Sunday, August 25, 2013

Miley Cyrus, Batman, and My Pope Francis Quote

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I just received a request for my commentary on Miley Cyrus' recent MTV Video Music Award performance through my Coffee Talk with Leslie Facebook page, and since I aim to satisfy all burning desires for my Catholic commentary on current events, I turned to the internet to fill me in since I don't have cable. By choice. Nor do I ever desire to have cable. And after taking a few minutes to discover Miley Cyrus 'twerking' very provocatively in her flesh-colored granny panties with some famous Canadian guy (I know his name, I just don't care), I have to say that those are five minutes of my life that I'll never get back.

All these articles saying ridiculous things like, "Was Miley's sexy dance way too much or just enough?!" are such an interesting (but sorta sad) reflection of our culture. There are so many things I could say about this, but I guess the most important thought that I had, on a personal level, is two-fold:



2. Isn't Miley Cyrus like 20 years old? 'Cause I don't want either of my girls even watching nonsense like that when they are 20, muchless emulating this 'role model' when they're her age (or any age)!

Look, I know I'm an old prude now, and you stopped reading. It's fine. Go back to your internet commentaries on why Miley's act was edgy enough to drive the audience wild if you must!

But the truth is that our American media culture is so heavily saturated by sexualized images and activities that are promoted as the norm, and moreover as the ideal, that we hardly know what the human person, the body, and relationships are supposed to look like at all. I'm talking to myself here, before anyone else, so don't feel like I'm getting all preachy on ya. I just know that, while these kind of acts can be so 'entertaining' on a surface level, even to those of us who love to hate them, it is easy to forget some fundamental truths.

Some of those truths include:

1. Miley Cyrus is a beautiful young woman.
2. She is made in the image and likeness of God.
3. As a child of God, she deserved profound love and respect.
4. Even if, especially if, she doesn't completely respect herself.
5. This is true of me, as well.
6. And you.
7. And all y'all.

Next topic -- I just feel like I should throw this out there, while we're talking about current events. I've seen everyone posting about Batman. The new Batman. The old Batman. Who's better. Or worse. Or whatever. And I just need to let you know that I don't care. I have no feelings about any Batman at any time in human history. I hope you can all still respect me, even with that knowledge.

Lastly, I want to mention that My World Youth Day Resolutions column was run the other day in our local newspaper, only the final quote from Pope Francis seemed to have been attributed to me due to the editor's lack of quotation marks. Ha! So I just wanted to give a shout-out to my homie Papa Francisco who really said those great things at the end of my little article.

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

Peace and all good,

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My World Youth Day Resolutions

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

It's been a while, I know, I know. But I'm back, and so are you. So welcome back to both of us!

This week marks the 20th anniversary of my first World Youth Day experience in Denver, Colorado in 1993 with (now Blessed) Pope John Paul II, and the one month anniversary of my most recent World Youth Day experience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with Pope Francis. From the first stateside experience with half a million young people from around the world, to the most recent experience with nearly 4 million pilgrims in South America, World Youth Day is an event that changed my world view, my understanding of Catholicism, of self, and of solidarity with every person as a brother and a sister. From that first World Youth Day, to the most recent, and all attended in between, I have learned something important: World Youth Day is a pilgrimage, not a vacation, and each journey of faith leaves me realizing that the reason I thought I was going was different, perhaps, than the reasons God had in mind. And to help process the experience, I have developed a practice (similar to many people’s good intentions for the New Year, but hopefully longer lasting) of making some World Youth Day resolutions. Here are my top 3 resolutions from this most recent World Youth Day in Brazil, each of them stemming from a lesson that I learned through the journey:

1.)    Lesson: Do not let fear or seemingly insurmountable obstacles cripple you from living the life that God intends for you to lead, and do not be afraid to live the faith joyfully with those we encounter. Resolution: Make a point to befriend at least one new person each month, someone to whom I might not normally be drawn, and share with them the joy of my faith through a generous spirit.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the preparations for, and the travel to, World Youth Day in Brazil was the fear that each pilgrim had to overcome to enter into the journey -- fear of the unknown, of new people, new languages, new cultures, the possibilities of political unrest, crime, and a host of other difficulties. But those who conquered this fear were rewarded with the amazing grace of realizing that every person, from every part of the world, is alive as the result of a loving Creator who destines each of us for love and communion with God and with one another. And this experience challenges me to continue on in this spirit of solidarity and in an apostolate of friendship to all people, even those with whom I might disagree or have difficulty in loving.

2.)    Lesson: While God does not need our time and money to fulfill the Divine mission, He wants us to give our best to God and neighbor not only as a thanks for all the blessings we’ve been given but also as a way of becoming the gracious and generous people He wants us all to be. Resolution: Give my first 10% of my income each month as a charitable offering, no matter what.

We spent our first week in Brazil as guests in family homes during Missionary Week in Sao Jose Dos Campos, and the parish that hosted us showed truly extraordinary hospitality. When I marveled not only at their generosity, but also, at the marvelous facilities and programs of their church community, I learned that the parish was able to offer these things not because they were the most wealthy parish, but because all of their parishioners give not only their time to the church but also faithfully donate the first 10% of their income. And what was most remarkable to me about these people was not the buildings or the programs that they had, but the tremendous generosity of spirit they all had, and the way that they viewed all of their lives and possessions as a gift from God, to be returned freely to Him and to their neighbor. And so I am moved to do the same, not to gain anything materially, but to increase that freedom and generosity of spirit that God desires for all of us.

3.)    Lesson: We all have gifts to share with the community, and the time we have been given is also a gift to return to God and neighbor, no matter how ‘busy’ we may consider ourselves. Resolution: Share my gifts of writing and music publicly, at least once each week.

Two of my main ways of sharing my faith are through writing and through music, but I often find myself ‘too busy’ to share these gifts with others. But these words in Pope Francis’ homily at the World Youth Day Mass on Copacabana Beach spoke to me:

Jesus did not say: “go, if you would like to, if you have the time”, but he said: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination, from the desire for power, but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and did not give us just a part of himself, but he gave us the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,