Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tonight's Radio Show - Interview with Author Joseph Pearce

"Joseph Pearce has written acclaimed biographies of Hilaire Belloc, Oscar Wilde, Roy Campbell, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, among many other works. He is currently editor of the Saint Austin Review and Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University."

We'll be discussing his new book Small Is Still Beautiful

For a wonderful resource on Joseph, his life and his works, visit this Ignatius Insight link. Additional information about Joseph Pearce is available through Mars Hill Audio.

Ignatius Press books by Joseph Pearce:

Flowers of Heaven: One Thousand Years of Christian Verse (editor)
Literary Giants, Literary Catholics
Tolkien: Man and Myth
Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc
Literary Converts
Tolkien: A Celebration
C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church
Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton
The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde

Friday, October 26, 2007

A New Podcast Episode is Up!

I've uploaded last week's interview with Christopher West, which was a powerful conversation on the Theology of the Body, human love, and insights into his new book The Love That Satisfies: Reflections on Eros and Agape. So feel free to tune in to my podcast site and listen via the computer, or subscribe through iTunes to download to your iPod! Woohoo!

A beautiful excerpt from the Pope's encyclical:
"Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body... The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness. Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility. True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing."
- Pope Benedict XVI, in Deus Caritas Est, n.2

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lost in Love: The Trinity and the Human Person

Eternal Trinity... mystery deep as the sea, You could give me no greater gift than the gift of Yourself. For You are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being... - Saint Catherine of Siena I always get a little annoyed when a priest or deacon gets skittish about preaching on the Trinity, and jokes about how confusing the Trinity is, saying things like "When I'm through preaching on the Trinity, you'll probably be more confused than you are now!" And everyone sort of chuckles in that soft church laugh/chuckle kind of way. Then we buck up for a homily that anesthetizes more than it obfuscates (oh man would my old English teacher be proud of me for that line!) But is the Trinity some sort of Divine Puzzle? Did God reveal Himself to us as some sort of enigmatic algebraic equation that only Einsteins could figure out? Or is it perhaps that our approach, our trying to "grasp" this 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 formula is all wrong? HUSH IN THE PRESENCE OF THIS MYSTERY The Trinity is not a puzzle, but Persons. Not a problem to be solved but a Mystery of Love in Whom by grace we can swim! "Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who helps us to understand the words of Jesus and guides us into all the truth, believers can know, so to speak, the intimacy of God himself, discovering that he is not infinite solitude, but communion of light and love, life given and received in an eternal dialogue between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit - lover, beloved and love, to recall St. Augustine." - Pope Benedict XVI (Angelus, June 11, 2006, www.Zenit.org) God peeled back the blue sky and sent the Spirit to hover over His Son in the waters of the Jordan and spoke from up above to welcome us into this Great Mystery of Who God Is. And the image of Three Persons as One Communion of Love is not far from us, or foreign to our minds. It's stamped right in our bodies, in the love of husband and wife, and in the fruit that proceeds from the man and wife in the beauty and overflowing love of New Life! Allow me to quote at length from the MAN: "For him who has faith, the whole universe speaks of God one and triune. From interstellar space to microscopic particles, all that exists refers to a being who communicates himself in the multiplicity and variety of the elements, as in an immense symphony. All beings are ordered according to a harmonic dynamism, which we can call, analogically, "love." But only in the human person, free and rational, this dynamism becomes spiritual, a responsible love, as response to God and to one's neighbor in a sincere gift of self. In this love the human being finds his truth and happiness." YES!! "Among the different analogies of the ineffable mystery of God one and triune, which believers have the capacity to perceive, I would like to mention the family. It is called to be a community of love and life, in which differences must come together to become a "parable of communion."' - Pope Benedict Great food for thought in these days of sexual confusion, marital conflict, divorce and fracture. Let's remember who we are, and that we are made for Communion. A Communion with the very Triune, Familial Heart of the Living God, Who is Love. In giving ourselves, body and soul, in our own masculinity and femininity to this Mystery, we will truly find ourselves!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dumbledore is Gay - A Catholic Response

Well, this is interesting news.

According to a CNN article posted today, the world famous British author J.K. Rowling, while wrapping up a brief "Open Book Tour" of the U.S., was asked by a young fan whether Dumbledore, the old wizard mentor of Harry Potter, finds "true love."

"Dumbledore is gay," the author responded.

Gasps and claps erupted in the audience. Huh?
OK... is that a yes or a no?

Amidst the shock and applause that fanned out over the fans at that sitting, I wonder if anyone saw the irony here. The hollow space of the unanswered question. Now with the ripples and the waves on the water caused by this comment, will we ever get to see the answer reflected?

Rowling was said to have regarded her Harry Potter series as a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and urged her fans to "question authority."

Oh boy...

But I'd like the answer to the question about finding "true love."

Dumbledore is gay? What does this mean? How will this effect the young readers across the planet who have looked on Dumbledore as a kind of grandpa, a type of Ben Kenobi guiding Luke in his decisions for a new generation? Will this give them light and clarity about their own life's direction (because good stories should do that; lead us to the light and not to fog.)

What is homosexuality? Let's reflect....

The Potter series, already a wee bit muddy with its dabbling in magic (although I feel the series ended on a very clear note with the triumph of good), has added another big question mark into its pages. Our sexual identity. I thought it was a story of good and evil, of courage and bravery in the face of tyranny and deceit? I guess there's more to this book than its cover?

PONDER THIS...

Our culture is in the midst of a sexual crisis. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? Are there distinctions, differences? Are they merely biological? Can they be manipulated, conditioned? Can we decide to alter, recreate, refashion our bodies the way we want to? Is our sexual identity as male and female just like parts that can be replaced or rearranged?

Or is there something more than just biology about our bodies? Is there a theology? Something cosmic, something spiritual, something distinct in our creation as male AND female? Is there something complimentary in the very universe that echoes a Masculine and Feminine? It seems that every culture and every religion since the beginning has seen in earth and sky, seed and sower, flower and bee, a great truth manifested for us.

What is that truth? That the very difference between man and woman is literally what unites us together. Our sexual difference is literally what brings LIFE into the world.

Now let's look at Dumbledore, the homosexual wizard. This is where it gets "muddy." And bear with me, but I have to mention the "S word" really quickly: SIN. I know, I know, it's really out of date. Speaking of SIN today is like referring to pimples as carbuncles, or to CD players as gramophones. But SIN was a very popular word once and helped us to diagnose heaps of problems in the culture and inside our own messed up hearts too! And naming and claiming SIN helped us get the remedy too, like an antidote to poison.

So what is SIN? It's greek root means to miss the mark, like when an archer's arrow misses the bull's eye. Sin is a distortion, a bending of the good, a twisting of the original design to make it fit in our own little pocket. Some may not like to hear this, but homosexual acts are sinful. And like any sin, it's a seeking after what's deemed a Good. It just misses the mark.

Do homosexuals love one another (even wizards?); they can absolutely love one another. But there's love for all, and then there's the sexual expression of love meant for man and woman as part of God's plan for bringing LIFE into the world. Is homosexual love in this sense even possible? No. The very act itself is a forcing, an act that even biologically doesn't work. No word, no agenda, no person can change that or should try to. Does this mean that people with homosexual inclinations are evil and are going to Hell? Hell no.

It simply means that we are living in confusing times. It means that all of us are still looking for Love, still peering out through foggy, distorted lenses that haven't been set right since the Fall, when our first parents, Adam and Eve, reached out to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and decided that they would rather make up the rules for themselves. That's what SIN is at the end of the day. SIN says "I don't trust this plan of love. I want it another way."

This is a hard teaching, I know. It's difficult especially for those suffering from strong, often overpowering, emotions towards same-sex attraction. And there's no magic wand of wood that can make it go away in an instant. But we're not bound by SIN anymore. The Wood of the Cross can set this right, can re-order our hearts, can lead us to Life! The Serpent in the Tree of the Garden had twisted its roots and its fruit has deceived us. But the Tree of the Cross has the figure of a Man upon it. And He says, "This is my Body, given up for you. Take and eat, and you will have Life." And the Church, the Bride of Christ, says, "Amen!"

Therein is the answer to the question of finding "true love." It's there at the foot of the Cross that our love can be remade, our hearts refashioned! May He turn our water into wine, and fill us with His Love!

Now that's magic.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Internet is Not a Monster, Basically

We love to vacillate, to flip flop, to take sides, to split things up and think, well, it's got to be either good or evil. Now don't get me wrong, this is most essential in this Land of Confusion, where the windows on the Car of Modernity seem forever to get foggy from the heat and chill and wintry mix of our emotions. To discriminate in this moral sense is KEY! It's HEALTHY and ESSENTIAL, and NECESSARY.... It clears away the fog.

Discrimination between moral good and bad, right and wrong needs to come back in style, really FAST. It's not "all good" all the time. Discrimination in this sense of the word is not a sin. Good grief, it's our drawing the line between sin and the Good!

But let's switch gears...

When it comes to tools, things, inanimate stuff.... well, things are neutral. And you, my self-determining, self-aware friend, are the one who directs the wheel.

EXHIBIT A: THE INTERNET

Some say the Internet is taking us away from each other. It's a big monster with electrical tentacles creeping out of our offices and living rooms and just grabbing us and dragging us out into the sleazy void of cyberspace. But I feel that it can be a bridge to something else. When someone drops an e-mail or once in awhile posts a comment and echoes the words I felt driven to write, well, then there it is. Sympatico, synchronicity, or my favorite way to describe it: the Communion of Saints.

Now, there's a huge difference between communication and COMMUNION. The Internet is Communication, Love is Communion. E-mail, cell phones, blogs, Instant messaging..... these are like the sparks, Communion is the fire. Communication is like preparing the meal, Communion is kicking back with a napkin on your lap and finally consuming the meal.

Communication is the means, Communion the end.

My goal, my deepest desire in writing these words in the wee hours of this Friday morning is that this very blog can be a vehicle for Communion. I hope in perusing its posts and links and "stuff" that something, somewhere provides that spark, that touch of the spirit that turns your head, draws you in, gets you thinking about God, Life, and Everything in Between in a way perhaps you didn't think before. When I read stuff (the good stuff) that's what happens to me. When people pass stuff along my way, that's what reminds me of this human call to Communion.

I think (heck, I know) that there is so much good out there in cyburbia. We just have to use our minds as that divining rod, and sift through the mess. It's a human mess after all. It's our stuff, it's our story. So in the words of Pope John Paul II, "Be not afraid" of technology!

But at the same time, be wary. Like all things that have the potential for good, there is the potential for evil, for manipulation and greed. So remember, the Internet is not a monster, but it's not a fuzzy little kitten either.

"The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? For it is only when his face is seen and his voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption. This is the purpose of evangelization. And this is what will make the Internet a genuinely human space, for if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man."

- Pope John Paul II, Message for the 36th World Communications Day

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Interview with Christopher West

This week on the Heart of Things radio show, my guest will be Christopher West, internationally known speaker and author of numerous books on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. We'll discuss his latest work, The Love That Satisfies, a beautiful book that unpacks some of the major themes in Pope Benedict's encyclical letter "God is Love."

I hope you can tune in, and spread the word, as this promises to be a dynamic show, full of compelling insights and inspiring truths about the beauty of human love and its call to reach into eternity itself! To the very Heart of God!

Date: Wednesday, October 17
Time: 5pm to 6pm EST @ 800 AM (southeastern PA, NJ, DE, parts of MD)
or live via http://www.catholicinternetradio.com/

To call into the show with your thoughts or questions in the Philadelphia region: 610-527-2906 or outside the Philadelphia region, call toll free: 888-343-2484

Here's the write up from Ascension Press:

The celebrated author of Theology of the Body Explained and Theology of the Body for Beginners offers compelling insights into Pope Benedict’s profound teaching on human and divine love. The Love That Satisfies is for all - whether married, single, or religious - who are seeking the face of true love in a wounded world. Are we to agree with the Beatles that “All You Need is Love” or with the J. Geils Band that “Love Stinks”? That would depend, of course, on what we mean by that slippery four-letter word L-O-V-E. In The Love That Satisfies, Christopher West turns to the wisdom of both Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II in order to shed some light on sexual love (eros) and its relationship with divine love (agape). Why is the love between man and woman so attractive and illusive, demanding and rewarding, restrictive and liberating, painful and ecstatic, messy and beautiful, maddening and fulfilling? Our world is saturated with sex but remains starved for love. Why? Perhaps as Waylon Jennings put it, we’re “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, lookin’ for love in too many faces.” Where, then, is the right place and whose, then, is the right face in which to look for love? By reflecting on key passages from Pope Benedict’s grand encyclical Deus Caritas Est, this book explores these and many other questions with the goal of pointing all who read it towards the love that satisfies.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Everything

This video has a power in it. After seeing it last week for the first time, I couldn't shake its music and imagery for three days! The skit performed here is truly inspired, and I think it captures the essence of the relationship of the soul to Christ, the great dance He invites us into with Him, the distractions that come, and the temptations that we allow to take hold of our hands and lead us astray. But as you'll see, the false dance of the world can never satisfy, and too often it leads us into despair. "When the Creator is forgotten, the creature is meaningless." There are some intense images for younger children (I would suggest this is for teen viewing and up). But stay with it.... the final battle of the soul for Jesus is heart-breaking and should inspire us all to say "You're all I want, You're all I need. You're everything! Everything!" The words from the song are below: Find Me Here, Speak To Me I want to feel you, I need to hear you You are the light that's leading me To the place where I find peace again. You are the strength, that keeps me walking. You are the hope, that keeps me trusting. You are the light to my soul. You are my purpose...you're everything. How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you? Would you tell me how could it be any better than this? You calm the storms, and you give me rest. You hold me in your hands, you won't let me fall. You steal my heart, and you take my breath away. Would you take me in? Take me deeper now? How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you? Would you tell me how could it be any better than this? And how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you? Would you tell me how could it be any better than this? Cause you're all I want, You're all I need You're everything, everything You're all I want your all I need You're everything, everything. You're all I want you're all I need. You're everything, everything You're all I want you're all I need, you're everything, everything. And how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you? Would you tell me how could it be any better than this? How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you? Would you tell me how could it be any better than this? How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you? Would you tell me how could it be any better than this? Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Radio Show #27 - Wayne Laugesen

My guest last night on the Radio Show was Wayne Laugesen, a husband and father of five boys, a journalist, and along with his wife Dede, the co-director of two Catholic projects.

HOLY BABY!
"Children’s brains and personalities are primarily formed in the years before they can converse, let alone read. With this in mind, The Rosary Project seeks to introduce very young children to the "Language of Prayer," and to saints, music, art and the love of God through entertaining, visually stimulating media. Our Holy Baby! DVD products teach infants, toddlers and small children that God is good, life is joy and prayer is fun." (HolyBaby.com)

The second project is called the Windhover Foundation. Its goal is to bring prayer and encouragement to soldiers, their families and the military chaplains who serve them. "With our rosary packets, we provide durable, field-tested Catholic prayer resources to soldiers and their families. The rosaries we send to the troops are hand-tied by U.S. citizens—the very people who benefit most from the many sacrifices of the men and women of our armed forces."
(WindhoverFoundation.org)

You can read a sample of Wayne's writing here. This is the article we discussed entitled "Contracepting the environment – Birth-control poisoning of streams leave U.S. environmentalists mum"

Wayne, his wife Dede, and their boys live in Boulder, Colorado.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

If You Build It, She Will Come

"For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late." - Habakkuk 2:2-4

So it is written in the closing lines of this Sunday's first reading of the Mass. I don't know how it happens, but as usual, the Word hits the spot, once again, sinking in perfectly like a cylinder into a circle-shaped hole.

When I heard it read, I just smiled at the synchronicity. A couple of months ago, I was invited to give a talk on "Rekindling Eucharistic Amazement" just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. "Just outside" is an understatement.

Mike Malloy picked me up Friday night and for over an hour, we wove our way from the city lights, past the stadium where the Indians has just tied it up, into the misty shadows of the wide open farms and woods of central Ohio. In the middle of a quiet farm in Windsor, we finally reached our destination. And then I saw her.

Gazing serenely over a dark lake that was wrapped by luminous spheres (forming a massive rosary), was a 50 foot statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Whoa. The biggest in the world (I have no doubt). As we drove onto the gravel road where the Heinz family lives, I had a sense that this place was... different.

Years ago, this faith-filled family of 10 had lived on this farm, and then after a series of unfortunate events, including bankruptcy, job changes, and travels and travails overseas in England, they won it back again, against all odds! In gratitude, they wanted "to do something for the Lord." The story is a good one, involving mystics, miracles, and mysterious truckers from Texas. And lots and lots of faith and trust.

This place is special. You can feel the peace, and I found myself smiling for no particular reason as I walked around the wet grass, and the people who came for a day of prayer, Mass, adoration, and talks. Maybe it was the funny feeling I had of being in a Catholic version of Field of Dreams. "If you build it, she will come," I thought to myself, as I walked up to that statue yesterday morning.

People come from all over; they just show up. Migrant workers from local farms and factories feel they've found a home away from home here. The sick and terminally ill come. The curious, the Catholic, the neighbors.

It's ridiculous in a way. What's happening here? What's this massive statue doing in the middle of a farm in Ohio? How did they do it? What's the plan for the future? They have no idea.

"For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late."
- Habakkuk 2:2-4

The sun had just tipped over the horizon and began pouring its light on Mother Mary (she faces the east, of course, where the sun rises). You get a sense that something big is happening. Something is coming. Or perhaps Someone. I made a final visit this morning, in the cool quiet of the dawn. Just me, "One-eyed Sam" (the farm dog) and Maggie (the border collie who used to herd the llamas and other animals when it was more of a working farm).

I thought of the confessions heard in the shade of trees yesterday, the beautiful little adoration chapel, the Holy Mass under the stars, and the fact that Fr. McFadden was preaching about Jesus, and that the Bishop of Youngstown had been here twice, and was pleased.

People are praying here, loving God in a little Garden of Eden, and finding their place in the shadow of the New Eve, the one who never grasped at, but only and always received Love. The Woman clothed with the Son, whose "yes" has changed the course of history. When I first saw that statue, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I hope that's a grace that stays with me.

For Mary is the window, and her Son is the view.




Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Francis

You were small once, Wrapped in medieval mists playful, magnetic of mind and heart, even then. Little Francis. You grew through joy and magnanimous heart, casting off riches for rich feasts for friends. And you laughed, at fate, at fear, at the fretting of the too too serious adults. Francis, Then you fell. Your happy world crumbled with the piercing glance of a beggar, poor and broken. Drawn by his magnetic mind and heart, into his deep pool of poverty. Francis, he captured you. And the nothingness of his poverty captivated you. The emptiness of air and water and wind filled your hungry heart. And the purse with holes was full. And the nakedness warmed you. And the derision and the mockery of the spoiled was like the praise and spoils of victory for you, little Francis. Then you again, magnetic of mind and heart, as you always were by nature, were by grace perfected.... And you drew others into deep pools of poverty. And still we are drawn, because of you little Francis. Whose eyes looked into the piercing glance of a Beggar, Poor and Broken, Who cast riches aside, of Divinity and Power, of stars and worlds unseen, and stripped, descended, dwelt among us, a Poor Little God on a bed of straw. Drawn by His magnetic mind and heart, we too feel drawn to see... Riches in His poverty.

CalvinBall and the Meaning of Life

CalvinBall.

A number of people, in reading that word, just smiled. In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, CalvinBall is a game that's about as predictable as a squirrel in the middle of a busy intersection. You make up the game as you go. For a complete list of the "rules".... click here!

I love CalvinBall. I've actually played it with my nieces and nephews a couple of years ago. It's hilarious, and a great way of getting kids, especially the too shy and serious, to just be goofy (This is key for adults as well). We're sorely in need of silliness these days. We need time "wasted", squandered, spilled out from the alabaster jars of our precious moments into the universe never to return (until Heaven, when all the Play really begins!). I could use a game like CalvinBall right now. How about you?

BUT IT'S A FINE LINE.... CalvinBall is a game. Life is more.

Nike's ads not long ago proclaimed to the world "If it feels good, just do it."
Burger King's slogan once said, "Sometimes ya gotta break the rules."

Commercials. Granted... But when our philosophers, who are called to chisel thoughts and sculpt ideas for us from the Eternal Verities, to inspire and uplift as they pass them out to us, have gone over to the Dark Side of radical humanism and a bleak atheistic reductionism, then what do we have left in a media driven, McNews atmosphere? Snappy commercials and snazzy slogans.

For a moment, imagine if we lifted up the structure of CalvinBall, or I should say un-structure, and tried it on our ethics, our social mores. What if we tried to constantly change the rules with regard to the way we relate to others, the way we look at right and wrong, the attitudes we share concerning the human person, womb to tomb. Imagine?

Well, that shouldn't be such a difficult leap. Welcome to our world, where the adults are running around playing CalvinBall with good and evil, right and wrong. When we turn the truth of the human person, the truth of our place in the universe, the reality of the supernatural and of higher laws into something mutable, like Playdoh in our hands for us to shape and squeeze and roll any way we want, then we've suddenly taken the game too far.

"You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die." (Genesis 2:16-17)

I've always been blown away by the sheer generosity of God in this passage. "You are FREE to eat from ANY OF THE TREES of the garden...." That's a pretty good deal! I wonder how many trees were there? Dozens? Hundreds, thousands? And God says, the one that is mine is the knowledge of Good and Evil. In other words, I am God. I have created a moral universe, peopled with free peoples who can become heroes or devils based on their choices. But the "Game" only works when you play by these rules. Adam and Eve, and all of us, fail when we stretch out our grimy mitts and decide WE will make up the rules from now on.

CalvinBall stinks when a player gets too carried away with themselves, forgetting it's a game and becoming a little dictator. Then the sense comes over everyone that it's time to stop. It's not fun anymore.

Dear Shapers of Human Thought and Action in Political Spheres and Juridical Courts, the rules you are making up as you go along are not fun anymore! You've torn up the tracks that are meant to lead us to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful!

Thank God, the Church still has the blueprints.

23 Keys for Unlocking the Mystery of Gender, Identity, and Human Sexuality

Who am I? This fundamental question is asked ultimately by every person ever born. What is this great mystery of human life; what is our o...