Hey Mom & Dad, when did you last go on a date together?

In this blog I wish to comment on a common situation I find in marriages these days: couples who don’t find time for each other.

In years past when the norm was for the father to be the breadwinner off at work while the mother stayed home and kept house, parents didn’t have much worry about the children having time with their parents. Usually, at least the mother was home when the children got out of school, so they at least had one parent home with their children and felt comfortable that their children had sufficient parental attention. Now, however, with both parents often out at work during the day, I hear frequently from parents that they feel a greater burden to make sure they spend time with their children. They must make a conscious decision to make plans that involve their children so as to spend time with them. Sadly, many parents fail to do this, and their children often grow up without their parents’ regular presence and involvement in their lives. It is certainly commendable when parents realize the real need to spend time with their children, and that they cannot use the excuse that they’re busy making money in order to provide for their needs to justify their absence. But I see another need that is frequently ignored, and that is for the couple to spend time alone with just the two of them.

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Your marriage is the glue that keeps your family together. Families don’t fall apart when siblings fight or a mom & her daughter don’t get along; families fall apart when the husband and wife can no longer live together peacefully. Too often, the need for parents to be alone just the two of them, is ignored, and parents often feel guilty leaving their children with a babysitter while they go out on a date. I even see couples who take their children with them when they go out to celebrate their anniversary! This is not good. When I was first ordained a married man gave me advice that I have never forgotten. He told me, “The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.” How right he was! And of course, the reverse is equally true, that a mother’s greatest gift is to love their father. I therefore find it of utmost importance for husbands and wives to take time for themselves just to be together and strengthen their marriage bond. You are not slighting your children if you go out for dinner and leave them with a babysitter; on the contrary, you are doing something very important for them. My mother and father used to go out every Friday or Saturday together, and they told us it was “Mommy and Daddy’s date night.” Maybe that’s part of why they are celebrating 56 years of a happy marriage this month! There were plenty of family events in our household, including dinner every evening together, so we never felt abandoned when our folks went on a date. By all means, make time to spend with your children so that you are a part of their life, but don’t forget to take appropriate time just for the two of you. Your family will be stronger if you do.

Sorry, Fido. Pope Francis didn’t say pets go to heaven

Since he became Pope, the press has been trying very hard to paint Pope Francis as a liberal who will change Church teachings. Numerous false stories have arisen about what the Pope is alleged to have said. The following article from December 2014 is an eye-opening example of how the press create stories and run with them often without checking their facts. Please be very suspicious of anything Pope Francis is alleged to have said, and always check official sources before you accept a news story as truth.Pope Francis holds dove before his weekly audience at the Vatican

David Gibson, Religion News Service12:12 p.m. EST December 13, 2014

Stories swirled this week that Pope Francis said animals can go to heaven, warming the hearts of pet lovers the world over. Unfortunately, none of that appears to be true.

“Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures,” Francis was reported to have said to comfort a distraught boy whose dog had died.

If true, the story would have been a sparkling moment on a rainy November day, and the setting in St. Peter’s Square would only have burnished Francis’ reputation as a kindly “people’s pope.” The story naturally lit up social media, became instant promotional material for vegetarians and animal rights groups, and on Friday even made it to the front page of The New York Times.

Yes, a version of that quotation was uttered by a pope, but it was said decades ago by Paul VI, who died in 1978. There is no evidence that Francis repeated the words during his public audience on Nov. 26, as has been widely reported, nor was there was a boy mourning his dead dog.

So how could such a fable so quickly become taken as fact?

Part of the answer may be the topic of the pope’s talk to the crowd that day, which centered on the End Times and the transformation of all creation into a “new heaven” and a “new earth.” Citing St. Paul in the New Testament, Francis said that is not “the annihilation of the cosmos and of everything around us, but the bringing of all things into the fullness of being.”

The trail of digital bread crumbs then appears to lead to an Italian news report that extended Francis’ discussion of a renewed creation to the question of whether animals too will go to heaven.

“One day we will see our pets in the eternity of Christ,” the report quoted Paul VI as telling a disconsolate boy years ago.

The story was titled, somewhat misleadingly: “Paradise for animals? The Pope doesn’t rule it out.” It wasn’t clear which pope the writer meant, however.

The next day, Nov. 27, a story in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera by veteran Vaticanista Gian Guido Vecchi pushed the headline further: “The Pope and pets: Paradise is open to all creatures.

Vecchi faithfully recounted the pope’s talk about a new creation, and also cited Paul VI’s remark.

According to The New York Times, which issued a massive correction to its story Friday, Pope Francis actually said: “Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.” The writer of the article concluded those remarks meant Francis believed animals have a place in the afterlife.

But the headline put Paul VI’s words in Francis’ mouth, and that became the story.

The Italian version of the Huffington Post picked it up next and ran an article quoting Francis as saying “We will go to heaven with the animals” and contending that the pope was quoting St. Paul — not Pope Paul — as making that statement to console a boy who lost his dog. (That story, by the way, is nowhere in the Bible.)

The urban legend became unstoppable a week later when it was translated into English and picked up by the British press, which cited St. Paul as saying that “One day we will see our animals again in (the) eternity of Christ,” while it has Francis adding the phrase: “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.”

When The New York Times went with the story, along with input from ethicists and theologians, it became gospel truth.

Television programs discussed the pope’s theological breakthrough, news outlets created photo galleries of popes with cute animals, and others used it as a jumping off point to discuss what other religions think about animals and the afterlife. At America magazine, the Rev. James Martin wrote an essay discussing the theological implications of Francis’ statements and what level of authority they may have. It was all very interesting and illuminating, but based on a misunderstanding.

A number of factors probably contributed to this journalistic train wreck:

  • The story had so much going for it: Francis took his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of environmentalism who famously greeted animals as brothers and sisters.
  • Pope Francis is also preparing a major teaching document on the environment, and almost since the day he was elected in 2013 he has stressed the Christian duty to care for creation.
  • Francis also blessed a blind man’s guide dog shortly after he was elected, an affecting image that was often used in connection with these latest reports of his concern for animals.
  • Moreover, the media and the public are so primed for Francis to say novel things and disregard staid customs that the story was too good to check out; it fit with the pattern.

In most accounts, Francis’ comments were also set against statements by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who insisted that animals did not have souls. That apparent contrast fit a common narrative pitting the more conservative Benedict against the ostensibly liberal Francis.

That may be true in some areas, but probably not when it comes to animals.

Adding insult to injury, the Times article cited St. John Paul II as saying in 1990 that animals have souls and are “as near to God as men are.” But that, too, was a misquote, as media critic Dawn Eden explained at the website GetReligion.

There should have been warnings signs: Francis has frowned at the modern tendency to favor pets over people, and he has criticized the vast amounts of money spent by wealthy societies on animals even as children go hungry.

Contributing: Katharine Lackey, USA TODAY

 

The Critical Role of Religion in Democracy

One of the dangers I have always seen in current American society is that we have reversed the intentions of our founding fathers. They imagined a country where religion was freely respected and openly tolerated (cf the First Amendment) but where no one would be compelled to follow any particular religion. We today are more and more creating a society that is inimical to religion, that wants to remove any public mention of God altogether, and more and more people are buying into the idea, even though they personally believe in God and consider themselves spiritual. The following video by a Harvard professor is an excellent statement on what I consider a very crucial error in modern society. Please take a moment to view it. It is only 1 1/2 minutes long.

What is the Purpose of the Church?

My St Peter's_edited-1Last week at our teen club meeting I asked a question of the teenagers, and I was a little surprised at the answers I got. I asked the question, “What is the purpose of the Church?” I got back a variety of comments such as to help people, to show people goodness, to teach the gospel, to show people to follow Jesus, but only eventually did I get the answer I was looking for: to lead people to heaven; to save souls. That is the purpose of the Church, and when I said it of course the kids agreed, but it wasn’t what they first thought, and it occurred to me that maybe that is the cause of many of the problems that we have today with people who either do not embrace the Church, do not follow it as fully as they should, or do not understand why we hold the positions we do. Because they don’t understand what the Church is all about, they don’t understand our insistence on certain teachings. This is not the first time that I’ve come across this.

Recently I had a phone conversation with a man who was rather angry because a layperson I invited to speak after Communion mentioned that gay marriage was wrong. He was furious with me because he thought that the Pope had allowed gay marriage when he said “Who am I to judge?” When I explained to him that that’s not exact at all what the Pope said he started giving me his diatribe of “Well, see this is why people don’t follow the Church any more. The Church insists on holding these unpopular opinions and the Church has to change and say what people want to hear if they want to get people to come. When I asked the man, “What is the purpose of the Church?” he couldn’t answer me. He actually said, “I don’t know!” I said to him, “So you really don’t know what the purpose of the Church is, yet you can be firm in telling me that the Church is wrong in teaching that gay marriage is not permissible.” He then just yelled some more insults at me and hung up. Don’t we need to know what the goal of the Church is before we can assert with force that the Church’s teaching is wrong? Sadly, many people have totally lost track of what we’re all about.

I recall a woman who once called me asking if I could do her wedding even though she needed an annulment.  She told me she knew that technically she needed an annulment. I said to her, “No, truly you need an annulment.” “Well, Father,” she asked, “can’t you just marry me anyway without it? The way I look at it God just wants me to be happy and marrying this man will make me happy so, why won’t you do it?” I tried to explain to her that she had it all wrong, that God doesn’t just want us to be happy. Jesus didn’t have to suffer and die on the cross to help us figure out whatever is going to make you happy and then do it; that was Original Sin! In fact he’s called us to quite the opposite: not just to listen to what you think is right and what you feel is right but to listen to and follow what God teaches us. That was the whole temptation from Satan. God had warned Adam and Eve not to try to listen to their own hearts and heads and what they think is right, because they can be wrong, but God can’t. Basically God was saying, “I am God and you are not. I am all-knowing, you are not. If you follow your own heart and mind you can be wrong, but I can never be wrong. So do and follow all I tell you and your life will be perfect.” Of course, they didn’t listen to God, and when they decided to choose for themselves what was right and wrong instead of listening to God they destroyed Paradise. When I told the girl on the phone this she didn’t want to hear it and abruptly hung up the phone on me.

But that’s the problem we’re facing: in so many situations people somehow got the got the idea that the Church is here just to make people happy. No, the Church is here to show people the way through a fallen world to return to what we lost by Original Sin. It was the disobedience of Adam and Eve to the will of God that lost that unity – that Paradise – that we once had. Christ, by his obedience to the Father even unto death, reversed the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and now, when we are obedient to him we allow him to lead us to union with him – which is what “going to heaven” means – to be one with God. Our beliefs are not arbitrary and they are not decided by vote or opinion but by the truth revealed to us by God and preserved through the Church, what we call the Deposit of Faith.”  Just because the majority of people don’t agree with it does not make it all of a sudden wrong, or because now a majority of people accept it doesn’t automatically make it in fact a means to union with God.

eating-junk-food-can-cause-weight-gainIf you want to have a healthy body, you know that you can’t eat junk food. Well, imagine if people were to say “We like junk food; therefore, we think we should be allowed to eat all the junk food we want!” Nutritionists are simply going to tell you you’re wrong, that junk food doesn’t make you healthy. They tell you you have to severely limit your intake of it, perhaps even avoid it all together. You don’t like it. You want to be able to eat all the junk food you want and still be healthy, but your opinion or desire doesn’t change the fact that junk food is not healthy. Even if nutritionists should decide to appease people and tell them, “Okay. Since you believe there’s nothing wrong with junk food and a majority of you feel that way, then we’ll now declare that junk food is good for you,” does that now make junk food healthy? Your opinion can’t change the truth. In just the same way, when God reveals that something such as gay marriage, contraception, abortion, whatever it may be, is not healthy for your soul and does not lead us into union with him, all the opinion to the contrary doesn’t change the truth that these activities do not make us healthy but are harmful to that union with God, which is the definition of a sin.

Moral teachings tell us what leads us to union with God (salvation) and what harms that union (sin). If we were to say that something that was once revealed as a moral absolute has now changed, that what was once sinful is now holy, that would imply that God had changed, and that’s a metaphysical impossibility! We know that drinking rat poison would kill us. For rat poison to now be good for us there would have to be a complete metabolic change in the very structure and essence of the human body. If 96% of people now believe rat poison is okay and we should now be allowed to drink it, that doesn’t change the fact. Opinions don’t change truth.

rat poisonIf a doctor should have a patient who was insisting that the doctor allow him to drink rat poison, if the doctor cares about his patient and is doing his duty, he doesn’t tell the patient drinking rat poison is healthy no matter how much he whines, pickets, petitions, carries on, or threatens to go to another doctor who will tell him it’s okay. Imagine if the doctor were to say, “Oh, I don’t want to lose any patients, so I’d better allow him to drink rat poison or he’ll leave me,” and he tells him it’s okay, what is the outcome? A dead patient! What would then happen to the doctor? He’d be sued for malpractice, lose his license, and probably be sent to jail as a killer! His duty is to counsel his patients only in the truth. If he tells them otherwise he would be held accountable for their death. If they guy refuses to listen to the doctor and threatens to leave him, the doctor can only say, “Well, you are wrong. Drinking rat poison is not healthy, and if you drink it you will die. You may choose to leave and find a doctor who will tell you it’s okay, but that doctor will not be teaching you the truth, and if you follow his advice, you will die!” In the same way, if the Church truly loves her members, she does not tell them it’s okay to do something that God has declared is sinful no matter how much they demand it. If we were to do that, the person would die in sin and we’d be responsible for their death. We cannot change the truth because people don’t like it, and we cannot change the teachings because people may choose to leave. We may only teach the truth.

 

And so, my brothers and sisters, if you feel concerned or confused about what the Church teaches and don’t understand one thing or another, remember that the purpose of the Church is not to be a social club. Our purpose is not to try to win in as many people as we can by promising anything that will make people join us. Our purpose is to save souls, and the only way we do that is by teaching the truth, by pointing out what is sinful and calling people to avoid sin and embrace what is holy. No opinion, no changes in popular acceptance of an idea can ever change that. To do the work of the Church means simply to preach the Gospel of Jesus, the good news that calls us away from sin and to union with him, and nothing else. Lies destroy and kill. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly. That life is only found in obedience to the truth, the truth that will set us free.

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You’ve been granted an interview with God!

interview-with-godImagine God were to tell you that he was giving you a five minute interview, and you could ask him or say to him whatever you wanted. What would you say to him? I’m sure some people would use the opportunity to present their laundry list of wants and demands to him, kind of like a child on Santa Claus’s lap, “give me this, give me that…” Others would assuredly decide to take God to task for everything he’s not doing right. They would proceed to chastise him for all the things he’s doing wrong, for all the evils he’s not ending, and telling him all the things they think he should be doing if he’s going to be just. I know what I would do: I would only ask him one question. I would say to him, “Lord, are you pleased with me?” I would then allow him to speak. I would listen to what he told me he was pleased with, and I would (hopefully) accept with humility the areas where he wanted me to change. But I certainly hope I would not waste precious time before God talking to him rather than listening to him. To me that seems to be one of the biggest problems that we often face in our relationship with God: we spend far too much time talking to God and not enough time listening to him. Samuel, when he heard the voice of God said to him “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening!” We too often say to God, “Listen Lord, for your servant to speaking!”

How much time do we spend listening to the Lord? Isn’t it a shame that we go to him talking and talking and very seldom listening to him? If a student were studying a sport or a musical instrument under a master teacher, would he spend all of the time telling the teacher how bad he is at his sport or his musical instrument? Would he constantly try to tell him how he could improve in his art, or would he sit and ask the master to teach him what he needs to do to be better at that sport or at that musical instrument? So it needs to be with us and God. Our job is not to dictate to the Lord how we think he should be running the world, but to turn to him and ask him what he wants us to do to make the world a better place, and to change my life so that I will be the person he has created me to be.

If we really want to know meaning in our lives we need to know God. Lots of times we come across people looking to “find themselves”. Whenever I’m talking with someone who says they need to find themselves, I always tell them “if you wish to find yourself, find God!” We need to know why we were made and what we’re here for in order to know that we’re fulfilling that function, and since we are all here because God wants us here, then we can only know true peace and contentment when we know what God wants us to do with the life he has given us. And that often comes not from talking to God but from listening to God. So my suggestion to all of us is, if you want to know peace, if you want to know contentment, if you want to know happiness and have meaning in your life, spend less time talking to God and more time listening to God. May our motto never be “Listen Lord, for your servant to speaking!” But rather “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening!”