Saturday, December 31, 2005

Campus Ministry

Amy Welborn gave a talk about it the other day to college students attending the National Catholic Student Coalition conference. Here's some of what she had to say:

It is, of course, Christ, that we share, Christ to whom we point. Part of the
Catholic dance is that while the Church is the locus, is the place where
Jesus is, present, not in the abstract, but in the visible thing we call
Church...He's above,beyond, and deeper than that, too. We do invite people to
come and see in the Church visible.. but the other part of the dance is making
sure that the community, the experience of church, is not made into an idol.
That when that community fails, disappoints or even disappears as we move on,
our faith isn't lost.

Much of what she had to say echoes what our chaplain, Fr. Bill, constantly preaches to us: Consistency. A life of faith is one in which the person we are at Mass is the same person we are in class, with our families, out partying with friends. We should enjoy our time in college, but at the same time not use that as excuse to sin. Fr. Bill every week invites us to and reminds us of the great graces found in attendance at daily Mass and frequent confession. With those two sacraments as our foundation, it becomes much easier to live a fully authentic life in Christ - one in which we are consistent now in college and one in which we will remain consistent thereafter.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Shopping for Church

A NYTimes story about (evangelical) Protestant young people who shop around for a church that fits their wants:

Emily and her parents, who are evangelical Christians, say her decision to
attend the megachurch, New Life, reveals the strength of her faith and the
profoundly individual spiritual course each believer follows.

"I saw that my parents' relationship to Christ and my relationship to
Jesus Christ were different, and my kids aren't going to relate to Jesus Christ
the same way we do," said Emily's mother, Tracy Hoogenboom, 49. "And that's to
be expected because Jesus Christ is your own personal lord and savior."

It remains unclear how many Christians attend several churches
regularly. Most young people who go outside their family church are Protestants,
from mainline denominations and evangelical churches alike. Some are from
mixed-religion marriages, Mr. Smith said, but many go simply because a second
church appeals to them.

It's good that these young people are looking for an authentic relationship with Christ. The thing they need to ask themselves is, "Is this church providing me with what Christ wants for me, or what I want from Christ?"

There is some Catholic shopping of parishes - mainly to find good homilists, but also out of liturgical concerns. But the beauty of the Catholic faith is that you can go anywhere is the world on any day and hear the same readings and participate in the same mystery.

Little Black Box

There are beaucoup yard signs in and around the New Orleans metro area right now advertising job openings and services like house gutting, roofing, etc. Really, they're everywhere.

For the past couple of days, I've seen copies of a handmade yard sign throughout our neighborhood. It proclaims: "Lost: Small Black Box. Reward. Call if found."

I find this extremely interesting. I mean, what could be in a small black box that someone's offering a reward for it? I've tried to come up with cool ideas: Lots of cash, drugs, documents that reveal that the identity you claim is not actually your own, the Holy Grail, etc...

This could actually make a really cool short story. What do you think would be awesome to find in this small black box?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Few Thoughts About Limbo

As you may have heard, a Vatican commission is looking into limbo, a theological theory that the souls of unbapitized babies (who would have original sin, but not actual sin, on their soul) are not able to enter into Heaven, but instead spend eternity in a place of "blissful ignorance" - they are naturally happy, but they do not enjoy union with God. The theory has never been doctrine nor proclaimed infallibly, and after this commission finishes its work, it seems the theory may become more unpopular. It was/is accepted by some theologians and members of the faithful because it affirms the necessity of baptism for salvation.

Now, I am not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination, nor will I achieve the sanctity that Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas did (they believed in limbo, I am told), but I do have some thoughts to respond to those who have defended the theory in some St. Blog's comboxes. I am inclined not to believe in limbo, but there have been insightful comments into the theory by those who do accept it, and I wanted to respond to some comments its defenders have made, however poor my qualifications for that may be (read: very poor).

1. God doesn't "owe" us or anyone Heaven, including babies, so it's not punishment that unbaptized babies be sent to limbo. This statement is true. God doesn't owe us Heaven. He doesn't owe innocent babies Heaven. But God owes us nothing and yet He has given us all. His track record when dealing with us humans is one of unfathomable generosity. He didn't have to create us, He could have decided not to save us through the blood of His Son, He could have abstained from giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Church, the gift of the sacraments. He didn't have to give us the thousand little graces with which He sprinkles our every days. Yet He freely gave us all this - and He continues to give. So while it is correct that God doesn't owe us or these unbaptized babies anything (including Heaven), the history of our relationship with Him affirms that He gives all to us anyway. While I certainly don't want to presume to know God's thoughts or ways, I'm not sure why the gift of Heaven to unbaptized babies would be any different.

2. There's been some talk that the commission's work may have been proximately caused by how to deal with people like mothers in Africa, where the infant mortality rate is still very high and pastorally speaking, you don't want to tell those mothers that their babies aren't in Heaven. But it's not a good idea to base doctrine on pastoral concerns alone. I've never developed doctrine, but it sounds right to me that you don't want to base it on pastoral concerns alone. The thing is, limbo was never doctrine and the work of this commission does not seem to indicate that the theory's suppression (if you can call it that) would be equivalent to doctrine, either. But nonetheless, pastoral concerns are very important. The sheep shouldn't be in fear of their shepherd. And the shepherd shouldn't scare the sheep away. It's not like these grieving parents are giving their kids condoms and turning a blind eye to their sexual activity (*cough* some Western parents *cough*). They've lost a baby and like any good parent, they want to be sure of their child's safety and happiness in eternity. I can say with some confidence that if I were a mother who lost a baby before that baby was baptized, and then someone from the Church told me unequivocally that my baby was NOT in Heaven, I'd have a crisis of faith. Not to mention that Africa and Asia are where the Church is growing exponentially and where so many of our vocations are coming from. Do we really want to alienate the heads of those households?

3. The current popular thought on limbo - which is to dismiss it - is just a remnant of all that lovey-dovey '60s stuff. I don't know the history on this, but I'm pretty sure some people before Vatican II must have had some problems with it, or it wouldn't have remained just a theory. Not only that, but I'm sure there were parents of dead unbaptized babies who didn't like this theory since its inception. But more to the point: The uneasiness with which many in the modern world react to limbo may in fact be a movement of the Holy Spirit. Our emotions alone shouldn't guide our decisions. We need to use reason and prayer (and, where applicable, the guidance of the Church). But we are made in the image and likeness of God. If are hearts are really telling us that this doesn't seem right, maybe that's because it isn't right. God does work in those ways sometimes.

In the end, I'll accept what the Holy Father asks me to. What the Church says now (and seems likely to reaffirm in this commission), is that, "The Church can only entrust them (children who have died without baptism) to the mercy of God."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Something to Chew On

John Allen, the very well-respected Vatican beat reporter for the National Catholic Reporter, in an interview with Godspy about his new book on Opus Dei, had this to say (among a few other things) about American Catholics:

It's tragic that American Catholics spent the first part of the 20th century
crawling out of the ghetto imposed on us by a hostile Protestant majority, but
that now we've constructed our own ghettos. They're defined not by
denominational boundaries, but by ideological ones. This isn't just
distasteful on an aesthetic level, but ecclesiologically it's deeply
unsatisfactory. We're supposed to be a community of communities—that's what
communio ecclesiology is, to which John Paul II and Benedict XVI have been so
valiantly trying to call us.

Do read the whole interview, it's quite fascinating and insightful. And I do think this polarization of Catholicism in America is related - indirectly, for sure, but still related - to the polarization of American politics that has
become quite shocking in recent decades.

Special Education in Catholic Schools

If you're a special education major like me (or a Catholic parent of a child with a disability), you might be wondering if the federal law requiring special education in public schools (IDEA) has any impact on private schools. The answer is YES (although not much of an impact). The local education agencies (LEA) for public schools are required to use an appropriate portion of IDEA funding for students parentally-placed in private schools. For example, if for one LEA, 10% of students with disabilities are parentally-placed in a private school, then 10% of the LEA's IDEA funding must be put towards serving these children in private schools.

From what I understand, many Catholic schools would like to provide special education services, but they're expensive. This means many parents of students with special needs may have to place this child in the public school system to receive better services for the child's disability. To top it off, adults interested in serving students with special needs will find most available jobs are in the public school system and not Catholic schools.

If I have confused you with my information on IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) than please visit this link. It contains more information on IDEA as it regards private schools.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

New Entry for Webster's

You know life has changed radically after Hurricane Katrina when it's entered into teenage lingo...

My sister-in-law's younger brother is a sophomore in high school. He reports that now when his friends screw up, they tell them, "You Mike Brown-ed it."

Prayer in the Classroom

Don't know if this post is quite appropriate for a family blog, but here we go...

My parents, brothers and I were talking about Jewish law (don't ask me why, I don't remember) on Christmas Eve. One of my brothers grabbed a Bible, turned to Deuteronomy (most of the law is in Leviticus, btw) and said through his laughter that he had something to share with us.

When he was in high school, his religion teacher used to ask students if they would like to lead the prayer to start each class. One of my brother's friends (who was in a Legionaries of Christ seminary for a bit before leaving - he just married over the summer) raised his hand and said, "Sir, I have a Scripture passage I'd like to share." Then, as solemnly as he could, he read the following verse, Deuteronomy 23:2:
"No man whose testicles have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off
may be admitted into the community of the Lord."

Monday, December 26, 2005

Top 10

The Catholic Terps are listed as #7 on the Top 10 list of "Clubs & Organizations" at the University of Maryland on The Facebook's popularity tracker. And what, you ask, is Facebook? Wikipedia answers.

I Never Knew This

Story about the man after whom my hometown is named. Interesting.

The Daily Miracle

My favorite Christmas gift - besides God being born into the world as man - was being home with my family. My big brother got to come in from Texas and my maternal grandmother is now living with my parents, plus an uncle and a couple of cousins were there, so it was great.

But besides that, the favorite material thing was from my parents, and I think illustrates the humor and resolve with which people in New Orleans and along the Gulf have responded to Katrina. It's a T-shirt printed by the New Orleans' paper, the Times-Picayune, that reads: "The Times-Picayune: We Publish Come Hell and High Water".

And We're Back!

...For a limited 3 week (or so) engagement. Thanks to all who sent wishes for a good semester. It went pretty well, even though it's ending means I'm now less than 5! months until graduation.

I hope everyone had a very blessed Christmas Day and that the rest of the Christmas season is joyful!