Conversion Story: Jesus Came to Heal the Broken Hearted, and I Had a Broken Heart


This is a beautiful testimony of conversion to Jesus. In a way, it’s a rescue story.

Notice this young man’s discussion of his friends who led him to Christ by their example, witness and loving invitation. That is a potent form of evangelization. It is what Pope Francis is trying to teach us. The question is, do we have the ears to hear?

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Helping Others … Helps You


What sort of people take part in Catholic Volunteer Services? How does volunteering affect their lives?

The short answer is good people, whose lives are enhanced by the experience.

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Message to the Vatican: Traditional Families Need Your Help


After all the hullaballoo, it turns out that the Vatican is not seeking input from the laity about it teachings, procedures, or anything else.

The survey the Vatican announced a week ago is designed to collect raw data at the diocesan level. It is not, as the popular press implied, a poll of the laity on Church doctrine and discipline. The data will be used as a resource in the 2014 Synod.

I’ve seen the survey, and I hope that it is not fully reflective of the issues that will be considered in the Synod. I am concerned that it is too focused on the needs of “new” family structures and not enough on how the Church can better support the traditional family.

I realize that the problems and the noise from those in “new” family structures tends to focus Vatican attention. But while those in “new” family structures are making all the demands and creating all the fuss, traditional families are quietly foundering.

Men and women, husbands and wives, in traditional Catholic families need a lot — and I mean a lot — more teaching and support, both spiritual and practical, from their Church. I hope that the bishops do not have the idea that what the Church is doing now to support traditional families within their care is enough. It simply is not, and I point to the need for this survey on “new” family structures as an indication of how serious the problem is becoming.

The huge increase in these “new” family structures which predicates surveys and Synods on how to deal with them is, to a great extent, testimony to the fact that traditional families have been suffering and failing. Traditional family has been under unremitting, concerted attack for almost 5 decades now. The Church needs to change how it supports traditional families to reflect this reality.

We need new and more inclusive ways of nurturing healthy Catholic families for the simple reason that traditional Christian families are under such enormous destructive pressure in this post Christian society. This destructive pressure bears down on every area of family life, from the way jobs are constructed, to social pressures, to the propaganda our children are inundated with in the public schools.

As Yogi Beara said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

If the church truly is a community, building healthy Catholic families by providing practical support of many types has to be part of its ministry.

From the National Catholic Register:

Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey (2030)

Multiple media reports have given rise to the misconception that Pope Francis is polling Catholics for their views on Church teaching and practices.

 11/08/2013 Comments (3)

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi and Archbishop Bruno Forte, special secretary of the 2014 Synod of Bishops, speak Nov. 5 at the Vatican.

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis wants to know about the state of marriage and the family in the Church, before the bishops meet in Rome for an extraordinary synod next year. However, the lay faithful should not expect to be receiving a survey on their views from the Vatican anytime soon.

For one thing, the Vatican’s survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and the aim is to collect raw data, not opinions on Church doctrine or discipline, in advance of the 2014 synod. The data will help inform the bishops as they develop pastoral solutions for the challenges faced by modern families.

“Each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican,” said Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Clemmer said once a diocese completes its report, the data will be sent back to the USCCB and then forwarded on to the Vatican.


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Vatican Says No to Communion for Divorced and Remarrieds

Rumors aside, it appears that Pope Francis is not going to overturn the 2,000-year-old Church teaching on the sanctity of Holy Matrimony.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller published an article in the Vatican newspaper, putting that story to rest.

Archbishop Muller writes that marriage is indissoluble as is testified in both Scripture and Tradition.

From National Catholic Register:

That Pope Francis is not going to change the discipline that denies Communion to divorced-remarried people is established by the long article Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, drafted for the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

In the article, published on Oct. 22, Archbishop Müller reiterates that a Christian marriage is indissoluble and that this is not simply a pastoral question, but a doctrinal issue that involves the Church’s theological understanding of the sacrament of marriage.

There are also other key passages. Archbishop Müller stated that the Orthodox practice of allowing second or third marriages under certain circumstances “cannot be reconciled with God’s will.” He rejected that the individual conscience can be the final arbiter on whether a divorced and civily remarried Catholic can receive Communion. And responding to the argument that Christian mercy mandates allowing such Catholics reception of Communion, he asserted that “an objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God by implying that God cannot do other than forgive.”

The article seems a clear corrective to those who recently praised the Church for, they said, finally being open to bringing Communion to divorced-remarried under Pope Francis’ pontificate. And it also serves as a correction to numerous newspaper headlines that have misrepresented the theme of the next Extraordinary Synod of Bishops — “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” — as meaning the 2014 synod will open the door to a new Church discipline on the matter.

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Divorce, Catholic Divorce and Following Christ as Counter-Cultural Living

Divorce is one of the plagues of modern America. It is the root cause of much of the misery of our modern life. The damage it does to our children and their children and their children’s children is incalculable. It is almost as if we have visited a social plague of Biblical proportions on ourselves with our disregard for marriage, home and family.

And we do disregard these things.

Social policy, especially as it pertains to how business activities are regulated, do not ever seem to consider the good the family. If you want to see what people really care about, look at what they serve. Judged by that standard, American government — and the American people as well — consistently put the Almighty dollar ahead of families, including, or perhaps most especially, children.

Divorce is a cause and a symptom of these values, as well as a result of them. In this way, we have created a divorce cycle that feeds on itself and appears to be endangering the survival of the institution of Holy Matrimony in the larger society. If we are heading toward a society where only certain groups of people maintain stable homes and families, there is no better place for one of those groups to form than among faithful Catholics.

It appears that the foundation for this sort of thing may already be in place.

According to a recent study by the Applied Research Apostolate at Georgetown University, Catholics divorce. In fact, Catholics divorce a lot. But compared to those other guys and gals out there, Catholics don’t divorce so much.

I suppose it’s a relief to learn that we’re not as prone as non-Catholics to steer our marriages — and our lives and our children’s lives — onto the rocks. In fact, I know it’s good news. The study shows that 28% of Catholics have been divorced at some time in their lives. I am assuming that this includes people who converted to Catholicism after they were divorced. If that’s true, the numbers for cradle Catholics might be even lower. Catholics who are married to other Catholics divorce at the slightly lower rate of 27%, so there may be something to that notion.

Protestants divorce at a rate of 39%, other faiths at 35% and people of no faith at 40%.

What this means is that, while we’re far from the point where we need to pop open the champagne and begin congratulating ourselves, we have a basis of solid Catholic families on which to build. Our ultimate goal should be the conversion of the larger society. But for now, I think it’s more than enough for us to look to ways to strengthen and build strong Catholic families which can raise children who will grow into productive and faithful adults.

I’ll talk about this more later, but we’re going to have to face the reality that our society is inimical to us and our values. If we want to live the true good life of stable homes that produce children who grow into equally stable adults, we face the necessity — not the choice, but the necessity — of pulling our families and our kids out of the cesspools of modern life.

We can no longer rely on the larger culture to be a safe place for our kids. And we certainly cannot rely on the larger culture to teach either us or them about what matters in life. Following Christ has always been counter-cultural. It was a scandal to the larger society from its beginning. In a very real way, we simply need to go back to our New Testament Gospel roots and live out our faith as the countercultural force it is and always has been.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Recent studies on marriage show that while their rates of divorce are significant, U.S. Catholics are less likely to divorce than people of other religious affiliations.

“Although the Catholic ‘divorce rate’ is lower than the U.S. average it is still a daunting figure,” said the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

In a Sept. 26 blog post, the research group explained that divorce among Catholics “represents more than 11 million individuals,” many of whom “are likely in need of more outreach and ongoing ministry from the Church.”

In its article, the organization explained that different ways of tallying divorce and marriage rates create a range of different divorce figures, including the oft-quoted statistic that “half of all marriages fail.”

Looking at national surveys, “Catholics stand out with only 28 percent of the ever-married having divorced at some point,” the blog post stated, compared to more than 40 percent of those with no religious affiliation, 39 percent of Protestants and 35 percent of those of another religious faith.

Furthermore, Catholics who marry other Catholics are also less likely to divorce than Catholics married to people of other faiths.

A 2007 survey from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimates that only 27 percent of Catholics married to other Catholics have ever experienced divorce, compared to nearly half of Catholics married to Protestants or to spouses with no religious belief.

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When Home is Hell

Comments on this post about divorce have, as these things usually do, veered off into the subject of abusive relationships in marriage. Here, just for the record is my two cents on that topic.

Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep.

John Milton, Paradise Lost

I chose the quote above because of it’s origin. It comes from Paradise Lost, which is the tale of Satan, cast out of heaven and down to hell because of his hatred.

People who beat and batter their own families seem like that to me. Ditto for the monsters who sexually abuse their own loved ones.

I am talking about people so cowardly that they spend their frustrations on the people who trust them and who deserve their protection because they, unlike the rest of the world, are unwilling or unable to fight back against their real problems.

What kind of monster would hit or batter their own spouse? Don’t they know that their husband or wife is their own self?

You can not harm you’re life’s companion, the person you create other people with, the only one who will be there beside you throughout your days in this life, without also harming yourself.

I repeat: What kind of monster attacks his or her own wife or husband, his or her own children?

Home is refuge, one that, in these increasingly traumatic times, we all need. Home is, as Robert Frost said, “where, when you go there, they have to take you in.” Home is that last place on earth where you can go, where you will be safe, even when the rest of the world is perilous.

Home is also the last place on earth anyone should defile with their violence and abuse of other people.

If batterers are so brave, let them take their rages to the world and try yelling at their boss or talking back to the cop who writes them a ticket. See who lets them in the house later when they’ve been fired, or who empties the piggy bank to pay their bail.

It will be those people no one should ever attack: Their family.

Manly men do not beat up women. Manly men do not rape children.

Womanly women do not batter their kids. Womanly women do not berate and belittle their husbands.

To paraphrase Emily Dickinson, home is meant to be the closest thing to heaven we will know in this life. But, with our propensity to evil, many of us turn our homes into all we need to know of hell.

What should a Christian do when they’ve married what they thought was a good person and find later that they have yoked themselves to a monster?

If there is violence or sexual abuse, you must divorce them. If you have to go to a shelter or take out restraining orders, do it. If they are violating your children, send them to prison. You owe that to the rest of society, so that they won’t do it again to other children.

I do not fully understand the nuances of the Church’s teaching in this regard and I am speaking here entirely for myself. But you and your children have a right to life, the same as everyone else. Physical violence or sexual abuse are threats to that right to life. They are an abrogation of your dignity as human beings made in the image and likeness of God.

There can be no marriage with a monster and people who do things like this to their own families are monsters. I do not know how the Church treats these things, but as far as I am concerned, a person who is so morally deficient that he or she will physically attack their own family is incapable of entering into a sacramental marriage in the first place. They are too morally blighted for the words of their vows to have meaning.

In short, get yourself safe and sort out the finer points later.

As for those readers who actually batter their wives or husbands, you need to go to a priest and, after confession, ask for referrals where you can get help. You also need to move out of the family home until you are safe for them. If you never are safe for them, then realize that you are not worthy of having a family of your own.

If, on the other hand, you have sexually abused your children, you need to turn yourself in to the police. I mean that. You can get counseling and whatever in prison. But you do not belong free.

I don’t know that people who commit these kinds of crimes against their own families ever turn themselves into the police. I have never personally heard of it. However, I do know people who have gone to prison for sexually abusing their children.

That is just the beginning for the children who have been through this. If they do not get immediate help, they will suffer the consequences of what was done to them all the days of their lives.

If your spouse has done this to your kids, you need to consider the best ways to get your children the therapy they need. As always, the Church is a great resource. Here in my archdiocese, the Church offers all sorts of help for families and children in distress, and most of it is free.

If you are the victim of battering or abuse yourself, you need to take care of yourself by getting therapy and assistance for you.

In the midst of all this, do not forget your spiritual healing. A kind priest can do wonders about helping you through times like this. If you should run into one of the occasional bad priests who are unsympathetic or who try to get you to stay in a situation that is violent and dangerous, just find another priest. You can talk to your bishop about this bad guy later, when you are stronger.

Many times, families who have an abusive member are isolated from other people. You may not have been attending church. Or, if you have, you may not have been able to participate in the guilds and groups that help you meet people and form friendships. Don’t let this stop you from seeking their help now. I would not hesitate to call the parish altar society or Knights of Columbus, and ask them for support and help.

If you’re lonely, say so. If you need a job, ask them for leads. You will probably be astonished by the help they give you and how much it enables you to move forward with your life.

If, for some reason, they don’t respond, try another parish.

Above all, pray, pray, pray. The Rosary is a wonderful prayer for bad times for the simple reason that you don’t have to come up with the words. When you are distraught and can’t think what to say, the Rosary will pray for you.

Ruth Graham once said that if two people are married and never disagree, then one of them is unnecessary. All marriages, even the best of them, have their times when the spouses are at loggerheads over something or other.

In a good marriage, this usually lasts only a few hours at most, then the love the two of them have for one another works its magic. But even the best marriages have times when one spouse is in their private misery over work or feelings of failure or grief and the other spouse cannot reach them. These are tough times. But they are not a reason for divorce.

Love perseveres.

But when a marriage descends into the hell of violence and abuse, that is a sure sign that there is no love there to persevere. Some things are not negotiable. One of them is that anyone who harms their family in this way does not deserve to have a family.

It’s as simple as that: They don’t deserve you.

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Pope Calls for Synod to Focus on the Family and Evangelization

Pope Francis has set the date for an Extraordianry Synod on the Family and Evangelization.

I am delighted to read that the Holy Father has done this. Catholic families are in serious need of support and guidance from their Church.

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Pope Francis Gives an Interview. New York Times Re-Writes It.

Pope Francis gave an extensive interview to America Magazine, which you can find here.

The New York Times did an extensive re-write of this interview, which you can find here.

Just for the record, the Holy Father did not say what the New York Times is claiming. The Times took quotes out of context, and re-interpreted them along the lines of the secular gospel. What the Pope said is simple, clear and obvious Christian teaching that the Church has proclaimed for 2,000 years.

Here’s what the Holy Father said, and what, in Sunday School parlance, it means.

What the Pope said:

“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner,” the pope says, “preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound. In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this. During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.

What it means in Sunday School:

Love the sinner. Hate the sin.

What the Pope said:

“This is also the great benefit of confession as a sacrament: evaluating case by case and discerning what is the best thing to do for a person who seeks God and grace. The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better. I also consider the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion. Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

What it means in Sunday School:

God’s mercy is greater than any sin you can commit and it is available in confession. Abortion and birth control are not the only sins. God has mercy for post abortive men and women. I am a shepherd of souls, including those who commit sins other than abortion and contraception.

What the Pope said:

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

What it means in Sunday School:

We can not earn salvation by picking out one or two sins and condemning them. That only makes us bitter and self-righteous. We must focus first on loving Jesus. Then, Jesus will change us and we will want to follow Him with our lives. The Church must preach Christ.

There is a lot more to this interview. It is long and, as always with Pope Francis, completely candid. I suggest you go to the link I gave you and read it for yourself.

For more information, check Frank WeathersSam Rocha and Elizabeth Scalia.

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The Burden of Sin: What Jesus Endured on the Cross

The One Who knew no sin became sin for us.


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Graphic images, not for children.

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The Secret’s Out: Devout Catholic Husbands and Wives Have the Best Sex

If you want great sex, trying marrying for love and committing yourself this person for life. It also helps if you worship the God Who made you in a Catholic Church every week.

That’s the upshot of a spate of articles floating around the internet, including this one that mentions Patheos blogger Dr Gregory Popcak. It turns out that devout Catholic husbands and wives have the most satisfying sexual relationships of any group.


Based on what we see on HBO, it would appear that the most satisfying sex must occur between people who don’t give a flip about one another. According to the media great sex is found in quickie relationships where one of person may even be paying the other to participate. Greatest sex probably occurs between groups of people or people who’ve slept with everybody in the telephone book before arriving at their latest coupling. Tossing in drugs to “heighten” the experience is also depicted as a useful way to get great sex.

Of course, that’s not real life. The hook-up culture is as empty of emotional sustenance as a steady diet of styrofoam would be of nutrition. Eat enough styrofoam and you will die physically. Engage in enough meaningless sex and you will lose the ability to connect with the people you are “sexing,” and the sex itself will become more about sweat and release than satisfaction and happiness.

This little lesson in human nature applies to just about everything in life. Is it more satisfying to eat in a crowded diner with strangers, or to spend the evening with someone you enjoy and who engages you? Is a movie more fun sitting in a theater full of strangers or alongside someone who shares your life and viewpoint and laughs and cries right along with you?

“It is not good for man to be alone,” the Lord God said after He created Adam. Adam was surrounded by all of creation, including the many creatures who populated it. But he was alone. When God made woman, Adam knew that this person was not just another creature, but “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” He recognized her as his partner; another living soul made in the image and likeness of God.

Men and women are made for one another, in the best and most beautiful way. We are not insects who reproduce in a soulless exchange of genes. We are human beings who create life out of our mutual love and self-giving. Anything less always ends up dehumanizing us.

Sex is a great gift to humankind, a gift with a purpose. We create life with it, and we also bind ourselves man to woman for life by the tenderness and trust of life-long fidelity and sharing that is true marriage. True marriage between a man and a woman is the simplest and best way to have a satisfying and productive life. Satisfying sex is not the purpose of marrying for love, for life and within the Church. It is a free gift and a natural by-product of this free commitment of two lives to one another.

It doesn’t surprise me that devout Catholic wives and husbands who are living together in the sacrament of holy matrimony are also blessed with fulfilling sex lives. What does surprise me is that anyone ever doubted it.

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