Friday, October 30, 2009

Reading Romans

The Lectionary recently turned to Paul’s letter to the Romans for the first reading at weekday masses. It started on October 12 (Monday of the 28th week of Ordinary Time) and will continue until November 7 (Saturday of the 31st week of Ordinary Time). I’ve been reading and re-reading chapters 4 through 8, and my feeble mind has been struggling to follow Paul’s logic without falling into a Manichean duality (spirit good, body bad!), but I think I’m slowly getting there. I’d like, therefore, to take this moment to whole-heartedly agree with St. Peter that Paul’s “letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

She Is Beauty

The guest last week on Life on the Rock (I typically listen to the program on podcast the week after it airs) was Eric Genuis, a composer and concert pianist. I was previously familiar with his work only in connection to the Passion meditation performed by Radix (Doug Barry acting with Eric Genuis providing live musical accompaniment).

Toward the end of the program, Eric discusses some of his charitable involvement, and his enthusiasm for working with the pro-life movement. It turns out that some of his motivation comes from his own daughter.

I have a daughter with Down syndrome. She’s five years old. I call her the Master of Disaster. There is nothing in my house she can’t break. I promise you that. She’s a beautiful little girl. Through abortion, most – a high percentage, over 90 percent of these children – when detected early, they are aborted, and it just breaks my heart. I cannot tell you the gift this child is. If you gave me a magic wand, I wouldn’t change her for the world. This girl is love itself. She is beautiful.

I talk about her at every concert, because you know there’s going to be someone in that audience who has a relationship in the future – some cousin or aunt or uncle – that may end up with a child or know somebody who may be pregnant with a child who has Down syndrome or with other defects. You realize we are made in the image of God. That alone gives us dignity, not what we accomplish. But my daughter has the same dignity. She’ll never be a beauty queen, she’ll never be a rocket scientist, but she is beauty, just inherently because she is made in the image of God. And so, I think more than ever, we have to really fight for life now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Return of Masculine Catholicism

Inside Catholic recently ran a feature that first appeared in the July 2007 issue of Crisis Magazine, The New Catholic Manliness. The opening paragraph hooked me, and I had to read the whole thing.

It is a source of no small irony that, even as radical feminists within and without the Church have railed for two generations against patriarchy and phallocentrism, it can be quite plausibly said that the post-conciliar Church in this country has, for all intents and purposes, been run by women.

What I found was a refreshing defense of masculine Catholicism, of which I, being a man, am a big fan. The author, Todd Aglialoro, goes into the past and traces the arc of the pendulum from what it could be argued was a male-dominated Church in the 1950s through what came to be a feminized Church following Vatican II, to what in some ways is a Church re-discovering its masculinity today.

Let me say now, as clearly as I can, that I believe there is room for both masculine and feminine spirituality within the Church. I even engage in and benefit from some pious devotions and practices that tend toward the feminine side of the scale. But men need masculine ways to relate to God and to live out their vocations as husbands and fathers.

The Psalmist declares, “For you light my lamp, O Lord; my God brings light to my darkness. For with you I will attack the enemy’s squadrons; with my God I will leap over their wall.” (Psalm 18) The imagery is distinctly masculine, as it is when the Psalms speak of the blessed man contending with the enemies at the gates (Psalm 127). Elizabeth Scalia notes that St. Catherine of Siena wrote to Pope Gregory XI, “Be a manly man. . . I wish to see you as a manly man so that you may serve the Bride of Christ without fear, and work spiritually and temporally for the glory of God according to the needs of that sweet Bride in our times.”

Men need models of authentic manliness in order to clearly distinguish virtuous masculinity from its macho imitation. Women also need to see models of masculinity in order to know that it does not in any way demean or subjugate them or their femininity. Our children need to be very carefully taught that godliness is not a sign of weakness, and that real men are selfless and sacrificial.

The future of our civilization just might depend upon it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Value of Special Needs Children

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver seems to be everywhere these days. Most recently, Catholic News Agency reported on remarks made by Chaput to the Phoenix Catholic Physicians’ Guild, where he spoke at length about our societal attitudes towards those with physical and mental disabilities, especially those with Down syndrome.

“Parents of children with special needs, special education teachers and therapists, and pediatricians who have treated children with disabilities often have a hugely life-affirming perspective. Unlike prenatal caregivers, these professionals have direct knowledge of persons with special needs. They know their potential. They’ve seen their accomplishments. They can testify to the benefits – often miraculous – of parental love and faith. Expectant parents deserve to know that a child with Down syndrome can love, laugh, learn, work, feel hope and excitement, make friends, and create joy for others. These things are beautiful precisely because they transcend what we expect. They witness to the truth that every child with special needs has a value that matters eternally.”

The full text of his remarks can be found at the Archdiocese of Denver website, and they are well worth reading in toto. They will resonate with any parent of a special needs child.

This is not the first time Archbishop Chaput has made public comments about our need to welcome in life those with special needs. In August, he wrote a column for the Denver Catholic Register, Health Care and the Common Good. In it, he argued against any system that allows or funds the killing of unborn children or discrimination against the elderly and persons with special needs. He cites an email that he received from a young mother on the east coast whose second child was born with Down syndrome. She worries that the health care overhaul bill that eventually emerges from Congress will put bureaucrats in charge of making decisions regarding the care received by her daughter and she believes that they “don't know -- or don't care to know -- the value and blessedness of a child with special needs. And I don't trust them to mold policy that accounts for my daughter in all of her humanity or puts ‘value’ on her life.”

Archbishop Chaput understands and shares the concerns of parents who have special needs kids. He understands that the common good does not reduce to a return on investment calculation. And he shares our concern that the health care reform that we end up with will be the wrong sort of health care reform.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Small Town Law Enforcement

Living in a rural village is not like living in a city. I’ve often commented that the bad thing about living in a small town is that everyone knows your business, but the good thing about living in a small town is that everyone knows your business. You sacrifice your anonymity, but that’s not a bad thing. You become accountable to others, but you know that your neighbor’s got your back.

The lack of anonymity transfers in unusual ways to law enforcement practices. We appreciate the efforts of our police officers, even if outsiders might sometimes consider them extreme. Our officers don’t typically sit idly in their patrol cars – they drive the streets and, you know, patrol. In doing so, they become familiar with the territory. If they spot an unfamiliar vehicle, it’s not unusual for them to run the tags as a precaution.

And if you’re passing through town, you might want to drive very carefully.

Our Knights of Columbus field agent shared with us a story about an encounter with our local cops. He was driving through town, and got pulled over. The officer told him that he (our agent) had Montgomery County tags, and he (the officer) had been looking for an excuse to pull him over and check him out. When our agent failed to use his turn signal, the officer had his excuse. For those unfamiliar with our local geography, we are located three counties away from Montgomery County, home of the big bad city of Dayton, Ohio. Our agent, after having his driver’s license run through the system, was sent on his way with a warning.

Some people might consider this harassment. However, those of us who our men in blue have sworn to serve and protect, can draw no small measure of comfort from their vigilance.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reflections on Turning Forty

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Different variations on this quote have been attributed to Abraham Lincoln, which is somewhat odd, given that what I’ve read of the great man indicates that he often found himself in a mood that was definitely not happy. It is possible, I suppose, that Lincoln was speaking of the happiness that transcends mere emotion.

The quote came to mind to me on the occasion of my 40th birthday. My person, unfortunately, is not so tightly integrated that I can tell myself how to feel about something. My emotions are what they are, and the most I can hope to do is manage them and keep them from by-passing my intellect to influence my actions. No matter how often I tell myself that this milestone doesn’t really mean anything, it’s impossible to shake the nagging feeling that a threshold has been crossed.

When I was in my thirties, I could run or lift weights, secure in the knowledge that I was taking care of myself. Now, in my forties, it suddenly seems more like a vain and futile attempt to stave off the inevitable. That’s a sentiment that’s not born in any rational part of my brain; it comes from somewhere else.

Perhaps coincidentally, Joe Carter over at the First Thoughts blog posted an excerpt from a book on spiritual depression, which seems to suggest that if we listen to ourselves less and talk to ourselves more, we’ll be more emotionally happy. I already do a lot of that, and I have yet to argue myself into a good mood. At some point, I have to rest my argument, for fear that my self will devolve into a parody (!) of an old Al Franken skit on Saturday Night Live.

Here are some considerations. If eighty is an average life span, then forty is middle age. According to the 2005 actuarial table published by our federal government, at the age of 40, I have approximately 37.3 years left. I actually entered middle age somewhere between my 38th and 39th birthdays.

I expect that I’ll probably have to keep working for at least 30 more years. I functionally became an adult (i.e., started paying my own way) when I graduated from college 17 years ago, and I’ve really only been contributing to the private sector for 12 years. I could argue, therefore, that I’m nowhere near the middle of my adult life.

Age itself is only a statistic. It can’t be anything more than a general indicator of health, wellness, and maturity. I should really avoid comparing myself to other men on the basis of age alone. I should really avoid comparing myself to other men period. I am my own man! And yet age determines when we can drive, vote, drink, and qualify for senior citizen and retirement benefits. It might someday be determinative of whether we will receive life-saving or extending medical care.

Should I live my life any differently at forty than I did at thirty? Only to the extent that I find myself in different circumstances – time marches relentlessly on; there is no going back. At thirty, I had three kids with one on the way, and the oldest was five. At forty, I have six kids with one on the way, and the oldest is fifteen. Different circumstances demand different behavior. I have to believe that if I were 35 or 45, my choices today would not be any different.

I keep telling myself that age doesn’t matter! Forty is a meaningless number! If I keep repeating it to myself, I might even believe it.

Now where do I get in line to buy my sportscar?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Interveiw With a … er, With Me

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Fellman Anthony, a Catholic blogger who, for some reason, was interested in interviewing me for a project on his blog. I eventually took the time to sit down and answer his questions:

1. What is the biggest challenge to your faith that you have faced so far?
2. What scripture do you find yourself turning to most often?
3. How do you think God is revealing his presence to us in the world today?
4. Do you have a book that you would recommend to people trying to develop their spirituality?
5. Why do you think bad things happen to good people?
6. What have you found is the most effective way to introduce the word of God to a nonbeliever?
7. Do you have a favorite saint and if so, why?

To see how I answered, visit Fellman’s blog at Learning to be Quick to Listen

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Lamp of the Body

I noticed an interesting thing when I sat down last night to read today’s Lectionary readings. The Lectionary skips over Luke 11:33-36. This morning, I dug through the Lectionary to see if perhaps the passage is used anywhere else. Nope. I could find no instance in which Luke 11:33-36 is the Gospel read at mass (granted, it was only a five-minute search, based on an online version of the Lectionary – I welcome corrections). It’s passages like this, which the typical Catholic is likely never to have seen or heard, that I find among the most fascinating, and this one is fairly cryptic.

No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it (under a bushel basket), but on a lampstand so that those who enter might see the light. The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness. Take care, then, that the light in you not become darkness. If your whole body is full of light, and no part of it is in darkness, then it will be as full of light as a lamp illuminating you with its brightness.

I read the passage once, and then I read it again. Then I got my wife’s attention, and I said to her, “Hey Amy, what do you make of this?” Then I read it to her. “The lamp is our talents,” she said matter-of-factly. “Okay, but this says the lamp is the eye. What’s all this eye stuff about?” She shrugged, and then asked, “Why are you trying to interpret it? We’re not supposed to do that, are we?” So then I had to go into an aside about the four senses of scripture and how we are indeed supposed to interpret scripture, provided we follow the rules. Both the senses and the rules are covered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (109-119).

What we came up with, using the lamp as talents analogy and the immediate context of Luke 11 as a guide, is that each of us has been endowed by our Creator with certain natural gifts. St. Paul might extend that to include spiritual gifts as well. We can use those gifts for good or ill. If we put our talents or gifts to uses that are at cross-purposes with what God intended when he made us and gave us those gifts, then our eye is bad, and our body is in darkness. If we cooperate with God’s grace, then we will see clearly, and our body will be in light, and our actions will lead others to the light. We have to have a certain clarity of vision in order to properly use our gifts so as to be a light to others. We have to be diligent to remove even the splinters from our eyes, once we’ve removed the planks. Deliberate, conscious hypocrisy simply will not do.

As always, it seems like it should be so much easier than it actually is in practice. As much as we want to be good, our fallen nature makes it difficult. Even when we see clearly, we can’t always subdue our will. It’s like trying to follow directions while driving. Sometimes we know that we have a right turn coming up, but we see the street sign too late to make the turn. In my struggle to conform myself to Christ, I often pray the three-fold prayer: to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow thee more nearly. Knowledge of Christ leads to love of Christ, which leads to imitation of Christ, through which others will see Christ in us. Lord, let us be children of light! Banish from us all darkness that clouds our vision, that we may be light to others.

What's Your Favorite Food?

My dear middle daughter (one of them) came to me last night with a question. “Dad, what’s your favorite food?” I thought for just a moment, then answered, “Bacon.”

“What?!” The look on her face told me that I had given the wrong answer.

“Uh, steak?” Her expression told me that she still wasn’t getting the answer she expected or wanted. “Ooh, asparagus!”

“Oh, never mind.”

It occurs to me today that she might be planning something special for my birthday. A thick juicy steak, wrapped in bacon, with a side of asparagus would be nice.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What We Teach Our Young Athletes

Do you mind if I vent a bit? I’m just being polite; the vent is going to happen whether you mind or not. This vent or rant or whatever you want to call it really doesn’t have anything to do with the things that might normally lead someone to read this blog. As a parent of two kids in school sports programs, I’ve got some things that I’ve just got to get off my chest.

Let’s start with high school football. My son is a freshman, and I’ll grant you that he’s not the greatest athlete in the world. I wasn’t either as a high school freshman. But the kid’s got lots of genetic potential that could blossom during his junior and senior year. The problem is that I don’t think the program is seriously interested in developing potential.

Our school has a small squad of freshman players. Some of the freshmen were called up to play at the varsity level, so after only two freshman games, the rest of the freshman schedule was cancelled. The varsity and junior varsity squads were recently decimated by a scandal that resulted in seven players being suspended for the remainder of the season. And so, on the most recent Saturday, the junior varsity game saw a total of 18 players suited up. One of those players had his arm in a cast, and another spent the entire second half of the game with ice on his leg. The quarterback was only playing on offense, leaving a total of 15 players available to play defense. You would expect, therefore, that all of the players would be rotated in, so that they could get some experience. After all, the JV game matters about as much as a varsity scrimmage. That is to say, the final score doesn’t matter at all, because there’s no conference JV trophy awarded at the end of the season. The whole purpose is to develop the younger players (unless I’m missing something). But there were two freshman players (my son being one), who got next to no playing time.

Playing time is not the root of my complaint, development is. During practice, the players will occasionally run drills in which they go head-to-head with another player. During those drills, my son is always paired with the other freshman tackle, who just happens to be the other freshman who gets next to no playing time. The other freshman tackle also happens to be the smallest player on the team and, until recently diagnosed with a pulled muscle, thought that he had a hernia. How are either of these two players supposed to improve their skills?

Another example? My player informs me that they never run the plays. The varsity squad runs the plays, and the JV players are expected to learn the plays by watching the varsity squad and studying the play book. I hope you’ll excuse me if I say that I think this is nuts! On the rare occasion that my son does get to play, he’s expected to execute plays that he’s never had the chance to practice! I can, to some extent, forgive him, therefore, when he has to concentrate on remembering what he’s supposed to do during a play. During one play on the one defensive series that he played on Saturday, the running back for the opposing team ran past him on the line. I asked him about that after the game. His response was that the back ran through “B” gap, and on that play, he is supposed to plug “A” gap. The center was responsible for “B” gap. I can tell him that he needs to react to the ball, but at the same time, I can forgive him for not wanting to mis-execute a play that he’s barely had time to practice.

Can I make one more football complaint? Before the home games, in the locker room, the players are force to listen to music by Taylor Swift. I have nothing against Taylor Swift; she seems like a sweet girl. But her music is not going to get football players pumped up for what is, inherently, a violent, full-contact contest. The junior high volleyball players get to listen to more aggressive music! But I also object to the obnoxious and vulgarity-laced rap by Ice Cube (with vocal assist by Snoop Dogg) that was played following the team’s sole win of the season. Team captains should be given some leeway in selecting the locker room music, but not free rein!

In spite of this, my freshman still looks at the pre-season poster, with the photos of the seniors around the edge, and expects to see his picture there three years from now. I hope that he still feels that way next year.

I can’t say the same thing regarding my eighth-grade daughter. The eighth grade volleyball team has nine players this year. With six on the court at a time, that leaves three subs. Two of those subs get next to no playing time. In one recent match, the eighth grade team lost both games (the first team to win two games wins the match, so all matches are either two or three games), and my daughter didn’t get to step foot on the court until the last three points of the second game. We complained after that, so in the next match, after not playing at all in the first game, our daughter played one full rotation in the second game, during which she made no mistakes that cost her team a point. When she left the game, the score was tied. The team went on to lose, with my daughter spending the rest of the game on the sideline. She gets to watch other girls make mistakes that cost the team points, while she doesn’t even get the chance to contribute either way. She’s frustrated, her mother is frustrated, and it is very unlikely that she’ll even be interested in trying to play at the high school level. Whatever flicker of potential there might have been has been effectively crushed.

This past summer, she played pony-league softball. Our village fields teams that compete against other villages with schools in the same athletic conference as our school. We didn’t quite have enough girls to field three teams, so we ended up with two teams with large rosters. During games, ten of the girls take to the field at a time, but all of the girls on the roster are included in the batting line-up. To make things a little bit manageable during the season, each girl on the team was asked to pick two games to sit out. This gave all of the girls on the team a chance to get a little more playing time in the field. I could understand this. But when it came time for the tournament, the coach asked certain girls not to show up, so that he wouldn’t have to include them in the lineup. Understandably, those asked not to show were a little miffed.

Sports are a wonderful thing, or at least they can be. I’ve been able to draw a lot of life-lessons from my own experience with running. The things I learned from my own participation in high school cross country and wrestling were that perseverance and hard work paid off, mostly through the principle of delayed gratification. Sometimes, however, I have to wonder just what it is that our children are supposed to be learning from all of this. My daughter is displaying an impressive amount of stoic poise, and my son is learning to accept defeat. Beyond that, the lesson seems to be that only the starters matter, and that is the wrong lesson, not least because it is short-sighted and ensures that any team success will last only as long as the current group of naturally-talented players.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Rich Young Man

Fr. Robert Barron has an excellent sermon for the encounter between Jesus and the rich young man, which we hear about in today’s Gospel selection. Fr. Barron asserts that Jesus called the young man to heroic virtue. He admits that he is following, in this sermon, the interpretation given by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor.

The young man aspires to something more than he has known in just obeying every jot and tittle of the Law. As John Paul II wrote, “For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life. This is in fact the aspiration at the heart of every human decision and action, the quiet searching and interior prompting which sets freedom in motion. This question is ultimately an appeal to the absolute Good which attracts us and beckons us; it is the echo of a call from God who is the origin and goal of man's life.” Jesus loved him for it, and challenged him to true spiritual heroism. John Paul II believed that the young man’s question and Christ’s answer were critical for us: “If we therefore wish to go to the heart of the Gospel's moral teaching and grasp its profound and unchanging content, we must carefully inquire into the meaning of the question asked by the rich young man in the Gospel and, even more, the meaning of Jesus' reply, allowing ourselves to be guided by him. Jesus, as a patient and sensitive teacher, answers the young man by taking him, as it were, by the hand, and leading him step by step to the full truth.”

Note that Jesus does not dismiss the importance of obeying the Law; rather, he highlights that it does not end there. John Paul II: “Jesus tells the young man: ‘If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments’ (Mt 19:17). In this way, a close connection is made between eternal life and obedience to God's commandments: God's commandments show man the path of life and they lead to it. From the very lips of Jesus, the new Moses, man is once again given the commandments of the Decalogue. Jesus himself definitively confirms them and proposes them to us as the way and condition of salvation.”

Fr. Barron points out that some of the Protestant reformers interpreted this Gospel scene as a “gotcha” moment, in which Jesus points to the futility of obeying the Law. He finds fault with this interpretation, and John Paul II notes that this scene must be interpreted in the context of the rest of the Gospel, especially the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.

Ultimately, the young man goes away sad, because he is unable to renounce his possessions to follow the way of perfection to which Jesus has called him. Fr. Barron notes that this is the only instance recorded in the Gospel where Jesus’ invitation to follow him is rejected. Even so, the rejection is not in anger or pride, but in sadness. How, we are always invited to ask, does this Gospel apply to me? How do I respond to the invitation of Christ. John Paul II again: “This vocation to perfect love is not restricted to a small group of individuals. The invitation, ‘go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor’, and the promise ‘you will have treasure in heaven’, are meant for everyone, because they bring out the full meaning of the commandment of love for neighbour, just as the invitation which follows, ‘Come, follow me’, is the new, specific form of the commandment of love of God. Both the commandments and Jesus' invitation to the rich young man stand at the service of a single and indivisible charity, which spontaneously tends towards that perfection whose measure is God alone: ‘You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48). In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus makes even clearer the meaning of this perfection: ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful’ (Lk 6:36).”

I don’t want to be the one who, upon receiving the invitation, turns away sadly. Lord, please give me the grace that I need to heed and respond to your call.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bone of My Bones

I’d like to mention just one more time (for now) that I find great significance in the way that the human family with husband, wife, and children, images the Holy Trinity with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The language of Sunday’s first reading, from Genesis, mirrors this as well. Adam says of the woman, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.”

Doesn’t that sound amazingly similar to the description of the Son in the Nicene Creed: God from God, light from light, true God from true God? God the Son images God the Father, and the woman images the man. God is love, and the love that is shared between God the Father and God the Son is so perfect, that it proceeds from the Father and the Son as God the Holy Spirit. The love that exists between a man and a woman joined in marriage is so strong, that it proceeds forth as a new person, born from the womb of the woman.

I am not worthy of the great gift that God has given me: the chance to be a living icon of the Trinity! I certainly did not appreciate the full depth of the vocation to marriage when my wife and I exchanged vows. Even now, the full depth of meaning has yet to penetrate my consciousness. O Lord, help me to be worthy of this vocation!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

It Is Not Good

After the first six days of creation, God repeatedly looked upon what he has made, and declared it good. It stands, therefore, in stark contrast when we read in Genesis 2:18 that “God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.’” There are two directions to go with this. First, that man is meant to live in community, with communal life finding its ultimate fulfillment in incorporation into the body of Christ. Within the body of Christ, each member is distinct and interdependent. No one member can realize his full potential without the rest of the body.

The second direction would be the fulfillment of man’s creation in the image of the Trinitarian God through the complementary pairing of male and female in the vocation of marriage. Genesis 2:24 seems to endorse this interpretation: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The man and the woman need one another to fully realize God’s image, with the fruit of their love emanating forth in a manner analogous to the way in which the Holy Spirit proceeds forth from the Father and the Son. The gaping whole in this interpretation is the holiness of the celibate life.

Certainly, we can say that man is called to live in community, and that this call to community is realized in a special way through the sacrament of marriage. In the Gospel (Mark 10:2-12), Jesus notes that the allowance of divorce was only a concession that Moses made for the hardness of the Israelites’ hearts. In the new covenant, that concession would not be needed. God joins together the husband and wife in an indissoluble bond. Divorce does not free an individual to remarry. The words of Christ are pretty darn clear on this point.

Even in the Old Testament, it is clear that divorce is not part of God’s plan for his people. In Malachi 2:14-16 reads “The Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth. ‘For I hate divorce, says the Lord the God of Israel.’”

Too many people get married today thinking that marriage is about self-actualization, or they think of it as a 50-50 partnership. Marriage is not about self actualization, marriage is about sacrifice, as Christ sacrificed himself for his bride, the Church. Marriage is also not about each spouse contributing half, but rather each spouse contributing everything they’ve got. They are no longer two, but one flesh.

I can imagine that sermons based on this weekend’s Sunday mass readings are difficult for divorced Catholics to hear. Regardless, it is the clear and constant teaching of the Church, based on the words of our Lord. If it is unpleasant for some to hear, it says more about those who don’t want to receive the hard sayings than it does about the so-called failure of the Church to adapt to modern realities. Perhaps if these teachings were more widely received, the modern realities would not be quite so unpleasant.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Big Bang God

Not long ago, I wrote a post noting that faith and science seem to be intersecting a lot lately. Yesterday, the Catholic News Agency ran a story that I want to highlight as another instance in which science, rather than rebutting belief in God, reinforces it.

The CNA story reported on the remarks of Jesuit Fr. Robert Spitzer at a conference in Denver.

“Theism, in fact, can be better explained by contemporary science and modern philosophy better than ever before, but particularly interesting is what is happening in the field of astrophysics ... to the point that I can't imagine why agnosticism and Atheism are still popular,” Fr. Spitzer said.

For those interested, a footnoted paper, Indications of Creation in
Contemporary Big Bang Cosmology, going into all of the more technical aspects related to Fr. Spitzer’s assertions was written in 2004 and is available on the internet.

Some of the comments to the CAN story from unfriendly readers are amusing and predictable. One argues that there are infinite universes and therefore, no matter how small a probability might be, at least one will meet the conditions. I suppose that means that there are an infinite number of universes, less one, in which everything falls apart. Another commenter asks, if God caused the Big Bang, then who or what caused God? Some people just don’t seem to be able (or willing) to understand what God is.