Monday, August 30, 2010

Why do Catholics Bow to the Priest?

Remember when Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States a couple years ago? At the time, a friend of mine asked me why all of these people were raising their hands and bowing toward the pope as he rode by in his popmobile. She’s Lutheran and had no idea why Catholics would revere a mere man in such a way that looks like worship. Since I hadn’t seen the event she was describing—and frankly I’ve never seen such a thing before or since—I really didn’t know what to say.

At Mass the other day for some reason I noticed the ushers bring up the collection and place it next to the alter, walked away from the alter, turn around, and bowed. The priest was behind the alter preparing the bread and wine and it occurred to me that it’d be very easy for an outsider looking in to think that the usher had just bowed to the priest. I’ve been watching ever since and over and over I see Eucharistic ministers, ushers, canters, lectors, and many others bowing (seemingly) directly toward the priest.

In reality, that’s not the case at all. A careful observation shows that not only do the lay people who approach the front of the church bow but so does the priest. In fact, the first thing a priest does is genuflect (kneel briefly on one knee) facing the later and the second thing he does is kiss the alter. In the same way the bowing of the ministers is always directed toward the alter and never toward the priest who happens to be near it.

Catholics reverence the alter in these ways as a sign of our deep respect for what happens on that sacred table; the transformation of common bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ and the participation in the one sacrifice for all. Few things, if any, connect us more deeply to Christ than the Eucharist and the altar is the place where it all happens; for that we are utterly respectful.

Considering that, I’d guess (but don’t know) that the people bowing toward the pope in my opening example were witnessing a Eucharistic Procession where that behavior is perfectly acceptable since they’re worshipping the very body of Christ. The point is that things aren’t always as they seem when it comes to Catholic rituals. Nearly all actions are deliberate and have rich meaning; down to why—and toward what—the bow of a minister is directed.

If you ever wonder why Catholics do what they do; drop us a line at questions@tadaministries.com and we’d be honored to get an answer for you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do I know you?

The very first words my (future) wife ever said to me were “do I know you?”. She thought I looked like someone she went to high school with but it came out as being a bit… cold. We still joke about it today.

The Gospel this last Sunday wasn’t quite so funny but amounts to the same question. The reading was from Luke 13:22-30 and is the story of the master of the house barring the gate and telling those outside that he doesn’t know them. They reply that they ate with him and he taught in their streets but the master replies that he simply doesn’t know them. This, obviously, leads to an undesirable result for those who “thought” they knew him.

Few passages in scripture make me more nervous than this one. I’m a plain ‘ol Catholic. I don’t do particularly much or particularly little. I think I know Jesus. This passage reminds me that there may be some surprises come judgment day.

I think the difference between those inside and those outside the house in Jesus’ parable is the difference between relationship and proximity. It’s easy—particularly for Catholics—to be in close proximity to Christ. We go to Mass, we say our memorized prayers, we cross ourselves with holy water, and so on. We get very close to Christ but it’s very easy to get close in the sense that two strangers get close to each other on a bus. They may be right next to each other and have no relationship at all.

Closeness in relationship looks subtly different. It’s not the difference between going to Mass or staying home to gear up for the football games Sunday afternoon; it’s the difference between going to Mass and being bored and going to Mass and encountering Jesus in the Gospel and the Eucharist. It’s the difference between reciting a memorized prayer while daydreaming about something else and spending quality time with Christ as you would in any other real relationship.

Trust me, these are hard words for me to hear (and write). As I’m typing this I’m shaking my head thinking of all the times I’ve recited my daily devotions like a machine while my mind is elsewhere or that I’ve spent more time keeping my kids quiet in Mass than communing with Jesus. That’s why passages like this exist, I suppose, to remind us that holiness is a process but we at least need to be going in the right direction.

Should Abortion Clinics Have Hospital Standards?

The Virginia attorney general has written an opinion that abortion clinics should have to follow hospital safety standards. NARAL and Susan B. Anthony List reps were on TV discussing the effect such a law would have. Interesting to watch. Not too hard to see what NARAL's priority is; I don't think it's women's health...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Comment Authentication Off

Oh the delicate balance between allowing people to freely share their thoughts and getting a ton of spam comments on my posts. Blogger's comment verification box often doesn't display correctly so I'm hearing that a few people who want to post comments are unable to.

I've disabled the verification thingy to make posting comments easier. If anyone knows how to have them display correctly on Blogger I'd appreciate any tips since turning it off means I'll get spam comments every few days.

Thanks, everyone, please feel free to share your thoughts on anything I post. I get to shoot my mouth off; you may as well, too.

TaDa Ministries Game Review 03: Agricola

Agricola (Latin for “Farmer”) is a medium-heavy game where 1-5 players try to get as many points as possible by building a diverse and thriving farm. The game is incredibly fun and offers a dizzying number of setup options to accommodate players who are graduating from Monopoly to players who think Power Grid is too easy.

Agricola is a great game for families with kids in the 8+ age range. The game teaches long-range planning and shows how decisions early on affect the future. Because the game is only 14 rounds long, it also illustrates very clearly that a person can’t do everything all the time; life is short and it’s up to us to make the best of the time we have.

The game isn’t inexpensive (retails around $70 but is less expensive online) but backs up its high price with extremely good quality and a ridiculous number of components (some very small for those of you with toddlers). Even though it’s only 14 rounds long it still takes 45 minutes to 2 hours to play depending on the number of players.

More information can be found on BoardGameGeed.

if this video influenced your decision to purchase this game please let the publisher know at zman@zmangames.com.


TaDa Ministries Game Review 03: Agricola from TaDa Ministries on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What’s the Point of Being Christian?

Many people wonder what the big deal about being Christian is. I can hardily blame them. The divorce rate among Christians is no better than that among non-Christians. Affiliation with Christianity doesn’t—in my experience—always correlate to generosity, kindness, or even basic etiquette. What difference does it make?

Sure it’s obvious that Christianity on the whole is a good thing. No other cause has educated, fed, and nursed anywhere near as many people as Christian people and organizations have. For example, when the earthquake hit Haiti not too long ago a group of atheists got the great idea to raise money for victims proving that they were “just as caring as Christians”. That’s kind of funny when you ask where these caring atheists were before the earthquake. Catholic and other Christian organizations were serving the poor and needy there long before it became in vogue to be generous there.

But on the individual level, what difference does belonging to a Christian church or group make? I’m pretty sure the answer is none. No difference at all. The difference comes in those who allow themselves to be changed, who actually live the Christian principles. These individuals—though rare—make it obvious that Christianity does matter in daily life.

For example, the divorce rate in America is roughly 50% for Christian and non-Christian couples. Those couples who practice natural family planning (NFP) have a divorce rate below 2%. Yes, below two percent! In other words, people who belong to Christian churches but live the same lifestyles as non-Christians are little or no different from non-Christians. This is just one of many examples of the difference Christianity can make if we let it.

Consider today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 22:1-14. It’s the story of a king who invites his chosen guests to a wedding feast but they won’t come so the king opens the invitation to everyone. Then at the feast he sees a man not dressed in a wedding garment and orders his servants to throw the man out. Why? The man hadn’t changed. He was at the feast but he was the same person he was before entering.

I’m regularly disappointed with myself at how little my lifestyle and choices have in common with my role models; the saints. I have much more in common with the generous atheists; caring when the media tells me to care. While baptized I regularly refuse to cooperate with the Spirit within me. Clearly the required change is a slow process but I wish I were farther along the path!

Let’s pray for each other that this thing we call Christianity may be more than a club, more than a social identity, but a real way of life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Ella" Causes Abortions?

The FDA is either very, very near approving or has approved (sorry, I'm not sure yet) the newest "morning after pill" called ella. The drug is very similar to the dangerous abortion drug RU-486 though the FDA isn't linking ella to abortions (this skirts fedural funding bans and laws) so a new website has been created to raise public awareness of the drug's effects.

Check out www.EllaCausesAbortions.com and check out their intro video below. Help let women know that this drug isn't good for thier child (obviously) or for them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Former Abortionist to Speak in Dickenson ND September 18.

I was forwarded the following email by a friend. It’s originally sent from our area’s Lighthouse Catholic Media representative. I’ll post more details when I get them.

I want to let you know that on September 18th Carol Everett, former abortionist, will be speaking in Dickinson ! Her story started with her own abortion in 1973 and is amazing with her inside scoop with Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry as she ran her own group of abortion clinics in Dallas . (google her for more info) The inside scoop is eye-opening (not for little ones). I’ll send a follow-up email when all details are finalized, yet since it’s only a month away, go ahead and mark your calendar! It’s a one-time event you won’t want to miss!

Seems like an event worth the time if you’re near the Dickenson, ND area. Again, I’ll post more details when I get them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whom Are Catholics Called To Evangelize?

Yesterday we looked at why Catholics are called to evangelize (and gave a brief definition of evangelization as “openly living a life consistent with the Gospel”) and today we’ll look at who we’re called to evangelize.

There are many people who think evangelization is for those who haven’t heard of Jesus Christ or who openly reject him. While it’s important to show these individuals the joy of living a Christ-filled life, they’re far from the only ones who are in need of evangelization.

Many Catholic apologists make a living debating and debunking Protestant ideology. While their tactics can be a bit abrasive (as I have been in the past) the aim is well-intentioned. As we saw yesterday, the goal of evangelization is to bring people closer to Christ—even if they already know him—and many Protestants do know Christ extremely well. However, through the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, they can come to know him more fully.

It would be easy to stop there; and many people do. A lot of folks assume that even this blog is directed toward Protestants and non-Christians who don’t understand the Catholic faith. In reality this blog is directed toward Catholics, one of the most overlooked—and important—groups we are called to evangelize!

Many Catholics today have been very poorly taught the tenants of our faith. Few can clearly articulate what believe and even less why we believe it. More disturbingly many think of their faith as something they do for an hour on Sunday that has no practical purpose in their lives.

In the end, the answer to “whom am I supposed to evangelize” is everyone. There is no one who can’t draw closer to Christ. Anyone can benefit from your faithful, honest living of the Christian way. Whether it’s the clerk at the grocery store or that annoying guy at work or the family that always sits in the front row at church, everyone deserves and needs your witness to the joy, peace, and difference an authentic Christian life makes.

You're a missionary right where you are; my prayer is that you'll let God use you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why are Catholics Called to Evangelize?

Pope Benedict XVI recently reminded Catholics that our mission is to evangelize. We are all missionaries right where we are and are called to share the Gospel with everyone we meet. This shouldn’t be a surprise because all he’s doing is reiterating Jesus’ last command “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). Our call to evangelization isn’t exactly new.

Someday I’ll write more about what “evangelize” means but for now let’s define it as “openly living a life consistent with the Gospel”. I’m not necessarily talking about going door to door asking people if they’d like to meet Jesus (as if he’s waiting in the car). I’m talking primarily about making it no secret that you’re Catholic and living a lifestyle consistent with Catholic teaching. This is something anyone can do.

But who are we to evangelize and why? What’s the goal of evangelization? Today we’ll look at “why” we evangelize and tomorrow we’ll look at “who”.

Let’s get clear on one point right away; the Catholic Church does believe non-Catholics can attain heaven. This is not to be confused by the Church’s declaration that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. These are two, non-contradictory statements (and deserve another post). The point here is that a person doesn’t need to be a baptized Catholic-in-good-standing to get to heaven. It’s not easy, especially for non-Christians, but it is possible.

Consider an analogy. Say three people lead very different lifestyles but all three need food to keep from dying. One person eats what he can find in garbage bins and forages for berries at the park, another eats a solid diet of McGreasy hamburgers, and the third eats the richest, most healthy, and best tasting foods available.

All three people may get enough food to survive but certainly the first person is in a greater danger of starvation than the last. Even if the first person doesn’t starve; his quality of life suffers from lack of nourishment. This is similar to how Catholicism views evangelization.

Others may “survive” by attaining heaven through faith in Christ without even knowing Christ by name (nothing’s outside the power of God; it is possible). However, it’s extremely difficult; the chance of spiritual starvation is high and the spiritual dryness of only knowing Christ’s love without knowing his name is far from being a blessing. While those who know Christ but do not participate in the Sacraments (non-Catholic Christians) are much better off, they’re still not participating as fully in the body of Christ here on earth as they could be.

So the reason for evangelization is partly for their salvation; that they may know Christ, love him, and love their neighbor and is also so that they may draw closer to Christ now in this life. The goal of evangelization is to show people that a life in Christ is better than a life without him.

This is important to understand when we discuss who we are to evangelize tomorrow.

TaDa Ministries Game Review 02: Elemental Clash

Here’s another game review for folks interested in them to watch. Elemental Clash is a relatively inexpensive deck-building card game. Like Panzer Clash (episode 01) players are trying to exhaust their opponent’s deck instead of trying to “kill” them so I like that about it. Also it’s got pretty streamlined mechanics making it easier to learn and play than other similar card games.

Elemental Clash is a fantasy-themed game so if that’s not your thing or if you don’t want to bring that into your home then you may want to pass on this one. It’s also competitive which can e a good or bad thing.

If you opt to play competitive games in your family I strongly encourage using it as an opportunity to teach how to deal with losing (and winning) because those skills are desperately needed in adult life.

For the record this game was given to me by the designer to review. That matters to some people I guess.

TaDa Ministries Game Review 02: Elemental Clash from TaDa Ministries on Vimeo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kids In Mind Movie Review Site

I was listening to Gus Lloyd on the radio this morning and a caller mentioned a website that deserves mention here. The context of the conversation was Lloyd’s regret at taking his two teenage sons to the movie “The Other Guys”. The movie was funny (according to Gus Lloyd) but had more bad language and sexual innuendo than he wanted his kids exposed to. The caller mentioned www.KidsInMind.com to avoid such situations.

KidsInMind.com scores movies on sexual content, violence, and profane language and then lists each and ever instance under each category. For example, the recent movie “Salt” has the following in their review:

SEX/NUDITY 3 - A wife kisses her husband good morning briefly. A husband and his wife kiss briefly on their wedding day.
► A woman held captive in a solitary confinement cell is dragged out of the cell and we see that she is wearing only a bra and panties. A woman wears a gray suit with a skirt slit up the leg to mid-thigh. A woman's bare thighs are shown briefly while putting on a pair of trousers. During a school wrestling class, two dozen teenage boys wear skintight gym trousers and spandex tops.
► A man says to a woman, "Utilitarian is the new sexy" in reference to folded dinner napkins. A sign above a bar entrance says "Jugs and Blokes."
I used that example because I went to “Salt” the other day and didn’t notice half of that stuff. In any event, if you’re concerned that a movie may be inappropriate for your kids then I’d head over to www.KidsInMind.com to see what it’s like.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

TaDa Ministries Game Review 01: Panzer Clash

Ok, if you’re an even casual reader of this blog then that may seem like a very odd title. Game review? What’s that all about?

Well, yes, the video below is a review of a game (it’s a card game; not a board game) and yes I’m posting it here on TaDa Ministries; a Catholic apologetics website.

Confused?

Here’s the story. I’ve always enjoyed board games quite a lot and have very much enjoyed trying to design a couple but never mentioned it here because I couldn’t see a reasonable relationship between my faith and my hobby.

Tara (the wife) and I went to a marriage and family conference in June and they talked at length about the danger families are facing. More and more forces are pulling kids and parents apart and the result is more vulnerable children (who don’t have strong, positive parental guidance) and wounded parents (who think they’re doing something wrong). The solution in many cases is often found in everyday life; eating meals together, playing in the yard together and (drum roll) playing games together.

A light went on in my little mind.

Then, through chance and geekery, a game designer offered to send me a copy of two of his games if I would review them. I figured I had nothing to lose (free games? Sure!) and when I got the games the light in my head lit some more.

I won’t do a ton of these (at least, I don’t intend to) game reviews and the purposes of the reviews isn’t to sell games or even to educate you about games. The idea is to show how a game can be used to build family relationships. What about this game should be capitalized to its fullest and what aspects may need to be minimized? What benefits (teamwork, communications, a moral point, etc) should a family be getting out of this game? These are the sorts of questions I intended to answer using a combination of games I happen to already own or—as is the case with this game—that a designer has sent to me to review.

So, please enjoy the first episode of TaDa Ministries Game Reviews!

TaDa Ministries Game Review 01: Panzer Clash from TaDa Ministries on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My wife and I went to the movie Salt last night (late last night... ugh) and both walked away thinking the movie was so so. While it was entertaining and the effects were pretty neat it was just too hard to believe the plot. It was so big! The characters were just too much of everything; too unstoppable, too cunning, too amazing to be believable.

I'm not a movie buff, I haven't been to the theaters in a while (sadly) but my perception is that this isn't an isolated event. So many movies are about people who are bigger-than-life and who accomplish mighty and amazing things the rest of us could never possibly dream of doing.

While it's sort of fun to watch; it's impossible to relate to. It doesn't change a person in any way.

I think part of the reason I'm so hard on these types of movies is that I'm a simple; relatively inconsequential person and these movies make one thing clear; the lives of important and special people are more interesting and worthy of attention than the rest of us. If I don't stand out from the crowd then I'm going to be lost in it.

Thank goodness Christianity isn't that way.

We believe in a God who is intensely interested in the least interesting of us. A God who has counted the hairs of our heads. We have a Church that records the lives of the saints; those who have gone before us in great faith. These saints were mighty and meek, rich and poor, important and simple and all held up as a model for us to follow. Everyone—even a simple guy like me—can easily find a saint to relate to. The message becomes no matter who you are, you matter and you have a chance for greatness in what matters; holiness.

You don't need to be able to jump from an overpass onto a moving truck, get shot, and then run ten blocks. You don't need to know twenty languages or how to knock out ten armed guards with only a toothpick and a rubber duck. All you need to know how to do is follow God; a task absolutely anyone can perform because we do it by allowing his grace to work in us; we simply cooperate with it.

This is just one more reason why the Gospel is such good news!

Monday, August 2, 2010

When Is Greed Really Greed?

Greed is one of those things that everyone knows is bad (it’s a deadly sin, after all) but few can put a finger on why it’s bad. I suppose it causes a person to focus on themselves and naturally stifles charity and empathy for others. It’s not that we don’t really care about others; it’s just that we care about them less than whatever we greedily seek.

Why is that bad, though? After all, don’t I have a right to seek what I want to seek and to place a value on the things/relationships in my life as I see fit? Why is it better to be charitable than to buy a nicer home for my family? Why are some self-preserving actions “greedy” and others aren’t?

I think this argument would have a lot of merit if not for belief in God. The definition of greed isn’t “wanting more than is reasonable” or “wanting stuff so much that it negatively impacts my relationships” it’s simply “idolatry”.

Consider this line from yesterday’s second reading: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” (Col 3:5). St. Paul sees greed as nothing more, or less, than idolatry; giving something more honor than God.

While it’s fair to ask why I have to give to other people when I want to keep my resources to myself; it’s makes less sense to ask why I have to give to God when I want to keep my resources to myself. Isn’t it odd to tell our creator—and the creator of all the things we enjoy—that we don’t owe him anything? Wouldn’t refusing to give something mean we honor that thing more in our lives than the one we refuse to give it to?

When I just “don’t find time” to pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy each day (which I committed to a long time ago) what am I saying? I find plenty of time in my day to eat, sleep, entertain myself, work, and do all sorts of other things. No one looking on from the outside would call my actions “greedy” or “idolatry” but aren’t they actually both? Aren’t I being greedy with my time to the point of idolatry by giving the other things in life so much time that I can’t give God five minutes (that’s how long it takes me to pray a Chaplet)? The same could be said of how I spend my money, my time, and my talent.

I guess the point is that I bet God judges the sin of greed on a very different scale than we do and I, for one, need to adjust my scale to more closely fit his. Otherwise I may be very surprised one day..