Open Letter to Rhianna LaValla

DN:

A year ago today I did the ballsiest thing in my life.

Originally posted on Deus Nobiscum:

On November 19, a staff writer at the NDSU Spectrum published an article which wrongly accused the Catholic Church as teaching that members of the LGBT community are not humans. The article can be found here.

The article is an offensive misrepresentation of Catholic doctrine, and thus, I was asked to respond with a letter to the editor. The editor told me that my letter would be published today. It was not. And so I share the letter that was supposed to be published here for you.

Update (11/26/13): The editor of the Spectrum contacted me and apologized for the oversight and the letter will be published in the next issue of the paper.

I am writing this letter in response to Rhianna LaValla’s Atheist Perspective from November 19. As a Bison alum, a Catholic, and a gay man, I am deeply appalled that the Spectrum would publish an…

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Reflection on the Kingship of Jesus and Queenship of Mary

I was praying my Rosary earlier this evening before the Blessed Sacrament. And as I contemplated the Fifth Glorious Mystery, which is the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth, I saw something deeper that I hadn’t seen before.

The Coronation is not a mystery that is really about Mary. That I know. Everything the Church teaches and believes about Mary is significant in what it says about Jesus Christ. That Mary, the mother of Jesus, is queen, emphasizes that Jesus is the true King of Israel (see this page for the apologetics on the topic). So it is quite fitting that we should reflect on the Queenship of Mary today, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

But like I said, it was something deeper that I contemplated. The Coronation of Mary is the final act that rightly orders Mary in relation to Christ. That is not to use this statement to deny Mary’s Immaculate Conception and sinless life. Perhaps it is better to say that in this act, there is nothing left to do to bring Mary to the fulfillment of her vocation. She is the mother of God. She is the mother of the King. She is the Queen. Her role is to intercede for her King’s people, for they are her people. She is their advocate. In her fiat and her faithfulness and her complete giving of self to God, she came to the fulfillment of all of God’s promises for her.

And in reflecting on that reality, we are inspired to come to the fulfillment of our vocations as well. We strive to be rightly ordered to Christ, to do and be whatever it is that he has created us for. We must carry our crosses to that end and rejoice in it, and bring glory to God. That is the take away message from this Mystery on this very special day in the Church which emphasizes that Jesus is the center of the universe, which has its entire being in Him. All that matters in our lives and in our choices is that we are cooperating with Jesus to properly order ourselves in relation to him.

Crazy

Sorry for not writing too much for the last week. It’s been kind of crazy at work and I feel like I live in a zoo or a barn or something:

Even right now I’m trying to write this post between a few different things on my work schedule for this evening.

Anyways, I struggled with trying to figure out what to write, because even though I wanted to write, I found nothing to write about, even though I felt like I’ve had so much material. So here are just a few snippets.

  1. One of the things that has been on my mind for the last three weeks has been FOCUS. I’ve prayed about it a lot, reflected on it, left it to stew, and I came back to check on it, and I still feel that its something I’m called to do, that is, called to apply and see what happens. So the application is almost done, I just need to do some revisions on my resume.
  2. I had a very strange “encounter” (if you will) with my mortality last night. I was just lying there unable to sleep, and I suddenly realized, as if for the first time ever, that I will not live forever, and that there will come a day when I will wake up for the last time, and that I will have to face Judgment. Its not anything I didn’t know before, but for some reason it just sunk in really deep yesterday. Thank God for the Mercy of Jesus!
  3. I keep having the same image of Heaven pop into my mind while I’m at Mass these days: its a great long hall with great high ceilings and pillars. The floors are marble, and everything else is gold, or at least could be gold, but it doesn’t have color, but it does. There are a great number of banquet tables in two rows leading from two great doors at one end of the hall and ending a long ways down at the other end, where, on a great dais, He sits. There are people innumerable, all dressed in the richest colored robes eating a great feast in the hall, and they are all wearing crowns. Perhaps I’ve been reading too much Lewis, Tolkien, and Martin over the last few months. Nevertheless, its a lovely thought.
  4. Not that Mass attendance should be about how many consecutive days you go, but I’ve been to Mass everyday for the last 17 days straight, so there’s that too.
  5. I’ve been particularly social lately, and actually hung out with people for 4 nights in a row starting Friday, which is probably the longest streak since college. It’s pretty much tuckered me out, but I’ll try not to retreat into a refuge of introvertedness.
  6. Everyday I am more and more confident in the foundation and steadfastness of the Catholic Church and am utterly grateful that God brought me home.
  7. I went in to have a Mass intention said for my mom, but didn’t realize that to schedule them in my parish on a date of your choice requires you to go in about 3 months in advance, so I couldn’t schedule one on Dec. 22, so Feb. 16 has to do.
  8. I got to hold my Nathan and Theresa’s baby this weekend and she is getting so big and her cheeks are filling out, and I could just hold her all stinking day, and its got my missing my goddaughter, and I hope and pray I get to see her over Thanksgiving!
  9. Which reminds me that I have a special post for Nathan scheduled for Thanksgiving, so hopefully he checks the blog and gets a good laugh.

S0 there you have it, snippets from my crazy brain right now. I think things will be slowing and calming down pretty soo….no, wait, just kidding, not until Christmas.

God Bless and stay close to the Blessed Sacrament!

A Rosary Gift

I found this great idea online and I think I’m going to use it. There is a person whose practice is to give a Rosary every year to someone, but before they do so, they spend the previous year praying with it. The recipient is either chosen after prayer, or by the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

When I saw this, I was absolutely floored. I think that over Thanksgiving I am going to buy a Rosary and then begin praying with it during Advent, and make it a Christmas gift for the following Christmas (2015). I’m very excited for this.

Why To Not Be Catholic: Apostolic Succession

I posted on the blog earlier a request for readers to comment why they won’t become Catholic. See that post here. As promised, I am responding to the reasons in individual posts. Today’s reason:

I am not persuaded by the necessity of apostolic succession.

The necessity of apostolic succession is quite clear. All that one has to do is look around at the current state of Christianity. There are literally tens of thousands of different sects of Christians. And they all teach contradictory things. They clearly cannot all be true. You have the Catholics, for example, who teach the doctrine of transubstantiation. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the anabaptists who take up the Zwinglian belief of symbolism in the Lord’s Supper. This is one of many examples of contradictions within Christianity. It is reasonably safe to say that everything that one particular community that claims to be Christian believes will be contradicted and disbelieved in at least one other community claiming to be Christian, even coming right down to whether Jesus is God, or if God exists as Trinity.

Is this a problem? Does it really matter?

Yes. How could one not see that the truth is important? Jesus teaches that he is truth. And he teaches that he is the only way to the Father. We must know and seek the truth in order come to the Father.

We also must accept that Jesus established the Church to be one. He established one Faith. There is one baptism which incorporates us into one body. It is quite clear that a) Jesus did not intend to create a tangled mess like Christianity is today, and that b) Jesus does not leave truth up to whatever any individual wants or personally interprets Scripture to say.

Jesus gave the Church 12 men to lead. These 12 men were given special graces. Jesus told them that whoever hears them hears him. Jesus told them that what they bound on earth was bound in heaven. These men began exercising apostolic succession almost immediately when Judas needed to be replaced. This event is documented in the Holy Scriptures. The authority of the Apostles to ordain ministers of the Gospel is clearly illustrated throughout the book of Acts. We can also infer apostolic succession in St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy in his instructions regarding the entrusting of the Gospel.

The first Christians heavily testified to both the legitimacy of this doctrine as well as to its necessity. Please read some of the quotations here. The Church was never intended to be hidden. It is a city on a hill. It is a light to the nations. With so many heresies and falsehood abounding it is important, if we believe anything Jesus says at all, that we are able to see the Church and know the truth. Apostolic succession is the way Jesus set it up. I don’t have to interpret Scripture. I have a Church that does that for me. Where is that Church? It is with the apostles. But they are dead. They left successors. Without apostolic succession, the Gospel is actually a guessing game. Your guess is as good as mine. Your interpretation is as good as mine. And that is why apostolic succession is a necessity. Salvation is too important to leave up to your best guess.

I am neither convinced that apostolic succession is necessary, nor that it would rest in the chair of Peter if it was.

Of course, even when one stops resisting the very real necessity of apostolic succession there is the very real issue that there a number of Churches that have valid apostolic succession and a number that claim succession which have no validity. Probably the greatest valid “Church” is the Eastern Orthodox, which is more of a communion of Churches with none really being the head. So the question remains, does it matter if the successors to an apostle are in communion with the Chair of Peter.

While it is true that Scripture gives all 12 of the Apostles the same graces, it is quite unambiguously clear that Peter is the head of the Apostles. It is also clear that he is more than just a “first among equals” in which his headship is simply symbolic. Two significant events show this: when Jesus gives Peter alone the keys to heaven and when he tells Peter alone that he is to feed his sheep. It is also important to note that at the giving of the keys Jesus changes Peter’s name from Simon to Kepha (Peter). This is not insignificant, especially considering what Kepha means (rock). It becomes ridiculously obvious when he proceeds to say that on this rock he will build his Church. “You are Rock (Kepha) and on this Rock (kepha) I will build my Church.” Come on people. Don’t let your prejudices blind you.

As a convert I can tell you that this was one of the harder points to get past. But if one prayerfully and realistically reads the Gospels, it becomes so clear that it is amazing to me at how ignorant I was regarding the significance of it all! And of course, once I accepted the truth of apostolic succession, like the commenter said, everything else fell into its rightful place.

Accepting apostolic succession is an act of humility. It kills pride. And maybe, just maybe, that is one of the most important reasons that Jesus gave us this gift.

For a better post than this one by a better writer than this one, please check out this article by Francis Beckwith.

Why To Not Be Catholic: Message Versus Rituals

I posted on the blog earlier a request for readers to comment why they won’t become Catholic. See that post here. As promised, I am responding to the reasons in individual posts. Today’s reason:

I guess I feel like the message is often overshadowed by all of the rituals.

Before I continue the post I think that you should read the comment here because it is a great comment. It is honest and sincere unlike so many of the other comments I often receive on the blog.

I think that it is important to remember what Mass is and what Mass isn’t. Mass is not a self-help seminar. Mass is a sacrifice. The focus of the Mass is not so much the readings or the homily, but the Eucharist. The Mass is about Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That one and singular and salvific sacrifice is made present to us in the Eucharist, or rather, we are made present to it.

Perhaps it has been poor catechesis that has caused us to forget this or fail to understand this. But at the Catholic Mass we receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We receive his Body and Blood and Soul and Divinity. Not symbols. Him. God. Physically. If we are Catholic do we believe that? Do we believe Jesus when he tells us this in John 6 and at the Last Supper and through St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians? Do we see the connection between the Passover and the Eucharist? Between the sacrificial lamb and the Lamb of God?

We may get a 40 minute sermon about following Christ at another denomination, but we get Jesus Christ at the Mass. Reception of Communion is the conjugal moment between the Bridegroom and the Bride, that is between Jesus and the disciple (you!). Which is better? Which is more real? Which is a true foretaste of heaven?

I won’t downplay the importance of the homily and the importance of the readings. They are an important part of the liturgy, and they are meant to aid the disciple. Discipleship, though, is ultimately about taking up our crosses and following Jesus, and so the most important part of the Mass is the Eucharist, the making present of Jesus’ cross and our communion with him. It doesn’t overshadow, but rather illuminates it. But we can only see this if we pray for the grace to see it and understand it. I invite anyone who is reading this who has fallen away from the Church, particularly if it is due in part to attraction to more “exciting” or “message-oriented” worship styles, to re-examine the teachings of the Church on the Eucharist and its connection to the Jewish Passover, and consider its prominent place in the life of a disciple and the worship of the Church!

Lastly, don’t forget, that outside of the Sunday Mass there are many opportunities for learning about becoming a better Christian: Bible studies, young adult groups, podcasts, local events (check to see if there is Theology on Tap in your local diocese: beer and discussion on Catholic theology: win-win), plus so much more!

Why to Not Be Catholic: Cover Up of Priestly Child Abuse

I posted on the blog earlier a request for readers to comment why they won’t become Catholic. See that post here. As promised, I am responding to the reasons in individual posts. The first commenter gave two reasons: one for religion in general and a second for Catholicism in specific. I am now responding to the Catholic specific claim:

The systematic cover-up and protection of child abusing priests.

No discussion of this topic can begin without a strong condemnation of the sin of sexual abuse, especially abuse against a child. Sexual abuse of children is wrong. It is wrong no matter who does it, but it particularly wrong when it is done by a Christian, especially a Catholic priest. It is a terribly grave sin.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. Catholics are human and humans are sinners.

It is also important to realize that the Catholic Church’s handling of the crisis as it was occurring was common practice at the time in the secular world!

Take a look at these facts. Not only is abuse by celibate Catholic priests lower than in the adult male population as a whole, but the “cover-up” was actually the way all organizations were handling it at the time, including law enforcement and the courts. In recent years, the number of annual accusations of sexual abuse by Catholic Clergy has never exceeded 14. In 2010 that number was 8 compared to 63,527 cases nationwide. Yes, even 1 case is awful. But sexual abuse is not a Catholic problem. In fact, educators in public schools are far more likely to abuse children and students than Catholic priests. Today, as the field of psychology has progressed and the Church has learned that the scientific knowledge of human behavior has changed since the 1980’s, the Church has adopted tougher and better procedures for preventing and handling sexual abuse, making the Catholic Church one of the safest places for children today. Again just look at the facts.

And just in case you wanted to read MORE about it.

In the end, sexual abuse is gravely sinful. But the sinful actions of a few do not negate the truth of the teachings of the institution. If it did, to fairly apply that principle, I would have to declare anything I ever learned in public school to be false because some teachers abuse their students and some administrators covered it up.

Every organization, even those with strong morals are going to have sinners. It is a part of human nature. But it is not a legitimate reason to reject Catholicism.

Why to Not Be Catholic: Lack of Evidence For Supernatural Claims

I posted on the blog earlier a request for readers to comment why they won’t become Catholic. See that post here. As promised, I am responding to the reasons in individual posts. The first commenter gave two reasons: one for religion in general and a second for Catholicism in specific. I am responding to the general religion reason first.

The lack of evidence for their supernatural claims.

This is where I believe the world views between the atheist and the theist are irreconcilable. If this statement is so firm to the atheist, that nothing short of a scientific measurable piece of evidence will change it, then I do believe that any type of conversation will be fruitless. Their heart is hardened. Of course we cannot know this about them, so out of charity and hope, we must engage.

There are many issues with this reason against theism, but I will begin where I believe it truly all begins. It doesn’t simply begin with I don’t see any evidence of god in the universe. I believe it truly begins with the problem of evil and the attitude of “If I were god I would do things totally different,” or “If god was really all powerful he wouldn’t allow children to go hungry or women to be raped or the elderly to be abused.” “god never would have allowed someone like Hitler to kill God’s own people.”

This argument assumes that our ways are god’s ways. The argument assumes that we know what is best for the universe. It assumes that we know all of the effects and outcomes of all of the actions. It assumes that because we cannot perceive the good in a horrible situation, that there is no good, no greater purpose. It assumes that if god exists and allows evil to occur that he must delight in the evil, that he ordains the evil to happen. This is the heart of it. The soul cannot fathom to believe in a god that allows its creation to suffer.

Perhaps, though, the argument really is simply based upon that that there is no evidence for the supernatural. If that is the case, one must ask the question: what sort of evidence are you looking for? What natural instrument could detect the supernatural? What could possibly be done to subject the supernatural to a test in which evidence is gathered to prove its existence? How do you take something which is immaterial and is responsible for the existence of the material world and somehow gather evidence for its existence? You can’t. At least not the kind that an objective, natural, physical world only, scientist could accept.

In either case, the problem is that the one seeking evidence assumes that God thinks likes us. It assumes that God wants what want. It assumes that because God does not behave the way I would want to behave that God does not exist. It assumes that because God allows something bad to happen, God cannot exist. It sees no value in suffering beyond the suffering that is required for biological evolution. Sure, it might see some of sort of personal value in its own suffering for its own betterment as a person, but that is simply a byproduct which is not oriented towards anything. The argument cannot see that suffering might be oriented towards reception of love. It is an argument that ultimately looks at something and says “the supernatural would never allow that” when the very fact is that the supernatural allows it because the supernatural wants the bearer of the suffering to rise above the natural and partake in the supernatural themselves!

Evidence of the supernatural exists. But one cannot see it with science. One can only see it when they begin to accept that the supernatural is above the laws of nature and human reasoning.

Discerning a Call

Earlier this week I got this sudden urge to answer a call. I don’t know how much to say for the sake of being prudent, but I would appreciate extra prayers as God helps me discern whether this is a step I am supposed to take. I am praying about whether I should apply to be a FOCUS missionary or not. If you could find it in your heart to offer some prayers on my behalf for this subject that would be awesome.

ALSO, sometimes I feel guilty asking for so much prayer from you, my dear readers. Please let me know how I can pray for YOU! Please, please, please, leave your prayer intentions on any of the Saint pages, which you can access by clicking on their icons on the right hand side!