Friday, July 31, 2009

St. Ignatius and his spiritual exercises

St. Ignatius is one of the soldier saints. In 2005 I went to my nephew's wedding at the Catholic chapel in West Point. The stained glass windows depict various saints who were soldiers, dressed in their military uniforms. St. Ignatius was there, of course, since he is probably the most famous soldier saint. The image surprised me a bit since I had never seen him depicted quite like that.

Ignatius is also known for his spiritual exercises. This 30-day retreat involves praying through four weeks, focusing on God's love for us and the whole life of Christ. Ignatius always has retreatants ask for the grace they most desire. "What is the desire of your heart?" When I first learned about this, it attracted me because God really wants to give us what we most desire. God doesn't want to frustrate us. Some types of spirituality could give that impression.

However, the key is to get to the deepest desires of our heart, not the superficial ones. The deepest desires have to do with following Jesus and loving him. The work of the 30-day retreat involves getting to those deepest desires.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To be true images of Christ

Does it sometimes happen to you that you read a line from Scripture that you've read many times before, and it suddenly jumps out at you in a whole new light?
That happened to me this morning and the verse was Paul to the Romans, 8:29. I read a different translation of it, which says that God the Father "called us especially long ago to become true images of his Son."
"To become true images of his Son." Wow, that sums up the whole spiritual life in a nutshell. To be images of Jesus Christ.
When I was around 5 or 6 years old, one day my father took me out and we had lunch at a diner. The waitress told him that I was his image. It must have made an impression on me, because I can remember it quite vividly. My father beamed and when we got home he told my mother this in a very proud way. It pleased him that I resembled him a lot.
This is an inadequate comparison, but in a similar way I can imagine God the Father looking on us and seeing the image of Jesus, his Son. The gift of baptism is so precious because it makes us members of Christ, his image. The whole task of our spiritual life is to become more like Jesus every day.

Medjugorge priest laicized

The news recently came out that Fr Vlasic, who had been a spiritual director at Medjugorge some years ago, was laicized. That's prompted a lot of commentary on Catholic blogs about the apparitions.
It's up to the Church to decide if the apparitions are authentic or not. I'm not calling them authentic or not authentic.
But the case of Fr Vlasic really has nothing to do with that question. He wasn't one of the seers, and his former relationship with them is irrelevant to the question about the apparitions.
History can give us some light here. Back in the mid 1800's, the Church approved the Marian apparition at LaSalette in France. Mary appeared to two children, a boy and a girl, Melanie and Maximin. In later life, both had various problems and difficulties and didn't turn out to be quite as saintly as say, St Bernadette. But that doesn't invalidate the apparitions they experienced.
All of this is a reminder that holiness doesn't consist in having visions. In fact, St John of the Cross was rather severe toward those who had any desire for visions. Instead, the way of faith is the way God leads us: "We walk by faith, not by sight." Visions fall into the category of charisms. These are spiritual graces that God sometimes grants not for the sanctification of the person receiving them, but for the spiritual good of the wider Church. In approved apparitions, Mary generally gives some message calling people to prayer, repentance and conversion of life. It's great if the seers live that message themselves. But if they don't, Mary's message remains just as valid.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Important webcast about abortion and healthcare bill

Tonight, Thursday July 23, an important webcast will be held to inform voters about the abortion implications of the proposed healthcare bill now before Congress.
You can register here and submit questions about this important topic. Proposed new legislation would make abortion coverage mandatory.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ginsburg on eugenics

Every once in a while a pro-abortion advocate will let something slip out that betrays their real agenda.
This happened recently in a New York Times interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Talking about abortion, she said:
"Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of." (emphasis added)

What "populations" is she talking about? In her mind, what is the real goal of unlimited abortion? Reducing "unwanted" populations?

In fact, abortion has been devastating the African-American population in the US. Black women abort at three times the rate of white women. Representing 13% of the general population, black women account for 36% of all abortions. This is a real tragedy.

Although Ginsburg came perilously close to it, she didn't actually say that she wants to reduce the numbers of American blacks. But the policy that she and other abortion proponents have been pushing are bringing that about.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

National Debt

This is a great visualization of how fast the national debt is increasing right now.
From "political math" blog. I don't usually blog about political things, but I'm quite concerned about the financial instability of the USA right now. As a nation we can't keep on recklessly spending without considering the consequences: hyperinflation, the death of the dollar and eventual bankruptcy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Street evangelizing

On my way home from the tall ships, I stopped at St Anthony's shrine in downtown Boston. As I was walking toward it I noticed a man who was hanging around in front of the church, sort of huddled into a corner wall. He didn't appear to be begging, so I wasn't sure what he was doing. True to my New York upbringing, I walked quickly past pretending not to notice. (In NY, you learn never to make eye contact on the sidewalk with someone who may be out to get you.) He was holding a plastic bag, the kind you get in the grocery store, close to himself. As I went by, suddenly he reached into the bag, pulled out a leaflet, and shoved it into my face. I realized immediately that it was one of those anti-Catholic tracts, so I didn't take it.
I spent a few minutes in church (they were having Eucharistic adoration just then) and I got an inspiration that on my way out I should stop and talk to that man. Now, anyone who knows me will realize that this is totally out of character for me. I never approach strangers on the street and talk to them. But I thought, here's this guy handing out anti-Catholic leaflets in front of a Catholic church, so why should I just go by without responding in some way? So feeling very much like I did in my days in the Catholic Evidence Guild, I went up and asked him, "What's that you're handing out?"

He handed me the leaflet--you know the kind, you've probably seen them before. They list in a few pages everything that's wrong with the Catholic Church and why it could just never, never be the truth. He said he had been Catholic but now was going to the Lutheran church. Since his big point was that the Catholic Church has "man-made" beliefs and practices, I pointed out to him that Martin Luther came 1500 years too late, 1500 years after Jesus Christ. Wasn't what he established "man-made?" So I did a little street preaching of my own to him, quoting the Bible and responding to his objections.

Only the grace of God can bring back a fallen-away Catholic to the Church. So I didn't think I was converting him back. But at least I was able to give him something to think about, so that hopefully he'll realize that the Catholic Church does have responses to the typical fundamentalist objections to it. I also asked him if he really wants to evangelize, why doesn't he go talk to Muslims, or atheists, or other people who have no belief and no religion? It's pretty easy to try and get Catholics out of their church, because religious ignorance is so rampant among Catholics. But what would happen if he stood outside a mosque handing out anti-Islamic leaflets? I suspect that he wouldn't last too long doing that!

I was talking about this at breakfast this morning, and Sr Anne Joan (of Nunblog fame) made a really good point when she had a similar experience talking to someone preying on ignorant Catholics: "There may be a lot of ignorant Catholics, but that doesn't mean that the Catholic Church doesn't have a really good response to the objections made against it!"

Tall Ships in Boston

Yesterday (Sunday) I went down to Boston harbor to see some of the tall ships that are in town right now. It was a beautiful sight--ships from all over the world. I went on one of them, the Libertad, from Argentina (see picture above). The ships are actually in a race and are just anchored here for a few days before they continue.