5 Ways You Can Keep Religion Relevant

I came across this article the other day on the Drudge Report about how Americans are becoming less religious.  It read:

“The share of U.S. adults who say they believe in God, while still high compared with other advanced industrial countries, slipped to 89 percent in 2014 from 92 percent in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study.  The percentage of Americans who pray every day, attend religious services regularly and consider religion important in their lives are down by small, but statistically significant measures, the survey found.”

Other headlines also found on Drudge:

  • Fatal rush-hour shooting near Penn Station
  • ZombiCon shooting leaves one dead
  • COPS: Thief stole operating room table from hospital!
  • CITY OF HATE: Breast-feeding mom mugged in Manhattan park…
  • COPS: Man killed for grabbing last piece of chicken at dinner

Anyone else making a connection here?  I’m not saying that correlation equals causation and that a loss of religion directly contributes to a raise in tragedies.  After all, the world has never really been a pleasant place.  However, I don’t know about you but I feel like the world is really falling apart at an accelerated pace.  I’m not just talking about large world powers colliding in global conflicts either.  I’m thinking more on a micro scale to individuals.  People seem to be much angrier and unhappy.  Everyone seems to fly into a blind rage at the slightest offense or inconvenience.  Or people are retreating into their own little worlds where they just don’t give much thought about their actions and who they may affect.  And this isn’t just me observing this.  Studies are showing a rise in death rates among middle aged, white Americans due to suicide and substance abuse.

 

While the decline in religion may not have a direct causation to the world’s problems, I bet that a return to religion would help alleviate some of them.  In these dark times we need to pray for those who do not practice their faith whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, etc.  Or we need to pray for those who have twisted their faith into something that it is not.  We do live in dark times globally, but for many, individually as well.  And so we can look at Jesus’ example in the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary for how we can approach these dark hours.

First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

An angel comforting Jesus before his arrest in...

When the world or our individual lives feel like it’s in a downward spiral, we need to follow Jesus’ example and turn to God in earnest prayer like he did in the Garden of Gethsemane.  We ask God for the strength to endure whatever is ahead.  Keep in mind that Jesus was still arrested and crucified despite his prayers.  Those prayers didn’t result in God removing hardship but helped Jesus find strength.  Maybe he found comfort and courage talking to God in prayer, like a child holding a parent’s hand when they are scared or upset.  And so we can also find comfort talking to God in prayer in a world hostile to hearing and living the truth.

Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

When I think of all the anger and misery in the world, I wonder how much of it is self inflicted because people have turned away from their faith.  How many people find themselves unhappy for reasons they can’t explain because they stopping listening to the source of truth for true happiness, Jesus Christ?  We pray for those who suffer because they have turned away from their faith.  May they find that practicing their faith can provide the answer to their unhappiness and suffering.

Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning of Thorns

The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus because they did not understand him or his teachings.  And so we find ourselves in a world that mocks Jesus and his truth because they do not know him.  Fewer people are taking the time to know Jesus through living their faith and turn to practices that dishonor him such as premarital sex, pornography, substance abuse, lying, cheating, stealing, cursing, and greed (to name a very small few).  We pray for a realization of the effects our actions have on others and a conversion of heart to Jesus’ truth.

Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

How hard must it have been for Jesus to carry his cross among a crowd of people, many who supported him and many who had turned against him.  As we journey through this world, let’s not be discouraged by those who are mean to us, attack our values, or wish us harm.  Rather, may we find strength in those who want us to keep fighting the good fight, get up when we fall, and continue living our faith.  While it may seem like the Church is beaten down and her critics are winning, so did it seem like the Romans and pharisees had their victory the many times Jesus fell under his cross.  But we all know that in the end, Jesus found strength in his weakness and those who tried to hurt him ultimately failed.

Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion

Christ on the Cross cropped. Crop of old Mass ...

So many people stood before Jesus at the cross mocking him.  Today, so many people stand in front of his Church and mock her by living contrary to the truth.  But when the centurion, a Roman, at the cross witnessed Jesus’ death, he exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!”  Jesus, at his death and supposed victory of the pharisees over him, showed a glimmer of the victory that was yet to come by converting the heart of an unbeliever.  And so we hope that through our tireless example of living for Jesus we too can turn even the most hardened skeptics into believers.

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This Article Has Been Redacted by the DOJ

The blog article you are accessing has been indefinitely suspended by order of the United States Department of Justice due to content that some may find insensitive.

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This article contained references to the Mormon practice of abstaining from caffeine and alcohol, the Muslim practice of abstaining from pork, and the Jewish practice of abstaining from shell fish. Since the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, pork, and shell fish are legal under United States law, any practice that discourages their use has been flagged as bigoted and hateful and has no place in public discourse.  Furthermore, the article encouraged actively engaging in prayer outside a house of worship which is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State.

The DOJ takes matters of religious freedom very seriously.  While we do respect the right for religions to hold their own beliefs and traditions, their practices must be sensitive to the beliefs of those who do not share that faith. We will take all measures to make sure that all references to religious dogma comply with United States laws and will take legal action, including loss of tax exempt status, of those religions that do not comply.

We’ve contacted the operator of this website and have informed him that we are not taking any legal action against him at this time because this is his first infraction. We have also informed him that he may be using outdated religious materials that are not updated to comply with the latest US laws. He has 30 days to update all articles on this website to confirm to teachings as stated in the The New American Bible, Supreme Court Edition, v2015.06. After 30 days, he will be subject to a $100 fine per article per day that does not conform to the NABSCE 2015.06.

The DOJ thanks the anonymous party that brought this offensive webpage to our attention.  While we use every resource available to us in partnership with the National Security Agency to keep offensive webpages like this one away from the public, our best resource is the ever vigilant, patriotic United States citizen.  Together we can ensure a safe and civilized internet experience free of any overtly religious or controversial discourse today and for generations to come.

Attorney General of the United States of America,

Loretta E. Lynch

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The Strategy Behind Banning Public Religiousness

Here are the results of a poll that I’m sure will ruffle a few feathers on both sides of the political and church isle.  A recently released Gallop poll found that one’s “religiousness” is a great predictor of his political affiliation.  It found that those who practices their faith regularly are more likely to lean conservative while someone who is secular leans more liberal.  According to the story on the Blaze:

Among the survey’s findings: Forty-nine percent of very religious people support the GOP, compared to only 29 percent of nonreligious people who do.  Just 36 percent of very religious people support the Democrats, while 52 percent of nonreligious people support the party.

This is where the anecdotal evidence comes out where someone says the poll isn’t true because their sainted grandmother also votes Democrat.  Or their non church-going uncle is an avid Republican.  Of course there will be exceptions to every poll which is why they are reported in percentages to reveal general trends.  It won’t always reflect someone’s personal experience.  Polls also reveal correlations, but not necessarily causation.  We can’t say with any degree of certainty why nonreligious skew towards voting Democrat while religious lean towards voting Republican.

Check your religion at the door!

Now that we have the legal disclaimer out of the way, let’s explore political strategy.  If this poll is true then it explains a lot about our current political climate.  If Democratic policies and their vision for American society appeal more to nonreligious, then the Democratic party will have a vested interest in making society as secular as possible.  A more secular population equals more Democrat votes.  You don’t have to look very hard to see various tactics at play towards that goal:

  • The HHS mandate and rhetoric that one’s faith cannot play any role in how they run their business.
  • The vitriol many liberals show to any pro-life groups or any organization wishing to place any limits, no matter how reasonable, on abortion.
  • The attempt to redefine our Constitutional freedom of religion to freedom of “worship.”
  • Freaking out at any open display of anything even vaguely religious like a piece of twisted metal shaped like a cross at the Ground Zero museum.
  • Openly rigid enforcement of the “separation of church and state” (although that phrase does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution).

My point isn’t to just merely bash Democratic strategy.  I’m sure many of my readers could probably come up with an equally long list of Republicans promoting religion to gain votes and influence.  I just want to point out that we need to tread carefully and explore possible underlying motives whenever a politician either promotes or tries to curb the role of religion in public life.  Call me jaded, but I don’t think many politicians actually act on religious issues from deeply held beliefs, but because it will land their party more votes.

Teach children religion for a better community...
Teach children religion for a better community — religion means reverence – obedience – order, irreligion means chaos – crime – social collapse, parents, wake up! American Legion (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

The Rosary Connection

When I think of religious vs. nonreligious and Democrat vs. Republican, the Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary comes to mind.  When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left His mission to build His Church in the hands of His disciples.  Very early in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples decree that Jesus’ Church wasn’t exclusive to the Jews but open to everyone.  We also must remember, as Jesus’ disciples today, that we must invite all to experience Jesus’ love and saving grace whether they be religious or nonreligious, Democrat or Republican, Dodger fan or Giants fan, etc.  Some groups may put up more of a fight than others to Jesus’ message and our tactics may need to change based on the situation.  But in the end, the mission hasn’t changed since the disciples saw Jesus ascend into Heaven centuries ago — share His love with everyone.  Jesus didn’t discriminate nor fear the response to the truth.  Neither will we.

Our Prayer

Oh Lord, may we follow in Jesus’ early disciples footsteps and find the energy to promote His truth.  May we not be afraid to promote that truth with anyone regardless of their political affiliation, nationality, gender, or personality.  May we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find the right tactics so that Your love best shines forth to all of those who need to hear it.  May we not forget Your charge to the early Church when you ascended into Heaven — spread My Word to the world.

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Four Bad Ways to Spread the Catholic Faith

I was going to take a little time off from writing RosaryMeds articles and focus on some other projects. However, after listening to this past Sunday’s readings, an Immaculate Heart radio broadcast, and reflecting on my earlier article, the same theme kept leaping out at me — Catholics are called to be annoying. Actually, that is a bit misleading. We are called to boldly and publicly live our faith and teach the truth of Jesus Christ to those around us. We must do this in our words, thoughts, and actions. However, there are right ways to be an “annoying” Catholic and wrong ways. Below are four wrong ways to act as an annoying Catholic or how to respond to someone annoying you about your faith and Church teachings.

#1 The Bad Timer

The Scenario: You’re watching a football game with a group of family and friends. The chips and beer are out and everyone is enjoying the game. The referees make a horrible call and everyone bursts out yelling at the television. That’s when you decide it’s a great time for a little religious conversation and you make the smooth transition with a comment like, “So, anyone read the latest encyclical from pope about the evils of abortion?”

Probably not the best time to pull at your catechism

Religion and apologetics is a lot of like comedy — it’s all in the timing. And if you pick the wrong time to bring out theology, you not only bring resentment and annoyance about the Church’s teaching at that moment, but you may also burn bridges to discuss religion earnestly in the future. You have to be able to know your audience and the situation. Are the people around you already talking about politics or religion and does your insight add to the conversation? Are people expressing and receiving different opinions in a calm and respectful way? If not, it might be best to tuck away your spiritual, theological, and political insights for another day.

#2 Clueless About Context

The Scenario: You’re eating dinner with a group of family or friends. Your relative, who isn’t always aware of the political and religious leanings of the people around him (or just doesn’t care) starts attacking Catholicism or a teaching of the Catholic Church.

Maybe it’s because I live in a very liberal area of this planet, but it seems like a lot of people I know start topics of conversation assuming everyone else around them sees the world the same way they do. They will just start blasting the Church on some issue whether it be gay marriage, abortion, or the male-only priesthood without even considering that someone listening to them dares to have a different opinion. So what are you as a Catholic supposed to do? Sit silently? Nod in fake agreement? That’s not exactly being an annoying Catholic now is it? Perhaps you can politely remind the person that others may have different opinions on particular issues and maybe not everyone shares his particular opinion. Depending on the context, it may not be the best time to go head to head with that person and dive into a debate. But just letting people know that others might have different and valid opinions on an issue is a good start for possible future encounters. If anything, maybe that person will think twice about his audience before going off on the Church in the future.

#3 The Debater

The Scenario: You’re enjoying a conversation with some family or friends. Someone in the group just finished reading an article about the evils of the Catholic Church on their favorite internet site. With that article fresh in their mind, they look for the nearest Catholic to start a debate. You are now placed in that uncomfortable position of having to speak for the magisterium of the Catholic Church and anything short of Jesus Himself walking into the room to pronounce a winner discredits the Church’s position on an issue.

“Provide scientific proof that the Transfiguration really took place in 30 seconds or less”

We’ve all been there. You may know the general principles of the Catholic faith, but not an expert on every detail. And you’re certainly not the pope when it comes to theology. In these cases, I think you can state what you know and then politely tell the person you would need to look up more details if he wants to continue the conversation. Or remind your would-be debater that the issue is quite complicated and you would need more time to fully explain the Church’s position. Remind him that you’re a Catholic, but not a theologian, so you would prefer to continue the conversation after you look up a few facts. But this is why it is also a good idea to always learn as much as you can about Catholic teachings and dogma so you always have a few facts in your back pocket for such encounters.

#4 The Hedger

The Scenario: You’re enjoying some time with your family and friends. Some contentious religious issue comes up. Wanting to keep the peace you start hedging your thoughts on Catholic dogma. You might say something like, “I know I’m supposed to go to Mass every Sunday, but it would be nice if the Church lightened up on that rule a little.” Or, “I think Confession is a good thing, but I think it should be optional if you don’t feel comfortable with it.”

When you start to make excuses for the Church what you are really doing is watering down and misrepresenting Church teachings. But you are also sending a message to those around you that you don’t truly believe in the power and glory of the Catholic faith. The people around you may think twice about a religion where its own members have a pretty low opinion about its core teachings. And if you’re looking to lead by example, who would ever want to follow someone who is wishy-washy in their beliefs? People respect confidence and someone truly embracing their faith even if they personally don’t espouse those same values. All it takes is a strong display of faith for the Holy Spirit to transform the hearts and minds of others.

Do you have any advice on how to be a good “annoying” Catholic or know strategies to avoid? Leave a comment.

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Non-Religious at a Greater Risk of Developing a Mental Disorder

I love it when I find a connection between one of my RosaryMeds posts and a news article. It makes me feel like I’m really on to something and my thoughts aren’t too far off in right field if they relate to current media headlines. Of course, I wish the topic wasn’t about the declining practice of religion. But unfortunately that theme seems very prevalent in our world today. In a previous article about the growing number of US voters with no religions affiliation, I mentioned the dangers about being a “believer” but not ascribing to a particular religion. I wrote:

Here’s the problem with “nones” who are supposedly “believers.” What do they believe? Are their beliefs just an arbitrary set of guidelines that they will follow or ignore at their convenience? Are they in that “God loves me and I think He’s cool with how I choose to live my life” group? Because that’s not belief. That’s just finding justification for living however one pleases. It’s a religious foundation built on sand where the slightest disturbance or challenge will knock it over. Or less poetically, they are beliefs that will change as soon as someone declares them outdated, uncool, or not following the majority in society. In my experience, not being connected to an organized religion is synonymous with not practicing any religion at all.

It turns out that modern psychiatry backs up my claim about the dangers of being a free-form “spiritual” person with no religious affiliation. Non-religiously affiliated people might have a greater chance of developing a mental disorder. The Telegraph reported this study:

Professor Michael King, from University College London, and his fellow researchers wrote in the British Journal of Psychiatry: “Our main finding is that people who had a spiritual understanding of life had worse mental health than those with an understanding that was neither religious nor spiritual.”

The researchers concluded: “We conclude that there is increasing evidence that people who profess spiritual beliefs in the absence of a religious framework are more vulnerable to mental disorder.

This was a small study on only 7,403 people. And while I didn’t arrive at the exact conclusion in my thought exercise about mental disorders, I did point out how vulnerable unaffiliated believers are to the whims of society. And since our culture is getting crazier by the day, it stands to reason that those who base their spirituality solely on the societal norms might also go a little crazy too.

I think of unaffiliated, spiritual people like a leaf floating in the wind. The leaf cannot control its trajectory or destiny. It is completely at the mercy of the elements around it. Now if the wind is society, than it is blowing like a tempest. Everyone is so hot-headed and pointing fingers at each other. People pay too little taxes, people pay too many taxes, government is doing too much, government is doing too little, gun owners are evil, the Catholic Church is a hate group, the GOP hates minorities, Obama is a Marxist, and on and on and on. This is what the media spews out all day and every day. And so, like the leaf caught in the hurricane, people without a dogmatic religious foundation just get battered around without any control.  And so I don’t find it surprising at all that many unaffiliated spiritual people develop mental disorders and need to turn to drugs to achieve some level of control in their lives.

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

Society has come down with a case of battered belief syndrome. The name describes people who aren’t rooted in any religious belief system and so the chaotic nature of the modern world beats them down. Symptoms include an increase of drug-dependent people not practicing any particular religion. They often suffer from anxiety and nervousness because they have a hard time coping with the craziness all around them. I prescribe a healthy dose of meditating on the Fourth Glorious Mystery — The Assumption of Mary. Our Mother Mary is the greatest physician when it comes to fighting battered belief syndrome. She informs us to really embrace our faith and learn what the Church really teaches. We must take those teachings to heart and try our best to live by them. That way we form a strong foundation that won’t crumble no matter how chaotic and anti-religious the world becomes.  Learn the faith by reading scripture, Church documents, and any number of great educational books.  But most importantly, pray that you let that knowledge sink into your soul and act like an anchor that will keep you standing tall no matter what societal storm comes your way.

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The Declining Influence of Religion in the United States

I don’t want to spoil anyone’s Christmas cheer, but according to this study I would only be spoiling it for a shrinking number of Americans anyway since it seems like more people are celebrating, not Christmas, but “the holidays.”  Pew Research Center did some analysis of the presidential election and found that Obama captured over 70% of the “not religiously affiliated” vote that makes up 20% of the American electorate.  We are certainly seeing an increasing percentage of the population where traditional religion does not play a part in their lives.  Those numbers increase dramatically when you also take into account those who are affiliated with a particular religion, but aren’t practicing.  This is bad news for those who do take their faith traditions seriously and expect the government to protect the right to live according to the teachings and beliefs of their religion.

If society places less importance on the role religion plays in peoples’ lives then the government will take less interest in protecting our fundamental freedom of religion.  We saw how casually Obama rolled out the Health and Human Services contraception mandate followed by a few “accommodations” such as delaying the enforcement of the mandate for one year or allowing very narrow exceptions.  Instead of outrage, this mandate was met with apathy from the general public.  We shouldn’t be surprised if one in five people don’t belong to any particular religion and many that do aren’t even actively practicing it.  This puts people of faith in a really tight spot because an increasing number of people just don’t understand why having a particular faith and a certain moral code is so important to some of us.  This disconnect will only widen as those who practice their faith become more of the minority and the USA drifts further away from the guiding principles of the Constitution.

The Pew Research Center had this to say about the people who aren’t affiliated with a relgion (known as the “nones”):

He cautions, however, against conflating the “nones” with nonbelievers.

“Those two things are not the same,” Smith says. The “nones’ are certainly less religious than those who say they belong to a religious group, but many are also believers.

“The absence of a connection to an organized religion is not the same as the absence of a religious belief or practice,” he says.

Here’s the problem with “nones” who are supposedly “believers.”  What do they believe?  Are their beliefs just an arbitrary set of guidelines that they will follow or ignore at their convenience?  Are they in that “God loves me and I think He’s cool with how I choose to live my life” group?  Because that’s not belief.  That’s just finding justification for living however one pleases.  It’s a religious foundation built on sand where the slightest disturbance or challenge will knock it over.  Or less poetically, they are beliefs that will change as soon as someone declares them outdated, uncool, or not following the majority in society.  In my experience, not being connected to an organized religion is synonymous with not practicing any religion at all.

I usually don’t like to link to opinion sites like NPR.  But if you have the stomach for it, go read the comments section to this article.  Many of them are openly hostile towards organized religion and portray the faithful as ignorant fools.  It’s a sampling of what a growing portion of America thinks about religion and, by association, what they think about you.  Remember, this is a group that is growing larger and becoming courted by politicians seeking to remain in office.  These are the voices and opinions politicians will hear when they craft our laws.  Scared yet?

What RosaryMeds Do I Need?

Baptism of a child by affusion

Society has come down with an acute case of non-belief.  Symptoms include empty churches and places of worship, sins being accepted as virtues, and a general apathy towards assaults on religions freedom.  I recommend praying the First Luminous Mystery — Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan.  When we meditate on this mystery, we should remember our baptism when we were brought into God’s grace.  Remember what God asks of you when you renew your baptismal promises at Mass and are also stated in the Apostles’ Creed which is the first prayer of the rosary.  You have a better chance of remaining in God’s grace when your baptismal promises are always on your mind and reflected in your actions.  That is why it’s important to pray the rosary each day.  As an added dose of rosary medication, pray for those who are unbelievers, have left the Church, or are openly hostile to her when you meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Remember, God doesn’t care how far you stray in life and for how long.  Some of the greatest saints in the Church lived sinful lives before turning around and searching for God’s grace.  You can always come back and find Jesus in your life as Joseph and Mary did in this mystery.  All it takes is a truly repentant heart.  Especially in this season of Advent, pray for those who have strayed from God’s grace that they allow the Holy Spirit to guide them back home.

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Understanding the Catholic Church’s “Users’ Manual”

I did something stupid — I updated the BIOS on my computer’s motherboard thinking it would solve a problem with my CPU fan.  As a result, my computer blue screened at Windows start up.  So I was without a functional computer for over a week resulting in lost productivity and a lot of frustration.  For those who aren’t computer geeks like me, I tried updating my computer and ended up breaking it.  This small ordeal taught me a lot about the details of my computer and how changing one little component can have far reaching consequences.  It also taught me a lot about faith and dogma.  Sometimes in life, when we ignore little warnings and the wisdom of others, we can find ourselves in a whole heap of trouble.

I could not find any updates or fixes for my noisy fan problem on my computer manufacturer’s website.  However, I did find a similar update file elsewhere and installed it despite all the warnings on the manufacturer’s website saying I should only use the updates they provide.  I thought I knew better.  I thought the update file I found would work just fine and all the warnings were for people with much less computer experience.  But as I quickly discovered when I turned my computer into an expensive paper weight, there’s a reason why the manufacturer’s website had those warnings.  I would have saved myself a lot of grief by heeding the manufacturer’s advice.

What does my experience breaking my computer have to do with the Catholic faith?  It taught me a great lesson in the importance for dogma.  The rules, guidelines, and teachings of the Catholic Church exist for a reason.  They act like a user’s manual and warranty for one’s spiritual, mental, and physical well being.  And when someone decides to ignore those rules and warnings, like we do when we sin, unpleasant difficulties can emerge.

Think about some of today’s hot button theological topics that popular culture criticizes the Catholic Church over like premarital sex, artificial contraception, divorce, abortion, embryonic stem cells, homosexuality, natural law, existence of absolute evil, and the objectivity of sinful behavior.  They often criticize the Church without really looking at the Church’s history and why it teaches what it teaches.  It isn’t that the Church wants to control everyone’s lives or destroy our fun.  Quite the opposite, the Church’s teachings are meant to protect us from harm and give us the best possible opportunity for happiness.

Let’s look at premarital sex as an example.  If you were to read any anti-Catholic (or just a secular) publication, you would think that the Church is just “old fashioned” and has a fear of women’s sexual freedom because it is run by a bunch of old, celibate men.  But if you actually look at the Church’s teachings, you will find that one of the reasons for coming out against premarital sex is to strengthen the bonds of marriage and allow a couple to experience a deeper sense of love for each other.  When people wait, they increase their chances of living a happier life.  The Church’s stance is even supported by a lot of secular research that shows that the divorce rate is lower for those who are virgins when they marry.  When you look around society and see the STDs, higher divorce rate, and just general unhappiness that has come from “free sex” you come to see the logic and wisdom on why the Church teaches you to wait for marriage.  It’s not always easy to do what is best for us.  Like impatient children that “just want it now” because “we feel like it,” many people dismiss the Church’s teachings only to find hardship, anger, and sadness.

Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Rubens)When I think about the rules and dogma of the Catholic Church, I think of the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — The Assumption of Mary.  I have said multiple times that Mary is our guide in finding ultimate happiness in God’s heavenly kingdom.  She is joined by saints, theologians, and others who have contributed over the last 2,000 years to the collective knowledge of the Catholic Church.  We owe it to ourselves to listen to Mary and these other guides through prayer and read the Church’s “users’ manuals” such as the Bible, the Catechism, encyclicals, and other teachings.  We owe it to ourselves to build up knowledge of our faith so we can make decisions that will lead us closer to God’s grace and not stray when society tempts us to live contrary to the faith.

I lost a week to a broken computer because I didn’t heed the warnings.  When you don’t heed the Church’s wisdom, you could lose much, much more — happiness, your life, your freedom, God’s grace, and His heavenly kingdom.

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Tale of Two Atheists Part 2

Previously I talked about Richard Dawkins calling for the open mockery of Catholic beliefs.  And while his type of atheism has grown more militant over the years, it still fails to move people the same way God can through the power of the Holy Spirit.  To show you the power of faith, here’s a story of another atheist, actually a former atheist — Father Carlos Martins.  Like many Catholics, he was “Catholic in name only” and later fell under the influence of intellectual atheism — the type promoted by Dawkins.  But it was through Eucharistic Adoration that he came to know the very real presence of Christ and not only found his faith, but took up a priestly vocation.  He now leads people in the veneration of sacred relics.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Euchar...

Father Carlos Martins proves the power and joy that comes from a life of faith.  Faith can’t be quantified, measured, or adequately explained.  It certainly can’t be summarized in a few sentences if confronted by an “intellectual” atheist.  But faith’s power cannot be denied.  After all, it has turned many non-believers, like Father Carlos Martins, into staunch defenders of God’s presence in our world.  It has provided strength to millions of saints, martyrs, and believers throughout the centuries.  Those are real changes to real people and not just some intellectual exercise on how the world might be better by throwing off the shackles of religion as atheists would have us believe.

Let’s compare faith vs. intellectual atheism.  New atheists like Dawkins believe that an atheistic world will be happier because people aren’t restricted by the silly bonds of religion.  But can we truly have a happier world without faith?  Were the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea happy places when they tried to build a society without religion?  I think that’s a pretty obvious “no.”  But why are these faithless societies generally unhappy?  Without acknowledging the consequences of sin or the comforting power of grace that comes through faith, society just wonders aimlessly without any purpose.  It doesn’t matter whether your life revolves around helping people or hurting them.  The motivation for doing anything good or productive comes from the coercive nature of government and the laws and penalties they enforce.  In this void, people tend to create false faiths out of political causes like environmentalism, global warming, contraception, identity politics, etc.  But these false faiths don’t truly satisfy our spiritual needs similar to how eating only candy will not sustain physical health.  A world without God will never sustain society because deep down, people need faith to be a complete person.  This is what Father Carlos Martins realized — atheism is ultimately a dead-end because it denies someone a crucial factor for living a fulfilling and happy life.

Now look at the faithful, religious people.  People who live the faith (and not just give it lip service) have a deep sense of happiness and peace through God’s grace.  They realize that life won’t always be easy and there might be some suffering, but they find the confidence and energy to live according to a higher will.  They help the less fortunate, set up shelters, charities, and hospitals, and do any number of good deeds, not because they are coerced by the government, but because they want to share God’s love.  Because they don’t deny faith as a crucial part of their humanity, that faith develops, strengthens, and motivates them to lead a more fulfilling life and help others to do the same.  You can’t deny that religious institutions, either through parishes, charities, or hospitals, make a real difference in people’s lives.

So here we have the reality of happiness through faith vs. the faith of hopelessness through atheism.  I don’t know about you, but I’m sticking with the side that already has the proven track record of generating real change for the better — the life of faith.  When I pray the rosary, I pray for the conversion of heart, mind, and soul to be truly aligned with God’s will as Jesus asks of us in the Third Luminous Mystery.  God is present in this world and He calls you to a life of conversion.  Will you be like Father Carlos Martins, the saints, and the millions of faithful Catholics and accept this calling?

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Easter Sunday — Joy

Jesus resurrected and Mary Magdalene
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The Easter Gospel is either from John 20:1-9 or Matthew 28:1-10.  Both talk about how Mary Magdalene came to Jesus’ tomb only to find it empty for He had risen.  Naturally this Gospel relates to the First Glorious Mystery — Jesus’ Resurrection.  Realizing the sorrow of Jesus’s passion and death only makes His resurrection that much more joyful.  For while Jesus’ earthly life ended in great suffering and sorrow He rose to His eternal, heavenly life in glory.  We too should remember that in our greatest sorrows and suffering we are called to one day rise to new life in the eternal joy of God’s heavenly kingdom.

Everyone have a happy and blessed Easter!

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Gospel for April 3, 2011 — Judgement

Gavel | Andrew F. Scott: P6033602
Image by afsart via Flickr

The Gospel for April 3, 2011 is John 9:1-41 (yep, it is a long one).  Jesus angers the pharisees by healing a blind man on the Sabbath.  The high priests are outraged because they see Jesus as someone who undermines their authority and performs miracles without their approval.  But Jesus says that He came to open the eyes of the spiritually blind while also blinding those who see through a lens of self-righteousness like the pharisees.  We remember in The Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary, The Ascension, that Jesus will one day judge us and so we must not be blind to His teachings.

The pharisees question nearly all of Jesus’ miracles throughout the Gospel and the healing of the blind man is no different.  They throw out the usual accusations — Jesus must derive His power from Satan or that He is not sent from God since He disobeys the Mosaic laws.  Each time the pharisees question Jesus they end up embarrassing themselves as Jesus points out the flaws to their blind adherence to the Mosaic Law. You would think they would have learned their lesson the first couple of times Jesus set them straight.  By interrogating the blind man, his family, and Jesus we get a sense of the pharisees’ growing frustration with Jesus since He threatens their authority.  Like modern-day politicians, the pharisees’ goal is not to show God’s truth but keep as much earthly power as possible.

Jesus’ response to the pharisees’ criticism is found in verses 39-41:

Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”  Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin;  but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.

We see like the pharisees in that we know the truth of Jesus’ divine nature.  We know Jesus’ will through the teachings and traditions of the Church, the Bible, in prayer, and the natural law written on each of our hearts.  God gave us the law through Moses and completed that law through Jesus Christ.  And yet, despite making His will known to us we often disobey Him through sin.  As Jesus implies in the Gospel, our sin remains because we can see the difference between right and wrong but we choose to sin anyway.  We look at the silliness of the great lengths the pharisees went to to discredit Jesus.  And yet we too go through great lengths to sidestep living according to Jesus’ teachings.  If you think about all that Jesus, the saints, and prophets have revealed to us about God’s will we also look very silly when we choose to sin in the face of all that knowledge.

We often take a self-righteous view of ourselves and believe that God approves of all that we do in life.  Like the pharisees, we holler and yell when the Church tells us that our world view conflicts the truth of Jesus Christ.  We shout, “How dare you say abortion is evil!”  Or, “The Church’s teachings are so out of touch regarding premarital sex!”  To many, the idea that we must humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation seems draconian.  No one likes being told they are wrong or punished for bad behavior.  But instead of avoiding bad behavior we seem to go out of our way to redefine what is bad and what is good.   We try very hard to make God conform to our worldview instead of changing our worldview to fit God’s plan.   Do we see that we are like the pharisees in the Gospel when we argue and rebel against God’s teachings instead of embracing them?

Jesus said in the Gospel that He came into this world for judgement.  We remember Jesus’ coming judgement when we pray the Second Glorious Mystery.  He ascended into Heaven to judge the living and the dead.  Jesus will judge us based on His divine law.  That judgement may be harsh since we have knowledge of His laws and yet chose not to follow Him.  Remember, because we can see God’s truth, our sins remain.  God will not care whether something was legal in some worldly court.  He does not care about popular opinion.  And so, an important goal in life should be following God’s laws because in the end, that is how He will judge us.  When you pray the Second Glorious Mystery of the rosary acknowledge that we are all subject to God’s judgement one day.  And may that knowledge translate into the courage to live according to God’s will by avoiding sin.  Pray that we can humble ourselves and admit when we do stray from God’s path and embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation, especially in this period of Lent.

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