OLPH Pedaling Padres

Please contribute to my benefit ride for the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home here in Atlanta! Every dollar counts!

Monday, October 15, 2012


Papa has continued to decline. When we arrived, he would greet us with a smile then fall back asleep. For the past 48 hours he has barely opened his eyes. Even when we have to shift him to freshen him up he doesn't wake or even grimace.

Grandma has a little booklet that details the events that lead up to death. It describes the dying process as a transitioning from this life into eternity. The person sleeps more the closer they get to death, symbolizing their further detachment from this world and deeper attachment to the next.

My aunts take turns keeping vigil with him and grandma. Apparently after most of us go home for the night, he gets most restless, as if all the noise we make during the day gives him comfort.

I know he knows he's surrounded by his loving family. I hope he feels safe enough to leave our loving presence to enter the infinitely greater love of the presence of God.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Time to get personal

Three posts in a day!

I've got some time on my hands as I'm away from my parish for a week.  I'm up in a tiny apartment in Olean, NY, way up north in the frozen tundra (for real, it was 36 degrees when we landed) where my grandfather, my Papa, lay in a hospital bed awaiting his return to the Lord.

It's a hard sight to see.  He wears a t-shirt and a diaper, and is clothed with a bed sheet.  He goes in and out of alertness, mumbling every once and a while about a conversation he just had with a deceased brother.  His hair is all over the place, like he just got off a roller coaster.  He grunts, falls asleep, waves to someone only he can see in the corner of the room, then falls asleep again.

This is a man I've looked up to for three decades, the one whose faith was so contagious that even I, at the barely-conscious age of 7, was swept into the river his love of Jesus Christ and His Church.  He taught me you can pray anywhere and everywhere, that Mary loves us like she loves her own Son, that family comes before all else.

My Papa is dying, and it's really hard to grasp.  It's hard to talk to anyone in the family about it, because we all end up in tears.  If not for the faith, I think we'd all be falling apart.  But this is a staunchly Catholic family.  As an active deacon, Papa took so much pride in the fact that his parishes did absolutely everything by the book.  I knew what the General Instruction on the Roman Missal was before I had memorized the Creed.  Papa talks to Mary every day.  He says she once told him not to tell Jesus, but that he was her favorite.  I'm fairly certain that in some of his less lucid moments, when it seems to us that he's lost on a cloud, he's actually conversing with the other side of eternity.

We all love this man very much.  I'll try to keep sharing my thoughts as I can.  Please offer a prayer for Deacon Don Radlinski, that the Blessed Mother walk him to the portals of Heaven where together, they greet the Lord.

Papa holding his great grandson, Edmund.  That's Grandma in the red shirt next to him.

More Thoughts

One more thought on the abortion question:
In regards to the fact that it's not the government's job to tell people that disagree with you what to do, Archbishop Chaput hits the nail on the head: (synthesis) In a myriad of ways the government tells people of a variety of belief systems and opinons what to do.  They make a decision for the common good and implement it.  When the elected representatives think it's a good idea to defend our borders, they do so.  When they think it's a good idea to create a safety net for the poor, they do so.

They recognize a need and work to address it, even, in the case of Obamacare, when the decision is highly unfavorable with 1/2 of the nation.

Vice President Biden used a very poor logic to defend his position.  The life of the unborn is obviously not very important to him.  He doesn't see embryonic life as human life.  If he did, it would be blatantly clear in his policy decisions.

Religious Freedom

A major incident occurred earlier in the debate, when the question of religious liberty came up.  Biden stated that no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, would have to participate in contraception.  He brushed aside the criticisms the US Bishops have manifested through their manifold lawsuits, basically saying religious freedom is a non-issue.

WHAT BIDEN SAID IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE.  The USCCB responded with a swift and clear penalty flag, maintaining that yes, indeed, Catholic institutions will have to violate their principles or pay heavy fines if their insurance policies do not cover contraception, sterilization, and certain abortion-inducing drugs.

America, this is serious.

Romans 1:16

I am not ashamed of the Gospel,
for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe

Interesting to note that on the first day of the Year of Faith, two Catholic contenders for the Vice Presidency of the United States of America sparred on international TV in a campaign season debate, and their Catholic Faith was brought to the forefront.

The particular context of their moment of witness was on the topic of abortion.  Let's see what the Church actually teaches about this subject:

Catechism paragraph 2270 - "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life."

That's some pretty clear language: life is to be "respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception".

Now the video:

     The moderator asked how their common faith influences their position on abortion.  Ryan goes first, pointing to the fact that abortion is not simply a religious issue, it's a moral issue, and therefore subject to being either right or wrong.  It cannot be both.  His faith informs him that life begins at conception.

     VP Biden then addresses it saying that he also believes the teaching of the Catholic Church.  That means he believes that life is to be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.  Awesome!

     But then he qualifies his belief in that he doesn't think it's right to impose his views on other people.  Something about it's not the government's job to tell people what to do with their bodies.

     There are so many problems with that statement, but I want to focus on one thing: when we claim to believe something, that belief has an impact on the way we act.  If it doesn't, then it's fair game for someone to challenge the firmness of my belief.

     If I say I don't believe an airplane is built solidly with good aerodynamics or I doubt that the pilot is skilled and will get me to my destination safely, I don't get on the plane.  If I believed there was a threat to my safety, I would choose to protect myself.

     If I believe that it's going to rain, I bring an umbrella.  If I believe clapping two sticks together keeps mountain lions away, I clap away.  If I believe life begins at conception, and if I believe that human life is worth protecting, I protect it.

     If I choose to not act on a belief, I'm letting something else take precedence over the firmness of my belief.  If I don't get on a perfectly good airplane with a perfectly good pilot, it may be because fear is stronger than my belief in the principles of physics.  If I don't take an umbrella when I believe one is necessary, it might be because I value having my hands free more than I believe the protection it provides is necessary.  If I stop clapping my anti-mountain lion sticks, it's because I'm holding something in greater esteem than my belief, perhaps my doubt that it's even effective at all.

     My point is this: when we truly believe something, it changes us.  We allow belief to change us.  It's how we know we really believe it.

     When a candidate can get up on his high horse and claim belief in the teaching of the Church and then so easily dismiss it, one has to wonder how firmly he holds that belief.

     The questions the moderator should have followed up with is: "Mr. Vice President, do you believe it's a duty of the government to protect human life?  Do you hold that unborn babies are human?"

      The sacredness of human life is an objective moral value.  It's either true or it's not.  It either applies in all circumstances or none at all.  It's that kind of issue.

     Is the Gospel salvation for those who believe or isn't it?  It cannot be both.

     Mr. Vice President, what are you ashamed of?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bishop Jenky Brings the Heat

Bishop Daniel Jenky, the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, has some clear and powerful words concerning the HHS Mandate, our discipleship in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the importance of voting our Catholic conscience this November.

From a homily he gave back in April:

       "As Christians we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but as Christians we must also stand up for what we believe and always be ready to fight for the Faith. The days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction.
"In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work – like that very first apostolic generation – we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation.
       "Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room.
       "In the late 19th century, Bismarck waged his “Kulturkampf,” a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.
       "Clemenceau, nicknamed “the priest eater,” tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
       "In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
Now things have come to such a pass in America that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgement seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.
       "This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries -- only excepting our church buildings – could easily be shut down. Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the instrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.
This may be old news, especially to those who are faithful Catholic blog readers.  I just found it.  And I found it extraordinary.  Might even use it in my homily this Sunday...

Atlanta joins lawsuit against HHS Mandate

Here's the press release [emphasis added]:

(678) 480-6865 October 10, 2012

Archdiocese of Atlanta Files Federal Lawsuit
Against HHS Mandate

Atlanta --- In order to defend one of America’s most fundamental freedoms—the freedom to practice one’s religion without governmental interference—the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta has filed suit in federal court seeking to block the Health and Human Services’ mandate that unconstitutionally attempts to define the nature of the church’s religious ministry and would force religious employers to violate their consciences. Christ the King Catholic School, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah joined in the lawsuit. Named as defendants in the suit are the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division.

Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta, said about the lawsuit filed in Atlanta, “We are undertaking this action because the stakes are so incredibly high. Our religious liberty and that of our fellow Catholics and people of other religious faiths as well as those with no professed religious belief throughout the nation are impacted by this proposed action. The unchallenged results of the HHS mandate would require that we compromise or violate our religious faith and ethical beliefs.”

The Archdiocese of Atlanta has filed this suit because the federal government is requiring religious organizations, under penalty of law, to provide, pay for, and/or facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The lawsuit states, “Plantiffs acknowledge that individuals in this country have a legal right to these medical services; they are, and will continue to be, freely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the Government itself from making them more widely available. But the right to such services does not authorize the Government to co-opt religious entities like Plantiffs into providing or facilitating access to them.” American history and tradition, embodied in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, prohibit just this sort of overbearing and oppressive governmental action.

While the government has recognized a religious exemption to these mandates, it is so narrowly worded that many – if not most – religious institutions such as Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Christ the King Catholic School may not qualify for it. Under the government’s exemption standard, these Catholic institutions may not qualify because they do not discriminate against non-Catholics who might come to them seeking assistance or education. Nor do they discriminate against non-Catholics in their hiring practices. In order to qualify for an exemption, a religious institution must submit to an intrusive and arbitrary governmental investigation into whether, in the discretionary view of the Government, their “purpose” is the “inculcation of religious values,” whether they “primarily” employ persons who “share their religious tenets,” and whether they “primarily” serve such people. Catholic schools and the programs of Catholic Charities Atlanta are open to people of all faiths and do not consider religious affiliation in hiring for most positions. The Archdiocese of Atlanta strongly objects to such an intrusive, arbitrary and misguided governmental investigation into their religious missions.

Archbishop Gregory, a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, stated, “We bring our heritage of faith and dedication to the service of the poor and needy who have been served by the agencies of the Catholic Church in Georgia with generosity and commitment for all of the years of our existence in this region. We become one more voice that must be heard by the courts as they consider the legality of this action.”

Joseph Krygiel, CEO of Catholic Charities Atlanta, said, “This lawsuit is not about contraception, it is about religious freedom and it always has been. Our board felt that religious freedom is the cornerstone of every basic human right. It is the most cherished of all liberties that we enjoy as Americans, and this HHS mandate is an unprecedented direct attack on our Catholic faith and our religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.” Krygiel added, “The majority of poor and needy people that we serve are not Catholic. In fact, we never ask our clients what faith they practice or if they even believe in God before we provide help to them. There is a saying in Catholic Charities agencies across the country, "We help people not because they are Catholic; we help people because we are Catholic."

For more information, contact Pat Chivers (678) 480-6865 or pchivers@archatl.com.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Come Holy Spirit

In a nutshell: Live passionately not for this world, but for the world to come.

We hear some Cautionary words in our readings today:

St. James lays the smack down on those who use wealth as a means of lording their authority over people – withholding wages, living in opulent luxury while their workers struggle to make ends meet.

Gospel tells two stories.  One about an outsider who acts as an insider (a guy who, though not a follower of the apostles is casting out demons in the name of Jesus) and second story about the true threat of a person, who from within the believing community, causes a “little one,” that is, anyone who has humbled him or herself to follow the Lord, to sin.  Basically posing the scenario – what’s worse . . . to be a wannabe or to create scandal? 

Let’s pause on that word for a second…scandal.  We hear it all the time.  But what does it actually mean?

Scandal – an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.  The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter.  He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death.  Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense (CCC 2284).

The catechism goes on to say that scandal is made more egregious when committed by someone in authority, someone who is trusted with more responsibility and then abuses or otherwise misuses that responsibility.  Some timely examples would be clergy who forsake their promises of chastity and obedience, causing people to sin, leading them into error, and hurting already wounded souls; or Catholic politicians who tout their faith before the cameras, then betray the precepts of the Lord in their policy, leading to confusion among the faithful and division within the Church.

Jesus says that it’s better for us to have a millstone tied to our necks and we be thrown headlong into the sea than to lead another person into sin.  He tells us today that if there is a member of our body, both our physical body or our collective communion, that is causing us to sin, CUT IT OFF!

Now, to be sure and clear, this is an example of literary hyperbole, intended exaggeration to draw out a point, a truth.  And that point, that truth is this: it IS, in fact, better to enter heaven with battle wounds than to burn in hell with a perfectly chiseled body and a million friends on facebook.

This is solid spiritual direction here, straight from the giver of the Spirit!  If there is something that causes you to sin, get rid of it!  If a person is scandalous, that is, leading you directly or indirectly into sin, shut them down! 

Brothers and sisters, live passionately your discipleship in the Lord Jesus.  This world is transitory and we were made for infinity.  The spirit of the world, the flesh, and the ancient enemy all want to create division in the Body of Christ, to sow the seeds of doubt and despair.  Take real action against the sins or the patterns of sin in your life.  Shut down the voices that lead to division, cut off the power to the devices that lead to sin.

The Spirit of Truth will lead you to all truth, and the truth will set you free.  Truth is what binds us together.  Listen to the voice of Truth, the one voice that really matters: the voice of the Lord, the voice that unifies, the voice that inspires, the voice that challenges complacency, the voice that rebukes the enemy and calls out lies, the voice that encourages, the voice that builds up and fills us with meaning.  Live passionately for this voice.  

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Single-Issue Voters

I'm giving a few talks on Faithful Citizenship at some local churches.  As part of my research, I rely heavily on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (full document available here).

Paragraph 42 of that document highlights a conundrum that seems to come up every election year: can Catholics be single-issue voters?  Is it OK to endorse one candidate because s/he supports one particular issue that is near and dear to my Catholic heart?

The bishops give a resounding, clear-cut, no-doubt-about-it NO; we should not vote for a candidate because of one issue alone.  It's the third sentence in the paragraph that I find most interesting.  Read it for yourself:

42. As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support. Yet a candidate's position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.

While voting for a candidate because of single issue sympathy is outright denied, if a candidate holds near and dear to one issue that is (of itself, or, theologically speaking, in its moral object) intrinsically evil, we can disqualify them from the receiving our support.

This is just good spiritual practice.  If someone is participating in some evil, especially something gravely evil, we should disassociate ourselves from them.  If we actively support them, we are accomplices to the evil they are doing.

I think I already know the most common argument people will make against this statement: Every candidate stands with something that is morally questionable, so, according to the bishops, we can't vote for anyone, because no matter what, we'll be participating in some evil.

There's something true in that statement and also something terribly false.

TRUE: We won't EVER find a candidate that perfectly in every situation upholds the dignity of the human person above all else, outlaws abortion, feeds the poor, gives healthcare to those who can't afford it, does away with embryonic stem cell research, makes the death penalty a thing of the past, locks up doctors who facilitates suicides, and provides a safety net for orphaned children (did I miss any of the prolife initiatives?).

 FALSE, While there is no single perfect candidate (unless the Lord Jesus himself were to be the last-minute, third party candidate this November), that does not mean we cannot or should not evaluate what evils a candidate stands for and check them according to our Catholic-formed conscience.  Evil is evil, but not all evils carry the same weight.  The goods we try to uphold do, in fact, exist in a hierarchy.  The good of equality among the races outweighs the good of the price of gas, and the good of human life outweighs all other goods.

It is not intrinsically evil to cut taxes.  It is intrinsically evil to abort a baby, or promote racism, or to steal, etc.  These things can never be "good" no matter what the intention behind them or the circumstances around them.

When a candidate stands for one or multiple intrinsically evil positions, and we have an alternative who, while not being perfect in any stretch of the imagination, we can, and I'd argue should discredit the the former by supporting the latter.

Don't take my word for it.  Take Jesus': If something (or someone) causes you to sin, cut it off.