Knowing Christ

A new song by Justin Stroh for the Extreme Faith Camp this Summer.

Theme: The heart of Mary was made perfect by God and preserved perfectly by God. Her virtue is the seed bed for a full life in the Holy Spirit! Let’s entrust our lives to her motherly care. Why? Because this is what Jesus did – we simply follow Him! She then forms us in her school of prayer. Come Holy Spirit!

This video shows a simple kind of joy at being Catholic and Knowing Christ:

Catholic Schools

The Archdiocese of Washington is working very hard to preserve Catholic Education. We are organizing finances and people to ensure a future for Catholic Education in the Archdiocese. The challenges are significant but our commitment is real. Before sharing some of the details of the plan I would like to reflect on some of the background issues that have put Catholic Schools in jeopardy.

  1. The decline in the number of practicing Catholics. While it is true that the overall number of Americans who call themselves Catholic has increased over the years, the percentage number of practicing Catholics has continued to drop. Currently just less than 30% of Catholics attend Mass every Sunday. Back in the 1950s when most of our schools were built and quite full the number of practicing Catholics was just over 80%
  2. Smaller family sizes. I am only 48 years old, but back when I was a kid it was common for families to have 4 – 5 children. Some families had even more. Today, 1- 2 children is the norm.  Contraception (and Abortion too) have made surely devastated the ranks of “future Catholics.”  Today, many people think it is crazy or impossible to have more than a two kids. But most never consider how this significantly depletes our future. I look at some of our 1st communion classes at St. Cyprian (my parish). Back in the 1950s there were over 200 children each year. This year we had twelve. Other parishes may have less steep declines but most parishes soimply have less children than 50 years ago.
  3. Steep declines in vocations – especially to orders of women religious. Catholic schools of 50 years ago where almost entirely staffed by women religious who, frankly, received little pay. This kept tuition very low and made Catholic Education possible for even the very poor. Today however we employ an almost completely lay staff who must be paid more, paid a just wage. This is the most significant cause of escalating tuition rates. An essentially free staff has given way to a staff that must be paid a living and just wage. Even if the Sisters came back in force we could never pay them the pittance they once got. They, like us have medical expenses, retired sisters to care for and so on.
  4. Parish sizes have decreased. There are some parishes in new suburbs that continue to grow in size, but many older parishes have seen declines in attendance over the years. This too means that the ability for smaller parishes to afford to run schools has also diminished. In the past large parishes could devote larger sums to maintain school buildings and provide tuition assistance and other support to the school. This is less often the case today.
  5. Aging buildings – The cost of maintaining buildings often built more than 50 years ago continues to climb. Catastrophic costs such as roof replacements and HVAC  often mount.
  6. As tuition has gone up over the years, the number who can afford it has declined. Tuition assistance filled the gaps at first but now much more is needed. As tuition rates climb above $5,000 per child in most schools the numbers of students drops, especially in working class neighborhoods. Available tuition assistance has not kept up with all that is required to help everyone have access to Catholic Education.
  7. So the bottom line is that, as costs continue to rise and  family sizes of practicing Catholics continue to decrease the number of children available and able to afford our schools continues to drop.  Higher costs mean higher tuition  which drives even more students away. We are in danger of running schools that only the wealthy can afford. This is not really our mission. We have traditionally run excellent schools that were accessible by all. Changes are necessary.

With all this in mind I would like to refer you to the following communique issued by the Archdiocese of Washington:

Looking to the Future with Confidence – New Policies for Catholic Schools

If Catholic schools are going to survive they must become the shared responsibility of the entire Archdiocese. Until now parishes have shared the financial burden of Catholic Schools unevenly. That is beginning to change with this policy. Parishes that do not currently have or contribute to a Catholic School will asked to contribute more. The Archdiocese is also committed to finding further tuition assistance. The Archdiocese of Washington remains committed to providing schools with strong Catholic Identity, academic excellence. Schools that are accessible and affordable. Please pray and work with you r parish to ensure the future of Catholic Education.

The following video was filmed by the archdiocese of Chicago but it provides some reminiscences of Catholic education from the past along with images from the present.

Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell

st-francis-with-skullTraditional Catholic theology has distinguished the “Four Last Things” : Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. We are admonished to meditate upon these things frequently. We WILL die, be judged, and spend eternity either in Hell, or in Heaven (likely after some time in purgatory). All men are appointed to die once, and after that face The judgment (Hebrews 9:27) A remarkable video was just posted  of a song by Johnny Cash on the topic of judgment. Here are some of the words:

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time, run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down
Go tell that long tongue liar, go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter
Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut ’em down.

We will all one day die, or as the song puts it, be cut down. We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (cf 2 Cor 5:10;  Heb 4:13; 1 Peter 4:5).

The reality of judgment and the possibility of Hell bothers a lot of modern Christians who have had God’s love emphasized to the exclusion of just about everything else about God. For example that He is Truth, and utterly Holy, that nothing unholy can tolerate His presence and so forth.

How to explain the possibility of Hell to a generation with a rather simplified notion of God? Perhaps the word “respect” can help. God want to save us all and have us live with him forever. This is clear in Scripture. But God has made us free and wants us to freely love Him and accept His invitation. This is His respect for our freedom. Now everyone want to go to heaven as they describe it. But NOT EVERYONE wants to go to real heaven which is God’s Kingdom in perfection. You see, in heaven, God’s Kingdom,  there is love for the truth, love for chastity, love for the poor, love for justice, love for one another, mercy and forgiveness are esteemed and God is at the center. But NOT EVERYONE wants these things. Not everyone wants the truth, wants to be chaste, not everyone wants to forgive and love everyone. Not everyone wants God to be at the center, they prefer that spot for themselves or some other idol. So God invites. But not all accept. In the end, God respects our choice and this is why there is Hell, it is for those who do not want what the Kingdom of God is. God still sustains the souls in Hell but he ultimately respects their choice to reject the Kingdom and its values.

So death is on the way, sooner or later we will all be cut down. What is it that you want??

Ponder this video:

Einstein on the Problem of Evil

I first saw this video at Patrick Madrid‘s Website. Many have struggled with the problem of evil. Now evil is often thought of as an existing reality when in fact is is really a privation, that is, a lack of something that should be there. To sin is to lack justice, to lack truth, to lack love, mercy etc. God did not create evil, evil is a lack of something God intends.

You’ll need to watch this video closely. It is in German with subtitles but it is well worth the work. It depicts how the youthful Einstein once debated a professor on the problem of evil.

Everything Old is New Again

Here is a quick but thorough tour of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Church looks old but it is brand new, just opened a couple of months back! I’ll bet that in the years to come they may paint the ceilings in a renaissance fashion. Enjoy this video:

Speaking in Tongues

Last Wednesday, I attended ‘Breaking Open the Word’ at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. (Visiting parish young adult community events is part of my new commitment to stay in tune with the young adults with which I minister. Many of my upcoming posts will illustrate these visits.) This is a weekly study group of young adults who get together each week to read the upcoming Mass readings and discuss how they relate to our lives today.

As I entered the room cautiously and asked “Is this Breaking Open the Word?” I was warmly greeted by a young woman who sympathized, “This is my first time too!” Beside the two of us, there were four others who seemed to have known each other for a while. They shared the latest news (an engagement, a trip abroad, and a rehabilitation from an injury), and then we focused our hearts and minds by reading the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The upcoming Sunday was Pentecost which made recitation this prayer a meaningful. The name Pentecost is taken the Hebrew tradition marking the 50th day after Passover when the harvest was brought to the temple (the feast of First Fruits) and is celebrated as the day that Moses was given of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is celebrated as the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2)

This reading sparked a conversation about speaking in tongues, called glossolalia. While we had heard of people speaking in tongues and some of us had been present at charismatic prayer services where participants spoke in tongues, we were unsure of Catholic teaching on glossolalia.

To answer our question, one of the young adults whipped out the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Though glossolalia was not specifically mentioned in the index, this was as close as we got:

799 Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.

800 Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.

801 It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church’s shepherds. “Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,” so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together “for the common good.”

This seemed to be a sufficient answer for the young adults in the room, that an authentic gift of glossolalia will work together in charity for the common good. We ended the evening by praying together the Psalm for the upcoming Sunday: Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!

All in all, it was a rich evening of prayer, scripture, questions, and answers that reminded me that even in this simple setting, on a Wednesday evening in this church basement, Christ keeps His promise: For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

The Following Video shows a choir of Young Adults Singing a song by Thomas Tallis called Loquebantur Variis Linguis The translation of the text is from Acts: The Apostles were speaking in Various tongues of the great works of God. Alleluia The frenetic quality of the song tries to capture the ecstatic moment when the apostles received the Holy Spirit! It is written in dance time.

Running Afoul of the”New Morality”

The latest edition of Gloria TV News contains the following item:

Catholics Under Pressure Because of Gay Legislation – UK  The Charity Tribunal has ruled that Catholic Care– the Diocese of Leeds’s adoption agency– must cooperate with homosexual couples who wish to adopt children. “If the charity now sticks to Church policy and continues to follow its ‘heterosexuals only’ policy it could lose its charity status and public funding,” the Daily Telegraph notes. “ It might also face discrimination claims by same-sex couples it has turned away in the past.”

This is not dissimilar to what has happened to Catholic Charities in Massachusetts and  California. Catholic Charities has largely had to remove itself from providing adoption services due to it’s inability to comply with state laws baring discrimination against gay couple who want to adopt. Church teachings and policy forbid placing children with gay couples. But State Law in both Mass. and California, forbid any distinctions being made. Attempts to pass an exemption for religious institutions failed in Mass and in California the wording of the religious exemption clause cannot be met by Catholic Charites. The clause states that only Catholics are served. Obviously Catholic Charities serves more than just Catholics.

So here is another indicator not only of where we are, but also of  the road ahead. Increasingly the Church and other Christian denominations will be forced to comply with edicts of the “new morality.” If we do not comply we can either be sued for discrimination or accused of “hate crimes.” The alternative seems to be comply, or get out of the business. The Catholic Church as a long legacy of serving the Community through our Hospitals, Catholic Charities and the like. This is beginning to erode. Increasingly we may see such services ending because of those who want to force us to comply with laws that contradict our faith. Thus, if we fail to  provide contraceptives in our health plans, a judge says we must or we violate the law and are subject to fines or worse.  If we refuse to adopt to Gay couples we are now being told we must or we violate the law and are open to lawsuits. If some elements of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) are enacted we will be required to provide or refer abortion services.  Otherwise our hospitals and clincs will be in violation of law, subject to fines, closure and desertification.

Do you see what is happening? There is a steady erosion of religious liberty underway. Advocates of the “New Morality”  have long marched under the banner of tolerance but as they gain greater power and influence, the mask of tolerance is shed and forcible compliance is at revealed as the true policy. The Catholic faith is 2000 years old. We are not some extremist group of haters. We have a long and noble religious teaching that deserves respect even if everyone does not agree with it. We should not be pressured to set aside 2000 years of religious teaching simply because some in the modern world have chosen to depart from long held and basic moral beliefs. Religious Liberty is a precious cornerstone of this Country’s history but it is being eroded by judges and advocacy groups. Pay attention.