Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Underwear and Sin

Having read all of the Bible now at some point in my life or another, I was really surprised to read the first reading for last night's Mass from Jeremiah.  I don't remember ever having read the passage, but I must have had the reading as a priest two years ago, so I don't know how I've not payed attention to it before...anyway, it is a very odd reading.  Here's the summary:

God tells Jeremiah to go buy some underwear
God tells Jeremiah to wear the underwear for a few days
God tells Jeremiah to go hide the used underwear behind a rock in the mountains
God waits for a few months
God tells Jeremiah to go back to the rock and fetch the dirty underwear
God tells Jeremiah to note how the underwear has rotted
God tells Jeremiah "this dirty underwear is like my people"

Now I suppose God could have short-circuited the process and just told Jeremiah at the outset "my people are like rotted underwear" and would have saved Jeremiah a lot of trouble, but God knows everything, so perhaps he discerned that Jeremiah was one of those "visual learners".

Regardless, what struck me about the reading is that I've never heard sin compared to something that rots.  As we all know, if you wash clothing regularly, it doesn't rot, but...if you leave it unwashed for a few months, the dirt, the grime, the sweat etc. have a decaying effect on the clothing.

What a perfect analogy for sin - all sin is bad, but if I wash regularly, sins effects on me, over time, are limited.  However, if I sin but don't ever wash myself, if I never go to the sacrament of reconciliation, then I can expect the effects of the sin, over time, to be more damaging to me.  Sins pile up, and they make it harder and harder to do the right thing, but every time a person goes to confession, the person starts over fresh, and living rightly and happily suddenly becomes a lot easier.

The Church asks us to make a whopping five things non-negotiable in our lives - and one of those non-negotiables is going to confession once a year. 

But who washes their clothes once a year?  I know some people who go to reconciliation once a week or twice a month, and that's great, but I'd say a person who is really seeking to grow in holiness should go to confession every 4-6 weeks at a minimum.  Try it out for a while, not as a command, but just check it out and see if you don't feel better. 

No one likes to feel like they are the spiritual equivalent of rotting underwear!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Follow Up on Miracles

I did not expect the volume of feedback that I've received in 24 hours concerning my homily yesterday about whether or not Jesus worked a miracle when feeding the 5,000. Most of the feedback has been very positive, but there have been some that have asked questions that I feel like deserve to be followed up on.

A couple of different people asked me variations on the same question - "God works miracles, but aren't they always in line with the natural order?" One person put this question to me but confessed "I was Jesuit trained, if that tells you anything" (we both chuckled), the other questioner was much more combative, wearing his "I stand with the sisters" pin, and who, after I answered his miracle question, went on a rant about the bishops needing to clean up their act.

Anyway, this is an important question - do all miracles exist in line with the natural order? In one sense, yes, in another sense no. All miracles certainly OCCUR in the natural world around us...if they didn't we wouldn't be able to OBSERVE them taking place.  So in one sense, of course the miraculous HAS to occur in the natural order of things or we wouldn't see it or observe it. 

BUT, when people speak of miracles occurring in the natural order, I think they don't mean it in the sense of "being able to observe it", they mean "isn't God BOUND by the natural order." For example, I mentioned in my homily the Old Testament passage where the Jordan River ceases flowing so that the Israelites can cross - some people would say God couldn't simply make that happen, he'd have to use wind blowing really hard, or he'd have to use the moon or an earthquake or something to get the river to stop flowing. It is THIS idea that is nonsense. St. Thomas Aquinas notes in his Summa that "God alone can change the order of nature; and this is what is meant by a miracle." (III, q.43, article 2). St. Thomas is noting that a miracle, by its VERY NATURE, is something that changes the natural order of things.  A miracle is a CHANGING of the natural order, but God is not BOUND to change the natural order through the natural order.

A miracle COULD be worked through the use of natural objects, such as the moon and/or wind, but it is completely wrong to suggest that the supernatural enters our world through miracles ONLY in ways that would seem natural to our eyes.

St. Thomas notes in the First Part of the Summa, question 25, article 4 that there is only one thing God CAN'T do - he can't change things that have happened in the past.  St. Thomas notes that only "one thing alone is God deprived--namely, to make undone the things that have been done."

If that is the only thing God can't do - he can't undo something that has already happened, then he can certainly stop the Jordan River in its tracks without a stiff breeze, and he can certainly have bread and fish multiply on the spot.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Batman, Dickens, and the Church

This post is only for those who have already seen the Dark Knight Rises

Charles' Dickens' Tale of Two Cities has always been a novel that has stuck with me.  I think I've recounted before how I sought to get some seminary books knocked out over the Summer, whereupon a professor told me "Hollowell, Summers are for fiction.  If you want something that will knock you on your butt, read Red Badge of Courage, Brothers Karamazov, or Tale of Two Cities."

I took his advice to heart, and I was rewarded for my efforts.  I must say that I cried at the end of a Tale of Two Cities, and I found the last paragraph to be one of the most beautiful pieces of fiction I've come across.

So as I watched the Dark Knight Rises, and especially as the final 5 minutes of the film were unfolding (has there been a better ending sequence in cinema than Dark Knight Rises?) I was into it as the music was accelerating, and one cool revelation followed another, but the hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I heard Jim Gordon reciting that same last paragraph of a Tale of Two Cities at Bruce Wayne's "funeral" (Christopher Nolan cut some of the original quote out because parts only pertained to the plot of a Tale of Two Cities - here is the quote as it happens in the movie)

"I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

In a Tale of Two Cities, the quote is from a man who goes to the guillotine so that others may escape and live, the connection quite clear to Bruce Wayne in the film.

A brief word about the plot of a Tale of Two Cities.  The novel begins with the brief calm before the storm which was the French Revolution.  The French Revolution came about because the poor working class was so tired of being oppressed by those who owned the companies, those who ran the government (and the Church at the time was also part of this "power structure").  While the characters are fictional in Dickens' work, the history is very accurate.  What began as an uprising against unjust social structures, quickly turned into madness.  For some reason, in history classes, we never hear about the absolute madness that reigned for several years, we only hear about the "storming of the Bastille" and the anarchy and violence that reigned for so long are often glossed over.

In the French Revolution, "people's courts" were erected and dummy trials were set up where people were tried and then guillotined (the blood lust is portrayed vividly in the novel), and most estimates suggest that up to 10,000 people were being guillotined a day at the height of the revolution.  Of course, in the movie, we see this "people's court" portrayed on several occasions as well, and again, as in the novel, it is the insane who run the courts and hand down the sentences.

Nolan, who is separating himself as one of the true artists in mainstream film right now, has made an entertaining film that pays homage to its Dickensonian inspiration.  And I think there is a good reason why Nolan took Tale of Two Cities as the basis for his script.

Dickens' novel served two purposes for his fellow Brits who were, at the time, approaching a similar state of disharmony and anxiety among the classes.  Dickens novel was a warning to BOTH sides - it was a warning to the upper class and a warning to the lower class.  Nolan's movie is also a simultaneous shot across the bow of America, both the "1%" and the "99%", and his “shot” is well-timed and VERY needed.

Nolan sees what many of us see - the idea that we are standing on the breaking point as a society.  We seem to be getting more and more polarized, more and more agitated, and unrest seems to be rising (“the fire rises” as they say in the film).

Nolan's film, then, is a reminder to both sides, it is a reminder to "anarchists", those who would burn the social structures down and start over, of what "anarchy" really looks like; anarchy INEVITABLY and UNAVOIDABLY turns into madness.  The film, like the novel 150 years before it, is also a shot over the bow of the 1%, a reminder that a Machiavellian grab for power without the requisite compassion on the less fortunate and the powerless will result in nothing less than the anarchy that Karl Marx so fervently preached.

Where does the Church come in, then?  The Church shares Nolan's and Dickens' understanding of proper governance and what constitutes a healthy and just society.  The Church says to anarchists "governance is a good thing, and NOT because it is a means of control; it CAN produce good and allow good to flourish."  The Church says government is necessary, and that anarchy will ultimately lead to a flourishing of evil, every time.

HOWEVER, the Church isn't just there to beat the 99% back into submission, because it warns that simply HAVING a government in place, simply HAVING laws, rules, social structures etc. is not enough.  The powerful can't simply say what Scrooge said to those asking for alms for the poor when he in effect says "aren't there government programs that take care of the poor...then what business is it of mine if people are suffering from poverty or anything else."  The Church has been warning people that government and order are needed, but that if "governance" and "laws" and social structures somehow interfere with people caring for each other, then injustice arises from this scenario just as much as it does from the anarchy scenario.

Freedom lies neither in casting off societal structures as a whole and starting completely over, nor does it lie in simply sitting back and letting societal structures care for the vulnerable and the poor and the marginalized.  Both of the above solutions are wrong because they are LAZY and also because they lack the key virtue for Catholics, namely charity, concern for the other person.  The solutions of anarchy and also of “continuing to let the government take care of other people” don't require anything of the INDIVIDUAL PERSON.

The Church, Nolan, and Dickens all seem to suggest the same thing - if you want to reform society, start with yourself.  If we become good virtuous people (heroes) then our society's ills will mend themselves.  If we lazily and guiltlessly see solutions only on a massive scale, if we think the solution will be found either in destroying government, or in making it more powerful so that we don't have to worry about each other, then we are doomed to a vicious cycle of destruction where governments arise promising hope and then are eventually burned to the ground by the governed.  We have to instead look to change hearts and convert individuals; if we don't then all efforts at reform will be fruitless. 

"Why Catholicism Matters"

A monumental occurrence in the history of this blog happened recently...I got a free book that a publisher was hoping I might review on the blog and recommend if I found it to be good.  Of all the things that have happened since I started blogging, receiving a free book has perhaps been the most joyous of all the surprises!

The book is "Why Catholicism Matters - How Catholic Virtues Can Reshape Society in the 21st Century."  The book is written by Bill Donohue, who is the president of the Catholic League.  Some are likely smiling who have seen Bill Donohue in action before - "of course they would ask Fr. Hollowell to review this book...both Fr. Hollowell and Bill Donohue are "angry, unkind, uncharitable, and (did I mention already) angry Catholics!" 

I've seen Bill in action before, mostly on television news shows.  Bill is typically brought in when they want someone who is direct, loud, and unabashedly Catholic.  I must admit that there have been times where I have winced while watching Bill as I've thought to myself "perhaps that could have been said more compassionately", but then again, I also note the irony some will see in me thinking someone should perhaps be less brash.  That being said, I've NEVER found fault with anything Bill has said; he is a passionate and ardent Catholic, he loves the Church, he knows his stuff, and, given the absolutely insane times we are living in, is Bill really speaking in a manner that would be different from the prophets?

Regardless of where one stands on Bill Donohue, I think most Catholics would really enjoy his latest book "Why Catholicism Matters".  Donohue, who offers typically (and understandably) pessimistic commentary on what is BROKEN with the world, has instead structured this work around what can be done in a positive sense.  To rephrase, instead of noting problems, he offers solutions.

The book is structured around the 4 Cardinal Virtues (Wisdom, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude) and he spends the entirety of the book looking at how to apply them in today's culture. 

In the introduction, Donohue says that the book is looking at the positive question that has consumed the philosophers since Aristotle - "How do we create the good society."  As with Aristotle (and many cultures since the Greeks) the answer is that society has to inculcate (both among its individuals and also among the group as whole) the Cardinal Virtues. 

I found this phrase in the introduction to be indicative of Donohue's entire book - "It is not good enough to say that we must thwart those behaviors proscribed by the Ten Commandments; we need to know what to prescribe.  That's where virtue comes in.  In other words, the Ten Commandments tell us what not to do; virtue tells us what to do."  Beautiful!

As Donohue sets out on his project, it becomes clear that this a work of serious scholarship.  Donohue breaks from the mold that many would box him in - he brings in lots of sociological studies and research from outside the "Catholic bubble" (much like Mary Eberstadt's "Adam and Eve Before the Pill").  Not that there is anything wrong with the Catholic bubble, but Donohue shows intellectual versatility in his ability to bring in sources from a wide range of academia.

Through his exposition on the 4 Cardinal Virtues, Donohue spends a lot of time looking at the all-important questions from history put to the Church (slavery, the Inquisition, the Crusades, art, science, freedom, stem cells, abortion, pornography, the priest abuse crisis, the sexual revolution, Humanae Vitae, the state of marriage today, etc.) while also looking at ways to apply the virtues within ourselves and the society we find ourselves in now.

I found the book to be a REALLY important work (not just because I got a free copy!).  Donohue seamlessly accomplishes two equally important tasks for Catholics today - he examines events from the past and looks to defend those events from the "remaking" that they often undergo in the mainstream media, while at the same time not staying in the rut of simply dwelling on the "woe is us Catholics" who are always victimized by the media; he spends quality time looking forward to possible solutions and possible ways for reshaping our society.

Donohue, typically accused of hyper-pessimism, has written a book that can fairly be described as optimistic.  There is none of the typical "the world is going to Hell in a hand basket" that one has perhaps come to expect from Donohue.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone, and I think it would be a great read for even high school and college aged young people looking to quickly become knowledgeable on things Catholic.  It will be an indispensable book for me, and one that I think I'll be handing out often to those with questions on the Church past, present, and future. 

If you check the book out and read it, leave a comment here or drop me a line and let me know how you found the book.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"How FOCUS Saved My Life"

Ambria Martin is a former parishioner of mine at St. Malachy. This year, having just graduated from Ball State, Ambria is becoming a FOCUS Missioner at James Madison U. and she needs your help! FOCUS missioners are the Navy Seals of the Church (but they're normal people too, they are joyful), and they are doing INCREDIBLE work across the country (including Indianapolis). FOCUS is literally exploding across the country, and I can promise you this is a train you want to be on!

 Listen to Ambria's story, and please consider partnering with her. This is the first time in the history of the blog I'm asking for you to consider financially assisting someone, and I hope you partner with her. It isn't just a "check-writing" relationship, FOCUS missioners keep in touch with you and send you regular updates about the progress they're making and you get the chance to really participate and share in their discoveries. I'll let Ambria tell her story now...

This video isn’t about my life, but it could be. FOCUS came to Ball State University in the fall of 2008. At this time I was a sophomore. I was not practicing Catholicism nor did I have a desire to. I was not praying. My sights were instead placed on finding the perfect man. 

After multiple relationships didn’t work out, I found myself exhausted and alone. By the grace of God, I met girls on my floor who were radically living a life for Christ. They invited me to have this relationship as well. After years of searching, I let my walls down and allowed Christ to take over. I felt the pain and stress disappear.

These new friends challenged me to dive deeper with God but they also challenged me in my label as a Catholic. I still identified myself as a Catholic even though I wasn’t doing anything with the church. I had to find out the answers, I had to know what being Catholic meant. Luckily I had a friend who was in a Catholic bible study and invited me to come with her. 

There I met a FOCUS missionary, Elise, who had given up at least two years of her life to serve students. She left behind her home, boyfriend and family in Colorado. She also pledged to fundraise her entire salary. Yes that’s right, her entire salary. 

FOCUS also known as the Fellowship of Catholic University Students is a collegiate outreach program. Missionaries are currently on 74 campuses across the U.S. working with students in small group bible studies, one-on-one mentorship, and large campus outreach events.

Thanks to Elise answering numerous questions I threw at her, I understand, believe and love the Catholic faith. She gave up everything to be available for me and ultimately it saved my life from plummeting further into abusive relationships and depression. 

I’m proud to say that I have been given the opportunity to do the same as Elise. I’ve given up two years of my life to be a Catholic missionary on a college campus. This upcoming year I will be serving at James Madison University in Virginia. I will be working with students from multiple backgrounds, degrees, and families hoping to be the Christ’s instrument, who penetrates their hearts. 

Focus saved my life by introducing me to the person of Jesus Christ and showing me how to live a lifelong Catholic mission with him. Like Elise, I need help to be able to minister to others. If you’re interested in hearing more about FOCUS and my financial goals please contact me at ambria.martin@focus.org

A Chat with young adults - "HHS...how we got here...where we might be going"

Where are We with the HHS Mandate, and Where Might We Be Heading? from John Hollowell on Vimeo.

Homily: Happy NFP Awareness Week!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Crossroads Radio Interviews From Wednesday

Follow up to yesterday - I was able to contact the group to see if they needed anything. Their request yesterday evening...Mass and confession. Myself and another priest, Fr. Adam Mauman from Our Lady of Mount Carmel came in and heard confessions and had Mass with the group, and then afterwards had a big meal at the beautiful home of a family up in Carmel who had opened their doors to the walkers when they heard what had happened. It was obviously a very powerful evening, and one of those totally unlooked for moments where the priesthood was once again manifested in all of its craziness. The idea that Fr. Adam and myself would be invited in to help these people in such a moment of crisis, when they knew neither of us really at all was another reminder of what the priesthood is.

This morning, the group is heading to Mass and then to pray outside of the Planned Parenthood at 86th and Georgetown Road. How awesome is that!!? They hadn't covered the question as a group about whether they would press on and finish the walk, but by all the indicators I saw, there was a definite move in that direction in the hearts of most of the walkers. We'll keep praying for them, for Andrew, and for his family. Follow the walkers from all four walks by clicking here.

Here are the two radio interviews Msgr. and I did with the group on Wednesday.

Crossroads Walk Interview Part 1 from John Hollowell on Vimeo.

Crossroads Walk Interview Part 2 from John Hollowell on Vimeo.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Interviewed Andrew Moore, Crossroads Walker, 2 Days Ago, and Now He's a Pro-Life Hero

Two days ago, in the midst of a crazy day where I was already buried work wise, I decided to take up an offer to drive to Terre Haute and interview 4 young adults walking across the country.

Crossroads Walkers travel across the country offering up their suffering, their time, and their witness to try to help bring an end to abortion in our country. There are 4 walks that happen simultaneously throughout the U.S., all starting on the West coast and converging on Washington D.C. arriving there together in the middle of August.

Andrew Moore was the first of the four walkers I met in the middle of St. Patrick's parking lot in the middle of another scorching afternoon. He had just finished walking and was a little dazed by the heat. I think all four of the walkers would have initially preferred sleeping in their RV rather than heading up to the second floor of a rectory to be interviewed in a tiny room, but the four walkers put their game faces on and tried their best to fight through the exhaustion and made their way upstairs.

Although they were reluctant at first, the four of them and I really quickly began to enjoy talking with one another. It was my first time interviewing someone on the radio (assisting Msgr. Moran), but I had an absolute blast, and it was fun to see them laugh as they had a chance to reflect on what they had been doing. For me, although I knew I was falling behind schedule wise, it was the best thing for me to spend some time with these 4 young adults - it was a thrill to listen to their stories, to be moved by their determination, and to be reanimated by their mirth.

Andrew was a very quiet young man, he never used one word that he hadn't thought about before saying it. He didn't like to make eye contact, but when he spoke, his words were very precise and at the same time spiritual. The Indystar reporter I spoke with this afternoon told me that Andrew had been discerning a call to the priesthood, and looking back on our brief time together, it certainly seems like it would have been a good fit.

There is something about meeting someone who is in the middle of an adventure. It was the same thing when I visited my brother Tony in the middle of his bike ride across the country. While making you slightly jealous :) It also lifts your spirits, and I would imagine it is why so many in the middle ages were happy to host pilgrims in their homes and welcome travelers. Encountering someone who is on an adventure (and even more when the adventure has such a noble aim) was, for me, and from the interview it sounds like for thousands of other people that they met along the way, an opportunity to transported above the normal work-day world.

The crossroads walkers, and their now deceased fellow walker Andrew served as a reminder that this is not the end of all things, that there is more to reality than meets the eye, that the little details and messes and skirmishes and routines we allow ourselves to be bogged down by are problematic because they distract us from raising our gaze higher, we often see only clumps of cells, we only see schedules and busyness and hassles...but there is obviously more to this world than meets the eye, and our Faith continues to try to remind us of that.

Andrew Moore was a man who was in the business of raising people's gazes while he was alive, and I suspect his death will do that in ways he could have never imagined. Andrew Moore...In Pace Requiescat.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Priest Reviews "Take This Waltz"

There is a new film that debuts nationally this week that I thought I'd share a review of for several reasons - a) I've seen it  b) there isn't a review on the bishops' website yet  and c) it got 3.5 stars in the paper this morning and so some Catholics might be wondering about whether to check it out.

I should briefly explain how I came to see it.  I've said before how I watch all the movie trailers of upcoming films to get a sense of what is out there - plus trailers are usually pretty safe, morally speaking.  I really loved the trailer for "Take This Waltz" mostly because of a song in the background from Canadian artist Jason Collett titled "Rave on Sad Songs."  Check out the trailer here if you are interested

Then one day at the rectory a month or so ago (on my day off of course!) I came across a feature on our cable package that had movies which weren't in theaters yet that you could buy, and seeing "Take This Waltz" as an option, I decided to rent it.

Without offering spoilers (yet) Michelle Williams' character Margot has been married to Seth Rogen's character Lou (both do a GREAT job as actors with Rogen taking a very solid and humble role and breaking from his typical stoner/sex-crazed stock character).  The film does a great job of portraying what statistics bare out - that after the first few years of romantic attraction in a marriage, it gets more difficult to keep the fire burning.  In fact the films opening scene conveys this without words - Margot is cooking in the kitchen, and we see in the background her husband Lou walk in and go to the sink.  Margot comes up from behind him and hugs him, and his unresponsiveness and her disappointment are both very palpable.  The couple continues to try and awkwardly figure out how to communicate love, how to be romantic with one another amidst every day life...the film does a really fine job of showing the difficulties (and joys) of the work that is required from both spouses to make a marriage work. 

The relationship between Margot and Lou is strained when Margot meets a starving artist neighbor Daniel, and most of the film focuses on Margot's attempts to fight the urge to have an affair with Daniel even in the midst of the ongoing struggles to try to understand her husband's moods, quirks, etc.  

Before addressing what follows in the rest of the film (including some graphic nudity) let me say there is one group of people for whom I WOULD recommend the film - people who are married who are struggling, and especially those who are thinking about leaving their marriage for someone else. 

(spoiler alert) After an hour+ of Margot trying to fight her urge to have a romp with Daniel, she finally breaks down, and she leaves her husband Lou.  What follows is a really graphic scene (which a viewer can look away from) in which Margot and Daniel engage in the marital act.  The camera spins around the room and the scenes change in the bedroom as the seasons change in the windows - the point being that Daniel and Margot, over the course of about a year, throw every inhibition out the window and give in and take from one another everything they want and desire.  Of course this scene would likely make it an "O" by the bishops, but I'm not sure.

The film ends with a very important shot.  After all the romance of the affair has run its course, Margot is in the kitchen.  Daniel comes in and goes to the sink, and Margot goes to hug him, but Daniel (just like her husband in the beginning) is unresponsive...the obvious point being that she's right back where she started the film with the romantic fire having cooled in a relationship (as it always does) once again.   The scene conveys the whole point of the movie - love is more than sex and marriage is more than sex.  It may be that the movie makes this point in an unacceptably graphic way for most viewers (had I known about all of the nudity I wouldn't have watched it) but I would say, again, if anyone out there is considering an affair - watch this movie. 

The film teaches the same lesson that the Church and others have constantly been saying and encouraging married couples (and those prepping for marriage) - the limiting element, again, would be the way it was made. 

"Take This Waltz" is a briefly very graphic antidote to the whole romantic love message that is typically shoved down our throats by Hollywood (do what feels good, do what makes you happy in the moment, if it feels good it can't be wrong); my hope is that Hollywood and filmmakers everywhere continue to preach the message of "Take This Waltz", but that they also look for more modest ways to convey the message.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

IMPORTANT and NEEDED! Chatard Grad Starts Fashion Mag

Janet Sahm is a 2006 graduate of Bishop Chatard High School, which means our time at Chatard overlapped.  Fortunately for her, she didn't have to take my math class!  Anyway, my family and the Sahm family go way back.  Our dads coached together for many years, and now both are presidents of Catholic high schools.  Katie Sahm and myself have been working for a year or so on Indy Catholic Artists, and Katie told me recently that her little sister Janet was up to big things in New York.

Well, Janet's project is now ready to roll out, and it looks unbelievably awesome and very much needed at the same time.  I'll let Janet and her team explain what they've cooked up

Verily (definition: truly, actually) seeks to portray reality, truth, beauty, goodness - things the Church always begs people to consider.  The magazine, while not overtly Catholic, is nonetheless EXACTLY what Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have been begging Catholics to engage in when they have touted the last thirty years the "new evangelization"...new ways to bring the truth of the Gospel to people everywhere.  Truth, authentic beauty, and authentic goodness ALWAYS bring people to Christ, and have the ability to slip past the defenses of those who would otherwise be intentionally deaf and would react violently to something explicitly Christian.

Editor Kara Eschbach (co-founder with Janet) explains the project much more eloquently than I ever could -

"Verily was started as a response to our own feelings that the current narrative about women in the media - the fashion, the approach to relationships, the career advice - didn't reflect how we felt about ourselves or the trajectory of our lives.  

So we set out to create an alternative - a magazine that resonates with our experiences and leaves women feeling understood.  We are aiming to show style that respects our dignity, instead of compromising it; to explore our relationships, not just sex; and feature thought-provoking articles, not just rhetoric."

This is EXACTLY what our culture needs, what our young women need, and we need to help spread the word and help this magazine take off. 

You can view the first issue of the magazine by clicking here.

The launch of the magazine had a nice writeup in Catholic Exchange, which can be viewed by clicking here

Also, visit the site for the magazine and look for ways to subscribe, blogs to follow, and lots of other interesting stuff.  Click here to go to the magazine's homepage. I'm subscribing for my parish, and I'm going to purchase some subscriptions for some young ladies.  Help this project take off!

I hope and pray that God blesses this most important work that these young women are setting out on!

Monday, July 9, 2012

AWESOME Explanation of Mass Music

Here is a short video that is well done and very helpful for understanding what the Church requires of its music and worship. 

Check it out, it's only 9 minutes!

How to Clean Up the Church - Tazers

Looking for a way to drive nutty unorthodox Catholics out of your church?  Have you considered a tazer?  Here's a story of an overzealous tambourine player getting tazed.  Click here to read the details. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Getting Caught Up on Movies

I'm behind on Summer movies, but here's an opportunity to get caught up again!  Just click on the movie title to get the review on the particular film.

Spider Man - not sure how I feel about remaking movies that are only 10 years old.  I'll probably see it at some point, but barring a phenomenal review from someone, I'll probably wait to rent.  The Bishops rate it at A-III, about what you'd expect for a movie attempting to be a Summer blockbuster trying to appeal to as many as possible.

People Like Us - A-III

Ted - thou shalt not see - "O"

Magic Mike - thou shalt not see - "O"

Stella Days - "L" (mature themes that some adults might find troubling)

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter - this has to be a dare between two Hollywood exec's.  "Dude, you won't make a movie about Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires...oh yeah...yeah...want to bet...sure...I'll bet you my Ferrari you can't make that movie and actually make money on it...you're on."  This movie also has the worst trailer I think I've ever seen - Abraham Lincoln reciting the Gettysburg Address as a voice over to myriad action shots of Lincoln killing vampires.  If someone sees this movie let me know if it is or is not the worst movie of all time.  The Bishops rated it as an "L".

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - I'd like to actually see this film.  I am a fan of both leads as actors (Keira Knightley and Steve Carrell) and it sounds like this film does some good things.  I'll report back if I ever do get the chance to take it in.  The Bishops give it an "L".

Hiking to Hell and Back

Now that I've reached my first day off as a pastor, I have some time to share my experiences from my vacation the last two weeks of June.

My Father, for the last 30ish years, has taken a group of high school juniors and seniors out West to experience the majesty of the mountains.  By his own admission, he started the program as a 26 year old high school chemistry teacher mostly as a way to finance a vacation for himself, but, as God does, it has been transformed into a spiritual juggernaut of a trip that annually sees 90 some high schoolers and 30 some adults make the trek West each year.

Daily Mass is offered in the mountains (or at the Canyon) and every evening sees a spiritual reflection by a staff member around a campfire, often with an opportunity for young people to share their own insights as well.

As anyone who has traveled through the mountains can tell you, simply being in that environment seems to encourage spiritual reflection on God, His creation, mankind's place in that creation, etc.

This year, our trip took us to the Grand Canyon, and one of the highlights of the trip was the "Rim to Rim" hike.  This is a 26 mile ordeal where we started at the North Rim of the Canyon, hiked down 10 miles to the Canyon floor, hiked about 6 miles across the Canyon floor, and then hiked about 10 miles out of the Canyon.  This year we were blessed with a cool day as it "only" reached 106 degrees on the Canyon floor (it can get up to 130).  This year we started at about 1 am in order to avoid the worst of the heat.  We had 54 in our group, and everybody made it across this year in about twelve and a half hours, which was awesome!

Here's a photo at about 5 am on the Canyon floor, trying to look like I'm not sleep walking and putting on a happy face for the kids!

The crazy thing about the cross Canyon hike is that when you do it, you hike through about 6 million years (some geologists argue for up to 17 million years) of geological record.  Thinking about that is mind blowing, and it gets one thinking about how brief a human life is in relation to Creation, and the Psalm that popped into my head over and over as I was hiking through the Canyon is Psalm 8:

"When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place - What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor."  

Hiking through 6 million years of historical record, and then back out again, the Psalmist gets it exactly right - "Lord, who are we that you care for us?  Our life is over like a passing shadow (Psalm 144), yet you have made us little less than gods!"

The Psalmist (of course) nails it perfectly and succinctly - he notes that this question of "who am I" is more easily asked precisely "When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers..." it is easier to ask "Who am I?" precisely when we are in nature and looking at big, old, beautiful, natural things that we are more apt to be blown away by what God has done.

Another way of asking the same question - "What wondrous love is this" that you extend to us as humans?

It is yet another irony - nature shows us how historically and naturally insignificant and brief we are, and once we realize our natural INSIGNIFICANCE, we can be blown away by how eternally and supernaturally SIGNIFICANT God has willed us to be.  It is truly miraculous - when we are dwarfed by mountains and canyons, the dwarfing can aid us in, perhaps for the first time, realizing our true worth and significance.

Here is some beautiful footage of the Canyon.  If you've never been to the Canyon or to the mountains, save your pennies, plan ahead, do whatever it takes to spend some time being reminded of who and what you are!

Cineflex- Grand Canyon from Aerial Filmworks on Vimeo.

Harry Potter and Catholicism

A topic that never seems to go away is the discussion of Harry Potter and the Catholic Faith.

I post this now because it appeared on my Facebook notifications as I'm in the midst of, for the first time, reading the series myself. 

I'm currently almost exactly halfway through the series, and I'll reserve my comments until after I've finished the series.

For now, I pass on a nice series done by Dominican Nicholas Manko.  I've never met Friar Nick, but he entered the Midwest Province of the Dominican order with my brother Tony (who is now studying to be a priest for Indianapolis).  If you are interested, Friar Nick currently has 8 videos on Harry Potter and the Catholic Faith.  I've seen the first one and was very impressed.  They are well produced while also being faithful to the Church.  Hopefully we can expect a lot more from Friar Nick's studio!

Archbishop Chaput for Pope!

It may be wrong to lobby for a person to become Pope, but I think everything Archbishop Chaput says is absolutely humble, awesome, precise, and orthodox.  Here is his homily at the close of the Fortnight for Freedom - another gem!

Archbishop Charles Chaput -- Fortnight for Freedom Closing Homily from Rocco Palmo on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

My Last Night As an Associate Pastor

For the rest of my life until retirement, barring getting sent away for further schooling or something like that, I'll be a pastor of a parish.  It is kind of intimidating sitting here on the verge of it all waiting for it to get started.

In the seminary, when I thought of life after ordination, it was just this big continuous thing that I thought of as "priesthood" but I've since realized that there is a gigantic difference between being an associate pastor and a pastor.  I have been telling people it seems a lot like a couple preparing for marriage who only thinks about marriage, and doesn't think about the gigantic shift that takes place when a child is born that you are suddenly responsible for.  Tonight, packing up, I feel like the dad driving home from the hospital with a new kid in the back seat - I probably should have seen this coming, but nothing could have prepared me for it anyway.  I think it is also a good analogy because a parent is not "in charge" of their child nor is a parent meant to "rule" in the domineering or lording sense of the word - a parent is asked to care, for a short time, the life of the child, to protect it, teach it, feed it, and be a good steward of the child God has put into the life of parents - in the same way a pastor should come to "serve, not to be served" as Jesus instructs in the Gospel - I don't take over a kingdom tomorrow, God asks me to care for several parishes tomorrow for a short time, like the vineyard worker asked to care for a vineyard until the master returns. 

It is at times like this where I entrust myself to God's Providence, that belief that somehow God is steering my life and preparing me for things even though I am often unaware of His action and his preparation at the time.  I guess you just dive in to being a pastor and believe that God will make good come out of it and will guide and direct it.  It is still an intimidating dive.

Please pray for myself and my classmates who start as pastors tomorrow as well - Fathers Peter Marshall and Sean Danda - I can promise the parishes where we arrive tomorrow - if there is any anxiety about what your new priest will be like, know that the anxiety and wonder and excitement and fear is just as equally present in our minds as well about what type of pastors we will be.

Our Lady of Providence, pray for us.