03January

Pop Music as a Bridge to God?: Engaging Christopher West

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Pop Music as a Bridge to God?: Engaging Christopher West

On the one hand, there is pop music … aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. “Rock,” on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. The music of the Holy Spirit’s sober inebriation seems to have little chance when self has become a prison, the mind is a shackle, and breaking out from both appears as a true promise of redemption that can be tasted at least for a few moments.

— Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy (148).

Christopher West’s new book, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing, attempts to use pop and rock music to witness to the universal longing within us for God. Indeed West says that he enjoys “looking for God as much in a Hollywood movie or a pop song as … in a theological tome.” He says that God can be found anywhere and pop music serves as witness to this truth (which he claims is supported by Br. Lawrence, a Carmelite mystic). West turns to John Paul II’s Letter to Artists to back up his approach, quoting the line: “Even beyond its typically religious expressions, true art has a close affinity with the world of faith, so that, even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience.” He continues: “This book, with its many references to the songs and movies of our culture, seeks to cross that bridge.” Although I largely agree with West’s argument in the book, I question whether pop music really serves as the kind of bridge to religious experience that John Paul describes.

Looking more deeply at John Paul’s Letter to Artists, I do not get that sense that pop music would fit this description. The key to the use of art in leading to God is its ability to capture us with its beauty, and to point beyond itself to God through that beauty. John Paul describes the importance of beauty, appealing to artists directly: “May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder!…. Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence…. Artists of the world, may your many different paths all lead to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy.” My biggest problem with West’s claim is that although I have heard many people say that they enjoy the music of the Beatles or Bruce Springsteen (or insert your favorite pop artist here), I have never heard anyone say that they were awed and filled with wonder at their beauty.

West’s focus in the book is desire, “that universal ‘ache’ and longing we feel as human beings for something.” From this perspective it is right to turn to music as witness to this longing. Shakespeare himself tells us in his play, Twelfth Night: “If music be the food of love, play on!”

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine.
01January

Dad's Due Respect

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Dad's Due Respect

Homer Simpson is the quintessential portrait of the American Dad. He’s fat, bumbling, silly, the butt of every joke. He always loses out in every conversation with his wife or with his kids. He is worthy of derision, never respect. But how does this caricature of fathers and fatherhood measure up against the Word of God? This Sunday’s Old Testament reading reveals a different picture of what fathers are like and how they should be treated by their children.

Readings for December 29, 2013, Feast of the Holy Family. First Reading: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14

Sirach and the Ten Commandments

This reading from Sirach gets to the heart of a biblical understanding of wisdom—how to live according to the Lord’s plan, how to walk in the way of wisdom and not in the way of the fool. Sirach is a rather late Old Testament wisdom text, which comments on and expands earlier biblical law and wisdom. Here the author is building upon two earlier texts: the Ten Commandments and Proverbs. The Fourth Commandment is, of course, “Honor your father and mother.” Sirach takes this commandment to the next level, explaining how this principle is foundational for a moral life, a wise life, a life lived in praise of God.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange.
20December

The Newman Sermons: Christ Hidden from the World

The Newman Sermons: Christ Hidden from the World

Enrich your Advent preparation by listening to Dr. Christopher Blum, Augustine Institute's academic dean, present a series of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's sermons. Each week we issued a new podcast.

Please enjoy week four, "Christ Hidden from the World."

Would you like to catch up on the sermons from the first three weeks?

Here is week three,

Here is week two, "Worship: A Preparation for Christ's Coming."

Here is week one, "Watching."

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.
16December

The Newman Sermons: Shrinking from Christ's Coming

The Newman Sermons: Shrinking from Christ's Coming

Enrich your Advent preparation by listening to Dr. Christopher Blum, Augustine Institute's academic dean, present a series of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's sermons.

Each week we will issue a new podcast.

Please enjoy week three of four, "Shrinking from Christ's Coming."

Missed the first two sermons?

Here is week two, "Worship: A Preparation for Christ's Coming."

Here is week one, "Watching."

16December

Christmas: let the light of God’s love shine in the darkness

Printed in the Catholic Servant, December 2013
By Douglas G. Bushman

Christmas: let the light of God’s love shine in the darkness

“God so loved the world.” (Jn. 3:16) Christians are so accustomed to hearing this, it is so much a part of the remnant of Christian culture, that it is difficult to appreciate why God had to reveal it. In fact, in the ancient world, to contend that God loves His creatures was considered such an absurdity that simply to point out that this is the Christian claim was considered a sufficient argument against Christianity. Whoever God is, the argument went, He cannot expect us to believe in absurdities, and to say that He actually loves people is the height of absurdity. It is an affront to reason. For its detractors, Christianity’s claim about God’s love for people was an impediment to giving it any serious consideration.

In our age, the scandal of the ancient pagan world over the claim that God loves His creatures takes a new form. Even if the claim may be true, so the worldly-wise reason, what difference does God’s love make? What person of intellectual integrity can take this claim seriously, when there is so much evil and suffering? Did 2,000 years of faith in this love prevent two world wars, the holocaust, countless other wars and genocides, and innumerable crimes against human dignity? Today the claim about God’s love is simply dismissed as irrelevant.

Of course, this dismissal of Christian faith in the God of love is readily countered by historical realities. To take one example: Franciszek Gajowniczek, the prisoner in Auschwitz for whose life St. Maximilian Kolbe exchanged his own, certainly realized that faith in God’s love takes on concrete, historical relevance. In the midst the suffocating darkness of Nazi hatred shone the life-giving light of Christian love. It changed the personal history of Franciszek Gajowniczek as dramatically as Jesus’ healing of the blind, the lame, and lepers, or more a propos, His raising back to life the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Nain, and the brother of Martha and Mary.

A star shone over Nazareth to signify that the light of God’s love had entered a world of darkness, that is, a world of blindness, a world in which men are unable to see how rightly to live, a world ignorant of the truth that God is love. This darkness can neither understand nor extinguish the heavenly light of divine love: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn. 1:5) There was no star shining over Auschwitz, but there was a star shining within it. Conformed to the image of Jesus, St. Maximilian Kolbe witnessed to the divine love that does not withdraw, does not cease to love, even when it is rejected. No darkness can overpower this light.

With a directness that has many reeling, Pope Francis has been challenging every disciple of Christ to make the light of Christmas faith in God’s love shine in the world. While every age will have its abysses of darkness, like Auschwitz, and the extraordinary lights of a St. Maximilian Kolbe, most are called to bring the light of the star of Bethlehem into spheres of life where the night may not be so deep: to act as peacemakers at the first sign of antagonism; to witness to hope when people are ready to give up on life. Pope Francis is especially attentive to the darkness of a world that neglects the poor. Only the absence of the light of God’s love in those who claim to know Him could explain this. If the world should be devoid of such rays of heavenly light, then it is perfectly understandable that the ancient argument should return in our own time: What value does Christmas have, of what significance to us is a God Whose love does not change the human condition? Without the witness of Christian love and solicitude for the poor, it appears that darkness has triumphed over the light.

Christmas is the celebration of the entrance into the world of the inextinguishable light of divine love. Our witness to it depends entirely on having a right understanding of it. It is one thing to light up our houses and our trees in imitation of the star of Bethlehem. It is quite another to have souls aglow with a faith that can become acts of light in a world of darkness. So, let us ask: What does it mean for God to love us? What does it mean for Him to draw close to us by becoming a man?

If we reflect on our own experience, we will realize that we draw close to others for one of two reasons. Either we seek others out because we are in need and we perceive that they can satisfy that need, or we seek them out because we have something to share with them. These are the two loves, the love of need and the love of fullness, about which Pope Benedict catechized us in his first encyclical: Deus caritas est. Corresponding to each of these loves is a loneliness in which one is trapped when no one can be found. There is the solitude of need, when a person’s need to be loved remains unfulfilled. Then there is the solitude of abundance, when a person cannot find someone with whom to share the joy of life.

God loves us out of His love of infinite abundance. What was it that moved the divine freedom in favor of creation? Can we imagine that eternal moment of decision (and of course, if we can imagine it then it must fall far short of the reality itself) when God confronted the implications of His own infinite goodness and beatitude, and acquiesced to the logic of the diffusive power of this goodness, and chose to create us in His own image solely for the purpose that we might participate in His own blessed life? God is “an eternal exchange of love.”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 221) The only desire the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have for us is that we participate in Their own unending joy. This is Heaven. Only after Jesus reveals this to us can we enter into the prayer He taught us: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

It is clear, then, that out of His superabundant goodness and love, God does not want to be alone. The Nativity confirms for us how serious He is about this. Not only does God not withdraw from us when we sin and reject His self-giving love; sin is the occasion for Him to draw even closer. God does not want to be alone in enjoying His own blessedness. His original decision to share it by creating us in His image is ratified anew by His decision to become incarnate in order to save us from the darkness of life without His love, a life of non-participation in His beatitude. We might be tempted to say that it is as if the infinite perfection of His love of abundance is so great that it becomes in Him a love of need, that He acts as if He needs us.

This is the precise point at which we must catch ourselves, defeat the temptation, and realize that such reasoning is nothing more than a projection onto God of our own deficient experience and understanding of love. In a world of darkness, can there be any such thing as totally other-oriented love? We find it difficult to avoid assuming that there must be some benefit to the one who loves that is driving his love. This is because we are accustomed to being enticed to do good things by the lure of rewards, and we realize that this is a very effective way to get people to engage in acts of love for others.

Underlying this is the inclination to think that the most intense and reliable love is self-love. In the end, is anyone as committed to my happiness as I am? This is precisely the insinuation made by the prince of darkness in the Garden of Eden. He is prince of darkness because he is the father of lies. The lie about God’s love in the garden is the progenitor of every lie, and the result is that men live in darkness because without believing in God’s love they now have no light but their own to illumine the path of life, and this light is not at all bright. The world is made dark because of the absence of faith in God’s love. So, we do not expect to encounter anyone who loves us more than we love ourselves. But this is precisely why the perfection of love must be revealed to us. God does not become man in order to fill any void in His own eternal blessedness. It is exclusively and entirely a love of superabundance. He loves us for our own sake, period. His only intention is that we enter into His overflowing joy.

The logic of divine love is most luminous in the Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate in close proximity to Christmas. For Mary, this unrepeatable grace of being conceived without sin is wholly directed to her divine motherhood; it was given to prepare her for her role of mother of God’s only begotten Son. It is traditional apologetics to say that it is highly fitting that the woman who would carry and give birth to the Son of God, Who is all-holy, should herself be free of sin. What precisely is the nature of this fittingness?

The key lies in the very nature of love, which since Vatican II and thanks largely to Blessed Pope John Paul II we have come to define in terms of the giving of oneself: Made in God’s image, the human person can only “find himself in the sincere gift of himself.” (Gaudium et spes, n. 24) Even at the biological level, motherhood profoundly fulfills this understanding of love, and Pope John Paul invited us to see this physical self-giving as pointing to the corresponding spiritual reality of a mother’s self-giving love. “A lover’s first gift is his own heart.” (John of St. Thomas) The first gift received by every infant should be the heart of the infant’s mother. Being conceived without sin, Mary is able perfectly to fulfill this vocation to self-giving love that defines motherhood.

Precisely this consideration of self-giving love links the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception with the Incarnation of the Son of God. She was conceived without sin. Sin is anti-love. It “sets itself against God’s love for us” (CCC, n. 1850); it is the “rejection of the gift and the love” of God. (Dominum et Vivificantem, nn. 35, 39) Sin is rooted in a distortion of the truth about God, so that rather than to believe that He is entirely committed to our fulfillment and happiness, man, tempted by the devil, comes to doubt God’s love, to be suspicious of it. (CCC, n. 399; Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 37) Thinking that God is not for man, man must be for himself. So he takes his life and his fulfillment into his own hands.

Blessed Pope John Paul II told us that Mary’s faith is the undoing of the dark suspicion about God’s love. She knows Him as the Almighty Who is the source of all gifts and does great things for those He loves. (Redemptoris Mater, n. 36) Mary is the first “to believe in the love God has for us.” (I Jn. 4:16) The integrity and beauty of her very being testifies to this love. She would deny herself if she denied God’s love. For her to be conceived without sin means that she was filled with love, totally receptive to every communication of love from God, and wholly responsive to God’s gift of self with her own gift of self. If her Son is the only One Who “fully satisfies the Father’s love” (Redemptor hominis, n. 9) by receiving everything the Father has to give, His very Self, Mary nonetheless satisfies this same love to the fullest potential of her human nature. By her unique grace Mary participates in the “eternal exchange of love” (CCC, n. 221) that is the mystery of Trinitarian Life. There is nothing in her that can resist God’s approach as He draws near to her. She is pure receptivity to His love; her entire being is an incessant welcome to God’s gift of Himself. She brings to perfection the spirituality of hospitality.

What would life as a man have been like for the eternal Word without Mary’s perfect receptivity to His love? We know that man, made in God’s image and likeness, “cannot live without love” (Redemptor hominis, n. 10), and that he can only “find himself in the sincere gift of himself.” (Gaudium et spes, n. 24) If this is true of all human persons, it is true of the Word Incarnate, the perfect man, in a pre-eminent way. Without Mary, Jesus would be thrust into a condition of solitude, plunged into the loneliness of abundance, because there would be no one to whom He could give Himself fully. The Father willed that His Son should never know such a moment. Mary is the one the Father chose to make it possible for Jesus to be fully human with respect to the vocation to total mutual self-giving love. Without Mary, Jesus could not live and express His divine life of total mutual self-giving love. It was necessary, then, that there be another human person capable of giving herself to Him and receiving His self-gift.

This is foreshadowed “in the beginning,” when Adam receives the gift of Eve, without whom he cannot fully experience his own being as “image” of Self-Giving Love. From the beginning, God intended this for Adam, and thus from the beginning He intended to create Eve. Similarly, the New Adam is not complete in His experience of human nature without the new Eve, who makes it possible for Him to give Himself as a man and to receive the gift of another human person. The grace of the Immaculate Conception is a redemptive grace won by Christ on the Cross, where the New Adam opened His side to create another with whom He could experience the Trinitarian mutual self-giving of eternal love. That “other,” we know, is the Church, and Mary is her model, type, and personification.

Mary is the Star of the New Evangelization. In her, and in the Church’s faith, in all the acts of love for the poor that have their origin in the birth of our Savior, the light of Bethlehem, the light of the truth that God is love, shines ever anew in a world of darkness.

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.

Denver Catholic Register file photo: Our Lady of the New Advent

15December

The Blooming Desert of Advent

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

The Blooming Desert of Advent

December 15, Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 35:1-6A, 10

I live in a high plains desert. Without constant irrigation, my lawn dies. Without someone planting and caring for it throughout its life, a tree will never grow. Deserts in the Bible symbolize spiritual desolation, suffering under the slavery of sin, and the just punishments that follow in its wake.

During Advent, fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and penance can help us enter into the desert-like nature of the season—to remember that before Christ came, we were exiled into the barren wasteland of sin. Only by the coming of the Baby at Bethlehem are we finally brought back from that terrible, dry, interminable cycle of sin. Sin traps us in the desert, but the Christ Child comes to free us from the trap and bring abundant life out of what seemed dead. He causes the parched land to bloom with an abundance of flowers, fruits and trees. That which was dry and dead in sin—our souls—can spring to new life in Christ. The Lord judges sin with the desert, but then “comes with vindication” (Isa 35:4) to save us by his mighty power, so that even the lame will leap and the deaf will hear and the mute will sing of the greatness of his deliverance. He comes to “ransom” us from sin and crown us with “everlasting joy.”

Continue to full article at Catholic Exchange.
12December

New youth program builds community through small groups

Taken from Catholic Voice
By David Gouger

New youth program builds community through small groups

Creating lifelong disciples to spread the message of Christ is the goal of a youth ministry program coming to the archdiocese in January.

Based on intellectual, spiritual, human and pastoral formation - the same process used in seminaries during priestly formation - YDisciple features small groups of high school students meeting about 90 minutes once a week over four years under the guidance of adult leaders - often parents - who serve as mentors, said Jen Moser, coordinator of youth ministry in the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

The program's impact can be seen in college-age students who experienced it while in high school, said Moser, who worked with several while serving in Catholic campus ministry at the University of Colorado. Typically, they were more knowledgeable, actively practiced and were open to sharing their faith, she said.

"They were committed to living a lifestyle of an intentional disciple of Christ," Moser said.

Developed in 2011 by the Colorado-based Augustine Institute, which focuses on the new evangelization by offering a Catholic masters program and parish programming, YDisciple aligns with the archdiocese's emphasis on faith formation and evangelization, said Moser, a graduate of the institute.

Continue to full article at Catholic Voice.

Thank you, Archdiocese of Omaha! We look forward to working with you.

For more information about YDisciple, check out YDisciple.org.

10December

The Newman Sermons: "Worship: A Preparation for Christ's Coming"

The Newman Sermons:

Enrich your Advent preparation by listening to Dr. Christopher Blum, Augustine Institute's academic dean, present a series of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's sermons.

Each week we will issue a new podcast.

Please enjoy week two of four, "Worship: A Preparation for Christ's Coming."

Missed the first sermon?

Here is week one, "Watching."

08December

Advent's Fierce Peace

Taken from Catholic Exchange
By Dr. Mark Giszczak

Advent's Fierce Peace

Every year during Advent, we hear about the “stump of Jesse” and the lion laying down with the lamb, but what does all of this mean? It is easy for biblical prophecies to sound like nice religious language with poetic flourish, but little meat on the bones. However, prophecies like this one from Isaiah 11 are essential our understanding of who Jesus is and what kind of victory he wins by his coming into the world. He is not just a nice religious teacher, but the king who brings justice for the poor and strikes the wicked with “the rod of his mouth.” His coming is a fierce arrival of judgment and the blossoming of a new era of hope and salvation. He conquers injustice and brings us into an age of perfect peace.

We have a lot more to look forward to at Christmas than a bunch of presents under the tree. The Baby of Bethlehem is not just cute and cuddly, but he comes to establish his reign over the universe, and most especially in our very hearts. Isaiah 11 offers us another glimpse into what the reign of this coming Messiah will look like—how it can and will transform us from the inside out if only we open our hearts to the child in the manger.

Continue to full article at Catholic Exchange.
06December

“Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required”

Taken from The Catholic World Report
By Douglas Bushman

“Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required”

The teaching of Vatican II on the question of salvation entails surprises. While the Council holds that there is no salvation outside the Church, it exerts itself with solicitude for those who may qualify as being “outside.” For Vatican II, to be “outside” is to have a claim on the Church’s maternal love, which is fulfilled when her children respond to the missionary mandate. The Council teaches that Catholics must be prepared to confess their faith in Christ even to the point of death (Lumen Gentium 42)—including what this faith holds about the Church—and also affirms that those without this explicit faith, and thus who would never be required to die for it, may notwithstanding be saved.

 

The Council teaches that the Church can engage in missionary activity with confidence that she has two allies: human nature—and thus nature’s God—and this same God’s supernatural grace. The dynamisms of human nature impel all men to seek their own fulfillment in the truth and in the good. With the help of God’s grace working objectively through cultures and religions and secretly in hearts, fidelity to these dynamisms becomes fidelity to God himself, Creator and Redeemer. At the same time, human nature has been profoundly wounded by sin, and this gives rise to negative influences that are at work in the world and within each person’s soul. The signs of the times are always a blend of positive indications of man’s striving for a life worthy of his dignity as image of God, and negative signs about man’s weakness and ultimately of his inability to attain this fully human life for himself. As a result, missionaries will encounter people in various states ranging from being so fully disposed to receive with joy the Good News of Jesus Christ that it could be said of them that they are not far from the Kingdom (Mk 12:34), to being so thoroughly blinded and hardened of heart due to slavery to sin that they respond to the proclamation of God’s love with violent rejection and the slaying of the missionary. Yet, even this latter situation is not a final word. Through his martyrs’ configuration to Christ, graces of eventual conversion are won for those whose initial response is rejection.

It is impossible to know in advance the actual state of those who are evangelized. Yet, even if, by hypothesis, through a private revelation God should reassure a missionary that a person or group of persons or even the entire world were saved, the missionary mandate would remain. This is because the missionary task has a twofold end: “to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all such men…the Church painstakingly fosters her missionary work” (LG 16). As important as the question about salvation is, it is inseparable from God’s glory. Zeal for souls is not only inseparable from zeal for God’s holy Name; it is subordinate to it, and only when it is rightly subordinated to God’s glory can the zeal for souls unleash its full potential. The fulfillment of Christ’s prayer that all be one in the common celebration of the Eucharist is the greatest manifestation of the Church and thus the greatest evidence that his love is efficacious. And this is precisely his glory. For Vatican II, mission is ultimately realized when all are united in the praise of God in the common celebration of the Eucharist.

Continue to full article at The Catholic World Report.

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.

03December

Advent: Fostering Expectation

Taken from Catholic Exchange
By Dr. Jared Staudt

Advent: Fostering Expectation

The Catholic tradition generally extends the celebration of a major Feast long after the principal day. For Christmas this entails an Octave, the traditional 12 days, and even a Season. The period before a major feast is one of preparation, generally penitential in nature. Traditionally the Vigil of major feasts has been a day of abstinence and fasting (including Christmas Eve). Although some questions have emerged recently, there is no doubt that Advent began as a penitential period, originally a fast modeled after Lent. We can see its penitential nature liturgically in the absence of the Gloria and through the use of purple vestments. Advent is clearly a time of expectation, a looking forward to the coming of Christ, both at his birth and at his coming again.

The ever morphing secular celebration of Christmas, however, has created a pre-Christmas season, one in which the celebration begins far in advance. It has even become common for Catholic parishes and schools to have pre-Christmas parties, full of treats and Christmas carols. As this trend becomes more and more common, it is important for Catholics to be deliberate about keeping Advent as a distinct season, one of expectation and preparation, not of celebration. I will seek to provide a few suggestions for how this can be done.

Continue to the full article at CatholicExchange.com.
30November

Hope in God's Coming Judgment

Taken from CatholicExchange.com
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Hope in God's Coming Judgment

December 1, Isaiah 2:1-5, First Sunday of Advent

The prophet Isaiah paints a picture of hope, following a time of judgment. The Lord will gather in the Gentiles from around the world to obey his law and walk in his ways. He will judge the nations and put an end to violence and injustice. In this season of Advent, we can rejoice in the hope of God’s judgment, and spend our effort in cultivating our spiritual lives with the plowshares and pruning hooks of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Indeed, we are part of God’s in-gathering of the nations to worship and obey him. By our faithfulness to the Gospel we are participating in God’s grand design to bring the whole world to himself. Advent gives us a great opportunity to renew our devotion to him and to reflect on where this whole story is headed—to the point where God will finally vindicate the righteous, punish evil and bring about the fullness of his reign in Christ. The first coming of the babe at Bethlehem points to his second coming in power and glory.

Continue to full article at CatholicExchange.com

22November

The Newman Sermons: "Watching"

The Newman Sermons:

Enrich your Advent preparation by listening to Dr. Christopher Blum, Augustine Institute's academic dean, present a series of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's sermons.

Each Monday we will issue a new podcast.

Please enjoy week one of four,"Watching."

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