They Said it Would Never Happen: Human Cloning on Our Doorstep


Human cloning.

I remember well when we were promised that human cloning was never going to happen. People who raised this issue were, as usual, mocked and heckled as paranoid fantasists. Now, of course, people who oppose human cloning are mocked and heckled as “backward” and “anti-science.”

Another moral issue that is not mentioned in this video  about recent advances in human cloning is the misogynist practice of farming women’s bodies for eggs with little or no concern for the consequences to the women.

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Pope Francis: Triumphalism Impedes the Church, Impedes Christians


Pope Francis might as well have been speaking directly to American Christians with the homily he gave a few days ago.

“Triumphalism impedes the Church,” he said. “Triumphalism impedes Christians.”

Americans play to win. We are taught from our earliest days that competition is good and that we can make anything of our lives that we want if we just work hard and smart enough.

Triumphalism, the joy in winning, is part of our national psyche. We are, in our own way, very sure of ourselves and our ability to overcome whatever difficulties lie in front of us.

This makes those of us who are Christians a bit “off” in our understanding of the Gospels. Jesus triumphed over Satan. He transcended Satan’s final ploy against humanity, which is death, in an absolute way.

If we’re not careful, we’ll focus on that victory and ignore the way it was achieved and the words Jesus said about what awaits anyone who truly follows Him. The cross did not look like a victory to those who saw Our Lord suffer and die on it. It looked like  an ignominious defeat.

We can, from our vantage point in history, connect the dots backwards and see the progression from Calvary to the resurrection. We know how the story ends. But if we try to skip over the tough parts, or limit our thinking about  them to annual passion plays, we miss the point.

The cross, which Jesus defeated with His resurrection, is still part of this world. We all have our crosses, and as He told us, if we want to be worthy of Him, we must pick them up and carry them. Not only that, but we must bear the crosses of our lives by “following after” Him. I think we need to ponder for a moment what that means.

Pick up your cross and follow after me Jesus instructs us.

I don’t think He means that we must merely endure the hardships of our lives, even though that would be more than enough for most of us. I believe that we are called to “follow after Him” in the way we endure the sufferings that come our way, which is to say we must triumph over them.

But this triumph is not triumph according to the world’s understanding. It is not an aggressive and competitive victory that elevates us in other people’s eyes and gives us status, power and money. Following after Him means that we must forgive those who hurt us, bear with those whose weakness burdens and wounds us. We must be like Him in how we treat one another and in how we view ourselves.

Triumphalism as the world understands it, which is beating the other guy and following up by basking in the satisfactions and congratulations of the winner’s circle, has nothing at all to do with the triumph of the cross. The triumph of the cross is defeat for the Kingdom’s sake. It is loving others to the point that you cast out evil with that love.

It is not easy to be a Christian. In fact, it is impossible for us to do it on our own strength and or our own understanding. This is as true of the officers of the Church as it is for those of us in the pews. Without the Holy Spirit to give us the spiritual graces necessary, we can never successfully pick up our crosses and follow after Him.

That is why we need the sacraments. The sacraments — the eucharist and confession in particular — offer a steady infusion of grace into our souls that strengthens and fits us for living life in Christ.

The video below excerpts Pope Francis’ homily about triumphalism and the Church.

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Pope Francis Leads Corpus Christi Procession on Foot


Today is the feast of Corpus Christi, the body of Christ.

Jesus said,

“Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you have no life in you … Whoever drinks of my blood and eats of my flesh remains in me and I am in them … the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

This teaching was so hard that many people stopped following Him because of it. Afterwards, He turned to the the disciples and asked if they were going to leave Him, too.

This prompted Peter to reply “Where else would we go? You alone have the words that lead to eternal life.”

This teaching is just as true today as if was then.

Pope Francis led the Corpus Christi procession on foot this week. Remember, he is 77 years old. Here is a video of the procession with a summary of his homily. 

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Share a Holy Hour with Pope Francis


If you want to share Pope Francis’ hour of Eucharistic Adoration by watching it on your computer, go here.

It is scheduled to start at 0952 am CEST.

 

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Eucharistic Adoration with Pope Francis

Pope Francis will share a Holy Hour with the whole Church this Sunday at 5 pm, Rome time. Has your parish set aside a time for this, and do you plan to join in?

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Book Review: StrangeGods and the Idolatry of Me

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To join the discussion about StrangeGods, Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life, or to order a copy, go here. 

I’m going to suggest that my book club read StrangeGods, Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life for its July discussion.

The reason is simple. Author Elizabeth Scalia has written a book that is so thought-provoking it makes me want to sit down with her and talk about it. I think my book club members will feel the same way.

StrangeGods unmasks both the meaning of our personal idolatries and the way we spiral deep and deeper into worshipping them until all perspective and thought are lost to them.

Idols and idolatry violate the First and greatest Commandment. When we put anything in our lives as the center of our thinking and make that the touchstone of our values and the object of our desires, we have created an idol. The extent that we allow this idol to become the center of who and what we are reflects directly the depth of our idolatry.

Jesus told us, “You can not serve two masters.” You cannot serve two gods. You can not follow the real God and also an idol of your own devising at the same time.

That, at root is what is wrong with idols and idolatry. They are placebo gods for the real God, and like all placebos, they only appear to have power in the imaginations of our minds.

Elizabeth understands that we can have big idols and little idols. We can and do make an idol of almost anything. I would say that in an odd fashion, I make a idol of food because I reach for it to find comfort. I sooth myself with food like a monkey, rocking in place with its tail wrapped around it, is soothed by the motion of rocking back and forth.

In that sense, food, for me, is an idol of sorts. It’s not the intellectual idol that politics or commitment to a cause can become. But it is something I use to deal with my troubles instead of turning to God with them.

That’s the core of idolatry. It is a substitute for God, the real God. 

StrangeGods makes the point that many of our idols are, like my use of food, strange indeed. Our obsessions quickly become our idols, as do our compulsions. All these little idols, each of which begins with our self-referencing self-absorption and moves outward to an unhealthy focus on things, actions and ideas, are an expression of isolation. Me first is ultimately and always me only.

Whether you waste time, money and health on unneeded food, or you isolate in front of a computer or make some idea or plan or ambition the center of who you are, you are always at root isolating yourself on an island of me first. The seminal idol is always ourselves. All the rest flows from that.

StrangeGods leads us from a discussion of the many ways and many things we substitute for God in our lives to the really egregious mental addictions of what Elizabeth call “Super Idols.” Super Idols are the overarching idols that become ideologies, philosophies and ultimately, world views.

We see them and their damage all about us. As our society has moved more and more from a God-centered world view to a me-centered world view it has shattered and divided along the fault lines of our selfish desires. We dress these things up and call them “rights” or “causes.” We label ourselves along the divisions we create to separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters, but in reality these things are all lies. They are just idolatry spread large and become organized into the false religions of political and social movements.

I know something about this. I’ve practiced this form of idolatry and I deal with its practitioners on a daily basis. There is no person so indifferent to the consequences of their actions to their country, other people, or even themselves as someone who is in the grip of a super idolatrous false social religion. 

These people have checked both their brains and their hearts at the altar of their super idol and they are fueled by the twin evils of unthinking rage and self-righteousness that super idols pump into them. They’re dangerous. They’re destructive. And they are mean and cold-hearted to a level that their saner selves would find abhorrent.

As you can see, StrangeGods is a thought-provoking book that leads you to find yourself on most of its pages. It is a convicting and inspiring read in that it convicts you of the idolatries in your own life and it also inspires you to repent of these sins of false idol worship and turn back to the real God.

In the end, we turn to false idols because they are comforting reflections of us. They don’t appear to ask the difficult things of us that relationships with an other always does. Idols seem easy and comprehensible because at root they are ourselves.

But you cannot serve two masters. You cannot follow false gods and the real God simultaneously. You have to chose, and given our proclivity for self-referencing you have to make this choice many times in a single day. Banish the little gods and you will spare yourself the true evil of the super idols that take your mind and your goodness away from you. 

I heartily recommend StrangeGods, Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life. It is that rare thing: A book that can make you want to be and do better.

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Pope Francis: Walking Past Lazarus on the Way to Hell

“Financiers, economists and politicians consider God as manageable, even dangerous because God calls man to his full realization and independence from any kind of slavery.” Pope Francis

 

When money is your god, you are well on your way to creating a hell on earth.

We have gone so far down the road of making money our god in this society that we basically exempt any public policies that have to do with business or finance from moral scrutiny. Some of the most ardent Christians are the ones who enforce this heretical nonsense. 

The same people who go into a froth over abortion do not raise an eyebrow when it comes to limiting prenatal care or refusing to require businesses to provide safe work environments for their employees. There is no piece of legislation that limits access to care for the poor that these folks won’t support. They are the enemies of the welfare state … except when it comes to corporations. No deal is too special, no government hand-out too abusive to deserve a second look when it comes to business.

It’s as if Jesus never said a single word about “the least of these” except as it applies to abortion. You would think that it was a moral imperative to drain the public coffers dry and hand the money over to a few corporations and wealthy campaign donors who sit at the top of the social pile. These Christians never consider whose money it is in the first place when they take it from the many and give it to the few.

According to them, people are poor because they are lazy, stupid and deserve what they get. On the other hand the wealthy are rich because they are industrious, productive and deserve all they can get.

Government has become a wholly owned subsidiarity of the rich and shameless. In the hands of these moral Christian politicians, government is a method for funneling the wealth of generations into a few hands and impoverishing the rest of our society.

This particular form of sinfulness is committed by those who are usually the most vociferous in claiming their loyalty to Christ. They are “pro life” and they usually support “traditional marriage,” so in their little minds that means that everything else they do is, by definition, righteous and holy. You would think that we are saved, not by the cross, but by checking off the right boxes on candidate surveys by a couple of political support groups.

When money becomes your god, you are well on your way to creating a hell on earth. I would guess that you are also well on you way to going to the actual hell one day, as well.

Money is a human invention. Wealth and poverty are symptoms of our fallen nature. There is nothing divine or holy about either one of them. That is not to say that they are necessarily evil. They are, simply, tools and reality. Money is a tool. Disparity of wealth is a reality.

But greed, graft and government corruption are sins. When we carry them to the point that they impoverish millions while enriching a few beyond the dreams of avarice, they are deadly sins, both in this world and the next.

It’s a simple equation, really. Do not walk past Lazarus; not if you want to go to heaven one day.

Pope Francis spoke about this concept of money as a means rather than an end today when he addressed the new ambassadors to the Holy See from Kyrgyzstan, Antigua and Barbuda, Luxembourg and Botswana.

“Money has to serve, not rule” he told them … wanting power and possession has become limitless … the sprawling of corruption and tax evasion has gone global.

“The Pope urges a return to the unselfish solidarity and ethics in favor of man in financial and economic reality,” he said. “The Pope loves everyone rich and poor alike, but the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them. This would take a courageous change of attitude on the part of political leaders … I urge them to face this challenge with determination and farsightedness, taking account, naturally, of their particular situations.

The excerpts of his discussion below are from CNA:

“The joy of living is decreasing, indecency and violence are the the rise and poverty is becoming more evident,” said Pope Frncis.

“You must fight to live and often to live in a non-decent way … We have created new idols, the ancient worship of the golden calf has found a new and ruthless image in fetishism of the dictatorship of the economy without purpose nor a truly human face,” he said.

“It reduces man to one of its demands, consumption and even worse, the human being is today considered himself as a commodity that you can use and then throw away … Financiers, economists and politicians consider God as manageable, even dangerous because God calls man to his full realization and independence from any kind of slavery …” (Read the rest here.)

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My Vocation Story by Fr Jason Smith

 

“God our Father, send us holy priests, all for the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus all for the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with St Joseph. Amen.”

Prayers don’t get much more Catholic than that one. With its talk of eucharistic and immaculate hearts, it’s enough to confuse the average protestant for days.

My rosary group prays this particular prayer every time we get together. We also pray by name for all the priests in our archdiocese. We know, as all Catholics do, that our Church is built around the sacrament of Holy Orders. The graces of God rain down on us Catholics in a free and easy way, like a gentle spring shower, when we partake of the sacraments such as the eucharist and confession.

Jesus instituted the priesthood as a mechanism of transmission of these graces. It is meant to be reliable and available. Freely given, freely received. Priests are conduits of God’s grace.

As such, they are an essential component to living the life in Christ in this difficult and challenging age with its destructive secularism and intolerance of genuine Christianity.

We need priests. We need holy priests who are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to give their lives in the service of Christ’s Church.

This is the story of Father Jason Smith’s vocation. Fr Smith blogs at Biltrix. He has given me permission to reproduce his story in full.

My Vocation Story

Fr Jason Smith

If not for a hockey game, I wouldn’t be a Legionary priest today.As a good Minnesotan, I naturally considered hockey as divinely inspired, a sign of God’s love for us. But it’s what happened after the game that took me by surprise and lead me to know my priestly vocation.

During my first year at college, I often went to the rink at the University of Minnesota with my friends. After one such event —ending in a double overtime victory for the Golden Gophers, and a long celebration— I returned home in the wee hours of the morning, too tired to get out of bed until Sunday afternoon.

Stumbling upstairs for something to eat, I found my Dad sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper. Opening the fridge, I heard from over my shoulder: “Jason, did you go to Mass this morning?” I swallowed hard. I hadn’t. Quickly I tried to think up the perfect excuse. None came. Trying to hide behind the refrigerator door, I quipped “No, I didn’t go”. Without looking up Dad replied solemnly, “Go tomorrow then.”

It was my first Monday morning Mass ever. I was struck by how quiet the Church was, and how empty. I sat about halfway up and waited. Little by little people began to filter in. Then an attractive girl sat down a few pews behind me. How is it I find a girl like this now and not last Saturday evening? It must be God’s providence! I decided the sign of peace was the perfect time to introduce myself. When the moment came I turned around and, to my surprise, she passed me a note. I put it in my pocket pretending it happened all the time.

When I got home I opened the note. It read something like this: “It’s good to see someone young attending daily Mass. You must really love your faith! I want to let you know about a group of young people who pray and study scripture Wednesday evenings. If you would like to come, here is my number.” I decided I could find time in my packed schedule to go.

That’s when it occurred to me I hadn’t seriously looked into my Catholic faith since Confirmation. What would I say? What would I pray? Where was my Rosary? I found it stuffed in the bottom dresser drawer along with a pamphlet of prayers. As to what I would say, I went to my Dad’s study and checked out his library. It had books on music, history, politics —but the largest section was religion. I found one book called, “True Devotion to Mary”. It seemed like a good place to start since it was short.

I never read beyond the introduction, but the book changed my life. It explained how St Louis de Montfort, a priest who tirelessly preached the Gospel and underwent extraordinary trials, spread devotion to Mary throughout France. It was my first encounter with the life of a saint. I marveled how someone could dedicate himself entirely to Christ, even to the point of heroism. It was precisely then that I renewed the resolution I had made a two years earlier to pray and sincerely live my faith.

A few months later I went on a retreat with the youth group. It was the first time the priesthood entered my mind. During the consecration, as I gazed at the elevated host, I thought to myself —in words that were my own, but which carried a resonance I will never forget— if there is one thing I should do it’s that. It was the defining moment of my calling. I was taken entirely by surprise. I knew I had to look into the priesthood, but I didn’t know how or where.

To make a long story short, the same girl who gave me the note in church then gave me a brochure on the Legionaries of Christ. It had testimonies of the young men who entered the year before. I read it and was convinced. I called and asked for an application. A Legionary came to visit. I went to candidacy. I joined. My younger brother followed the next year.

Since then the years have passed by like a whirlwind. There is much more I could write, but the essential is simple: Christ crossed my path, called, and by his grace —definitely not my own strength— I found the courage to drop everything and follow him. I have never looked back. Our Lord’s presence and the needs of the Church have captivated my attention ever since.

Now only a few days away from priestly ordination, in my conversations with Christ, I continually thank him for the many gifts he has given me: my faith, my wonderful parents and brother, my Legionary vocation, and above all, his presence and friendship throughout my life.

I can hardly believe I have arrived at the foot of the altar. It seems almost a dream; that I’ll wake up, finding myself back in Minnesota, late for a hockey game. But it’s true. God’s plans are far beyond, and far better, then my own.

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Fortnight for Freedom 2013

 

Fortnight for Freedom 2013  is around the corner!

The Fortnight, which begins June 21 and ends July 4 is a call for both prayer and activity on behalf of our first American Freedom — Freedom of Religion.

From the USCCB website:

The Fortnight for Freedom, which we celebrated for the first time last year, takes place from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day.  Last year, we saw a great diversity of events promoting religious freedom across the country.  In 2013, we face many challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate; potential Supreme Court rulings that could redefine marriage in June, causing serious religious liberty issues for Catholic adoption agencies and many others; and religious liberty concerns in other areas, such as immigration and humanitarian services.

During the Fortnight, our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome, St. John Fisher, and St. Thomas More.Through prayerstudy, and peaceful public action during the Fortnight for Freedom, we hope to remind ourselves and others all throughout the United States about the importance of preserving the fundamental right of religious freedom.

Please join our Facebook Page so you can stay up to date on the latest Fortnight for Freedom 2013 news!

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Pope Francis: Satan Always Rips You Off

 

Live for yourself! Lookin’ out for number one! Do unto others before they do it to you first! Greed is good.  Survival of the fittest.  He who has the gold, rules. 

These sentiments are how we make a little hell of our time here on earth. They enable us to lie, steal, cheat and destroy everything that gives real satisfaction, meaning and purpose to our lives.

The underlying worldview for so many of the abuses trendy fringies are pushing on our society have at their base a Me Only, I’m All That Matters value system. This leads us to believe that children are not people but commodities that we can design, kill, exploit, abuse and indoctrinate at our pleasure. It’s the force that empowers the infidelities, battering and incests that change home from a sanctuary into a place of dread.

We want what we want when we want it, and we are so verbally gifted that we can make up stories that allow us to convince ourselves that our wants and desires are somehow a manifestation of the common good. We are destroying ourselves from the inside out as a people, a nation and a culture with the excesses of I want it and I will have it and I don’t accept any argument to the contrary.

Narcissism reigns in a devil-dominated world.

“Eat of the fruit, and you will not die,” Satan told the woman in his famous first lying truth. “You will not die,” he said. He didn’t add that one word; he didn’t say, “today.”  “Take, eat, and you will not die today.”

“God is a liar,” he implied, and the woman along with the man after her, bought the lying truth.

We have not progressed in our centuries of “progress” from that initial sin. We still listen to the lying truths of Satan, and we are still destroyed by them.

Glittery promises of something that passes for life abundant are what he offers. Do as you please. Lie to yourself and anyone stupid enough to listen to you about the harm your selfishness does. Lie to everyone around you, including, ultimately, yourself, and do as you please. Do it, not because it’s right or fair or because you are being honest with anyone, including yourself, about the consequences. Do it because it pleases you to do it and you are the only arbiter of right and wrong that you accept.

“Satan is a liar and the father of lies,” Jesus told us.

The other end of the devil’s empty promises is a nothingness, an absolute zero, that only those who’ve looked off into that eternal futility can imagine. 

Pope Francis touched on this today during one of his wonderful morning homilies. “We must say that with Satan, the payback is rotten,” he said,  “He always rips us off, Always!”

The Holy Father contrasted the selfish way of living that the devil promotes with the generous and loving way of life that Jesus exemplified. He taught that those who live just for themselves, are, in the end, like Judas, in that they lose everything, including their eternal life. He pointed out that Judas “was an idolator, attached to money … this attitude of selfishness developed into the betrayal of Jesus … he who isolates his conscience in selfishness, loses it in the end.”

Every single one of us is tempted to put ourselves first, always and in everything. We are natural born self-lovers. But those who try to explain us with an over-arching theory of survival of the fittest as our only motivation find themselves stumped almost immediately by the enormous sacrifices human beings make for other people.

I am not talking only about the things mothers will do to protect their children, or fathers who give their lives to protect their families. I am also referring to people who give their lives for total strangers, or those who, like St Thomas More, give their lives for the love of Christ.

There is much more to us than you can find by dissecting us in an anatomy lab. We, alone of all the creatures on this planet, are moral beings. We understand what evil is, which is why we are capable of committing it. We, again alone of all the creatures on this planet, are responsible — to ourselves, to one another, to our society, our world and ultimately to God.

God numbers the hairs of our heads. He remembers things we do that we forget ourselves as soon as we do them. We are not just grass that lives for a while and then withers and dies. We are part of eternity. As such, what we do balances on an eternal scale.

“Satan is a liar and the father of lies,” Jesus said. The first such lie was and is that God Himself lies to us. From the Garden to today, the lie is the same. “Do as you please. Because God lies when he tells you that if you eat of the fruit of your desires with no thought to the consequences to others, that you will surely die. That is not true. God just wants you to be unhappy. You will not die.”

That is the same lie he told the woman and it is missing the same word now as it was then. It is missing the word today.

You will not die … today.

From CNA:

 

.- Christians who buy into Satan’s temptation to live selfishly get swindled, while those who live life as a “gift” to others are immersed in love and the Church community, Pope Francis said.

“And, we must say, with Satan the payback is rotten. He always rips us off, always!” the Pope emphasized as he contrasted the kind of selfish living that the devil promotes with the generous way of living Jesus exemplified.

“When a Christian begins to isolate himself, he also insulates his consciousness from the sense of community, from a sense of the Church, and from the love that Jesus gives us,” he explained.

“Instead, the Christian who gives his life, what Jesus calls ‘lost,’ finds it and finds it in its fullness,” the Pope preached May 14 in his homily on John 15.

A group of employees from the Vatican Museums and some students of the Pontifical Portuguese College attended the 7:00 a.m. Mass in the chapel of St. Martha’s residence.

The Pope concelebrated the Mass with the Colombian Archbishop of Medellín, Ricardo Antonio Restrepo Tobón.

The Holy Father explained that wanting to live just for oneself is like Judas, who “in the end loses” his life. (Read more here.) 

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