Archive for January, 2008

Reason for real hope.

January 24, 2008

I’ve seen it mentioned all over the internet, as I tried to get caught up on what went on in Washington on Tuesday. Here’s the stat, and it doesn’t surpries me: of the 200,000+ people who gathered for the March for Life, what is easily the nation’s largest annual public demonstration of any kind, at least 75 percent of them were under the age of 25.

It’s easy to reach for facile explanations that diminish the significance of that, to say perhaps, yeah, they’re the ones who have the time and opportunity to travel, they don’t have to work, etc. But don’t miss the fact that this March has been going on for 35 years now, and a statistic like this was not always the case. It has, though, become increasingly the case for several years now.

Lest you think that’s just hopeful thinking seeping into the observations of enthusiastic participants, note that it is noted prominently throughout the Washington Post‘s coverage of the event, which carried the headline, “A Youthful Throng Marches Against Abortion.” See also their article, “Movement Gets a Youthful Infusion,” which they published the previous day.

Also heartening is this article, with cool photos, about the vigil Mass held at the National Shrine on the campus of Catholic University of America, attended by an overload crowd of 8000+:
videos here.

“But far and away the bulk of the congregation was youth, youth who also filled the crypt of the church below the main floor.”

Check out the

Think about what that bodes for the future. It’s good.

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January 22 – A Day of Prayer and Penance for Life

January 22, 2008

“In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass ‘For Peace and Justice’ should be celebrated with violet vestments as an appropriate liturgical observance for this day.” General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 373

Today we mark 35 years of legal abortion in the United States, which began with the Roe v. Wade and companion Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions (both of the same day).

Let us pray today, and also ask ourselves what more we can do than we are doing now. Some people look back on the Nazi era and ask why all the “good people” were silent while the evil was being done, why even the Church was not louder in its protests. What were they thinking? How could they have missed it? Did they care so little for what was going on around them?

I continue to believe that people of future generations will ask the same question someday about us, in our day, when it comes to abortion. That’s what makes today a good day for fasting and penance. Even if we have not had an abortion or been involved in one, we have allowed it to happen all around us, and done so little.

The Priests for Life website is a good place to start if you’re looking for information and opportunities of things you can do to help. There are lots of other good ones out there, too.

I have two abortion-related articles available online:

“Samantha Shrugged,” originally published in Touchstone, is at Catholic Educator’s Resource Center

“Why Should Laws Be Pro-Life?” at Catholic Exchange

Professor Kreeft on natural law … and life

January 19, 2008

Peter Kreeft is one of my favorite Catholic authors. A longtime professor of philosophy at Boston College, he writes with a crispness and clarity like few other writers (and which is evident below).

He has published dozens of books, many of which I have on my own shelf. If there’s some aspect of Catholic faith or living that you’re unsure of or don’t quite understand, it’s a good idea to go find out what Kreeft has written about it.  (His website is here.)

That’s why I turned to him recently while researching an article on a philosophical topic for Our Sunday Visitor.  The article, which appears in tomorrow’s issue, is on natural law, the ways it has appeared prominently in the recent teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, and why it matters.  As usual, his comments were both succinct and insightful.  You can find the piece (“For Pope Benedict, it’s only natural — law, that is”) on page 8 of the Jan. 20, 2008 issue of OSV.  (Be sure to check out Mary DeTurris Poust’s fascinating interview with Nat Henthoff in the same issue, by the way.)

I’m not the only one who has been talking to Dr. Kreeft.  Last week the Boston Globe printed a very interesting interview with him, in connection with his latest book, Before I Go: Letters to Our Children about What Really Matters. It’s a collection of advice and wisdom he wants to offer to his kids before he dies. (Kreeft is 70.)  The interview is well worth a look.

On writing

January 8, 2008

This is sort of fun.  I’ve been asked to be a presenter for the Catholic Writers Conference Online, an online writers’ conference scheduled for May 2-9, 2008.  It’s sponsored by the Catholic Writers Guild and Canticle Magazine.  Interesting idea.  My topic: “The Feature Article in the Catholic Press: Developing Ideas and Querying Editors.”  (I was even more flattered by the invitation when I noticed some of the other presenters whose names are already noted on the conference website.) The website is here, though it seems there will be plenty added as more plans develop in coming months.

Speaking of writing and writers, this week I submitted an article to The Writer,  which will appear in the magazine’s May issue.  It, too, is on developing article ideas.

Thanks, Ms. Ramirez!

January 5, 2008

When I announced the names of the winners of the Saints essay contest on my website last week, I neglected to include mention one cool prize.  I had offered a free copy of the book to the library of the school from which the highest number of entries came. 

And that would be Belen Jesuit High School, in Miami.  Just about every one of the essays from Belen Jesuit students bore the name of one teacher: Ms. Cristina Ramirez, an English teacher at the school.  (And as you’ll note below, one of Ms. Ramirez’s students, Manuel Anton, was the second-place winner of the contest.)

I certainly appreciate the encouragement that Ms. Ramirez gave to her students in participating in the contest — in whatever form it might have come!  (As a high school teacher myself, I’m well aware, there’s encouragement, and then there’s encouragement.)  I hope writing the essays brought her students, and the many others who participated from around the U.S. as well as Canada, a new awareness of the ever-relevant lessons and wisdom that the saints offers to us today.  Judging by all that I read, there is ample evidence that that’s the case. 

Third place essay: Amy Cultra on St. Vincent de Paul

January 4, 2008

The third place winner in the Saints for Our Times student essay contest is Amy Cultra, who write a fine essay on St. Vincent de Paul and important ways that his life serves as a model to us today.  Amy is an eighth grader at St. Edward the Confessor School in Dana Point, California.  She’s won $10 and a signed copy of the book.  Congrats, Amy!

Here is her essay:

“A Life of Servitude”

     Speaking to the Jews who had taken up stones with which to stone Him, Jesus said, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
           John 10:37

     These are powerful words of persuasion calling people then and always to take notice of the good works performed by Jesus, not for his own glorification, but in the name of God the Father.  They also call all of us to do the works of our Father in heaven by offering ourselves in service to others.  Loving kindness and generous compassion given freely and unconditionally will give opportunity for even the unbelieving to “believe the works” and experience the goodness of God. 
      Saint Vincent de Paul, born a little over 400 years ago, was a man who took deep into his heart Jesus’s call to action and he is a saint who calls me, and all of us, to bring the works of our Father to believers and unbelievers alike.  Through his good works and the grace of God, Saint Vincent de Paul brought the compassion and understanding that Jesus spoke of into the lives of many.  We are called to do the same.
      Saint Vincent de Paul is a saint we can and should relate to today because he dedicated his whole life to God through service to the sick, the poor and the suffering.  When he did, he changed many lives completely and yet he was very humble about the impact he had on the people around him.  He kept his focus on the people who were in need.  When he became a priest in the early 1600’s for example, Father Vincent de Paul refused to receive the traditional gifts and celebration given to a new priest.  Completely alone, except for the required altar servers, he offered himself for life and death to be a faithful servant of our Lord first and above all other things, when he celebrated his first Mass as an ordained priest.  People today should follow Saint Vincent’s example of humility.  We can do so by being careful not to get too caught up in the ceremonies, gifts and celebrations that can sometimes overshadow acts of goodness.
      Shortly after becoming a priest, Saint Vincent de Paul was captured by Turkish pirates and sold as a slave.  His faith was tested many times by two of his masters.  He was even offered a lot of money by one of them to convert from Catholicism to another religion.  Father Vincent never wavered in his devotion to the Church.  He remained faithful to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Allowing his masters and many others to witness the works of our Father through him, Saint Vincent de Paul didn’t turn against the unbelieving and eventually converted their hearts. 
      We today are not likely to be sold into slavery but we are challenged to endure hardships that can test our faith.  Others will also ask us to defend and justify the teachings of the Catholic Church.  We can do so by first educating ourselves and having a full understanding of Catholic doctrine.  It is important to be able to speak to others about our faith, and Jesus and Saint Vincent de Paul remind us that we can also touch the lives and hearts of others by doing His works.
      Saint Vincent put the needs of the poor, the sick and the suffering before his own.  His acts of goodness and charity were recognized by wealthy and influential people who begged him to live with them in grandeur.  Instead, he chose to live in a house next to a hospital in Paris so he could tend to the sick frequently.  Later he asked to become the pastor of a poor country- church where he took care of the people there and asked his wealthy followers to do the same.  Today, we also can choose between lavishing ourselves with more possessions and spending our free time frivolously or offering our time and treasures to better the lives of others. 
      We can see that Saint Vincent de Paul did many things in his lifetime that we can practice in our lives.  He is a perfect example of faith, humility and compassion to follow.  He has taught us that being mindful of other’s needs, always staying faithful to God and remaining humble while doing so,  can lead the way for others to know and understand that the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father.

Second place: Manuel Anton IV on St. Ignatius

January 3, 2008

The second place winner of the Saints for Our Times student essay contest is Manuel Anton IV, of Belen Jesuit High School in Miami, Florida.  Manuel submitted an insightful essay on St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Congratulations to him.  He’s the winner of $20 and a signed copy of Saints for Our Times: New Novenas and Prayers.

“St. Ignatius of Loyola”

         Throughout time saints have been the bridge connecting our faith and society. It is their great example that moves people today to help those in need. Since saints were first introduced to society they have been rejected and abused to the point of death. It is for this very reason today that we applaud these great people for all their acts of kindness. Saints are arguably the people who have made the largest impact on our lives. Whether we choose to say that saints have made a large or small impact on society, we can all recognize their individual effort toward the good of mankind.    
      Saint Ignatius of Loyola was at the royal Castle of Loyola in Spain, in 1491. Even though his family was wealthy he was a page in the Royal Court of Spain and often misbehaved. As a young man he made the great decision of becoming a knight. As a knight he fought for the King of Spain and his Duke. He was wounded in a battle in Pamplona having been hit by a cannon shot to the leg. As he recovered in his brother’s castle, he read the Lives of Saints. When he left the castle, he felt transformed and decided to go to confession. For one year he lived in a cave named “Manresa”. During his stay here he served the lord by praying and helping the poor. When he was thirty-five he went to the university and later became a priest. His friends and him wanted to serve God and the Church but were unsure where to start. They decided to ask the Pope if he would allow them to found the Society of Jesus. The society is known as the Jesuits. They serve the lord continuously by preaching to all, educating in schools, and practicing in retreats and missions. Many of this Society known as the Jesuits went to teach the Indians in America some of which died as martyrs. Saint Ignatius died in Rome on July 31, 1556. Today, the Jesuits continue teaching and serving in missions for the greater glory of God.
      Many of St. Ignatius’ teachings can be applied to our daily life. One and perhaps of St. Ignatius’ teachings include discernment. He defines discernment as either making the right decision or the identification of good prevailing over evil. This applies to our daily life in that we are constantly confronted with obstacles and temptations that appear to be good when in reality they are only pulling us further away from our faith. This means that whenever we make a decision we must first consider if it is inspired by our father or simply temptation at its best.
      St. Ignatius also reminds us that we must not make any serious decisions when we are in times of desolation for this is when we are most susceptible to temptation.  He also suggests that when we find ourselves in times of consolation it is best to prepare for desolation. This simply leads us to prevail over all desolate obstacles. He informs us that we must use strategy in difficult times. St. Ignatius says we must be bold and take any action to confront that difficulty. In his teachings he also informs us not to keep secrets for the devil uses them to fester evil. He always finished by telling us that over all we must know our weaknesses because when evil strikes us it will always attempt to manipulate our weaknesses to its advantage. It is for this reason that St. Ignatius is not only a messenger sent by God to deliver inspiration and wisdom, but we realize that he was man and struggled to fight temptation as we all do.

The award-winning essay: Anne Marie Hauge on St. Francis

January 1, 2008

 

To mark the publication of my Saints for Our Times: New Novenas and Prayers, Pauline Books and I co-sponsored a student essay writing contest this fall.  This week I announce the winners of that essay which drew around 75 entries from around the country. 

Here is the essay that won First Place (as judged by my wife and I and our kids).

 

“Love without Boundaries,” on St. Francis of Assisi, was written by Anne Marie Hauge, an about-to-turn-15 year-old student at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Wichita, Kansas.  Anne Marie wins $30 and a signed copy of Saints for Our Times

 

 

 

Congratulations to Anne Marie and the other winners!  I’ll be posting the other two prize-winning essay in the days ahead.  (All the winners’ names are posted at www.barrymichaelsbooks.com.)

 

“Love Without Boundaries”

     “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” What is meant by these words of St. Francis, and how is this important and applicable to our society? St. Francis of Assisi told us how. Not only that, he showed us how to live out this message in daily life. This message that he lived out was the message of-love.
       St. Francis’s whole life was spent in search for love. As a young man, he sought love in parties and a material life. It was only when he gave of himself completely to God that he found love. This is the message that he gives to all people: LOVE! Love your neighbor without reserve! Love God with all that you have, with your whole being! Love unconditionally, and let your love be unquenchable. This is what St. Francis wants to get across in his words. Our actions MUST be with love. Even if what we say is good and loving, it will mean nothing if our actions are not love itself. Faith without works is dead, and so too is love without works also dead. Love is not real, true love without actions that reflect it. St. Francis wants us to know this, for it is extremely relevant in today’s society.
     Everybody seeks happiness. Many people seek happiness through dating and material goods, hoping to find the love that will give them happiness. The happiness found in material goods is not lasting-St. Francis discovered this! Neither is it sincerely a true love that will give true joy and happiness. Some times people do not even find the love that they seek through dating relationships. When these relationships end, a person is left feeling unloved. Many people do not have the realization that true love and joy comes only from God-it is He who gives us the ability to love without boundaries. We live in such a broken world, where many people seek joy and love. St. Francis’s message of love needs to be brought to everyone, so that people will discover the true love and joy that is only found in God.
     God does not have us on this Earth to be “comfortable.” He does not want us to try to be in our “comfort zone.” God wants us to radically love everyone we meet, and treat them with His love. I spend much time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, begging God to help fill me with His love, and to help me give it to others. I have discovered that when you give all that you have to God and others, you receive such love for others that is unconditional. The more love you give, the more love you receive from God to give.
Give yourself to God, and He will work wonders. I sought joy in my life, and it was only when I gave everything to God that I found true joy and love.

 

 

 

 

This Blog

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year, and Happy Feast of Mary, the Mother of God!

On this first day of 2008, I’ve decided to make another try at a public blog, as a companion to my website, www.barrymichaelsbooks.com.  

I did this once before, probably three years ago.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and liked the more personal contact it allowed me to have with people stopping by my website.  I ultimately gave up blogging because I found I didn’t have the time to make my blog what I wanted it to be, given the important parts of my life that ranked above it in priority.  That is:

#1: wife and kids

#2: full time job

#3: freelance writing for magazines and newspapers, as well as larger book projects, all of which help pay the bills around here, in addition to being a means of living out my baptismal call to share my faith with others.  

Though each of those things are still parts of my life and have the same kind of priority for me, I’ve decided to give blogging a go once again.  Why do I think it will work out any better this time?  Mainly, I’m not going to try to make it the major undertaking I wanted to previous blog to be.  I don’t expect to provide big & worthwhile blog posts on a daily basis.  I’ll be happy if I do it weekly.   I don’t expect readers to come back here frequently, in the way that wonderful blogs like Amy Welborn’s Charlotte was Both, Mike Aquilina’s The Way of the Fathers, and Mark Shea’s Catholic and Enjoying It are usually a part of my own morning regimen.   

But I hope you’ll find yourself visiting occasionally, just to stop by and see what’s new here.  (On my own computer, I organize my favorite blogs under two categories: “primary,” the great ones I visit daily, and “secondary,” the ones I visit a couple of times a month, when I have a little more free time.  What I have in mind here is something I hope you’ll consider “secondary.”)  I’ll offer occasional reflections, as well as updates about what kinds of projects I’m working on and publishing. 

Thanks for stopping by!