Navigating the high school years in faith, hope, and love

When my sister was a new mother and learning how to be the best Mom and the best employee, she was given one piece of advice that she didn’t forget. She was told that though popular opinion is that it is more important to be at home when your kids are young (if you are fortunate enough to be able to have a choice), most experts on raising children will tell you the high school years are the most critical. Why? It’s when our kids are beginning to have more freedom, when they are spending more time with friends and when they are beginning to really think seriously about how they want to “shape” their personalities. It is then that parents need to be really attentive to what is going on in their child’s world. What Mom or Dad doesn’t talk about how much they learn driving their kids around and listening to their kids’ conversations when the kids forget that the chauffer might be listening!

 

Given what our kids confront in high school, who wouldn’t want the best possible school environment. Catholic High Schools offer a great environment and the gift of faith. Our Catholic schools are steeped in the great tradition of Catholic education that is at the heart of the Church’s mission. Just a year age, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to American Catholic Educators at Catholic University and said:

             God’s revelation offers every generation the opportunity to discover the ultimate truth about its own life and the goal of history. This task is never easy; it involves the entire   Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God’s truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve. In this   way, Christ’s Good News is set to work, guiding both teacher and student towards the objective truth which…points to the universal and absolute that enables us to proclaim with confidence the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). Set against personal  struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.

 

 If you are thinking about the value of Catholic education and are wondering what sets our Catholic High Schools apart, please plan to come to one of our school fairs to learn more and to see how faith, hope and love come alive in our schools.

2009 Regional Catholic High School Fairs:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road, North Bethesda, MD 20852
(White Flint Metro; use Executive Boulevard entrance for complimentary parking)

  • Thursday, April 30, 2009, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
    Marriott Greenbelt
    6400 Ivy Lane, Greenbelt, MD 20770
    (Greenbelt Metro; Beltway Exit 23-Kenilworth Avenue, left onto Ivy Lane; complimentary parking)
  • Sunday, May 3, 2009, 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
    Trinity University’s
    Main Hall
    125 Michigan Avenue, NE, Washington, DC
    (Brookland-CUA Metro; complimentary parking on-site)

For more information go to www.adw.org/education

Authority to Forgive Sins

The Gospel for this Sunday is from John 20:19ff clearly shows him bestowing the authority to forgive sins to his first priests, the Apostles. He breathed on them and said, ‘Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven them. Whose sins you retain, they are retained.’  This passage should not be lightly set aside. According to John it is the among the very first things that Jesus did after He rose from the dead. First he says, Peace be with you. Then he commisions them: As the Father has sent me so I send you. Well the Father sent Jesus to reconcile sinners with the Father. So these sent one (Apostles) would have the same power, to reconcile sinners. It is an essential hallmark of the Church that she be able to reconcile sinners through the ministry of priests. If you’re a good Bible believeing Catholic you ought to get to confession frequently. Afterall Jesus set it up this way himself. Now don’t go an reinvent religion. Just practice what Jesus set forth. Central to the practice of the true and Biblical faith is confession.

So here are some other resources to study moreon this:

  1. I have put together a PDF flyer on the Biblical roots of Confession and you can read it here:  Confession in Biblical
  2. I preached a sermon on today’s Gospel which covers among other things the Authority to forgive sins you can listen or right click to download here: Sermon on Divine Mercy Sunday
  3. Here is a two minute Video Apologetical primer on Confession:

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 37 – Set Your House in Order

Reason # 37 – Set Your House in Order. There’s a Gospel Song written back in the 1950’s called “Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb!” It is a warning to be prepared for death. Here are a few of the lyrics:

Every body’s worried ’bout that Atom Bomb. No one seems worried about the Day my Lord shall come! Better set your house in order, He may be coming soon, and He’ll hit like an Atom Bomb when He comes!

Getting to Mass every Sunday is an essential component of having our house, our soul, in order. Honestly, life is about getting ready to die. Are you ready? Death may come in an instant. Are you ready? Mass is a wonderful way to prepare ourselves for that day for several reasons.

  1. Jesus makes a promise in John 6:40  that Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I will raise him up on the last day. That’s quite a promise in terms of being ready! Jesus is saying that frequent reception of the Eucharist is essential preparation for the Last Day.
  2. The Commandment is clear: Keep holy the Sabbath.  It doesn’t make sense to think that we can disregard one of the Ten Commandments and then be ready for the Last Day. Some argue that this commandment does not mean we should be in Church necessarily but Leviticus 23:3 says regarding this Commandment, “You shall do no work and you shall keep sacred assembly, it is the Sabbath of the Lord.” Sacred assembly is “Church,” y’all. No way around it. God expects us to be in his house on our Sabbath which is Sunday. Gotta be there regularly  to be ready!
  3. The Book of Hebrews says, “And let us not neglect to meet together regularly and to encourage one another, all the more since the Day draws near.”  See here how the Last “Day” and being prepared for it is linked to “meeting together regularly.” Gotta be there regularly to be ready!
  4. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you (Jn 6:53). Without Holy Communion we’re not going to make it. Gotta receive regularly to be ready!

OK so here is an important reason to come home and to get there fast: Better Set your house in order, He may be coming soon and he’ll hit like an atom bomb when he comes.

Enjoy this video. Observe in it all the readiness preparations for the nuclear bombs that some of us who are older may remember. In a way all the preparations you see in the video are a little silly since diving under a desk wouldn’t  help much if an atomb really hit! But the preparations I have mentioned above ARE helpful since God gives them to us. If the people in this video we’re getting ready with measures that probably wouln’t help much, how much more so for us who DO stand a chance since God himself instructs us!  Set your house in order!

Humble Pie

I had thought I’d be prolific and come up with 40 reasons for coming home to the Catholic Church, one for each day of Lent. Well, Lent is over and you can see I haven’t quite finished (but will!). And I experienced more humility when I found this:

 150 Reasons Why I am Catholic (and you should be too)

So here I am left in the dust! If you visit the site the author, Dave Armstrong, lists all these many reasons. They are primarily in an apologetical vein distinguishing Catholicism from Protestantism. That is  related to my work here but a little more doctrinally specific that I have chosen to be. Nevertheless, a hat tip to Dave Armstrong for his work!

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 36 – The Incarnation

Reason # 36 Catholicism upholds the “incarnational principle,” wherein Jesus became flesh and thus raised flesh and matter to new spiritual heights.

One of the beauties of the Catholic Faith is the way that all creation is summoned to praise God. In the sacraments we use water, bread, wine, and oil. In the Liturgy we use candles and incense. Our bodies are very involved in worship as we stand, sit, kneel, even prostrate at times. Our Churches (at least the traditional ones) make use of beautiful stained glass, wood, marble and stone. Music is rich and varied from the haunting Chant, to joyful polyphony, from the mighty pipe organ to the unaccompanied voice. For us as Catholics we expect to encounter our faith in what is, in the world around us. The liturgy is no mere lecture or just intellectual ideas and values. It is creation in action, the Word become flesh. When Jesus took on flesh God joined with his creation and elevated it. Jesus made frequent use of creation and often spoke of it in his parables.

Obviously some of the things I have mentioned above have diminished in Catholicism in recent decades as many of our older church buildings were stripped and many of our newer buildings are minimalist in their design.  But traditional architecture is making a comeback and some of our older buildings are being tastefully restored.

Why is this a reason to come home? Because faith is not merely an abstraction that exists only in our minds or a televised message. Faith is found in our church buildings, in the people who gather there, in the sacraments and liturgies that are celebrated there. Place and time are important dimensions to faith. Here there is an intersection between the good, the true and the beautiful. It is like the old family home. Our memories are not just stored in our brains but on the worn back stairways of the house, in the pictures on the wall,  little trinkets that have been collected over the years, in the magnets on the refrigerator door, and at the kitchen table. Our churches are like this, the old familiar statues, the altar, the meeting rooms, the smell of candles and incense in the air, the rituals and sacraments that call us home.  Come home. Faith is not merely an idea, it is an old familiar place, it is sacraments and rituals that literally touch you, it is about an incarnation, something tangible, and touchable, something familiar. The Catholic Church does all this well. We may have forgotten some of it for a time, but we never fully lost it. Catholicism upholds the “incarnational principle,” wherein Jesus became flesh and thus raised flesh and matter to new spiritual heights. So come home and reconnect with Jesus, the Word made flesh.

Interpreting the Scriptures

Many people like to say that “fundamentalists” or Evangelicals read the Bible literally and Catholics do not. It is not really that simple though. There are many passages that Evangelicals do not read literally. For example, when Jesus says, “This is my Body” they do not interpret these words literally but, rather, conclude that the Jesus should be understood to be speaking symbolically. And we Catholics, who are not usually said to read the Bible literally, do interpret these words quite literally. Another example, When Jesus says that he will build his Church upon Peter whom he declares to be rock, Catholics take these words quite literally to mean that Peter is in fact the Rock upon which Jesus will build his Church. Evangelicals however interpret the rock here to be faith and so the text, which plainly says Peter is the Rock, is interpreted by them to mean that the rock is symbolic for faith. And so on….

So, a simple declaration that Evangelicals and Fundamentalists read the text literally and Catholics do not is simplistic. However, it remains true that Catholics and Evangelicals do have a different interpretive keys. Catholic theology and Tradition has a rather nuanced position in regard to Scriptural interpretation that gives great emphasis to the genre and context of a passage. Some texts which are plain doctrinal statements or historical narrative are interpreted rather literally. However, there are other texts in Scripture which are clearly in the genre of poetry or allegory and hence these should be interpreted that way. Scripture is not merely one book, it is a collection of books written in many different styles. This will affect the interepretation of such books. To a world that wants a simple “slogan approach” to understanding Biblical interpretation a nuanced approach is difficult to stomach. And yet the Catholic approach, though nuanced, is wise since it respects it respects genre, style, and context.

Here are a couple of videos that make rather plain the Catholic approach to Biblical interpretation. The first video is from John Martignoni and is a very brief description of the Literal vs. Literalist interpretation. The second vido is from Fr. Robert Barron and details two key Catholic interpretive principles: the importance of Genre and that Jesus Christ is the interpretive key to to understanding the whole Bible.

One Minute Apologetics

  There is a lot of good apologetics material out there. Apologetics is not the art of apologizing for Catholic teaching but rather is the science of explaing Catholic Teaching and defending it.

One teaching of the Catholic Church that is often attacked is that of the perpetual virginity of Mary, a teaching that goes back as far as we can remember in Catholic Tradition and Dogma. But Scripture does mention “brothers” of Jesus. What are we to do with all this? The following video answers the question. Pay attention it moves quickly but John Martignoni does a pretty good job of tackling the question in just about a minute.

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 35 – A Fitting Thanksgiving

Reason # 35 – A Fitting Thanksgiving – In the Book of Psalms the psalm writer asks, “What return can I ever make to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?” The very next verse of the psalm answers the question: “The cup of salvation I will lift up and I will call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:12-13). So God has already indicated the way in which he would like to be thanked.

For a Catholic this request of the Lord ought to seem pretty stright-forward when we think of the Cahlice being elevated at every Mass and we make our act of faith in the true presence of Jesus. As a proper thanksgiving  God wants us to participate in the Holy Eucharist.

As you may know, the Eucharist means, “Thanksgiving.” It is the perfect act of praise, thanksgiving and worship of the Father by Jesus. We as members of his body participate in that perfect thanksgiving every time we particiapte in Mass. We “take up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” just as God asks in Psalm 116.

So here is another reason to come home. You owe great thanks to God, you owe infinite thanks to God! How can you ever render your debt? He has told you how: take up the cup of salvation, attend Mass.