The Greatness and Mercy of God

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In a recent post, “Come to Me….and I Will Give You Rest”, I admitted I was embarrassed about not being very spiritual, or taking the time to pray, study and live Jesus before others while on vacation; and how I realized, by reading Matthew’s Gospel, that the Lord is more concerned about my return to him than He is about my spiritual absence for a brief period.

When I broke it down I understood why I felt the way I did – our two weeks were chocker-block full of activity. We drove almost 4,300 miles. When we weren’t driving we were spending time with family. When I was doing neither of those I was intent on catching as many trout as possible. In essence, I got away from my daily routine of taking time to pray and read scripture.

I had nearly written off posting anything else about my trip until a fortunate occurrence last Friday morning. I was on our mission trip to Appalachian Kentucky and I arose early to meet my friend Clay in the dining hall for morning prayers at 5:40 a.m. After we prayed a rosary together, Clay handed me a book, pointed to a page, and said, “Here, read this”.

The book was The Seven Storey Mountain, the autobiography of the Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton. The page contained a passage that particularly caught Clay’s attention:

“There is not a flower that opens, not a seed that falls into the ground, and not an ear of wheat that nods on the end of its stalk in the wind that does not preach and proclaim the greatness and mercy of God to the whole world.”

When I read that paragraph I couldn’t help but look upwards and say, “Thank you, Lord”. In that moment I understood. Even though I felt I had, for the most part, neglected God those two weeks while on vacation, he had still been present to me. But, I was too busy then to see it.

Above treeline on Beartooth Pass, Montana

Above treeline on Beartooth Pass, Montana

God was present in the spectacular geology of the Beartooth Range of the Rocky Mountains between Red Lodge and Yellowstone National Park.

 

 

 

East Rosebud Creek, Absarokee Wilderness, Montana

East Rosebud Creek, Absarokee Wilderness, Montana

He was present in the clear mountain streams which provide an abundance of rainbow and brown trout; and in the fish themselves, unique creatures that cause us anglers to dream of that heavenly moment when, through practiced skill, we entice one to rise and dine on a #14 Pale Morning Dun.

 

 

Rock Creek near Red Lodge

Rock Creek near Red Lodge

 

14" Brown Trout

14″ Brown Trout

 

Unknown species, Custer State Park, South Dakota

Unknown species, Custer State Park, South Dakota

God was there in the spectacular and varied flora to be seen in every view: columbines, indian paint brushes, and small alpine wild flowers growing out of the cracks in the igneous rock of the mountains. He was there in the fauna we saw during hikes and drives through the mountains: bison, elk, deer, black bear, eagles, and marmots.

 

 

 

 

 

Elsa, 9 months

Elsa, 9 months

And, of course, He was there in our children and beautiful grandchildren with whom we spent a few precious days.

Jack, 6 months

Jack, 6 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord, please help us to not get caught up in the busy-ness of life but to always remember Your presence: in our loving families, in the caring people we meet, in the beautiful landscapes artistically brushed with color, and in the unique creatures with whom we share this earth. Please help us to always recognize Your greatness and the work of Your hands, and to always be grateful for Your abundant Grace and Mercy.  Amen.

(The Greatness and Mercy of God was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

 

#Flat Francis Takes a Road Trip

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It’s been a hair over two years since I made a four-day, solo, cross country road trip from my home in Ohio to Seattle, Washington for my oldest daughter’s wedding. It was a wonderful trip full of natural beauty, solitude, revelations and spiritual opportunities.

Perhaps the most exciting part of that trip for me as a new Catholic, or, to be more precise, a new Christian, was seeing the world from an entirely different point of view than I ever had previously. I had driven across the country many times prior to this but had never thought of its beauty as a creation and gift from God. Likewise, my faith not only opened my eyes to the scenery, but opened my mind and heart to the people and events that crossed my path.

My experiences on the trip urged me to blog about them. Each day I would stop at a McDonald’s and use their free Wi-Fi to publish my thoughts and events from the last twenty-four hours. During those four days I published: Miles, God Moments and Mosaics; Corn, Confession, Cathedrals and Car Trouble; Bolo Ties, Rosaries and Rainbows; and Miracles and Memories. It was fun and worth the extra hour or so each day.

Last week I got home from a similar two week road trip. For this year’s vacation I drove to Red Lodge, Montana to meet my daughter, son-in-law and nine month old granddaughter, for five days of relaxation, fly fishing and enjoying each other’s company. This trip, though, was a little different in that I had two passengers – my wife, Melinda, and Flat Francis.

#Flat Francis

#Flat Francis

Flat Francis is a caricature of Pope Francis and is a spinoff of the Flat Stanley project practiced at many grade schools around the country for a summer assignment. (School children take Flat Stanley on vacation with them and take photos with him at points of interest around the country.) The organization Catholic Extension came up with the idea for Flat Francis to help show Pope Francis the enthusiasm of American Catholics before his visit to Philadelphia in September.

On Saturday, 27 June we drove to our daughter’s house in Olathe, Kansas as our first way point. Then, Sunday morning we (my family and Flat Francis) attended 9:00 a.m. mass at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Olathe. The second reading this Sunday was from 2 Corinthians 8:9-15:

9“For you know the gracious acts of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.  13Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality 14your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality.  15As it is written: ‘Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.’”

In contemplating St. Paul’s message, I couldn’t help but think about the mission trip several of us would take later in July with Hand in Hand Ministries to Appalachian Kentucky. In comparison to many, I know I have been graced with a surplus of talent and treasure. But, I know from my experience on last year’s mission trip that the surplus of gratitude I received from those whom we helped equaled or exceeded that which I brought to the table.

I said a short prayer asking the Lord to help bring more adults to our ministry and to let those who can’t find it within themselves to offer a donation. Then, as I read from the Gospel, Mark 5:36, when Jesus told Jairus with regard to his dying daughter, “Do not be afraid, just have faith”, I knew the Lord would provide all we would need for this mission trip. (At the time we had seven people signed up and very few donations. As of this writing, one day before our trip, we have 12 adult volunteers and donations to Hand in Hand Ministries equal to almost 150 percent of the cost of the trip! Thank you, everyone!)

 #Flat Francis at Prince of Peace, Olathe, KS

#Flat Francis at Prince of Peace, Olathe, KS

The priest at Prince of Peace, Fr. Wiesmann, was visiting from the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica. He was on his own mission to raise money to help improve the living conditions of the Jamaican people in his Diocese. The living conditions he described in his homily were clearly visible in my mind’s eye and I couldn’t help but feel compassion for them. And, I couldn’t help but open my wallet and make a generous donation.

After a couple days at Lisa’s we drove on to Rapid City, South Dakota to spend a day with more family, and then on to Red Lodge, Montana (with a short stop for a photo-op with Flat Francis at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota) where we met up with my daughter, Sara, Andy, her husband and Elsa, our granddaughter.

#Flat Francis at Wall Drug

#Flat Francis at Wall Drug

We enjoyed a fun four days there (more on that in another post) and on Saturday evening we found ourselves at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Red Lodge.

St. Agnes is an old parish in a small but relatively new church building. There were about 40 of us in attendance. Most were regulars but it looked like there were a few visitors like us. We learned that the priest was visiting from nearby Bridger and, unfortunately, we learned it was because the pastor at St. Agnes had passed away the week before.

In my travels I visit a lot of churches and I usually remember something unique about each of them. The thing I will remember most about St. Agnes was the music and the cantor. The cantor was an elderly, grizzled gentleman who looked as though he had pushed a few dogies in his time. He played his guitar and he sang. Each hymn, the Gloria, and the responsorial Psalm were all played with the same four chords and the same 4/4 rhythm. He played in a Western style that was pure cowboy music. It made me think I was at a Riders in the Sky concert. He wasn’t the best singer but it was the most unique music I’ve ever heard at a Catholic mass.

#Flat Francis at St. Agnes, Red Lodge, MT

#Flat Francis at St. Agnes, Red Lodge, MT

The other thing I will remember about St. Agnes was my concern for the well-being of their parish. I noticed in their bulletin that the weekly collections were less than half their budget. This, combined with the loss of their priest, appeared to me to be casting a gloomy pall over their parish. I said a special prayer for them and hope you will, too.

After tent camping a couple nights in Custer State Park, S.D., and another visit at my daughter’s in Olathe, we returned home safely two weeks after we left. Tomorrow, it’s back on the road again to Auxier, Kentucky for our mission trip. And, yes, Flat Francis will be accompanying us.

God bless you all.

(#Flat Francis Takes a Road Trip was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

 

“Come to Me….and I Will Give You Rest”

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Photo credit: St. Jude Youth Ministry

Photo credit: St. Jude Youth Ministry

It is four days shy of a month since my last post and I’ve been itching to fill you in on what’s been going on. Much of what’s been going on is a lot of travelling the last five weeks – a mix between business and pleasure. 

On 27 June, my wife and I left on a two week vacation to Red Lodge, Montana with stops in Olathe, Kansas and Rapid City, South Dakota. By the time we returned home on 11 July, we had logged almost 4,300 miles. (In the next few days I hope to post about our trip.)

On Monday the 13th I packed up and hit the road again for business in southern Indiana. After staying three nights in different hotels, I returned home on Thursday evening, the 16th.

By the time I got home I was whipped, mentally exhausted. I would have liked to sit down and veg out but I had two things tugging at me. The first was a yard which hadn’t been mowed in a month, during which time we had had record amounts of rainfall. With nearly knee-high grass, it was starting to appear like no one lived at my home.

The second was a regularly scheduled monthly Ultreya meeting at church that evening with men and women who have lived a Cursillo retreat. At this meeting we share with each other how our prayer life has been, what we’ve been studying to increase or deepen our knowledge of our faith, and how we’ve lived our faith to set an example for others.

As much as I enjoy these meetings, I just couldn’t make myself go that night. I let the yard work win and I told my friend Clay that I wouldn’t make it to the meeting. Although I had a legitimate excuse, I started hearing that little voice in my conscience tell me otherwise and I knew I was hiding from the truth.

Yes, the truth was that I was exhausted. But, even more so, the truth was that I didn’t want to be embarrassed. The truth was that I had gone three weeks with the only spiritual-ness on my part being attending mass each of the Sundays I was away. The truth was that I hadn’t prayed, I hadn’t studied and I hadn’t been much of an example of Christian living in close to a month. At least it didn’t feel like it to me. And, I didn’t want to admit it to my friends.

I retired from the yard work around dusk, came in, cleaned up, and ate a bite. The guilt I’d been feeling for the hour or two before, after I realized the real reason I stayed home, was working on me. Knowing I needed desperately to get back in the groove, I decided to put off going to bed until after I had at least read that day’s scripture passages.

I read from Exodus 3 about Moses and the burning bush and God’s message to the Children of Israel. I read from Psalm 105 about the Lord’s Covenant. And then I read the Gospel passage for the day, Matthew 11:28-30 (NAB):

Jesus said: 28 Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.  30For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Jesus was talking to me and He knew what I needed to hear! He was telling me to not worry about the yard – it will get taken care of. He was telling me to not worry about having been spiritually absent the last three weeks. What mattered was that I was coming back to Him. He told me that I should learn humility from Him and to not worry about embarrassment from others. He let me know that I am not the first person to experience this and I won’t be the last. And, He told me to focus on Him so He can replace my tiredness with His peace.

A few minutes later, before I lay my head on my pillow, I said a special prayer of Thanksgiving for His love and for His protection for my family and me during those three weeks when I didn’t make time for Him.

That night I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in quite a while.

Amen.

(“Come to Me….and I Will Give You Rest” was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

The Bad and Good of Sinning on Monday

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The Return of the Prodigal Son - Bartolome' Murillo, 1670

The Return of the Prodigal Son – Bartolome’ Murillo, 1670

I’m a sinner. We all are in our own way and to our own degree. It’s our nature. It’s called concupiscence.

It seems no matter how hard I try I can’t not sin. Oh, I can go for three or four straight weeks and only commit a few minor venial sins (or so I think), but inevitably, through my own conscious free will, I cave in to temptation or an old habit that hasn’t yet been completely unlearned; or I act rashly in a disrespectful or uncharitable manner which I immediately regret. It tears me up – mostly because I know what I did was wrong and, also, partly because it injures the pride I’ve built up for having worked hard to improve and sin less as time has passed.

When I do this I know that waiting until Sunday morning mass and asking for forgiveness during the Penitential Act just isn’t going to cut it. No, there’s only one thing I can do to get right with God – make a trip to Reconciliation on Saturday afternoon and humbly lay it on the line to Him. The guilt and shame weighs heavily enough on my conscience that I know it’s pointless for me to try to talk my way out of it.

It seems to me that my most serious falls from grace occur early in the week, on Monday or Tuesday. When that happens I have the rest of the week until Saturday to contemplate and painfully stew on the thing(s) I wish I hadn’t done. Why can’t I commit all my more serious sins on Friday night or Saturday morning?

Sometimes during those several days between sin and forgiveness I find myself creating elaborate excuses for why I did the misdeed. But, eventually, I always get to, and spend sufficient time at, the appropriate level of contriteness needed for my confession. This, I think, is one of the beautiful things about the Catholic Church. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is such a great gift. Confessing my transgressions to God while I’m physically looking into the eyes of a real person, forces me to be honest with myself, the priest, and especially with Him. If I couldn’t do that I’m sure I would fall victim to my own inventions, justifying that the onus for my actions belongs elsewhere instead of solely with me.

When I do visit the priest and confess my sins to God with a truly contrite heart, and promise to not sin in that way again, I am often surprised at the lenient penance given to me. I usually feel as though I deserve less mercy and I’m always grateful for the mercy I do receive. But, then, sometimes I believe that those few days during which I agonized over my sin until I could get to confession may have served as partial penance. At least I hope so.

Last week as I waited for Saturday to roll around, I made my usual Holy Hour of Adoration on Friday afternoon. The convenience of this dawned on me: it is the perfect, last chance opportunity to thoroughly examine my conscience, shed the excuses and take full ownership for my actions. After all, it would be just a little difficult, if not foolish, to not get it right while I’m kneeling in front of the Tabernacle looking up at Jesus, and Him looking down upon me.

During that quiet hour last Friday I took time to read from my daily St. Augustine devotional. I was a couple weeks behind so I picked up where I left off with the passage from June 4th entitled, “Pride Can Destroy”. St. Augustine wrote:

“Paradoxically, it is good, in a way, for those who observe continence and are proud of it to fall, so that they may be humbled in that very thing on which they pride themselves. What benefit is continence for us if pride holds sway over our lives?”

What can I say? I can’t make this stuff up. He knows what I need to hear! This was just another one of those God-moments I’ve come to expect while I’m at Adoration. I looked at the Tabernacle and thought what a great and merciful Lord we have. All He wants us to do when we are tempted to sin is to look to Him and ask for His help. So simple, but our human nature makes it so difficult to accept His will. And I thought, if this is the way He reveals the truth to me, then, if I’m going to sin, maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all to do so early in the week!

I continued to read my devotional. Each daily passage is followed by a prayer from St. Augustine. The prayer for June 5th read:

“Lord, You truly gave me free will, but without You my effort is worthless. You give help since You are the One Who created, and You do not abandon Your creation.”

Amen.

(The Bad and Good of Sinning on Monday was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Be the Light

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A new wheelchair ramp built through efforts with Hand in Hand Ministries

A new wheelchair ramp built through efforts with Hand in Hand Ministries

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” – Matthew 5:14-16 (NAB)

This reading, from The Gospel of Matthew, on Tuesday of this week, was a timely reminder for me and seven friends as we prepare ourselves for an immersion mission trip next month to Appalachia Kentucky. We hope that our actions, through our investment of some sweat equity into improving the living conditions of a few residents of Auxier and the surrounding Floyd County, Kentucky area, will, in a way, be the “light of the world” to those families.

This mission trip is a return visit for my friend, Clay, and I. We led a youth group last year from St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Lebanon, Ohio to Auxier, where we spent four days working with Hand in Hand Ministries helping to bring necessary improvements to the homes of several families in the community. That trip, our first time to do anything like it, was truly an enlightening experience for us. (You can read about our experience in Opening the Door Between Heaven and Earth). Clay and I were so taken by the love and generosity we experienced during those four days that we decided to make another trip this year to the same place, again working through Hand in Hand Ministries.

Unlike last year, however, we want to sow the seeds deeper within our home community and we are making this an adult mission trip. We have slots reserved for 15 adults and are encouraging others from the St. Francis de Sales and the Lebanon community to participate in the mission. We have eight adults signed up as I write this and we still need seven more to join us.

If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of others, in bringing the “light of the world” and hope to our brothers and sisters who really need it, please consider joining us. To sign up, or for more information, please respond by comment to this post.

If you are unable to join us for the trip but would like to participate by donating monetarily to the cause you can do so by visiting our fundraising page St. Francis de Sales Group to Build Hope in Appalachia. The cost to participate is $250.00 per person but, although there are many folks who would gladly give of their time and talent, they will struggle to afford the cost. Your donations will help ensure that we fill all our slots with men and women who are able and willing to provide an uplifting experience to many who are less fortunate.

Even if you choose not to participate, I ask that you please share this post with friends through your social media. I know there are many caring and generous people out there who will gladly help others help others. We just have to reach them.

Thank you for your help. God bless you.

Jerry Robinson

(Be the Light was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Receiving the Eucharist on the Feast of Corpus Christi

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Our Lady of the Cove

Our Lady of the Cove

I love going to new churches when I’m on vacation and away from home. This morning my wife, daughter and I attended Our Lady of the Cove Catholic Church in Kimberling City, Missouri, while we are vacationing at a family reunion. Our Lady of the Cove is a relatively small but beautiful church and it was packed to the gills this morning, the Feast of Corpus Christi. It seemed that many in the congregation were visitors like us. Even the priest was visiting from St. Louis while the regular pastor was on vacation.

As I was staring at the image of Christ hanging on the cross behind the altar, I heard the lector read this passage:

“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal spirit, offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.” (Hebrews 9:13-14)

To myself I prayed, “Lord Jesus, you gave Your life for me such that, through You, I have been redeemed and may have eternal life. Thank you!”

A few minutes later as I knelt after receiving Holy Communion, I also prayed, “Dear Jesus, You not only gave Your life for me, but now, through this Holy Eucharist, You give Your life to me so that I may be renewed in You.”

Then, in a moment of enlightenment, I realized, perhaps not for the first time but never more clearly, the connection between the two. The word, Eucharist, is Greek for Thanksgiving. By my acceptance of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, His gift of life to me, I am declaring my thanksgiving to Him for His sacrifice for me.

I love being Catholic! I hope you do, too! God bless you.

(Receiving the Eucharist on the Feast of Corpus Christi was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

A Double Dose of Grace

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Piano2It’s Saturday night and I’m finally sitting down to relax and enjoy a little quiet time. We just finished dinner an hour or so ago – our usual Saturday night fare of grilled hamburgers. My wife’s in the kitchen making a pie for tomorrow, and my daughter, Grace, is in the basement watching a movie on Netflix.

I’m thinking back over the day and how I seemed to have worked hard but really didn’t get much accomplished. Several thunderstorms rolled through today which kept me from getting my yard mowed. Grace, who’s been home from college for about three weeks, kindly helped pick up branches which the storms had blown out of the many trees in our yard.

I recall the phone conversation I had with my close friend, Jerry, earlier today. We’d been playing phone tag for a week and we finally connected. Jerry is one of the men who have been by my side the last three years as I’ve been on my spiritual journey. We try to talk frequently but our schedules over the last month have kept us from it. As usual, our conversation started off with asking each other how our “walk with Jesus” has been going. I shared how my spiritual life has been on the dry side lately and I’ve struggled to feel as close to Him as I would like. Jerry admitted the same. We talked about what we could do to stoke our fires and bounced some ideas off each other. I love having Catholic friends with whom I can have that kind of conversation. I care for their spiritual health and I know they care for mine, too.

I told Jerry I have missed recognizing the “God-moments”, those instances when I feel particularly close to Jesus or feel God working in my life. They have become so important to me but they seem to have been absent the last few weeks. I told him that deep down inside I know the problem is really me. I’ve been so busy with “things”, I haven’t taken the time to “smell the roses”, if you will. I haven’t paid attention to the subtle ways God reveals Himself. As I sit here and think about our conversation I tell myself I need to do better at recognizing His little blessings.

My quiet reflection is interrupted by a tune being gently played on our baby grand piano. It is Grace playing, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Avita. She’s playing it beautifully and flawlessly. She puts so much feeling in her music. I love to hear her play. I realize how much I’ve missed her piano playing since she’s been away at college.

She changes up the tempo and begins to play a real oldie, “Mary’s a Grand Old Name” by George M. Cohan. She makes it look effortless. Her lithe fingers caress the keys and magic makes its way to my ears.

I start to cry. It dawns on me that it’s not the music causing my eyes to leak. No. Instead, I truly feel how blessed I am as a father. As I watch her play, I realize the beauty of the music she is making pales in comparison to the beauty she has within her. I love her, as I do all my children, with all my heart. I think about how God must feel the same way about them, and me, too. Now, sotto voce, I say a prayer giving thanks to Him for His grace and for allowing me to have my Grace in my life.

I finish my prayer by offering God an extra thank you for knowing just what I needed to end my dry spell and bring me back to Him. Amen.

(A Double Dose of Grace was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

Why Do Catholics Vote for Pro-Abortion Political Candidates?

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catholicprochoiceTwo weeks ago I read that presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, in her keynote speech at the Women in the World Summit in New York City, claimed that women are being denied the opportunity to have abortions because of the religious stalwarts in our country. Well, she didn’t exactly use those words. What she said was:

“Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced.”

“Rights have to exist in practice – not just on paper.”

“Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” (Emphasis added)

Her point was that if religious folks like us would only change our paradigm of what is moral and immoral, all would be right in the world….at least in the context of the so called, “War on Women”.

My knee-jerk rebuttal to Mrs. Clinton is that until God decides to give us a new set of commandments, the old ones will remain the underlying moral principles which guide us. It feels good to say that, but it doesn’t actually get us anywhere because it won’t change her or any pro-abortion liberal. As such, I don’t let those folks upset me.

Instead, what really confounds me about this mess is something I noticed three years ago when I became Catholic. That is, why do so many pro-life Catholics vote for liberal candidates who support abortion? It baffled me then when I heard staunch and committed Catholics say they planned to vote for our current president even though he made his pro-choice stance known, and it still baffles me today.

I know there are many less-than-fully-committed Catholics who take a pro-choice stance. I don’t understand them and it would be foolish of me to think I could change them with what I have to say in this blog. I am more interested in the Catholics who say they are pro-life but who still vote for pro-choice candidates, and whether I can change their perspectives.

The Catholic Church stands contrary to the cultural flow of the secular world on many moral issues (e.g., same-sex marriage, the death penalty, euthanasia, etc.), but none of them are more important, I feel, than the right to life of an unborn human being.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in Paragraph 2271, states:

“Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.”

Thus, in my struggle to understand how anyone can call themselves Catholic and still support a pro-abortion candidate, I decided a serious answer would require some research.

I first thought I ought to find out how Catholics actually voted in the last election. The Pew Research Center, in How the Faithful Voted: 2012 Preliminary Analysis, analyzed exit poll data after the last four presidential elections. It not only shows how Catholics voted but how all major religious affiliations voted.

The data shows that Catholics were fairly evenly divided between the two parties depending on the election year. Catholics also voted nearly identical to the general electorate. This means that about half of the voting Catholics voted for a pro-abortion candidate.

The data further shows that 78 percent of the total electorate claims to be Christian, (25 percent Catholics and 53 percent Protestants), with the other 22 percent claiming other faiths or having no religious affiliation.   ABC News, in another poll from July 2014, Most Americans say they’re Christian, concluded that 83 percent of Americans claim to be Christian (22 percent Catholic and 61 percent Protestant).

There is a huge message in this data! If Catholics would all vote the same, their 22 to 25 percent of the electorate would be enough to influence an election. And, if all Christians pulled together and voted the same way, they would guarantee who gets elected!

This data tells us how they voted. But, it still doesn’t tell us why Catholics vote the way they do.

After more research I found the article, Why Do Many Pro-Life Catholics Vote Democrat?, in the September 4, 2014 edition of the Christian Post. It suggests there are two main reasons: First, committed Catholics may indicate they are pro-life but they tend to be more concerned about social welfare issues and they vote for the candidate who leans pro-welfare; and second, nearly half of voting committed Catholics incorrectly assume that the pro-welfare Democratic candidate is also pro-life.

The article asserts that these voters are generally less than fully informed about a candidate’s posture on abortion and, in fact, tend to overlook a candidate’s view on abortion as long as the candidate’s stance on social welfare agrees with their own. To quote the article, “It’s actually the social welfare part that is inhibiting the committed Catholics to vote for the Republican Party [in numbers that] we would expect … based upon abortion positions.”

There is no doubt that welfare in our society requires serious consideration. To Catholics, it is a fundamental issue deeply rooted in our beliefs. We donate a lot of money to, and invest a lot of sweat-equity in charity and charitable institutions. We take the commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” seriously. Most Catholics would agree that charity is at the foundation of our faith. And, most Catholics would also say that pro-life beliefs are foundational to our faith. The question, then, is how do you get those Catholics to view right to life as equal to or more important than welfare?

I believe there are two things necessary to change their voting behavior. The first is to encourage voters to learn more about where candidates stand on issues, and the second is for Catholic voters to understand the relative importance between the issues and why the Church stands the way it does.

With respect to the first, I know there are people who vote along party lines regardless of the candidates or issues because that’s how they’ve always voted. They do very little to learn where candidates stand on all the issues. For these uninformed voters one thing is for certain: a vote for a pro-welfare candidate who is also a pro-abortion candidate, whether the voter knows it or not, is a vote for abortion and against life.

As for the second, with so many important issues on the table during elections, even informed voters have difficulty choosing a candidate who aligns with their moral values. Voters need a sort of internal moral compass to assist them with sorting it all out. For Catholics, there is help to be found when setting those priorities – in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Paragraph 2055 of the Catechism says:

“When someone asks him [Jesus], ‘Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?’ Jesus replies: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.’ The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:

The commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Emphasis added).

In essence, this guidance says there is more to loving your neighbor than giving alms and voting for government provided social welfare. Loving your neighbor includes not killing them and, by extension, means not killing unborn children. It’s plain and simple.

If that’s not convincing enough to vote against a pro-abortion candidate, perhaps this logic will help:   with social welfare there is never a candidate or a party who promises to ignore or do away with social programs – they all promise programs of various degrees across a social welfare spectrum. But, with abortion, there is no range or spectrum. The consequences are absolute. The aborted child doesn’t almost die. It dies, period.

Thus, ideally, if abortion and social welfare were the two most important factors to be considered when choosing a candidate, Catholics, or any Christian for that matter, ought to first side with pro-life candidates and then, second, determine which offers the best stance on social welfare. In other words, any amount of social welfare is better than none. But, even one abortion is unacceptable.

We have about a year and a half before the 2016 presidential election to convince our fellow Catholics of this undeniable logic. You can help by taking advantage of opportunities to engage in political discussions with Catholic voters and encourage them to examine where candidates stand on all the issues. Help them to question the priority they place on their moral values of social welfare verses abortion. Feel free to share this post on social media or email it to friends to help spread the word to those who need to hear it and to those who can spread it further. Wouldn’t it be great if Catholics came together in force as one faith and voted pro-life! By the grace of God, I know we can do it.

Thank you and God bless.

 

(Why Do Catholics Vote for Pro-Abortion Political Candidates? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.

How Will You Evangelize?

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St. Peter Cures the Lame Beggar - Bernardo Strozzi

St. Peter Cures the Lame Beggar – Bernardo Strozzi

This past weekend I helped lead a men’s spiritual retreat and I was slated to give a reflection for meditation early Saturday afternoon. I’d known I had to do this for some time but I was yet unprepared with any subject matter upon which to talk. I often procrastinate but that wasn’t the case in this instance. I simply didn’t know what I wanted to say. Contrary to ordinary, I wasn’t worried. I knew the Holy Spirit would guide me.

We attended Mass in the morning before the retreat began and I prayed for inspiration. As I concentrated on the first reading, Acts 4:13-21, I had a glimmer of hope. This passage spoke of Apostles Peter and John, after they had cured the lame beggar and converted five thousand, being ordered by the Sanhedrin to cease speaking and teaching about Jesus. Then, as I heard the Gospel, Mark 16:9-15, about Jesus’ resurrection, appearing to Mary Magdalene and the Disciples, and His commissioning of the Eleven Apostles, I knew the Holy Spirit had come through for me again! After a few minutes alone, and by the Grace of God, I had my reflection in hand:

In this morning’s reading from The Acts of the Apostles, I heard Peter and John tell the Sanhedrin, 19 ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.  20 It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.’”

And from the Gospel of Mark, I heard Jesus say to His Apostles, 15 ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”’

“These two passages speak to me of evangelization. They speak to me of the spirit of the Christ Renews His Parish program, which is itself an instrument of evangelization.”

“When I think of evangelization I usually think of two things: evangelization within the Church, and evangelization outside the Church. Pope Paul wrote, ‘The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized Herself….She has a constant need of being evangelized if She wishes to retain freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel’.”

“Ever since I became Catholic I’ve known the mission of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel and to bring others to Christ. Pope Paul told us that before we can do that successfully we must evangelize within; that is, we have to be healthy to be believable to those without.”

“That’s what Christ Renews His Parish does, it evangelizes within the Church. It lights a fire inside those who have let their fire go out as well as stoke the fires of those who already burn brightly. It allows the ‘Holy Spirit to kindle in them the fire of His love’.” Imagine trying to spread the Gospel without this!”

“Someone on the outside looking in might be under the impression that all Catholics, or all Christians for that matter, are holy, and are always holy. They would be wrong, of course. Just in this group of 42 men, we are all at different levels of holiness. But, as our Deacon said this morning, our job as Christians is to get to heaven. And, some of us need help from each other to get there. It might be a family member who helps us, or a priest, or the person sitting next to you right now.”

“We can each evangelize this weekend by getting to know each other, by supporting one another, and by sharing, even in small ways, how Christ has worked in our lives. And, we can do the same thing after this weekend to people we know and meet.”

“Yesterday in my Holy hour of Adoration, I read a sermon from St. Augustine: ‘Scattered about the entire earth, your mother the Church is tormented by the assaults of error. She is also afflicted by the laziness and indifference of so many of the children she carries around in her bosom as well as by the sight of so many of her members growing cold, while she becomes less able to help her little ones. Who then will give her the necessary help she cries for if not other children and other members to whose number you belong?’”

“St. Augustine wrote that in the 5th century. Not much has changed in the last 1,600 years. We are still called to answer those cries for help.”

“As I was writing this I realized there is actually a third level of evangelization: self-evangelization. Going back to what Pope Paul wrote, before the Church can proclaim the Gospel without, it has to get healthy within. And, like the Church, for us to perform our role successfully, we have to be spiritually healthy. Individually, we need to be evangelized within. How do we take ownership and make that happen?”

“To kick off our retreat, our opening scripture reading this morning was John 1:1 –  ’In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Personally, I believe therein lies the key. We can evangelize ourselves by reading the Word of God, by picking up His Book, the Bible, and reading the scriptures and listening to His Word. In doing so, we let it change us and we let it direct us.”

“As you go forward on this weekend and beyond, I’d like to leave you with this question upon which to meditate: With the renewal you will experience this weekend, how will you evangelize yourself, evangelize to others, and profess your faith in ways that will strengthen the whole Church, the Body of Christ?”

And, so that I “practice what I preach”, I offer this reflection to you, the reader, and ask you the same question: How will you evangelize within and without?

God bless you all.

 

(How Will You Evangelize? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

©2015 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic

Father Don Talafous, OSB

When I was a freshman student at Saint John’s many years ago, I was walking across campus one day and I was stopped by one of the monks. He looked at me, called me by name and asked if I was from Ghent. I had never met him before, but that was Father Don. He would memorize the pictures of all the incoming freshmen and call us by name when he met us. During my time at SJU, he never forgot my name, and I never forgot his.

I believe Father Don found Christ in each of us, and in some small way, his act of taking the time to know us, meant a lot. Fr. Don Talafous is being honored with the SJU President’s Medal and Citation. Fr. Don has been a part of the Saint John’s community for more than 70 years. As a monk, professor, university chaplain and faculty resident, he has touched the lives of thousands of students, alumni, parents and friends. He shows us how being fully present and attentive to those around us, makes a difference in their lives. Below is a short video about Father Don.

–Rich

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