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Pentecost Sunday


by Fr. Steve Grunow via FrSteveGrunow.com

Pentecost commemorates the revelation of the Holy Spirit to the apostles and disciples. This revelation happened after the Lord Jesus ascended to his Father, and took his rightful place as Lord of our lives and Lord of the world.

Prior to his Ascension, the Lord Jesus promised that he would reveal the Holy Spirit. This happens in an extraordinary event that is described for us today in the Church’s first scripture, an excerpt from the New Testament book entitled “Acts of the Apostles.”

We learn from this eyewitness account, that the Holy Spirit was revealed with frightening power, in what appeared to be wind and flame and the shaking of the earth. This power overtook the apostles and disciples of the Lord Jesus and transformed them, enabling to enact mighty and wondrous deeds, to do the kinds of things that the Lord Jesus had done, and invigorated them with the courage to speak openly, publically about the Lord Jesus.

The Holy Spirit was the driving force that impelled the apostles and disciples out from behind locked doors and closed rooms and into the world.

The Church is not meant to be a private, faith-based club, but an open, public, missionary society that goes out into the world. The fundamental task of the Church is the proclamation of Lordship of Jesus Christ and the invitation to know Christ and serve him in the Church. The acceptance of this invitation expresses itself in a willingness to repent, to live a different way of life, a way of life that expresses itself in a unique way of worship that we call the Mass and in works of mercy that seek to sustain the bodies and souls of those in need.

The Church’s unique way of life, her proclamation, her worship, her works of mercy give rise to a civilization, a living culture that transcends the boundaries imposed by ethnicity and language, and is, here on earth, an expression of the Kingdom of heaven.

None of this would be possible if disciples of the Lord Jesus sequestered themselves in a private, faith-based clubhouse. In fact, the Holy Spirit will resist our attempts to reduce the Church to a private club by withdrawing his blessing if we give in to this temptation. Christians are meant to be overtaken by the power of the Holy Spirit and when they are they are like fire, earthquakes, and hurricane winds- they are forces to be reckoned with, whose impact on the world is evident in their bold proclamation, beautiful worship and lively works of mercy. In a world where so many dwell imprisoned in darkness and cold and death, the Christian filled with the Holy Spirit is a reprieve of light, warmth and abundant life.

Christians who resist the Holy Spirit languish in narrowness, frustration and self pre-occupation and their private faith-based clubs show forth these negative qualities- repelling, rather than attracting, closed and locked, rather than open to invite the world in; unsure of Christ, rather than knowing him as one knows a friend; concerned more with maintenance of programs and structures, rather than with accomplishing the mission Christ gives his people.

St. Paul doesn’t mince words about the characteristics of Christians who resist the Holy Spirit.

In his Letter to the Galatians, he provides a dirty laundry list of the negative characteristics of Christians who resist the Holy Spirit- he pulls no punches. He has no qualms about airing the dirty laundry of his fellow Christians in public. Listening to his list this morning we shouldn’t think that any of those characteristics would not be found here or that the effect of what St. Paul identifies could be safely contained in the privacy of our homes. The kinds of things that St. Paul identifies in his dirty laundry list are the kinds of things that Christians do that poison the Church.

Why is St. Paul nagging at us about things that most people in our culture would protest are private matters?

St. Paul wants us to examine our consciences and we all should. Pope Benedict aptly observed once that Christians who speak of God but who live contrary to him, open the doors to unbelief and further that the Church’s greatest need in this present moment of the Church’s life are people who make God credible by means of their way of life.

The worldly dabble in trying to divide character from morality, identifying success in terms of wealth, pleasure, power and honors as being of higher value than truth and goodness. The self-esteem of the celebrity is preferred to self-gift of the saint. Christians attempt to live their faith in ideas and emotions rather than in acts of repentance and works of mercy. This is all contrary to the Holy Spirit.

If something on St. Paul’s dirty laundry list strikes at your conscience, good. Praise God! That means that you are not yet completely lost!

Those who are overtaken by the Holy Spirit manifest the presence of the Holy Spirit in lives that look a lot like the life of the Lord Jesus- they know him, they love him, they serve him- and they do so by loving what he loves and serving what he serves.

St. Paul describes the attitude, the demeanor of a Christian who loves and serves what Christ loves and serves. You meet in these Spirit-filled Christians the qualities that best describe God in Christ: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Are those qualities in you? They can be- if you surrender yourself to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now, I have spent a great deal of time speaking about the effects of the Holy Spirit as he takes hold of our lives and we take hold of him.

But what is the Holy Spirit specifically?

The Holy Spirit is not an invisible magic force that gives us superpowers.

The Holy Spirit, is, simply put, the love of God in Christ, specifically he is the love that is shared between God the Father and God the Son.

In other words, what you receive in the Holy Spirit is Christ’s own relationship with his Father, and in doing so, he gives to you the possibility of becoming like him!

This is what the Lord Jesus is speaking about in his Gospel today. In words that sound cryptic and mystical he is telling you that he loves you so much that he wants you to have what he has- and the most important thing that the Lord Jesus has is his relationship with his Father.

That’s what he wants to give you. The means by which he gives that relationship to you is the Holy Spirit.

The Christian Faith, the Church’s Faith, is about many things- so many things that at times we are distracted from seeing, understanding the one, necessary thing that our Faith is all about- a relationship with God in Christ.

God revealed himself in Christ and in the Holy Spirit not just so that his expectations in terms of justice, morality and worship could have the proper point of reference for our understanding. Contrary to what many Christians have come to believe, God’s revelation in Christ and the Holy Spirit cannot be reduced to ethics and values or the support of institutions (any more than it can be reduced to ideas and emotions).

God’s revelation in Christ and the Holy Spirit is ultimately about his desire to be in a relationship with us. God wants us to know him so that he can express his love for us and offer us a way to be like him. God comes into the world and into our lives in the Lord Jesus to let us know that this is what God intends to do. And it is for this reason, that God in Christ sends the Holy Spirit to us- and this Holy Spirit is what happens to us when we are really and truly willing to be in a relationship with him!

“Catholic” Ireland Adopts Gay Marriage


A note from Al:

By now we should have learned that Catholics engaging in civil debate is worse than useless if they are not properly catechized and representing the true teaching of the Church. Apparently Ireland is full of Catholics who have been sacramentalized but not evangelized. Even the Archbishop of Dublin, who I’ve heard is a fine man, was reluctant to tell Catholics how to vote. What he doesn’t know is that we don’t want bishops who tell us how to vote. We want bishops and priests who will teach us the mind of Christ on the nature of marriage, sexual expression, war and peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, sports and entertainment, immigration and poverty. The age of compliance ended with the Second Vatican Council. Now we should be in an age of catechesis. Don’t tell us what to do. Explain what the teaching means. WE can decide as citizens how to vote but we would like our vote to be informed by how the Church sees the world. Teach the truth and people will do the truth. Command the truth and you won’t get either.

Ireland’s 40-Percent Solution

by Robert Royal via TheCatholicThing.org

You have to hand it to the Irish bishops, priests, and religious. It’s not easy to de-Christianize a whole people. Yet they managed, in about a generation, to help detach an almost entirely Catholic population from its 1500-year-old religious and social roots. Social “scientists” are going to have to closely study this phenomenon, which far exceeds what has happened even in what used to be thought of as bellwether secularizing states like Germany and France.

The media have been touting the massive popular support, over 60 percent, for gay marriage in Ireland’s referendum last Friday. It’s clear that they regard it as a harbinger of things to come: if that can happen in Ireland, what’s next? And at the superficial, incurious level of media-driven discourse, it is remarkable. But more remarkable by far – and something to consider for the future – is the 40 percent who did not go along, which is, at the very least, a minor miracle in our day.

It’s all too easy – and misleading – to list the usual “secular” reasons for “secularization.” Yes, there were sexual and financial scandals in the hierarchy and several religious orders. Yes, the “Celtic Tiger” experienced rapid economic growth and social change. Yes, some think science eliminates the need for religion. Yes, the political leadership in Ireland caved in to gay propaganda and intimidation – not a single political party or major public figure urged “No.”

But to think that these things explain the outcome is not to think like a Christian. A Christian starts from a different place. How is it that the Irish, like others who have left the Catholic Church, have not, in large numbers, become atheists – which is to say outright non-believers – but in their spirituality and religiosity have turned to something other than classic Christianity? And where did many get the idea that they’re Christian, and even that their “openness” and “tolerance” are more Christian than Catholicism? (Look carefully at all those faces in the photos.)

Here’s part of an answer. Over the past few years, I’ve been tangentially involved through the Catholic Distance University (an orthodox, online institution) with setting up a formation program for catechists in Ireland. Nota bene, this is not an effort to teach the Irish directly, but to form teachers who would have to convey the faith to them.

Why was such a program necessary – and why is it that it took an American woman, living in Ireland, to come up with the idea and promote it to various dioceses? Simply put, in the past few decades there was no longer anything reliably Catholic in education programs on the Emerald Isle. It was easier to bring something from outside, from the fabled shores of America.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, a decent man but not a very vigorous leader, noted as the vote approached how odd it was that many young people supported gay marriage, even though they had attended Catholic schools for twelve years or more. Many people, including perhaps the archbishop himself, regard this as a “rejection” of Catholic moral teaching. But that assumes teachers in those schools were strongly presenting that teaching. As we know, from San Francisco to Dublin, that is not necessarily the case.

In fact, the archbishop himself, perhaps thinking it would avoid a political backlash, said last week that he personally was voting “No,” but would not tell anyone else how to vote. (Some commentators have claimed he was following Pope Francis, who was silent about the Irish vote and recently told the Italian bishops that they should trust their own people to do the right thing, not try to tell them what to do.)

People will choose different approaches to hard questions, and we owe some deference to an archbishop in such a situation. But people notice when a Church leader is triangulating for support like a politician, rather than boldly preaching the Gospel, like a follower of Jesus.

I myself would have risked the backlash and would even have preferred sounding like a fundamentalist preaching fire and brimstone – which, after all, Jesus Himself did quite often. All that stuff about unquenched fire and Gehenna, and the salt losing its savor.

The longer game now, however, must be to renew real Christian teaching and to woo people back to the love of Christ’s Church. The two, as Pope Francis has emphasized, must go together. It’s a sound Thomistic insight that most people are not and cannot become philosophers and theologians. Most people who want to think themselves Christian have to be confident that there are people they trust – and revere – who have Christian answers to difficult moral and spiritual questions, even if most Christians don’t know the arguments themselves.

That connection and confidence have been lacking in Ireland – and many other places – for a generation or two now.

In the wake of the Irish vote, a priest sent me a passage from St. Augustine’s Enchiridion, which describes how “crimes were not only not punished, but were openly committed, as if under the protection of the law. And so in our own times: many forms of sin, though not just the same as those of Sodom and Gomorrah, are now so openly and habitually practiced, that not only dare we not excommunicate a layman, we dare not even degrade a clergyman, for the commission of them.”

After decades of dithering, it will be a long way back from where we are now. Despite everything, let’s take heart from the almost 40 percent who did right in Ireland, under heavy pressure and facing long odds. As Chesterton’s Virgin puts it to King Alfred, facing a barbarian horde, in The Ballad of the White Horse:


I tell you naught for your comfort,

Yea, naught for your desire,

Save that the sky grows darker yet

And the sea rises higher.


Night shall be thrice night over you,

And heaven an iron cope.

Do you have joy without a cause,

Yea, faith without a hope?

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 22, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 22, 2015

4:00 – Kenya Gears Up for Beatification of Sr. Irene Stefani

Sr. Irene Stefani will become the first person in the history of Kenya to be beatified. Massive crowds have gathered for the celebration. We get a live report from the scene with George Wirnkar.

4:20 – 6:00 – Direct to My Desk: Topics TBA  


Defending ISIS Policy, Obama Acknowledges Flaws in Effort So Far

A note from Al:

President Obama says he has a plan. Why doesn’t anyone recognize it?

For Isis this is a religious war. Yes, military leadership is filled with retooled generals from Saddam’s army but the driving force behind ISIS is a purification of and greater application of Islam. ISIS will have to fight Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt if it wants to make its claim to be the new caliphate stick. If you aren’t considering the competing religious claims at least as seriously as the territorial and military claims, you will never understand this story. – Al Kresta

by Peter Baker via NYTimes.com


WASHINGTON — President Obama denied that the United States and its allies were losing the fight against Islamic State forces in the Middle East, but he acknowledged in an interview posted online on Thursday that more should be done to help Iraqis recapture lost territory.

While repeating his refusal to commit large-scale American forces to the region, the president said Sunni fighters in Iraq needed more commitment and training to take on fellow Sunnis aligned with the Islamic State. But he offered no regrets about his handling of the war and said in the end, it would be up to the Iraqis to increase their efforts.

“I don’t think we’re losing,” Mr. Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg, a journalist for The Atlantic in an interview conducted on Tuesday just days after the Iraqi city of Ramadi fell to Islamic State fighters. “There’s no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time, primarily because these are not Iraqi security forces that we have trained or reinforced.”

The president’s comments came a day before the Islamic State seized a second city, Palmyra, in central Syria, reinforcing concerns in that region and in Washington that Mr. Obama’s strategy has faltered. The president and his team argued for months that they had reversed the momentum of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, but critics and independent experts said it was now time to rethink the approach.

The United States is sending 1,000 antitank rockets to Iraq to help its forces counter vehicle bombs, which were used by the Islamic State to capture Ramadi, but the White House has made clear that it does not intend to engage in a broader overhaul of the American war effort in the region. Mr. Obama has authorized airstrikes and occasional Special Forces missions, but otherwise he said he was counting on the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq and moderate Syrian rebels to conduct the fight on the ground.

Some Republicans say this is inadequate. “Where is our morality?” Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on the Senate floor. “Where is our decency? Where is our concern about the thousands of people being slaughtered and displaced and their lives destroyed? And we shouldn’t set our hair on fire? Outrageous.”

In the interview, Mr. Obama attributed the fall of Ramadi to a failure by the Iraqi government to build up its forces, fortifications and command-and-control systems in Anbar Province, a largely Sunni region that has long been a hotbed of resistance to Shiite-led governments in Baghdad. Sunni forces in Anbar, he said, “have been there essentially for a year without significant reinforcements.”

“There’s no doubt that in the Sunni areas, we’re going to have to ramp up not just training but also commitment, and we better get Sunni tribes more activated than they currently have been,” Mr. Obama said. “So it is a source of concern.”

But he counseled patience. “We’re eight months into what we’ve always anticipated to be a multiyear campaign, and I think Prime Minister Abadi recognizes many of these problems, but they’re going to have to be addressed,” Mr. Obama said.

While Republican presidential candidates argue whether the original American invasion of 2003 was the right decision or not, Mr. Obama said the lesson he learned from that episode was that simply sending in American forces was not always the answer to every security threat. Mr. Obama withdrew remaining American troops from Iraq in 2011 after negotiations to leave behind a residual force collapsed.

“I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in,” he said. But the lesson of the last dozen years is that Iraqis have to be willing and capable to govern their own country, he said. “If they are not willing to fight for the security of their country,” he said, “we cannot do that for them.”

Addressing other issues in the Middle East, Mr. Obama warned Saudi Arabia and other gulf states not to pursue their own nuclear programs as a counterweight to Iran. A week after meeting with gulf leaders at Camp David, Mr. Obama said he had heard “legitimate skepticism and concern” from them about his tentative agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program but stressed that they should feel assured of American support for their security.

“There has been no indication from the Saudis or any other” gulf state “that they have an intention to pursue their own nuclear program,” Mr. Obama said. Regional leaders should understand that “the protection that we provide as their partner is a far greater deterrent than they could ever hope to achieve by developing their own nuclear stockpile or trying to achieve breakout capacity when it comes to nuclear weapons.”

Moreover, he added, “their covert — presumably — pursuit of a nuclear program would greatly strain the relationship they’ve got with the United States.”

As for his recent disagreements with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuof Israel, Mr. Obama said again that he was a strong supporter of the Jewish state and that allies ought to be able to disagree without being accused of being anti-Israel.

He said Mr. Netanyahu’s pre-election statement suggesting that Arab-Israeli citizens were somehow “an invading force that might vote” was “contrary to the very language of the Israeli Declaration of Independence” and could not be ignored.

“When something like that happens, that has foreign policy consequences,” Mr. Obama said, “and precisely because we’re so close to Israel, for us to simply stand there and say nothing would have meant that this office, the Oval Office, lost credibility when it came to speaking out on those issues.”

He said many Jewish Americans support him regardless of the quarrel.

“I consistently received overwhelming majority support from the Jewish community and even after all the publicity around the recent differences that I’ve had with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the majority of the Jewish American community still supports me, and supports me strongly,” Mr. Obama said.

He said that his public criticism of Mr. Netanyahu was “fairly spare and mild” but blown up by some who have made “a very concerted effort on the part of some political forces to equate being pro-Israel, and hence being supportive of the Jewish people, with a rubber stamp on a particular set of policies coming out of the Israeli government.”

Mr. Obama said he rejected that view. “You should be able to say to Israel, ‘We disagree with you on this particular policy,’ ” he said, citing settlements, checkpoints and the rights of Arab citizens. “And to me, that is entirely consistent with being supportive of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Robert Gates: Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders not sustainable

A note from Al:

It’s been a long time coming. But the Boy Scout creed is not specific enough to protect them. If you are not standing on a firm creedal foundation, the waves of this culture will roll right over you. The Boy Scouts fought this for years. Now they are recognizing the inevitable. The only alternative would be for leaders within the movement to break from it and try to start a group grounded in an explicitly Christian creed and to make careful distinctions from the start. – Al Kresta

by Jason Sickles via Yahoo.com


The Boy Scouts of America must reverse its longstanding policy of excluding gay adult leaders or risk unfavorable legal decisions that could doom the historic organization, its president, Robert Gates, warned his group’s national leadership Thursday.

“We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” said Gates, a former Pentagon and CIA chief. “The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”

Gates’s remarks came during the during the BSA’s annual national meeting in Atlanta.

The 105-year-old organization took no immediate action on a formal policy change, but Gates said he would no longer seek to revoke the charters of chapters that want to defy the ban.

“We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy from some councils,” he said. “Nor can we ignore the social, political and juridical changes taking place in our country — changes taking place at a pace over this past year no one anticipated.”

Gates pointed to recent debates over same-sex marriage and a trend in new state laws that protect employment rights on the basis of sexual orientation.

A group of Boy Scouts march during Salt Lake City’s annual Gay Pride parade in 2014. (Rick Bowmer/AP File)

A group of Boy Scouts march during Salt Lake City’s annual Gay Pride parade in 2014. (Rick Bowmer/AP File)

The former U.S. Secretary of Defense said a legal fight could put the BSA in the same vulnerable position the armed forces faced at the end of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy that barred openly gay individuals from serving in the military.

“Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes,” he said. “If we wait for the courts to act, we could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard, including our foundational belief in our duty to God and our focus on serving the specific needs of boys.”

Gates’s remarks were welcome news to those who have been challenging the Scouts’ longstanding anti-gay policies.

“While our work won’t be done until we see a full end to their ban on gay adults once and for all, today’s announcement is a significant step in that direction,” Scouts for Equality executive director Zach Wahls said in a statement. “I’m proud to see Dr. Gates charting a course towards full equality in the BSA.”

Two years ago this week, the BSA, one of the country’s largest and oldest youth organizations, decided to break 103 years of tradition by allowing openly gay members into its ranks. The controversial move was approved by more than 60 percent of the approximately 1,400 votes cast by the BSA’s national council. But the Scouts’ ban on gay adult volunteer leaders and paid staff was not reconsidered.

Human Rights Campaign, a champion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, called Thursday’s announcement heartening.

“But, as we have said many times previously, half measures are unacceptable, especially at one of America’s most storied institutions,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement. “It’s time for BSA leaders to show true leadership and embrace a full national policy of inclusion that does not discriminate against anyone because of who they are.”

Thursday’s development is an about-face of sorts for Gates, who said last year that he was opposed to reconsidering the issue of gay adult leaders during his two-year term as the group’s president.

“I had hoped then for a respite during which we could focus on healing our divisions from the 2013 decision, improving our program, strengthening our finances and ending our decline in membership,” he said.

But internal pushback and the current political climate have forced his hand, he said. About 70 percent of scouting units across the country are sponsored by churches acting as charter organizations. Gates told the leaders that he recommends a change in policy allowing the charter partners to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith.

“We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this,” Gates said. “Our oath calls upon us to do our duty to God and our country. The country is changing, and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape.”

The 71-year-old acknowledged that some in the crowd would be angered by his remarks, but he assured them, “I have no hidden agenda.”

“The one thing we cannot do is put our heads in the sand and pretend this challenge will go away or abate,” he said. “I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.”

(This story has been updated since it was originally published.)

Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).

Your kid and my kid are not playing in the pros

A note from Al:

If this sports doc is to be believed, and I have no reason to mistrust him, kids sports have changed a lot since my Little League and Biddy Basketball days. What changed first, the coaches or the parents or the kids? – Al Kresta

by Louis M. Profeta MD via Nuvo.net


I don’t care if your eight year old can throw a baseball through six inches of plywood. He is not going to the pros. I don’t care if your twelve-year-old scored seven touchdowns last week in Pop Warner. He is not going to the pros. I don’t care if your sixteen-year-old made first team all-state in basketball. He is not playing in the pros. I don’t care if your freshman in college is a varsity scratch golfer, averaging two under par. He isn’t playing in the pros. Now tell me again how good he is. I’ll lay you two to one odds right now — and I don’t even know your kid, I have never even see them play — but I’ll put up my pension that your kid is not playing in the pros. It is simply an odds thing. There are far too many variables working against your child. Injury, burnout, others who are better — these things are just a fraction of the barriers preventing your child from becoming “the one.”

So how do we balance being the supportive parent who spends three hours a day driving all over hell’s half acre to allow our child to pursue his or her dream without becoming the supportive parent that drives all over hell’s half acre to allow our child to pursue OUR dream? When does this pursuit of athletic stardom become something just shy of a gambling habit? From my experience in the ER I’ve developed some insight in how to identify the latter.

1. When I inform you as a parent that your child has just ruptured their ACL ligament or Achilles tendon, if the next question out of your mouth is, “How long until he or she will be able to play?” you have a serious problem.

2. If you child is knocked unconscious during a football game and can’t remember your name let alone my name but you feel it is a “vital” piece of medical information to let me know that he is the starting linebacker and that the team will probably lose now because he was taken out of the game, you need to see a counselor.

3. If I tell you that mononucleosis has caused the spleen to swell and that participation in a contact sport could cause a life threatening rupture and bleeding during the course of the illness and you then ask me, “If we just get some extra padding around the spleen, would it be OK to play?” someone needs to hit you upside the head with a two by four.

4. If your child comes in with a blood alcohol level of .250 after wrecking your Lexus and you ask if I can hurry up and get them out of the ER before the police arrive so as not to run the risk of her getting kicked off the swim team, YOU need to be put in jail.

I bet you think I’m kidding about the above patient and parent interactions. I wish I were, but I’m not. These are a fraction of the things I have heard when it comes to children and sports. Every ER doctor in America sees this. How did we get here? How did we go from spending our family times in parks and picnics, at movies and relatives houses to travel baseball and cheerleading competitions? When did we go from being supportive to being subtly abusive?

Why are we spending our entire weekends schlepping from county to county, town to town, state to state to play in some bullshit regional, junior, mid-west, southeast, invitational, elite, prep, all- state, conference, blah, blah, blah tourney? We decorate our cars with washable paint, streamers, numbers and names. We roll in little carpool caravans trekking down the interstate honking and waiving at each other like Rev. Jim Jones followers in a Kool-Aid line. Greyhounds, Hawks, Panthers, Eagles, Bobcats, Screaming Devils, Scorching Gonads or whatever other mascot adorns their jerseys.

Somewhere along the line we got distracted, and the practice field became the dinner table of the new millennium. Instead of huddling around a platter of baked chicken, mashed potatoes and fruit salad, we spend our evenings handing off our children like 4 x 200 batons. From baseball practice to cheerleading, from swimming lessons to personal training, we have become the “hour-long” generation of five to six, six to seven, and seven to eight, selling the souls of our family for lacrosse try-outs. But why do we do this?

It’s because, just like everyone else, we’re afraid. We are afraid that Emma will make the cheerleading squad instead of Suzy and that Mitch will start at first base instead of my Dillon. But it doesn’t stop there. You see, if Mitch starts instead of Dillon then Dillon will feel like a failure, and if Dillon feels like a failure then he will sulk and cower in his room, and he will lose his friends because all his friends are on the baseball team, too, and if he loses his friends then he will start dressing in Goth duds, pierce his testicles, start using drugs and begin listening to headbanging music with his door locked. Then, of course, it’s just a matter of time until he’s surfing the net for neo-Nazi memorabilia, visiting gun shows and then opening fire in the school cafeteria. That is why so many fathers who bring their injured sons to the ER are so afraid that they won’t be able to practice this week, or that he may miss the game this weekend. Miss a game, you become a mass murderer — it’s that simple.

Suzy is a whole other story, though. You see, if she doesn’t make the cheerleading squad she will lose a whole bunch of friends and not be as popular as she should (and she’s REAL popular). If she loses some friends, she will be devastated — all the cool kids will talk about her behind her back, so then she’ll sit in her room all day, eating Ding Dongs and cutting at her wrists. Then, of course, it is only a matter of time until she is chatting on the Internet with fifty-year-old men and meeting up with them at truck stops. And that is why every mother is so frightened when her daughters have mononucleosis or influenza. Miss cheerleading practice for a week, and your daughter is headed for a career in porn. It’s that simple.

We have become a frightened society that can literally jump from point A to point Z and ignore everything in between. We spend so much time worrying about who might get ahead — and if we’re falling behind — that we have simply lost our common sense. Myself included.

There was a time when sick or injured children were simply sick or injured children. They needed bed rest, fluid, antibiotics and a limitation on activity. They just needed to get better. They didn’t NEED to get better.

I know, I know. Your family is different. You do all these things because your kid loves to compete, he loves the travel basketball, she loves the swim team, it’s her life, it’s what defines him. Part of that is certainly true but a big part of that isn’t. Tens of thousands of families thrive in this setting, but I’m telling you, from what I’ve seen as a clinician, tens of thousands don’t. It is a hidden scourge in society today, taxing and stressing husbands, wives, parents and children. We’re denying children the opportunity to explore literally thousands of facets of interests because of the fear of the need to “specialize” in something early, and that by not doing this your child will somehow be just an average kid. How do we learn to rejoice in the average and celebrate as a whole society the exceptional? I’m not sure, but I know that this whole preoccupation is unhealthy, it is dysfunctional and is as bad as alcoholism, tobacco abuse, or any other types of dependency.

I would love to have a son that is a pro athlete. I’d get season tickets; all the other fathers would point at me and I might get a chance to meet Sandy Koufax. It isn’t going to happen, though. But you know what I am certain will happen? I’ll raise self-reliant kids, who will hang out with me when I’m older, remember my birthday, care for their mother, take me to lunch and the movies, buy me club level seats at Yankee Stadium on occasion, call me at least four times a week and let me in on all the good things in their life, and turn to me for some comfort and advice for all the bad things. I am convinced that those things just will not happen as much for parents of the “hour-long” generation. You can’t create a sense of family only at spring and Christmas break. It just won’t happen. Sure, the kids will probably grow up to be adequate adults. They’ll reflect on how supportive you were by driving them to all their games and practices and workouts. They’ll call the ER from a couple states away to see how mom’s doing but in time you’ll see that something will be missing, something that was sacrificed for a piano tutor, a pitching coach, a travel soccer tournament. It may take years, but in time, you’ll see.

The Catholic Church’s German Crisis

A note from Al:

German Bishops don’t chart the way of the future. If they do, irreversible decline and not revival will be our fate.

This is what happens when the Church relies on the State taxes for its revenue. Conformity to the world has always been a problem for Christ’s disciples. See Romans 12:1-5. But when the Caesars of today have power over the Church, we will lose because they can coerce and we can’t. – Al Kresta

by George Weigel via CatholicWorldReport.com


One rarely finds, among German churchmen today, a sobered openness, born of the recognition that something has gone terribly wrong and that another approach to evangelization and catechesis must be found.

The 21st-century Church owes a lot to 20th-century German Catholicism: for its generosity to Catholics in the Third World; for the witness of martyrs like Alfred Delp, Bernhard Lichtenberg, and Edith Stein; for its contributions to Biblical studies, systematic and moral theology, liturgical renewal, and Catholic social doctrine, through which German Catholicism played a leading role in Vatican II’s efforts to renew Catholic witness for the third millennium. At the Council, more than the Rhine flowed into the Tiber; let’s not forget the Seine, the Meuse, the Potomac, and the Vistula. But the Rhine’s flow was strong.

Which simply intensifies the shock on reading the German bishops’ report to the Vatican in preparation for this coming October’s synod. One of my correspondents deemed it a de facto declaration of schism. I read it as an unintentional cri du coeur: a confession of catechetical disaster and pastoral failure on a nationwide scale, to which the German episcopate has no response save to urge others down the path that has led Catholicism in Germany into profound incoherence.

When one tries to discuss this catastrophe with senior German churchmen, one rarely finds, these days, a sobered openness, born of the recognition that something has gone terribly wrong and that another approach to evangelization and catechesis must be found—an “All-In Catholicism” rooted in the joy of the Gospel preached and lived in its full integrity. Rather, what you often find is a stubborn doubling-down. “You don’t understand our situation” is the antiphon, typically spoken with some vehemence.

Yet is it really the case that we obtuse non-Germans don’t understand? The statistics on German Catholic practice—more accurately, the lack thereof—are not pontifical secrets. Those statistics are embodied by what visitors observe in German cities on Sunday: largely empty churches. Now comes this report for the synod, which suggests that, on matters of marriage, the family, the morality of human love, and the things that make for genuine happiness, German Catholic thinking is virtually indistinguishable from that of non-believers.

And still the German episcopate suggests that more dumbing down of Catholic doctrine and practice is the answer, now on a global scale. It’s quite remarkable. And it will certainly be remarked upon, and not favorably, in Rome in October.

In October 2001, I had an engaging, two-hour conversation with Cardinal Karl Lehmann, now one of the grand old men of the German hierarchy. We discussed the crisis of belief throughout Europe (and Europe’s related demographic meltdown) at length. Then the cardinal offered me a copy of his newest book, “Now Is the Time to Think of God.” I must say I found the title … striking. I knew he intended it as a challenge to the regnant secularism of the time, but you had to wonder: What else had this distinguished scholar, and his colleagues at the higher altitudes of German theology, been speaking about, these many years?

To make a very long story short, they had often been speaking-about-speaking-about-God: that is, they’d been chasing their tails in trying to respond to the crisis of belief in late modernity. And in doing so, they’d gotten stuck inside what Polish philosopher Wojciech Chudy, an intellectual great-grandson of John Paul II, called the post-Kantian “trap of reflection:” thinking-about-thinking-about-thinking, rather than thinking about reality—in this case, the Gospel and its truths. Less elegantly, I’d describe Chudy’s “trap of reflection” as the quicksand pit of a subjectivism become self-absorption, from which it’s hard to extract oneself and answer the Master’s call, “Come, follow me.”

The German Catholic crisis is not primarily institutional; the Catholic Church is Germany’s second-largest employer and its institutions are robust. The crisis is one of faith. German Catholicism is in crisis because German Catholics have not embraced the Lord Jesus and his Gospel with passion, conviction and joy, and are seeking their happiness elsewhere. That’s sad; that‘s tragic; that’s dispiriting.

But it’s also nothing to be commended as a model for others, except as a cautionary tale about the effects of surrendering to the spirit of the age.


Federal Court: MTA Must Run “Hamas Killing Jews” Ad

via AmericanFreedomLawCenter.org

On April 21, a federal court ruled that New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) violated the First Amendment by refusing to run the “Hamas Killing Jews” advertisement displayed below and must therefore display the advertisement on MTA buses.


The ad’s sponsors, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), sought to run the advertisement on MTA buses last August, but the MTA refused, claiming that Muslims in New York might understand the ad to be advocating violence, thereby inciting them to murder Jews as Islamic worship.

The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) promptly filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the MTA for refusing to run the ad.  The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of the advertisement’s sponsors.  AFLC also filed a motion for preliminary injunction, asking U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl to issue an order forcing the MTA to display the ad even in advance of a final ruling since the MTA’s conduct was a transparent and egregious violation of AFDI’s free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

On March 24, 2015, the court held a five-hour-long hearing that included live testimony from MTA employees, including the MTA’s director of security, Raymond Diaz, followed by oral argument.  The court’s ruling granting the preliminary injunction was issued today.  In his opinion, Judge Koeltl made clear that the MTA’s refusal to run the “Hamas Killing Jews” advertisement was a blatant violation of the First Amendment and that the MTA’s claim that the advertisement advocated violence or was likely to incite violence was “thoroughly unpersuasive,” particularly in light of the fact that the same ad had run earlier in Chicago and San Francisco without incident.

Judge Koeltl continued along this line:

The defendants [the MTA and its top executives] contend that the advertisement could be read as urging a subset of Islamic extremists to follow Hamas’s command, but if that group is as violent and radicalized as the defendants contend, presumably they would not need a bus advertisement to remind them of Hamas’s interpretation of the Quran. . . . It strains credulity to believe that New Yorkers would be incited to violence by ads that did not incite residents of Chicago and San Francisco to similar acts.  This is not to minimize the terror threats to New York City, but those threats do not arise from these fleeting advertisements.

In arguing that granting the injunction is against the public interest, the defendants point to the global and local threat posed by terrorism.  But as explained throughout this opinion, such generalized fears, only tangentially connected to the ad in question, do not outweigh the public interest in protecting First Amendment rights.

David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented:

Judge Koeltl’s well-written and considered opinion sends a loud and clear message to Islamic terrorists around the globe as well as to those government bureaucrats who believe that Sharia’s blasphemy laws are an exception to the First Amendment.  And that message is this: America’s liberties will not give way to Islamic terror threats nor to government bureaucrats who are quick to cast aside our liberties for fear of offending Muslims.

Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added,

Under the First Amendment, the government is not permitted to impose special prohibitions on speech out of fear that some members of the public might react violently to its content.  Quite simply, the First Amendment knows no heckler’s veto.  This opinion forcefully confirms this fundamental principle of First Amendment jurisprudence.

Muise continued,

If the MTA was able to get away with this obvious ploy to manufacture a threat when this ad has already run without incident in Chicago and San Francisco for months, it could use this sort of pretext to shut down all unwanted speech.  This would not only make a mockery of the First Amendment, it would actually encourage the thuggery and violence the MTA claimed it fears.

AFLC has now won two federal lawsuits against the MTA, one against the Washington, D.C. transit authority, and one against the Philadelphia transit authority on behalf of its clients, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and AFDI.  Cases are still pending in Detroit, Boston, and Seattle.

Draft of revised San Francisco faculty handbook statement takes a broader approach

A note from Al:

The time will come when some Catholic or Evangelical Protestant leader will stand up in good faith and without rancor and simply say: “We can try and soften our language but the truth is no matter how we phrase it, you will not accept it. Our faith rejects certain acts as fundamentally immoral regardless of the best intentions of those who commit such acts. We cannot comply with your expectations. Christianity is a real thing. It has real content and clear boundaries. You wish it didn’t have certain rough edges or sharp corners. But it does. Stop thinking that reality is according to your definition. You can reject us but you won’t be able to change us because we are anchored in the Creator of reality.” – Al Kresta


by Dan Morris-Young and Mandy Erikson via NCROnline.org

An alleged draft of a revised faculty handbook statement for San Francisco archdiocesan high schools and a cover letter by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone show a less strident approach to church teaching and practice than the much-debated original version and a conciliatory tone from the archbishop.

Yet even before the archdiocese released the recast language, some people privy to leaked drafts of the purported texts expressed concern over what they describe as a change in tone but not substance as well as phrasing that would diminish labor law protections for teachers and staff.

“The language is softer, but the message is still hurtful and wrong,” said graduating senior Jessica Hyman of Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, one of the schools affected by the handbook, at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance, a group that formed in opposition to the proposed handbook changes, held the press conference on the steps of the chancery to “reject Archbishop Cordileone’s revised Faculty Handbook” and “keep the current contract and handbook that have served the schools well,” according to its press release.

About 100 people attended the press conference at which parents, students and a union representative spoke. Many lamented the archbishop’s attempt to classify teachers as ministers, a move that would eliminate labor protections. Paul Hance, a history teacher at Junipero Serra High School and a member of the executive board of the teachers union, said lawyers for the group have reviewed the document and said it makes a stronger case than the previous draft for the minister classification.

“What would happen if the archbishop gets his way? We would have termination without legal recourse,” he said. “Our rights are not negotiable; our profession is teaching, not ministry.”

Speakers added that the revised draft would cast a pall on teaching. Teachers who fear they’ll lose their jobs if they suggest a viewpoint that differs from the archbishop’s cannot help their students understand different points of view or ask thoughtful questions, they said.

The archbishop “threatens what has been the cornerstone of my education, which is inquiry,” said Gino Gresh, a senior set to graduate from Sacred Heart.

Request for comment sent to archdiocesan officials early Wednesday were not acknowledged.

In a copy of what is said to be a working draft of a cover letter by Cordileone to accompany the rewritten handbook statement, the archbishop apologized for “lack of foresight on my part” for the “several unintended consequences” generated by his original document that “created tensions we have been experiencing.”

Titled “Statement of the High Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco Regarding the Teachings and Practice of the Catholic Church,” the free-standing, nearly 2,000-word instruction made public Feb. 3has generated international headlines and deep divisions within the Bay Area Catholic community.

The statement underscored teaching on Mass attendance, confession, teaching authority of the church, sex outside marriage, traditional marriage, homosexual acts, hell, purgatory, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, birth control, “artificial reproductive technology,” and human cloning.

It also put “administrators, faculty and staff of any faith or of no faith” on notice to “arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny” church teaching and to “refrain from participation in organizations that call themselves ‘Catholic’ but support or advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the Church.”

Supporters of the statement praised Cordileone for laying out clear expectations for Catholic school employees and endorsed his stated motivation for developing the narrative: that the hot-button issues addressed are among the most sidelined by modern culture and that young people are under constant pressure “to conform to a certain agenda at variance with, and often aggressively so, our Christian understanding of the human person and God’s purpose in creation,” in the archbishop’s words.

Critics said the document ignores the role of conscience, invades individuals’ private lives, focuses too heavily on sexual issues, and employs divisive, hurtful language.

The harshest criticism focused on the Feb. 3 text’s usage of language such as “gravely evil,” “intrinsically evil,” “gravely immoral” and “grave moral disorder” in regard to primarily sexual and reproductive teachings. The phrasing can effectively marginalize and diminish gay people and others, it was argued.

Well more than 4,000 words, the revised draft seen by NCR does not employ those descriptions and underscores: “The Gospel cannot be reduced to a list of truths no matter how comprehensive because the Gospel is a person, the anointed one, Jesus of Nazareth, who is Lord.”

After reading the draft, Jesuit Fr. John Coleman, who wrote a blog in February critical of the rationale and approach of the initial text, said in an email that the tone of the new draft “is worlds apart from the earlier handbook.”

“I could easily sign off on this one without any problem. Even the sexual stuff is more nuanced and less terrifying,” wrote Coleman, a Bay Area sociologist who was a professor of religion and society at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley (1974-97) and held the Charles Casassa Chair in Social Values at Loyola Marymount University (1997-2009).

Written by a group of five high school theology teachers recruited by the archdiocese, the new document says in its preamble that the contents follow “the general structure of the Catechism” and “offer a short compendium of some important teachings.”

Superintendent of Schools Maureen Huntington lauded the committee’s work.

“From my perspective,” she wrote in an email to NCR, “the Context Committee … did an excellent job of articulating the Church’s teachings in a variety of areas within the Four Pillars of the CCC. They were able to bring the Church’s teachings into our daily life and assist us in understanding not only what the Church teaches but why.”

Huntington confirmed indications in the archbishop’s leaked cover letter that the new document will be open for review and refinement and is not scheduled for immediate inclusion in the 2015-16 faculty handbooks. The four high schools affected by the faculty handbook are Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield, and Junipero Serra in San Mateo. There are also 10 other independent Catholic high schools in the archdiocese.

Jim Jordan, a Sacred Heart teacher, called development of the new faculty handbook proposal “a small victory for us in that there will be no handbook change this year, which means we’ve stemmed the tide for the moment.”

“We’re well aware that other dioceses across the country are following closely, so we feel our resistance has given pause to bishops thinking of imposing similar employment policies,” said Jordan, who was among teachers who organized a petition effort among the four schools’ faculty and staff in March asking Cordileone to forego the handbook statement and retain the existing document. Eighty percent of the schools’ faculty and staff signed.

The archbishop, added Jordan, “is not backing down at all, merely slowing down. As for the revised handbook language, the committee who drafted it was never authorized to act on behalf of the schools.”

In its press statement Wednesday, Concerned Parents and Students: Teach Acceptance wrote:

“The Archbishop is attempting to reclassify all employees of four schools within the Archdiocese as part of the ‘ministry’ and ‘mission’ of the church in order to eliminate anti-discrimination and other workplace protections for those staff members. He has also proposed that teachers and staff at the schools accept handbook language that, among other things, condemns homosexuality, same-sex marriage, contraception, and use of assisted reproductive technology. These proposals, originally made public in February, were met with an overwhelming outcry from teachers, parents, students and allies of the four schools.”

Kathleen Purcell, a constitutional attorney and former Catholic high school teacher, was quoted by the group, saying, “Under the revised handbook language, teachers would not be able to dissent or discuss ideas that conflict with the Archbishop’s understanding of Catholicism without risking their jobs. This fundamentally alters the character of our schools. Teachers whose jobs are under threat if they step outside the line cannot provide a safe environment for students to learn.”

The protest organization also wrote: “The Archbishop has many platforms from which to educate faculty, students, parents and other members of the school community regarding his interpretations of Church theology, other than an employee handbook.”

Jim McGarry, a lead organizer of Concerned Parents and Students, sent an open letter to administrators of the four schools and others based on the circulating revised handbook text. He warned against communications “particularly aimed at parents” that “implied that all things will work out in time and nothing that you love about your school will change.”

“The suggestion is that we will weather this storm by being who we are. Could this be a false hope? Instead, what is needed is an ‘apocalyptic’ tone,” he added. “If our teachers’ integrity is compromised in labor agreements and if this faculty handbook language is instituted, it will lethally damage our students, our teachers, our schools and our mission. Even muted, the Archbishop’s rhetoric of judgment and selectivity about and atomization of the moral life of our students and their families is not simply a storm to be weathered. It is the precipice of a disaster.”

Don’t Just Discern Your Vocation

A note from Al:

When I returned to the Catholic church I was struck by a social phenomenon I didn’t see so clearly as an evangelical Protestant: the perpetual agonizing over discernment to priesthood or marriage. In a few personal cases, I thought it was pathological and masked an insecurity and fear of failure that would, in the long run, lead to life-long unhappiness. This Dominican writer gets at some of the same observations I made but never articulated so well. –  Al Kresta


by Br. Gabriel T. Mosher, O.P.

There’s a cause for today’s vocation shortage that’s rarely addressed. Too many people are discerning; not enough people are deciding. I know they mean well, but instead of courageously pursuing the priesthood or religious life they form safe communities where they can muse on ideals instead of act on principles.

I call them the Order of Perpetual Discerners. I’m not questioning their piety. I wouldn’t dream of impugning their intentions. However, they fundamentally misunderstand how to discern God’s will. They agonize over the call. They seek spiritual directors and confidants to emote about the vexing feelings they’re experiencing. The sad result is that they never actually discern; they only dream.

The narcissism pervading our culture is a major cause of this trend. We act as if it’s a virtue. Popular culture promotes it. Popular Christian culture is ensnared by it. It’s not surprising that the modern obsession with self-care was bound to cause some problems. The philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard provides intellectual soil for it. Personality cults popularize it. Televangelists and magazine rack mystics sell it. Our contemporary culture has been perfectly constructed to cultivate narcissistic Christianity. Combine the popular psychologism preached in our parishes with a society steeped in postmodern despair and you get exactly what we’ve got — a simulacrum of the Corinthian Christianity that St. Paul fought against.

Common trends of vocational discernment typify the Catholic appropriation of this narcissism. The problem isn’t whether people are or are not discerning. The problem is people are stuck in their heads. It’s like they’re waiting for an infallible neon sign from God. “Constantine got his in hoc signo, so should I!” The truth is, however, God doesn’t usually operate that way. He’s the author of the ordinary, the mundane. God reveals the extraordinary only after we’ve embraced the ordinary.

The scenario I’m describing is ubiquitous. I frequently see it among candidates inquiring into my own Order. This narcissism is why so many will “come and see,” but so few will “stay to pray.” They’ve gotten stuck in the discernment trap and they lack the tools to get out. They try to get out by doing exactly what our culture has taught them to do. They look inward. Yet, by doing this they’ll never find what they’re seeking. Why? Because the answer is found on the outside not on the inside. Thankfully, this sickness isn’t unto death.

Technically the word discernment is a good one. It describes the ability to wisely chose one thing over another. It’s not simply the ability to separate good from bad. More specifically it’s the ability to place all the good things we encounter in a hierarchical order from what’s good to what’s best. Discernment is essentially an intellectual process of ordering perceived goods. However, we can get stuck in the process if we lack critical information. When this happens we become paralyzed because all our possible choices seem to be equally good. In this scenario we become incapable of discerning which vocation to choose. This is the discernment trap. The lacuna in our knowledge is often the result of asking the wrong question. We usually ask ourselves which vocation is better for me. Instead we need to simply ask which vocation is better.

I can already hear objections and outrage at what I just wrote. That’s because savvy readers know what I’m about to say. The best vocation is the one immediately ordered to contemplation. The best vocation is religious life. Moderns think this statement  is an insult to married couples. They think it’s antiquated hogwash. After all, didn’t the Second Vatican Council do away with thinking of religious life as objectively superior to married life?

Well, not exactly. The Council desired that we avoid minimizing the dignity of Holy Matrimony. Lord knows there’s been enough of that! What, then, does it mean for religious life to be objectively superior to married life? It’s simply the consequence of religious life being a more perfect reflection of beatitude. Married life is good but religious life is better. The Second Vatican Council affirms this position when it calls religious life an eschatological sign. It literally allows us to begin living on earth what the saints experience in heaven.

Probably most people reading this article have never heard this before now. That’s because it’s never, or rarely, preached. But it’s also because we rarely consider how God’s love affects our daily lives. What does this mean? It means God desires our highest good. This isn’t limited to His desire that we get to heaven. His love extends to all the particular aspects of our life. God wants the best for us at every moment of our lives in every possible way. When His love intersects with vocational discernment the ramifications are clear. He desires that we participate in the highest of form of Christian life. God desires that each of use enter religious life.

Once discernment is seen this way everything changes. The question is no longer about whether God desires me to live one way or another. No. I already know that God desires me to choose and possess the greatest good. Knowing this the process of discernment is no longer about guessing what’s in God’s mind. Discernment becomes a question of whether I’m capable of living religious life or not.

St. Thomas Aquinas was no stranger to the difficulties of discernment. He also excelled at placing things in their proper order. Wisely, he left a practical guide to help us get out of the discernment trap. Much of what I’m saying is found in Question 189 in the “Secunda secundae” of the Summa Theologiae. Each article asks very practical questions about religious discernment. Each are real questions from his day. Many of them were surely his own questions. Most of them are the same questions we continue to ask today. His conclusions are as helpful today as when the ink was still fresh. Tolle lege!

The reality is, however, that you can read about discernment until your eyes fall out. There is a simpler solution that Aquinas would appreciate. Enter the novitiate! Enter the seminary! Among good things there is no replacement for experiential knowledge. The Church knows this and has designed these structures to help your discernment. A pair of pants may look nice on the rack, but you’ll never know if they fit until you try them on. And, if you already know your size, what are you waiting for. Buy the pants! Entering the seminary or the novitiate doesn’t involve signing a contract in your own blood. They are trial periods for both you and the community. They are designed for you to “try on” the community. If a community doesn’t fit, you can always put it back on the rack.

Remember, you’ll never discover your vocation in your own head. Stop over-thinking it! Follow the example of our Blessed Mother.  When God calls, answer. After you answer, ponder. While you ponder it follow Him wherever He leads you. Be at peace. Abandon yourself to God’s will and you will undoubtedly save your own soul and win the salvation of many more. Make a choice and live it.

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