Fr. Jack takes on tourists in Times Square to ask people what new year’s resolutions are going to be this year, what feast the Catholic Church celebrates on January 1, and if anyone knows about the biggest resolution ever made in all of human history.
Keeping vigil has always been a spiritual practice in Catholicism. This is what we are essentially doing by attending any “Vigil” mass, we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Savior.
There is also a Biblical reference here that can be included. The Shepherds in Luke’s infancy narratives in his Gospel were keeping watch over their sheep on the nightly vigil. In a sense, we are the same shepherds today and we are entrusted to keep watch over one another.
My family really isn’t one for setting traditions in stone. For instance, most years for Thanksgiving, my family will all get together for a traditional turkey dinner, the deliciousness of which is only soured by the fact that I still apparently haven’t earned my spot at the adults’ table. But, there was one year where my family ate Thanksgiving dinner in a Del Taco in Anaheim, California. We were on our way to Disneyland, and our schedule had been thrown off by an unexpected extra two hours of traffic. That was a very testy Thanksgiving.
The same is true for our Christmas traditions — some years my dad will put lights on our house; other years he’ll refrain and then try to get me to put them up when I complain but I’m not falling for that. Sometimes, being San Diegans who are accustomed to temperatures that never go below 63°, we’ll drive out to the mountains where it snows and have a good laugh at how priceless my younger brother’s reaction is when getting pelted by a snowball with a nice rock nestled inside. My mom is actually the only one who is completely consistent with her Christmas tradition — every year, she’ll put out all 15 of her nutcrackers and arrange them in such a way so that they stare at me, ready to strike, while I’m watching TV. (Note: In a previous Alternative Advent post, I said that my mom had 12 nutcrackers. My saying there are 15 is not a discrepancy – she bought three more since that post. Well, either she’s buying them or they’re breeding.)…
“I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
Such were the words of John the Baptist (John 1:26-27), the prophet who dedicated his life to a different kind of Advent: preparing as many people as he possibly could for the coming of the Messiah. After centuries of waiting, anticipation and prophecy, John was telling anybody who would listen that the time was nigh — Jesus, the Messiah, was very much here.
Even without that message, though, John would have in all likelihood had no trouble convincing people he was a little bit insane.
I like to think that when Jesus went out to the desert to see who exactly God had sent to stir up the crowds for his arrival, he saw John and, at least at first, kind of looked up to the sky as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” For those unfamiliar with John the Baptist, a few points: he snacked on locusts and honey, was generally unkempt and probably didn’t have the most refined preaching method. Also he wore shirts made of hair, something which made contemporary Palestinian fashionistas sneer.
But while John the Baptist’s role as the one who’d prepare people for Jesus may seem like questionable PR, he got the job done, and he did so humbly: When Jesus finally entered the public eye, John left it, not looking to capitalize on Jesus’ renown for his own interests. After all, he had hair shirts to weave and locusts to chew.
The role of a prophet is almost entirely thankless — you’re usually spreading some sort of message that requires great faith to believe in, usually in an environment where great faith is hard to come by. Oftentimes, prophets had to be convinced that she or he was the right person for the job. That was usually because he or she flat-out didn’t want to do the job. And John the Baptist, who …
I can offer three that would be good to pray with:
1) St. Thomas Aquinas — the official patron of scholars and a doctor of the church. His great work, the Summa Theologica, might just be something you’re studying in fact.
2) Blessed John Newman is not yet a saint but is on the way to being one. He was very active in the intellectual life and set up centers for discussion so as to merge Catholics with intellectual conversation at universities as it was often misconstrued that to be Catholic is to be anti-intellectual. Campus Ministry Centers across the United States often bear his name. Read The Idea of a University sometime.
3) An obvious one is St. Ignatius of Loyola who founded the Jesuits whose charism is education. Many Jesuit universities exist in the United States and elsewhere including Georgetown, Boston College, Fordham, and Loyola Marymount.
If you’re really desperate, you just might want to try St. Jude. He is the patron saint of hopeless cases and has been known to dig a few people out of a jam.
If you were to read all four gospels thoroughly in search of Jesus’ teachings on homosexuality it would be a futile endeavor. Not only would you come to the end of the gospels without finding anything attributed to Jesus on the subject, you wouldn’t even find a single reference to the issue in any context…
It’s a little more than a week into Advent 2011 and I’ve managed to write two posts for this Alternative Advent blog. The first was about my decision to live this Advent a little more intentionally — to really focus on waiting for Jesus’ birth, instead of just looking forward to Christmas. The second was about Joseph’s model of waiting in joyful hope, and how much trust that requires. I figured the third post should update readers on how I’m doing with the whole living Advent intentionally thing. And by that, I mean my editor told me that’s what this post should be about.
I’ll be honest: I’m at a loss. I can say that I’m waiting intentionally all I want, but what does that mean? So far, all that’s done is make me think twice about being excited about putting up a Christmas tree. I’ve also put off listening to Christmas music and watching my favorite Christmas movie of all time, the Jim Carrey version “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” I haven’t gone ice skating or looking at Christmas lights — I haven’t even found the time to roast chestnuts over an open fire. (Although that’s mostly because my parents banned me from handling open fires in our household after a marshmallow experiment gone very, very awry.) Now that I think about it, I’m not feeling the Christmas spirit at all, and I still don’t know what the Advent spirit is supposed to feel like.
Cue all the quotes about how Christmas is more than the decorations (especially nutcrackers because those things are the worst), more than the cookies (even though the cookies are very important), more than the presents (which I am by no means opposed to). Every Christmas movie I’ve ever watched — even “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” — has a glimmer of the same message: Christmas is about the love, kinship and community. It’s about generosity, joy and acceptance. Of course, for the religiously inclined, it’s first and foremost about the arrival of the …
The Catholic theologian Gerald O’Collins, S.J., has called the writings of the prophet Isaiah “the fifth gospel.” By this he means that so many of the themes of the gospels, enfleshed in their portrayal of Jesus, have their scriptural beginnings in Isaiah. Isaiah’s connection to the story of Jesus seems particularly strong in the Advent and Christmas seasons. Even the prophet’s name — Isaiah means “Yahweh saves” — foretells the Christmas story.
The book of Isaiah is one of the longest books in the Old Testament and the writings within it were composed over a period of so many years that most scholars believe there were at least three “prophet Isaiahs.” That is, prophets who lived long after the original Isaiah attached themselves to his name and style because of his importance and effectiveness as a conveyer of God’s message. For that reason the portions of the book of Isaiah between chapters 40 and 55 are often called “Deutero” or second Isaiah, and the chapters from 56 to 66 are called “Trito” or third Isaiah.
During the time of Jesus, nearly 800 years after the prophet’s own life and death, the words of Isaiah continued to be read prominently in the synagogue. Jesus probably heard more about what Isaiah had to say than about any other prophet. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus begins his ministry by reading a passage from the prophet Isaiah and applying the message to his own ministry (Luke 4:16-21).
In the earlier chapters of Isaiah, the prophet gives us quite a bit of information about himself. His father’s name was Amos and he was a lifelong resident of the city of Jerusalem. His concerns are those of the city, the king, and the Temple. Isaiah was called to prophetic service in the year King Uzziah of Judah died, which would have been around 742 B.C. He appears to have been around 18 years old at the time. He was married to a woman who was herself a prophetess (there were many more men and women …
We live in a culture where Christmas commercials start on Oct. 29. Ours is not a culture that knows how to wait.
So when I read the email from my editor that told me that I’d be blogging about my effort to be intentional about living Advent this year, rather than just viewing it as a four-week-long obstacle to Christmas, I waited until the last minute to write my first post. I hope she thought that was as clever as I did – think of it as method writing.
Honestly, my decision to not write the first installment of this assignment immediately upon receiving that email was almost entirely intentional. (Were there also some procrastinatory tendencies at play? Maybe. You’ll never know.) I’m going to try and live this season, which doesn’t become the Christmas season until December 25. Right now, it’s November 28, and it’s Advent, and that means that I’m supposed to be preparing myself for the celebration of the anniversary of baby Jesus’ arrival into the world. And, after 21 Christmases and years of Catholic education, as well as a degree in theological studies under my belt, I realize that I still have no idea what that means…
Why, exactly, do Catholics have the practice of baptizing infants?
What is the purpose of baptism and who can celebrate the sacrament of Baptism?
Do the godparents of our child need to be married to each other?
These are questions and more are answered in this edition of “Sacraments 101,” a web video series geared for those who’d like an introduction or refresher course on these important, tangible Catholic experiences of God.
Baptism is the beginning of the sacramental life of the Church. So, let’s begin…
I’ve never celebrated Día de los Muertos. I’ve never heard La Lupe speak of celebrating it, either. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.
A lot of people wrongly think that Día de los Muertos is celebrated on Halloween but it is, in fact, celebrated on November 1 — All Saints Day — for babies and November 2 — All Souls Day — for everyone else that has passed away. People mark the day with huge parties/parades and faces painted to look like skeletons. They make elaborate paper maché skeletons or skeleton puppets and dance all through the night. Families set up ofrendas dedicated to deceased loved ones with pictures, flowers, skulls, and food. What is especially touching about the day is that many families go to gravesites of their loved ones and sometimes eat the person’s favorite meal over their grave as a way of breaking bread with them once again.
If your dog is a service dog and you or another member of your wedding party depend on it in order to participate in the liturgy, then you should be able to include the dog. You can even put a bow on its collar if Fido will tolerate it! But you can’t have a pet in your wedding for any other purpose. Liturgy, by definition, is the work of the people – it is the way that we come together to celebrate who we are and glimpse who we are called to become as the people of God. Even though pets are increasingly accepted in public places in the United States and some people think of their animals as members of their families, pets are not, in fact, people. Animals are a beautiful part of God’s creation, to be sure, but only humans are made in the image and likeness of God. Only humans have the privilege and the obligation to praise God by participating in the liturgy. Unless the dog’s role is to facilitate the participation of a person, it does not belong in church, no matter how special it is to you.
I am a perfectionist and a micromanager and am easily overwhelmed. There really is no combination that would result in a more tightly wound person. So it’s safe to say that sometimes I can get really hung up on a problem, and I can take life a little too seriously.
This is usually when something happens that is so random that it just has to be a sign for me to lighten up.
A professor once told us about a time that he was in New York City and was running late to catch a flight. A cab finally pulled over and they proceeded to La Guardia. This professor is a friendly guy. It was going to be a long drive so he tried to strike up conversation about the yoga book that was in the passenger seat, but the cab driver barely spoke English. He saw some tattoos on the man’s hands that he knew to be native to a region of Sudan that he was familiar with. Then he told us, “Only in New York can a fat-faced Irish man talk to a man from Sudan in a cab about yoga in Italian.” Seriously, an Irish man and Sudanese man had a conversation in broken Italian about yoga. Talk about random.
I find that I have moments just like this exactly when I need to have them. Really random moments that are akin to someone taking me by the shoulders and shaking me saying, “Snap out of it.”
One time a friend and I were working away with, seemingly, the weight of the world on our shoulders. The two of us were really stressed and teetering on the brink of a meltdown. All of a sudden, we heard a buzzing sound followed by the smell of smoke. We both jumped up and ran outside our house to figure out what was going on. In the furthest reaches of my imagination, I would have never guessed that the buzzing was the sound of a hair clipper, and the smoke was from a joint. …
This week was one of those weeks when I was so exhausted I didn’t have the energy to filter. Truth – in the sense that it was exactly what I was thinking — was just coming out because I didn’t have the brain cells necessary to stop it. Out of that came one of the most correct observations I think I’ve ever made — deciding to be a teacher is like deciding to be a priest. You avoid it for as long as possible because it’s just so darn hard but, eventually, you have to give in because it’s all that really makes sense.
Deciding to be a teacher, and a good one at that, is a decision that is just as unnerving and avoided as is the call to the priesthood. For all the vocation stories I have heard, most include a period of ignoring God and avoiding this very clear internal compass pointing them toward Holy Orders. They could hear the footsteps of God steadily following every decision they made trying to get away from this vocation until they had to give in to such a persistent pursuant.
This is exactly how I have felt about the vocation to be a teacher. Since I was little I knew I had many qualities that would make a good teacher: patience, good listening skills, compassion, an intense desire to help others, a strange love for rules and procedures, and especially a love for organization. And yet, if you ever asked me what I wanted to be, I never said, “Teacher.” I wanted to be everything under the sun except a teacher. I even wanted to be Kenny G for a while, but never a teacher. What an unglamorous job. No, not a teacher. Never a teacher.
Then I started high school and it became even more clear that I had a natural affinity for teaching. Most of my community service was tutoring, mentoring, teaching CCD classes, leading Vacation Bible School. All teaching positions. But I still turned my back on the idea …
My last La Lupe blog post generated some comments about what people believe leads to so many abortions. You know why I think there are so many abortions? Society no longer associates sex with babies.
If we really stop and think about the most natural things about our bodies, sex creating babies is right up there with being hungry and eating. Sex resulting in pregnancy is the natural order. When we’re hungry we eat. When we are tired, we sleep. When we have sex, we sometimes get pregnant.
But we don’t hear this message anywhere in society. Everything in society tells us that sex is for pleasure. Sex is for fun. Sex is for getting closer to another person. Sex is no big thing. Sex has nothing to do with babies. And this attitude is not just among non-married couples but married couples as well.
When we separate sex from babies then I can see how it might not take a huge leap for some people to believe it is ok to have an abortion. If sex is not “supposed” to end in pregnancy then having an abortion is just getting rid of something that was never supposed to happen in the first place.
A while back I read this article in America magazine that so clearly articulates why it is imperative to change the way society talks about sex. The author writes about her journey from being a pro-choice atheist to a pro-life Catholic. Along this journey, she found that her language changed a lot.
Here are some snippets of her writing that really resonated with me:
“In high school sex education class, we learned not that sex creates babies, but that unprotected sex creates babies.”
This is so true. The term unprotected sex is thrown around all the time. In fact, when a teenage girl gets pregnant, society does not question her decision to have sex but calls her irresponsible for having “unprotected” sex. The term unprotected sex is very misleading. Any sex outside of marriage is “unprotected” whether using birth control or not. The …
Lisbon, as a city, is the perfect metaphor for the plight of the modern young Catholic. There is every opportunity for devotion, reflection and prayer throughout Portugal’s capital, yet there is something else worldly and tempting to be found here, calling out and distracting, swaying one away from those other things.
The town is steeped with a rich, beautiful and old Catholic tradition. There are statues of saints scattered throughout its winding streets and churches just around every corner, available for viewing, attending, and prayer. However, most of these are in some state of decay, seem a bit lifeless, and (if my experience stumbling into St. Paul’s across the street for Mass on Sunday morning is any indication) pretty much vacant of young people.
In stark contrast is the Lisbon nightlife which is vigorous, tangible and exciting. My hostel lies at the bottom of a big hill — in fact, most of Lisbon is hill after hill after hill. There are massive highs and lows in Lisbon; sometimes one feels on top of the world, other times like you can’t help that it’s rolling all over you. During the day I walk east where an enormous city of endless old Lisbon site-seeing, and a lot of those churches, await me. But at night, I am told to ascend the hill north, in order to take in the clubs, bars and restaurants that new Lisbon has to offer.
It’s fascinating, this climb. The first time I walked it was daytime, and I witnessed a long, steep sloping street of broken glass and bottles, all the trash of the previous evening’s revelries. Two work men were dutifully sweeping away this evidence, save for a few sharp shards here and there. Most of the establishments I passed I found closed.
Later that night I climbed again; this ascent offering less broken glass and more open doors. The bars, clubs and restaurants were all open, awaiting and filling up fast — much more so than poor St. Paul’s on Sunday morning. And why not? The sounds …
The other day I read one of the most horrific, truly mind-boggling statistics I’ve ever read. But I will get to that in a second. First I want to establish a few points. I am pro-life. Obviously. Hopefully that is clear from my writing. But sometimes I am so embarrassed by the 1% of pro-life people that believe they are furthering the cause when really they are just giving others ammunition against us.
A few months ago I read this post on pro-life euphemisms. The author very articulately scolds pro-life advocates that put their energy into not-so-important hair-splitting instead of something useful. She talks about people who correct mothers that use the phrase “welcome into the world” at their child’s moment of birth. They argue that we “welcome the baby into the world” at conception and “meet for the first time face-to-face” at birth. I read that and said, “Ok, I get your point. Technically this is correct. Nit-picky, but ok, I get it.”
Then a few weeks ago I read this from a pro-life advocate, “A baby should be named as soon as the mother knows she is pregnant, giving that baby a girl and boy name. Deciding to name the child until after they are born only reinforces the thought process that they are not a person until birth. From the moment of conception, they are a child of God, and individual deserving of love and care, by name.”
Ok, now it’s time for that horrible statistic: In New York City, 41% of pregnancies ended in abortion in 2009. Among the black community, the rate of abortions was 60%. Sixty percent. Really, I cannot wrap my head around this.
When pro-choice people rip on pro-life people, their main arguments are that pro-life people are out-of-touch with reality and do not understand the burden that comes with an unplanned pregnancy.
When some pro-life people tell me that my Facebook status of, “We welcomed Maria Catalina into the world Feb 10,” actually degrades our sweet baby’s humanity or when they tell me that we …
As I sit in the Madrid airport and wait for my flight to America, I can’t help but to reflect on this week. It feels like a dream that I have yet to wake up from. I experienced things I never would have imagined and accomplished numerous feats that pushed me way out of my comfort zone.
There are a few young pilgrims waiting to board in front of me, which instantly reminds me of the New Jersey Carmelite United group I met my first day here. From their trek on the Camino with Joe to experiencing every aspect World Youth Day had to offer, though I only met them for a short while, they inspired me more than they know. Many were headed off to college and reminded me of my life back then. At that time, I know I was not as brave as they are to travel to another country and explore their faith.
In high school I was fearful of the future. Where will I go to college? What will I do when I grow up? Who am I going to marry? I wish the uncertainty and questioning ended there, but I don’t think it ever stops, which is a good thing. You should never settle for comfortable. That’s something I experienced fully at World Youth Day.
You may not sense it in the videos, but I was incredibly camera shy at the start of the trip. As a kid I aspired to be Katie Couric, but this week I learned that being the face in front of the camera is not easy.
This town is absolutely beautiful, amazing and (as my new friend, Bill Angresano, says,) “outta control.”
Even as I write this post at a café near the big church, a raucous drumming interrupts the regular music and ambiance of the street, and a procession of “St. James” followed by various signs of death and witches passes by — (see video below.)
Today, the sixth and final day of our hike on the Camino, we finally reached our destination, the giant cathedral of St. James within the city of Santiago de Compostela — the scallop shells along the path leading us right to the very steps of the magnificent Cathedral de Santiago.
We had already had five long days preceding us, and this 20km day was no easier. Midway through it we were all exhausted. Midway through the next half, the realization we were almost there inspired and carried us the rest of the way until suddenly we were in front of one of the largest Catholic churches we had ever seen.
The site of the massive cathedral, its two towers, and ornate façade are enough on their own to wow anyone, but taking into account we had all just walked over 65 miles to get there, it was even more impressive.
At least myself, Mike and many of the other adults thought so. Some of the students didn’t seem to react one way or the other. Many were watching one of those human statue performers portraying Gandhi in stone white rather than take in the church —it actually was quite cool, planted right there in the middle of a walkway so it seemed like a real statue. It’s funny that so often we can’t appreciate things right in front of us when we are certain ages, in certain states of mind or moods or what have you. It gets worse though, I guess, if we begin dismissing the people in our lives as unimportant, rather than just some large cathedral …