirt off and dance. They continue chanting, clapping, and dancing even after approached by Nathan Phillips.

The third party is Nathan Phillips. He walked into the crowd of teenagers. He beat his drum and chanted. He claims he was trying to defuse a tense situation. He approaches a young man, who for whatever reason does not move. They start at each other until the young men leave the buses. He claims that he heard chants of build a wall. He claims the students were mocking him.

Summary of the event

For those, who do not want to watch the video or do not have time, here is a neutral description of the events.

  1. Catholic students attended the March for Life.
  2. After March was over, students were instructed to wait by Lincoln memorial
  3. Black Hebrew Israelites were preaching

  4. Called students racial slurs

  5. Students start chanting and getting rowdy

  6. Native Americans begin their protest

  7. Nathan Phillips approaches the group of students

  8. Student’s continue to chant and be rowdy

  9. Nathan Phillips stops in front of one of the young men and there is a standoff

Problems and unresolved issues

Obviously, clips of this video have gone viral. These viral clips have caused a divide among Americans. Catholics are especially divided. After all one of the parties in question is a Catholic high school. I personally feel that all parties handled the situation in a negative way.

1. The Media

The media initially put a spin on the story. They made the high schoolers look bad by over exaggerating the facts. For example, they stated that the students swarmed around Nathan Phillip. When in reality he walked up to them. In the eagerness to report breaking news, the media failed to do its diligence. Meanwhile, the story goes viral. This leads to the high school becoming a hashtag and the young boys becoming vilified. Likewise, the media is quick to believe that those in the minority are the victim. Now I am not saying the young men were angels and Nathan Phillips was not victimized. Yet it is not so black and white or cut and dry as the media claims.

2. Nathan Phillips

Nathan Phillips testimony is unreliable. Why did he say that the young men surround him when he walked up to them? Why did he say they chanted build a wall, when it’s unclear what they chanted? We must remember that this man was part of a protest. Thus regardless of his intentions, he has an agenda. We must take his testimony seriously, but we must also take the young men’s testimony seriously. The truth is likely somewhere in between.

3. Adults

My question upon hearing about the event has always been, Where are the adults? Why did they not know a protest was happening at the Lincoln Memorial? Why not move the pickup location elsewhere? Why did they think encouraging school chants was appropriate? Why didn’t they stop once it escalated? The young men should have behaved better, but the adult chaperons and the school failed them. They failed to prepare the young men on how to act appropriately. They failed to provide enough volunteers to accompany a group that size. I work with youth. They can be very rowdy. Yet you should have their respect enough to calm them down.

4. MAGA hats

The high school should have discouraged wearing the MAGA hats in such a politically charged environment. A Catholic institution, it should not have political affiliation with a particular person. Jesus was not a republican or democrat. Rather Catholic social justice incorporates both party lines. It advocates for providing help for the poor and immigrants. These are traditionally democratic issues. Yet it also advocates for pro-life stances and traditional marriage. These are traditionally Republican issues. The church has said that Catholics cannot vote for any non-pro-life candidate. Beyond that, it has neglected to make any political statement. The young men represent a Catholic institution. Thus they should also be encouraged to endorse a similar nuance. The school unwillingly made the young men targets for a political agenda.

5. The Youth’s behavior

I believe that the youth behaved in an insensitive way. They were attempting to participate in a protest they did not understand. They were encouraged by adults to be loud and rowdy. This behavior can be misconstrued as hostile. Rather than trying to drown out the protesters, they should have turned the other cheek. Regarding the young man, who stared down Nathan Phillips, my question is why? Were you confused? Were you pressured? Did you think that was appropriate behavior? If the young man moves out of the way we would have no controversy. Yet I do believe a lot of adults would not have moved out of the way and would have behaved much worse. We must remember that these are teenagers and not adults.

Conclusion

As a Catholic, I am disappointed. Covington Catholic High school did not prepare the students to witness a protest. They did not have enough adult chaperons. They allowed the youth to make a political statement by wearing the MAGA hats. Yet the Native American protesters and the Black Hebrew Israelites escalated things. All parties failed. We can go around pointing fingers and calling people names. Yet at the end of the day, we can either continue to divide ourselves or acknowledge that all parties are wrong and life is not black and white.

 

 

Mother of God Solemnity, a Defence

Mary, Mother of God

Introduction

On January 1st, All United States’ Catholics are obligated to attend Mass for the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. In other countries, this feast is known as a solemnity. I used to joke about the United States Council of Bishops making it a holy day of obligation. I thought it was to prevent Catholics from partying and drinking too much. In reality, the choice of January 1st has historical precedent. In this post, I will define solemnity and Holy day of Obligation. Next, this post will describe the importance of Mary, Mother of God and why the Church chose January 1st.

Solemnity

The Catholic encyclopedia defines solemnity as a feast that deserves extra attention. Solemnities occur because either they are important for the entire faithful or they celebrate a local saint. A lot of parishes take their name from saints. Thus the feast day of that saint becomes a solemnity for them. The Church considers Mary, Mother of God to be so important to the faithful. Thus, The Church also celebrates it as a solemnity. In the United States, the solemnity of Mother of God is also a Holy Day of Obligation. In fact, all Holy Days of Obligation are solemnities, but not all solemnities are Holy Days of Obligations. There are ten Holy Days of Obligation.

Holy Days of Obligation

Canon 1246 states that Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation. In addition to Sunday, The Church gives ten other days. These include: the day of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Epiphany, the Ascension, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Mary Mother of God, Her Immaculate Conception, Her Assumption, Saint Joseph, the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, and finally, All Saints 1. Canon 1246 gives power to Bishops to abolish certain holy days of obligation with prior approval. This explains why Catholics celebrate Mother of God in the United States.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Why January 1st?

The Catholic Church celebrates this solemnity on January 1st. In the Byzantine Church, the celebration of the second person always occurs after the primary person 2. For the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the primary person would be Jesus. The Church celebrates Jesus on December 25th. Thus, any celebration of Mary’s motherhood would occur after December 25th2. Different locations celebrated the Solemnity of Mother of God on various different dates. The Coptic Catholic Church celebrated on January 16th 2. The Catholic Church in France celebrated on January 18th2. The Roman Church celebrated on January 1st2. The Roman church chose this date because they wanted to replace the pagan feast of the God Janus 2.

In the fifth century, disputes arose about the nature of Jesus’ divinity. The major question centered on whether Jesus inherited two natures. Mary contributed to his human nature and God contributed to his divine nature. The Council of Ephesus met to debate and decide this issue. They declared Jesus had one nature that was fully human and divine and thus Mary was the Mother of God. The Solemnity was extended to the entire Latin Church in 1931, the fifteenth century of the Council of Ephesus 1. When choosing a date, The Church went with the ancient practice of Rome. Pope Paul VI explains,

This celebration is assigned to January 1st in conformity with the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome2.

So we Catholics celebrate Mary, Mother of God on January 1st. We should understand The Church is not trying to prevent late night parties. Rather, The Church deems it important and desires to honor the Roman traditional date.

Celebrating the solemnity today

So what can we as Catholics today learn from celebrating Mary, Mother of God. First of all, we remember Mary’s yes to God. When we remember her yes, we are strengthened to make our own yes to God. We remember Mary’s humanity. We can acknowledge that Christ was fully divine and fully human. One must understand Christ’s nature to understand the incarnation and our own salvation.. Last, when attending Mass on the New Year, we make a conscious effort to put God first before starting a New Year. So this New Year, don’t sleep off a hangover, spend some time with your spiritual mother by attending the solemnity of Mary Mother of God.


  1. https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/holy_days_of_obligation.htm 
  2. https://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/S/solemnityofmary.asp 

Putting Christ back in Chrismas

Top picture is a Christmas landscape with snow, trees, Christmas decorations. Bottom picture is a nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a manger

Introduction

When we think of Christmas Eve, we typically think of family gatherings, gift giving, and a nice meal. If we have young children or are young children, we might prepare for St. Nick to visit. We rarely make time for or appreciate the real reason for the season, which is the birth of Jesus Christ. On Christmas Day, the son of God came down in the form of a baby. He was born in a dirty manger. Have we really stopped in the midst of the busy holiday season to ask why? What is the significance of the incarnation for Christian theology? Also, why does it continue to be important for us today?

Significance for Christianity

I touched on this in my last blog post, 6 Reasons to Believe in Christianity. I believe that the incarnation is one of the top reasons to believe in Christianity.

Redeemed Humanity

In the incarnation, God took on humanity’s nature. This action restored the grace that humanity had at the garden of Eden. When Christ destroyed death for one, he destroyed death for all. St. Paul puts it this way,

“For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ” Romans 5:17

Jesus’ victory over death applies to all humanity as a gift. How one accepts this gift is a point of contention between Protestants and Catholics. This topic of soteriology is too broad for this post.

Reveals God the Father

Not only does the incarnation ensure our salvation, but it also reveals who God is to all. Jesus reveals that God is not some mystical guy in the sky. Rather, God is a real tangible person. St. Athanasius argues that neither creation nor the law is enough to remind us of God. Thus, God being a good king would not let us take other masters, but would come down himself.1 Jesus puts it this way,

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:9b

Jesus confirms that through him God the father reveals his true nature.

Made Eye Witness Accounts Possible

Lastly, the incarnation made eyewitness accounts possible. Jesus was a real historical person. The twelve disciples claimed to have seen the resurrection. Yet they also knew Jesus Christ as a human being. All of the disciples died rather than recant that Jesus was the son of God. It is easy to die for believing something someone told you. Muslim martyrs do this all the time. It is harder to die for a claim known to be false. The disciples knew Jesus. Thus, if the disciples had any doubts about his claims, they would’ve had a harder time dying for the cause.

Significance Now

The above are great reasons to believe in Christianity, but what if you are already Christian? Why is it important to recognize the incarnation now? What does it have left to teach us?

First, it teaches that we can have a relationship with the divine. The Bible puts it this way,

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Jesus understands where we are coming from since he has also been tested in a similar way. I once presented the above reason to a Muslim. She was quick to object. She said if God created us wouldn’t he know us. I must admit she had stumped me. Yet I’ve come to realize that knowing and experiencing are two different things. I can know that fire causes pain when touched. Yet I cannot sympathize until I experience being burned myself. I want my God to not just know humanity, but to experience humanity.

Second, it shows that God is not afraid of our mess. Sometimes we can think that we are unlovable or unworthy. The incarnation teaches that if God can enter the mess of a stable, he can enter the mess of our hearts.

Third, it teaches the importance of all life. God entrance into humanity took the form of a vulnerable child, who society did not welcome. Thus, Christians should welcome the poor, the lonely, the immigrant, and the unwanted. The incarnation teaches us the importance of accepting and protecting all human life.

Conclusion

Christmas is the celebration of love, and joy that stems from the coming of Jesus Christ, our savior. Jesus didn’t come as a warrior king ready to do battle. Rather, he entered this world as a newborn baby. The incarnation is significant. It serves as the foundation for salvation theology. It reminds us to love and welcome the outsider. Lastly, it teaches us that God embraces our mess. Christmas is a time when you gather around your family for a nice meal and presents. Yet please also don’t forget to acknowledge Christ’s birth.

1. [st Athanasius On The Incarnation, http://www.copticchurch.net/topics/theology/incarnation_st_athanasius.pdf]

Three Ways to Restore Joy This Christmas

Introduction

I remember December as a kid. It felt like a time of peace, love, and joy. A time for watching holiday classics and eating cookies. The anticipation of gift giving filled me with joy. Now as an adult I know about all the work that made the magic happen. I know how hectic the holidays can be for people. I believe the west has lost sight of the true joy and wonder of the holidays. Let us restore joy by forgoing the commercialized Christmas.

3 ways to restore joy this Christmas

1. Embrace Advent

Advent is a time in which we prepare ourselves to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and in that remembering, we look forward to the second coming of Christ1. The proper attitude is anticipatory joy1. High liturgical churches emphasize advent. You don’t have to be a member to adopt this attitude. Traditionally a person will give up something. Instead, a person will do a spiritual reading and prayer. A lot of different Advent devotionals exist. I like and use Reedemed online.

Some people may object that waiting until December 25th takes away from the fun of the holiday. If we spend December fasting and doing good works while everyone else is partying then when we miss out. This leads me to my second point.

2. Embrace the 12 days of Christmas

We have all heard the silly song, The 12 Days of Christmas. What we think of as a silly song actually teaches truths about how we are to celebrate Christmas. Church tradition tells us that Christmas is not just one day, but a whole season. Over the years the numbering has gotten off, but the twelve days run from December 25th until January 6th. Some European children receive their gifts from the three wise men on Epiphany Sunday. Rather than enjoying all things Christmas for one day, you can enjoy it for twelve.

3. Nix Santa and embrace Saint Nick

I know this is controversial for some parents. They worry that their kid will be left out or spoil it for other kids. I grew up with Santa and don’t regret it. Santa is not bad. However, inventing a lie to capitalize on childlike wonder is not necessary when the original story is full of the miraculous. His first miracle was to heal a woman of a withered hand.

As Nicholas was growing up, he regularly went to study and learn with his teacher. One day as he was on his way he came upon a woman with a withered hand. Stopping, he approached her, laid his hand on her, prayed to God, and made the sign of the cross. The hand miraculously became whole. 2

St. Nicholas is known as the patron saint of children. He models the values of love and generosity. In some cultures, St. Nicholas brings candy and sweets on December 6th, his feast day 2. We can honor St. Nicholas by baking cookies and sweets on his feast day. We can also give to the poor.

Conclusion

The holidays don’t have to be hectic. We can have wonder, peace, and joy. However, we must be intentional in how we celebrate. We must set aside time to pray, and love others. The commercialized world will tell you that you most do and buy everything. However, the reality is that we are to love those closest to us. By loving others, we restore joy to the holiday season.


  1. Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar 
  2. From St. Nicholas Center, where there is more information about the saint, customs from around the world, stories and activities for children, recipes, crafts, and much more to help families, churches and schools learn about and celebrate St. Nicholas. Used by permission. 

Faith In The Midst of Scandal

Faith In The Midst of Scandal

Introduction

If you followed me on social media, you would see that I have not posted anything regarding the sexual abuse scandal. I have not posted not because I am not confused, angry, frustrated, sad, and disappointed. Rather, I could find the words to express my thoughts. Others have posted on the issue and I felt that my voice would be a repetitive clanging cymbal echoing their sentiments. However St. Gregory the Great once said,

“It is better that scandals arise than the truth be suppressed.”

Hence I will no longer keep silent on this issue; I will express my confusion, anger, sadness, and disappointment

Confusion leading up to the scandal

The application of Amoris Laetitia confused me. I struggled to understand the intercommunion statement given by the German bishops. When Pope Francis made the death penalty inadmissible, I began to question. Yet I continued to trust that the Holy Spirit would guide Church’s magisterium. I continued to believe that these events were an evolution of understanding.

Confusion turned to anger

My confusion turned to anger when I heard about Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual abuse. After I read the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, I became disappointed and sad. Then it went from bad to worse. The media released Viganò”s testimony.

Amidst the onslaught of emotions, I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “Why has the Vatican been so silent”. My second instinct was to run, to leave and never look back.

But The Lord Spoke

As I went to my Friday’s adoration hour, partly out of habit, As I prayed for the Church, the Lord spoke:

People are running away because they can’t love my bride. She may be a prostitute, but I am redeeming her, just like I’m redeeming you.

For like-minded confused and angry Catholic like me, I offer the following advice

Pray and Know the Word of God

We are fighting against darkness and evil in the church and in our lives. Thus, we need to allow prayer and the Word of God to equip us to put on the armor of God.

If you are a victim or know a victim, then it will be hard to view God as a just and loving father. Here the beauty of the Church shines. You need not say something original, you can recite rote prayers such as the rosary. The key is constancy.

We also need to know the word of God. St. Paul in Ephesians describes it as a sword. It is our only weapon. We need to know what it says, not only to hold ourselves accountable but others as well.

Go to Adoration

Jesus is there waiting in the monstrance for you. When describing the Blessed Sacrament, St John Mary Vianney once said,

I just look at him and he looks at me

I always feel more at peace after my holy hour.

Channel Your Righteous Anger

You are angry. You have every right to be angry. Yet, what you do with that anger will define you as a person. Anger is an emotion. After all, Jesus had righteous anger at the money changers, who defiled his church, but it cannot rule over us or consume us.

”Correction given in anger, however, tempered by reason, never has so much effect as that which is given altogether without anger; for the reasonable soul being naturally subject to reason, it is a mere tyranny which subjects it to passion, and whereinsoever reason is led by passion it becomes odious, and its just rule obnoxious.” St. Francis de Sales

The laity needs to correct The Church. This correction is much more effective without anger.

Instead of demanding Pope Francis to resign, we should put our energy and effort into demanding a release of the documents and independent investigations. We need to demand a statement of contrition from all leader. Furthermore, continuously strive for the virtue of persistence.

Practically speaking, one can write to church leadership especially your bishop. They need to know how we feel and how the scandal effects us. The Sienna project offers letter templets as well as bishop addresses to make it easier to write your own letter.

Join a Lay Ecclesial Community

A lay ecclesial community consists of Catholic lay people, who come together to

“strive in a common endeavor to foster a more perfect life, to promote public worship or Christian doctrine, or to exercise other works of the apostolate such as initiatives of evangelization, works of piety or charity, and those which animate the temporal order with a Christian spirit.”1

These communities exist outside of the church’s hierarchy. Lay-led communities, are not a substitute for Mass but can help combat loneliness and despair.

Conclusion

It is hard to have faith as a Catholic, but it is even harder to have faith in the midst of a scandal. We must remember that the devil comes to seek, kill, and destroy, but Jesus comes to give life. We must place our faith, hope, and trust in Jesus. We must demand that The Church act justly so that Christ may transform his bride. We, the laity, must persevere in holiness, putting on the armor of God wielding faith and truth. Faith and truth come from prayer and knowing the word of God. We should strive to build lay driven faith communities. Theses communities function as places of renewal.


  1. Card. Stanisław Ryłko, “Preface,” in Directory of Associations, Published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity 

Abortion: in the court of public opinion

This week my twitter feed was full of optimism surrounding the prospect that the court would finally repeal Roe v. Wade. The news of Supreme Court  Justice Anthony Kennedy retiring brought on this optimism. Even though I welcome the illegality of abortion, my legal knowledge, and general cynicism keep me from sharing in the optimism of my fellow Catholic followers. Rather I believe my fellow Christians and I must do a better job of changing the court of public opinion rather than being content with changing the legal landscape. To understand why one must look at 1. the historical landscape before Roe v. Wade, 2. Legal precedent up to the present, and 3. the consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade.

Abortion before Roe v. Wade

The legality of Abortion ebbed and flowed. In the early period of American history, when legal jurisprudence was governed by common law, abortion procedures were legal up to the point of “quicking.1 In the mid-1800 Massachusetts became the first state to introduce legislation making it illegal to get an abortion. 1 By 1960s 44 states had followed suit although some would make an exception if the mother’s life was endangered. 1 In 1967 Colorado became the first state to amend their abortion laws to allow an exception in case of rape, incest, life endangerment, woman’s health or the baby had a severe defect. 1 In 1972, one year before Roe case, 17 states had introduced legislation making abortion legal in some capacity. 1

There are two different narratives that emerge out of this historical perusal into American abortion legislation. The first is from a pro-life perspective in which abortion had always been criminal prior to Roe v. Wade either outright illegal or after a certain point such as ‘quicking.’ The legality of abortion is a modern trend. The second narrative is from a pro-choice perspective in which the legality of abortion from 1967 onward reflects a change in public opinion. This point will play an important role when discussing Roe v. Wade.

Roe v. Wade

Abortion as a Fundamental Right

The issue addressed by the court is whether the right for women to terminate her pregnancy is protected as the right to privacy located in the fourteenth amendment’s due process clause. In order to address this issue, the court must first determine if the right is implicit to the concept of ordered liberty. This is usually determined by asking the question is the right deeply rooted in American history or traditions. As we discussed above, the answer is not so straightforward. At certain periods in American history, abortion had been legal and at other times illegal. How you view the history largely depends on whether you are pro-life or pro-choice. A majority of the court concluded that “restrictive criminal abortion laws in effect in a majority of States today are of relatively recent vintage.”2 Thus a fundamental right exists.

Possible state interest

Having established a fundamental right, the court goes on to determine possible state interests. A state may still restrict a fundamental right if it has a compelling interest to do so. The court address two possible interest: 1. protecting the women from a dangerous medical procedure, and 2. Protecting prenatal life.2 In regards to the former, the court said the current medical knowledge makes abortions performed in the early trimester safe for women.2 Addressing protecting prenatal life, the court stated that “protection of the interests involved, again, has generally been contingent upon live birth. In short, the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.”[2] Hence a state’s interest only becomes compelling at the point of viability.2 Abortion as a fundamental right will be defended in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey

Justice Kennedy was one of the three justices to write the deciding opinion of Planned Parenthood v. Casey and it is his vote that led to the reaffirming of Roe v. Wade. The principle of stare decisis, or the idea that a court must follow the decisions that came before the case in question led the court to uphold the ruling. The court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey states, “Application of the doctrine of stare decisis confirms that Roe’s essential holding should be reaffirmed”.3

In reexamining that holding, the Court’s judgment is informed by a series of prudential and pragmatic considerations designed to test the consistency of overruling the holding with the idea of the rule of law, and to gauge the respective costs of reaffirming and overruling.”3 The important thing to note is that the court deliberately chose not to in this case.

Undue Burden Standard

The court goes on to say that changes in the understanding of when a fetus is viable do not change the fact that states interest only becomes compelling at viability.3 The court also states that weakened precedent has not been shown. However, in order to accommodate the state’s interest in potential life, the court will introduce the undue burden standard.3 “An undue burden exists, and therefore a provision of law is invalid if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”3

Ways the Court Could Overturn Abortion Jurisprudence

There are two questions that govern the legal landscape of abortion: is the right to terminate your pregnancy a fundamental right, and is the legal restriction an undue burden on the women’s access to abortion? A conservative court could address both, most likely it will seek to limit abortion by upholding laws restricting abortion access.

Reasons The Court Will Not Address The Fundamental Rights Question

I do not see the court re-addressing the fundamental right question for two reasons. The first reason has to do with the fact that the question regarding a fundamental right depends on whether it is rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people. The reality is that the general consciousness of the people is more accepting, not less. According to Pew Research Center, “Though abortion is a divisive issue, more than half of U.S. adults take a non-absolutist position, saying that in most — but not all — cases, abortion should be legal.”

Furthermore, the issue has already been decided. Stare decisis requires the court to uphold it’s prior ruling unless the ruling is unworkable or there exists significant societal changes.4 Kurt Lash’s insightful journal article chronologies the history of stare decisis as applied by the court from Casey and onward.  He describes how stare decisis is often applied due to pragmatic concerns. When ruling on constitution decisions there is no remedy for judicial error other than a constitutional amendment and therefore courts applying stare decisis will also discuss the cost of judicial error.5 This can be seen in Casey, where the courts interpreted Roe’s judicial error as minimal and the cost to equal rights for women as very high.5 My argument is that nothing in society has changed to make the cost of repealing Roe less high.

Attacking the Undue Burden Standard

Thus the courts will have more success in upholding legal restrictions on abortion. An example can already be seen when the court upheld the validity of the ban on partial-birth abortion despite the legislation providing no exemption for the health of the mother. The court rationalized that a ban on intact D&E’s (procedure where baby’s head is partially birthed and then crushed) did not threaten the health of the mother because standard D&E procedures are available.

Consequences of Roe v. Wade repeal

If the court does manage to repeal Roe v Wade, I don’t think it will drastically change the abortion industry sadly. A repeal of Roe would mean that the states would now be free to define the legality of abortion. The decision would make a difference in pro-life states like Texas; however, I imagine that most states would allow abortion to remain legal due to the perceived hopelessness regarding the women’s situation.

Failure to Support Women

The pro-life movement has done a good job of defending life at conception; it has not defended the women, who are stuck with the pregnancies. Most women instinctively know that a fetus is living. When I worked at a pro-life pregnancy center, I was taught that if a woman ever said that she could never give her baby up for adoption, we were to question her about why if she chooses to carries it to term that it becomes a baby. Similarly, I learned that most women turn to abortion due to hopelessness. They believe that they have nowhere else to turn. As Christians, we have an answer to hopelessness. Jesus through the power of the gospel gives us hope and we are supposed to share this hope and love with others, who are hopeless and marginalized. We need to implement policies helping pregnant women.

Practical Solutions to Help End Abortion

If we truly want to end abortion, we need to stop picketing planned parenthood and start volunteering at pregnancy centers. We need to write our state legislators to support easier adoption policies, better foster care, and free childcare for low-income families and students. Support unemployment benefits for pregnant women, who are let go, and incentives for employers to hire pregnant women and paid maternity leave. Churches and Christian families need to stop shunning women, who are pregnant out of wedlock (yes, it’s a sin, but abortion is so much worse). However, if we continue to do nothing and society still believes that pregnancy holds women back then it won’t matter what the judicial courts do because we have failed to support pregnant women and we have failed to change the court of public opinion.

Work cited


  1. Gold,, Rachel. “Lessons From Before Roe: Will Past Be Prologue?”. Guttmacher Institute, 2018, https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2003/03/lessons-roe-will-past-be-prologue. Accessed 2 July 2018. 
  2. ROE v. WADE 410 US 113. Supreme Court of the United States. 1971. ” Findlaw, 2018, https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/410/113.html. 
  3. Planned Parenthood v. Casey 505 US 833. Supreme Court of the United States.1992  Findlaw, 2018, https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/505/833.html 
  4. Oyen, Timothy. “Stare Decisis”. LII / Legal Information Institute, 2018, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/stare_decisis. Accessed 2 July 2018. 
  5. Lash, Kurt. “The Cost Of Judicial Error: Stare Decisis And The Role Of Normative Theory”. Notre Dame Law Review, vol 89, no. 5, 2014, pp. 2189-2218., https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=4561&context=ndlr. Accessed 2 July 2018.