Monthly Archives: June 2018

Navigating the Faith: Humanae Vitae’s Unheeded Warning

by Father Matthew Long

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the encyclical letter, Humanae Vitae, on the regulation of human birth by Blessed Paul VI, we understand now, more than ever, the timeliness and timelessness of his teaching, and the truth and wisdom behind the essential propositions of the Church reaffirmed by his writing.

Far from just “prohibiting artificial contraception,” Paul VI foresaw the consequences that marriages and society would suffer if the use of contraception became widespread. As Karen Mahoney recently summarized in The Catholic Herald, the tribulations that would arise if Church teaching on the regulation of births were disregarded are first, “conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality,” second, the loss of respect for women by men to the point that men would consider women “as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion,” third, governments would use contraception as “a dangerous weapon,” and, finally, that contraception would mislead human beings into thinking they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, relentlessly turning the human person into the object of his or her own intrusive power.

At the time, opposing voices promised artificial contraception would bring positive advancements for both marriages and society. Sadly, it is clear for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that the past 50 years has proven the dire predictions of Paul VI to be more than accurate.

In 2018, we must recommit ourselves to understanding and living what Pope Paul VI wrote in the opening line of Humanae Vitae :

“The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.”

In short, the Holy Father reiterated that spouses, with the help of God’s grace, can realistically acquire the self-discipline necessary to practice the methods of family planning that require periodic abstinence. He wrote:

“….the discipline which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value. It demands continual effort yet, thanks to its beneficent influence, husband and wife fully develop their personalities, being enriched with spiritual values. Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace; and facilitates the solution of other problems; it favors attention for one’s partner, helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love, and deepens their sense of responsibility.”

Bishop Strickland, Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, has placed a renewed focus on teaching our Catholic faith, which includes special attention being given to the idea of Natural Family Planning contained in Humanae Vitae. In his pastoral letter to the people of East Texas on teaching, published in May 2017, he wrote the following:

“It is providential that in 2018 the Church will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae. At its promulgation, much of the world rejected, and continues to reject, the unchanging truths contained in this teaching of Blessed Pope Paul VI. Fifty-years on, seeing the unrelenting attack on the moral teaching of the sanctity of human life, we understand that the teachings of Humanae Vitae are “crucial for humanity’s future,” and it is imperative that we embrace these truths of married love, responsible parenthood and human sexuality.”

This is what is required of all of us: the effort of conversion of ourselves. Chastity “tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech” (CCC 2338). We must commit ourselves to overcoming any duplicity, which we have come to rely on concerning this challenging teaching of the Church. If we are to help married couples to live according to God’s law, then we have to submit ourselves to that same law and lead the way.

This conversion begins by gently and patiently teaching and re-teaching the faithful the truth and beauty of what the Church has always taught and what Paul VI so prophetically re-proposed a half-century ago.  •

Bishop Joseph E. Strickland will speak at St. Joseph Parish in Shreveport on July 25. He was consecrated the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Tyler in November of 2012. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Dallas in 1985 and joined the newly-created Diocese of Tyler in 1987. Before being selected as bishop by Pope Benedict XVI, he served as pastor of several parishes, rector of the Cathedral, judicial vicar and vicar general.

From the Pope: General Audience: Live with Strength of Life

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!June 13 is the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua. Who among you is called Anthony? An applause to all the “Anthonies.” Today we will begin a new itinerary of catechesis. It will be on the theme of the Commandments. The Commandments of the law of God. To introduce it, let us take as a starting point the passage we have just heard: the encounter between Jesus and a man, he is a young man, who, on his knees, asks Him how he can inherit eternal life (cf. Mk 10: 17-21). And in that question there is the challenge of every existence: ours too: the desire for a full, infinite life. But how can we arrive at this? What path should we take? To live truly, to live a noble existence. How many young people seek to “live” and then destroy themselves in the pursuit of ephemeral things.

Some think that it is better to extinguish this impulse, the impulse to live, because it is dangerous. I would like to say, especially to the young: our worst enemy is not concrete problems, however serious and dramatic they may be: the greatest danger in life is a poor spirit of adaptation that is not meekness or humility, but rather mediocrity, pusillanimity.

Is a mediocre young person a young person with a future, or not? No! He stays there, he doesn’t grow, he will not be successful. Mediocrity or timidity. Those young people are afraid of everything: “No, I am this way…” These young people will not go ahead. Meekness, strength and no timidity, no mediocrity. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati – who was a young man – used to say that it is necessary to live, not to get by. The mediocre get by. Live with the strength of life. We must ask the heavenly Father, for the young people of today, the gift of a healthy restlessness. But at home, in your houses, in every family, when you see a young person who stays seated all day, at times the mother and father think, “But he is ill, he has something,” and they take him to the doctor. The life of the young person is about going ahead, being restless, healthy restlessness, the capacity not to settle for a life without beauty, without color. If young people are not hungry for authentic life, I wonder, where will humanity end up? Where will humanity end up with quiet young people who are not restless?

The question of that man in the Gospel passage we have heard is within each one of us: how do we find life, life in abundance, happiness? Jesus answers: “You know the Commandments,” and cites a part of the Decalogue. It is a pedagogical process, by which Jesus wishes to lead to a precise place: indeed it is already clear from his question that the man does not have a full life, he seeks more and he is restless. What must he therefore understand? He says: “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy” (v. 20).

How do we pass from youth to maturity? When we begin to accept our own limits. One becomes an adult when one becomes relative and aware of what is missing (cf. v. 21). This man is compelled to acknowledge that everything he can “do” does not go beyond a roof, it does not go beyond a margin.

How good it is to be men and women! How precious our existence is! And yet there is a truth in the history of recent centuries that man has often refused, with tragic consequences: the truth of his limits.

Jesus, in the Gospel, says something that can help us: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Mt. 5: 17). The Lord Jesus gives fulfilment, He came for this. That man had to arrive at the threshold of taking a leap, where there opens up the possibility of stopping living for oneself, one’s own works, one’s own goods and, precisely because full life is lacking, leave all to follow the Lord.

Seemingly in Jesus’ final invitation – immense, wonderful – there is not the offer of poverty, but of wealth, of the true kind: “One thing you lack… Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (v. 21).

Who, given the choice between the original and a copy, would choose the copy? Here is the challenge: to find the original of life, not the copy. Jesus does not offer surrogates, but true life, true love, true wealth! How can the young follow us in faith if they do not see us choose the original, if they see us addicted to half measures? It is bad to find Christians of half measures, if I may permit myself the word, “dwarf” Christians; they grow up to a certain point and no further; Christians with a shrunken, closed heart. It is bad to find this. There needs to be the example of someone who invites me “beyond” to “more,” to grow a little. Saint Ignatius called it the “magis,” “the fire, the fervor of action that rouses the dormant.”

The road of what is missing passes for what there is. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil. We have to start from reality to make the jump to “what is missing.” We must scrutinize the ordinary to open ourselves to the extraordinary.

In these catecheses we will take the two tablets of Moses as Christians, hand in hand with Jesus, to pass from the illusions of youth to the treasure that is in heaven, walking behind Him. We will discover, in each of those laws, ancient and wise, the door opened by the Father Who is in heaven because the Lord Jesus, who has passed through it, leads us into real life. His life. The life of the children of God.  •

Domestic Church: The Freedom to Discover God’s Truth

by Katie Sciba

Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” Pope St. John Paul II’s wisdom was spoken directly to an American congregation during his October 1995 visit. In visiting the land of the free, he clearly articulated what true liberty is. In such a wealthy nation, most of us are able to do what we like. We have options in marriage, work and leisure; and while wonderful, this is not the makings of freedom. When that which the Lord compels us to do – what we ought to do – is unbarred by law, society, or even personal hesitation, then we know the bliss of freedom.

Discover what you “ought”

Our vocations are our life’s work – the call of God to love through being what He made us to be. Some callings are universal (and pretty obvious) because the Lord spelled them out in the Commandments; but God’s will for our lives is also revealed through the gifts and charisms He has given us individually. For example, my husband is blessed with visual creativity that makes him a fantastic video producer; my desire to live simply keeps our home hospitable to its sweet occupants. Another indication of how the Lord calls us is examining what could be called “holy unrest” within us. The injustices that make us want to jump up and act are the ones Jesus nudges us toward so we can bring His love and mercy. Causes as wide as the pro-life movement or as local as classroom bullying need us to diffuse the wrong.

Cut back on what doesn’t mesh

It’s a thrill to finally do what the Lord made us to do, and to be what He made us to be. Moving forward though, we can begin identifying what holds us back. If work imposes on our marriages, we can rearrange our schedules or cut back an hour or two. For teens who need less time online and more of a life lived to the fullest, switch them to a “dumb” phone, reduce social media and give more real life experiences. With the Lord’s help, we can give the boot to whatever stands between us and saying yes to God.

Embrace the grace

One of my favorite Gospel stories is The Rich Young Man. After accounting for his own faithfulness, a young man asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus tells the man to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. For the rich young man, this feels impossible and he walks away feeling crushed. I wish so much that he would have stuck around and asked Jesus for help, for grace, to do what he felt he couldn’t. Whatever it is He desires for our lives – what we ought to do – Jesus is ready to shower grace upon grace for us to do it. The Lord doesn’t intend for us to proceed alone, and asking Jesus to be with us strengthens us to do what we otherwise couldn’t.

In all circumstances, what we ought to do is clear. As men and women made in the image and likeness of God, we ought to live fully, we ought to be channels of Jesus’ mercy by loving others and ourselves and we ought to follow the Lord’s call for our lives by asking for His grace.

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
from USCCB.org

O God our Creator, from Your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as Your people and given us the right and the duty to worship You, the only true God, and Your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of Your Holy Spirit, You call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.

We ask You to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of Your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all Your sons and daughters gathered in Your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome— for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us—this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Faithful Food: Our Touchstones

by Kim Long

When my children were young and housework was sometimes overwhelming, if I could find one surface, counter top, end table or corner of a room, that was completely in order I was encouraged to go to the next spot and reclaim it in the name of orderliness. This exercise comforted and assured me that chaos was not the victor and kept me coping with a small home and four very busy little boys, a husband and many friends.

Years later I still “play this game,” finding the one space which is exactly as it should be, calmness ensues and then I can begin to clear away the clutter and chaos (inner and outer).

I called this space a touchstone.

Over the years I began to recognize other things as touchstones and they did not all have to do with cleaning my home.

I go to Mass when I travel. This has led me to some amazing experiences as well as some underwhelming ones. In both scenarios there are certain things which catch my attention and remind me that all really is well; the smell of a church anywhere in the world which is to me the fragrance of hope and faith, the priest intoning the phrase which settles us all in, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” the calm which settles over me once I recognize this age old rhythm, these serve to calm me, to center me.

Touchstones.

On family vacation there is not so much a thing to which I can point but an energy which is felt by all present regardless of our differences (and believe me, we have them). We are a family, we share connections through telling family stories, listening to a song which coaxes a memory to surface and light, one of family togetherness, the feel of my oldest child’s arms around me, the way my grandson’s hand feels small in my own hand, even the shared pain of loss deepens our bond.

So it is with cooking. I admit there are times that I come home from work and am “starving,” but cast around in the pantry or fridge and nothing suits which really means I am hungry for something more, a touchstone waiting to reveal itself. This is when every single experience that surfaces brings an accompanying food. When I think of my grandmother, I remember the cake I made for her birthday, my mother and aunt brought their own dishes and my dad made delicious French toast.

A touchstone is defined as a foundation or quintessential part of a feature.

This passage from 1st Timothy 6: 18-19, speaks to our subject, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”

Touchstones surround and enfold us if we choose to see, hear and, yes, even taste them. They help us build a foundation in this world and the more connected to God we become the more we see the foundation was always there, beneath us, supporting us all our days.

Here is my dad ’s delicious French toast recipe, that he prepared “when he had the time.” Recalling him with a dishtowel over his shoulder, whistling, and “rustling up some breakfast” is another touchstone, a piece of that foundation and it fills me with delight.

May your summer find you enjoying all the delights and navigating the challenges each day holds and bring you to a deeper connection to the One who holds us all together.

Daddy’s Leisurely French Toast

Ingredients:

• 1 loaf Texas toast

• 6 whole eggs

• whipping cream (1 to 2 pints)

• 1 tsp cinnamon

•  ½ tsp. cloves

• 1 tsp. vanilla

•  butter (unsalted)

Directions:

1) In a large bowl, whisk eggs until blended well.

2) Add whipping cream, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla extract.

3) Soak several pieces of the bread in the egg and cream mixture. Let bread soak in mixture one or two slices at a time. Bread will become saturated but don’t leave in so long it is falling apart.

4) Place slices on hot buttered griddle and brown to your taste on each side.

6) Enjoy with your choice of toppings, syrup, preserves, powdered sugar or whipped cream!

Note: Use real butter on the griddle and monitor the temperature closely to prevent scorching of the butter. (If, however, butter is something you need to omit – substitute 1 tsp. of butter flavored extract in the batter itself and use non stick pan spray).

Book Review: Feast Days and Holidays

Feast Days & Holidays
by Joan Marie Arbogast

Reviewed by Jessica Rinaudo

 Feast Days and Holidaysby Joan Marie Arbogast is a teaching tool for Catholic parents and teachers to not only share the significance of the Catholic faith and the life of the saints with children, but to also provide activities and prayers to help make those lessons memorable.Published in a spiral bound format, Feast Days and Holidays is organized in sequential order for the year. For each feast day and holiday in the book, there are pages that can be reproduced for handouts, crafts, puzzles, recipes and activities. There is also information about the particular feast day, liturgical season or holiday, explaining what it is, incorporating both scripture and the saints to explain why it’s important in the life of the Church.

To me, one of the best parts of this book is that it takes holidays that aren’t necessarily Church holidays, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day and Earth Day, and extrapolates a message of love and social justice that ties in with the mission of the universal Catholic Church.

The activities in the book can easily be adapted for different age groups, and most can be done with items found around the house. Activities encourage children to be humble servants, as well as teach them about solemnities and liturgical colors.

I know that as a mother, I often find myself struggling for the best ways to teach the faith – and all that entails – to my children. I appreciate that Feast Days and Holidays provides some concrete tools to do that, as well as help me incorporate things separate from the Church into our faith lives.

I recommend this book to catechists, teachers and especially parents who find it challenging to teach the faith and help little ones remember the message. I found that by going through the book with my children, I even learned a few things along the way. •

 

Mike’s Meditations: Reaction vs Response

by Mike Van Vranken

Have you ever found yourself excited after a great Sunday homily? Or, maybe you’ve heard a religious leader say something that confused you or even made you mad. And of course, there is that way-too-common reaction when we hear some moral message and think to ourselves: “I sure hope … (fill in the blank) heard that sermon. In other words, we can react in many diverse and varied ways. But we have this human tendency to think most good preaching is meant for someone else and not for us.

A recent sermon on love, watched and heard by over 48 million people in the U.S. and U.K. alone, provoked an array of reactions that can make one wonder if we all watched and listened to the same preacher. One person convincingly said it was a “message for the ages.” Another sarcastically tweeted that the preacher selfishly made his comments all about himself. Many were excited to proclaim the message as “what the world needed to hear.” And, many more decried it as “too long.” One even confessed how bored he felt listening to the “lecture on love.”

In each of these examples, we are talking about reactions. These are the feelings that well up within us when we see or hear something that moves us in such a way that we become emotionally changed – at least for the moment. But the real question we sometimes fail to ask ourselves is: “How will I respond?” This question inspires us to look within; to confront the person in the mirror; to search our very heart and ask: “What am I being called to do as a result of hearing this teaching?” And if we choose to do nothing, then nothing is our response.

St. Paul said it this way: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” Romans 12:2. I think he’s telling us to listen to God’s words through preaching or reading, and whatever our reactions are, (joy, boredom, relief, peace, impatience, confusion… ), take those feelings to God and find out how He wants us to be transformed; to change; to be different.

If we go back to our example of the sermon on love, we can feel all rosy inside thinking about how the world would be if everyone loved everyone. Feeling rosy would be our reaction. But then the real work comes. To look within my own heart and ask: “How loving am I?” Paul doesn’t tell us to transform other people. He says to transform ourselves. I have to honestly and courageously take my own “love inventory” and see (Jesus loves healing the blind), where I am missing the mark. (By the way, did you know that the Greek word for sin in the New Testament means: “to miss the mark?”)

Let me make this suggestion: every time we read a scripture; every time we hear a sermon or homily; every time we read a spiritual document or attend a Christian teaching or presentation; besides listening intellectually, let’s then experience the message internally. We do this by identifying our reactions, our feelings, those sensations and emotions calmly moving or even raging within us, and take them to God; asking him to vividly and explicitly show us where these reactions are coming from and how he wants us to specifically and even radically change our lives. How does God want me to respond? Once we have discerned God’s will (Romans 12:2), then we can respond with: “Yes, Lord, I will be transformed according to your will.” Or, “No, Lord, I will not change, even for you.” Either way, that’s our response.

Does this seem difficult? At times, it will be. I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” Matthew 16:24. And I also believe it’s what he meant when he told Paul that his grace was sufficient for Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9). We can and should pray constantly for God’s grace to sustain and even empower us. Your Spiritual Director can very reverently and gently help you with this practice as well.

Reactions are our way of emotionally receiving any stimuli. Responses are what we do about it. If we always seek God’s will before we respond, we will realize transformation on a daily basis.