Pope Francis Issues New Document. Calls for Missionary Church.


I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis has issued a beautiful new document, called an Apostolic Exhortation, and a wonderful exhortation it is.

Needless to say, the popular press has already begun issuing their skewed interpretations of what he said.

I think the reasons for this constant re-writing of the Holy Father’s message is twofold. First, they are literally putting words in the pope’s mouth to advance their own social/political agendas. Second, the drive to pick out the most compelling headline and pull readers into their publication leads them to sensationalize Pope Francis’ statements.

I’m not going to write in detail about Evangelii Gaudium until after Thanksgiving. We’ve all got turkey on the brain right now. I’ve been steam cleaning and dusting and vacuuming. Then I’ve got to start preparing food for a small army of hungry family and friends.

That’s why I put the quote above. I can’t take the time to analyze the Holy Father’s statements until after Thanksgiving, but I can, and have, let him summarize himself.

The Holy Father did not, as one press report I’ve read claims, call for the dissolution of Vatican authority in the Church. What he did do was call each and every one of us to our universal Christian vocation of living for Christ and sharing the Gospel with the world. It’s a beautiful document that spoke to my heart as I read it.

He’s so right about what ails us and what we have to do to live out our vocation as Christian evangelists in this fallen world. Those of us who live in the post Christian West have our own unique challenges. Our first challenge — and it appears to be a tough one for most Christians — is to know and to believe that we live in a culture that is hostile to Christ and His message and to us as Christians. We have to choose this day whom we will serve. That choice has eternal consequences.

A lot of us don’t want to believe that uncomfortable fact. We don’t want to chose and make people mad at us by our choice. We want to slip by without incurring the wrath of the culture and still slide home to heaven after it’s all done.

We’d rather compromise our faith than face the wonderful fact that we are a new First Century generation, called to evangelize a libertine and openly anti-Christ culture. We have been entrusted with the gift of being able to stand up for Jesus and take a couple of verbal brickbats for him from our child-sacrficing, marriage-and-family-destroying, women-and-children-selling culture.

Our grandparents didn’t have the opportunity to stand for Him that we’ve got. They lived in the days of ez-pz faith in a country where saying you were a Christian opened doors instead of shutting them.

But we can stand for Jesus in a way that makes a difference. That is the challenge of, and the gift to, our generation.

Pope Francis is all about issuing that call to stop hiding our light and make a stand for Jesus. He is leading us to give up passively sitting in the pews and watching self-absorbed priests wave around incense and preach feel-good homilies that don’t address the human meat market world in which we live. We are, all of us, from the bishops on down, being challenged by a pope who sees the problem and knows that the solution is us and our fidelity to Christ.

The time for lukewarm ministers, politically correct bishops and social club laity is past. It is no longer a get out of jail free card to be a Christian. In fact, proclaiming your faith in Christ and the teachings of His Church will get you reviled, mocked and attacked.

Pope Francis has written a wonderful, much-needed document calling you and me, our bishops, priests and all the religious to our true vocation, which is proclaiming the Gospel of Christ by how we live, what we say, and what price we are willing to pay.

You can find Evangelii Gaudium: On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World here.

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Is Russia a Surprise Ally in the Defense of Persecuted Christians?


Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, is paying a visit to the Pope.

According to Vatican Radio, this is the fourth time President Putin has visited the Vatican. He met twice with Pope John Paul II and once with Pope Benedict XVI.

President Putin, who is an Orthodox Christian, has said through his spokespeople that he and Pope Francis will focus on, among a couple of other things, “the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.”

From QuestionMore.Live:

Hopes were high for warmer relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches as President Vladimir Putin flew Monday to Rome for his first audience with Pope Francis. Topping the agenda is likely help for Christians in the Middle East.

Putin, an Orthodox Christian, has repeatedly said that he is a man of faith and his administration has consistently sought closer ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

His policies “have brought religion to the forefront and triggered positive change in ecumenical relations,” said Natalya Pecherskaya, rector of the St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy.

But state interests will come first on the visit, officials said.

“Putin will be meeting Pope Francis as the president of Russia, and then only secondly as a Russian Orthodox [Christian],” said Father Kirill Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow.

As well as his visit with the Holy Father in the Vatican, Putin will meet with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano and Romano Prodi, the country’s former premier and a special UN representative, in Rome. On Tuesday, Putin will travel to Trieste for talks with the Italian government.

The Kremlin announced ahead of the visit that Putin and Pope Francis would focus on the state of international institutions and their ability to respond to crises, as well as the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.

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Religious Freedom and Gay Marriage: Are They Intrinsically Inimical?


Does the First Amendment apply to individual people or only to the institutional church, inside its church building?

This question would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. But that was before President Obama used Obamacare as a method to coerce churches and private citizens in areas where it had never gone before.

The HHS Mandate was the brainchild of a star chamber committee at the Department of Health and Human Services. It was signed by the president. It has the force of law, but it is not a law. It is a regulation, that was not written by elected officeholders who are answerable to the people. In fact, it is in direct violation of public promises that President Obama made to elected officials in order to get the votes to pass Obamacare.

As such, the HHS Mandate was, from its beginning, an end-run around Democracy.

It was and is an autocratic attack on religious freedom by a few people with a vested interest in the outcome.

It also ushered in an era of direct attacks on religious freedom by government such as has never been seen in America since its founding.

One manifestation of this is the demand by gay marriage advocates that the government force one-person business owners to provide services such as cake-baking, flowers and wedding photography for their “wedding” services. They have managed to successfully use the government to coerce people, even in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

I recently wrote a post asking the if it was possible to have personal freedom of conscience and gay marriage. In other words, is it possible to find a compromise between gay marriage advocates and traditional Christians that would allow both to exist without government coercion? If the response to that post is in any way indicative of the larger culture, the answer is no.

Gay marriage advocates swarmed the post. Most of them got deleted, but there weren’t any serious attempts to even address the issue of how to balance rights. Instead, the combox response to the post devolved down to the question of homosexuals’ “rights” in this matter trumping everything else.

Rather than give up, I’m going to ask the question again. Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

To put it another way, are we bound to decades of warfare over this issue in much the same way that we’ve suffered through the abortion debacle? The salient point is that this gay marriage debate comes after forty years of bad blood. This country is already divided in a dangerous manner. Can the government maintain its authority if those who seriously profess Christ come to believe that they have to chose between obeying their government and following their Lord?

The games that certain people in insulated thought communities are playing with these matters are far more dangerous than they allow themselves to understand.

The Supreme Court needs to turn back the HHS Mandate with a clear-cut decision that leaves no questions. Anything less will precipitate a Constitutional crises of generational proportions. Elected officials need to refuse to accede to demands from gay marriage advocates that they use the power of government to force people to participate in gay marriages against their will. We are talking about one-person or small family businesspeople who are being faced with losing their livelihoods if they do not violate their faith. There is no legitimate reason for this.

The questions at hand are not, as some like to claim, questions of civil rights such as that engendered by segregation. They do not pertain to basic matters of accommodation for a group of people who are forced to drink at separate drinking fountains, attend separate schools, sleep in separate hotels and watch movies in separate rooms. We are talking about isolated instances of one baker out of many or one photographer out of many saying they will not participate in a specific event based on their religious belief.

The businesses in question that I’ve read about have routinely served homosexual people. They just do not want to participate in this one specific event because it violates their religious teaching.

In this instance, the shoe of persecution and discrimination is on the other foot. Using the government to force people to violate their faith so that you feel validated is not only coercive, it is bigoted.

Gay marriage advocates have every right to advocate for their position by petitioning their government and working through the courts. But elected officials have a responsibility to honor the Constitutional freedom of religion of all citizens, including Christians.

No government can successfully enforce any law if a committed minority of people refuse to accede to it. That is a fact. The two political parties have manipulated and exacerbated the culture wars in order to get campaign donations and win elections until they have seriously damaged this country and all but destroyed themselves.

The political parties, for all their power and destructive force, are nothing. They do not care about this country or its people. Their silo mentality has contributed to this situation we now face in so many ways I cannot enumerate them all.

Given all this, it takes a person of stubborn hopefulness to ask the question: Can we reach a compromise?

I’ve never thought of myself that way, at least not the hopefulness part. But I’ve always had stubbornness aplenty. It would be easy to say that stubbornness is what drives me to put this question out there again.

However, that’s not true.

I am motivated by the stakes. I know which side I will come down on if I must choose.

I choose Christ.

But as an American, I do not believe that I should have to make that kind of choice. I believe that it is my right — my Constitutional right — to follow the dictates of my faith without government interference.

Which leads me back to the question with which I began: Are religious freedom and gay marriage intrinsically inimical?

Are gay marriage advocates and their allies in government seriously going to force me, and every other committed Christian, to chose between our country and following the Lord Jesus Christ?



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I Confess


Pope Francis on confession. I included two videos because together they give a fuller understanding of what the Holy Father said.

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Tornado Prayer


There are two things you can do about a tornado.

1. Get out of the way.

2. Pray.

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Pope Francis Displays Peter’s Bones at Closing Mass of the Year of Faith


Pope Francis displayed St Peter’s bones at the closing mass of the Year of Faith.

These pitiful shards of bone are all that’s left of the earthly body of St Peter. But the Church which Christ built on his efforts is vast and growing.

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Pope Francis Hands Out Boxes with ’59 Little Pills’ in Them

Pope Francis offered medicine boxes that contained “59 little pills,”  in St Peter’s Square this weekend.

This medicine is “good for your health, your heart and your whole life,” the Pope told his audience. “Don’t forget to take it.”

What is the ‘medicine’ the Pope is prescribing?

Watch the video below and see.

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Book Review: Living Life Catholic

To join the conversation about The Thorny Grace of It or to order a copy, go here

“You’ve gotta have a horse to ride.” That’s a saying from politics, meaning you have to have a candidate who can run the race and win. It comes from horse racing, where the meaning is obvious: Horse races are won astride strong, fast horses.

You’ve gotta have a horse to ride.

That is equally true with books, blogs, essays, poetry and such. In this case, the “horse” you must ride is the writer’s ability to string words together in a compelling fashion.

By that criteria, The Thorny Grace of It has a fine horse to ride. Brian Doyle, the author of this book, can write. His book, which is an anthology of essays he’s published previously in various magazines, hangs together on the power of his writing.

There is no single issue or idea in this book. It is not a book of argumentation. There is nothing didactic or issue-oriented about it.

It is, rather, a series of reflections on living life Catholic that are given to us in lyrical prose that can, at times, almost cross over into poetry. As such, the book moves your emotions first, long before it touches your mind. The essays, which range from a beautiful thought poem about a handmade rosary, to a hilarious description of an older brother tutoring his much younger brother (the author) in how to approach his first confession, are glimpses through a window into another person’s life of faith, family and love.

The author comes from a large Catholic family and has lived his life as a Catholic. His essays reflect that cradle Catholic, generational Catholic reality. The book talks about life as a Catholic schoolboy and life as a mature man who faces the loss of a brother to cancer. Much of the book is centered on the mass in a highly personal first-person stream-of-conciousness narrative of experiencing the mass from the pew at the back of the room.

Mr Doyle’s power of description paints word pictures that translate into visual pictures in your mind as you read through these essays. You “see” the light coming through sanctuary windows that land as bars of butter on the church floor. You feel the lesson of the waspy priest who hides his blindness, and you experience the poignance of taking a drive with a dying brother.

I wish I could write like Mr Doyle.

But I can’t.

What I can do is tell you that if you love beautiful writing about living life Catholic, then this small book of essays is for you.



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Steve Jobs, Consubstantial and the Mass


Apple’s board fired Steve Jobs in the 1970s.

He went on to a company that ultimately gave us Toy Story and many other computer animated blockbuster films and another company that created what became Mac OSX.

In the meantime, Apple made a lot of money selling the Macintosh, which Steve Jobs had master-minded. When other companies, particularly Microsoft, caught up with Apple’s early competitive advantage and passed it by, Apple began to founder.

I was forced to use an Apple computer for desktop publishing in the mid 1990s, and it was dreadful. I could not wait to get back to my pc. The old Mac OS couldn’t do the job anymore. It was buggy and out of date.

Apple brought Steve Jobs back by buying his operating system from him. At the same time, they put him back in the company loop.

This video is the announcement of this move to bring Steve Jobs back. It begins with a totally ham-handed presentation by the man who was running Apple into the ground at that time, followed by a presentation by Steve Jobs explaining the new operating system. Jobs’ presentation is followed by more ham-handedness that ends in dragging an obviously disgusted Jobs and his co-founder Steve Wozniak back on the stage for a final, underwhelming presentation.

It’s long, but it’s also a case study in the difference between pedestrian leadership and genius leadership. Jobs is clearly angry when he walks out on the stage. I would imagine he was embarrassed to be following such a bad act and angry about what Apple had devolved to.

How does this apply to the word “consubstantial” and the mass? It applies because Jesus deserves better than the pedestrian ugliness of the first presentation in this video. He deserves a liturgy that communicates clearly and is beautiful.

Making the mass ugly because of theological pretensions is a mistake. It is always a mistake. It is an everlasting mistake.

If you watch this video, you will see a dramatic demonstration of the power of simplicity in communication.

I keep hammering on the word consubstantial because it is so unforgivably ugly, awkward, unmelodius and downright insulting. It insults the laity with its high-handed obscurity, and it insults the mass, where heaven touches earth, with its ugliness.

I am not unhappy about or opposed to the changes in the liturgy. It doesn’t bother me one bit. Guarding the liturgy is one of the Church’s primary jobs. What bothers me is when the changes are a step down. The liturgy should be beautiful. It should soar and sing with our love for the God Who made us.

Consubstantial is like a brick on the prayer path of the mass that trips people and causes them to fall out of the rhythm of the worship and awe that leads them to the eucharist. People should not have to overcome the language of the mass. They should be uplifted by it.

My message to Church leadership as it is considering the new evangelization is to start speaking more directly and clearly. Talk to people instead of talking at them. You are communicating the greatest story ever told which tells the truth of the only Hope the world has ever had. Stop mumbling and talking to one another and speak out. Preach Christ.

Here’s the video.

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Cardinal Zen Calls for More Support for the Church In China

The Vatican needs to do more to support the true Church in China. That is the message from Cardinal Zen.

His comments are worth considering, not only because of the religious persecution in China, but because of the growing tendency for government to try to control the Church and the faithful in the Western world.

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