Sunday, July 31, 2011

JP Catholic and Steubie San Diego!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Well, I spent the last few days sans internet access, and somehow I survived. Whew! I'm sure this was good preparation for World Youth Day, where I am most certainly not lugging around my laptop and where any public internet access will be shared with a couple million of my friends from around the world.

What a lovely and enriching weekend! I took a small group from our parish to the Steubenville San Diego Catholic Youth Conference, sponsored by All for God Catholic and Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was a great conference, and an unexpected blessing was that I got to see a number of friends who I knew from my time working and studying in Steubenville. What fun!

Also, we made a trip to John Paul the Great Catholic University before going to the conference, and it was a great experience! We attended our first Chaldean Rite liturgy at the campus, which was beautiful. We also took a tour of the university, which is small but filled with excellent programs, and we drove by their campus housing. We all agreed (adults included) that we'd love to live in those beautiful San Diego apartments and go to JP Catholic!

Time for sleep, my friends. Thanks so much to all who prayed for the safety and success of our weekend. Thanks also for stopping by Coffee Talk, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Steubenville San Diego!

The conference is tomorrow, everybody! Steubenville San Diego! It's a rockin' conference for high school youth, and I'm going for the first time as a chaperone (since my days of youth have come and gone, my friends, as one knows when people start referring to you as 'Ma'am' or 'lady'). Woo-hoo! And we're leaving tomorrow morning so we can stop by John Paul the Great Catholic University, where my friends have graciously set our little group up for campus Mass, tour, and lunch, Oh, yeah!

In traditional Leslie fashion, I am still not ready to leave in the morning, so gotta go!

Pray for us, por favor!

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Requiescant in Pace, Archbishop Pietro Sambi

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

The Apostolic Nuncio (a.k.a. Vatican ambassador) to the United States, Arhcbishop Pietro Sambi, died just a few hours ago at age 73.

"The archbishop [was] known for his warm and affable manner, sense of humor and being open and ready to listen to people."

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the soul of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

From a Catholic Mom: What if My Teen is Too Busy for Confirmation?

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I got this message from a reader who is the mother of a student in the youth confirmation program that I coordinate at my parish. She gave me permission to post this on Coffee Talk, and so I've changed the student's name to Shaniqua, since there is no student with that name currently in our program. I feel almost certain that as soon as I post this, someone named Shaniqua will sign up for confirmation preparation at Our Lady of the Desert. In any case, enjoy!
Dear Leslie,
Shaniqua and I had a discussion on the way home from church tonight that I would have loved to have had you present for.  Unfortunately, she is still practicing to take her driver's exam soon so I doubt you would have been able to concentrate on the topic of discussion while she was behind the wheel (ba-dump-UMP!) so I will just let you in on the 'meat and potatoes' of the discussion.  Shaniqua's plate is going to be quite full this coming school year during the fall semester in particular -- she is taking two Advanced Placement classes, playing a competitive sport and has Confirmation classes as well.  I told her that I hoped Confirmation would not be taken lightly and when/if she becomes overwhelmed with her studies and sports schedule, her Confirmation classes will be the first on the 'chopping block'.  She interjected a few points that have me concerned but not surprised.  This is a tough time as a Catholic parent and with her sister having fallen away from her Catholic upbringing (although not her relationship with Christ, thankfully), I fear the same thing may be in the future for Shaniqua and it both frightens and saddens me.  I am a worrier and that's just how I roll but I can definitely now see as a parent of adult and nearly-adult children who were raised in only a 50% Catholic-Christian home, that a 100% Catholic-Christian home is best if the children are to have the best chance of continuing in their faith life into adulthood.  I wish I had all the answers but sadly, I sound like an idiot most of the time while trying to explain things to my girls about my faith.
Trying to explain to Shaniqua the importance of fostering a relationship with God and making her understand how much more important He is than sports or school work or anything else in her life was uncomfortable, even though I knew it shouldn't have been.  I guess maybe because I don't feel like I'm the best example of what a good Catholic parent should be and also because I always have a difficult time saying exactly what I want to say, I don't know. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this and of course, share them with Shaniqua.  Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to me and my problems/concerns.
Concerned Catholic Mama

Dear Concerned,

Thanks for telling me about your conversation with Shaniqua. Yes, that was brave of you to talk at all while she's learning to drive! ;)

I think it's not out of the ordinary for Shaniqua to be concerned primarily with school, sports, etc. She's a hard-working and talented young woman, and I'm sure she gives her all to everything she does. That, of course, is pleasing to God! And to be honest, confirmation classes are not the most important thing in the world. I know it probably seems strange to hear me saying that, but what I mean is that each of us should have our priorities set in such a way that God is first, family is next, and fulfilling our obligations to our state in life (student, parent, work, etc.) are after that. Sometimes, it really does happen that high school students are so busy with their obligations to school and family that just the timing of the classes themselves doesn't work out so well for them at that particular time in their lives. That's okay. I even know a confirmation coordinator whose own daughter took an extra year to get confirmed because she had a lot going on with sports and school. She did not abandon the faith. She went on to do NET Ministries, just graduated from college, and is doing well in her faith and in life in general.

I guess the question that each of us (Shaniqua included, but you & me, too!) needs to ask ourselves is this: what is the purpose of my life? What is the bigger picture of existence? And if I truly believe that God created me to use the gifts He gave me and to love Him and His people as much as possible in this life, and to live with Him eternally in the next life, then how does that affect my decisions to do or not do certain activities? I read a book once where a man suggested that we write down a mission statement for our lives, and then make a list of every activity we do each day for a week. EVERYTHING. And then after that week, we take an honest look at that list and determine which of those activities help us to meet that goal. And whatever doesn't, even indirectly, we ditch it.

So if our ultimate goal is to live a Godly life here on earth and in eternity, how does this affect our daily lives and choices? I even think of your recent 'technology diet,' and I really admire that. It seems that you saw an area of your life that could use some 'trimming down,' and you made that change. Why did you do it in particular? Perhaps to spend more time with family and friends, perhaps to be less attached to technology in general and more present to God, people, and the world around you. Whatever the case, you had some kind of goal for your life in mind, and when you saw an area of imbalance in your life, you made a change to better meet that goal.

Sure, people could put off confirmation classes because they're 'putting God on the back-burner,' but they also might delay their instruction for legitimate reasons, or even to better serve God in their more present duties in life at that particular time. I think it's a matter of spiritual discernment, to be honest. My hope for Shaniqua, and for everyone really, is that she'll put God first and order her priorities accordingly. And of course, I hope that she stays close to the beautiful gift of our Catholic faith. It is rarely easy and never convenient, but it is always filled with truth and divine grace, which I for one am sorely in need of!

I hope this has been helpful. It's late, so who even knows if it makes sense! ;)

Thanks so much for sharing your concerns, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Will God Get Re-Elected Based on Job Performance?

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Got this in today to the Coffee Talk e-mail box:
The internet community is waiting for you to discuss this recent poll on your blog.

52% of Americans approve of God's job performance

True it could be higher...but is it good that he's doing better than both Obama and John Boehner?!?!?

I would like to thank the friend who sent this link for giving me a good laugh! If you haven't already clicked the link and read the article, now's the time, everybody.

Alright. Now, beyond the absurdity of the poll itself and the responses, one problem I see is that the wrong questions are being asked here. I mean, I think it would be more fair and judicious to rate God on BEING rather than DOING. So here's the new poll that I propose:

On a scale of 1 - 10 (10 being best), how would you rate God in the following areas?
  1. Being the uncaused cause.
  2. Being the unmoved mover.
  3. Being the only one who can say, "I AM WHO AM."
  4. On His thoughts being higher than your thoughts.
  5. On His ways being higher than your ways.
I don't know about all of y'all, but personally I could not help but give God a perfect ten in all the areas just mentioned!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Catholic Church is GROWING?!?

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Hope you all had a restful and blessed Sunday! I saw this article on growth in the Catholic Church, and found it very interesting! The article shares one analysis of the data gathered by The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

And in addition to the statistical data cited on those links, I can add my own experience of working for a parish office where people are coming in, with increasing frequency it seems, to become Catholic and/or have their children prepared to receive the sacraments. This always surprises me a bit, to be honest -- becoming Catholic is a much more involved process than becoming a member of almost any other church. (Although my Jewish convert friends assure me that they've totally got us beat by requiring that all converts learn Hebrew!) In any case, seeing new people coming to the Church to receive instruction and preparation for the sacraments (even in light of all the bad press the Catholic Church receives, and the comparative ease with which they could join other churches) bolsters my own faith, to say the least.

As always, thanks for stopping by! Be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Only 126 Days Until....

...the New Roman Missal is implemented in the United States! And some of the sung Mass parts may be introduced as early as September 1 of this year. So check out the USCCB website, and start getting ready!

Peace and all good,

P.S. A reader sent in a question about the new Mass translations back in January, so you can also check out my response here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Special Thanks to All World Youth Day Benefactors!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

It's been a long day, and tomorrow will be full as well, so I'll keep it short tonight. I do want to share about the amazing discounts I was graciously given today at Walmart Apple Valley and Valley Sporting Goods! Both stores gave generous discounts on t-shirts and screen printing set up fees for shirts that we are getting for our pilgrim group and our host families in Toledo, Spain for World Youth Day in August. I was especially impressed by Alisha, a manager at Walmart, who spent a great deal of time arranging for a special discounted rate on 60 shirts, and who went out of her way to open a register just for me to ring up the shirts and get the best discount possible for our church group. Thanks, Alisha!

This also makes me think of the tremendous generosity of all of our group's benefactors, who are too numerous to name here. So many family members, friends, parishioners, and organizations have sponsored us financially and through a variety of donated items, and have supported us through their prayers, and I am truly grateful. Thanks to such generosity, 27 members of our parish will attend World Youth Day, many of them for the first time, and they will experience an amazing global solidarity of faith and fellowship with millions of other young people from around the world (and, of course, with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI!).

Please pray for us as we prepare, and as we travel to Spain in August. And be assured that I (and our group) will be keeping all of our benefactors in our grateful prayers, as well!

Peace and all good,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Diocese of San Bernardino Declares a Year for Youth!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Bishop Gerald Barnes of California's Diocese of San Bernardino (in which I currently live and work) has declared August 2011 through August 2012 to be a "Year for Youth"!

And he released a six-page pastoral letter in regard to this year for youth. To be honest, I'm a bit too tired to read it with any attention or clarity of thought right now, so let's all read it between now and tomorrow night's post so we can grab our coffee and discuss!

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Answer to the Trivia That No One Cares About Anymore!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

A few of you might actually remember the Ultimate Coffee Talk Trivia post from over a week ago. I actually forgot myself, which is why I'm finally giving the final answer tonight! My friend and Coffee Talk reader, AE, correctly translated "Steubenvincensis, Ave!" -- it does, in fact, mean "Hail, Steubenville." And she was correct to say that the English translation comes from the first two words of the Alma Mater of Franciscan University of Steubenville. For this amazing feat, she will get an amazing prize (which I still have not chosen, muchless sent, because I am busy and forgetful)!

But the Latin phrase itself represents the final words of the Alma Mater, which has a little known final verse IN LATIN! Seriously, what school has an alma mater that ends with a Latin verse? Franciscan University of Steubenville, that's who.

I only know this because one year, the Student Life Office decided they wanted to have a recording made of the Alma Mater with it's 4-part harmony. For some strange reason, I was asked to sing soprano (which stretched into the range of sound that only dogs can hear), and four of us were asked to go to a recording studio in downtown Steubenville to lay down the tracks for this amazing recording. It was then that I saw the final Latin verse, but I could not convince anyone else that it should be included in our rendition. The only part of this story that can be any stranger than my having sung soprano or my discovery of the long-lost Latin verse was the fact that the University (which is known for its Franciscan poverty!) actually paid us to sing and make the recording. Like, they paid us money, not free snacks or something. So I guess that means that I've been a professional vocal recording artist. Huh. I'll have to add that to the old resume sometime!

Here's a somewhat painful rendition of the two English verses, with a bunch of pictures of people I know! (Sadly, that Latin verse is still nowhere to be found.)

Steubenvincensis, Ave!

Peace and all good,

On Sinners, Scandals, and Why I Haven't Left the Catholic Church

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

In last night's brief post on How to Spot a Fake Catholic Church, I made reference to churches that claim to be Catholic without actually having communion with Rome, and to a bishop who was illegitimately ordained in China. In the comment box, this was the first comment:
"The Bishop here in Antigonish Nova Scotia was real ...really perverted and is in jail ...too much porn on the laptop ....don't be so quick to judge those 'protestant churches' maybe they're protesting some really bad stuff"
I wouldn't normally draw attention to a comment like this by devoting an entire blog post in response, but I suspect that this kind of view is held by enough people that it's worth addressing.

There are so many points that could be touched on here, but I'll limit myself to a few for now. First, let's talk about the issue of the former Bishop in Nova Scotia. I know very little about this particular situation, so that's not what I intend to address. What I do want to say is this: I am no longer personally scandalized when I hear of the indiscretions of priests and even bishops. Deeply disappointed? Yes. Temporarily demoralized? Most certainly. But scandalized enough to leave the Catholic Church? Never. Because I realize that the Church (including her leaders!) are made of of human people, sinners in need of a savior. Every person is capable of great good, and of great evil. Every person possesses free will, and every person can get drawn into the traps of addiction, sin, and the culture of death. It happens. And the battle, I'm sure, is most violently waged against those leading the Church, those who are called to stand in persona Christi, to administer the sacraments, and to guide the Church in catechesis. So I commit these men to prayer, especially those who have sinned most grievously.

But to suggest that the appropriate response to hearing about a sinful priest or bishop would be to start your own church (pretending that it is, in fact, a Catholic Church) or to have yourself illicitly ordained a bishop because you deem yourself better or more holy or more worthy of the office is patently absurd. Without Rome, there is no Catholicism. And why on earth would people start their own church that they presented to others as Catholic? The only reason I can see is that these people still believe that the Catholic Church is, in fact, the Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself -- otherwise, they would just leave for one of the innumerable Protestant or non-denominational churches already established. Or they would begin their own church with no claim to Catholicism at all. But to pretend that you are a legitimate Catholic priest or Bishop with authority in the line of Apostolic Succession, and to present yourself to others in this way so that they will attend your church, this is deceptive at best. And at worst, if a person or group is participating in this deception deliberately, with full knowledge of leading others astray, see Matthew 18:6.

Now, you may see this as another example of my being "so quick to judge those 'protestant churches' [because] maybe they're protesting some really bad stuff."  I'm not judging anyone's soul here. That type of judgment is left to God alone, and He is both a merciful and just judge, for which I am most grateful. The weeds, the wheat -- God's gonna sort it all out in the end, not us, so that's certainly a load off of everyone's minds. I am saying this: I don't care what "bad stuff" anyone is protesting; it is never right to present yourself as something you are not, especially in the case of a so-called Catholic Church, and especially if you believe that the Catholic Church is the true Church founded by Christ. As I said above, if you don't believe that, become Protestant. But if you do believe in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, then not even the most heinous indiscretions of any member or leader of that Church should lead you to start your own impostor church. That is in no possible way a real or moral solution to the problem at hand.

Lastly, I'd like to talk briefly about why I choose to remain Catholic. I know that it is shocking to many people (even those who know me well) to see an educated modern woman who seeks to abide fully by the teachings of the Catholic Church. I've honestly had friends tell me that I am the only smart person they know who is religious. If I have any wisdom at all, I believe it fundamentally comes from my understanding that I don't know everything, that I am not the supreme ruler of my own life, and that I too am a woman subject to authority, namely God's. And I believe in an integration of faith and reason. And the more I have learned and traveled and studied, the more convinced I have become that the world and our lives can be most fully lived and understood in light of the melodious symphony of truth that is presented in and through the Catholic Church.

Even if Bishop Bad-Guy commits a terrible crime, or Fr. Malarky tells a serious lie, or Sr. Mary LouLou of the Sisters of Divine Deviation tells me that she serves as an abortion clinic escort because she erroneously believes that the Blessed Mother was the first pro-choice woman, I will still (by the grace of God) remain Catholic, trusting that the Church will always remain the pillar and bulwark of truth and that no personal indiscretions or scandals or trouble, not even the gates of hell, will prevail against it.

I hope this has been helpful. As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Spot a Fake Catholic Church

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Yikes! I just heard it announced that another pretending-to-be-Catholic-but-not-in-communion-with-Rome-so-they're-really-Protestants church has sprung up across town. That makes two in our area now. And then I read more about the illegitimate bishop ordination in China.

It made me realize a couple important things:

1. It's never a good idea to have yourself ordained a bishop.
2. People need to know a simple way to spot impostor 'Catholic' churches.

There are many ways, I'm sure, to figure out that the church you're visiting/attending is not actually a Catholic Church. But the simplest way I know is this: if you're in a real Catholic Church, you'll always find a picture of the Pope somewhere in the building.

If you see a picture of someone else, but no Pope, then you're probably in the wrong place.
Peace and all good,

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Happy Sunday, Coffee Talkers!

I'm taking the night off, both because it's Sunday and because I have an old friend visiting. We went together to our first World Youth Day in Denver in 1993! And now, World Youth Day Madrid is less than a month away -- ahhhhhh!!!!

Peace and all good,

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thinking, Harry WHO?, and A Time for Help!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I've been thinking. And thinking. And thinking!

We all need some thinking time every now and then, right?

Most of my thoughts are either not yet in write-able form, or they just aren't blog-worthy. But I won't leave you totally hanging. Here are a few passing thoughts from the day.

Apparently, there's a new Harry Potter movie out. Am I the only one who doesn't care? Like, at all? I'm not being judgmental of those who do care, but I guess I feel the pressure of American pop culture breathing down my neck, making me feel that, perhaps, I should care. I don't often find myself with the time or money to go to the movie theatre anyway, but if I did, I'd want to see something else. That's all. Don't lynch me, Harry Potter lovers of the world!

There were lots of other thoughts, but one disturbed me a bit, and I think I should mention it. Every now and then I take a look through my blog stats, which show phrases people searched for that directed them to my blog, countries people viewed from, and referring links. Today, for the second time, I noticed that someone ended up at Coffee Talk from a link that seems to be a porn site from Russia. I mean, I'm definitely not going to click the link to verify that information, but that's definitely what it seems to be.

I guess I mention this for a few reasons. 1. Porn is a huge problem, not just in the US, but throughout the world, and many people struggle with an addiction to pornography in solitude and darkness. 2. Some people don't see porn as a problem at all, and that is even more disturbing. 3. Seeing the referring link one time could have been coincidence, but twice makes me think that perhaps there's a person, maybe a Catholic or someone interested in the faith, who has ended up at my blog on more than one occasion. How and why, I don't know, but I want everyone reading this to know that pornography is evil; it does not truly satisfy whatever deep longings a person has, and in fact, can only make them worse by degrading other people and desensitizing the person who becomes a voyeur to what should be the most private aspects of another person or people.

However, pornography is a rather easy and powerful trap to fall into these days, and the person viewing internet pornography is not intrinsically evil, even though the pornography itself is. I would strongly recommend that anyone who is struggling with a possible addiction to pornography speak with a counselor or someone else who is trained to help with these kind of problems. Also, you cannot turn away from something successfully without embracing something else, so in turning away from the darkness, turning toward and embracing a deeper life of faith can be a very helpful and necessary source of divine assistance, grace, hope, and healing. Mercy, grace, hope, redemption, and conversion are possible for all of us. Always.

I really do thank each of you for stopping by, and I do sincerely keep all of my readers in my prayers. St. Maximilian Kolbe, patron saint of addictions and families, please pray for us!

Peace and all good,

Steubenville Awaits Bishop & Gets Priest Administrator

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Since the former Bishop of Steubenville, R. Daniel Conlon, has now been begun his new role as the Bishop of Joliet, Illinois, Msgr. Kurt Kemo has been named the priest-administrator of Steubenville while the Diocese awaits the appointment of a new bishop. Read more about it here!

Peace and all good,

7/3/12 UPDATE:
A new bishop has been appointed for Steubenville -- Msgr. Jeffrey Monforton. Read more about it here!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blessed Kateri - Patron Saint of the Environment and Ecology

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

A happy feast of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha to you all!

Read an article about today's feast here!

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A picture's worth...

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Just a pic tonight. More promised in the days to come! Special thanks to Harold, the nice man who sent me this picture of Gianna Emanuela Molla, MD, youngest daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla!

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Contest Still Rockin', and GUESS WHO I SAW TONIGHT?!?!

Alright, Coffee Talkers!

Y'all are good! An initial congrats goes out to my friend AE, who scored about one million and two points in last night's Coffee Talk contest. But I'm still looking for a little more. There's gotta be someone out there who knows where the Latin words themselves come from. Come on, lovers of useless Catholic trivia (And Franciscan University of Steubenville staff and alumni, in particular) -- don't fail me now!

And tonight, I attended a Mass in honor of St. Gianna Molla, celebrated by Fr. Frank Pavone of the Priests for Life, and featuring guest speaker GIANNA EMMANUELLA MOLLA!!!! Ahhhhh!!!! She is the youngest daughter of St. Gianna, and St. Gianna died shortly after her birth.

There are so many stories to tell you all! Maybe I'll have to do a series on it! But for now, sleep. And MORE CONTEST! Please, don't forget the contest. We're just getting warmed up here.

Peace and all good,

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Ultimate Coffee Talk TRIVIA!!!!

Alright, Coffee Talkers. One more night without time to post much. But here's some exciting trivia for y'all:

"Steubenvincensis, Ave!"

One point to those who can translate this.
One more point to those who can guess where I'm at while typing it.
Three million points to those who can tell me what this is from!!!

I'm not sure what the prize will be for the winner, but it'll be something amazing, you can bet on that, my friends!

Peace and all good,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy Sower Sunday!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Night off -- happy Sunday!

Check out today's Mass readings -- sower and seed!

Peace and all good,

Saturday, July 9, 2011

JP II vs. Freud: A Throwdown of Sexual Philosophies!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Tonight, we'll have a semi-brief but ultra-exciting lesson in philosophy that I hope will provide some illumination on the Catholic-Christian philosophical view of human sexuality, particularly applied to priestly celibacy, and the way that this view differs markedly from certain modern psycho-analytical theories. Stick with me -- it'll make some sense, I promise. Let's begin!

Many Catholics I know have shared with me that they feel that, if only Roman Catholic priests could regularly be married, there might not have been nearly so many abuse scandals and other examples of infidelity to their priestly vows. I heartily disagree with this view, but I am glad that it has caused me to examine what might be at the root of such an idea.

First, many people see that priesthood certainly has the potential of being a very isolating and lonely life. These people also recognize that every person (priest or lay person) has a deep need for human companionship and more importantly, for communion with others and with an Other. I think that people, in a good way, see marriage as a means to bring about an interpersonal communion and an intimacy of emotion and relationship. They see some priests living isolated and lonely lives, and (not realizing that there are other means of communion and fellowship for priests) they wish that those priests could get married.

But that's where the praiseworthiness sometimes ends, and the strange thinking begins. When people hear that Father so-and-so committed such and such grievously immoral action, they link it back to that idea that marriage brings about communion, and see the lack of marriage as the root of Father so-and-so's problems. "What Father did was really terrible," they might think, "but who could really blame him, being so lonely and all? If only he could have gotten married." This is clearly erroneous thinking -- there are people who commit grievously immoral actions who are priests, married, and single people. There are also a great many people who remain faithful to their vows in the context of priesthood and marriage. How?

I would suggest that those people who remain faithful to their vows, in the context of priesthood, marriage, or any other vowed life, do so because they are in some way aware of (and are living according to) .... the personalistic norm.

[The WHAT?!?!]

The personalistic norm, defined by Karol Wojtyla (a.k.a. Blessed John Paul II in his book Love and Responsibility) confirms that "the person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love" (41). Negatively, this principle "states that the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end" (41).

In other words, the basis of human love is a communion between persons, who treat each other with love and mutual respect, and who do not use one another as objects or solely as a means of their own pleasure. This makes sense clearly within married love, where a husband and wife are called to be gift to one another in the context of the marital act. But how does this apply in the context of the celibate life? And why do so many believe priestly celibacy to be at the root of particular indiscretions of some priests?

My guess is this: most people (Catholics included) base their thoughts and assumptions about human sexuality more on the 'libidinistic interpretation' of the sexual urge more than on the Christian interpretation of the sexual urge. The 'libidinistic interpretation' concerns use of persons, while the Christian interpretation is based on the personalistic norm. Again, this is based on JP II's writings, but lemme give you a super-simplified version here.

The 'libidinistic interpretation' of the sexual urge is based on Sigmund Freud's idea that the sexual urge is primarily an urge to enjoy. Thus, man is depicted by pshychoanalysis only as a subject, and as a means to someone else's end -- namely, pleasure. This interpretation ignores the inner life and inner self of man, and is "very closely related to the utitilitarian standpoint in ethics ... [which concerns] the treatment of persons exclusively as the means to an end, as objects for use" (LR, 63).

In the Christian interpretation of the sexual urge, man, who is "capable of rising above instinct in his actions ... in the sexual sphere as well as elsewhere" (LR, 46), excercises the dynamics of his freedom which the will possesses, allowing the "sexual urge [to] transcend the determinism of the natural order by an act of love" (LR, 50).

Read that last paragraph again!

And one more time.

It is within this context that both a married or a vowed celibate person can use their sexuality to give a gift of self to the community -- that as human persons, we have the power (by the grace of God) to "transcend the determinism of the natural order by an act of love"! We are not mere animals, who must act according to selfish instincts only. A sign of a mature human being is this ability to excercise freedom in transcending the pull of every base, natural urge that comes along and instead, being selfless and considering others.

This fidelity and selflessness is not easy, and in fact is not possible but for grace, which reunites us with the spark of goodness, truth, beauty, charity, and communion by which and for which we were all created.

"There is no need to be dismayed if love sometimes follows torturous ways," Blessed John Paul II assured us. "Grace has the power to make straight the paths of human love." (LR, 140).

Peace and all good,

Friday, July 8, 2011

Priests: Can They Be 'Excommunicated'? And Can They Get Married?

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

A couple interesting questions have come to my attention, in light of recent events. These questions are complex and multifaceted, and I'll admit that I'm no expert in questions regarding the priesthood -- a canon lawyer or someone involved in priestly formation and direction would be more fully educated regarding these questions. Still, I do have some knowledge of these things, and so I'll do my best to share what I do know in a way that is (relatively) succinct and easy to understand.

First question: What constitutes excommunication? Are priests never excommunicated? What does it mean to say that a priest is "a priest forever"?

Second Question: [In regard to certain priests being unfaithful to their vow of celibacy], for me it always leads back around to the issue of "priests being married". I think the majority of Catholics agree. Not that married priests would not have their own set of issues. What do you think, Leslie -- 100 years from now, might they be able to marry?

Okay, here we go! First, let's talk about excommunication. There was a time in the history of the Church when excommunication referred to two different states. The first was called "minor excommunication," which referred to a person being barred from receiving Eucharistic communion because they were in a state of mortal sin and had not yet been to sacramental confession. This is, of course, a situation that can be easily rectified in modern times by going to confession! The second type, called "major excommunication," referred to a person who was formally declared by a bishop or by the Pope to no longer be in communion with the Catholic Church because of a very serious and deliberate act contrary to the Church's teaching. Only this latter definition of excommunication is in popular use today, and it means that the excommunicated person cannot receive any of the Church's sacraments or participate in her public worship until such a time as suitable reparation and satisfaction have been made. The Church always leaves a path to reconciliation open to excommunicated members, and it is the hope that their time of exile from the ecclesiastical community will be short-lived.

In regard to priests, yes, priests can be excommunicated. If they are, they not only face the same restrictions as an excommunicated lay person, but they are also forbidden from the administration of the sacraments or other sacred rites and they may not exercise any acts of spiritual authority. This does not, of course, mean that an excommunicated person (lay or cleric) ceases to be a Christian -- they are always a Christian by nature of their baptism (which brought about an ontological change, or changed the nature of a person's being). Similarly, a priest, having received the sacrament of Holy Orders and having been ordained a priest through Apostolic succession, once validly ordained, always remains a priest. He may be removed from his ministry due to excommunication, or he may be 'laicized' by his own request for no morally problematic reason. In either case, however, he remains a priest ontologically (or in his soul's nature of being). However, he can no longer exercise priestly functions. See this article on what an ex-priest can and can't do for more details.

In regard to the second question, let me answer this question from its end to its beginning. Do I think that priests might someday be able to marry? Yes. In fact, many priests already are married. There are more than 20 different rites of Catholicism, and in the Eastern rites, it is common to allow priests to marry (although they may not marry after being ordained, and they may not serve as bishops if they are married). Also, although the normal practice for Roman Catholic priests is to be and to remain unmarried, we do have some married Roman Catholic priests who, by a special pastoral provision, converted to Roman Catholicism after having previously served as married priests in the Anglican (or Episcopal) Church. For my local friends, you may be interested to know that the current priest chaplain at St. Mary's hospital is one of these married priests under the pastoral provision. 

I have known several married Roman Catholic priests in the USA, and it has been an honor and blessing to know them. However, not one of them has argued in favor of priests in the Roman Rite being regularly married. Why, we may wonder? Here are a few of my own thoughts -- 1. Eastern Rite churches in the US are significantly smaller in numbers of parishioners than Roman Catholic parishes; 2. the demands of time and emotional, spiritual, and physical efforts devoted by the average Roman Catholic priest would significantly limit the time available to care for and support a wife and children; and 3. most of the married priests I know became Catholic when they were not in the midst of life with a young family, and I think they can see the serious challenges of being a married priest more realistically than we can.

Lastly, and most importantly, I want to say this very clearly: priestly celibacy is not the cause of any of their personal indiscretions, and allowing priests to marry would in NO WAY solve individual problems of abuse and infidelity. I mean no disrespect when I say this, but I'm just not sure why so many Catholics think that if priests could marry they would not have the problems that a very public few of them have had/are currently having. This argument makes NO SENSE! This becomes more clear when we look at similar indiscretions committed by men who are not priests. Let me try to illustrate by way of a couple examples:

1. Bob and Sue are married with children. All seems well in their marriage, until Sue learns that Bob has a serious problem with child pornography. I would hope that no one would suggest that if Bob had only had another wife, or a mistress, or even a prostitute, he would not have felt the need to resort to child pornography. Bob has some serious problems that cannot be resolved simply by having a wife.

2. Frank is an unmarried man, and a teacher. He is accused of having inappropriate relationships with several of his students. No one would say that this problem would not have come about if Frank could only have married. Frank could have married, but it clearly would not have resolved whatever deeper problems he had.

I suspect that there are a lot of underlying assumptions about human sexuality that play into the idea that priests need to be married, and I suspect that a lot of these ideas come from the perspective of modern secular psychoanalytical theories and such rather than from a philosophy of the human person that is compatible with Christianity. I'll get into this more tomorrow. I'm sure this is more than enough for us all to ponder for now!

As always, thanks for stopping by! Be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Week of Leisure!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

This week I am occupied with roaming the countrysides of the USA, visiting people and shrines, praying, reading, and generally relaxing. In short, I will be leading a life of leisure which, as Joseph Pieper tells us, is the basis of culture! So my hope is that, as soon as I'm caught up on sleep, the interesting and culturally rich Coffee Talk posts will come rolling in. So brace yourselves!

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Monks & Ink!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I won't have time to post tonight, so I at least wanted to give a little shout out to the Benedictine Monks of Saint Andrew's Abbey in Valyermo, California who now have an online store where they sell printer ink and toner! So check out MonksInk, and support the monastery while taking care of your own printing needs.

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Have You Prayed for Priests Today?

There's so much that could be said, Coffee Talkers, in light of the sad news of a Massachusetts priest found dead and the shocking press release about Fr. John Corapi.

Perhaps I'll comment more on these sad stories later, but for now, my deepest response is this: "Have I been praying for priests?" And the simple answer is no, I have not been, and yes, I need to be.

So won't you join me now in praying for priests? After you sign off your computer, maybe you could say an Our Father or pray a Rosary, both for any priests you know personally, and then for all priests. And I don't care if you're not Catholic - pray for priests, anyway! Because I think we can all agree that our world would be a better place if it was filled with good, holy priests open to divine assistance when they need it (which is always, because priests, like the rest of us, are human).

One of my favorite prayers for priests was written by St. Therese:
O Jesus, I pray for Your faithful and fervent priests, for Your unfaithful and tepid priests; for Your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Your tempted priests; for Your lonely and desolate priests; for Your young priests; for Your dying priests; for the souls of Your priests in purgatory.

But above all I recommend to You the priests dearest to me: the priest who baptized me; the priest who absolved me from my sins; the priest at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way. Jesus, keep them all close to Your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.
Peace and all good,

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Vatican's Money!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I have learned that people have a lot of misconceptions about the Catholic Church and money. For example, I've met a lot of people who think that our local diocese and parish receive money from the Vatican. (Ha!)

Many people don't understand that the money we tithe, at the level of our own parish, goes to support the operations of our own parish, and sometimes the diocese, and sometimes the Vatican! This is why many parishes in the USA have had to make many cuts of staff, ministries, and other resources in recent years. When the economy turned downward, people lost jobs. When people lose jobs, they stop tithing. (Well, those who were actually giving to the Church in the first place. Although I've noticed that sometimes people with very little give a great deal of what they have to the Church.) And when people stop tithing, the Vatican doesn't just send a bucket of gold overseas. Nope. The parish just has less money to operate, plain and simple.

In any case, I personally don't really care that much about the Vatican's money, but since a lot of people seem to, here's a little article on the financial statements of the Holy See for 2010. I found it to be a bit of a snoozer, truth be told, but I hope someone enjoys it!

Hope you all had a happy 4th of July! As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

From Coast to Coast, A Happy Fourth!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Americans are gearing up, nationwide, for 4th of July festivities! Last year, my girls and I spent our 4th of July enjoying a live concert from the Philadelphia Orchestra, who performed the 1812 Overture during an awesome fireworks display! Sort of like this:

This year, we'll be enjoying our local fireworks show with some friends, so I imagine that things will be a little lower key than last year (no pun intended!). So instead of the fireworks show above, it might be more like this:

And instead of the Philadelphia Orchestra, I'll bring my clarinet.

[I will look just as determined as this girl, minus the winter gear. 
It's summer in the desert, people - cut me some slack!]

To all Coffee Talkers 'round the globe, may the Fourth be with you! As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The De-Malling of America?

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

In a rare turn of events, my girls and I made a trip to the Mall today. That's right. The MALL!

We don't really ever go to the Mall. Because these days (other than for people-watching purposes), there's not much reason to go there since everything we need can be easily found elsewhere. But today we had a gift card and some free time, so off we went to the unhappiest place on earth.

This is not to say that we weren't happy. We had a lovely time, to be honest! But the Mall is not a place that makes people happy. It's a place that tries to make you feel like you're not quite cool enough so they can sell you a bunch of crap, er, stuff. I had almost forgotten all about Mall culture until today's excursion! It's very interesting, really. And a personal observation that I made today is that if a person desires to become more detached from the sex-crazed ultra-consumerist norm of modern America, then an easy first step to take would be to avoid malls.

I remember taking a freshman seminar class in college, and we all had to buy this book of compiled essays by a bunch of the professors (great way to get published and to guarantee a large-scale sale of your books!). There was one essay titled "The Malling of America." I really don't remember anything noteworthy about the essay except for the title, but I think that now, 15 years later (gasp! how did that happen?) it seems that we are in the age of de-malling America. This is not to say that we're not still very consumer-oriented, but simply to note that there seems to have been a shift toward more local shopping centers/plazas over malls, and definitely a huge increase in online shopping. Also, it seems likely to me that malls have higher crime rates than regular shopping centers/free-standing movie theatres because of the 'hang out' element of malls. But since theology is more my thing than consumer trends, I welcome feedback from y'all, both in and out of America!

Speaking of this, welcome to today's readers, who've hailed from USA, Japan, Germany, Spain, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine, and South Africa!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Friday, July 1, 2011

Maryland Episcopal Church becomes Catholic, and Vatican Sets Media Records

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Here's an article telling a little more about an Epsicopal Church in Maryland which is soon becoming Catholic through the new Anglican Ordinariate -- cool!

Also, the Vatican has blazed many new media trails as of late, and thanks to launching a new online portal (inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI's Tweet from his iPad), the Vatican website garnered over a quarter million hits on its first day live! Read more about this here.

Lastly, on a more personal note, please pray for the mother of my friend who sustained serious injuries to her lung, skull, shoulder, and brain in a biking accident today. Also, thanks goes out to another friend who gave me the lead on the article about the Anglican Ordinariate developments -- she is on bedrest during her pregnancy, so please pray for her, too!

Peace and all good,

Birthdays, Free Stuff, and Smiling Animals!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

It's been a fun and full day! Among the highlights were celebrating my friend's birthday, and winning a give-away from another friend's blog. I love birthdays and free stuff, so today was like hitting the jackpot!

I'm too tired for much else, so here are a few smiling animals to help express the joys of the day:

Peace and all good,