What’s in a Name? Cecil the lion and the Natural Law

I tried really hard to avoid writing about Cecil the lion. Like many people, I don’t really see the point in big game hunting. But I also don’t understand how this one case escalated to international news.  I don’t know the statistics, but I assume big game hunting (legal and illegal) goes on all the time.  Why this case got so much attention beats me.  I then came across an article that summed up why maybe this lion story touched such a collective nerve.

Over at CatholicAllYear.com, Kendra wrote an article titled Why We Feel Better if We Care About Cecil the Lion.  She recognizes the human need to acknowledge universal truth in a world that tries hard to suppress it.  She writes:

A huge segment of our population has been struggling ever since they reached the age of reason to reconcile a personal disgust with the idea of abortion, with the loudly trumpeted demands that we all must recognize that it’s NONE OF OUR BUSINESS and we’d better just pipe down. Choice. My body. Reproductive freedom. It’s not really a baby. All of it has been shouted in the streets until two generations now honestly can’t tell right from wrong or good from evil.

The same goes for other evils we’re supposed to celebrate as choice: like euthanasia, and free love, and conceiving children in such a way as to necessarily deprive them of one or both of their parents.

Moral relativism denies a fundamental part of our Truth-seeking human natures. As human beings, we crave moral absolutes. We know somewhere deep down that there IS such a thing as wrong, such a thing as evil. And we want so badly to be allowed to point a finger at it, finally, that when poor, not-actually-all-that-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things Cecil the lion comes along, we can barely contain ourselves.

Here’s my take.  People are upset because unlike other animals killed by hunters, this lion has a name and a history.  Like we do with our pets, we personify Cecil so his killing strikes at the same parts of our emotions as a human being’s murder.  This personification is why we cry watching Old Yeller and the lack of it is why most of us don’t give a second thought to the thousands of animals that are killed every day for food.

This lack of identification is also why we don’t bat much of an eye over the evil of abortion.  Because it’s evilness becomes strikingly obvious when you realize that every abortion is a life lost.  Does the fact that the aborted life didn’t have a name or a history make it any less tragic when he/she is killed?  Are we as a culture so short sighted that we don’t understand that an aborted life would have had a name and history if we let him/her grow?  We’ve murdered millions of Alisons, Margarets, and Jakes.  We’ve murdered many successful doctors, writers, engineers, and scientists that the world will never know.  We’ve murdered millions of best friends, husbands, shoulders to cry on, mentors, and co-workers.  It’s shocking what something as simple as attaching a name to a life does to the perceived value of it.  In one case, attaching a name to an animal raises international outcry while not attaching a name to a human being allows the murder of thousands every day.

Early ultrasound
Dr. Sam Livingston, a promising young physician, killed and harvested for his organs

The RosaryMeds Prescription

Whenever the issue of abortion comes up as it is with the release of these shocking videos from The Center for Medical Progress and debates within the halls of Congress, the Second Joyful Mystery seems like an obvious mystery to meditate on.  Elizabeth exclaims how the baby in her womb leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:44).  It’s not “the tissue moved” or “some cells divided”, but a baby leaped out of joy.  This mystery reminds us just how precious life is at every stage of development and that we are infused with a soul at the moment of conception.  We must pray for the conversion of souls and the conversion of our culture to acknowledge the inherent dignity of human life at all stages.

English: Statue of the Visitation in the Churc...
English: Statue of the Visitation in the Church of the Visitation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But let’s dive deeper.  What about this craving for universal truth that the CatholicAllYear article mentions?  What rosary mystery speaks to the importance of knowing what is right and wrong?  The First Luminous Mystery comes to mind.  When I meditate on this mystery, I remember that not everyone is baptized into the Catholic Church and yet everyone does have the God given gift to know what is inherently good and what is evil.  This is often referred to as natural law and it’s something God inscribes in all our hearts; both the baptized and the unbaptized alike.

We live in a culture that tries so very hard to deny this natural law and reject this gift from God.  When we pray the First Luminous Mystery, let’s remember to pray for the conversion of those who struggle in life because of their denial of truth.  We must also pray for the conversion of our world to one that lives in acknowledgement of natural law, not in denial of it.


 

Notice anything different on the RosaryMeds home page?  More news on the new Meditations link coming soon.

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Rosary Prayer: Keeping Your Soul Out of Trouble

I have a two and a half year old toddler.  Anyone who has raised kids that age knows that you have to watch them like a hawk.  He will find a new and creative way to either hurt himself or destroy something the instant you turn your attention elsewhere.  I’ve seen water cups poured on tables because he wanted to create a swimming pool for his toys.  Crayons, pens, and markers rarely stay on paper.  Sharp objects on kitchen tables that used to be out of reach are suddenly reachable.  Kids just have the sixth sense of knowing when they aren’t being watched.

Why do I bring this up?  Is it to vent about the challenges of raising kids?  Okay, maybe that’s partially it.  But this isn’t a blog about parenting.  It’s a blog about faith and rosary prayer.  And I see a lot of parallels between practicing the faith and raising a toddler.  Chiefly, if you turn your attention away from your faith, even for a second, trouble will fill the gap.  Like a parent who has to constantly watch a toddler, you have to be constantly aware of your faith and how God’s calls you to live so that you will avoid falling into sinful behavior.  What that means is that you have to routinely pray the rosary so that it will serve as a small check up on the health of your soul.

The more you pray the rosary the more in touch with your faith you will be.  Going back to the child analogy.  Will a child that is checked on every few minutes get into less trouble than the one checked on every few hours? Probably.  Similarly, the soul that is “checked on” more often will less likely fall into sinful behavior.  In one of my original posts on the First Luminous Mystery I said how rosary prayer is a lot like brushing your teeth and going to the dentist.  You need to brush your teeth regularly and see a dentist so that your teeth remain in the best health and problems can be corrected when they are still small.  Similarly, you need good spiritual hygiene of routine prayer — daily prayer if not more often.  That allows you to recognize and correct faults and weaknesses while they are small before they escalate into major problems.

English: A little girl has her first visit to ...
The rosary — it’s your soul’s little dentist visit.

Another aspect to keeping a toddler out of trouble is actively engaging them.  While sometimes I wish my son would entertain himself with his toys and all I need to do is occasionally correct him if he starts doing something wrong, that is not how raising a child works.  Keeping my son out of trouble usually means interacting with him through playing, reading, singing, etc.  Sitting down with my son with a bucket of Lego bricks has proved infinitely better at keeping him out of trouble than millions of passively said “no’s”, “don’t touch that”, “and take that out of your mouth.”

The rosary is also something that works best when you’re actively engaged praying it.  When you break out of thinking of rosary prayer as a mechanical uttering of words you also forge a more meaningful relationship with God.  Rosary prayer isn’t a passive activity, at least it’s not if you want to get something out of it.  Like the toddler that needs your engagement more than he needs to hear your rules, the rosary requires active participation to be truly effective.  It is your opportunity to really interact with God and lay out your petitions, sorrows, and thanksgivings.  It’s not about fulfilling some todo item to make God happy but is your chance to actually learn God’s plan for you.

I understand that making time for rosary prayer is difficult.  It’s probably even more difficult than interacting with a toddler.  Last time I checked, a rosary doesn’t take a box of crackers out of the cupboard and empties it out on the kitchen floor when you don’t pray it.  A rosary can be easily forgotten.  After all, bills need to be paid.  You need to go to work.  You need to sleep.  You need to clean.  You need to keep your children from painting on the walls.  I get it.

I learned in college that you always make time for the activities that are priorities.  There are just some activities you cannot ignore because your health, finances, or relationships depend on you making time for them.  My challenge to you is to elevate your spiritual well being as a priority in your life and make praying the rosary a routine.  It’s Advent now which means it’s a new church year.  Make rosary prayer your resolution.

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The Pope Said What Exactly?

The mainstream media made a lot of hay over a non-event recently.  As many of you have heard or read, Pope Francis gave a very candid 80 minute interview when he was flying back from World Youth Day in Brazil.  The media ran with the pope’s statement about homosexuality.  He said:

When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.

And so World Youth Day, when literally millions of Catholics publicly celebrated their faith, was unfortunately overshadowed in the media by a few sentences in an interview.  The mainstream media basically buried an event where nearly three million Catholics attended Mass on the last day of the week-long celebration and young Catholics from around the globe excitedly displayed their faith.  The press thought that they heard a change in Catholic teaching regarding homesexuality when all the pope was doing was stating what the Church has taught for centuries — hate the sin, love the sinner, and it’s no one’s place to judge but God.  Maybe, if the press actually covered and fairly analyzed World Youth Day, they would have realized that what Pope Francis said in that interview was exactly the teachings millions celebrated that entire week.  I’m not going to go into more details over the way the mainstream media misreported on the pope’s comments.  If you want to read about that, you can see a good summary in the National Catholic Register.

3 million people celebrated Mass with the pope just in case you didn’t hear.

The media’s misunderstanding and misreporting on the Catholic Church shows just how important it is to continually learn about your faith.  So many people disagree or criticize the Catholic Church, not on what it teaches, but on what they think it teaches.  And many Catholics either fall away or become disengaged (that’s code for Christmas and Easter Catholic) from the Church on a false premise.  And who can blame them?  Late night TV hosts, comedians, politicians, and the media are the ones who paint the picture of the Catholic Church for most people.  Are they presenting the Church that was on full display on World Youth Day or the one out of a Dan Brown novel?  No wonder so many people fall away or attack the Church when they learn more about it from John Stewart or Jay Leno than the pope, their priest, or the parish community.  Our silence on the authentic teachings of the Church creates a vacuum that the modern media and entertainment companies more than happily fill with their agenda.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

English: Modern Baptism in a Catholic Church

Society suffers from a severe case of falseteachingitis.  The main symptom is hallucinations of a Catholic Church that doesn’t really exist.  It’s very dangerous because those hallucinations prevent people from receiving regular doses of God’s grace.  It’s a vicious downward spiral where confusion leads to hatred which in turn leads to more confusion and more hatred about the Church’s teachings.  The antidote is rosary meditation and prayer especially on the First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan.  We must remember that we promised (or someone promised for us) to faithfully follow the teachings of the Catholic Church.  That implies that we must learn those teachings.  And by learning, I don’t mean watching a special on the History Channel about someone who think he knows where the Ark of the Covenant resides.  I’m talking about actually sitting down and reading the Bible (or listening to it), participating in (not just attending) Mass every Sunday, receiving the sacraments, and reading the Catechism and other Church documents.  In short, we honor our baptismal vows by centering our lives around our faith instead of pushing it off to the side.  When we actively learn, pray, and participate in our faith as a community, we leave no gaps in understanding that others can fill with falsehoods.

Here are our baptismal vows.  They are similar to the Apostle’s Creed we recite at the beginning of every rosary or Nicene Creed we recite during Mass.  But often we may say the words on auto-pilot without really thinking about what they mean.  We shouldn’t make any promise lightly, especially one we make before God.  Read and meditate on this prayer.  Ask yourself how well you are living up to this promise.  And are you publicly living these vows so that others witness the true Catholic Church?

Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?

I do.

Do you reject the lure of evil, so that sin my have no mastery over you?

I do.

Do you reject Satan, the author and prince of sin?

I do.

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?

I do.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father?

I do.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

I do.

And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins, keep us by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life.

Amen.

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Are You Feeding Your Soul Junk Food?

Summer is here which means it’s county fair season. For me the county fair bring two treats — watching my son see farm animals that he has only seen in picture books and indulging in some fattening foods. This year I tried a fried Twinkie for the first time. For those who don’t know, it’s a Twinkie (actually, an off-brand imitation since Hostess has not restarted production yet) dipped in batter, fried, and then covered in powdered sugar. It was like eating a freshly made donut with warm cream filling only it’s the size of a corndog. And as good as it tasted at the time, my body paid for it later. First, it sat like a brick in my stomach and I just felt sluggish and tired.  Later I experienced a total sugar crash followed by the guilt that I really didn’t do my body any favors partaking in that temporary culinary indulgence.

A Real Deep-fried Twinkie
Fried Twinkies… so bad and yet soooo good.

My fried Twinkie experience reminded me that God designed the human body to expect a certain type of food for energy. He didn’t design the body to gracefully process mountains of fat, sugar, and chemicals that is certainly present in foods like my fried Twinkie. Eating unhealthy food is actually a double-whammy health-wise because you are not only dealing with the insurgence of fat and sugar, but you’re also missing an opportunity to give your body something beneficial. When you treat your body in a way contrary to how God intended for you to use it, you (sugar) crash and burn.

Much like how our physical bodies are designed to act a certain way, so are our souls. And when we move outside the limits of a healthy spiritual diet we also crash and burn by losing God’s grace. First of all, what is a healthy spiritual diet? I see it as a life centered around living key virtues such as chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. We find the strength to live those virtues by centering our lives around prayer and meditation because those are the times we dialogue with God and learn His will. A healthy soul is one that lives according to the golden rule and is motivated to do good works out of a love for God and others.  A healthy soul needs periodic feeding through prayer and attending Mass.

Unfortunately, similar to how much of society suffers from a physical health epidemic, we also have a societal spiritual decay. Vices such as lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride fuel this spiritual decay. And we see these vices everywhere in society as we’ve normalized pre-marital sex, single parent households, pornography, cheating, stealing, killing, abortion, euthanasia, illegal drug use, excessive drinking, and just a general disregard for treating others respectfully and the dignity of the human person. Much like a donut occupying space that could otherwise be filled with vegetables, all these vices occupy space in our souls and leave no room for God’s grace. Many of us are consuming spiritual junk food that is destroying our soul’s health. And we aren’t eating our spiritual “vegetables” that keep our souls strong and healthy. Just look at the empty pews at Mass, the short lines at the confessional, and society’s general apathy and hostility towards anything spiritual. Like how fast food has replaced a balanced meal, vices have replaced virtues as a normal way of life for an increasing number of people.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

I have a feeling fighting the spiritual obesity epidemic will need prayer and meditation on all 20 mysteries of the rosary. The rosary walks through the Gospel and the Gospel is Jesus and Jesus’ love is what our souls crave. Praying any mystery and taking its message to heart is a step towards God’s grace and a step away from sin. You can’t be both sinning and living virtuously at the same time. So the more time you spend doing things that are virtuous, the less opportunity you have to sin. And what could be more virtuous than praying relentlessly and then letting those prayers manifest into good works?

Medjugorje : Confession as it should be.

But for those who really need a specific mystery to meditate on, try the First Luminous Mystery, Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. We should remember two important aspects about the Sacrament of Baptism. First we should remember our baptismal vows that we periodically renew during Mass — to reject sin and to believe in the Holy Trinity. Acting virtuously and spiritually isn’t something reserved for priests and nuns, but something all Catholics profess and promise to live by. Secondly, baptism is about renewal and getting a clean start. No matter how badly and often we sin, we can always get a second chance through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Using the diet analogy, we sometimes fail to eat healthy foods and give into moments of weakness. After all, who can resist picking up a little treat at the market or a fried Twinkie at the fair? But just because you have those moments of weakness doesn’t lock you into a lifetime of eating nothing but junk food. You can always reset and refocus to live and eat healthier. The same goes for our faith. We may have moments of weakness and sin, but that doesn’t prevent us from confessing them, getting a clean slate, and trying to live more virtuously in the future.

So pray vigorously, avoid sin, and for Heaven’s sake share fried Twinkies with friends because they are just too much for any single person. Your soul and your body will thank you.

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Gospel for Janurary 9, 2011 — God’s Booming Voice

John the Baptist baptizing Christ
Image via Wikipedia

The Gospel for January 9, 2011 is from Matthew 3:13-17 — the Baptism of Jesus which is also the First Luminous Mystery of the holy rosary.  When you pray this mystery, remember verse 3:17 where God tells John the Baptist and others gathered, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Very few people in the history of the human kind have ever directly heard the voice of God.  Imagine how great and at the same time terrifying that experience must have been for those present at Jesus’ baptism.  I know many times we may wish that God would talk to us in a more direct way such as through a booming voice from the sky.  But would you be truly prepared for such an event?  Would you be willing to change your entire life since you could no longer be ignorant of God’s existence, His laws, and the divine nature of Jesus Christ?

And yet I wonder how many people present at Jesus’ baptism were also there at Pontius Pilot’s palace yelling, “crucify Him!”  That shows just how stubborn (and stupid) we can act at times.  Even when we hear God’s Word and know what God expects of us, we turn around and either abandon Him or outright attack Him or His Church.  We do this all the time.  We know what is right and wrong in most common cases.  We know what the Church teaches about various moral, ethical, and social issues.  And yet so often we flagrantly act contrary to God’s Will.  It makes me wonder if we would even convert our sinful ways if God did speak to us as a voice in the sky.  After all, God would be competing with Oprah, television, and the media to whom we usually give more attention.

None of us have heard God as a booming voice in the sky.  But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t speak to us.  He speaks through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  He spoke through the saints.  And God speaks to us through prayer.  When it really comes down to it, we really don’t have much of an excuse to not keep God’s laws because He constantly communicates them to us.

When we pray the First Luminous Mystery of the rosary and recall Jesus’ baptism, let us also recall our own baptism.  Remember that through our baptism God calls us to live in His grace and one day be with Him in Heaven.  At our baptism, we were about as close to God as we ever can be in this life because our souls are wiped clean of all sin and we did not face any time in Purgatory.  That is the state God desires for our souls.  Trying to live in that state should be our ultimate goal in life.  That is what this Gospel and rosary mystery remind us.  In your prayers, really listen to what God says to you.  When you silence all those distractions and open your heart to God then you may actually realize that God does speak to you with a booming voice.

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Rosary Meditation — The First Luminous Mystery

This rosary meditation focuses on The First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. In this mystery we see Jesus transforming Baptism from being a purely symbolic act of renewal to an actual gift of the Holy Spirit that cleanses our soul of original sin. For this mystery I’m going to focus on the central message of John the Baptist — a call to repentance. While John is usually associated with Baptism (hence his title), his ministry really focuses on the Sacrament of Confession. He preached that we prepare ourselves to fully receive God when we approach Him with a repentant heart. These two sacraments really go hand-in-hand in that they both center around the Holy Spirit cleansing our soul of the effects of sin.

Farmer at the dentist, Johann Liss, c. 1616-17.
Image via Wikipedia

This rosary meditation focuses on The First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan.  In this mystery we see Jesus transforming Baptism from being a purely symbolic act of renewal to an actual gift of the Holy Spirit that cleanses our soul of original sin.  For this mystery I’m going to focus on the central message of John the Baptist — a call to repentance.  While John is usually associated with Baptism (hence his title), his ministry really focuses on the Sacrament of Confession.  He preached that we prepare ourselves to fully receive God when we approach Him with a repentant heart.  These two sacraments really go hand-in-hand in that they both center around the Holy Spirit cleansing our soul of the effects of sin.

Think about how you take care of your teeth.  You brush and floss daily to keep them clean.  However, every six months you also need to go to a dentist to have your mouth thoroughly inspected and cleaned by a professional.  Seeing your dentist is not a sign of bad oral health.  It’s not like the only people who need to see a dentist are those who do not brush regularly.  Rather, everyone needs regular brushing and checkups or else our teeth will not be their strongest.  Skipping the daily brushing routine or the checkups might lead to premature dentures.

What does this have to do with repentance besides the fact that most people would probably consider a trip to the dentist as some sort of penance?  Like brushing your teeth, prayer must be part of your daily routine to keep your soul healthy.  Regular prayer is your time to reflect on all those ways you have lived God’s will and offer Him thanksgiving.  You also ask for strength and guidance to continue living a spiritually healthy life.  Prayer serves as a little check to prevent sin from entering and decaying your soul.  However, every so often you also need to see a professional to give your soul a thorough scrubbing away of sin.  And that scrubbing is the Sacrament of Confession.

Just like how brushing alone isn’t enough to keep your teeth healthy, individual prayer alone is not enough to keep your soul healthy.  You can’t completely fix the effects of sin with only individual prayer.  There are instances where your soul requires the help of a professional in order to fix the spiritual decay that may be attacking and spreading within you.  You may think that my analogy leads to the priest hearing your confession to be that professional who “fixes” your soul.  However, the priest is merely the assistant.  The real professional, the one who actually cleanses your soul of sin, is God.  God works through the priest to clean your soul and restore it back to a clean and healthy state.

This mystery should remind us of John the Baptist’s message that we should “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mt 3:3).  Let us remember to be thoroughly repentant not just through our private prayers but also by receiving the sacrament of Confession.  That way we clear out souls of everything that blocks us from fully receiving God’s graces.  Instead of seeing confession as some sort of punishment, let us see it for what it really is — a gift.  It is our chance to set things right, fix what is broken in our life, and build a stronger relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ.  May we remember that it is through confession that we return to that pure innocence that we had at our Baptism.  We return to that state of grace that God desires for all of us.  So let us make the effort to go to Confession regularly (the Church says at least once a year) and live as true disciples of Jesus Christ.  And you might want to pop in to see your dentist as well!

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