Saturday, September 26, 2015

Holiness and Professional Sports... Not Impossible After All

My wife and I are currently promoters for the Couple to Couple League, which is a form of Natural Family Planning (NFP) using the Sympto-Thermal Method. NFP is a form of family planning that does not utilize chemicals or other artificial contraceptives, and is totally in line with Catholic Church teaching. All though it can be a bit of a struggle at times, I think my wife and I have both seen the fruits that NFP has brought to our lives as we try to grow in holiness according to God's will. Now this being the case (that is, being in line with Church teaching), not too many people follow NFP, and certainly doesn't have a high status among people in my generation... or my parents' for that matter. I will admit that with the whole "green" movement making waves here in the Western world, there are some secular people jumping on board. Still, it would appear we are a minority, This is why I was really surprised when I saw an interview with major league pitcher David Phelps of the Miami Marlins in Couple to Couple League's Family Foundations magazine.

Now I'm a baseball fan, so I'm thinking, "Really... a professional athlete giving an AWESOME witness for his faith... publicly, and on top of that, for a family planning tool that is completely counter-cultural? Why isn't this guy playing on my team?!"

The Happy Family- engraving, 1828
In the interview, Phelps states that NFP "[is] another opportunity for us to invite God into our personal lives. as a couple, our faith is one of the things that keeps us strong. The more opportunities we have to invite God into our lives- in the most intimate way possible, inviting God in on a regular basis- has definitely kept us strong." I've heard of other big-name, Catholic baseball players before like Mike Piazza and Mike Sweeny. But Phelps is different, as he's a fellow millennial (28 years old) like my wife and I; he makes such a strong profession of his Catholic faith in a way that I've never seen before. Here are a few more excerpts, emphases mine:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Putting on a New Hat: Catechist

Intercession of St. Charles Borromeo supported by the Virgin Mary (detail)- Rottmayr Fresco

Earlier this week, I officially began teaching catechism classes to my parish's sixth graders. I have to say, I felt a little frazzled as this was the first time I've ever had a class to myself, but the first day, albeit short, went well. At my former parish, I was able to sit in on a few classes as an aide, but my work schedule at the time didn't allow me to continue. Now though, it seems that everything has fallen into place, and if it's God's will that I be a catechist to our young people, so be it.

I've felt this pull to do so for a couple years now, as I've gone farther and farther on this journey of faith in Christ. I've felt more on fire than ever and I wish to proclaim the Good News to all who will listen; perhaps now I'm finally living up to the expectations I was given when I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. I think every practicing Catholic can see how disastrous religious education has been in recent decades. There are so many people who do not know their faith, and I've seen it first hand as almost no one from my class of around 25 students at my Catholic grade school are currently practicing Catholics, including some of my very good friends. It saddens me deeply, and I don't want the same thing to happen to our young people today.

These young people are in so much need of our prayers and support. And because that need is so great, I keep finding myself wondering if I'm really qualified... if I can do this. I can only hope and pray to God that I am, and that I can plant some seeds in these young people's hearts. I did notice one great thing on our first day. I reminded the children to genuflect before our Lord present in the tabernacle upon entering church. Some didn't know what a genuflection was, or why we do it. Hopefully, I made that apparent in my explanation, and it seemed to hold as the children surprised me by genuflecting one by one, instead of at the same time, as they exited the pews. And it wasn't the fake "I-don't-have-time-for-this" bow... it was reverent and meaningful. An acknowledgement that our Lord, whom they just received, was also still present in the tabernacle behind the altar. I can only hope that the Holy Spirit grants me the grace to teach these children our faith well.

St. Robert Bellarmine
So please, pray for me and the young people I am teaching this year, that we may both grow in holiness and grow to love Christ ever more deeply. I just recently found out that two of my favorite saints, St. Charles Borromeo and St. Robert Bellarmine (whose feast day was just celebrated on Sept. 17th), are the patron saints of catechists. In addition to my patron saints, I know to whom I will be asking for intercessory prayers this year.

St. Charles Borromeo and St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Every Person Is Created in God's Image

Keeping in line with the recent news from Spain regarding transsexual godparents that I posted about a few days ago, I was thinking about a conversation I had had with a transsexual on the com box of another prominent Catholic blog, Shameless Popery. The article itself is great, and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to understand more about transgenderism and how it relates to Catholic theology. Not to mention it will give you more background on our discussion. Through this, I got into a great, amicable discussion with a male who has had surgery to become, and live, as a woman.

As you'll see below, we both cite several studies and essays in our discussion. While we are both Christians, this person's Episcopalian faith leads one in a different theological direction as this person tries to rationalize transgenderism with Christianity. The main focus of our discussion stems from my question, (which I go into much greater detail as you will see) which can be summed up as:

"...why does the mental feeling of womanhood override what growth is happening, and is reflected, both outside the body and inside the body?"
Carl Heinrich Bloch- Christ and Child

As you'll see, the answer to this question has many mitigating factors, but once we reach the end of the dialogue, we will be able to see more clearly how the narrative in the media about "gender fluidity" is false and doesn't conform with God's plan for the human race. But let's keep in mind, it's good to have thoughtful dialogue with this, and it's good to know the position of those that disagree with us. That way, we can give intelligent, informed responses to their arguments. And we must always do so with gentleness and reverence, as St. Peter tells us.

My words will be in blue, and my opponent's in red:

First a disclosure…I am a male to female transsexual. I respect your beliefs but think a philosophical approach is unhelpful. It ignores the emerging science. Researchers are admittedly uncertain of the mechanism but are tending towards a biological cause of transgenderism. Some have studied brain structure and found that trans persons brains are more similar to those of the gender with which they identify than with those of their biological gender.

Others have focused on the human genome and found 53 genes that determine gender identity. They postulate that exposure to hormones in utero can cause a child to identify with a gender other than that of his birth. Bottom line is that no philosophical approach can change a genetically hard wired gender identity any more than such an approach could change the color of my eyes. So the only approach that has been found to bring some measure of comfort is to change my outward appearance. Some people accept me as a woman, others do not. All that is really important to me is that I do.

I agree that Genesis 1:26-27 has an important message. God created us male And female. Not male OR female.

He created us in His image and His image is a blend of both genders.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Grinning and Bearing It: 2,000+ Years Strong

In the past several months, partially at the direction of a couple priests, I've been praying the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours. It usually doesn't happen every day to my schedule, or I just plain forget... because I'll be the first to admit that sometimes when I get a free moment after the baby goes to sleep, I let a video game come first. Yes, even The Doctor has something to work on in managing time better. But anyway, today's Office of Readings particularly struck me. Usually when this happens, it's from a great sermon by a saint. This time, however, I was amazed by what psalm I read on this Friday afternoon.

William Holman Hunt-A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids 
Lately, I've become more and more aware of how Western culture can be very dismissive of the idea of God. I've seen this at work and among friends, and a few particular conversations in recent days have made me see things from these people's perspectives. "Those Christians are weird. They pray?" "All these rules that Catholics have, it's absolutely ridiculous. I'd never get involved in that." It's kind of the same thinking I have when I have to watch a safety video at work. "Do people really follow all these rules to the 'T'?" I think to myself. "Does this contractor really think I'm going to get anything from watching this video?" But then, the logical progression of these thoughts end in me thinking, "Wow... maybe this is how secular society views Christianity, and Catholicism in particular..."

Obviously, the main difference here is that these safety videos are provided only to serve as a trump card and a protection; if a construction worker gets injured after watching it, they can't pursue litigation because they watched the video and agreed in writing to follow its rules. It's a tool to cover the asses of the contractor in the wake of numerous businesses being sued for injuries big and small. How does this apply to today's reading from Psalm 69 in particular?

Although, mostly overall, the Church in the West is not suffering the persecution Christians are seeing in the Middle East, China, etc., Christians in the Western world are still undergoing a persecution as described in Psalm 69. It struck me that the speaker invoking God to deliver him from persecution, echoes the same thoughts that run through my head; the same thoughts that many Christians must be feeling right now in the face of so many laughing and insulting secularists:

More in number than the hairs of my head
    are those who hate me without cause;
many are those who would destroy me,
    my enemies who accuse me falsely...

It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
    that shame has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my kindred,
    an alien to my mother’s children.
It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;
    the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.
When I humbled my soul with fasting,
    they insulted me for doing so.
When I made sackcloth my clothing,
    I became a byword to them.
I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,
    and the drunkards make songs about me.
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
    At an acceptable time, O God,
    in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me
    from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
    and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me,
    or the deep swallow me up,
    or the Pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
    according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant,
    for I am in distress—make haste to answer me.
Draw near to me, redeem me,
    set me free because of my enemies.
You know the insults I receive,
    and my shame and dishonor;
    my foes are all known to you.
Insults have broken my heart,
    so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none;
    and for comforters, but I found none. (Psalm 69: 4, 7-20)

Jan Sanders van Hemessen- The Prodigal Son
So often have I felt like this speaker. I mean look at what he says here: "The drunkards make songs about me". Another translation has it as, "I become the butt of their songs", in other words, the butt of their jokes. We know how crazy some of our friends, acquaintances and co-workers get when they've drank too much. Hasn't being the punch line of a joke happened to us many times in our lives, all because we tried to follow Christ? And for Catholics in particular, how often have we been insulted for fasting and abstaining during Lent? It seems like I need to constantly explain why we offer these little sacrifices to God, and sometimes, I feel some despair just as the speaker here does. Why must this life be so difficult? You would think when we're being berated for our faith, someone will come up alongside and stand up for us... but no one shows us any pity, and just joins in on the onslaught of boos and jeers for having "unpopular" opinions in the current culture climate. It starts to feel like no one in the world has a love of God anymore.

But then, we continue reading the Psalm, and see that God hasn't abandoned us. We see that there are many other people that love God, and He has a plan for us:

But I am lowly and in pain;
    let your salvation, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
    you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

For the Lord hears the needy,
    and does not despise his own that are in bonds.
Let heaven and earth praise him,
    the seas and everything that moves in them.
For God will save Zion
    and rebuild the cities of Judah;
and his servants shall live there and possess it;
the children of his servants shall inherit it,
    and those who love his name shall live in it. (Psalm 69:29-36)

This is where I, like the speaker, get that hope once again that God DOES hear our cries of anguish. He knows that we're suffering because we love him, and here we are assured that our brethren (i.e., other faithful Catholics) will find a great reward to inherit. So just as we have to sometimes grin and bear these insults and "drunken songs" today, so did our brothers and sisters well over 2,000 years ago. I think we're in good company, don't you?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Transsexual Godfathers? What Does the Church Say?

Something that has been on the minds of many Westerners lately, especially in the past few months, has been the issue of transgenderism. We saw this really come to the forefront at the end of this past spring when former Olympian Bruce Jenner revealed he had decided to live the rest of his life of a woman. I can honestly say, it doesn't seem like a day goes by where there isn't something in the news regarding a transgender group or person in the secular media.

Most recently there was the story about a high school boy, who identifies as a transsexual, demanding to have access to the girls locker room during P.E. This was met by a protest of students walking out of the school, which was then met by a counter protest. There are many things I could say about this and other similar incidents. The one that always comes to mind first, is that whole narrative of "gender fluidity" we're beginning to hear... and is it ever deceptive. Once again, it's mankind turning its back on truth. And what is especially shocking in my eyes, is that parents, teachers, and even doctors want to inject our young adolescents with hormone blockers (as well as artificial hormones) to stop puberty and allow outward manifestations of the opposite sex to become apparent on these young people's bodies. The logic astounds me... probably because there's not much there in the first place, unfortunately.

Nonetheless, with these issues beginning to dominate discussion in the public forum, this has led many faithful Catholics to ask, "what does the Church think about all this?" Many have noted that the Church hasn't explicitly touched the subject, leading some to erroneously speculate that the Church is OK with some of the more extreme transgender procedures such as gender reassignment surgery... or as it has been called in all places and all times until recently, genital mutilation. But within the past year we now have two instances of the Church issuing an opinion on the subject. The first comes from Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Siwhich you will see quoted a bit later in this post, and then a reply from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to a bishop in Spain regarding a transsexual wishing to be a godparent at baptism.
Parents and Godparents at Baptism

Sunday, September 6, 2015

To "Judge Not" and Setting Good Examples for Our Families

So often today, we often hear from people (Christian and non-Christian alike) that Christ taught us not to judge others. We hear this rallying cry all over social media, in group gatherings, and even in our churches. However, there is a common thread to all this... the specific verse is taken completely out of context. Now we'll hear this notion of not judging others applied to many things; from why someone chooses to have an abortion, to immoral sexual relationships. However, the issue I want to focus on specifically is how it affects or youth and loved ones, especially in schools.

It has become increasingly obvious that we are going to see many more stories like THIS affecting our Catholic schools in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges this past summer. We also saw people making claims to "judge not" when Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco wanted to hold teachers up to the standards that the Church demands of them in relation to their personal conduct, as they are to be witnesses to the faith for the young people they teach.

The situation in the story I provided in the first link has already happened several times here in the United States; a Catholic woman or man reveals that they have married their same-sex partner. They are then fired for not upholding the Catholic values they espouse to teach, and a backlash ensues from all sides. It comes from the secular media, as well as Catholics who seem to be confused on what the faith teaches. 

The Doctors of the Church- Filippo Lippi
As far as I know, the Church has always taught that sexual relations outside of marriage are objectively, and gravely sinful. Ms. Winters, the woman in question, was a religious education teacher, making it apparent she is a Catholic Christian. The Magisterium of the Church also tells us that people of the same sex cannot be married; there is no way a marriage can be contracted between a woman and a woman or a man and a man. So when this woman became married in the eyes of the state, she at the same time went against Catholic teaching, engaging in sexual activity outside marriage. Well meaning Catholics and other Christians ask what she did wrong... according to the Church and the Catholic faith that she professes, she has committed an act of grave sin. That is, sexual activity outside of the confines of marriage. If one claims it's possible their relationship is celibate, Ms. Winters and her partner are still guilty of the sin of scandal, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church (given to us by our Holy Mother Church, through the successors of the Apostles) states does the following:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Facts and Brief Dialogue on the Planned Parenthood Scandal

Recently in the news, we have seen the Center for Medical Progress blow the lid off of the illegal activities going on at Planned Parenthood and how they are profiting off of abortion through the sales of fetal body parts, and in some cases, entire bodies. This hasn't been covered to widely on a national level since the initial video was posted back in July, as it seems to be getting buried under the rug by many liberal and pro-abortion media outlets. However, the ninth video as just been posted this past Tuesday, with more to follow. You can watch the most recent video HERE, and view the full length, unedited interviews here.

Abortion Protesters
Now if you recall, also during the same time all this controversy started, there was another story that made national headlines: Cecil the Lion. Believe it or not, there was more national outrage over the killing of this lion, instead of the illegal activities happening inside a Planned Parenthood clinic involving human beings. Below is a discussion on Facebook that started on a friend's wall; his words will be in blue. He wanted to show how our priorities might be a little backward when a lion gets more coverage than the sale of human body parts. Another person, whose words will be in red, responded defending Planned Parenthood. I and another person (that person's words will be in green, mine in regular black font) gave a rebuttal. Once one sees the research that I presented this person, it's hard to understand how there is still confusion and disinformation being spread on this issue. We'll start from about where I enter the conversation. The only edits below are to each participant's names:


So if you're reading this... I'm not entirely sure how you got here, but welcome! My name is Nicholas, and you're probably wondering why this blog is here. In a sense, I am too. The best reason I can muster for why I decided to start this blog in this tiny corner of the Internet, is so that I can have the choice to write down whatever it is I have flowing through my head. Kind of like a journal, but one where I don't mind other people reading what I have to say, that is if any.

You see, I love writing and reading; I always have. It's a passion that has never went away despite all the changes, impediments, and what-have-you that have sprung up in my life over the years. Another passion I have, is to my Lord and God Jesus Christ, and to His Bride, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that He founded nearly 2,000 years ago. Over the past six or seven years, I have gone through not what I would call a reversion by any means, but a... reclaiming of sorts; a reclaiming of my faith and wanting to understand it ever more deeply.

Carlo Maratta- Assumption and Doctors of the Church
I've found myself in recent years learning why the Catholic Church teaches what it does; why we Christians hold on to our beliefs; why our history is important even today. I've gobbled up all sorts of books, news postings, and treatises on apologetics in an effort to better understand my faith, how it connects to the Mystical Body of Christ and how it connects to our world today; a world that seems increasingly more and more difficult to live in as a practicing Catholic Christian. This is why I say this is a blog both on "daily life and theology".

As I mentioned before, a lot of things flow through my head throughout the day. Things I see on Facebook or other social media outlets; things I hear in discussion at work or among friends, and typically, one of my first thoughts is, "How does what we're discussing/reading fit in with my faith?" This has led me in recent months to engage many more people one on one, or on social media sites, in discussion of controversial issues where the Church and current culture seem (and often, but not always) are opposed. I've been told by someone close to me that I often try to clarify things for people, and make things that seem complex or misunderstood easier to understand. I had never considered that, or thought of myself like that, until that was said. Which leads me to the more specific and less witty reason for why this blog is here.

It is my hope that as a 20-something man who wears many hats, (husband, father, construction tradesman, religious education catechist, liberal arts college graduate, et al.) I can have a somewhat unique perspective on current events in our world, and how it all relates back to Christ and His Church. I hope to post musings and short essays (don't get scared by the word "essays", this is a blog after all!) on what I see going on in our world and how it affects today's parents, those who are considered millennials, young Catholics and other non-Catholic Christians, and just the world in general. In addition, I hope to post some Catholic apologetic work here as my knowledge keeps increasing, but keep in mind I still have MUCH to learn, as all good Christians do. I also hope to post some of the conversations I've had on Facebook or other com-boxes relating to both current events, the Church, and apologetics.

As I have much to learn, and I hope you don't mind me admitting that as I post my musings here, this is why I've selected the title for this blog to be called "The Not-So Angelic Doctor". I am, obviously, neither angelic, nor a doctor. As some may know, the "Angelic Doctor" is the title often given to St. Thomas Aquinas, for his eloquent philosophy on God, the Church, and man. I've always found him to be an excellent example, and in recent years I've come to really appreciate his philosophy grounded in such classical thinkers as Aristotle and Plato, leading me to think of myself as a "budding Thomist" as I delve more and more into his immense body of work. I just want to know EVERYTHING, and right now, but as is attributed to Aquinas:

"We can't have full knowledge all at once. We must start by believing; then afterwards we may be led on to master the evidence for ourselves."

Filippino Lippi- Scene From the Life of St. Thomas Aquinas (detail)

I admit I don't have all the "knowledge" yet, but there are some subjects that I feel I have become articulate in, and it is my hope that I can show some of that evidence that I have found for my beliefs, to you the reader, so as to clarify these things in a world that seems to have lost its direction in the wake of secular humanism and moral relativism. This is why I put this blog under the patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas, in hopes that even though I am not NEARLY as well-versed, wise, or "angelic" as he, I can at least do something here to help even one person on their road through life and on their road to Christ. God-willing, of course. Enjoy your stay, and feel free to comment on any and all posts.

In Christ,