Not That There Is Anything Wrong With That!

So are Jerry and George really a gay couple?  What about Bert and Ernie, or maybe Thelma and Louise…or maybe even R2D2 and C3PO???[1] Not that there is anything wrong with that! [2] And who cares anyways…right?  I mean, if God made me this way, it must be good…and God would not want me to be unhappy…and remember Jerry, it’s not a lie if YOU believe it!   Yikes!!  Where to begin?!?!

Church Teaching:

Ok, well let’s start at the beginning…with same sex attraction.  The church clearly teaches that it is not objectively sinful or immoral to have same sex attraction or, in the vernacular, to “be” gay, bisexual, etc. To say it more formally, a person is not morally culpable for such an attraction if the attraction is not subject to free will, i.e., is not consciously chosen.  Nevertheless, the attraction itself, whether chosen or not, is objectively disordered[3].  The attraction predisposes a person toward what is not good.  It leads the person down the wrong path.


NO!  Lets be clear, the Church never ever says that[4]!

All people, no matter their sex, gender, attraction, or identity, can have disordered attractions, passions, and desires.  Yet not one of them…not a single one…is defective, rejected, hated, worth any less, or is any less loved as a child of God.

Some people may have a disordered attraction to money, others to power, others to envy, others to sex, and still others to gluttony.  Many heterosexuals have a disordered attraction to sex.  Some of these attractions are chosen and some are not. Some are more serious and some are less serious. [5] Nevertheless, none of them lead towards the good…towards towards Truth…towards Life.

To be clear, the Church is not casting judgment on the value of a person. The Church is not saying that the person, as a whole, is disordered. Perhaps most importantly, the Church is absolutely not saying that the person is hated or has been rejected by God!

Quite the opposite, the Church consistently and universally teaches that every single person has co-equal dignity and an eternal unfathomable value to the Lord no matter what attraction they have or what sin they commit. God created every human person out of love and wishes to grant them eternal life in the communion of the Trinity.[6]

It’s really quite simple when you dig into it.  All people are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected at all times.[7]  The Church teaches that persons with a homosexual inclination “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”[8] In other words, we, as Catholics, must respect the dignity of all persons whether we perceive them to be saints or sinners, good or bad.

All of us are children of God and tabernacles of the Lord.  We must stand up for the human dignity and respect of our brothers and sisters, even if we disagree with their choices or lifestyle.[9]  Even more, we must love them…past all of their sin, past any disordered attraction, and past any weakness.  We must choose to love them and want the best for them (Heaven) precisely because of all of that and pray for them very much.

Alright…so at this point you are probably tired of reading about attraction and want to move on from the potential to the actual.  Well, its not rocket science.  The Church unambiguously teaches that voluntarily acting on a same sex attraction or entertaining same sex temptations is objectively sinful and immoral.  Seems pretty cut and dry, so I won’t muck it up with any additional words.

So here we find ourselves, probably with a head swirling about attraction versus action, potential versus real, and everything in between.  But just what are we to do in this culture when confronting same sex attraction and it’s elevation by the culture to a “norm”? Good question!  The answer is simple – Love our brothers and sisters very much and pray for them in front of the Blessed Sacrament for the cross that they have to bear.  Pray for society and for a recognition and respect for human dignity.  Pray the Rosary!

But for those of you that want something a little more concrete, the Bishops have established some guidelines for us to follow.[10] For example, we should: encourage members of our Catholic Community who have same sex attraction to fully and actively participate in the sacraments; support their efforts to live a life of chastity and integrity; welcome them into Catholic Communities; encourage those living in accord with Church teaching to take an active role in the life of the faith community; and, perhaps most importantly, love all of them (Catholic or not, Christian or not, theist or atheist) with everything we have and everything we are by praying for them very much and very often.

And so, as we conclude and ponder Jerry’s and George’s exclamations, lets remember Church teaching and the inherent dignity of every human person. Let’s remember that every one of us, regardless of attraction, action, or inclination, is a child of God, has an inestimable worth and value, and deserves to be treated with the dignity of the King’s kid at all times…nothing less.  But let’s not forget the objective Truth, the Eternal Word that is the source, center, and summit of life itself, and fall into the trap of calling good evil and evil good…because that would be a lie, whether you believe it or not, and yes Jerry, there is something very definitely wrong with THAT!

God Bless

[1] ooooh, I know…sacrilege to you Star Wars fans!

[3] If you really want to get formal, try to wrap your head around an intrinsic disorder of what is directed toward that which is evil in all cases (contra naturam) versus an accidental disorder of what is not properly ordered by right reason but what fails to attain the proper measure of virtue (contra rationem).

[4] How do we know this?  Because such a teaching would not be Christocentric.

[6] Glad to see that you are actually reading the footnotes.  This concept is set forth throughout the Catechism…I’m just too lazy to find all of the references 😉

[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) Sections 1700-1702

[8] CCC 2358

[9] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (October 1, 1986), no. 10.

[10] See Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care, Issued by USCCB, November 14, 2006.

Tag Me In Bro!

No, there is no typo.  This entry is not about the now famous tag-line “Don’t Taze Me Bro!”  It’s about wrestling and tag-team partners.  Yes, I know, yet another odd topic for a Catholic blog!  But at least you are reading it…so mission accomplished!

 So how many of you are familiar with the movie Talladega Nights???[1] Ok, so if you are familiar with this movie, I can ask you how many of you think of Jesus as 8 lb. 6 oz. Baby Jesus or, as Will Ferrell says, “Baby God” or “Christmas Jesus”? (Maybe to be more reverent, we should talk about the Infant of Prague, but I digress.)  Do any of you think of Jesus like Cal Naughton Jr. does… wearing a tuxedo shirt because he wants to be formal but also wants to party…or as the lead singer at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert?!?  How about as teenage Jesus, or as bearded Jesus, or as a ninja fighting off evil spirits?? (For those of you who still have zero idea what I am talking about, click on the link[2].  For those of you that went to the most recent Steubenville youth conference, think of the Chris Padgett Arm-Wrestling Jesus).  Well, sometimes I think of Jesus as a WWF wrestler[3]…as my tag team partner who is just waiting to be tagged in…and so begins this entry.  So lets take a closer look at the main wrestling story of the Bible, Genesis 32:22-32[4].

In this story, Jacob tricked his brother Esau into giving up his birthright and received the blessing from his father Isaac by taking advantage of Isaac’s blindness.  Obviously, once Esau found out, he became very angry…probably angry enough to kill Jacob.  As a result, Jacob ran away from home to live with his relatives.  After some time, Jacob eventually decided to return home and face Esau.  However, as he was on his way home, he was suddenly met by an unknown man in the middle of the night and wrestled with him.  Because it was dark, Jacob could not see who he was wrestling with.  In fact, he was probably thoroughly confused.  Maybe Jacob thought the man was a robber.  Maybe Jacob thought that the attacker was one of Esau’s men sent to kill him. The text does not specify the identity of the attacker but, in Hebrew, the word used indicates a “man” in the generic sense…probably to keep the reader guessing as to who exactly was the attacker. Nevertheless, Jacob battles with all his strength.

For the reader, it is hard to tell who is winning the battle. At the beginning, Jacob seems to be stronger, but yet Jacob doesn’t win.  In fact, the attacker injures Jacob’s hip so that he is hobbled.  However, Jacob refuses to give in and says that he will not let go of his attacker unless the attacker blesses him.  But the attacker instead asks Jacob his name, which Jacob gives him.  In a Biblical sense, knowing someone’s name implies having power over that person.  Accordingly, when Jacob tells the attacker his name, he is, in essence, surrendering to the attacker.   After the wrestling match is over, and Jacob survives, it is revealed that Jacob was wrestling with God and Jacob is given a new name (Israel).  The new name is symbolic of Jacob’s new life after surrendering entirely to God.

In this story, Jacob faced an attacker, in the middle of the night, and didn’t give up.  He had no idea why he was being attacked or even who was attacking him.  Maybe he doubted that God was even there to help him or that God even existed.  But through all of that, Jacob battled on!

Ok Ok, enough old stuff.  At this point, you are probably wondering just how I am going to tie this story back into my mental image of Jesus as a WWF wrestler.  Well, at some point, we need to surrender to God and not wrestle with him.  For me, that means I need to tag Jesus in as my wrestling partner (not my adversary), put all my trust in Him, and trust that He will win the battle for me.  Yes, even if I doubt that God exists…I reach out and make the tag anyways.

Think about it…during the wrestling match, God saw that Jacob was clinging to Him with his entire strength and refused to let go.  But why would God then injure Jacob? God injured Jacob so that Jacob would be humble and realize that he needed to be totally dependent on God.  Only once Jacob was injured and humbled, was he able to trust in God totally, tag-in God, and let God fight his battles for him.  Maybe, in our lives, when things are at the darkest, God (Jesus,) is just waiting for us to say “uncle” – You Win! – I give it all to you!

There are times in life when we are faced with situations that seem dark.  Sometimes, we may think that we are in total spiritual darkness, that God isn’t listening or that God doesn’t even exist.  In these cases, we always try to win the battle by our own efforts.  Sometimes we throw ourselves into different activities to distract ourselves.  Other times we just go through the motions without feeling any sort of consolation.  Still other times, we simply give up and quit.  But that is not what Jesus wants!  The battle is His, not ours. Our battle should be based on clinging to God and His Eternal Word (Jesus) no matter what happens in life and no matter how dark the night gets. Clinging to God with perseverance is a part of loving Him.

How many times do we wrestle with difficult problems?  Maybe it is just a mild temptation and maybe its something a lot more difficult!  Maybe its sin, maybe its doubt, maybe its addiction, maybe its pornography, maybe its lust, maybe its anger, maybe its pride.  In all of those circumstances, who are we really wrestling with?  It’s the Devil.

But apart from that, how many times have we wrestled with God instead of tagging him in and letting him help us? How often do we obsess with the bad things in life instead of appreciating how God is always in control?  How many times do we even question God’s very existence if we feel desolation? If we think of all of the difficulties as opponents, maybe they are small wrestlers or maybe they are Andre the Giant.  It simply doesn’t matter.  We need to tag-in the King of the Universe and let him squash the problems and squash the Devil!

I personally have the nasty habit of trying to take all of my problems on myself, without any help from God, and end up getting squashed pretty quickly and amazingly consistently.  As a matter of fact, I’m 0 for a million.  I’ve never won on my own.  Not even once!  I’m batting .000.  For all of you baseball fans, I win the Golden Sombrero each and every day when I don’t ask Jesus for help.  Whenever my prayer lacks, even for a day, I get crushed.

Sometimes I turn my energy on my wrestling partner, wrestle with God, and get angry when I think He isn’t helping me.  Sometimes I wonder if He is deaf or just doesn’t want to pay attention. Yeah, that makes real smart sense.  I’m going to wrestle with the King of the Universe and expect to win?  Seriously?  Ugh.

But this is not what Jesus wants!  It is not why He came to Earth! Jesus wants to help us in our wrestling match.  He isn’t our adversary!  He wants to jump in and squash the Devil.  In fact, He has already won! But, because of our free-will, He will not jump over the ropes unless we ask Him.  We can’t access that victory until we say Uncle! I Surrender!

Let me say it differently, sometimes having faith is purely an act of the will.  Sometimes you have to say “I believe” no matter what it feels or doesn’t feel like, no matter what it looks or doesn’t look like, and no matter who tries to convince you otherwise.

So, in view of all of that, yes, sometimes I think of Jesus as my tag-team wrestling partner.  And, for lack of a better, more appropriate phrase, I can hear him yelling “Tag Me In Bro!”  I see Him just waiting at the ropes, straining and stretching his hand out so close to mine that I could easily tag his hand when I am pinned on the mat! But, most of the time, I never think to tag him in.  Maybe it’s because of pride.  Maybe it’s because of ignorance.  Maybe it’s because of a lot of things.  All I know is that I need to remember to tag Him in and let Him fight for me.  Sometimes, in the deepest part of the darkness, if I doubt that He is even listening or, for that matter, even there, I simply need to reach out for the tag anyways.

As explained in the Catechism[5], Jacob’s wrestling match sets the foundation for our spiritual tradition that prayer is a battle of faith and a triumph of perseverance. Jacob’s story talks about a long dark night of seeking God and wrestling with all sorts of struggles but still persevering.  It talks about never letting go and simply deciding, as an act of the will, to hang on, even if it injures or kills you.  This story helps us understand that prayer requires trust and sometimes hand-to-hand combat that is symbolic not of a God who is an enemy or an adversary, but as our merciful King to whom we must surrender.

So let me leave you with this…Sometimes our “I believe” has to be an utter surrender to God.  Sometimes the prayer simply has to be “God, My Name is XXX, I Believe In You, I Surrender To You, I’m Tagging You In And I’m Not Going To Let Go Until You Bless Me Just Like You Did Jacob!!”…and then you just hang on for the ride no matter what happens and until death if need be!

Try it out.  I promise you that in the darkness there is, in fact, an all powerful hand waiting to be tagged.  So just make a conscious act of the will, reach out and smack that hand with everything you’ve got!  Whether it be through crying, or yelling, or swearing, or foaming at the mouth because you are so angry you can’t even speak…smack that hand!  Even if you are so tired and despondent…smack that hand!  Even if your hands are filthy dirty because of all of the junk and sin you are swimming in, smack that hand!  Even if you don’t think it’s there, swing at the hand anyways.  Don’t give up!  Use the last ounce of energy to tag Him in. You’re wrestling partner is the King of the Universe and is going to crush your opponents like a bug!

God Bless

[1] I’m not citing this movie to be crass or to be at all disrespectful, but simply to make a point.  So take this all with a grain of salt.

[3] I know it seems like I am focusing on wrestling a lot lately, from the flying elbows of the old ladies in the “Bring Me My Weapon” entry to todays WWF theme.  Well, I am.  But wrestling is not a foreign concept to the scriptures. See, e.g. Genesis 30:8;  Genesis 32:24-25; Hosea 12:4; 2 Samuel 23:21; 1 Chronicles 11:23; Ephesians 6:12

Bird Poop In The Eye!

If you didn’t already wonder about my choice of titles, this one has got to have you wondering.  I’m sure that you are asking how such a title is at all related to a Catholic blog.  Simple answer – read Tobit 2: 9-14[1]!  This reading was read last week at daily mass and is now my new favorite Bible verse.

So now that you have read it, you can see that poor Tobit gets bird poop in his eyes and goes blind, then makes a crazy comment about women weaving cloth…because that is, of course, what women do…and then accuses his wife of stealing a goat!  She is pretty snarky in return and gets him back though…as if the blindness wasn’t enough! Is there any Bible verse that is crazier?

So what can we possibly learn from this story?  Well, first we have to figure out who Tobit was and how his life progressed.  Then we can compare Tobit’s (Old Testament) response to adversity to St. Paul’s (New Testament) response when he was in Corinth.


Starting first with Tobit, he was a wealthy Israelite of the tribe to Naphtali who lived in Ninevah after the northern tribes of Israel were deported to Assyria around 721 BC.    Tobit was married to Anna and had a son named Tobias.  Tobit was known for being a very pious and devout man, probably to a fault.

At the start of Chapter 2, Tobit speaks of the festival of the Seven Weeks held fifty days after Passover[2] wherein many Israelites made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  While in Jerusalem, Tobit was ministering to the poor people, strangers, orphans and widows.[3]

At one point, Tobit was dining on a wonderful feast and felt bad that he was eating in such abundance.  For that reason, Tobit looked for a poor man to share in the feast.  Little did Tobit know that such a good deed would set off a whole chain of events that would cause him half a life time of suffering and almost destroy him in the process.

To make a long story short, Tobit sent his son Tobias to look for the poor man to share in the feast.  Once Tobias went out, he found a strangled corpse and reported his finding back to Tobit.  (As a side note, don’t you wonder just how often such a thing happened??) Feeling pity, Tobit felt obliged to retrieve the corpse and bury it.  In so doing, he ruined his appetite and became “unclean.”  Because he was unclean, Tobit slept outside in the courtyard, with his face uncovered, and ended up on the wrong end of the sparrows sitting on top of the wall, thereby going blind! As a result of his blindness, he could no longer support himself or his family thereby causing his wife Anna to support the family by weaving cloth.  After Anna came home with a goat that she received as a bonus, Tobit wrongfully accused her of stealing the goat and demanded that she return it! In response, Anna mocked him and sarcastically asked him how he could be so afflicted in view of all of his good deeds.  (Crazy story right?!?!?)

As a result of all of these events, Tobit fell into a deep depression.  It seems as though Tobit could not understand how he could suffer so much if he was such a good man.[4]  In layman’s terms, Tobit seemed to think that life was going “to hell in a handbasket” and that there was nothing that he could do to stop it.   For that reason, Tobit prayed for death. (I will leave the end of the story to your own reading)

So what is the moral of this story?  Well, Tobit was a devout and pious man.  He praised God and gave alms.  However, his piety was arguably obsessive and self-destructive.  But who among us hasn’t had these feelings at some point in life?  Haven’t we all wondered at some point why bad things happen to us, especially if we think that we are living a good life? So how do we combat falling into such a trap?

Well, one good way is to reflect on the life and teachings of St. Paul, especially when he was in Corinth.  His response to suffering and adversity was quite different from that of Tobit.

St. Paul:

When we think of Paul preaching in Corinth, we must remember that he was being persecuted most of the time.  More specifically, the church in Corinth had been infiltrated by false teachers that were seeking to replace Paul and take power for themselves.  However, before they could do this, they needed to discredit Paul and turn the people against him.  They tried to turn the people against Paul by attacking him in a very vicious way.  However, Paul’s response to these attacks and all of the negativity was very different from Tobit’s response.  Paul agreed with his attackers and admitted that he was nothing without the Lord.  In so doing, Paul taught the church that, because of his weakness, anything good that came from his life was the direct work of God.

In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9[5], Paul speaks to the church and addresses these attacks.  He professes that “[w]e are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”  Note how different Paul’s response is from Tobit’s.

More specifically, Paul uses the word “afflicted” which, in Greek, is “thlibo.” This Greek word means to be under pressure or under the gun, as we would say in the popular vernacular.  How many of us, on a daily basis, think that we have a lot of pressure at school, home, or at work??  How many of us think that we know exactly what pressure is?? I know I do.  But just how many of us have had to face death on a daily basis?!?  How many of us have had to face the pressure of supporting a church, of spreading the Gospel in a hostile land, or of being the direct target of the Devil himself??  Probably none of us…but yet we all despair at some point in life…some of us on a daily basis…maybe just like Tobit.  But in comparison, and through all of this, Paul persevered and did not despair.  Even though he faced death, he did not give up or pray for death…unlike Tobit.

Paul goes on and says that he is perplexed but does not despair. In Greek, Paul uses the word “aporeobut” which means to be at your wit’s end but not totally mentally crushed or in utter despair and defeat.  In so doing, Paul affirms that he can be pushed down and driven to deep depths but when that happens…when he digs deep…he finds strength in and through God alone.

To go even further, Paul then talks about being persecuted but not forsaken. Here, Paul uses the Greek word “dioko” which refers to being pursued or, perhaps more accurately, being hunted.  In using this word, Paul makes it clear that he was being stalked by the Devil and those doing evil in Corinth. More specifically, Paul was likely referring to the people (both Jews and Gentiles) that were trying to kill him.  Yet again, throughout all of this, Paul was not forsaken or abandoned because God was always with him.

Finally, Paul concludes by professing that he was struck down but not destroyed.  Here, Paul was talking about being knocked down, knocked out, punched, kicked, etc. but never being totally wiped out.  At no point did Paul give in and simply pray for death.

As we look back at all of this, we see that Paul was clearly under the worst type of assault and stress in Corinth, but he never gave up, never quit, and was never destroyed.  Through Paul’s response to his adversity, we see a man who remained humble and invincible, strengthened by the Word of God, even when he was being hunted and under attack.  We see a man who was aware of his weakness but at the same time aware of his strength in God.  We see a humble man who acknowledged the truth of Jesus and triumphed in it.  We see the opposite of the despair and defeat felt by Tobit.  Paul finds God’s strength in his own weakness.  When Paul acknowledges the Truth (which is the definition of humility), he finds the power of God channeled through his life and his actions.  Paul becomes invincible precisely because he lets God take over.

Paul realized that he had to take up his cross and follow Jesus.  Paul realized that if there was no pain there would be no gain, if there was no cross, there would be no crown, that there would be no life except through death, and that there would be no glory without suffering.

As we reflect on the reactions of both Tobit and St. Paul, may we all be as charitable and conscientious as Tobit and yet as humble, invincible, and strong-in-the-Lord as Paul….yes even if life poops in our eyes!

Lord, I pray that I can be humble, and by doing that, I can be invincible in You.  I pray that I can be sacrificial and be useful to You.  I pray that even if people criticize me, attack me, mock me, slander me, accuse my falsely, and knock me down, that they see that I can be strong in You.  I pray that I can be weak, inept, and clumsy in the eyes of the world but be humble, strong, and confident in You.

I hope that you all read the full story of Tobit and that this comparison will help you understand it even just a little bit better.

God Bless!

[2] (cf. Deut 16:9-12; Lev 23:16)

[3] (cf.Deut 16:14)

[4] (v. 6; cf. Amos 8:10)

Bring Me My Weapon!

          Who would ever think that beads, some made of plastic, others of wood, still others of rope or cloth, attached together, would be one the most effective weapons against the Devil??? Unless they were cannonballs attached to chains and swung by Hercules (or Prince Fielder), it seems that such things would be a mere annoyance to the evil one, at best.  It seems like they would be swatted away like flies from an elephant.  I mean…really…can you imagine those little old ladies from church, using their “beads,” dropping flying elbows on Satan’s head from the top of a steel cage or whacking him on the head with a metal chair???  (Ok, maybe I still remember the WWF…a little too vividly)

         Well, that type of “silliness” is exactly what the world would want you to believe. But I would hope, as Catholics, we know better in both our heads and our hearts.  As Pope Adrian VI said[1], the Rosary is the scourge (or flying elbow to the ribs…metal chair to the head) of the Devil.

In fact, one of the most ardent supporters of the Rosary, Padre Pio, described the Rosary as THE weapon against the Devil.[2]  Rumor has it that, a few days before his death, Padre Pio told some Friars in his room “Bring Me My Weapon!!”   When the Friars saw no physical weapons near him, Padre Pio exclaimed that the Rosary was the true weapon against the Devil.[3]  Hence, the title of this article.

The Rosary is a prayer having many different meanings and benefits that are too numerous to talk about here, so I will just focus on one aspect – weaponry!  I never thought of the Rosary in that way…as a weapon…well, until the last year or so.  I’m not quite sure why I was so blind.  (As an aside, if you ever want to see a really cool Rosary, check out this weapon[4]!)

The Rosary was given to us by the Blessed Mother herself, probably through Saint Dominic[5] in the 13th century.  She called it her psalter, wherein the 150 Hail Marys follow the pattern of the 150 Psalms.  In October 2002[6], Blessed Pope John Paul II added the Mysteries of Light (Luminous Mysteries) “[t]o bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary [and]…include the mysteries of Christ’s public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion.”

For the longest time, I, unfortunately, was one of those Catholics that thought of the Rosary as a group of repetitive prayers that was hard to get through without falling asleep or daydreaming about other things.  I never quite realized what it really was.  Maybe I was never taught how to properly pray the Rosary.

As a weapon, I’ve heard the Rosary described as equivalent to launching missiles at the evil one.  I’ve heard it described as the nuclear weapon against evil.  I’ve actually come to be fond of the mental image of the Rosary chain being wrapped around the Devil’s neck to shut him up from whispering in my ear.  (Ok, was that too graphic?)  Maybe some of you like the imagery of the flying elbow or the metal chair.

However, before we talk about why the Rosary is an effective weapon, lets be very precise about who this weapon is used against.  I always thought the enemy was self evident, but lets be clear. First of all, the world is in need of prayer.  Through the prayers of the Rosary, we meditate on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  In so doing, we fill a void that is ever present in this world and seems to be getting bigger.  If we don’t fill that void, who will?  That’s the easiest answer in this whole article!  Its really easy to see who is filling that void.  Look down….way way down…in the center of hell encased in ice[7] (for you literary fans).  Ok, maybe look at the television, read the newspaper, look at popular culture.  Take a wild guess who is filling that void in the absence of prayer!  I think it’s self-explanatory.  As Padre Pio said, if all of the demons in this world became visible, they would blot out the sun![8]

Now that the who is taken care of, lets look at the “what.”  When we talk about the Rosary as THE weapon against the Devil, we should not limit our thinking to just “big” evils (like Communism) or to just “smaller” evils such as gossip.  Similarly, we should not limit our thinking to combat against just mortal sins or just venial sins.  The Rosary is THE weapon against all of the above and everything in between.  It is equally effective in converting a communist nation as it is in helping us shut our mouths when we want so badly to talk about others, in rejecting heresy as it is in helping us reject the temptations against purity, and in dispelling materialism as it is in playing a PS3 when we should be out cutting the lawn.   No one ever said that the Rosary was for the strong or only for kings and princes.  In fact, it is probably most effective when said by the meek and humble, the simple, and the poor in spirit.

Ok, Ok, but why is the Rosary such an effective weapon against the Devil?  Why does the famous exorcist Gabriel Amorth report that, during an exorcism, his colleague reported hearing the Devil say that each Hail Mary is like a blow against his head??[9]  Again, the answer is fairly straightforward.

First and foremost, the Rosary is the prayer of the Gospels.[10]  As Pope Pius XII said[11], the Rosary is the compendium of the entire Gospel.  Other writers have described the Rosary as the Gospels on a chain.  Think about it.  18 of 20 of the mysteries are directly described in the Gospels.  So don’t ever let anyone tell you that the Rosary is not Biblical!  The “last” two mysteries, the Assumption of the Blessed Mother and the Crowning of the Blessed Mother as Queen of Heaven, can be inferred from reading Scripture.

For those reasons, when we pray the Rosary, we are praying the Gospels…and in praying the Gospels, we are praying Jesus Himself.  How can this be, you ask?  Well the answer is…surprise!!…again really quite simple.  The entire body of Scripture (let alone the Gospels), when distilled, condensed, and concentrated into one word…is the Eternal Word…Jesus Christ himself.  Therefore, praying the Gospels is praying Jesus himself.

Maybe more formally, praying the Rosary is both prayer and meditation because it is addressed to the Father, to the Blessed Mother, and to the Trinity, and is a meditation on Jesus Christ.  Said in another way, the Rosary is a reflection on some of the most important times in Jesus’s life wherein we showed His love for us and also on the life of God’s most perfect creature Mary who, being full of grace, lived life to the fullest, totally free[12], and without sin.

This reflection on the mysteries of the Rosary causes us to remember and to look upon God Himself.  Said more simply, the prayers of the Rosary say everything that the Devil hates to be said.  It focuses our minds, hearts, and souls upon our Blessed Lord and His life.  When we pray the Rosary, we enter mind, body, and soul into the mysteries of the Gospels and tap into the infinite graces just waiting to be poured out by the Holy Spirit through his spouse, the Blessed Mother.  When we pray these words, the Devil cannot enter!

Some of you are not doubt asking how meditation on the mysteries, aside from vocal prayer, can possibly stop the Devil when he cannot hear our thoughts but only our words.  I think the answer to that is also straightforward, if you have the right frame of reference.

The Rosary brings a true peace that is obtained from directly combatting evil with good.  Some of this peace is derived from using the Rosary as an offensive weapon to directly attack temptations and sin.  However, the notion of the Rosary as a weapon also applies to using the Rosary as a shield from temptations. Shields are weapons as well, at least in the divine sense.  As Pope Leo XII said, the Rosary is powerful because Mary is the Mediatrix of Divine Grace and surpasses in power all of the angels and saints in Heaven.  The grace that is poured out both vanquishes evil directly (offensively) and also protects our hearts, minds, and souls (defensively) from giving in to the temptations that we face.  Accordingly, one way to think about the vocal prayers is to think of them as calling down grace for more of an offensive attack.  In a similar way, the meditative portion of the prayers can be thought of as an internalization of Jesus himself which also calls down grace and shields our souls from some of the attacks.  (Oh yeah, and remember who the Devil is…a fallen archangel.  For that reason, Mary has more power than the Devil.)

But enough theory, lets be a bit more practical for just a minute.  When holding the crucifix, we make the sign of the cross and reaffirm what we believe and what the Church believes.  We ponder His life, death, and resurrection.  We honor God, reaffirm our belief in the Blessed Mother and all other important issues that the Devil fights against.

On the first bead, and 5 subsequent beads, we pray the Our Father.  There are no greater words known to man to honor the Father than to use the words that Jesus Himself gave us.    More theologically speaking, it is important to remember that, in each of His mysteries, Jesus always leads us to the Father and is continually turned towards him.  For that reason, the Our Father makes meditation upon the mystery, even when carried out in solitude, an ecclesial experience.[13]

On the next three beads, we pray to/through the Blessed Mother for her to dispense grace, through her spouse the Holy Spirit, for an increase in three very important virtues, faith, hope, and charity (love).

As we move on, we then start to pray the Gospels and enter into the mysteries.  Throughout all of the 20 mysteries, we focus on God and on very important moments in Scripture.  Every time that we focus on God, we are taking our focus off of the world and off of ourselves.  This is perfect prayer.  However, it is exactly what the Devil does not want.

More specifically, the first part of each Hail Mary is drawn from the words spoken to Mary by the Angel Gabriel and by Saint Elizabeth and is a contemplation in adoration of the mystery accomplished in the Virgin of Nazareth.[14]

The center of gravity in the Hail Mary is the name of Jesus. It is precisely the emphasis given to the name of Jesus and to His mystery that is the sign of a meaningful and fruitful recitation of the Rosary.[15]

Finally, Mary’s unique status as the Mother of God, Theotókos, allows us to appeal to her in the second half of the prayer, as we entrust to her maternal intercession our lives and the hour of our death.[16]

After the Hail Mary, we say the Glory Be, also known as the “Trinitarian doxology” or Gloria, which is the high-point of contemplation. The glorification of the Trinity at the end of each decade raises our minds to the heights of Heaven.[17]

Finally, some Catholics add the “Oh My Jesus” prayer, also known as the Decade Prayer, at the end of each decade.  This prayer mirrors the prayer that Sr. Lucia has said that she received from the Blessed Mother at Fatima.[18]  This prayer calls to mind the need for mercy and penance, penance, penance!

Can you think of anything “worse” for the Devil?  Seriously.  What could possibly be more destructive against his temptations and plans than such meditations and prayers?  They are both offensive and defensive weapons and entirely frustrate the desires and purposes of the evil one and his army.

Ok Ok, I’m just about done with this long post.  So let me end with this.  It is widely reported that the Blessed Mother, during her appearances in Medjugorje, said that Satan wants war.  Well, if he wants war, then when are we going to get serious about launching missiles at this head?  When are we going to get serious about jumping into the war and fighting the good fight?  When are we going to swing a metal chair at his head, jump off the top rope with an elbow to the ribs, or simply just punch him in the face?!?!  The time has long since come.  As Pope Blessed Pius IX said, “give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the World!”[19]  So lets do it!

God Bless!

[1] Sister Patricia Preoctor, OSC, 101 Inspirational Stories on the Rosary, p.180

[3] Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Spirituality Series, National Centre for Padre Pio, Barto, PA. p. 74.

[5] “The Rosary”Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.

[8] C. Bernard Ruffin, Padre Pio: The True Story, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN. p. 367.

[11]; See also Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), 42: AAS 66 (1974), 153.

[12] Authentic freedom will be a topic for a future article

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] William Thomas Walsh, Our Lady of Fátima (Image, 1954), p. 225.

ABC’s of Being a Catholic

So this is not a typical blog entry…and parts are totally plagiarized from I don’t even remember who. (Best Guess is Scott Hahn and Mother Angelica) All I know is that I’m not even close to this brilliant.  I don’t even know why this is coming out now, but I just felt compelled to write this entry and post it…so I hope it helps someone out there.  (Truth be told, I’m reading about Padre Pio…maybe that has something to do with it!)

Ok, so how many of you reading this are either pursuing a college degree or already have one?  Maybe some of you have, or are working towards, a B.S., B.A., M.A., M.S., or Ph.D.  Maybe others of you are an M.D. or a D.O. and are even called “Dr.”  Still others may have a J.D., like me, and can put “Esq.” after your name (for the record, I despise this suffix).   Dare I say some may even have M. Div. or S.T.D after their names.  All of these degrees are wonderful pursuits and are very good.  But, in the end, it seems like just a jumble of letters to me.  I might as well have no letters or even supercalifragilisticexpialidocious after my name.

In the end, when the dust of battle settles, and time gives way to eternity, the only two letters that are going to matter won’t come after your name…thats for sure…and they certainly aren’t listed above.  The only two that will matter might come before your name…and are “S” and “T”

So why don’t we put as much effort into obtaining those letters as we are/did to obtain all of the other ones above?!?!

God Bless

Strip for Jesus!!!

 Oooohhh… he said strip! Scandalous!  Well not really.  The more accurate title for this entry is probably “Strip for Jesus…and Then Run Naked.”  Now maybe that would be a more scandalous title.  In any case, the inspiration for this post is Hebrews 12:1.   (Ok, yes, please pause at this point and look up this verse.  Actually, I will hyperlink a footnote to save you the effort).[1]

In this verse, Paul is speaking to the Hebrews about running a race with endurance/perseverance and stripping off anything that might slow us down…hence the nice little catchy title.

But what race are we running and why do we have to strip?  (Yeah, I know, it may not be the best mental image).  And what is Paul talking about when he says endurance?  And, for that matter, just what does it mean to win this race?

Well, lets talk about the race itself first.

As you probably know, this race is not a race to see who can get the best time or who is the fastest runner.  This race is run towards the finish line of eternal life, and most importantly, towards Jesus.  It seems simple enough, but I guess it had to be said…just so we are all on the same page.

So now you may be thinking, if I am in this race, just whom am I running against?  Mother Teresa looks like she’d probably be pretty slow…or what about the really old priest (everybody seems to know one)…or that little old lady that is always at daily mass and walks really slow down the aisle??? I bet they are turtle slow!  Hah…wrong!!! Actually, these people are the Olympic athletes.  But thank goodness we aren’t competing against them!   I think I would have been lapped by Mother Teresa years ago!  It’d be like me riding a Big-Wheel on a NASCAR track…yeah it’d be ugly.  But I digress.

Anyways, the competitors in this race are not other Christians…thank goodness. Even the fallen away Christians aren’t the competitors…but they might be hurdles in the middle of the track.  No, the race is being run against Satan, the world, the flesh, fear…you name it.  To put it more Biblically, the competitors are principalities, powers, rulers of this present darkness, and evil spirits in the heavens.[2]  To say it still another way, the only competitors are the things that slow us down or keep us from running altogether.  In fact, Satan and his minions aren’t even competitors, because they aren’t running anywhere, and certainly not towards Jesus.  They are simply hecklers lobbing fireballs at the runners! Sometimes I think of them like the two old critics on the Muppets…sigh…if they weren’t so nasty, that might be funny. But anyways, even though Satan is powerful, I’d rather play “Frogger” against his fireballs with Jesus on my side than try to outrun a saint.  One race I can win, the other I’m getting lapped.

But no matter what (notice I didn’t say “who”) we are running against or around, or jumping over, we have to remember that the goal is not the race itself, to finish ahead of your neighbor, or to finish with the fastest time.  The goal is the prize at the end of the race…and that prize isn’t a thing or a trophy.  That prize is a somebody…and his name is Jesus Christ.

Remember when He said I am the way, the truth, and the life?[3]  Maybe if He was speaking about this verse he could have also added…”and the goal.”  We must always look towards our Blessed Lord at the finish line.  If we focus on those in front of us (cough… cough…like the Pope) we are going to get discouraged for sure.  If we look back, we risk becoming prideful and, in so doing, getting passed up or even going backwards.  The Pharisee that looks back is going to get run over for sure.

But anyways, getting back to that one word in the title that made you want to read this post…Stripping!

Before we get to Paul’s specific words, let’s make a quick comparison to what Peter said in 1 Peter 2:1[4] when he talked about a similar idea.  In this verse, Peter uses the Greek word “apastaysti” which means stripping off old clothes and basically throwing them in all directions.  Now, in Hebrews, Paul uses a similar concept and uses the work “orakon” which, more accurately, refers to stripping off of weight or bulk.  But what does this all mean?

Well, as everybody knows, you cannot run a race with a ball and chain wrapped around your ankle.  Try playing Frogger tied to a post.  What happens?  You get run over by a truck.  In this case, a dude with horns would be driving the truck.

For that matter, how many times have you seen an Olympic athlete run a race in a parka, or with a weight belt, or even in boots or a sweatshirt?  Never…why…because it doesn’t happen. All elite runners try to shed every piece of clothing and hindrance they can to make themselves lighter and less bogged down.

In this verse, Paul is telling us to do that same thing!  Shed all of the bulk that you can.  Loosen up and get rid of anything that is slowing you down – get rid of the junk! Don’t be a hoarder of things of this world!  To be specific, Paul is telling us to strip off everything (such as sin) that cling to us.

Maybe think of it this way – Sin and worldly desires cling to us like tar clings to a smokers lungs.[5]  You cannot run a human race very well if you have tar in your lungs.  Just the same, you cannot run a spiritual race very well if the world is clinging to your legs, to your mind, or to your heart.  The less sin we have attached to us, the smoother our strides will be!

So lets be really simple and clear. Just like elite athletes, we must be willing to sacrifice what we want to do in life, be willing to train hard, be willing to practice, and be willing to expend every last ounce of our energy[6] to cross the finish line.

Ok, Ok – are we really naked in this race?  Well…no!  Whew! As Paul also says in Ephesians 6:13-17, you must put on the armor of God…stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate…your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace…hold[ing] faith as a shield, and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.[7] So I guess we are clothed after all.  But we are clothed in light and Truth, and not in some make believe fashion of the world.  Sorry for the false advertising in the title….but I got you to read this…and I’m almost done!

So even though we run in light and Truth, that doesn’t excuse us from running with endurance. For that reason, we cannot spiritually sprint out of the blocks, only to fall like a heap in the middle of the track.  That would not do anyone any good.  Instead, we have to run at a pace that allows us to finish. Sometimes, runners run too fast and get burned out.  Others run so fast that they miss a turn and end up going in the wrong direction…even while they think they are still running towards Jesus.  But don’t get confused.  The instruction is still to run!

So, last but not least, what does it really mean to win the race?


Wow…that was easy.  But yet, it is also so difficult. To win the race means to inherit eternal life and to reach eternal truth itself (or more accurately, Himself).  But some people give up the race because they don’t see a logical finish line.  But who ever said the truth had to be logical?  The truth is love…and love isn’t logical.[8]

Soooo…now that you have read all of this… what type of scene are you imagining in your mind when you think of this race…especially in view of the title??? Well, I hope that you can see that Jesus is running with you.  He is also the one standing at the finish line with open arms waiting to hug anyone that makes it across the line.  You should picture yourself running with the lightest and yet the strongest armor that you can imagine…and crossing that finish line to eternal joy!

So, enough of my rambling on…here is one moral of this story…At the end of every day, if I examine my conscience and notice that the results of my daily race don’t bring me closer to Jesus, then I missed my turn and veered off in the wrong direction, no matter how fast I thought I was running.  Maybe I went too fast and accidently followed the wrong path…thinking that I was doing the right thing but instead going off course.  Maybe I went too slow and didn’t make any progress at all.  Maybe I actually went in reverse.

Nevertheless, and, God willing, when we do cross that finish line, we will hear those wonderful words – Well done, good and faithful servant.  Now enter into your Master’s joy![9]

God Bless!

[5] Attachment to sin and original sin will be the focus of a future post

[8] Alas, yet another topic for its own future post

Why Can’t You Consecrate a Pretzel?

Ok, so seriously…why is the host always a little circular tasteless wafer and not a pretzel, cookie, cinnamon bun, or even a scone???  You might think that the French would consecrate croissants.  Maybe Hispanics would consecrate a tortilla.  Maybe Americans would even try to consecrate a pancake…preferably chocolate chip. We could even make it have a smiley face!  Ok, so maybe not…but anyways, the answer is fairly easy, but most Catholics don’t quite realize it.

First of all, for a sacrament to actually be a sacrament (i.e., a sense perceptible sign that signifies and actually brings about grace in the soul) there have to be three things present: (1) an outward sign, (2) inward grace, and (3) divine institution.[1]  Consecrating a pretzel doesn’t have much to do with (2) or (3), so we will focus on (1) the outward sign.

The outward sign of the sacrament can also be described as the external rite that has two required components itself…(I) form and (II) matter.  The “form” of the sacrament refers to the words said by the bishop, priest, or deacon.  The words are considered to be the more important element of the two.[2] However, the matter is also important.  Talking about pretzels means that we are talking about matter and not form.  In other words, we are talking about the actual physical thing that is being used in the sacrament.  In this case, we are talking about bread.[3]

So where should we look first to figure out this question about “matter”?  Of course, we first look into the Scriptures, and we see bread all over the place.  In Genesis, a king-priest named Melchizedek offered…you guessed it…bread (and wine) to God. [4] (Maybe you remember hearing about this guy in Eucharistic Prayer I.) The church sees his offering as a foreshadowing of the Eucharistic banquet.[5]  In the later books, guess what the Israelites offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth in thanksgiving to God?  Bread (and wine) again.  (Don’t ask how bread can be a “fruit” – I have no idea!)  In the Book of Exodus, the unleavened bread of Passover is eaten to remember the Jewish liberation from Egypt.[6]  In the New Testament, does Jesus feed the crowd with muffins or cookies?  No, he multiplies the loaves…of bread, which is yet another foreshadowing the bread of the Eucharist.[7]

Then, and maybe most importantly, during the Last Super, we know for certain that Jesus used bread.  We have all read it and heard it – he “took bread.” In being faithful to his command, the early Church Fathers used bread and the Church continues to use bread.  Scripture does not say Jesus took a breadstick or a pretzel.  Similarly, Jesus didn’t take “dough.”  If bread was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us!  To make a long story short, Scripture and Tradition make it very clear that bread is absolutely necessary as the “matter” of the sacrament.  To top it off, the Magisterium of the Church has basically said, no bread, no sacrament!

Even though the Gospels do not specify the type of bread that Jesus used, we know from historians that, according to Jewish law, the Jews were not allowed to eat leavened bread on Passover.  So, we can make a pretty good guess that Jesus used unleavened bread (i.e., bread formed without yeast).  For this reason, at least in the Latin Rite, unleavened bread is required.  OK, I know what you are thinking – pretzels and pancakes aren’t formed with yeast either, so I still don’t understand what’s the big deal?

Thanks for asking!  The church has other requirements as well that are derived directly from history and sacred Tradition. For a valid consecration, the hosts must be: bread made of wheaten flour, mixed with water, baked in an oven, or between two heated iron molds, and not be corrupted.[8]  Why so strict?  Well, it still goes back to Scripture and Tradition.

But enough about history.  Lets talk about the bread itself since it’s only the matter that matters (for this discussion).  Since the first requirement is wheaten bread, the bread must be baked, otherwise it isn’t bread.  As I mentioned above, Jesus didn’t use dough.  Since the flour must be wheaten, not every type of flour will work.  Bisquick will not suffice. Although water is required, it has to be regular water…soda, Gatorade, chamomile tea, or Starbucks wont work.  Can you imagine trying to make a host with Coca Cola? (Actually people have tried to make hosts (and sometimes still do) with honey and syrup.  Others have actually used Oreo cookies and Coca Cola…no seriously they tried it!  No, SERIOUSLY…they did it! Suffice to say, you can’t have an Oreo Jesus and his blood isn’t Coke, so all of those attempts were invalid!)

Oh yeah, and the bread can’t be corrupted.  None of us wants moldy bread…and neither would Jesus.  In essence, these requirements exist so that we can use the same type of bread that Jesus used.  No pretzels, scones or pancakes for Jesus means none for us either!

So the next time you see the priest raise the bread up and say the words of consecration, try not to think about pretzels or cookies, even if you are hungry.  Try to think about the form and matter and remember the bread of Melchizedek, the bread of Passover, and the multiplying of the loaves.  Oh, and most importantly, try to remember that Jesus is still multiplying the bread, except its no longer bread that we are being fed with – Its Jesus himself!

God Bless!

[1] Catechismus concil. Trident., n. 4, ex St. Augustine, “De Catechizandis rudibus”

[3] In Baptism it’s the water, in confirmation it’s the oil, etc.

[4] 1333 Catechism of the Catholic Church; Gen. 14:18

[5] Id. at 1333

[6] 1334 Catechism of the Catholic Church; Deut. 8:3

[7] 1335 Catechism of the Catholic Church; Mat. 14: 13-21; 15: 32-39

[8] (Miss. Rom., De Defectibus, III, 1)