Category Archives: Politics

Fasting on Fridays

“Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”

—Pope Benedict XVI

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the need for fervent prayer for the intentions of life, marriage, and religious liberty in the United States.  I mentioned that the US bishops had approved a pastoral strategy with 5 action items for us all to offer for the intentions mentioned above.

One of those items happens to be fasting and abstaining from meat, every Friday.

Now, officially, we are only under obligation to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  And abstaining specifically from meat is only required on Fridays during lent (though according to the code of Canon Law 1251, we are still required to abstain from another sort of food on all other Fridays throughout the year if we are going to eat meat).

Can.  1251: Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

I’m telling you all this so you know that it’s not sinful to not fast on Fridays.  It’s something extra that the bishops are asking of us because of the times we are living in.  They are not ordinary times. 

Practically speaking, in our culture Friday is one of the worst days to declare a fast.  It’s the end of the workweek.  It’s date night.  It’s the night to reward yourself for the long hours you put in this week.  And what better reward than of slice of that chocolate cake?  I can attest to the difficulty of sticking to fasting on Fridays now that I have a husband to cook for. Tyler gets up early every morning to go to work for us, and so on Fridays it’s extra hard for me to fight the urge to bake some celebratory end of the week chocolate chip cookies.

But Friday is no ordinary day.  It’s the day our Savior died for us.  It’s the day of the Cross.  The truth is that if our eyes and hearts are not on the Cross and on the Crucified One on Fridays, then our priorities are out of whack (and I’m convicted here, too).

So, in the threat of religious persecution— in the face of opposition for standing up for the truth— what better day to offer sacrifice?  What better day to unite ourselves to the redemptive suffering of our Lord?

mary-sig

Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty: Why You Should Care

Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty. 

If these aren’t already in your daily prayer intentions, then consider this post a letter to you from me.

Life
This month marks 40 years of legalized abortion in the US.  And around this time every year, a flurry of voices (especially in the Catholic world) take the opportunity to talk about the right to life, and what we can all do to help.  This year, Time Magazine has entered into the discussion, acknowledging what we’ve been saying for years: The tide is turning.

 

Still, 40 years is too long a time; and the battle is not won yet (at least not this side of heaven).  Pray for the end of abortion.

Marriage

Last November, a number of states moved in the direction of redefining marriage.  I’d like to share an important quote from the first two pages of a book I am reading, entitled, “What is Marriage?  Man and Woman: A Defense” 

“What we have come to call the gay marriage debate is not directly about homosexuality, but about marriage: It is not about whom to let marry, but about what marriage is….

The conjugal view of marriage…is a vision of marriage as a bodily as well as an emotional and spiritual bond, distinguished thus by its comprehensiveness, which is, like all love, effusive: flowing out into the wide sharing of family life and ahead to lifelong fidelity.  In marriage, so understood, the world rests its hope and finds ultimate renewal.

A second, revisionist view has informed the marriage policy reforms in the last several decades.  It is a vision of marriage as, in essence, a loving emotional bond, one distinguished by its intensity—a bond that needn’t point beyond the partners, in which fidelity is ultimately subject to one’s own desires.  In marriage, so understood, partners seek emotional fulfillment, and remain as long as they find it.”

If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, then perhaps you realize that the reality “dream wedding” shows that we watch on TV— whether they depict the marriages of same-sex or opposite-sex couples— almost exclusively propose the revisionist view of marriage described above.  What we are feeding ourselves in the culture is that marriage is merely an emotional bond distinguished only by its intensity, in which fidelity is subjective, and one that is expected to last only as long as each partner feels emotionally fulfilled.

But that’s not what marriage is.  At least, that’s not what it’s supposed to be.  This is why the answer to any of the threats on marriage we face in our culture is not simply to rail against the false idea put forward, but to propose and to strengthen the reality of true marriage and family life.  Pray for married couples and all families.

Religious Liberty

In the background of all of this in the United States is a serious threat to our first freedom: the right to religious liberty.

The HHS Mandate,… requires almost all employers, including Catholic employers, to pay for employees’ contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs regardless of conscientious objections.

To give an example, beginning this month, the Christian owners of Hobby Lobby are facing serious daily fines for refusing to comply.  Pray for the right to freely practice our faith.  Pray that the HHS Mandate is overturned.

No seriously, the Bishops have asked us all to pray and fast. 

In fact they’ve asked five things of us, in an approved pastoral strategy beginning on the feast of the Holy Family (last Sunday), until the feast of Christ the King (November 24th).  

  1. Monthly Eucharistic Holy Hour
  2. Daily Rosary
  3. Prayers of the Faithful
  4. Abstain from Meat
  5. Fortnight for Freedom

I will be writing a more detailed post on how to participate in each of these, but for now you can check out this link to the bishops’ website for more information. 

On the bright side, we know the ending to this story:  

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Is the Church in the US Really in Trouble?

The Church and Healthcare

If the election taught me anything, it’s that the majority of Americans think us Catholics are crazy for thinking that the Administration’s Health and Human Services Mandate has put our religious liberty at risk.  In fact a good amount of Catholics voted for the re-election of Barack Obama despite the fact that every US Bishop united against this health mandate.

First let’s be clear that the Catholic Church is in no way against universal access to healthcare.  In fact the opposite is true.  The Church is very pro-access to healthcare; She teaches that healthcare is a basic human right:

PACEM IN TERRIS (April 11, 1963):

11. But first We must speak of man’s rights. Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, he has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from his work; widowhood; old age; enforced unemployment; or whenever through no fault of his own he is deprived of the means of livelihood. (8)

 LABOREM EXERCENS:

19.  Besides wages, various social benefits intended to ensure the life and health of workers and their families play a part here. The expenses involved in health care, especially in the case of accidents at work, demand thatmedical assistance should be easily available for workers, and that as far as possible it should be cheap or even free of charge.

COMPENDIUM OF THE SOCIAL DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH:

166. The demands of the common good are dependent on the social conditions of each historical period and are strictly connected to respect for and the integral promotion of the person and his fundamental rights[349]. These demands concern above all the commitment to peace, the organization of the State’s powers, a sound juridical system, the protection of the environment, and the provision of essential services to all, some of which are at the same time human rights: food, housing, work, education and access to culture, transportation, basic health care, the freedom of communication and expression, and the protection of religious freedom[350]. Nor must one forget the contribution that every nation is required in duty to make towards a true worldwide cooperation for the common good of the whole of humanity and for future generations also[351].

Something we can all agree on: Everyone should have access to healthcare.  This doesn’t mean that healthcare absolutely has to be provided by the state, but the state nonetheless has the responsibility to make sure all of its citizens have access to basic healthcare in one way or another.

The HHS Mandate and Religious Freedom

To understand why we Catholics keep saying our religious freedom is at risk, you have to understand that being apart of the Church means a lot more than going to mass on Sundays.  To be a Christian means to spread the Gospel.

I know that when I say “spread the Gospel,” most people automatically think of going door-to-door and trying to get people to come to church, but let’s stop and think about that for a second.  In the Church we have hundreds of thousands of men and women who choose to dedicate their lives to the service of Christ and His Church by taking religious vows—but how often do you see priests/brothers and nuns/sisters going door-to-door to try and get people to come to church?  Not too often…

Why is that?  Because one of the primary ways the Church spreads the Gospel is by literally bringing the love of Christ to God’s children in the world.  This is why the Church establishes hospitals to care for the sick, or starts schools to teach children to read and write, or builds orphanages to care for children.  It’s not just because these seem like nice things to do, or because they are good PR moves; it’s because the Church is established to spread the Gospel.  And all of this is spreading the Gospel, because all of this is truly laying down one’s life in the service of another.

And all of this is what’s at risk.  Because the HHS mandate only defines a “church” as where we go to worship on Sundays.  It doesn’t take into account that Christianity is mission (i.e. the Catholic Church doesn’t have a “missionary aspect;” The Church is mission).  The HHS mandate forces these hospitals, orphanages, and schools to pay for services that are contrary to the Church’s mission (contraception, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization), and thus forces them to shut down, cutting off all of the good that the Church does for people of all religions and all walks of life.

It should be noted that this fight has never been about wanting to limit access to contraception.  We in the Church just want to right to obey our conscience by not being forced to pay for services that violate the tenets of our faith.

This is why for nearly the past year we’ve had rallies for religious freedom; this is why we may seem more devastated at the results of this presidential election than we ever have in the past.  And this is why I’m asking all of you to pray and to stand with those of us in the Church who are concerned about our religious freedom.

To answer the title of this post: Is the Church in the US really in trouble?  It does seem that way.  But what is more troubling is the state of the many people in the US (Catholic or not) that depend on the Church for assistance.  But should we despair?  Of course not.  The Gates of Hell will not prevail, remember?

 

Election Novena

(a day late, but I don’t think God will mind 🙂 )

Election Novena

Start on October 29th and conclude the morning of November 6th.

O God, we acknowledge you today as Lord,
Not only of individuals, but of nations and governments.

We thank you for the privilege
Of being able to organize ourselves politically
And of knowing that political loyalty
Does not have to mean disloyalty to you.

We thank you for your law,
Which our Founding Fathers acknowledged
And recognized as higher than any human law.

We thank you for the opportunity that this election
year puts before us,
To exercise our solemn duty not only to vote,
But to influence countless others to vote,
And to vote correctly.

Lord, we pray that your people may be awakened.
Let them realize that while politics is not their salvation,
Their response to you requires that they be politically active.

Awaken your people to know that they are
not called to be a sect fleeing the world
But rather a community of faith renewing the world.

Awaken them that the same hands lifted up to you in prayer
Are the hands that pull the lever in the voting booth;
That the same eyes that read your Word
Are the eyes that read the names on the ballot,
And that they do not cease to be Christians
When they enter the voting booth.

Awaken your people to a commitment to justice
To the sanctity of marriage and the family,
To the dignity of each individual human life,
And to the truth that human rights begin when human lives begin,
And not one moment later.

Lord, we rejoice today
That we are citizens of your kingdom.

May that make us all the more committed
To being faithful citizens on earth.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

What Unites Christians: …Chick-Fil-A?

Heard this one yet?

First let’s acknowledge the outright lie of the meme: that Christians don’t come together to help those less fortunate.  Countless hospitals, homeless shelters, food banks, etc. are all owned and operated on a daily basis, by Christians.  This, of course, is not to say that it is only Christians who reach out to those in need, but suffice it to say: the reason you don’t see the media covering a giant amount of Christians coming together on one day to bring food and shelter to those in need is not because it doesn’t happen; it’s because it is literally happening every single day.  For that reason, it’s not newsworthy; it’s simply the call of the Christian life.

But I get it.  If your impression is that anyone who supports marriage as being only between one man, one woman hates gay people or wants to make anyone who feels attracted to the same sex into a second-class citizen, then yes, this would seem like a rather un-Christian thing to unite over.  As Christians, we can at least be thankful that in some small way people still acknowledge that to be a Christian does mean to love your neighbor and to acknowledge the dignity of the human person.  We can also be thankful that people call us out when they perceive that we are not living up to the call that we have received in Christ.

However, Rick Warren hit it right on the head when he said:

Our culture has accepted two huge lies: the first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them.  The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.  Both are nonsense.  You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate

This isn’t just a zing to throw at your friends who don’t agree with you.  This is a challenge.  If you find yourself as a Christian viewing people who disagree with you as “the enemy,” watch it.  “We are not contending with flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).  At the same time, if your friend tells you they don’t agree with something you’re doing, it’s silly and pretty childish to assume they hate you because of it.  On the contrary: it most likely means they love and respect you enough to speak up.

If you’re ever questioning what “loving someone” means, it always, always, always means to tell the truth. 

If you know that someone you care about is leading a lifestyle that you don’t agree with because you believe with your whole heart that it is going to hurt them or leave them feeling empty or alone in the long run, it is absolutely and unequivocally not loving them to leave them in the dark.  We know and acknowledge this when it comes to virtually every other issue, but somehow with this one issue, speaking up for our convictions out of concern for our fellow man is viewed as hateful.

Love speaks when nothing else inside of you has the courage.  Love speaks even when it is afraid of being spit on.

So why do Christians unite on the issue of marriage and family?  Because we recognize the importance of the family as the building block of any society:

 “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” -Blessed John Paul II

By standing up for issues so fundamental to human society, Christians are doing just what Christ asks of us: allowing His light to shine through us, even when it would often seem so much easier to hide it under a basket.

“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hid.  Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to the whole house.  Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16)