09August

Edith Stein: The Hidden Life of Wisdom

Taken from CrisisMagazine.org
by Christopher O. Blum

Edith Stein: The Hidden Life of Wisdom

Edith Stein was an unlikely saint. A former Jewish-atheist bluestocking who died for the Faith as a Carmelite nun in the gas chamber at Auschwitz, Stein was impelled by a quenchless thirst for truth. God in His Mercy placed in her life friends who were themselves, in one way or another, “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3), and who helped her draw near to the source of wisdom.

Although raised in a large, devout Jewish family, Stein strayed from God during her youth. She later said that she “consciously decided” to stop praying. As a university student, she passed through a phase of being—again, in her words—a “radical suffragette.” Soon, however, she began the arduous work of pursuing the truth, moving to the university at Göttingen to sit at the feet of Edmund Husserl. Stein’s life as the student and then as the graduate assistant of Husserl, with her consequent membership in the circle of ardent young philosophers Husserl had collected around himself, has been admirably told by Alasdair MacIntyre, whose Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913-1922 is a penetrating investigation of character as it relates to the search for truth.

At the heart of MacIntyre’s narrative, and, indeed, of Stein’s conversion, is the life, death, and philosophical inquiry of Adolf Reinach (1883-1917). Like other talented young philosophers of his generation—such as Max Scheler and Dietrich von Hildebrand—Reinach came to Göttingen to learn from Husserl, whose reflection upon our experience of ourselves as knowers of the world was then opening up what has since become a philosophical tradition in its own right, phenomenology.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
05January

Epiphany’s Conquering Light

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Epiphany’s Conquering Light

Something deep inside us associates light with good and darkness with evil. Maybe we feel this way because darkness can terrify us with its unknowns, cloaking everything in its gloom, while a whole room of darkness can be vanquished in an instant by one tiny candle. It is as if darkness has its bluff called by the candle’s seemingly insignificant light.




Readings for January 5, 2014, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6


Jerusalem Rising

Isaiah builds on this powerful, central metaphor to describe the end of the reign of sin and the coming of the Messianic King in this Sunday’s first reading from Isa 60:1-6. He calls on Jerusalem, a city, to “rise up.” It’s kind of an odd thought unless we’ve been carefully reading his poetic metaphors throughout the book. One of the word pictures he has repeatedly used paints Jerusalem (built on Mt. Zion) as victorious in the Messianic age, as being raised up above all other cities (e.g. Isa 2:2). This elevation is not merely a change in altitude, but signifies the spiritual prominence of God’s holy city, the origin of our salvation. By calling on Jerusalem to rise up, the prophet is announcing that salvation has come, now is the time when God will establish the reign of light over the tyranny of darkness. Darkness may cover other cities, other nations, other mountains, but light will reign in Jerusalem!

Gathering God’s People

At this late point in Isaiah (chapter 60 out of 66), the prophet brings several of his themes to a crescendo. One of those themes is that of ingathering. And if you read closely here, you’ll notice two distinct flavors of ingathering. First, the dispersed people of Israel will return to Jerusalem: the sons and the daughters. The ten Israelite tribes that were lost at the Assyrian conquest and the Jews who had been spread throughout the known world are in view here. While the nation had been punished by God for its disobedience by the covenant curse of exile, now Isaiah tells us that the Lord will redeem his people and bring them back to the land. Their coming to gather at Jerusalem is the first stage of this redemption. “The people who walked in darkness” (Isa 9:2) will come into the light of salvation at Jerusalem.

Gathering the Gentiles

Isaiah tells us about the second stage of the ingathering in 60:5-6. Here, the re-gathered Israelites will no longer just look upon the light, but they themselves will become “radiant.” Why? Because the nations will bring their riches to Jerusalem. For us, this might sound avaricious and unspiritual, but it actually conveys a deep spiritual reality. The ancient Israelites had dreamed of restoring the glory of Solomon’s kingdom, with its wealth, power and dominance in international politics. One of the ways that dominance would have been demonstrated in the ancient Near Eastern world is through the payment of tribute. Here Isaiah illustrates the nations coming and paying tribute at Jerusalem—their wealth-bringing is a sign of their subservience. But for our prophet, this tribute is no mere political game, but a potent demonstration of the spiritual debt which the Gentiles will owe to the Jews, to Jerusalem for offering the Christ Child to us.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange.
29January

Evangelii Gaudium: Pope Francis on the Joy of the Gospel and the New Evangelization

Taken from The Catholic Servant, January 2014
By Professor Douglas Bushman

Evangelii Gaudium: Pope Francis on the Joy of the Gospel and the New Evangelization

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii gaudium (EG), is conspicuous for its incorporation of themes from his three predecessors: Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. It mentions each of these popes five times, and references to them account for 94 of the 217, or 43%, of the endnotes. If we add 18 references to Vatican II and three to John XXIII, 53% of his references are from Vatican II and the post-Vatican II popes. There are 30 references to the final propositions from the Synod on the New Evangelization of October, 2012, to which this apostolic exhortation is the Holy Father’s response.

Encountering God’s Love in Christ

The fundamental message of EG is fourfold. First, the Church’s mission, and thus the New Evangelization, is the fruit of an encounter with God’s love in Christ that results in a new way of living. In perfect continuity with his predecessors, Pope Francis underscores that the essential content of the Gospel is that God is love. “The heart of its message will always be the same: the God Who revealed His immense love in the crucified and risen Christ.” (EG, n. 11)

“Jesus Christ loves you; He gave His life to save you; and now He is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen, and free you. This first proclamation is called ‘first’ not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first in a qualitative sense because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment.…” (EG, n. 165)

Our love for neighbor, which sums up the New Law, is a response to God’s love for us, which always comes first. (EG, nn. 12, 24, 162) Throughout the pilgrimage of faith, God’s love never ceases to transform us so that we can love others as Christ loved us. “Anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus.…” (EG, n. 120) “For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (EG, n. 8)

This connection between evangelization and a life-changing encounter with God’s love in Christ makes it clear what the remedy is for an alarming evangelical and missionary apathy. Too many among the baptized simply are not having this transformational encounter with God’s love. The reason, as we shall see, is that they are not coming to grips with their own poverty in relation to God.

The Joy of the Gospel

The second theme of Pope Francis’ message is joy. Pope Francis is concerned that “there are too many Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.” (EG, n. 6) Too many “end up being unhappy with who they are and what they do… They end up stifling the joy of mission with a kind of obsession about being like everyone else and possessing what everyone else possesses.” (EG, n. 79) Who would be attracted to a community of “sourpusses”? (EG, n. 85)

Joy is the fruit of the transformational encounter with God’s love in Christ. If this encounter is lacking or superficial, then there will be a corresponding lack of joy, or shallowness of joy, among the Church’s members. “The life of the Church should always reveal clearly that God takes the initiative, that ‘He has loved us first’ (I Jn. 4:19)…. This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life. God asks everything of us, yet at the same time He offers everything to us.” (EG, n. 12)

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Gal. 5:22) It is practically a name for the Holy Spirit, God’s definitive gift to us. It is “a sign that the Gospel has been proclaimed and is bearing fruit.” (EG, n. 21) Joy is inseparable from the faith that keeps alive the memory of God’s love definitively revealed in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ.

“Memory is a dimension of our faith which we might call ‘deuteronomic,’ not unlike the memory of Israel itself. Jesus leaves us the Eucharist as the Church’s daily remembrance of, and deeper sharing in, the event of His Passover (cf. Lk. 22:19). The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance.” (EG, n. 13)

The joy of evangelizing derives from the Eucharist! Joy springs from being aware of having been loved by God, of having received the Gift of gifts, the Holy Spirit. This presence of God’s Gift, perceived in our joy, has the power to attract people to the Church, and thus to Christ, and thus to God. The Church grows, not so much as a result of our hard work and clever programs, but “by attraction.” (EG, n. 14)

Love for the Poor

Pope Francis’ third theme is that the Church should live a love of preference for the poor. Evangelii gaudium mentions the poor 76 times! Pope Francis laments that too many Christians are living and “acting as if God did not exist, making decisions as if the poor did not exist, setting goals as if others did not exist, working as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist.” (EG, n. 80)

God Himself looks down on the poor, hears their cry, and shows them mercy. Just as the joy to which we are called is a participation in Christ’s own joy, so the poverty to which we are called is a participation in Christ’s own poverty. “For you know the gracious act 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.” (II Cor. 8:9)

“Today and always, ‘the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel’ … and the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish. We have to state, without mincing words, that ‘there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor.’” (EG, n. 48) To encounter God’s love in Christ is to encounter His mercy toward us in our own poverty. As a result of being loved in our own poverty, we are called to love others in their poverty. It is the message of the unforgiving debtor. (Mt. 18:23–35) Once Christ has loved us in our poverty, the only way to fulfill the commandment to love others as Christ has loved us (Jn. 13:34) is by loving the poor.

This is the meaning behind the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that “the Eucharist commits us to the poor.” (n. 1397) If there is a crisis of missionary zeal, it must be due to a crisis of Eucharistic faith and devotion, and this latter crisis is rooted in the failure of too many Christians to come to terms with their own poverty in relation to God. For humility, which is this poverty in relation to God, is the necessary condition for encountering God’s love in Christ. (CCC, n. 716)

For the Holy Father, our faith is put to the test every time we encounter someone who is poor. The following insight of Cardinal Ratzinger is an apt elucidation: “The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice—all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world. This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified.” Structures Are not Ends but Means Regarding ecclesiastical institutions, Pope Francis writes of a necessary “missionary conversion” (EG, n. 30) for parishes, dioceses, and the Apostolic See. Like his predecessors, he is concerned about the Church closing in on herself, being preoccupied with bureaucratic realities at the expense of solicitude for people. He discerns that “if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems…. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach.…” (EG, n. 63)

Ultimately, structures must be at the service of a personal encounter with Christ that true evangelists aim to bring about. We are “constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction.” (EG, n. 88) We are called to develop the “art of accompaniment” (EG, n. 169), which is to make a commitment to people who need to be loved. Structures and institutions do not love—people do.

Very importantly, the renewal of structures presupposes the renewal of hearts. Only hearts transformed by the encounter with God’s love can direct the renewal of structures and put them to the test of whether they are transparent to missionary charity and useful as its expression and in its exercise. “Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way.’ I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style, and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.” (EG, n. 33)

In light of all of this, Pope Francis shares with us his vision for a genuinely evangelical Church:

“I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with Him. As Pope John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: ‘All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion.’” (EG, n. 27)

In what will likely be one of the most quoted passages of this exhortation, Pope Francis warns against a kind of sense of false security or safety that can come with an obsession to maintain structures: “Let us go forth … to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ…. I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light, and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat’ (Mk. 6:37).” (EG, n. 49)


[Editor’s Note: Many people have questions about Pope Francis’ new apostolic exhortation, Evangelii gaudium. “The Catholic Servant” asked Professor Douglas Bushman to respond to two of these questions.]

Question: What is the level of teaching for an apostolic exhortation? How must it be followed by Catholics? Can one disagree with all or parts of it?

Professor Bushman: Contemporary Catholics are most familiar with the post-synodal apostolic exhortations, which elaborate on the themes considered by the Synod of Bishops. Interestingly, though Evangelii gaudium is about the New Evangelization and Pope Francis refers (30 times) to the final propositions of the Synod on the New Evangelization (October, 2012), it is not a post-synodal apostolic exhortation. The Pope writes an apostolic exhortation to encourage the entire Church, or a group within the Church, to fully embrace the demands of living the Gospel. The exhortative nature of these texts indicates that they presuppose what God has revealed and the doctrine that the Church authoritatively teaches. Thus, they are not intended to be authoritative affirmations or clarifications of doctrine, nor are they legislative in nature. Regarding the question of the authority of ecclesiastical texts, people should avoid assigning levels of engagement of teaching authority to an entire document, as, for example, we believe that all of Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and asserts what God wanted asserted and is free of error. Rather, they should be alert to the fact that an apostolic exhortation contains many re-assertions of Scripture and dogmatic pronouncements, as well as statements that are in various ways related to Catholic teaching. Catholics must believe all that the Church authoritatively teaches, but they can certainly question and disagree with a pope’s reading of the signs of the times. They should also recognize that, even if he is inaccurate in one or another of his assessments of particular situations, this in no way attenuates his teaching authority with respect to faith and morals. Permit me to say that it would be lamentable if questions of this kind were to prevent well-educated Catholics from examining their own consciences regarding Pope Francis’ main preoccupation, namely, loving the poor.

Question: Some people are disagreeing with Pope Francis’ statements about economics in this document. They think the Pope doesn’t seem to understand the free market system as experienced in the United States. Can he be wrong, and how does a Catholic sort through such a document as to what is acceptable and what is not acceptable?

Professor Bushman: Some of Pope Francis’ phraseology has given rise to alarm and consternation. Yet, Pope Francis has said that there is nothing in Evangelii gaudium that is not in the prior social teaching of the Church. Upon close examination of his precise wording, my view is that this is true. The Church openly and repeatedly has said that she is not an expert in politics or economics. The Pope’s teaching authority does not assure us of any special expertise in making judgments of a technical nature about the relative efficacy of various political and economic systems. The Church does insist, however, that she is an expert in humanity. This means that her concern with political and economic questions is focused on the moral principles that bear upon human dignity and ultimately on the place of secular activity in Christian life. On my reading of Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis is consistent with the teaching of his predecessors when he asserts that a trickle-down market system cannot, by itself, assure that the poor are treated as they should be. His insistence is that the capacity of any economic system to measure well against the criterion of concern for the poor depends on the moral disposition of those who are engaged in economic activity, especially those with the greatest influence.

Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L., is Professor of Theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado, where he holds the Blessed John Paul II the Great Chair of Theology for the New Evangelization.

05March

Excavating a Spiritual Dinosaur for Lent

Taken from The Catholic Thing
by Dr. Christopher Blum

Excavating a Spiritual Dinosaur for Lent

In his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, C. S. Lewis spoke of himself as a dinosaur, that is, as a “specimen” of the “Old Western order.” He was only partly jesting. Lewis considered England in 1954 to be separated from the ages of Arthur, Chaucer, and even of Dr. Johnson by a great “chasm” that opened in the time of Jane Austen and Walter Scott. To understand the world before Ivanhoe and Persuasion, he warned, one needed to “suspend most of the responses and unlearn most of the habits” that one acquires by “reading modern literature” and inhabiting the modern world. It was precisely because he belonged to that older world as a native son, Lewis said, that he would at least be useful to his contemporaries as a specimen, if not as an authority.

If ever there were a representative of the Old Western order in its specifically Catholic form, Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704) would seem to be the man. When he’s known at all, it’s for what he opposed: political liberalism, Biblical criticism, the new spirituality of Fénelon and Madame Guyon, even the ultramontane interpretation of the papal office. Tonsured while still a boy, he lived entirely within the Church and northern France; he seems never to have traveled far enough to see the ocean or the Mediterranean Sea. A small-town bishop with decidedly traditional views, he has sometimes been called a “founder of the Counter-Enlightenment.” How could his innermost thoughts and aspirations possibly be of use to us?

The answer is that Bossuet’s mind was a model of judiciousness and balance. He combined excellences only rarely brought together in one person. As a preacher, he was both learned as well as fiery and dialectically sharp. As a courtier, he was both discreet and principled. Trusted as the tutor to Louis XIV’s son, he also rebuked the Sun King in veiled terms from the pulpit and with bold directness in private letters. He was a competent administrator but no plodding bureaucrat. No less a critic than Paul Claudel once said that his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches (1688) was the book he would choose if only one could be saved to “bear witness to the world of the French language and spirit.”

Continue reading at The Catholic Thing
11March

Faculty Focus: Douglas Bushman

Faculty Focus: Douglas Bushman

Meet Douglas Bushman

Prof. Bushman started out as a philosophy major, where he was drawn to the vocation of the intellectual life. After finishing his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) degree at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, Bushman worked at a parish for four years, where he lived with three holy priests and got to know the Church at the “retail level,” and acquainted him with the daily pastoral issues of the Church. Then, after six years of working as the Director of Education for the Diocese of Duluth, MN, Bushman became the director for the Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies master’s program at the University of Dallas.

Bushman has been talking about the New Evangelization under the heading of “Pastoral Theology” for the past 20 years, following the lead of Blessed Pope John Paul II and the second Vatican Council. “That’s why I’m so at home here at the Augustine Institute,” he said. Being a Thomist, he loves being able to find the roots of pastoral theology in Thomas Aquinas’ works, Bushman added.

When Bushman was the director of the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Ave Maria University, he first heard about the Augustine Institute when it was still only an idea. Watching with great interest, he admired the innovative use of technology and absorbed the positive reports of the program and its graduates.

Bushman was given the title of the Blessed Pope John Paul II Chair for the New Evangelization as a recognition of his service to the Church and to convey the mission he has been entrusted with: to compile, finish and publish the fruit of years of labor in the New Evangelization. In addition to writing his own works, Bushman also contributed to “Man Up: Become the New Catholic Renaissance Man” by Jared Zimmerer.

What would it be like to sit in on one of Professor Bushman's classes? Here is a sneak peak!



Bushman’s writings and articles can be found in print in Magnificat and The Catholic Servant, and online at Ignatius Insight, Catholic Answers, the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary blog, and the Augustine Institute’s Tolle Lege blog.

Links to articles:

Bushman Quotes:

  • “Occasionally I think in French.”
  • “We love to be around saints. They make us feel comfortable because they are so comfortable in God’s love and make us want to be in that position of God’s love.”
  • “God does not subscribe to the axiom 'if you want to do things well, do it yourself.' He sends bunglers out there to tell His story.”
  • “All the saints are comfortable with themselves because they so deeply experience God’s love for them.”
  • “If you love the truth more than you love yourself, you like having friends who are smarter than you.”
20August

Faith that Sees in the Dark

Taken from TheCatholicYearOfFaith.com
By Dr. Sean Innerst

Faith that Sees in the Dark

Father Walter Ciszek, S.J., spent twenty-three tortuous years in various prisons under the old Soviet regime in Russia. After a year of intense interrogation, he signed a false affidavit admitting to crimes that he had not committed. The weakness in himself that this act revealed, both to himself and to his Soviet interrogator, precipitated a real crisis in Ciszek’s soul. Cast into darkness and eventually into real despair, he experienced what he flatly calls a conversion when he finally called upon God’s grace and found the strength to give up all the calculations he had entered into with his captors to avoid further torture and death, and to cast himself entirely upon God.

That essential act of faith, that final surrender of every pretension to self-sufficiency, is critical to sanctity, to hope, and to love in full. The book of Hebrews defines faith as the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” (11:1) which means, in short, that faith is the power to see in the dark. Things always seem darkest when our own resources have failed entirely and we have no place to go but the throne of grace.

Continue to full article >>

03December

Finances in Light of the Call for a Poor Church

Taken from Crisis Magazine
By Dr. Jared Staudt

Finances in Light of the Call for a Poor Church

Crisis recently featured a stimulating discussion on finances centered on Dave Ramsey’s principles of financial planning. The first piece by Richard Becker, “Of Dave Ramsey, Babies, and Birth Control,” contrasted Ramsey’s approach to finances with Catholic openness to life. The response by Stephen Herreid, “Dave Ramsey—Our Favorite Catechist,” countered by arguing that Ramsey’s principles are all the more important for Catholic families in order to plan wisely for their support.

I had begun writing a response to these pieces in light of Christ’s teaching on wealth in the Gospels, but as I was writing Pope Francis issued Evangelii Gaudium. Immediately after his election, he had already called for “a Church which is poor and for the poor!” (a line renewed in §198). Now he has provided us with much more insight into what that means. The question of wealth, and also its effects on the spiritual life, is really at the heart of the Apostolic Exhortation, as Francis lays out at the beginning:

The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too (§2).

For the laity, the question is intimately bound up with the concern over Ramsey’s financial principles: what should Catholics do about the difficulty, which is real, of having a large family within our economic context? Is the family dying out, losing its voice, along with God in the world, drowned out by our own selfish concerns?

Continue to the full article at CrisisMagazine.com.

01February

Forming First Ripples: Modeling Virtue in our Homes

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Kumar Kibble

Forming First Ripples: Modeling Virtue in our Homes
“In this culture, which is selling a lot of stuff, I had a father on his knees who was showing me how to be a man of God.” —Dan Vander Woude

I vividly recall the weekend in September 2008 when I learned that a father and parishioner in a nearby parish in northern Virginia had been tragically killed. According to a Washington Post article I later read, Thomas Vander Woude’s son fell into a septic tank, and Vander Woude dove into the tank and held up his son just long enough for another to pull him out. As his son was lifted out, Vander Woude’s eyes closed and he collapsed into the tank. On that day a devoted father passed away, but his son and his saintly legacy live on. By all accounts from those who knew him, his final act crowned a lifetime of loving God and neighbor. This selfless witness by a daily communicant and loving father of seven boys has had a powerful impact on me over the years.

Striving for Holiness

As Catholic parents, few of us are called to lay down our lives in one such heroic moment for our kids. However, all of us are called to a daily, heroic struggle as we strive for holiness. As Vander Woude did throughout his life, are we cheerfully responding to that call in and through the particular circumstances of each day? Being a parent requires love, vigilance, and self-sacrifice as we seek to raise and form our kids in a secular culture that is increasingly hostile to Christian values. However, as the saying goes, more is caught than taught. Do we remember that our kids are constantly observing our response to the challenges of each day? We may tell them family is a priority, but do we demonstrate that in the way we actually spend our time? Or do we spend too much time in professional pursuits? We may say that faith is important, but do our kids see us living out an active, vibrant faith in our homes, workplaces, and communities?

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
28February

God Never Forgets Us

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God Never Forgets Us

March 2

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 49:14-15

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030214.cfm

We like to doubt. Our first response to good news, especially great news, is often disbelief. Ancient Israel was no different. After the prophet Isaiah proclaims the coming of the servant of the Lord who will bring deliverance, joy and singing, Zion voices her doubt. This reading starts on a note of doubt: “Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me; my LORD has forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14). We look to Scripture for hope and inspiration, but this reading begins with a moment of commiseration—the doubt we feel, the struggle to believe was not absent in Israel. When we experience times of difficulty, mourning, hardship, we can listen to that doubt more closely or even give in to it.

Does God forget?

Zion’s doubt is framed in terms of forgetting. (Zion is a hill in Jerusalem, which is used in the Bible as a poetic symbol for the whole nation.) The prophet is announcing a time of restoration, but Zion’s claims that God has forgotten: He’s forgotten his people, their story, the relationship he has with them. If you think about it, remembering is how we even have a story to talk about. For God to forget would be the end of the story. Yet memory and the story it contains point to a future, either a future full of hope (which Isaiah proclaims) or to the despair of forgetfulness. God responds to Zion’s doubt by reassuring her that he does not forget.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
20December

God's Surprising Christmas Gift

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God's Surprising Christmas Gift

December 22

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 7:10-14

Our God likes to surprise us, to break the mold, to reveal his awesome power in ways that we could never have anticipated. The virgin birth of Christ is one of the most surprising and yet splendid events in history—the greatest of Christmas gifts! This Sunday’s reading of a short passage from Isaiah (7:10-14) is one of the most controversial and yet crucial passages of the whole Bible. It prophesies the virgin birth of Christ during a moment of international political crisis.

Historical Context

The Assyrian empire is expanding and conquering. Pekah, the king of Israel, and Rezin, the king of Syria make an alliance against Assyria, the dominant superpower of the time. They want the kingdom of Judah, led by King Ahaz, to join the coalition, but he refuses. Afraid that their two-king alliance won’t be strong enough to withstand the Assyrians, these two kings seek to conquer Judah and set up their own puppet king as the third member of the coalition. At this historical moment when the kingdom of Judah is under threat, the prophet Isaiah speaks these words to King Ahaz. The two allied kings have mustered an army and come to conquer the kingdom of Judah, depose Ahaz and set up a puppet king on the throne. No wonder Ahaz is scared!

Continue to full article at Catholic Exchange.
13February

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Padgett

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

I recently returned from England. While there, I spoke with a woman who, after forty years of marriage, feels that she is in a constant uphill battle with her spouse. He doesn’t think they need marital healing or growth. While he doesn’t oppose her going to counseling, he doesn’t think he needs it. She is exasperated, wanting more from her marriage, but is unable to initiate change for them both because he doesn’t see any reason for it. She wants her marriage to thrive, not just survive; but at the rate they are going things seem to be heading downhill. I told her to think about St. Monica. After all, she can easily relate to her situation, because she also had a difficult husband. She responded with, “Yes, but St. Monica’s husband had the good sense to die, didn’t he?” Yeah, um, so the suggestions I will be offering will not include hoping your spouse kicks the bucket.

Sacrifice for One Another

The first thing needed for a strong and healthy marriage is the ability to sacrifice for one another. Jesus Christ demonstrates His love for us at Calvary—our Lord willingly and freely gave Himself to the Father, in the love of the Spirit, so that we could be in union with Him, others, and ourselves. This healing love of Christ covers a multitude of sins when we sacrifice in our marriages. Jesus’ selfless act upon the Cross changes our lives, forgives our sins, and casts them as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). When we sacrifice for our spouse, we are in fact loving them as Christ did on the Cross. Freely giving ourselves physically and emotionally are ways that don’t just idealize love, but it in fact actualize love.

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
13February

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Padgett

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part I

I recently returned from England. While there, I spoke with a woman who, after forty years of marriage, feels that she is in a constant uphill battle with her spouse. He doesn’t think they need marital healing or growth. While he doesn’t oppose her going to counseling, he doesn’t think he needs it. She is exasperated, wanting more from her marriage, but is unable to initiate change for them both because he doesn’t see any reason for it. She wants her marriage to thrive, not just survive; but at the rate they are going things seem to be heading downhill. I told her to think about St. Monica. After all, she can easily relate to her situation, because she also had a difficult husband. She responded with, “Yes, but St. Monica’s husband had the good sense to die, didn’t he?” Yeah, um, so the suggestions I will be offering will not include hoping your spouse kicks the bucket.

Sacrifice for One Another

The first thing needed for a strong and healthy marriage is the ability to sacrifice for one another. Jesus Christ demonstrates His love for us at Calvary—our Lord willingly and freely gave Himself to the Father, in the love of the Spirit, so that we could be in union with Him, others, and ourselves. This healing love of Christ covers a multitude of sins when we sacrifice in our marriages. Jesus’ selfless act upon the Cross changes our lives, forgives our sins, and casts them as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). When we sacrifice for our spouse, we are in fact loving them as Christ did on the Cross. Freely giving ourselves physically and emotionally are ways that don’t just idealize love, but it in fact actualize love.

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
17February

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part II

Taken from The Catholic Parent
by Chris Padgett

Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage: Part II

In Part One of Good Sense for a Strong and Healthy Marriage, I spoke of the importance of making sacrifices for your spouse. In Part Two, I will address the importance of making acts of service for one another. Again, I think it is very natural when we first fall in love to serve one another effortlessly. We willingly bring the other a drink when asked, pop the popcorn without complaint, or grab the keys that were left in the house as you both sit in the car realizing someone has to go back in to get them. These acts of service can be even greater when our spouse is sick or hurting. We may bring them a drink when fevered, change the linens when they are sick, or serve them by handling all of the daily tasks for your children, and the like. These are done willingly because we know that loving our spouse is expressed in these little or great acts of service. But as marriages grow over time, there can be a tendency to want to be served instead of being the one who serves. We must stay prepared and stand against this urge. Why? Because Jesus shows us that true love is not about having others serve you; rather, He says that to be great you must be the least.

Jesus Wants Us to Serve One Another

This willingness to sacrifice and serve for our spouse certainly is a countercultural mentality, but it is a Christological certainty. In other words, Jesus wants us to serve one another in marriage because that is the example He gave to us, His bride. Jesus sacrificed everything so that the Church could be born, and His example of giving everything—showing us how to love—is meant to show us how to treat our spouse in marriage. To serve is not based on obligation, but on a willing heart. To lovingly serve our spouse demonstrates our recognition of how much value and worth they have. Even if our spouse does not notice our acts of service, this should not be a surprise, or keep us from serving; Jesus’ love for His bride often goes unnoticed too.

Continue reading at The Catholic Parent.
10March

Gothic’s Genius: Abbot Suger

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. Christopher Blum

Gothic’s Genius: Abbot Suger

“To me, I confess, one thing has always seemed preeminently fitting: that every costlier or costliest thing should serve, first and foremost, for the administration of the Holy Eucharist.”

If one were able to compare the great churches of France in the year 1100 to those standing a century and a half later, the marked difference in architectural style would be easy to see. Many of the elements that had characterized the Romanesque style remained: high stone vaults, internal elevations of multiple stories, pointed arches, extensive sculptural programs, and prominent towers. Yet these same elements were taken up into a more generous conception of interior space and overall monumentality that successfully created what most of us think of when we hear the word cathedral: the Gothic style.

It was in the Renaissance that the new style of the twelfth century came to be called Gothic, because the Goths had been barbarians, and the men of the Italian renaissance tended to downplay the achievements of their rivals to the north. With Chateaubriand’s Genius of Christianity (1802), ideological classicism was dealt a severe blow, and it became respectable and even common to admire high medieval architecture, so much so that the name Gothic has long since lost its original, negative connotation. It is, however, well to be aware that the creators of the style did not call their own churches Gothic. Indeed, we have no idea what they called them, for these master builders left behind no narrative accounts. But their German neighbors, who admired the new style and imported it, did give it a name: the Opus Francigena, or, loosely, the French way of building.

This French style was born at the Abbey of St. Denis, just north of Paris, under the patronage of one of the most extraordinary men of the twelfth century, the Abbot Suger (1081-1151). Beginning in 1137, he presided over the reconstruction of the abbey of St. Denis. His master-builder is unknown to us, but between the builder and the abbot, a new style was forged, a style through which, to borrow from its patron’s own words, “the dull mind rises to truth through that which is material.”

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
14March

Have Faith in God’s Rescue Mission

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Have Faith in God’s Rescue Mission

March 16, 2014

Second Sunday of Lent

Genesis 12:1-4a

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/031614.cfm

It is easy to think that God is distant, uncaring, comfortably sitting in the sky somewhere, and ignoring us. We have a lot of problems and if we were omnipotent, that’s probably how we would treat humanity and everybody else. Total, absolute power sounds like a quick way to establish permanent, perfectly comfortable vacation away from all the noise, evils and “issues” that take up so much of our time. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God could have condemned humanity to reap the harvest of its own sin. He could have left us to our own devices or even annihilated us. But he didn’t. Instead, he tracked down a guy named Abraham and calls him to do something unusual—to believe.

Lectionary Plan for Lent

On this Second Sunday of Lent, the Lectionary provides us with a second snapshot of salvation history. The Sunday Old Testament readings for Lent follow a chronological progression. In the first week, we hear of Adam and Eve, in the second, Abraham, then Moses and David, then finally the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah. In this way, the Lectionary takes us by the hand for a whirlwind tour of humanity’s creation, fall, and promised redemption, which will be brought about by Jesus during Holy Week. This chronological telling of Salvation History will be recapitulated in the many readings of the Easter Vigil.

God Launches His Rescue Mission

Here in Genesis 12, God launches his rescue mission to fallen humanity. Adam and Eve sinned; Noah’s generation sinned; the people after the Flood sinned. Our ancestors established a rather consistent track record. God now initiates a more drastic—and yet more subtle—plan of action. He puts in a call to Abraham, who lived in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and later in Haran (in modern Turkey). This is the beginning of the story of salvation, God’s intervention in history. In fact, when St. Stephen offers his defense to the Sanhedrin, he starts the retelling of salvation history with the call of Abraham (Acts 7:3). The Lord invites Abraham on a mission. He calls him to leave his homeland and family and go to a place where he has never been in order to initiate God’s rescue plan for humanity. Abraham plays a key role as the father of the Chosen People and the Father of Faith. His “yes” to God begins the story of Israel, within which Jesus will appear to bring salvation to the whole world.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
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