Wednesday, November 30, 2011
"Prayer is an art learned through constant practice," Pope Benedict XVI said during Wednesday's general audience, adding that prayer must begin in the home, as it did for Jesus, who learned to pray from his mother and the Jewish tradition.
The pope also used the general audience to speak against the death penalty, thanking the Sant'Egidio community for their efforts to end the practice worldwide.
For more extensive comments on both topics, watch the short clip above.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Today is the feast of Servant of God Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement with Peter Maurin. A journalist, social activist, Catholic convert and self-described anarchist, Dorothy died on this day in 1980.
This is Part I of a rare video interview. Take a few minutes to check it out. For Part II, click HERE.
By Matthew E. Bunson
Catholics hear all the time about a “crisis in vocations.” This is usually discussed concerning vocations to the priesthood. But the challenge of discerning a vocation is not limited to the priesthood.
Everyone is called to discern what God wants them to do with their lives — be it a young man considering the priesthood, young men and women entering the religious life, a man feeling called to the permanent diaconate, a couple deciding on marriage, or someone recognizing a dedicated single life. Today, however, there are many challenges to hearing God’s call, and the task of the Church is to assist men and women to discern the path that will lead them to true happiness and eternal life.
As part of the celebration of National Vocation Awareness Week, Jan. 9-14, The Catholic Answer magazine interviewed Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York on how to build a “culture of vocations.”
Archbishop Dolan served as rector of the North American College, the seminary for Americans in Rome, from 1994 to 2001; was archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009; and was named archbishop of New York in 2009. In 2010, he was elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. His blog can be read at http://blog.archny.org/.
The Catholic Answer: Your Excellency, perhaps the best place to start is with a very basic question: What is the Church’s understanding of vocation?
Archbishop Timothy Dolan: There is the generic sense of vocation. There is a precise sense of vocation. And I don’t think we can talk about the precise sense until we understand the generic sense. We have to believe — it is part of the Catholic worldview — that God has a plan for each of us. He is inviting us to live a life that will bring us back to Him. He is calling us to do that. The Latin word for call is vocation. So, in a way, in a broad way, the whole sense of discipleship, the whole sense of divine Providence, the whole sense that God has a plan for us, stems from what you might call this generic sense of vocation.
And in some ways that is the most pivotal question that you must answer: How does God want me to spend my life? Generically, we know that God wants us on a path that will get us back to Him.
A precise sense of vocation is the very particular way that He wants us to do that. And that is where the priesthood, consecrated life, religious life, married life and consecrated single life come up.
I always think that we miss the boat when we don’t speak about marriage as a vocation. I mean, that is the biggest vocations crisis in the Church today, if you ask me. When only half of our Catholic people are getting married, no wonder we have a crisis in the numbers of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.
I just had a young couple say to me that they had asked their pastor — and he said that they had to ask their archbishop — if it was OK while they were getting married for them to lie prostrate on the floor while they were singing the Litany of Saints. I thought, “Wow, why not?”
Now, that young couple: You talk about having a sense of vocation; they were sealing their vocation...Continue reading HERE.
Monday, November 28, 2011
As active U.S. military involvement in Iraq draws to a close, what does the moral scorecard on this adventure look like from an American point of view? Granted that a comprehensive weighing of results will only be possible some years from now, at the moment the picture is something like this.
In a perverse way, American policy in Iraq has been a model of consistency from start to finish. The original decision to invade back in 2003, based as it was on faulty intelligence and mistaken expectations about Iraqi receptivity to democracy, can now be seen to have been grossly in error. As for the here and now, it’s less obviously, but very likely, a parallel error for America to pull out prematurely, as in fact we now seem to be doing.
Yes, the Iraqi government refused to give the Obama administration what it wanted by way of a status of forces agreement that would allow American troops to remain. But it’s difficult to believe the administration truly pushed all that hard for a deal or was all that disappointed at not getting one.
So who won this war? For the moment at least, the answer to that also seems clear: The big winner was the deeply anti-American regime in Iran whose influence in Iraq appears likely to increase enormously after the Americans are gone. And who lost? That also is an easy one. The losers were Saddam Hussein, the United States, and the Iraqi Christian community. And, oh yes — probably Iraq itself.
Naturally there are people who dispute all this, especially apologists for the Obama administration. There also are people, I suppose, who still believe Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction are out there somewhere in a cave in the Iraqi desert, just waiting to be discovered. As far as I can see, neither group makes an especially persuasive case.
Thus the paradox stands. Someone trying to form a moral judgment of U.S. actions in Iraq can reasonably hold (as I do) that it was wrong for America to go to war in the first place and it’s wrong to quit now. The first conclusion is based on the fact that Saddam was not attacking or threatening to attack any American vital interests when we attacked him. As for the second, having barged into Iraq and, with much bloodshed, turned it into a shambles of doubtful governability, America should have the decency to stick around and help clean up the mess.
But it’s probably too late to do much for the Christian community of Iraq. Face to face with hostile Islamic fundamentalism after the fall of Saddam Hussein, most Iraqi Christians have fled the country. The need now is to help them find new homes and new lives.
A similar process of analysis should now be applied to Afghanistan as well as to other places in the Arab world where the United States has one or more fingers in the pie. Increasingly it appears that the merry talk of the self-deluded American media, suggesting that democracy was on the verge of breaking out on the heels of the Arab Spring, was so much wishful thinking. It’s good to see the tyrants go, but what happens next in places like Egypt, Libya, and Syria is anybody’s guess.
American security interests will be in play in the Arab world for years to come. If the U.S. has a long-range policy there that’s both realistic and morally sound, I haven’t noticed it. How long can we afford to wait?
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
So how did we do? What do we think? The new translation is finally here, after much fanfare and more than enough controversy. Personally, I found my first full Mass experience with the new Roman Missal exciting and beautiful. (Except for the word "consubstantial." Still can't get past that one.)
Most people at our church seemed totally on board, with some saying the new responses extra loud to help guide those who were still on autopilot. Overall, I thought it was a really positive experience. And I've heard the same on Facebook, where some friends said they liked the changes or felt more involved in the Mass because they had to pay closer attention. Which is exactly what the Church was hoping for, that these changes would renew our interest in and excitement for the Mass since it's so easy to let the words roll off our tongue without giving them a whole lot of thought.
Of course, not everyone I'm hearing from is happy. Some people I know say they simply won't use the new language. As I told a group of confirmation candidates at a local parish recently, we can either enter into this new experience with our spiritual arms crossed in anger or we can open ourselves up to what these new words might do to deepen our faith. As with most things on this spiritual journey, the choice is ours: Seek to go deeper or stay stuck right where we are. Change -- even when it takes us back -- can be a good thing for our prayer lives because it wakes us up to what we're professing to believe and forces us to explore how we feel about those beliefs.
So how was your first experience with the new translation? Did you like it? Hate it? Not care? Did the rest of the congregation seem on board? Share with us in the comment section.
HERE is a short article on this topic from my local daily, the Albany Times Union. I'm quoted in a couple of places since my most recent book, The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass, covers all of the changes and the reasons behind them.
Friday, November 25, 2011
By Mary DeTurris Poust
As I sat at home today, not shopping on Black Friday because I despise everything it stands for, I remembered the above video about Advent and what this season is really supposed to be about. (I posted it here last year, but it's worth watching again.)
For too many people, Thanksgiving was reduced to one more shopping opportunity, as folks left family and friends to line up at Walmart and Target and countless other stores to get more stuff. Do we really need more stuff? Of course, Advent promises to offer more of the same -- sales flyers, must-haves, in-aisle fights over that last coveted toy -- unless we consciously make it different.
Watch the video and then follow the easy instructions: Worship fully. Spend less. Give more. Love all.
It sounds so easy, so why do we make it so difficult? Visit Advent Conspiracy HERE for more suggestions and information.
Monday, November 21, 2011
This weekend I saw the future of the Catholic Church up close and personal, and I'm here to tell you that there is reason to hope -- at least 23,000 reasons. As I sat on the 50-yard line of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, I watched teenagers from all over this country dance and sing and scream till their voices gave out in an effort to express their faith and celebrate their love of Jesus and the Church. It really was a sight to behold, and a goosebump-inducing sound.
The kids attending the National Catholic Youth Conference weren't hung up on changes to the liturgy or surveys that say Mass attendance is down or any of the negative stuff we hear about our faith in the news. These kids were on fire for the Lord, clapping their hands and stomping their feet, wearing crazy hats and bright T-shirts emblazoned with everything from parish names and towns to the words, "And with your spirit."
I couldn't help but look out at so many young faces and feel a deep sense of hope. Many of these teens have spent two years fundraising to get to NCYC (I know our parish kids did), so coming to the biennial event isn't all fun and games. It's hard work, followed by exhausting schedules, and spiritually challenging sessions and workshops. You know you're witnessing something powerful, when 23,000 teenagers can disconnect from the Internet and from everything else and sit in total silence in a stadium and pray lectio divina. I found it hard to enter into silent prayer myself because I was so awed by the fact that a packed stadium could be so silent and feel so sacred.
And my awe didn't end with the kids. Thirty bishops attended the conference, coming out in baseball caps for the opening session, sitting in Victory Park (the exhibitors' hall) signing autographs on bishop trading cards for hours, going to pizza parties with their respective dioceses at 11:30 at night, and holding roundtable discussions during the day with the kids.
I have such deep respect for those bishops who attended NCYC because it shows their commitment to the future of our Church. These kids don't have money to donate, they don't have the power to change laws or do anything else to benefit the bishops or dioceses directly. All they have is their enthusiasm and their willingness to walk this faith journey. I was so grateful to the bishops and to the nearly 300 priests and deacons and 175 seminarians who thought these kids and this event were important enough to take time out of their own busy schedules.
The kids were clearly dumbfounded as they watched the procession into the closing Mass, an endless river of white vestments stretching on for so long it took two or three songs to get everyone inside. I saw the gratitude and excitement among the group of 20 kids we brought from our parish. They just kept watching wide-eyed, saying they'd never seen so many priests in one place. Trust me, it made an impression.
If you work with youth in your parish and have never been to NCYC, get them to the next event, scheduled for 2013 in Indianapolis. It will be worth all the effort, all the lost sleep, all the long hours it takes to get there.
So often we adults scratch our heads and wonder how to get kids excited about their faith, how to get kids to want to go to Mass or confession or adoration. When you stand on line for more than 45 minutes to get to confession because there are 50 kids in front of you and hundreds more behind, you can't help but feel hopeful for the future. How do we get kids excited about the faith? We have to get excited about the faith, which is exactly what the bishops and priests and presenters and youth ministers did at NCYC.
We adults could learn a lot from our Catholic teens. They're not squabbling over words and other details; they're celebrating the big picture, that we are all "called to glory," which was the theme of this year's event.
During the closing Mass, Bishop Christopher Coyne, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, told everyone in the packed stadium to take out their cells phones, power them up, and text the words "Called to Glory" to everyone on their contact list, Twitter accounts and Facebook. The kids jumped at the chance to spread the Word in a way that's second nature to them. They happily tweeted and texted their messages, unfraid of what their friends back home might think.
As the kids chanted throughout the weekend in a seemingly endless call and response -- on street corners, in restaurants, at the stadium, even in the airport when other groups of NCYC teens passed by -- "God is good all the time. All the time God is good."
Thursday, November 17, 2011
My teenage son and I are winging our way from upstate New York to Indianapolis today to join 20,000+ teens at the biennial National Catholic Youth Conference. I won't be able to blog while I'm away since I'll have limited computer access -- and kids to chaperone. My parish is sending 22 teens, which is pretty amazing. And a dozen parents signed on as well.
The numbers are impressive all around. Our diocese, the Diocese of Albany, has close to 300 people attending, including Bishop Howard Hubbard, who will celebrate Mass for us today and spend the day with us on Friday in between a bishops' meeting in Washington, D.C., and an ad limina visit in Rome.
If you want to know more about this amazing event, click HERE. There will be live streaming of some portions of the conference, so check it out. I'll be back on Monday with reflections and observations.
Monday, November 14, 2011
After a 10-year battle to add the "Choose Life" license plate to the list of specialty options in the Empire State, New Yorkers may finally get the chance to wear their pro-adoption, pro-life message on their cars. (The plates will raise money for adoption groups.)
A federal court has ruled that New York State must permit the plates. It remains to be seen if the state will implement the judge's decision, however. The Department of Motor Vehicles has objected to the plates as "patently offensive" to a large portion of the population and said they could lead to road rage. Similar plates are available in many states across the country.
Kathleen M. Gallagher, director of pro-life activities of the New York State Catholic Conference, issued the following statement:
“The decision of the federal court in the Choose Life license plates case is a victory for the free speech rights of all New Yorkers. With its custom license plate program, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles created a public forum where it allows the display of messages, slogans, logos, web sites and toll-free telephone numbers for advocacy groups. The state cannot permit free speech for some but not for all. Equal protection under the law means all persons and groups must be treated equally.
“We urge New York State to implement the judge’s decision, lift the current moratorium on custom plates, and allow the Choose Life license plates on the road. These plates will provide much-needed revenue to the state, as proven by the millions of dollars which have been raised for other states as well as for adoption agencies, safe havens and pregnancy centers that receive partial proceeds from annual custom plate fees.”
Click HERE to watch an in-depth TV interview that gives the background and next steps of the New York license plate controversy.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
In a July 4, 1982 interview with OSV Newsweekly, he said the point of his cartoons was "elevating" families and give "a normality to the pandemonium that exists in some homes."
"It makes people realize that their kids are normal; their homes are normal. The message to the parents is enjoy it, enjoy it while they're young. Smile with the kids, laugh with them, love with them. That's the real philosophy behind Family Circus," he said.
And check out this cover from that issue:
I have to admit that it really didn’t impress me very favorably the first time I read it: “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization” — that will be the theme of next May’s World Day for Social Communications, the Vatican announcement said.
That’s really strange, I thought. After all, even as it stands, World Communications Day isn’t exactly a red-letter event in most people’s calendars, and giving it an obscure theme like that one is hardly calculated to help.
For those who may not know — and that’s probably quite a few people — World Communications Day is one of several annual “world days” sponsored by the Vatican to focus attention on particular issues and the apostolates of the Church: World Day of Peace, Mission Sunday, World Day of the Sick, and so on.
They generally don’t get a great deal of attention from the media or the public, but they do provide a measure of recognition from the Church for important causes. The World Communications Day has been on the list ever since Vatican Council II called for it almost a half-century ago.
But the theme chosen for 2012, with its emphasis on silence, struck me at first as passing strange. As I thought about it, though, it began to grow on me.
Spiritual writers have always stressed the importance of silence as a necessary setting for contemplative prayer. It’s virtually impossible after all to speak deeply to God and hear his reply in the midst of a constant racket. And that message may be more needed than ever today, when, as Pope Benedict remarked recently on a visit to a Carthusian monastery in Calabria, “some people are no longer able to bear silence and solitude for very long.”
This is true, but it’s also a familiar thought. Where the Communications Day theme adds a new twist is precisely in linking silence and communication. At first that may seem like an uncomfortable fit. But is it really? The brief Vatican statement announcing the theme puts it like this:
In the thought of Benedict XVI, silence is not simply an antidote to the constant an unstoppable flow of information that characterizes society today, but rather a factor that is necessary for its integration. Silence, precisely because it favors discernment and reflection, can in fact be seen primarily as a means of welcoming the word.
Now here is an interesting and important insight. In today’s media-saturated world, where all of us are at constant risk of inundation by the sheer quantity of communication, making sense of media requires regular cultivation of reflective silence to sort out all those incoming messages.
Which of the multitude of factoids constantly demanding my attention on the grounds of being “news” do I really need to notice? Which of the pundits night and day clamoring for my ear deserve to be taken seriously — and which do not? And — most important perhaps — have I taken trouble to weigh conflicting points of view or gone the easy route of hearing only those messages that reinforce my prejudices?
To judge from blog postings and letters to the editor, some people have mastered the art of being discerning, informed media consumers. But many haven’t, instead preferring slogans lifted from ideological sources to the hard work of silent study and analysis.
“Silence and the Word” — that theme for World Communications Day is onto something important.
Put the media aside at some point during the day, settle down a bit, and just think. You might even find that you enjoy it.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Maybe you weren't aware of this, but your Christmas tree has an image problem. Thank goodness the federal government is stepping in to fix that, but it's going to cost you. That's right. The U.S. Agriculture Department announced yesterday that it is imposing a "Christmas Tree Tax" -- 15 cents per live-cut tree -- to fund a federal program designed to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.
From Fox Nation:
In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)). And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).But why? Why? Do Christmas trees really need a spin doctor? Apparently, yes. Sales of live trees are suffering, what with all those pre-lit, need-no-water, won't-lose-their-needles trees available in every big box store across the nation. This campaign promises to do for trees what similar marketing efforts have done for the dairy and beef industries:
To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52). And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.
Got Christmas trees?
Here's more from a Chicago Tribune story:
By taxing themselves, growers will raise $2 million a year for ads promoting the merits of real, live trees. Or, at least, trees that once were living, as opposed to the artificial kind that have seized an increasing share of the holiday market.So today I pose two questions to you: Is your Christmas tree live or artificial? Do you think the tax will make a difference? I will admit that after years of swearing I would never, ever, ever have a fake tree in my house, we have opted for the pre-lit variety, mostly due to animals and children who had a penchant for knocking into the tree repeatedly until all the needles were on the ground. We may go back to the live version one day, but it won't be because of an ad campaign.
"As demographics and buying habits have changed, we have watched the market for real trees shrink drastically, requiring us to spend much more time and money on promotion," said Don Cameron, past president of the California Christmas Tree Association.
Monday, November 7, 2011
The resource, with colorful graphics to draw kids in, explains why the changes are happening, and tries to get kids excited about what's coming.
Here's the intro:
Something exciting is about
to happen… On the First
Sunday of Advent this year,
we will begin to use
new words for the Mass!
Hundreds of bishops and
thousands of experts have been
working for many years to
make the words just right.
At last, the new books have
been printed and we’re ready
There are examples and more explanations to help kids (and their parents) make the adjustment to the new language, which is just a few weeks away. Check it out by clicking HERE.
OSV has tons of resources available for order through its website -- family posters (in English and Spanish), parent guides, catechist companions, and more. And, if you'd like general information covering many different aspects of the coming changes, visit OSV's Roman Missal Changes Resources by clicking HERE. There are lots of links to other sites as well as videos, reflections, and laminated "pew cards" to help worshipers adapt and learn.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
EPIC-National from Catholics Come Home on Vimeo.
For the first time, TV ads promoting the Catholic faith will be running on national, prime-time, network television, thanks to a new campaign from Catholics Come Home. The bilingual ads are scheduled to run from Dec. 16 through Jan. 8 on CBS, NBC, Univision, TBS, USA, TNT, CNN, Fox News, and other networks.
According to Catholics Come Home, the ads will highlight the "history, beauty, spirituality and accomplishments of the Catholic Church." The initiative will reach 250 million television viewers in more than 10,000 U.S. cities and every diocese throughout the United States, airing more than 400 times during the three-week period.
“These inspiring messages are sponsored by 30,000 Catholic families who want to invite neighbors, relatives, and co-workers to the largest family reunion in modern history” said Tom Peterson, founder of Catholics Come Home.
To view the ads, visit Catholics Come Home by clicking HERE.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
My Life with the Saints, by James Martin, S.J. (Loyola Press): When I received this book back when it first came out in 2006, my first reaction was, basically, Oh, another saint book. WRONG. This book is amazing and inspiring. From the opening pages, I was hooked. The saints of my childhood, the ones I read about every night before bed, suddenly took on new relevance thanks to Father Martin. This is not just one of my favorite saint books; this one is on my list of favorite books. Period.
Catholic Saints Prayer Book by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing): This small, hardcover book is jam-packed with information and prayers related to your favorite saints, 32 of them to be exact. I find I pull this book out when I'm checking feast days, needing some background on a saint, or just looking for some peace as I go about my busy day. Added bonus: It's small enough to take with you -- in your purse, in your car. Saints on the go.
A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul by Lisa M. Hendey (Ave Maria Press): This one is hot off the press, and it's an excellent book to take you right through the entire year. Not only do you get a story about each saint, but lessons, traditions, wisdom, and even "saint-inspired activities." In addition, there are Scripture readings for each day of the week for every saint, prayers, and a final thought to ponder for each entry. Get it for yourself, your mom, or a Catholic mom you know.
Book of Saints by Amy Welborn (Loyola Press): This is a go-to book for me, especially when I'm putting together lesson plans for faith formation or helping my own kids with saint-related studies and activities. (Our parish All Saints' Day party this week, for example.) So often kids think the saints are people so unlike them, from far-off lands and distant times, but this book helps them see the saints as real and relevant role models.