May 202015

Over the last week I have seen plenty of commentary regarding the latest Pew study “America’s Changing Religious Landscape”. I’ve seen such commentary cycles before regarding their studies. As usual there is a lot of narrative making by different camps. By those who rejoice in news of any declining of Christian population, the gloom and doomers, the statistic arguers, along with the “this is the solution to the problem” camps. As par for the course there is a lot of noise mixed with useful data.

As a pessimistic/optimist, these types of studies don’t mean much to me. As I have written before Dickens described Church history when he wrote the famous opening lines:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …

Really his description in the Tale of Two Cities reminds me of St. Augustine’s City of God where he compares the City of God and the city of Rome at the time representing the secular world. There have always been swings both ways in which one city dominates the heart of the various cultures.

A lot of what I see are the “if only we do this” group who take whatever they are a proponent of in the first place as the solution. As a both/and kind of person I see positive contributions from many of these suggestions, but not that they are the one solution. Still what really surprises me is that the projections are not much worse. I still find myself surprised at the path my own faith journey took from atheism. When I see fervent young people practicing their Catholic faith I am surprised again. Despite the non-stop and seemingly overwhelming bombardment of messages people still pick up the cross and follow Jesus.

In an odd way it strengthens my faith that the world is not so much worse. Looking at all the despairing signs of the time with the culture of death and the attack on marriage I feel all these points of negative data should point at a much worse cultural situation. That I can discern movements of the Holy Spirit in all the goodness I do see. The modern world seems to be a factory producing crooked lines, yet these lines do not always stay that way. I think of the story of Joseph’s brothers throwing him in the well.

You thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present you see, and might save many people.

I am not surprised that it also appears to be an increasing number of people who have some level of faith, but no ties to a community in that regard. But again I would have forecast that “Me and Jesus” and Sola Scriptura where you become your own interpreter would appeal more to our individualist streak. The rebellion towards having any authority over you. Checklist theology where you look for the church that matches your take and POV on the issues. Really this individualist take on religion appeals to much of the American spirit that you would think nones would be growing in leaps and bounds. Yet there is still the sense that this requires some kind of community.

It is always disconcerting when you see people leaving the faith. Especially as the reasons given usual show many misunderstandings. More often something personal than something theological. Seeing the “pearl of great price” I can wonder how they could give it up? Various scandals certainly play a role in this. Yet I have found my own faith to be scandal-proof. I came in to the Church just before the wave of priestly sexual scandals. While horrified at such stories I find myself repeating with St. Peter “Lord, where would I go? You have the words of eternal life.” Still there has been more than one occasion with I repeated this phrase in light of the news of the day. I consider it a minor miracle to have this viewpoint as it is contrary to my native pessimism.

Maybe what has helped me is that I came to believe in the Church before I believed in all she teaches.

“I would not believe the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.” St. Augustine (Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, chapter 5)

So instead of going down an internal checklist to see if the Catholic Church’s teachings matched up to my expectations, I instead struggled to learn what she taught and why she taught it. Not that this was an easy process. Much that I considered true had to be reexamined and that was not fun at all. Sometimes I feel the arc of my life is learning about another thing I was wrong about. Since the scope of my wrongness was so wide I am still funneling down to a point. When you search for truth the annoying thing is that you might find it and have to once again change in response. Even as a Catholic where hopefully I have indeed narrowed this down with the help of the Church; I still find that my prudential reasonings often end up in hindsight as “doh!”.

Often times when I write something I wish I was an actual writer instead of somebody with thoughts who manages to string together words and phrases. This post is an example of this as I try to advance my own “if only we do this” agenda for evangelization. Ecclesiology as a subject for apologetics seems to me a rarity. Usually much focus is on a set of familiar topics. That more focus should be on the authority of the Catholic Church and why this is so. The nature of the Church and her teaching authority given to her from Jesus is bedrock to my own faith. Still I realize that I make the same mistake as everybody else with their own hobbyhorse solutions. In that there is no cookie-cutter evangelism and that it has to be personal to every person. What will appeal to one person could drive away another. The temptation towards the narrative instead of actually listening to another person and seeing where you might be able to help. So with that in mind I try to read the various articles regarding responses in the new evangelism and try to add new tools without aways selecting the trusty hammer I prefer.

There has always been a tension in the Gospel call in that to be able to go out and spread the good news, you must first go out of yourself. I find myself often thinking “if only they would do this” or implement some program. Then I realize that again I am shifting my own Gospel responsibilites to others. Being self-reflective sucks when you are often in the wrong.

May 192015

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 30 April 2015 to 19 May 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences



Regina Caeli


Papal Tweets

  • “Dear parents, have great patience, and forgive from the depths of your heart.” @Pontifex 14 May 2015
  • “It is better to have a Church that is wounded but out in the streets than a Church that is sick because it is closed in on itself.” @Pontifex 16 May 2015
  • “God is always waiting for us, he always understands us, he always forgives us.” @Pontifex 19 May 2015
May 132015

From ABC (Always Bash Catholics) a new show – “The Real O’Neals”.

A contemporary take on a seemingly perfect Catholic family, whose lives take an unexpected turn when surprising truths are revealed. Instead of ruining their family, the honesty triggers a new, messier chapter where everyone stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being real.

When I saw this yesterday on The Deacon’s Bench I didn’t pay it much attention. I figured it was par for the course. Today I noticed he updated with this.

One or two readers have wondered what I think about all this. I think the trailer speaks for itself.

But if you need me to be more explicit: this is beyond hateful. It’s repugnant. It’s bigotry masquerading as comedy.

That something like this can work its way through the production process, and get approved, and find a time slot, and be endorsed by the likes of Robert Iger and the suits at one of the most powerful and influential media enterprises on earth is horrifying. A generation ago, it would have been


Well since Deacon Greg Kandra does not tend to be hyperbolic I finally did look at the video.

In some ways it did not surprise me. I knew beforehand that it would be mandatory that one of the children be “gay”. After watching it I was suprised that the daughter didn’t have an abortion in the trailer. Maybe that is episode two. I am not one going around looking for things to be offended about, but wow is this show repugnant. Besides if you are going to make a anti-Catholic family comedy I desire that it at least be funny.

I remember ABC also had the television show “Nothing Sacred” which aired in 1997–1998, won several awards, and was canceled before the season was over. It was about an “irreverent priest who questions the existence of God, feels lust in his heart, and touches people’s souls.” Rather tame compared to “The Real O’Neals”.

May 132015

Starting this Friday, Catholics in San Francisco will be able to donate to their local church by using an iPhone app, bringing modern technology to the millennia-old practice of tithing.

The so-called “digital collection plate” stems from a partnership between the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Evergive, as detailed by NBC on Wednesday. Beginning with this weekend’s masses, parishioners will be able to donate through the free Evergive app, which is available for Apple’s iPhone, as well as on Android.

The partnership with the Archdiocese of San Francisco and its 433,000 members marks the largest agreement yet for Evergive, which aims to assist “mission-driven organizations” in collecting donations. Much like with a standard credit card transaction, Evergive keeps a small percentage of each donation it processes.

Father Anthony Giampietro, interim director of development for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said the arrangement is justified as a benefit of convenience on both sides. He noted that Evergive not only makes it easy for churchgoers to give, but also simplifies creating new donation categories for special causes.

“The ease with which we could set up a campaign for Nepal or a youth group was astounding,” Giampietro told NBC. Source

Well this makes one thing easy. When you wonder what the $1.00 charges are on your credit card, you remember you must have used this at Mass.

Reminds me of an old parody I did on the Tith-O-Matic.

May 122015

I’ve seen several stories recently highlighting that two Palestinian Nuns were going to be canonized on Sunday, May 17th. A French nun is also be canonized on the same day.

Blessed Mary Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified Baouardy and Blessed Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve will be canonized saints.

Here is a short summary regarding the three of them.

The story of Blessed Mariam Baouardy, a Melkite/Greek Catholic Palestinian is expecially interesting. A Carmelite and mystic who founded a convent, received the stigmata, and also levitated.

All of this is facinating, but one details seems to have escaped the media, including Catholic media. I was rather surprised to see this this headline from the always knowledeable Maureen at “Aliens in This World” Survivor of Jihadist Attack to Be Canonized This Sunday.

The short story is that Blessed Mariam Baouardy had her throat cut with a sword by a Muslim angry that she would not convert to Islam. She was left for dead and moved and dumped into an alley.

That is the short story and there is much, much more including how she was healed. Just read the whole thing because it is great reading.

“Muslim, no, never! I am a daughter of the Catholic Church, and I hope by the grace of God to persevere until death in my religion, which is the only true one.

St. Marie of Jesus Crucified, pray for us

May 122015

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 29 June 2014 to 12 May 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

General Audiences



Regina Caeli


Papal Tweets

  • “When we cannot earn our own bread, we lose our dignity. This is a tragedy today, especially for the young.” @Pontifex 7 May 2015
  • “Let us learn to live with kindness, to love everyone, even when they do not love us.” @Pontifex 9 May 2015
  • “Why is it so difficult to tolerate the faults of others? Have we forgotten that Jesus bore our sins?” @Pontifex 12 May 2015
May 072015

Recently the l’Osservatore Romano reported that an Italian man hung up the phone on Pope Francis twice thinking he was being pranked, but later apologised to him for his error.

Fortunately there is an app for that.


collarid_iconWhat if you received a phone call from the Pope and called him a nasty name for trying to prank you. Perhaps answering and saying “Yeah and I’m the Archbishop of Canterbury.” While those outside the faith think Catholics have too many hangups, you don’t want to hang up on the Holy Father. Pope Francis’ tendency to call people around the world means that there is a small possibility he could call you. Perhaps this might catch on with bishops and priests and you would like to verify the authenticity of the caller.

If so then Collar Id is the perfect app for you as it detects if the caller has Holy Orders along with their position within the Church.

  • No false positives: so-called women priests, anglicans, lutherans, etc are rejected.
  • Provides hints of proper addresses depending on level of Holy Orders such as Your Excellency” for bishops, Your Eminence for Cardinals, and Your Holiness for the Pope.
  • Authentic recording technology automatically records the conversation so you can play back the call to friends and family who don’t believe your bishop or the Pope called you.
  • Share that you got a phone call on social media via the sharing menu.

When someone with Holy Orders calls the app detect it:

  • Flashes the appropriate icon.
  • Shows phone number and name.
  • For bishops – swipe left to see information on their date of ordination, predecessors, Titular sees, along with other information pulled from
  • For priests and deacons – swipe left to go to the parish website for Mass times and available times for confession. Note: We are not responsible for bad design of parish sites.

In-app purchases

  • Stole Pack: Customize Deacon detection with a variety of stoles matching the liturgical season.
  • Hat Pack: A selection hats including Biretta, Tricorne, Canoa, Zuchetto, and Mitre.
  • Pope Pack: Upgrade from the default Pope Francis mitre to fancier mitre from throughout history.
  • Traditional Pope Pack: For all your papal tiara and triple crown needs.
  • Ring Tones: Since the free ring tones provides with this app all come from the Gather hymnal, you will want to upgraded right away for actual hymns.
  • Papal Ring Tones. Papal ring tones must be replaced at the death or resignation of a pope since they are automatically deleted by the Camerlengo.
  • Heraldry Pack: Show the Coat of Arms of calling bishops.

What’s new in version 1.01

  • Added a laicization and excommunication blacklist.

Love our app, consider leaving a review on the app store.

Available on iOS and coming soon to Android.
Windows Phone when the Gates of Hell prevails against the Church.

May 062015

Finding True Happiness: Satisfying Our Restless Hearts (Happiness, Suffering, and Transcendence) by Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, SJ.

In some ways this is a seemingly odd book bringing together arguments from physics, a technical analysis of the four levels of happiness, along with help with prayer. Moving from physics to prayer. Still as a whole it is quite cohesive and instructive.

I learned a lot from his detailed looking at the four levels of friendship. The division from first level of happiness in material pleasures up through transcendental spiritual fulfillment. I found even the discussions of the first three levels to be very helpful as they are all interrelated and are not exclusive to each other. The apologetic aspect of the book which addresses arguments for God from philosophy and science do some of the spadework for the fourth level of happiness and that the fullness of happiness lies with God. His last book New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy went into much more detail over these details.

His look at prayer and contemplation takes a Ignatian path along with Fr. Spitzer unique way at looking at things. This was well-worth reading. I also enjoyed how he related his own experiences to topics covered, especially his own struggles and accouters with grace. This is the first book of a trilogy.

  • Volume 1 – Finding True Happiness: Satisfying Our Restless Hearts
  • Volume 2 – Our Spiritual Destiny: The Unconditional Love of God
  • Volume 3 – Seeing God’s Light in the Darkness: How to Suffer Well

This part-analytical approach to friendship and growing in love of God will not appeal to everybody. For myself I have continued to reflect about what he wrote in the weeks after reading this book.

Who Designed the Designer?: A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence by Michael Augros

This books offers a thoroughgoing look at arguments for the First Cause. It takes a look at all the arguments for First Cause along with answering objections to those arguments. One of thee author objectives was to offer a non-polemical approach to this in answering questions from atheists, which he met. Basically this offers evidence for the existence of the God of the philosophers and focuses only on philosophical arguments and not scripture. While the attention is almost fully on First Cause arguments, there are also related arguments such as the problem of evil.

This is meant for a general audience and the author totally leads you through the philosophical arguments. A very useful book and really explores the arguments in a helpful way.

May 052015

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 18 April 2015 to 5 May 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences


Regina Caeli


Papal Tweets

  • “In the Sacraments we discover the strength to think and to act according to the Gospel.” @Pontifex 23 April 2015
  • “We Christians are called to go out of ourselves to bring the mercy and tenderness of God to all.” @Pontifex 25 April 2015
  • “Every Christian community must be a welcoming home for those searching for God,for those searching for a brother or sister to listen to them” @Pontifex 28 April 2015
Apr 302015

Sometime I am reading a book and so enjoy the story that a sense of wonder comes over me. This can cause me to step back from the story itself and admire the skill of the author. How the world and characters created have developed a life of their own that you can become caught up in. There is wonder at the creative imagination that can pull this off. Despite the meta-nature of such analysis while reading a story it does cause you to depart from the story. Just come to appreciate it more at a deeper level. There is a sense of gratitudes for the skills of the author.

The last time I was caught up in such a feeling I stepped back further in my mind and reflected on a related subject. Why is it that I am so seldom caught up in the same sense of wonder regarding creation and grateful for all God has given us? Talk about world-building, God pretty much nailed that. Universe-building, creation-building, if you see something he made it. Contractors complain about substandard building materials and yet God used nothing to create everything.

I have been trying to develop a sense of wonder and gratitude towards God and his creation. Too much of my life has been like the man who walks into an art gallery admiring all the paintings and walks right past the artist who painted them, not even seeing him. Admiring creation, but not the creator. You can’t really artificially create this wonder and gratitude. You have to actually notice the world around you and contemplate the reality. To stop and smell the roses and notice the scent, the actuality of roses, the ground they are planted in, the medium of the air, the light we can see them by, and so on and so forth.

Whenever I read G.K. Chesterton I observe the sense of wonder and gratitude that I desire to emulate. That I see this truth I strive for lived out and expressed.

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?”

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace bef>ore the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

So I admire this in a intellectual sense. Actually living this sense out is another matter. Intellectualizing and not living out my faith is a constant struggle. Still I am thankful for the grace to see my many flaws and can have gratitudes towards even that.