My random thoughts on life as I prepare to enter the religious life this summer. "In the first place, you must never think that you are alone in deciding your future! And second: When deciding your future, you must not decide for yourself alone!" -Pope John Paul II

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Anti-Dogmatic Dogmatists
(Here is an editorial I wrote for my school's paper. Please see the post below for the reasons I wrote this article. This submission is a response to a critique of the Church and Her members made in last week's paper.)

Many people fall into a school of relativism. These pupils often become anti-dogmatic and claim boldly man is free to decide for himself what is right and what is wrong. Thus, absolute truth is thrown out the window. Watch out! These anti-dogmatists have become dogmatic. When someone actually thinks for himself, but comes to moral conclusions different from the "anti-dogmatic dogmatists," they challenge the free thinking individual. If these disciples of relativism were such supporters of everyone thinking for themselves, then why do they have such a problem with people who use reason to find that the "splendor of truth" is found in the Catholic Church? I wonder if these anti-dogmatists have truly thought for themselves or are followers of their own breed of fundamentalism. Denying the Church's right to teach, they become their own popes. Perhaps they are blindly following their personal dogmas as if they were "gospel truth."

The question becomes: is truth found in the teachings of the Catholic Church? In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Jesus lays the foundation of the Catholic Church (Matthew 16:18). Note what Jesus, God incarnate, says, "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church." How mind boggling! God came down to earth; He worked miracles, taught, proclaimed the Gospel, and called us all to conversion. How beautiful that he gives us a Church to radiate His presence after he rises to heaven! St. Peter becomes the first Pope of the Church. Our current Pope, John Paul II, is the successor of St. Peter. In this passage, Christ is letting us know that He will always protect His Church; the Gates of Hell will never trample over her.

How beautiful it is to be part of this Church! There are hundreds of churches that follow Christ, but only one Church founded by Jesus. We are members of the largest Church in the world, with about a billion members. We have a nearly 2000 year old history. The lives of the saints continually provide examples of how one can live for Christ. The Church gives us the sacraments that nourish us and show Christ's love. The Holy Spirit changes the bread and wine into Christ's own body and blood. Do not be mistaken, the Church's primary end is not to make us feel good, and pat us on the back. Sure, it is nice to have that pat on the back, but the true end of the Church is to help us reach our end, union with God. The Church, like Christ, will call each person to conversion. Daily we strive to become more Christ-like. We should convert daily.

In Matthew 16:19, Jesus gives St. Peter the keys to bind and loosen. "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Jesus wants to provide a guide when He returns to heaven. He gave us the Church to help lead us in our journey toward our end, to be united with Christ. The netherworld will never prevail against our Church. By giving St. Peter the keys, Jesus gives the Church founded on St. Peter, the Catholic Church, the power to teach authoritatively. Moreover, St. Paul tells us that the Church is the "pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

God has also gifted us with reason. It is safe to believe that a large number of faithful Catholics are not automatons, but people who understand that the Church's moral claims are not arbitrary. Many seem to think that the Church's moral teachings carry as much weight as anyone's mere preference. It is not so. What does it mean to think for oneself with respects to infallible assertions? The Church's moral pronouncements cannot contradict the truth of nature. As such, Catholics benefit from Revelation as well as the natural law. Reason and faith leads us to accept the Church's position, the position already shown to be guided by Christ. Some may imply that those who happen to be in line with the Church teachings on this matter are not thinking for themselves. I reject that claim as unsound. We can know the truth. We can know what is right and wrong. We can think for ourselves, and find the truth is found in the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. I repeat the words Pope John Paul II shared at World Youth Day in Toronto, "If you love Christ, love His Church."
Why did I write the editorial above?

In the March 25th edition of my school's newspaper, an editorial was entitled "Thinking for yourself." The writer criticizes people who believe whatever their church tells them. He strongly scrutinizes those who are faithful to the Church's teaching. He goes on to tell how he had to reconcile his beliefs with who he is. He does not want to "amputate" a huge part of his life, so the Church is wrong on teachings about sexuality, he believes. He asks when did God come down to earth to make some individuals the judgment makers of people on earth? He says he finds no solace in the Church's teaching. He believes that God does not want people to cut off a huge part of who they are. I wish I could post a link to his article, but out of respect for his privacy, I will not. I will tell you the tone was very condescending. People "blindly" follow their faith, and are called "automatons." He implies that people who follow the Church, do not use reason. I decided not to make a direct response to his article, but to address the overarching problem of what I call "anti-dogmatic dogmatists." I try to convey that people can use reason and faith to find the Church maintains Truth. I also try to show that the Catholic Church is a beautiful gift. My response will be published in this Thursday's edition of my school's paper. Please pray it may be used to help people see the truth found in the Church. After reading it a few more times, I would make some changes, but it is too late. Above is my submission.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Wishy-Washy Christianity

Neocon is linking to this story:

(From One Hand Clapping)
"Wishy-washy" Christianity driving old-line Britons to Islam
Al-Jazeerah news reports, "Thousands of British elite embrace Islam."

According to the first authoritative study of the phenomenon, carried by the Sunday Times on February 22 , some of the country's top landowners, celebrities and the offspring of senior Establishment figures have embraced Islam after being disillusioned with Western values.

The new study by Yahya (formerly Jonathan) Birt, son of Lord Birt, former director-general of the BBC, provides the first reliable data on the sensitive subject of Christians' reversion to Islam.

He uses a breakdown of the latest census figures to conclude that there are now14,200 white converts in Britain. ...

"I have received letters from people who are put off by the wishy-washy standards of contemporary Christianity and they are looking for a religion which does not compromise too much with the modern world," said [Charles Le Gai] Eaton, author of Islam and the Destiny of Man.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Some notes from John Fialka’s talk:
Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America

-400,000 women have served our country.
-4 sisters to every priest, yet history books rarely discussed sisters.
-The most common depiction of nuns were found in nun detective literature.
-They didn’t write much about themselves because they were too busy helping others.
-We need to know their history, because sisters are so important to our story.
-So, John Fialka decided to tell their story.

-Nuns saw to it that people would be educated. He calls them first feminist because they taught women.
-They were strong women; many were chased out of Europe. When they saw the way Catholics were treated in the U.S., they took action.
-They had an entrepreneurial spirit, with a very important addition, they trusted the Lord. They believed the Lord would provide for all their needs.
- Sisters helped during the Civil War, and the city streets. People saw that Catholics were nice people. Anti-Catholic bigotry declined.
-Renegade nuns. There were several cases of renegades in the history of our country.
-When there was a fight with a Bishop, these radicals would leave the diocese.
-Several would not take no for an answer.

-At Vatican Council 2, women had no role, they were only observers.
-Before the V2 documents came out, people went around and told false teachings of what the council was teaching. Sisters were told to get rid of the habit, leave the group, become liberal, and get out of schools and hospitals. The council did not teach these points.
-Also, by this time, women had many opportunities outside of the Church.
-These are just 2 factors that lead to a decrease in vocations.
-With the decrease in young nuns, the congregations had to pay for their own health care. Before the decrease in vocations, they used to provide for each other.
-$2 billion for these expenses came out of nowhere around the 1980s.
-There is now a fund set up to help aging religious. Before, there were only funds for priests.

-We need to show the young people how these women are real heroes. These examples will influence young to try the life.
-Now average age is 69.
-We can revive religious life, and women can guide and lead the Church once again.
-Religious life is an exciting story, get the word out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Carry your cross daily....
You are the Cross of St. Benedict: This cross is
inscribed with several prayers for holiness and
peace including, -May the holy cross be my
light! May the dragon never be my guide- and
-Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your
vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the
poison yourself!-

What Kind of Cross are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks to Andy K. for linking to this quiz.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Bible Translation Question

Which Bible do you prefer?

I've been searching for a good Bible for a while now. Right now, I'm using the Jerusalem Bible. This Bible was given to me by a Dominican, which is appropriate since the OPs were the main party involved in bringing about the translation. I enjoy what I've read thus far. The problem I see with this Bible is it's pretty bulky. It is actually huge! I know I'd be taking this translation along to the studium, but it is too bulky for travel and trips to the chapel. And, I'm pretty sure this translation is out of print. This version used to be the preferred teaching Bible of Mother Anglica. I believe she now promotes the next Bible.

The Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition (RSV-CE) is the preferred Bible of Scot Hahn, EWTN, and Catholic Answers. They say it is the most accurate translation, probably why we use it in our Catechism. Another benefit of this Bible is that it is ecumenical. Other Christians use this translation. I could see it being beneficial when talking with people of other Christian groups. This version is still in print, however it is hard to find in the stores.

The NRSV-CE (N=new) is similar, but uses inclusive language.

Then there is the New American Bible. It is the translation we use in the lectionary. It is probably the most common Bible in Catholic homes and schools today. The edition I have is bulky, but not as heavy as the J.B. My copy is falling apart.

Of course there is the old Catholic favorite, the Douay Rheims, based on the Latin Vulgate. TAN still publishes this version.

Which Bible translation do you prefer for readability, ease of carrying, and soundness of translation?
Your help is appreciated here.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Check out the comments for March 16, in the post entitled "Sisters, Fialka, and Vocations"...Pretty interesting. Thanks to everyone who commented.

Also, I hope you had a very enjoyable Feast of St. Joseph. What a terrific example for us to follow. He modeled chastity, obedience and poverty, was a loving father, a courageous, compassionate man, and the list goes on. His example is just what our world needs.
And, I couldn't help but laugh at the picture Fr. Bryce linked to: St. Joseph-mullet.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


Today at Morning Prayer:

Jay: Can we sing a song for St. Patrick's day?
A.K: It's Lent, we don't sing in Lent. (We are trying to keep it simple for Lent...and it's hard for our voices to sing in the morning.)
Jay: Come on, let's sing one for St. Patrick. Is there a St. Patrick song?
A.K.: "Breastplate of St. Patrick." But it's not in our songbook.
Jay: Ok, let's just sing "For All the Saints."

Morning pray-ers:
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.

Jay: Oops. I'm sorry.
Congrats-Solemn Vows

What does making solemn vows look like? Check out this slideshow. You can see the solemn vows of 2 Dominicans of the Western Province. A joyous occasion, indeed. Thanks to Domlife for this link.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Sisters, Fialka, and Vocations
My good friend, (the soon to be Sr.) Mary Holy Water and the Dry Font during Lent, OM(orthodox mafia), sends me this reflection. We both attended John Fialka's talk last evening. He is the author of Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America. He is also a graduate of our school. Background on my friend: she is seriously considering religious life. Here are excerpts from her reflection:

The point which he made which stuck with me was that if women do not start entering religious communities in the way they did in previous years (i.e. pre-Vatican II), then the religious life will die out. This struck me for two reasons: 1) I do not agree with it, and 2) I do not see the vocation shortage. I believe there are many women who have considered religious life, but are so rarely exposed to it (or at least what it should be) that they dismiss the idea without considering it twice. In my personal experience, the sisters I grew up with (all 3 of them) were not the happy, joyful, fun sisters whom I believe sisters are called to be. To quote Fr. Francis Mary from EWTN, "the best advertisement for religious life is a happy religious."

In Mr. Fialka's book, specifically in the chapter entitled "The Road to St. Cecilia's," he quotes a sister who says that she had no idea that communities which understood tradition and the need for fun existed. She was so surprised to find sisters in full habit playing ultimate Frisbee. She also says that she finds the wearing of the habit to be essential. In my experience at vocation camps, and especially here in college, talking with other women who have considered religious life, women in today's world are thirsting for the tradition which few orders have kept intact. To many, the changes which religious life underwent in the 1970s and 1980s have turned them off to vocations completely. This is where the "vocation shortage" comes in. But, if a study were to be done on the orders who are receiving vocations, the numbers of postulants and novices is quite large. In my personal experience, of the 200 sisters in St. Cecilia's in Nashville, 75 of them are still in the novitiate. To me, that does not scream "vocation shortage" but is rather a call for return to tradition and the heritage which so few orders hold onto so tightly.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Here I Am Lord 2005

Please check out the Here I am Lord 2005 retreat.

FEBRUARY 11-13, 2005

This weekend is for all people discerning religious, single, and married vocations. There will be tons of great opportunities. It is in the Rockford area.
Check out the site.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

St. Francis, a "Man of the Passion"

The Franciscans Friars of the Renewal have an open letter and petition for Mel Gibson. They want to see Gibson make another movie about St. Francis.

~While we hope you are considering producing another wonderful work of art for God's glory, we ask you, or may we say, "commission you", to produce a sequel which would show the world what happens when a person totally and unequivocally responds to the Passion of the Christ!

~Indeed, Saint Francis was a man of the passion! His contemplation of the cross and the humility of Christ consumed him, often reducing him to tears. His life teaches us that each of us must walk the way of the cross, a path that leads to liberty - the land of the living. Daily he decided to push forward upon the path of penance, that is, continual conversion. He laid his life upon this altar and was each day slowly but steadily sanctified. Through the workings of human effort and Divine Grace, he was transformed from a spoiled son, to a chivalrous soldier, then to a great saint!

Beautiful words for reflection! May we too push forward and walk the way of the cross to true liberty.

However, this is not the only petition running around. Many others are petitioning Gibson to make more Christian movies. So, the ball is in Gibson's court. Will petitions really work? They could, so I guess it doesn't hurt to fill out the petition. May St. Francis pray for us!

Update: However, as the commenters have already said, there are more than enough St. Francis movies to choose from. I think many of these movies are well done. However, I could be wrong. The CFRs seem to think the many depictions of St. Francis have been poor. To be fair, there were many Jesus movies and none touched us like the Passion. There are just way too many other saints that haven't been showcased on film. Don't get me wrong, St. Francis is one of my favorite saints. I love him. How about we think of the other saints, though? Not that a petition is going to do the trick, anyway.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

On Food Stains

White shirt spotted with spaghetti sauce. Meat sauce sprinkled on khakis. Dash of grape juice.

I have a tendency to wear my food and drinks. I have to ask how in the world am I going to wear white full time come August? One things is sure, I must begin to practice the art of graceful eating now. Or not...

Well, at least my friends can have fun laughing at my spills as I grow to be a better eater.

Speaking of food stains, I heard stories about the olden days. The brothers would not wash the scapular too often. In periods of silence, the guys would kiss their scapular as a sign of, I believe, "excuse me" or "I'm sorry."
The predicament then became: had kissing the scapular broke the fast before Communion?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

A Very Strange News Day

Women tries to use a $1 million dollar bill

Sen. McCain (R) is open to being the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee

Planned Parenthood Hires Wacky Chaplain to "play a pivotal role in communicating the theological justification for choice, sexuality, and contraception to the Planned Parenthood community and the general public."

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Pope John Paul II on Vocation
"Now is the correct time for discerning and becoming more radically aware that life cannot develop without God and others. It is the time for facing the great questions, the choice between selfishness and generosity.
Each one of you is confronted by the challenge of giving full meaning to your life, the one life you are given to live. You are young and you want to live. But you must live fully and with a purpose. You must live for God, you must live for others. And no one can live this life for you.
The future is yours, full of perils and possibilities, hope and anguish, suffering and happiness. But the future is above all a call and a challenge to 'keep' your life by giving it up, by 'losing it' as the Gospel (John 12,25) reminds us; by sharing through loving service to others. And the measure of your success will be the measure of your generosity."

Sunday, March 07, 2004

I was on Spring Break and Prayer Intentions

Spring Break was fine. Now, I'm back at college. Two more months and I'm going to be graduating. Oh, jeez! The times I have had. I am really going to miss this place a lot.

Also, I'd ask that you say a Hail Mary for a friend who is struggling through a tough issue.
Actually, maybe you could pray for all people who feel anger or bitterness towards the Church. May the Holy Spirit guide everyone to Truth. May those outside the Church see the Holy Spirit alive in our Church. May we know how best to listen and hopefully be God's instrument for these people who feel so negatively. Thanks for your prayers.
Domlife Article about our Come and See

Thursday, March 04, 2004

On taking a new name

After Catholic friends find out I am going into religious life, one of the most common questions is "Will you take a new name?" And,"What name?" Um...

First, I should note that this question comes from people that know a thing or two about religious life. Not everyone knows about this practice. The Dominicans do allow men to take new names upon entrance into the order, but it is not mandatory. The name must be approved by the novice master. I am indeed considering taking a new name. For me, there is significance in starting anew. Also, I think it is important to place my vocation under the patronage of a particular saint. A saint that I can hopefully have a love for, and someone that can teach me through their actions and words. I think this process of discernment will take some time. Actually, I'm not too concerned right now. I know it is during the pre-novitiate that men formally discern if they'll take a name and which name they'll take. I'm only posting on this topic now because of my numerous friends' reactions.

Some examples: I was at the Catholic bookstore. The lady there told me to take Fidelis. Why? I ask. She says, "God told me you should be Fidelis." Well, St. Fidelis was a martyr, and a fighter of heresy, also a Franciscan. My other friend bought me a copy of the book St. Pius V in the hopes that I'd be inspired. I just finished the book, and yes he is an inspirational figure. Other names are being thrown at me, but I'll leave it up to prayer and discernment. I'm trying to read more about the saints in the meanwhile.
I would like to have as my patron, a saint who was a wonderful preacher, someone who fought heresy, someone who wrote. I'd enjoy having this saint as a life long companion. Reading their words could be helpful in this process. Like I said before, someone who can teach me is important in selecting a new name. It is not about picking a name that sounds "cool." However, if a name sounds too ridiculous, then I'd take it off the possibility list. Picking a patron is important, so I'll probably wait until the pre-novitiate to make a decision.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

A quick update
The trip to St. Louis was fantastic! I loved it. How exciting to see so many young people looking into the Order, or at least being open to God's call. We had thirty men. It was also nice to share my vocational story with the group. I spoke about 20 minutues. (I'd put a copy of it up here, but I didn't record it, nor is there room on here to type it up for you.) It is the Order of Preachers, and I find that mission so invigorating! What a boost in my excitement about my entrance into the novitiate this summer. The brothers are fabulous! This weekend reawakened the reasons I was attracted to the Order. The talks excited me. The community bug bit again. Oh, how I love the community. It is indeed home. It was a powerful affirmation for me. I also think about the prospects of the future. I could be there in St. Louis in a year and a half, if God wills it, for seminary studies (the studium). It reminds me of all the reasons and feelings I felt an attraction to the Order. Terrific. Let us pray that these young men might always place their lives in God's hands, wherever He may lead. Some of these guys may be my future brothers.
Pictures from the event can be found here.

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