Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekend Movies

Friends with Benefits (released last week but CNS put the review up last Tuesday)
Rating: "O" - Catholics should not see this movie. Click here for the full review.















Cowboys and Aliens

Rating: "L" which means this one is for adults, and even then some will find it troubling. Click here for the full review













The Smurfs
"O" Morally offensive - just kidding, it is A1 which means it is suitable for all audiences. Click here for the full review







Crazy, Stupid Love
"O" - morally offensive, Catholics would be "crazy and stupid" to see this movie! Click here to read the full review

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Gospel of Prosperity, Stewardship, and Dave Ramsey

The budget talks continue on incessantly as it seems more and more political each day. Along those lines, someone recently sent me a Dave Ramsey discussion about how to recover the economy.

I have a brother who would probably rate his allegiances as follows:
God
Church
Family
Country
Dave Ramsey

I've listened to Dave Ramsey, and we actually use his stuff with our kids at Ritter (he has a program geared towards teenagers). I've been impressed with what I've seen.

A book I read recently on leadership talked about how real leaders aren't in it for the money (in terms of trying to maximize dollars pulled in) and when I've listened to Dave Ramsey talk about finances, I get the impression that he is more along the lines of just wanting to help people. Sure he makes some money promoting his programs, but he almost always also promotes OTHER financial programs as well.

Ramsey's stuff is geared towards getting people to the point where they are debt free, and eventually build up some wealth to help people. He doesn't often bring religion in, but every now and then he'll quote Proverbs or mention biblical principles.

Some might get edgy because Ramsey mixes the Bible in with financial stuff, but it is NOT the same stuff as the Joel Osteen Gospel of Prosperity - the idea that if you love Jesus, he's going to pour out money and blessings in your lap. The Catholic understanding is not in alignment with the "Prosperity Gospel" from the standpoint that many people on the path to sainthood may experience periods of great suffering (material and/or spiritual) and the "Gospel of Prosperity" doesn't account for that.

Ramsey's approach is more in line with the Catholic notion of stewardship - we get our own house in order because then we can help others. So many divorces and so forth result from money mismanagement, and for those who are experiencing financial turmoil or who want to take another step towards financial security should perhaps check out Dave Ramsey's material. I think it would be wise for parishes to go through Dave's program for parishes as well - not so that the Church can get more money but so that a great stresser for many relationships can start to be healed on an individual level.

Here is Ramsey talking about the relationship between personal financial decisions and the state of our debt/economy. This message is geared towards church leaders, and this is an important message for people looking for more financial assistance.


Let me know what you think about personal finance and any programs you have come across that approach finances from a Christian perspective.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Concentration Camps for Recyclers???

It is only the authentic peacemaker who can be persecuted… The true peacemaker understands that this work necessarily requires that they must be persecuted by a world that rejects the very notion of sin, and, by extension, the need for a Redeemer. At its core, this persecution is merely yet another face of the demonic. G.K. Chesterton saw this clearly. Toward the end of his life he wrote that in the final analysis the great ideological battles in the modern and post modern ages are not between the progressive and the traditionalist, the statist and the republican, the collectivist and the capitalist, but between the Catholic Church and Her enemies.” - Motherless, Brian Gail -

There’s a lot of bad news out there for Catholics who view the Church as the authentic vessel of Truth. Scientists are operating on animal-human hybrids (hey, but they’re going to do it ethically!), the country is heading for financial ruin (is it reversible at this point?), a panel of our “best” doctors says contraception ought to be provided for everyone (ignoring countless studies that suggest the opposite) – and the “catholic” secretary of Health and Human Services will no doubt sign off on the measure, a “catholic” governor pushes a redefinition of marriage through New York, law suits are already rolling in for those who choose to follow their consciences and not acknowledge such “marriages”, and the list could go on.

Before continuing, let me say here that while I focus on these sorts of stories on this blog, I very much am filled with a sense of hope – these stories do not tell the story of eternity. I wake up every morning thankful for another day, and I love being a priest. I love my family, I love my friends, and I love being a priest.

However, we as Catholics have that unique world view – we neither dissociate ourselves from the world, resigning ourselves to mountain top meditation, nor, on the other end of the spectrum, do we think that this world is the sum total of reality – prosperity on this earth does not always signal God’s favor, and suffering is not always without purpose.

As a priest, I feel a lot like Gandalf at the end of the Return of the King. He fights like Hell to save Gondor because it is important, and this world is worth fighting for, but, at the same time, as it appears the death blow to the city is about to fall, with a voice full of hope and excitement he assures Pippin that “No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path... One that we all must take. The gray rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all change to silver glass. White shores... and beyond. The far green country under a swift sunrise.”

So we stand, and we fight, because the world is worth fighting for.

And the question that keeps coming me back to me in these days, especially to those “catholics” who choose for themselves what they like of Church teaching – do you not see the Church being persecuted, just as Jesus predicted?

And so I end with my original thought, a question I’d love the unorthodox “catholics” to answer – do you think we are one day going to be persecuted for helping the poor, for protesting the death penalty, or for pushing for the care of the environment (the trinity of social doctrine among those who despise Church teaching generally)? Do you think that one day there will be concentration camps for recyclers? (for the record, I am an avid recycler, help the poor, and protest the death penalty).

How do you not see what Chesterton saw? The Church is attacked on every side, and She is, quite clearly, the ONLY voice left fighting for the things she’s always been fighting for.

Those who so frequently espouse the “social doctrine of Jesus” while shedding all the rest of the moral instructions of the Church – what are you thinking – and do you really foresee a day where the persecution of the Church will be conducted based on those issues that you fight so passionately for, to the exclusion of what the Church considers concerns of the first order?

Pick up a sword, gird your loins, and join the battle for good. What if we stood for Truth as one Body of Christ? Answer – we would be able to say to the culture of death “May you be lifted up and be thrown into the sea,' and it will happen.” (Mat. 21:21)

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Contraception Deception

A study from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) came out this week recommending:

"A fuller range of contraceptive education, counseling, methods, and services so that women can better avoid unwanted pregnancies and space their pregnancies to promote optimal birth outcomes."

Wow!!

The above quote was from the press release. The way the decision was phrased in the actual report is the following (found on pg. 152):

"The evidence provided to support a recommendation related to unintended pregnancy is based on systematic evidence reviews and other peer-reviewed studeies which indicate that contraception and contraceptive counseling are effective at reducing unintended pregnancies."

There are so many studies NOT done by pro-contraceptive people that prove the exact opposite - can we please be rational and at least acknowledge them? Condoms fail at 15%, the pill fails at 10%, contraceptives cause breast cancer, but we don't even TALK about any of these studies?

What a sad day! Even more sad is the idea that the Obama administration is getting the slip here because it wasn't their idea - they're just going to act on the recommendations.

BUT...if you read Institute of Medicine's description, we find that in fact the administration ASKED the group to conduct the study as part of Obamacare. Does anyone really believe that the Obama administration DIDN'T know EXACTLY what this group was going to recommend?

Let's read the IOM's own description of the process (taken from IOM's website):

"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charged the IOM with reviewing what preventive services are important to women’s health and well-being and then recommending which of these should be considered in the development of comprehensive guidelines. The IOM defined preventive health services as measures—including medications, procedures, devices, tests, education and counseling—shown to improve well-being, and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of a targeted disease or condition."

It's just sickening that this whole "process" is being swallowed as if a group of doctors a) studied ALL of the evidence on contraception and b) did it all on whim and just decided to release this information to the public.

To the faithful remnant who still holds what the Catholic Church teaches, I say the following: "It looks like the clouds are darkening quickly, on multiple fronts, but the skies have been much darker in the past... as General Maximus says in Gladiator - "Hold the line!" and know that "what we do in life echoes in eternity." Days like this, and others recently, bring tears to my eyes, but I will not quit, and I ask you to stand with the Church as well. Fight back, spread the truth, even if it is one relative or friend at a time. Hope is never lost, even at the darkest hour, because the evil one "who prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls" is only working on borrowed time."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Good Videos of Archbishop Chaput

Archbishop Chaput, the new Archbishop of Philadelphia as of this morning, is one of my favorite churchmen. His writing is clear, precise, compassionate, and brilliant. My brother just sent me this letter a few weeks ago from Archbishop Chaput. The letter deals with a topic we hear so much about - T.V. - but his writing somehow makes the topic fresh. To read the short reflection, click here.

Chaput is a guy who makes many people nervous because he preaches the Truth with Love. Someone who can speak of the Truth with conviction is indeed a scary thing for most of the world, but if you love the Church and Her Magisterium, then you'll love Archbishop Chaput. Becoming a cardinal is only a formality, and I recently read an article talking about possible American popes in our lifetime, and the Vatican insider said an American is more than possible, and he tapped Chaput to be the leading candidate.

Here are some video clips of the Archbishop that will give you a flavor of his style. Let's pray for the man taking over a very messy Archdiocese - may God be with him!


The issue everyone is always talking about - what about pro-abortion Catholic politicians? The Archbishop answers very clearly here:



Is the Church collapsing? - a great excerpt on the laity today!



The longer interview of from which the previous quote was taken:

Monday, July 18, 2011

League of Decency - Boycott Sobe, Pepsi, Axe!!

So I get it - I'm not a prude - a gum commercial or a shaving gel commercial has to end with Harry Handsome getting a kiss from Pretty Patty - no big deal. If a Trident commercial is going to end with two people smacking lips - so be it.

However, I lived in Rome for a while, and I've seen what advertising can become. Every daily newspaper in Rome had advertisements featuring nudity. The last thing someone wants to be today is a prude, and so when commercials in our country begin to blur the line, no one seems to want to say anything. It is almost like the emperor's new clothes phenomenon - who will be the first to stand up and say, "Uh-hum, excuse me, but does anyone else notice that the woman in that jeans' add isn't wearing anything besides the jeans?"

Europe is a moral disaster - but in the U.S. we haven't sunk quite as far down the sink whole yet and I believe keeping us from falling all the way in is worth fighting for.

I recently saw a commercial for SoBe flavored drinks that sank to a new low, at least by American standards. A woman and a man enter a staring contest, the woman, wearing a bikini, uses her cleavage to get the man to blink. (aside: Vitamin Water is VERY good, and not nearly as sugary as a lot of other drinks I've tried).

As someone with sisters, and someone who has vowed to care for the souls of countless young women (and men) I can't help but think about the assault on human dignity that this commercial provokes. Axe deodorant commercials have been hyper-sexualized for a couple of years as well, and I've committed to not using their products, and, although I like a good beer maybe once a week with dinner, I'll never purchase Bud Light/Coors Light/Miller Lite because a) they taste like garbage, and b) they sell their products almost exclusively through attacking the dignity of human beings.

All that being said, I think the SoBe drink commercial merits a swift response.

Low and behold, after some quick research, SoBe is under the Pepsi corporate umbrella, and, sadly, I've been receiving a lot of emails and information from many people about the Pepsi boycott that is going on for a different reason - Pepsi is testing their flavors on stem cells procured from aborted children (click here for the story).

You can write to Pepsi about these two violations directly (hand-written letters are always the infinitely most effective means) by writing a note to the following address:

PepsiCo, Inc., 700 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, NY, 10577

And/Or you can call the phone number to report Pepsi ethics abuses to their company by calling: 1-866-729-4888

While gathering all of this information, it once again became obvious how badly we need to put into practice that Catholic social teaching of subsidiarity. Some would say in response to these boycotts "these companies are too big - every company has things like this at some level - nobody is clean." Subsidiarity is the idea that we give our money to people locally for food and other services - thus keeping companies from becoming unnecessarily large.

What are some ways you can implement the teaching on subsidiarity in your life today? Maybe some day neither companies nor the government will be big enough to scoff at the ethics of "little people"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter Review

As noted last week, I'm now posting the Bishop's movie reviews (farmed out to Catholic News Service), but there is only one film out new this weekend, so I thought I'd go a little more in depth with the film. This weekend sees the cinematic conclusion of the Harry Potter series with the second installment of "The Deathly Hallows"

My family and I have a history of "midnight showings" and since Friday is my day off - last evening (or this morning) I joined the fam in taking in the film at the stroke of midnight.

I must confess up front as well that I have not read any of the books. That being said, I really enjoyed the movie, while my siblings who are avid fans of the books left the theater disappointed. I'm not exactly sure what they were disappointed about, but I have no doubt they have their reasons.

Purely from a film standpoint, I actually found the only slow parts to be those times where you could tell they were trying to include something from the books that, in the flow of the film, was completely useless. One example - at the beginning of the film, Harry visits an older gentleman with questions about two wands - and the dialogue is lengthy, and I kept waiting for what was said in that meeting to matter but it never did. While apparently some readers were disappointed with the film, I'd give it a 8.5 out of 10.

Some Catholics and Christians have been concerned with the magic aspect of wizards/witches/spells since the series first took off in book form. I must say that none of it concerns me as a priest - although I would certainly talk to any of my own children about those aspects of the films/books. In Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, considered by many the gold standard of Catholic fiction, one encounters all of the same elements of wizards, spells, curses, wands, staffs, elves, goblins, ghosts, etc. "Magic" in both the books and the films serves simply to provide a context for good and evil to do battle. I think it is no coincidence that we see this fascination with portrayals of good and evil actually doing combat as we've also seen a rise in the last hundred years or so of a scientific atheism that says everything can be explained, evil is fake, there is no mystery, etc. People know the message of a deconstructive atheism to be false, and so when bombarded with a message that people are moronic for believing that there is some sort of spiritual contest going on - most turn to stories as that which portrays what they know to be experiencing in their own lives.

Granted, the mediums of film and fiction can do a nice job of portraying more realistic, subtle, and nuanced forms of spiritual warfare, but sometimes we just need those stories of an all out royal rumble of good vs. evil - and I see "magic" serving as a catalyst in which that narrative can effectively play out. I'm also open to other takes on this from parents - leave a comment if you agree or if you feel differently.

After I watched the movie I told my brothers in sisters as we were breaking it down that I enjoyed it immensely, but there is something that kept the entire franchise from being included in that same pantheon with the likes of the Lord of the Rings films. For me, the Harry Potter films stand right along side the first three Star Wars films - they did a nice job of portraying good vs. evil in an exciting and realistic way. The main thing that knocked both Star Wars and Harry Potter down a rung from the LOTR series was the times where the characters slip in some theology/philosophy that seemed contrived (and also problematic from a Catholic perspective).

At the end of the film last night the priestly Dumbledore tells Harry two interesting things - "Don't pity the dead, pity the living, especially those who live without love" and "Of course this is happening in your head; that doesn't make it less real." These bits of spiritual talk are Yoda-esque and seemed like an attempt to fit in a sermon where it didn't belong. As a clarification, the Church teaches that being alive is the best gift we can receive - and dying is never a good thing - being raised to new life whenever that might happen for us is a great thing, but death in itself is never good.

All that being said, I'd be curious to hear other people's thoughts on this film specifically, all the films together, the books, etc. - let me know your take on any of this.

Finally, I leave with the movie trailer for the film and then the official Catholic review of the film which I found to be very well done.



John Mulerding (CNS) - One of the most successful movie franchises of all time goes out in style with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (Warner Bros.).

Though this eighth installment in the series that began with 2001's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" may bewilder newcomers -- if there are any of the uninitiated left, they will not find themselves mollycoddled by patient exposition -- director David Yates provides a gratifying wrap-up to a decade of blockbuster adaptations.

Based, like its immediate predecessor, on the last volume of J.K. Rowling's run of phenomenal best-sellers, Yates' fantasy is too intense for the youngest viewers. But scenes of combat, although frequent, are mostly bloodless, while the dialogue is marked by only one mildly improper turn of phrase, making this climatic adventure acceptable for most other age groups.

As the titular wizard (Daniel Radcliffe, needless to say) continues to battle his nemesis, evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), the epic struggle brings Harry's innate courage to the fore but also tests his willingness to sacrifice himself on behalf of others.

At Harry's side once again are pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) -- friends acquired, of course, during his student days at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Once the scene of happier proceedings, during the tenure of its late headmaster, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), Hogwarts is currently under the apparent misdirection of Dumbledore's enigmatic successor, Severus Snape (Alan Rickman).

Many of symbols deployed and themes highlighted in Rowling's narrative echo Scripture and comport with Judeo-Christian beliefs. Voldemort, for instance, is constantly accompanied by his pet snake Nagini, a slithering embodiment of wickedness.

Similarly, Voldemort's ambition to obtain immortality though illegitimate means parallels the serpent-inspired temptation to which Adam and Eve gave way. And here, as in salvation history, a path to redemption is opened by self-surrendering love.

As with many a time-honored tale -- ranging from "The Wizard of Oz" to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy penned by devoutly Catholic novelist J.R.R. Tolkien -- the element of sorcery in Rowling's story serves merely as a fictional device and a stimulant to the imagination.

Even impressionable audience members are as unlikely to think that the wands and spells they see in use on screen are things to be dabbled with in the real world as they are to believe that they may someday graduate from Hogwarts.

Like a poignant graduation ceremony, this final chapter in the adventures that have taken Harry -- and many of his fans as well -- from childhood to full maturity manages to strike notes both elegiac and exciting, thereby bringing to an apt conclusion one of the iconic sagas of recent years.

The film contains much action violence, brief gory images and a single crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

ArchIndy Parish Closings

At 11 a.m. today, it was announced by the Archdiocese that 4 parishes in the Terre Haute Deanery will be closing over the next 18 months. The parishes to be closed are St. Joseph's, St. Ann's, St. Leonard's, and Holy Rosary.

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to all the Catholics of Terre Haute - as the Archbishop noted, “The decision to close a parish is agonizing” - and for those living in the midst of such a thing the experience will be, at least for some, even more excruciating.

There are details on the internet for those interested in how the process will take place, but it is quite evident that a TON of work has been put into this by many faithful people in the deanery (and the larger Archdiocese) - and a lot of people are committing to challenging work moving forward.

Parish closings are a reality for many dioceses across the country. Several years ago, the Cleveland Diocese did a massive restructuring, closing 50 parishes at once. The closing of parishes is sometimes seemless, but for some parishes, it has gotten ugly. Canon Law is tricky with regards to parish closings because parishes do have some canonical recourse if they want to protest. In Cleveland, for example, some parishes supposedly appealed to Rome, and one parish simply broke from the Catholic Church all together (which, unfortunately, has happened in other dioceses as well).

Nationally (and probably locally now as well) the read on these closings is often overly-simplistic, if not missing the mark all together. Are there less priests than in 1950 - absolutely - however, we have to ask ourselves if we did not have more priests than we needed in those days. You can never technically have more than you need - but a priest friend of mine, at one of his three country parishes, has about 100 families. It is quite clear from his rectory there that there used to be 2-3 priests living there who only cared for THAT parish! That is pretty unbelievable - can the ministry to Catholics in the area endure without three priests there - absolutely - as my friend and other priests have demonstrated there through the years.

Could we use more priests - absolutely obviously yes. However, is the closing of parishes a sign that the Church is dead or dying - no.

Some of the things that affect the closing of parishes besides the number of priests would include the following:

1. Shifting populations - everyone knows of the flight to the suburbs, but the media often forgets to factor that in when they are writing their "obituary of the Catholic Church in the U.S." In downtown Indianapolis, we have the Cathedral, St. John's, St. Mary's, St. Josephs, Sacred Heart, St. Anthony's, Holy Angels, Holy Cross, St. Rita's, and Holy Rosary. How many Catholics now live downtown? Whatever the number, it is probably not the case that we need 10 Churches in the immediate downtown area anymore as the Churches were built when most of the city lived in the area of those Churches. Or maybe those Churches will all be kept as people start to move BACK into the downtown area? I know there are many competent people studying all of this - but the point of mentioning this here is that sometimes parishes close because the population shifts - not because the Catholic Church is dying out.

2. Means of transportation continue to improve - when most of the Churches were built in downtown Indianapolis again (not to focus there, but it provides a nice illustrator) there was no way to get to Church other than on foot or horseback. The distance of a mile and half meant a lot more in the 1800's. Now that we have cars and public transportation we can ask the question of whether or not parishes that are a mile and a half apart are both needed. 1.5 miles means an extra 4 minutes of driving - whereas on foot it was probably close to an hour.

This can even be said of parishes that might be 10 or 20 miles apart. In rural areas, do we need two sets of administration to run two parishes, when it would be a very minimal sacrifice for folks to drive an extra 10 minutes on Sunday?

The closing of parishes is a process that no one wants to go through; some Churches have been almost another member of the family going back for many generations. Nonetheless, despite the pain, we shouldn't listen to those who will say that the closing of a particular Church building hails the end of the Catholic Church in our Country. May God be with our Catholic brothers and sisters in Terre Haute during this time of transition!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Francesca LaRosa - Teenage Catholic Singer-Songwriter

In a recent Criterion (Archindy's diocesan newspaper), the front page article was on a young lady from Roncalli High School named Francesca LaRosa who has been tapped to sing and perform the theme song for this Fall's National Catholic Youth Conference being held here in Indy.

My sister Laura is a friend of "Chessie" and I've met her a few times and she seems like one of the sweetest and kindest young people I've run across. I thought I'd share the following Youtube videos of hers, one an interview and the other her first music video.





You can pick up her CD at Roncalli's book store or you can download the album on Youtube. Help support Catholic art from our young adults!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Homily from St. Barnabas - falling off my bike and the laws of God

Some had asked me for a copy of my homily from St. Barnabas last weekend (thanks for the comments!) but unfortunately I realized afterwards that the camera died. Therefore, here is a written version to the best of my memory. God bless!


“Take my yoke upon you…for my burden is easy and my yoke is light”

People are not often in the habit of asking 32 year old priests what the greatest problem facing our Church or world might be, but nonetheless I’m going to offer a possibility.

First of all, do we see the things that Christ asks of us directly in the Scriptures, and also the things he asks of us through his Church, as coming from outside us – beyond us – laws and rules and regulations handed on by a person outside of myself and beyond me?

Many people think that when they follow the commands and regulations of Christ and His Church that they are doing Christ a big favor.

The problem with this mentality is that the things Christ is speaking to us and asking of us will never stick in a moment of true temptation, because the laws of Christ are simply suggestions coming from an alien being.

Christ is saying in today’s Gospel – “Trust Me!” “Take my yoke upon you!” “It is in your best interest to do this!”

Christ’s requests (laws, regulations, commandments, beatitudes, etc.) are not weighty things meant to squash us – they are a USER’S MANUAL for each one of us – they are written knowing the workings of the human soul – written for the SOLE purpose to bring us to restful waters.

It is at this point that I’d like to share an embarrassing story about myself from yesterday that can maybe help bring this point home.

I just bought a bike, and I decided to start riding to work some, and also to get back and forth between the rectory and the Church at St. Malachy – a distance of 5 miles.

One of the new features for me are the pedals which clip into my shoes. In order to get your shoes free from the pedal, you have to twist your heel outward until the shoe pops free of the pedal – an awkward maneuver. At the store, the bicycle shop owner said, “make sure you practice getting out of these before you start riding.” “Absolutely” I replied.

As I set out on my maiden voyage to the Church, I knew I had plenty of time before I needed to stop so I told myself “I’ll practice on the street and then when I need to stop, I’ll be fine.”

However…I had a hard time getting my shoes into the pedals, and by the time I got them clicked in, I looked up, and I was 20 feet from where I needed to stop…

I tried desperately to break free, but to no avail. I came to a stop suspended upright, and then slowly leaned to the right and fell to the ground.

It didn’t help that I was now on the ground beside Brownsburg’s main drag, and a few high school students saw fit to yell at me out the window. I decided that if I find out they were from Ritter (I didn’t dare look at them) that they’ll be suspended!

I was able to break free and ride on with nothing more than damaged pride.

What does that have to do with today’s Gospel? – If we think of the bike shop owner as God in this little analogy – then his request that I practice before riding was not a law or a rule to oppress me, to make me walk the line, to squash or control me. Choosing to not heed his request would not make me more free – it would cause me to crash and fall over

God’s laws are meant to keep me upright – riding smoothly – stopping without crashing – they are meant to achieve harmony within my soul – God’s laws are a gift to me; a guide to authentic happiness.

This weekend we celebrate freedom – but some don’t understand authentic freedom. Some paint a picture of authentic freedom as being free from all restraint – but does that lead to happiness? Does shedding one’s self of the laws of God and His Church make me more free – or does it lead to misery?

Heed the words of Christ – take his yoke upon you, and see if the yoke of His guidance lands you in disaster or in peace.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weekend's Movie Reviews

A new feature of the blog that I hope to get up by Friday (probably a little late today, but maybe some are still deciding on a film for the weekend). In the 1950's the Vatican asked the Bishops of the U.S. to screen the films out of Hollywood and to let people know whether or not a Catholic could attend in good conscience or not.

The movies which are viewable are rated on a scale from A-1 - suitable for all, A-2, A-3, and finally L, which is the most intense rating a film can get which is still suitable for adults to watch but nonetheless some may find disturbing.

If a movie is determined to be unwatchable, it gets tagged with the rating "O" - morally offensive.

The bishops have charged the CNS Film department with this task, and I have long found the rankings to certainly be helpful, but I've also found their film reviews to be well-done and informative as well. I hope to put the links up to the reviews of the films coming out each weekend on the blog. Enjoy!

Monte Carlo is rated A-II. To read a review click here.

Horrible Bosses is rated "O". Don't go see it! To read a review click here.

Zookeeper is rated A-3. To read a review, click here.

Larry Crowne is rated A-3. To read a review, click here.

Summer Read - "Fatherless"

As my fourth year of seminary was drawing to a close, I emailed some of the professors I would have the following fall to see if there were any books I could read over the Summer to get them out of the way. One of my profs, Fr. Guy Mansini, shot back an email - "Hollowell...summers are for fiction!" He then went on to give me some suggestions of novels that would be life-changing.

Since then, I've followed Fr. Guy's advice, much to my enjoyment, and have made summer a time for more pleasurable reading.

That being said, I still like a little Catholicism thrown in with my novels, and so I usually look to find something that possesses a nice mixture of theology and an addictive plot, but I'm not always successful in this search. Take the book I finished a few weeks ago - "The Sword of Honor Trilogy" by Evelyn Waugh. Waugh is a well-known Catholic author who wrote during the middle of the 20th century, and most famously penned "Brideshead Revisited", a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and couldn't put down. However, "The Sword of Honor Trilogy" literally took me three years to read! I kept thinking that the payoff would come, but it never did. Perhaps I missed something, but it was one of the most painful books that I've ever finished.

Just last week I picked up a new novel, and although it was a little over 500 pages, I finished it in about a week! The novel's title is "Fatherless" and is written by Brian Gail. Ignatius Press seems to always be promoting several novels, and I'm always leery that they will be heavy on the theology and light on the art of writing. "Fatherless" does have some elements of faith woven into the plot line, but the book is expertly written and was tough to put down - it was that rare story where I didn't want to stop reading. The other aspect of the book that I really appreciated from an artistic point of view was that it possessed that key element that always seems to distinguish art from that which is done to simply make money - "Fatherless" is real. When I say real, I mean that the story is not just some fairy tale with a happy ending - it certainly has redemption for some of the characters but there is also death and selfishness and sin, and it is all, the good and the bad, written about in such a way that it seems like the events described could actually have happened.

I can't recommend "Fatherless" enough, and if you are interested in ordering the book, just click here.


Gail has since also written the second of his novels - titled "Motherless" which picks up the story 20 years later. I ordered it the night I finished reading "Fatherless" - and Gail is nearing completion on the third and final act - "Childless" which is supposed to be out sometime this year. To order "Motherless" click here.

Whatever you are doing this July I hope that you are rejuvenating a bit and getting your nose into a great book or two!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monastic Life

These two videos do a nice job of capturing a bit of what monastic life is and what it is not. First, a video that was done for a monastery fundraiser, and the second, of course, is from my alma mater St. Meinrad.

Monastery from Abiyoyo Productions on Vimeo.


Monday, July 4, 2011

St. Paul's - Why I Did What I Did

My brother Tony (a seminarian for the Archdiocese) was talking with me yesterday about an interesting experience he had. Tony doesn't read my blog, and had not heard about any of the stuff going on here - so his story wasn't something he shared with me based on any of this - but I think it is related.

He is at a parish in southern Indiana this summer, and yesterday after one of the Masses he heard one of the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion talking about how she dropped a host during Mass, picked it up, put it in her pocket, and just threw it in the trash after Mass. My brother said she was also chewing gum during Mass when she received Communion and continued while she was distributing Communion as well. My brother said that, at that moment, in his mind he snapped and he had a revelation – “if we don't do the Mass the way the Church is asking us to do it, this stuff will only continue.” He said he wasn't even mad at the woman because she obviously didn't KNOW any of what she had done was wrong. This isn't some isolated incident, nor is it any commentary to that specific parish or priest - this type of thing is EVERYWHERE in the Church today everywhere I go. I don't mean that no one understands what is going on, but the percentage of those who do get it across our country just seems to be so small. What my brother has realized is what has been said by many for going on 45 years now - if we don't do what the Church asks - we're doomed.

This video of George Thoroughgood in Mass for me represents a lot. I don't ask people to understand my rage towards it, and I am fine with being called a mixture of any of the following
1) a liturgical nazi
2) orthodoxy police
3) Pharisee
4) scrupulous
5) angry
6) not differentiated
7) psychotic
8) a person who doesn't follow (insert Scripture passage here about charity)
9) a person causing rupture in the body of Christ

The point is this - I was ordained a priest and a FATHER. If people are subtly or not so subtly undermining the source of salvation for a father's children, we would expect a strong response. I (and the Church) see me as a FATHER in charge of souls (as Canon Law puts it) and I don't take that LIGHTLY. I don't expect people who don't have that responsibility laid at their feet to understand, but I am saying that is how I view myself, and that is how I approach things day to day. I constantly pray for and fast for the kids that I have been charged to care for at Ritter, and the kids who I've worked with throughout the Archdiocese through Confirmation programs and mission trips and so forth, and when I see them ending up at a place where the Mass as the Church has handed it on is subtly undermined - I'm coming with the grizzly paw. An analogy here - if porn came on the TV my dad would take the TV out into the backyard and smash it with a sledge hammer. I believe that people who are undermining the Mass (and also those who undermine the Church's core teachings on contraception/homosexuality/abortion/women's ordination/etc.) are doing far worse than people who put porn on our TV’s.

Some say I should have handled things with the individuals involved and not gone public with my displeasure. The problem is that the scandal caused by this video was PUBLICLY done. Put yourself in the position of a priest and now imagine that a reporter in the local paper writes an article trashing the Catholic Church. You as the priest would contact the individual reporter, but you’d also HAVE to address the issue in a public fashion because the scandal was public. Would you let this reporter potentially draw thousands of your parishioners away from your Church, and then say at the end of the day, “well, I contacted him in person, so my duty is done”? And yet the incident we’ve been dealing with here (and thousands like it) are scandalous, and not just from the standpoint of being offensive to “my personal taste or preference for things.”

Unorthodox liturgy is problematic for a couple of reasons.
a) it conveys an image to the modern person that what is going on is not really important. As that mentality starts to creep in, over the course of decades of being ground down by it, people start to actually believe (although they’d never say it) that the Mass isn’t really all that important. So we get the pandemic we have today where most Catholics don’t even go to Mass every Sunday (not to mention the roughly 2% parish turnout for most holy days). And pretty soon you start getting people chewing gum, wearing swimming trunks and basketball shorts, and throwing the Eucharist away in the trash – and not knowing any better. Again, when we jack with the liturgy and turn it into what it often is today, why would someone know that the Eucharist is special unless they heard a priest preach on it or they were taught at an early age?

b) free-for-all liturgies are also eroding away at the Body of Christ because people start seeing videos like the one we’ve been talking about and they say, “well, if there isn’t anything transcendent at Mass, that Mass rock song looks like fun, why can’t we do that at my parish – at least it would help the time pass a little easier.” Those who are trying to do what the Church asks are undermined by priests who tolerate or even encourage all the banality and all of the trash that passes for “liturgy” today.

And thus we come to my final beef – betrayal. Priests who tolerate this stuff and perpetuate dissent on core teachings of the faith and priests who tolerate and perpetuate a disintegration of the Mass ultimately are betraying their brothers who are trying to do what Christ has commanded and asked of ALL priests through the Church. It is much easier to undermine the mission of the Church from within than it is from without. I put my rear end on the line every day trying to explain the Church’s difficult teachings, trying to celebrate Mass in a way that removes me from center stage emceeing and instead puts Christ at the center – and none of this work is very popular. I hear all the time
a) you could be a lot more normal during Mass, what’s up with the hands, the chanting, the formality?
And
b) why don’t you just give us practical advice about how to live our lives? Why the dogma stuff sprinkled in?

Do you know how easy it would be to sell out and be a “COOL” priest – a guy who let anything go in the Mass and who avoided ever talking about anything substantive in homilies? People act like the orthodox priesthood is some kind of safe haven for those with personality defects when in fact it is hard and difficult and something that brings a lot of anger upon the priest. But I know, at the end of the day, that it would TOO easy to live that way as a priest, and ultimately I know, in the depth of my soul, that Christ is saying “shepherd my people, love them too much to let them stay where they are, just as I love you too much to let you stay where you are.” When my head hits the pillow at night, I rest well, and I love getting up in the morning. You can psychoanalyze my priesthood if you so choose, but the fact of the matter is that there is nothing I’d rather be doing. John Paul II once said, “They try to understand me from the outside, but you can only understand me from the inside.” Amen!

I have nothing more to say on this topic, and I will not be responding to any comments left on this entry or on the original post. Let’s pray for unity in the Church not throw watering everything down into nothing but through actually believing that Christ speaks through His Church, and treating the treasure that the Church offers us with the dignity it deserves!