Dec 082013

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 24 November to 7 December 2013.

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



Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

  • “Your sins are great? Just tell the Lord: Forgive me, help me to get up again, change my heart!” @pontifex, 2 December 2013
  • “We are all called to be friends with Jesus. Don’t be afraid to love the Lord.” @pontifex, 2 December 2013
  • “Fifty years ago, Vatican II spoke of communications. Let us listen to, dialogue with, and bring to Christ all those we encounter in life.” @pontifex, 2 December 2013
  • “Holiness doesn’t mean doing extraordinary things, but doing ordinary things with love and faith.” @pontifex, 2 December 2013
  • “The cross is the price of true love. Lord, give us the strength to accept and carry our crosses!” @pontifex, 2 December 2013
  • “Dear young people, put your talents at the service of the Gospel, with creativity and boundless charity.” @pontifex, 2 December 2013
Dec 042013

Metaphors regarding the Church and sports are nothing new. St. Paul certainly used them and there are intersections with sports and the practice of the faith that make them useful. So I was interested when I saw a new book called The Catechism of Hockey by Alyssa Bormes. That it had a forward by Dale Ahlquist and is published by the American Chesterton Society certainly recommended itself to me. Plus that it has positive reviews from Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Paprocki sealed it.

Now I am not exactly a hockey fan and only have passing familiarity with the sport. Yet my lack of knowledge about hockey did not subtract from my enjoyment of the book in any way. A book as an extended metaphor comparing the Catholic faith and the sport of hockey would seem to be able to only go so far. That you would be stretching the metaphor at every juncture to try to make an apt and worthy comparison. Yet over and over I was rather amazed at how she put this forth with comparison after comparison and provided examples and lessons that I think are quite helpful in thinking about the faith. The penalty box and confession makes for a good parallel, but it is her writing which takes it beyond that. She ties it up quite nicely going from personal sin to how it affects the whole Body of Christ or using the hockey term being at “full strength.” There were a couple of comparisons that I thought were stretching it a bit. Still overwhelmingly it was dead on with an intriguing perspective of the faith and a real Catechism in the amount of topics covered.

Not every comparison in the book was hockey related, but even these parallels were made after originally grounding it in something hockey-based. One of these correlations involving the Mystical Body and the crowd of people in line to see the body of Pope John Paul II was stunning in its aptness and another example of how she took a metaphor and drew so much out of it. Over and over again in a Chestertonian way you would start to see something fresh from a new angle. No surprise that G.K. Chesterton was quoted a couple of time. In fact as I was reading the book and where she talked about the rules of hockey I was often reminded of one of his quotes.

“Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playgroundÉ.We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliffÕs edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.”

So I was quite pleased to see her use that same quote later on in the book. I so enjoyed how fun and inventive this book was which made serious points in a way I suspect could break through a previous barrier to something regarding the faith.

Update: Pope Francis on November 22nd offered what I would call a Catechism of Rugby.

Dec 032013

In Michael O’Brien’s new book Voyage to Alpha Centauri he enters the genre of Science Fiction. This book is both in some ways totally different from his previous books and very similar. All the themes he explores are present in this story. Elements present in his “Children of the Last Day” series are especially present such as an intrusive government and the loss of religious freedom. The collision of these factors providing tension along with personal conversion. Yet some of this is handled more tangentially than his previous books.

Neil Ruiz de Hoyos as a young man meets with an accident that both marks him and opens up a new vista for him. His later career as a physicist bring him two Nobel prizes. His work leads partially to the construction of a ship that goes on an expedition to Alpha Centauri where he is a passenger. We see the voyage through his journal entries where he writes about the voyage, his life and childhood, and the discoveries they encounter on a planet in the system of Alpha Centauri. An epistolary novel works quite well when it comes to covering the large amount of time involved in such a voyage where journal entries can just highlight what is going on in the main.

As a man Neil is both private and reaching out for friendships. A man raised in a Catholic family, but now with no faith which has been supplanted by a scientific skepticism. Yet somebody who is also skeptical regarding a form of government enforced political correctness and just following along with societal trends. Despite what he encounters and learns from his small core of friends there are some things he would rather explain away than to truly understand. This all provides the backdrop for the momentous events that occur on the trip out and ultimately what they learn on the planet they explore.

I am already a Michael O’Brien and my first love when it comes to books is Science Fiction. So I am totally delighted to have these two together. Just considering the SF aspects of the novel there is a lot to enjoy and adding the deeper theological and societal dimensions you have so much more than presented in so much rather shallow SF. The plot that develops is rather stunning and ties together nicely the blend of SF and theology. I especially liked how many levels the novel had and that the prevalent themes on the journey out became quite different on arrival. Some of the subtler Biblical themes also added to the enjoyment in that he didn’t have to hit you over the head with them. Highly recommended.

Dec 032013

small_8060908233<Roto Reuters – Random Lake, WI> Parishioners on Sunday at St. Nicholas of Myra were stunned to hear and to find out that there is more than one Advent Hymn. Parishioner Karla Townsend said “The opening hymn was ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ so I was all settled in for the normal repertoire during the rest of the Mass. Later I heard ”People look East“ and ”O Come, Divine Messiah“ and was shocked to realize that they also related to Advent. Who knew?”

Cantor Jaime Willis related “After Mass many surprised people came up to me rather upset that I introduced other Advent songs. When I mentioned that next week we would be singing ”Creator Of The Stars Of Night“, ”Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming“, and ”Rorate Caeli“ they weren’t very happy that there were even more of them. One gentleman told me that even though he never sings at Mass, introducing new Advent hymns was way to confusing. Besides he said ”If ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ was good enough for Advent for the last forty years it was good enough for him.”

Fr. Alan Ray, pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra, also fielded questions from parishioners after Mass. “I think I am going to have to do more catechesis regarding Advent. I now realize hardly anybody understood that Advent was a distinct liturgical season and not just ‘Christmas warm-up.’”

Photo credit: Bill Ruhsam via photopin Creative Commons

Dec 032013

Why in the world is the USCCB Blog promoting Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ? Despite what good work she might have done involving the death penalty she is also involved in serious errors. She is not an example to parade on the USCCB blog.

At the Democratic National Convention in 2008 she spoke to an interfaith crowd saying:

She received nothing but a stony silence, however, when she questioned the basis of the biblical crucifixion story as a “projection of our violent society.”

“Is this a God?” Prejeans asked about the belief that God allowed his son, Jesus, to be sacrificed for the sins of humanity. “Or is this an ogre?”

So much for St. Paul’s “we preach Christ crucified.”

The previous year in 2007, she had this to say:

(A)ccording to Sister Helen Prejean, author of the best-selling book Dead Man Walking, and internationally-renowned advocate against the death penalty, it is the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality that is sinful, as it fails to recognize “the full dignity of all human beings.”

Speaking on Sunday at the close of the symposium, Prejean noted that the first steps in denying and “removing” a human being is to declare them somehow “not quite human, not like how we are … to say that they’re ‘disordered’” – a reference to the language of the Vatican to describe the orientation of gay people. Such terminology, she said, fails to recognize the full dignity of all human beings and is the “greatest form of disrespect.”

Accordingly, “to not stand with LGBT people would be a sin,” declared Prejean to thunderous applause.

Prejean said that she is hopeful as she’s convinced that “people are waking and rising,” and that this will “change the Church.”

“When dialogue starts, the bread starts rising,” she said. “The yeast, the Holy Spirit, is in our hearts.”

In 2006 she was one of the signers of an ad in the New York Times that in part said “YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.” After being disinvited by Duluth Bishop Dennis Schnurr to be a keynote speaker at an education dinner she later clarified “I believe that all of life is sacred and must be protected, especially in the vulnerable stages at the beginning of life and its end.” Yet she still managed to sign this document while at the same time saying: “ I stand squarely within the framework of ”the seamless garment“ ethic of life.” A year after this in the July-August 1997 St. Catherine Review: Sister Prejean “will not take a stand against abortion.” She has also said if she got a chance to talk to President Obama it would only be about his support of the death penalty. She can find nothing else to chide him about.

Dec 012013

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 16 November to 30 November 2013.

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.


Apostolic Exhortations

General Audiences




Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

Papal Tweets

Dec 012013

Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, made clear that the Catholic Church remains adamantly opposed to the president’s health-care law because of what the Church considers its assault on conscience rights. “We bishops have been really kind of in a tough place, because we’re for universal, comprehensive, life-affirming health care,” Dolan said on Meet the Press, noting that the Catholic Church in the United States has supported the goal of universal and affordable health care for almost a century.

But the so-called HHS mandate, which requires coverage ofsmall_9359470402 contraception, sterilization, and drugs that may be abortifacients, without any co-pays, on all health-insurance plans, has made it impossible for Catholics to support the president’s efforts, Dolan said. “Mr. President, you’re really pushing kind of aside some of your greatest supporters. We want to be with you, we want to be strong, and if you keep doing this, we’re not going to be able to be one of your cheerleaders,” Dolan said. “That sadly is what happened.” (source)

While I can certainly understand some of the points Cardinal Dolan is making here. I think it also plays down or ignores other aspects. For example it was not the tacking on of the HHS mandate that made Obamacare morally unacceptable. The mandate just made it even worse. The U.S. Bishops were in the majority opposed to this act before the HHS Mandate which occurred only after the passage of the law. The very law itself had significant moral problems.

His statement “Mr. President, you’re really pushing kind of aside some of your greatest supporters.” also seems rather hyperbolic or a kind of diplomacy in place of truth. The assault on our faith by this President has extended across multiple lines beyond just the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” The idea that Catholics could be his greatest supporters if only he put aside the HHS Mandate is rather laughable. Yeah if he would just put aside his support for abortion, infanticide, contraception, so-called same-sex marriage, ordered drone strikes with oversight or accountability, assault on religious liberty, IVF, three-parent embryo creation, and a whole laundry list of morally problematic thrusts by his administration we would be great friends! We are called to love our enemies not whitewash away what makes them enemies.

Maybe I am being too hard on the Cardinal here who is obviously trying to balance prudentially calling out something without being belligerent. Yet I wish this prudence included not making a statement so obviously untrue.

Photo credit: BostonCatholic via photopin cc

Nov 302013

First off have a blessed Advent!

Eight years ago I decided to create my own Advent Wreath graphic instead of just using the normal animated gif that I had used previously. If you would like it for your own blog you can use the html code below. I will replace the graphic each week so that it correctly shows the number of candles that should be lit. On Christmas I will change it to another graphic I created for Christmastide.

<img src="" width="170" height="189" />

Update: The above was updated since quote marks were not translating correctly

Additionally underneath my Advent graphic on my left side I have code that does a Christmas countdown showing how many praying days left.

Below are both a JavaScript and PHP versions.  For WordPress use the PHP version.

JavaScript Version

<!– Christmas Countdown – Jeff Miller–>
<script language=”JavaScript”>
function eventcount() {
var now = new Date();
var message = “”;
var event = new Date(“Dec 25 2013 00:00:01″);
var seconds = (event – now) / 1000;
var minutes = seconds / 60;
var hours = minutes / 60;
var days = hours / 24;
if ( (days%1)<.5)
days = Math.round(days);
if (hours< 0 && hours >= -24)
message = “Merry Christmas; Christ is born!”;
else if (days > 0)
message = “Only “+days+” praying day”+ (days>1?’s’:”)+ ” till Christmas!”;
<!– End Christmas Countdown –>

PHP Versions

<?php function countdown( $event, $month, $day, $year )
 // subtract desired date from current date and give an answer in terms of days
 $remain = ceil( ( mktime( 0,0,0,$month,$day,$year ) - time() ) / 86400 );
 // show the number of days left
 if( $remain > 0 )
 print "<p><strong>$remain</strong> more praying days until $event</p>";
 // if the event has arrived, say so!
 print "<p>$Merry Christmas; Christ is born!</p>";
// call the function
countdown( "Christmas", 12, 25, 2013 );

Note: PHP version is adapted from here.

Nov 272013

After reading Evangelii Gaudium I knew one of the areas that would receive some criticism was the area of economics. I jokingly thought that we wouldn’t have to wait long for someone from the Acton Institute to respond.

Fr. Longenecker mentions:

In this article Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute  and author of Tea Party Catholic: The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing![][4] gives a cogent, fair and informed critique of the economic content of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation. He shows how the Pope’s conclusions are well meaning, but naive and not well informed. The good thing about Gregg’s article is that he is not condemning the general thrust of Evangelii Gaudium nor is he taking a doctrinaire and opposed view to the pope.

However he does point out regarding Pope Francis’ economic opinions  that it’s well, more complicated…

My own thoughts as I read this document that the Pope’s economic emphasis was rather one-sided with the root of the problem being “absolute autonomy of markets.” As Samuel Gregg wrote I also find some of these points the Pope made to be “straw-man arguments.” Reading what the Pope wrote you would have no idea about the amount of government regulation in this regard or the fact that big government is more likely to lead to increased poverty. The Country of Greece is and so many others are not suffering from the “absolute autonomy of markets.”

Not that I believe laissez-faire open markets is the answer to all economic problems. The problem with any system is not always the system itself, but the fact that original sin is always involved. Without morality a system only becomes more flawed. The increased secularization and loss of morals can make the free market anything but free.

“Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace.” – Pope John Paul II (source)

Free markets become “license” markets when the bottom line does not include the dignity of the human person. When decisions are made without this necessary criteria. Ensuring free markets requires evangelization and conversion.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Quincy Adams

Our Republic breaks down when this is lost and I would say the same is true of a truly free market. Yet even our flawed free market has done much to reducing poverty and this would be more so with the advancement of moral values.

I certainly don’t want to dismiss the Holy Father’s economic critique since I thought much of it was apt, but just aimed at the wrong target or that the targets could easily have been expanded. It is not government regulation that is the answer here, but regulation of ourselves. Whenever you find poverty you don’t usually have to look far to find a corrupt government involved.

I also found Let’s Listen to Pope Francis on Economics at First Things to be worth reading from a Catholic who is pro-free markets:

Francis’ call is not a governing agenda. We must, however, let it be a wake up call. We must look first at the impact of the policies we promote on the poor and the marginalized, and keep their interests in line first. And this is something Milton Friedman would agree with, by the way. Would most of his disciples? Rhetorically, sure.

But in the conservatarian community I’m a part of, while I see a lot of good intentions and good ideas, do I see enough concern towards directly addressing poverty and looking at everything through the lens of poverty and inclusion, including in my own work? I have to say that the answer is no. And certainly we must say we can always do better.

I am reminded of Sen. Mike Lee’s excellent speech on poverty. It’s truly great. But how much energy is devoted in free market circles in seriously discussing and debating poverty? What percentage? I have to admit that while I most often disagree with their prescriptions, there is a sincere and overwhelming concern for the poor that is more present in the progressive coalition than in my own. We must not be afraid of this concern for the poor that Pope Francis calls us to. We must make it our own and embrace it.

He concludes:

There is a place for discernment, and for advocacy, and even for confrontation. But I think that as Catholics we are also called upon to take the Pope’s message seriously, humbly, and to let it challenge us and to incorporate it into our own thinking, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For this I’ll pray.Note: My title of Popeconomics is aimed at the humor side with no disrespect to His Holiness.

Note: My title of “Popeconomics” is aimed at the humor side with no disrespect to His Holiness.