Category Archives: Practical Theology

The Culture of Catholic Blogs, or A Word of Thanks

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Fr. Thomas Rosica, a long-time PR guru for the Church in North America, now an aide for the Church in Rome, spoke candidly about the culture of discord and division often found on Catholic Blogs.

I pray (and believe) that such a culture has never been present here.  Even more, I pray that I have never contributed to it through any post of mine, or any ignorant statement made therein.

Most of all, I want to thank all the writers here and all those who have read the entries here on CatholicHow (although we’ve been dormant for a few months!).  I have always found your posts and comments to come from a place of joy and curiosity, rather than from fear or judgment.

As we move forward and reinvigorate this forum of prayer, thought, and discussion I encourage everyone involved, writers and reader alike, not only to maintain this Spirit here but also to encourage it in other fora where perhaps it is sadly absent.

Thanks again to all.  You’re all great, and I’m honored to journey towards the Kingdom with folks like you.

Sortarican Out.

Vatican PR aide warns Catholic blogs create ‘cesspool of hatred’

A Look at the Francis Effect

Daily Mail – Pope Francis Kissing a Baby

I remember “working” at my grad student job at Boston College in the Roche Center for Catholic Education with both eyes locked in on the live feed focused on the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. I, along with much of the world, awaited the simple, yet dramatic, sign of white smoke that would signify a new era of Catholicism.

Though we get to experience something similar every four years in the United States, this type of event is different. Electing a Pope is not usually something that happens as often or as regularly as the election of the President of the United States. This particular papal election was even more significant in that it was preceded by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, an event about as unusual as a total solar eclipse occurring at the passing of halley’s comet (6 times in last 2,000 years to 5 papal resignations). It was, to say the least, a monumental moment in history. Continue reading A Look at the Francis Effect

On Chaos and Compassion

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By Claire McGrath

“There’s a BUG in here! A BIG BUG!!!” It’s been a pretty hectic day, and those are not the words I want to hear right now, being that I don’t exactly consider myself a fan of “big bugs.” Tonight was our community night at L’Arche Harbor House—an evening when anyone with any connection to or interest in Harbor House is invited to join the community in celebrating all that is L’Arche. After participating in a program at our community center, which involves plenty of singing, dancing, prayer, and reflection, all are invited to one of the homes for dinner. Our house had hosted about 20 people. It’s a joy to be able to share the gift of L’Arche—but it’s also a lot of preparation, and by the end of the day, I’m pretty tired. Our guests have returned home, and the core members are getting ready for bed; the day is finally winding down, or so I thought, until I hear one of the core members shouting about the alleged “big bug” from the bathroom. “What is this bug DOING in here?!” I move closer to the door, trying to pretending that I am not at all phased by the idea of a large bug in the bathroom. Then the door to the bathroom cracks open, and a hand thrusts out as a voice exclaims, “HERE. A big bug!!!” In his hand, he holds a palm-sized stuffed ladybug that belongs to one of the other core members, and I dissolve into relieved laughter as I take the stuffed animal. That’s enough excitement for one day.

Continue reading On Chaos and Compassion

Pope Francis on the Family… and Beyond

By Matt Keppel

Two weekends ago, I had the immense blessing to be in Philadelphia to witness the beautiful representative of the Catholic Church that is Pope Francis. The conference that he was attending, and closing, was on the family and the life of the family within the Church. Following the World Meeting of Families, he is going to follow up his historic visit to the United States with the Synod on the Family. So, it would seem that family is significant on Francis’s list. After listening to him multiple times this weekend, I can attest to what he believes about the life of the family: love.

Just as Francis has been clear about some issues regarding families, he has been interestingly vague on others. On nearly every street corner in Philadelphia the throngs of people were confronted by men, young and old, asking us (mostly men, really) to sign a petition intended for Pope Francis that he might make a definitive statement about marriage being between a man and a woman. And yet, at the World Meeting of Families what did he tell us about families? That they are called to love the members within them; children are valuable to us because they are our future; our grandparents are our familial memory; and the love of the family should be lived out to bring love and joy to our communities. Many of us standing there were shocked. Francis finished his Saturday evening address without addressing what so many people had hoped he would: same-sex unions. Continue reading Pope Francis on the Family… and Beyond

God of Wonders

I don’t know about you, but I love learning. It’s truly one of my favorite things in the world. In fact, one of the reasons I’m a

Milky Way Galaxy -www.karlremarks.com-

teacher is, as I told my friend, John, last week, because I’m in the business of blowing minds. More often than not, I spend my free time cruising the internet for interesting and mostly useless bits of knowledge. Every once-in-awhile, though, I come across something absolutely astounding, a new piece of knowledge about the universe around me that completely shatters the constructs I had previously believed to be true.

Most often, I find that I am blown away by discoveries in astronomy, physics, or engineering. Whether it’s because I’ve spent some time studying these fields, they’re pet interests of mine, that they are just plain awesome, or all of the above it does not really matter: there is something inherently interesting in learning something that was previously never known, or sometimes never even considered to be real. Those are the most amazing discoveries: instances that seem impossible, but clearly exist, sometimes occurring more often than we realized.

I recently came across an article on the website IFLS.com that was as Earth-shattering as it was theologically revolutionary. The article was about a particular region of the Dominican Republic where some boys do not have a penis or testes until they reach puberty. Yes, that is correct. Please re-read it if you have to. BECAUSE IT’S MIND BLOWING. Don’t we know all that there is to know about the human body? How can the human body still have such amazing mysteries left for us to discover? Regardless, I think it’s a good reminder. Something that we believed to be so concrete and well-researched still has mystery. So it is with God.

I would be the first to admit that I am not certain what to make of people who say that they are transgender or the like. In all honesty, I also believe in our call by Christ to be generous and loving to all people, especially those in greatest need (whatever that may be). However, I wish there were simple answers to these complex questions that face us today. The Bible says nothing about transgendered people; it doesn’t have a lot of answers when it comes to homosexuality (fornication isn’t what you think it means… it’s really ambiguous); and it says a whole lot about love, trust, and “be not afraid.”  I am a faith-filled person who relies on the certainties of science and research to help guide my faith in God. It seems like this crazy story about boys who were raised girls until they reached puberty and grew penises has something important to say about our world: it is a mystery.

One of the most important Truths of our Catholic faith is that God is the Divine Mystery. We often forget that. We like to put God and our faith in a little box, slap a label on it that says “Catholic” or “Christian” or “Bob” or “Debby” or “Pat.” Then, when something comes around that challenges what we believe to be true, we often shut it out instead of opening to the possibility that it is a part of the infinite mystery we call our God. Mystery doesn’t fit in a box. It cannot be tamed, nor should we want to tame it. That’s the beauty in our faith. We are not supposed to tame our God of Wonders, only to grow in relationship with the Father through the person of Jesus Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Overlooked Points Pope Francis is Trying to Make

By Brian Romer Niemiec

Like many of you, I have been following Pope Francis’ visit rather closely.  Undoubtedly, his presence has impacted each of us in different ways, and I am very excited about the words and actions to come in the days ahead. As I sit here in my office with an unusual lull in activity, I am struck by two ideas our Holy Father has articulated, but are getting very little play in the news.

The first idea comes from his address to the U.S. Congress. While highlighting Abraham Lincoln, he emphasized unity, and Lincoln’s great struggle to bring union, freedom, and peace to a divided and war ravaged nation. Francis named the delicate balance of rejecting fundamentalism that threatens these great virtues that Lincoln fought for, while not sacrificing those same liberties in an effort to defeat these threats.

Within that balance, our Pope names the danger of seeing the world in non-negotiable black and white.  I am particularly caught by this because I am often far too quick to judge, especially in a political or theological situation. If people don’t think like me, I reject their ideas as closed-minded nonsense.  This line of thinking is all too common in our society. 24-hour news channels that cater to particular political views, blogs and podcasts that target niche groups, and seemingly endless gridlock in Washington reiterates to us constantly that dialogue is overrated, and if you don’t agree with me I have no time for you.

Unfortunately, there is a great danger in seeing things in black and white. When we see things in black and white we claim the moral compass; we claim to know what is righteous and what is sin.  And when we get trapped in that line of thinking, there is no more room for anyone else in our lives, not even God.  We declare our independence from what we view as wrong only to discover that we can no longer discuss and dialogue with those around us. Nothing anyone has to say is worth listening to.

Here is where the Pope’s message strikes deepest. President Lincoln in his first and primary purpose fought the Civil War to preserve the union, to keep these United States from dividing into isolation. Lincoln chose openness and dialogue, and that is where Pope Francis is calling all of us today. For too long I have looked down on those I disagree with thinking they are not as nuanced or educated as I am. Yet God speaks in history, and if I fail to speak with and be open to my sisters and brothers, how can I hear God? How can I grow? And most importantly, how can I live in union as a member of the Church and as a citizen of this country, if I fail to dialogue and work in communion to realize the Kingdom of God and build a more perfect union?

The second chord that struck me came from the address to the U.S. Bishops at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. While watching the reflection, I was unsure what the Pope was going to say, but I was deeply moved by the compassionate urgency he had while addressing the mission of the church in the United States. He acknowledged the heavy workload, the damaging reality of the sexual abuse crisis, and the corrosiveness of secular culture. However, he made very clear that it was in this context that all of us who minister to God’s people are charged with finding some way to evangelize, to bring people into a relationship with Jesus Christ as his disciples.

In my new job I am struggling to engage young adults in their 20’s and 30’s.  I have a loose plan, and we are having our first event in a few weeks. However, like anything new, I am having doubts about how successful it will be in bringing young adults back to Christ. I went through all of this training and education and I don’t have a sure answer for how to lead people to discipleship.  What if no one shows up?

Continue reading Overlooked Points Pope Francis is Trying to Make

Pope Francis Addresses Congress

Pope Francis Addresses Congress

Today, we have been witnesses of a historic event. For the first time in history, a Pope has visited the United States Congress. In the joint congressional session, Pope Francis spoke on a plethora of topics that concern the Catholic Church. From poverty and immigration to capitalism and climate change, the Pontiff captivated his audience of politicians from the moment his presence was announced.

For those interested, and I would highly suggest to do so, NPR has a play-by-play of the speech. We also have the transcript of Pope Francis’s speech to read at your leisure.

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Bring Out Your Dead

By Matt Keppel

As the arrival of Pope Francis to his first trip to the United States via Cuba is upon us, I thought it might be good to re-visit the current policy of the United States toward Cubans, and the rest of the world for that matter.

The S.S. Batavia carried 2,584 immigrants to Ellis Island on June 8, 1903. This ship set a record for the greatest number of passengers to arrive at New York City at one time. – http://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/

All of us have seen the photo of the Syrian boy drowned, washed up on the shore. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching, an image that helped to solicit change in the way that the EU is dealing with refugees from war-torn Middle Eastern countries. The Pope, himself, has called for the Vatican to take in, and support families seeking asylum. All of this from a picture! What was the photo really, though? It was an image of our shame as people. It broke our hearts to see that helpless child devoid of life, emptied. And here we stood in the United States, wagging our collective fingers at Europe. How could they let those innocent people die? What could have possessed those people to turn away those in need?

How right we were to ask those questions, for they are the right ones. Why would anyone turn someone in need away? Why wouldn’t you help someone who has nowhere else to go? How dare they! And yet, how dare we.

As Pope Francis flies from Havana, Cuba to Washington, D.C., he will fly over many trying to cross around 150 miles of sea from Cuba to Florida in search of lives that are not governed by the Castros. That is nothing to say of the thousands trying to cross the deserts that divide Mexico from Texas, Arizona, and California; or the other many thousands using whatever they have to get into this place that advertises to provide for a better life. The thing is, those people coming here, truly believe it. They believe it that they sell themselves into indentured servitude. They allow themselves to be duped by coyotes. Many of them believe it and want a better life so badly, that they are willing to die for it.

I know that my ancestors didn’t have it quite so bad. Whether it was my Austrian and German relatives having foresight, that my Irish family spoke the language, or simply being Scottish and Welsh; these people had an advantage, however slim, of coming from Europe (even though some of them weren’t necessarily welcome). My ancestors took a risk coming to this country for a better life; those people crossing oceans and deserts take even bigger risks for the sake of hope; but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can make it easier, or at least more humane.

President Obama took steps to alleviate some of the pain of immigration by legalizing the immigration of millions of undocumented immigrants last November. And yet, more needs to be done. First, we start by taking a page from Francis: what would it cost to house or support a family in need? Second, this is a country build on the backs of immigrants, that has never really cared for immigrants: what will it take to change our own hearts and minds to help those seeking a better life? Continue reading Bring Out Your Dead

Church or Coffee Shop: Thoughts on Space and Self-Reflection

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By Javier Soegaard

Wow. Careers are the new religion I guess. (This text from a friend spurred the following reflection. Blame him if you disagree or if your time was wasted.)

I was sitting in a nifty coffee shop along the South Boston Waterfront, just steps from the chapel where I work. Between sending emails and reading the waning pages of GRRM’s A Dance with Dragons, I noticed a cozy group of peers about 12 feet away. They were seated on couches, drinking their fancy latte-things, but unlike most patrons, they were not hard at work on laptops, tablets, and/or smartphones.

Instead, their implements were construction paper and markers.

Continue reading Church or Coffee Shop: Thoughts on Space and Self-Reflection

Why My First Funeral as a Pastoral Associate Made Me Nervous

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By Brian Romer Niemiec

In the Newton Catholic Collaborative there are between 200 and 250 funerals per year. As a result, it is often the case that one of the pastoral associates will lead the wake service, be present at the Funeral Mass, and lead the service at the cemetery. I have been shadowing my colleagues over the last month, and this past week I was deemed ready and handed my first funeral assignment.

I arrived at the wake service a little nervous and worried about making small talk, and about what I was going to say during the reflection. After all, I’m an introvert. I hate small talk. I’m not good at it and I never will be. What am I supposed to say, “Sorry for your loss, but at least the Patriots won…?” I don’t even route for the Patriots!

But, before I knew it, I was through the door, meeting the family, and starting the prayer service.  As I worked my way through the beginning of the service, I realized that some of the family members had started crying. For some reason the raw human emotion of the moment took me by surprise, and then I started to get really nervous. I had been planning to talk about salvation, resurrection, and all the great cheery theology that we believe in as Catholics during my reflection, but that wasn’t what this family needed. They missed their sister/mother/grandmother.

Continue reading Why My First Funeral as a Pastoral Associate Made Me Nervous