Monday, April 30, 2012

LOUISIANA 1927 by Aaron Neville

Happy 200th Birthday Louisiana!

The following comes from the Louisiana Bicentennial page:

On April 30, 1812, the United States admitted Louisiana as the 18th state into the Union. Louisiana was the first state to have a majority Catholic French- and Spanish-speaking population, reflecting its origins as a colony under France from 1699-1763 and Spain from 1763-1803. Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Louisiana's road to statehood was not all smooth. Federal law required citizens of a newly admitted territory to apply to congress for statehood, and the admission of the Orleans Territory as the 18th state followed years of lobbying efforts by prominent citizens—both American and Creole (French-speaking Catholics). Men such as French-born congressman Julien Poydras and American attorney Edward Livingston sought the greater political rights that statehood bestowed and convinced Territorial Governor William C.C. Claiborne that the Orleans Territory qualified for statehood. Finally in 1811, Democratic President James Madison signed the bill allowing the people of Louisiana to form a state constitution. Following the state constitutional convention in New Orleans where 43 American and Creole leaders convened, on April 14, 1812, President Madison signed the bill approving statehood. The bill designated April 30, 1812, as the day of formal admission.

Louisiana's distinctive French Catholic Creole culture eventually blended with the American English Protestant culture to create a distinct Creole-American society. Yet cultural differences between Creoles and Americans manifested themselves in a variety of ways immediately after the Louisiana Purchase. Creole residents of colonial Louisiana had lived under the Catholic Church, a political monarchy, and the legal Civil (Napoleonic) Code. In contrast, the new American political laws enforced religious freedom, republican democracy, and English common law. After the Orleans Territory came under U.S. rule, Catholic residents worshiped freely, but legal battles ensued over the interpretation of the Civil Code, which places emphasis on codified community laws, and Common Law, which places greater reliance on judges for legal interpretation. Today Louisiana remains the only U.S. state that follows the Civil Code, which is the most common legal system in the world.

Prior to statehood, Americans such as Louisiana Territorial Governor William C.C. Claiborne expressed concern over the abilities of Louisiana's Creole residents to embrace American democracy. But in the territorial period, men such as Julien Poydras, Jacques Villeré, and Jean Noel Destréhan emerged as effective politicians and very vocal supporters of the democratic rights that statehood bestowed. Additionally, many of the territory's Creole citizens had supported a democratic political system since 1789, when the French Revolution replaced their monarchy with a republican democracy. By the 1850s, state politics was largely free of any Creole and American division. Nevertheless, legislative acts were published in both French and English for a bilingual population up until 1867.

Two hundred years after statehood, Louisiana remains one of the most distinctive states in the union. The state's rich Creole heritage is evident in the use of the Civil Code, the organization of parishes as local political units, and the celebration of Catholic traditions such as Mardi Gras. So as Louisiana commemorates this important bicentennial event, we can also celebrate the distinct Creole-American culture that U.S. statehood has fostered.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Gift of Worship

The Gift Of Worship from Catholic Media House on Vimeo.

Pope Benedict prays for vocations to priesthood

The following comes from the CNA:

On Sunday, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Benedict XVI asked families, communities and local parishes to help young men in discerning their vocation to the priesthood.

“Dear friends, pray for the Church, every local community, that they are like a garden in which can germinate and ripen all the seeds of vocation that God sows in abundance,” said the Pope in his midday Regina Caeli address to pilgrims in St. Peters Square April 29.

“In particular, families are the first environment into which ‘breathes’ the love of God, which gives inner strength even in the midst of the difficulties and trials of life.”

Earlier in the morning Pope Benedict XVI had ordained nine new priests for the Diocese of Rome in St Peter’s Basilica. He explained that those young men were, in fact, “no different from other young people” apart from the fact that “they had been deeply touched by the beauty of God’s love, and could not help but respond with their whole lives.”

The Pope gave thanks to God for the ordinations, deeming them a sign of God’s “provident and faithful love for the Church.” He asked pilgrims to pray that “all young people be attentive to the voice of God that speaks inwardly to their heart and calls them to break away from everything to serve Him.”

“The Lord is always calling” he said, adding that “many times we do not listen” due to being “distracted by many things” or by being “afraid to hear the voice of the Lord because we think it might take away our freedom.”

The answer to these fears is the recognition that our freedom is “fully realized” in responding to love and, in particular, to the love of God.

The newly ordained priests, the Pope said, had met this love of God through “Jesus Christ in the Gospels, the Eucharist and the Church community” where they too discovered that “the life of every man is a love story.”

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!” Pope Benedict continued, quoting the famous phrase of St. Augustine’s “Confessions.”

Recent statistics have shown the numbers of men applying for the priesthood around the world is on the rise. The Pope commended all those discerning such a vocation to the Virgin Mary, calling her “mother of every vocation in the Church.”

Vocations: The Gift of the Love of God

Friday, April 27, 2012

Need Inspiration? Some Greatest Hits

Susan Boyle - Britain's got Talent 2009 from Kafe Kafe on Vimeo.

Paul Potts from HR.Praxis on Vimeo.

"Priests need to be saints!"

The following comes from

The Congregation for Clergy is encouraging priests to remember their duty to sanctity in a letter for the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Clergy, which falls this year on June 15.
The letter, signed by the prefect and secretary of the congregation, includes reading material and a prayer.
"The expression found in Scripture 'This is the will of God: your holiness!' (1 Thessalonians 4:3), though addressed to all Christians, refers to us priests in particular, for we have accepted the invitation to 'sanctify ourselves' and to become 'ministers of sanctification' for our brothers," the letter explained. "In our case, this 'will of God' is, so to speak, doubled and multiplied to infinity, and we must obey it in everything we do. 
"This is our wonderful destiny: we cannot be sanctified without working on the holiness of our brothers, and we cannot work on the holiness of our brothers unless we have first worked on and continue to work on our own holiness."
The letter speaks of the sex abuse scandal before turning to the celebration of the Year of Faith, which the Holy Father has convoked and will begin in October.
"Today it is especially priests, in their daily worship and ministry, who must refer everything to the Trinitarian Communion: only by starting from it and by immersing oneself in it can the faithful really discover the face of the Son of God and of His contemporariness, and really reach the heart of every man and the homeland they are all called to," the letter states. "Only this way can us priests restore contemporary man’s dignity, the sense of human relationships and social life, and the purpose of the whole of creation."
The Vatican officials proposed that the new evangelization can only be possible if "Christians are able to surprise and move the world again by proclaiming the Nature of Our God who is Love, in the Three Divine Persons that express it and that involve us in their own life."
"Today’s world, with its ever more painful and preoccupying lacerations, needs God -- The Trinity -- and the Church has the task to proclaim Him," the letter concludes. "In order to fulfill this task, the Church must remain indissolubly embraced with Christ and never part from Him; it needs Saints who dwell 'in the heart of Jesus' and are happy witnesses of God’s Trinitarian Love. And in order to serve the Church and the World, Priests need to be Saints!"

The Catholic Church, Pope Benedict and The Bible

The following comes from the Aggie Catholics site:

Q - It is a common misconception that Catholics are discouraged from reading the Bible. While this isn't the case today, is there anything in recent Catholic history that could have spawned this idea? I'm thinking about my grandmother's generation, people in their sixties and seventies now.

A - Thanks for the question. You are certainly on the right track, but we have to go back much further to see the beginning of this idea.

The first thing we need to do is shed ourselves of our on preconceptions. We take for granted now that anyone can have a Bible if they want one. Yet not only has this not been the case through most of Christian history, but it isn't the case in many parts of the world (North Korea, Middle Easter countries, etc). Remember that a majority of people during Christian history couldn't read well, if at all. Most didn't have access until books, even after the printing press, because of large costs.

With all of this background, we can see that throughout most of the 2,000 years of history of the Catholic Church, Bibles were not a common possession of common people. So, the way they learned about the Bible was through other means - Mass, fine art (think stained glass windows, murals, paintings, etc), stories, and oral tradition. With this being said there are a number of "myths" surrounding the Catholic Church and the Bible:

1 - The Catholic Church chained Bibles to keep the from the people.
-more accurately, they were chained because they were so valuable and a church might have only one copy. Not to "keep them from the people" but rather to keep them from thieves.

2 - The Catholic Church discourages personal Bible reading because they know that if you read the Bible for yourself you will find the truth behind their lies.
-This one sounds silly, but many believe it to be true. The problem is that the Catholic Church has always maintained that Scripture is indispensable to a Christian.

3 - The Catholic Church banned early translations of the Bible (even killing some of the translators), because they didn't want common people to read it and know the truth.
-Rather, the Church banned early translations because they were done "unofficially" and without proper Church oversight. They contained many errors and the Church banned them to protect the people from bad translations just as the Jehovah's Witnesses have a bad translation today. [if only they protected us from some of the bad translations we have today :-) ]

There are many more myths, but what happened is that they worked there way into the consciousness of many people, even today.

Another factor in perpetuating the myth is the confusion that ensued after Vatican II in the 60's. If you want to read about some of that, you can in previous posts I have made here and here. Suffice it to say that many problems in the Church were amplified after Vatican II, including Biblical teaching.


Thursday, April 26, 2012


The following comes from

Benedict XVI's secretary of state is encouraging the faithful to receive the peace of the Risen Christ, who began his Easter appearances with the greeting "Peace be with you" -- an expression that is the gift of his very Self.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said this last Sunday at the Cathedral of Catanzaro, Italy, as he celebrated Mass with the local archbishop, Vincenzo Bertolone. He was in the city after having been granted an honorary doctorate the night before.
The Risen One “conquered the duel between death and life and, hence, sealed the ecclesial community definitively with the word 'peace,' which encloses all the Commandments and reassumes every personal and community good," the Pope's secretary of state said.
This means that all those who follow him with consistency and fidelity and who are united to the Pastor of the particular Church in perfect union with the Apostolic See, are called to “be courageous witnesses, heralds and agents of that peace that only Jesus Christ can give to hearts, to families, to society, to the world," he added.
After the many processes of modernization, of unfulfilled development partially distorted, as well as of profound socio-cultural transformation, paschal faith calls for a New Evangelization of the lands of southern Italy, the cardinal said, "of ways of living and of thinking, so that Christ, our peace and our justice, can reign ever more in your midst and renew everything according to God’s design and the real good of men.”
And commenting with a particularly convincing style the passages read in the Liturgy of the Word, Cardinal Bertone solicited the need, grace and authenticity of faith in God, of “transforming evil into good, and of carrying out the inscrutable design of the Father, which is a design of conversion and change, of profound renewal, of resurrection to the life itself of Christ, in God.”
This means that it is all the more urgent, in addition to indispensable, “to change the perspective radically, to transform one’s existence profoundly, to abhor sins committed, not to sin anymore, to no longer fear to speak of the Spirit of truth to the people of Calabria.” And, addressing the priests specifically, he invited them to never tire of “transmitting in every environment -- in appropriate ways , and always with gentle firmness – the Word that generates true life, the good life of the Gospel and gives the strength of truth, so as not to suffer the intimidations of organized crime, of illegality, of the conspiratorial silence of one who sees and does not act.”
He reminded the faithful that with their testimony they contribute “to spread Christ’s friendship among the persons they meet in human relations and in their pastoral ministry and express systematically their being always and everywhere living signs of the Resurrection.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Medjugorje Songs: Didn't know you're so beautiful

Baseball star organizes Catholic sports camp for youth

The following comes from the CNA:

Retired pro baseball star Mike Sweeney has organized a Catholic baseball camp this summer in San Diego to help young boys connect their sports life and their faith life while learning from professional athletes.

“I want to try to build the Church,” Sweeney said. “There is a need for true, authentic Catholic formation in young men.”

Sweeney, a former first baseman for the Kansas City Royals who played for three other major league teams, cited Pope John Paul II’s example as an inspiration.

“Pope John Paul the Great lit a flame,” he told CNA April 19. “His idea was to use sports to bring the gospel to the Church and to the lost.”

“My goal,” he noted, is “to build up these young men, because that’s what our culture is lacking: real Catholic men of faith who are leading their families and leading their schools and their friends.”

The first annual Mike Sweeney Catholic Baseball Camp is open to both Catholic and non-Catholic youth aged 7-14. It will take place at San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High this July 24-26 under the personal direction of Sweeney, with the help of several other prominent athletes.

Former Los Angeles Dodger infielder Mark Loretta and former San Diego Padres relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman, a likely Hall of Fame inductee, will be among the coaches. San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will also attend.

Sweeney emphasized that faith will be a major part of the camp.

“We’re going to have authentic faith formation,” he said. “It’s not going to be baseball for 95-98 percent of the day and give them a gospel message the last ten minutes of the day.”

The camp will offer daily confession and daily Mass said by priests from the Miles Christi religious order.
Sweeney said the coaches will help apply Scripture to “the principles of baseball.” They will start out exercises with a Bible verse, explain what it means and talk about how it relates to life. Then they will talk about how the verse helps players remember something about baseball.

One typical baseball drill has a player at bat keep his eyes on a pitched baseball until it makes contact with his bat.

Sweeney said coaches will link this exercise to the scriptural verse Hebrews 12:2, which stresses “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

Attendees will hear from “great authentically Catholic speakers” and take part in praise and worship sessions, Sweeney said.

The last day of camp will feature a rosary recited around the baseball field.

“We’re going to line up around the bases. We’re going to have each kid lead half of a prayer and have the other hundred-something kids shout out the rest,” Sweeney said with enthusiasm.

The last day will also have an “open mic” night for youth to share their faith and say how God affected them during the three days of the camp.

Sweeney’s vision for the camp was based on his relationship with Fr. Kevin Lixey, a priest in Rome who created the Division of Church and Sport in Vatican City.

Though the baseball player has done Christian baseball camps before, they did not have a specifically Catholic focus.

After meeting with Fr. Lixey, Sweeney envisioned “a baseball camp that was not only Christian but authentically Catholic.”

“It’s super-cool to have an authentically on-fire Catholic faith in young men. That’s hopefully what we will accomplish,” Sweeney told CNA.

Applicants have already filled more than half of the 100 open spaces.

Sweeney’s camp is partnered with Catholic Soccer Camp, whose fifth event will take place at St. Norbert College in Green Bay, Wisc. from July 23-27. Italian professional soccer coaches Massimo Carli and Luigi “Gigi” Dussati from Verona, Italy will serve as camp leaders. Both have coached extensively at the youth, semi-professional and professional levels in northern Italy.

Fr. Jim Baraniak, the pastor of St. Norbert College and chaplain of the Green Bay Packers, will provide spiritual guidance for the event.

The camps operate in cooperation with Catholic Athletes for Christ and Varsity Catholic, a division of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

Sweeney sees the collaboration as an opportunity to build a reputable network of Catholic sports camps.
He has already received comments from possible organizers of a Catholic golf camp in Arizona and a Catholic basketball camp in Orange County, Calif.

Young players can find registration information for the baseball and soccer camps at the websites

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bishop David Zubik: It ain’t what it seems

The following comes from The Pittsburg Catholic:

You may be surprised to know that I am beginning to be wired in to the new social media. Now, understand, I’m not as wired as your average 13-year-old. But at least I’m not completely oblivious to this new world of social communications that surrounds us.
Let me give you an example. I was thrilled to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, at SS. John and Paul Parish right off Interstate 79 North. Mass, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Holy Hour — it was a beautiful afternoon of prayer with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

During the quiet of the Holy Hour, I pulled out my cell phone where I have an app for the breviary, the Liturgy of the Hours. I was able to call up the prayers and readings for that afternoon and have a great opportunity for prayer and meditation.

After the service was over and I was preparing to leave the parish, the pastor, Father Joe McCaffrey, let me know that I had been caught. Caught at what? It seems that somebody told him that the bishop was using the Holy Hour to check his phone messages.

If I haven’t been guilty of doing it myself, I might have gone into a slow — or fast — burn. But I understand how it works. We are all in a rush to judgment at times, quickly assuming the worst of people based often on the least of knowledge. We can spot the speck in someone’s eye a mile away while we carefully ignore the beam in own. We can even spot that speck when it isn’t there at all.

Usually we walk away blissfully unaware that our judgment has been dead wrong. We’ve lambasted some innocent soul and have the comfort of knowing that we’re just a little bit better. Too often, we never find out that “it ain’t what it seems.” Please know that this reflection really is focusing on my rushing to judge someone else, NOT the person who observed me.

I can’t help thinking of Corinth. It was a young city — only about 100 years old after being completely destroyed two centuries earlier by an angry Roman consul. But it had become a thriving shipping center in southern Greece once again when it was visited by St. Paul. He was able to build a thriving Christian community in the pagan city, especially among the poorer classes.

But not soon after he left, he heard reports that things were going wrong. Everybody was after everybody, breaking into factions, pointing fingers at each other, rushing to judgment on whatever anyone was saying or doing. So Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians, reminding them of what they had already forgotten:

“If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8).

We are called to live love, to reflect that Divine Love we remember in Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a love that calls us to mercy, and that calls us to charity which is Divine Love and Mercy lived.

Particularly during the Easter season, an armistice on the rush to judgment might be called. We have lived again in those last few days of the Lenten season the greatest rush to judgment in humanity’s history. An innocent Jesus is arrested, tried, beaten, paraded through the streets and brutally crucified. Humanity judges the Son of Man and rushes to his execution.

In warning about missing that beam in our own eye, Jesus warns us not to judge. He is not telling us to tolerate sin. But he is reminding us not to rush into judgment. He is telling us our lives are meant to be lived not in pointing fingers, but in charity that doesn’t ask before it serves, doesn’t lecture before it ministers, doesn’t judge before it heals.

Imagine if Jesus was so quick to judge as I seem to do, as we seem to do, far too often. What would He have said then to the 10 Apostles who ran away and hid rather than keep watch under his cross? Or to Peter who denied him not once, not twice, but three times? Or To Mary Magdalene who first did not recognize him as the Risen Savior? Or to the disciples on the road to Emmaus who failed to understand what had happened on that first Easter?

In the maxims of the Sisters of St. Joseph attributed to the order’s founder, Father Jean Pierre Medaille, he reminds his congregation in the Eucharist Letter to “always interpret everything in the most favorable light.”

It is a good maxim for all of us. Something we should all keep in mind as we go through our daily pilgrimage. I know that I will try to remember it.

Paul’s words always come back to us: “If I have all faith … but have not love, I am nothing.” Love is at the core of Christian belief because God is love. God asks us to love Him and love our neighbors. In the Eucharist we are given the grace to live out that love.

Here’s one thing you can count on: I promise to try never to use a social communications device in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the same time, I also promise to try to avoid the rush to judgment and to try with every fiber of my faith and being to always “interpret everything in the most favorable light.” Because the one thing I continue to learn as a sinner, when I, when we rush to judgment, all too often “it ain’t what it seems.”

"Wojtyla Generation" A musical on John Paul II's message

Monday, April 23, 2012

United States, a “boom” of vocations

The following comes from the Vatican Insider:

Positive data compared to the rest of the western world where seminarists are less and less numerous. On the other hand, their numbers grow in Asia, Africa and Oceania


After the storm created by the abuses scandal, the resurfacing of the Church in the United States has begun. With the closure of the “horrible decade” 2001-2011 (afflicted by a series of financial and reputation disasters) the US Church shows clear signs of recovery. In the last year there have been 467 sacerdotal ordinations and, poignantly, the Boston seminary (diocese-epicenter of the pedophilia-scandal) has become the symbol of the rebirth. This year, Cardinal Sean Patrick O' Malley, sent by the Pope to Boston to enact “purification” and to reconstruct the local Church from the foundations, had to reject some applications to the seminary because there were too many. The Wall Street Journal also documents this unexpected “boom” with a broad inquiry into the “victorious Catholicism” and attributes it to the traditional character of the Catholicism of the new Episcopal leadership, the so-called Ratzinger-like “creative conservatives”.   

The US positive vocations data is in counter-trend when compared to the general vocation crisis in the rest of the western world. In 2011, more than half of the ordinations in the United States have involved young people between 25 and 34 years of age. In the US, the ordinations of young clergymen have increased for the fifth consecutive year. The group of US neo-clergymen includes various refugees from lands where Christians are persecuted, military veterans and ministers who are converted from other religions. The most recent data from the Pontifical Yearbook and from the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae show unequivocally how the universal Church is growing thanks to the Third World. In the last five years, the number of philosophy or theology students in diocesan or religious seminaries has constantly grown thanks to a non-western increase.   

On the whole it has grown 4%, from 114,439 units in 2005 to 118,990 in 2010. While decreasing in Europe (- 10.4%), the greatest seminarists increases are in Africa (+14.2%), in Asia (+13.0%) and in Oceania (+12.3%). The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University has made an inquiry from which it has emerged that 69% of the total is white (European, Caucasian and American), while 15% is composed of Latin/Hispanics and 10% of Asians and Pacific Islanders. Approximately a third of the people ordained have a relative who is a clergyman. More than half has more than two siblings; a quarter has five or more. The report emphasizes that 21% of the ordained participated in a World Youth Day before starting seminary. 70% of the total is assiduous in the regular prayer of the Rosary, and 65% participated to the Eucaristic Adoration before entering the seminary. On average, the neo-seminarists began feeling their vocation towards their 16th year of life. It was a clergyman who exhorted 66% of the seminarists to consider the priesthood. 71% have been encouraged in their vocation by a friend, clergyman, grandfather, relative or faithful of the parish, while half said they had been discouraged by someone. The more common extra-curricular pastimes or activities among them are listening to music (73%), reading (67%), watching movies (62%), playing soccer (41%), hiking (33%), cooking (33%) and playing an instrument (33%).

The vocations trend in the United States is exactly the opposite of the one recorded in Ireland, another country of the secular West hit by the pedophilia-cyclone. In fact, the decline of the sacerdotal vocations in Ireland has not stopped, as demonstrated by the last annual report of the Council for Research and Development of the Irish Episcopal Conference, according to which the number of clergymen in the Emerald Island has decreased by 2%. And there are more and more eighty-year-old priests or older as opposed to under-thirty-year-old clergy. “This decline is not strange”, comments Eoin O' Mahony, the author of the report, “we have known for a few years that the number of new sacerdotal ordinations is not sufficient to compensate for the number of older priests who retire or pass away.”   

The decline of sacerdotal vocations in Ireland has been happening for four decades. It is mostly blamed on the secularization caused by the economic boom of recent years. The sexual abuse cases that have involved the Irish clergy in the 1990s have not helped; the negative peak was in fact reached in that decade. From the year 2000 to today, the number of priests has decreased by 10%.   

The situation is not much better in France, where the crisis of sacerdotal vocations keeps getting stronger; it went from 566 new priests in 1966 to the current 90, a figure that foreshadows a future in which many communities might be without a spiritual guide and without sacraments. A vertiginous fall that openly raises the issue of the sacerdotal ordination of married men.   

For the rest of the story please click here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Life of Worship

A Life Of Worship from Catholic Media House on Vimeo.


The following comes from

In this modern era of mass media, Catholic communicators are given a vast array of readily accessible tools whereby they can effectively engage in the new evangelization, create a culture of vocation, and offer pastoral guidance to people all over the world.
At the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross' recent communications seminar entitled "Faces, People, Stories," held this week in Rome, Daniel Fitzpatrick, who is a fifth-year seminarian for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle in England, presented a paper on Vocationcast, a podcast which seeks to foster a "culture of vocation" for all Christians who seek to know God's will in their lives.
Fitzpatrick and his colleague, fellow-seminarian Frankie Mulgrew, are the two main presenters of Vocationcast.  Originally, the focus of the podcast was to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life; in September of 2011, the project came to be officially known as Vocationcast, expanding its focus to include themes pertaining to all Christian vocations. Vocationcast is supported by the National Office for Vocation of the Catholic Bishop's Conference in England and Wales and the Bishop's Conference communications department.
During his time in Rome for the PUSC communications conference, Fitzpatrick spoke with ZENIT about Vocationcast, the importance of promoting a culture of vocation, and the need for participating in the new evangelization.
ZENIT: How is the mission of Vocationcast relevant to the message of this particular conference?
Fitzpatrick: This conference is about communications, for communications directors in dioceses, so I presented my paper and gave the talk on Vocationcast just as an example of a project that can happen very easily. Like I said in the talk: very cheaply, with very few resources, you can put together a great resource and help promote vocations, or the new evangelization, catechesis, or anything you want, showing people that it can be easily done; and with the internet now, people can access it all over the world.
ZENIT: You had spoken in your talk about the culture of vocation. Could you explain this idea a bit further?
Fitzpatrick: I can only really speak from where I'm from in England, but I think if you said "vocation," to somebody, they would automatically think of priesthood, religious life, consecrated life, [maybe] some might think of married life. But we want to try and foster the idea that vocation is for everybody, not just people who want to enter seminary, or a convent, or a monastery. God has called every single one of us to a specific purpose.
A culture of vocation would be a culture where people are thinking about their own vocation, about where God is calling them to be. Vocation goes hand-in-hand with being a Christian, [and is not just as something that's extra if you want to take religion a bit more seriously.] It goes hand-in-hand with being a Christian because, if you're going to be a Christian, then you have to serve God in some particular way.
We're coming up to the new year [of Faith] that the Pope's announced where there's going to be a lot of emphasis on the new evangelization, and teaching people about the faith. We have to teach people that God has called [everyone] to do something special in life, and not just certain people.
ZENIT: You've had a variety of guests on your podcast speaking about vocations, not only priests and religious, but lay people as well. How do you decide who to interview for your program?
Fitzpatrick: We tend to have themes for each episode. For example, we had a theme on media, so we interviewed Catholics who are involved in the media. We had an episode a few months ago on politicians, so we interviewed politicians and Lords in the House of Lords in England, and Members of Parliament. The criteria is down to the theme. We might have a bit of an imbalance with priests, but I think that is because priests are mainly the ones out there trying to spread the message, so they're easily accessible. And we've been looking to get some people from all of the world.
ZENIT: Could you speak about the format that you have chosen for each episode?
Fitzpatrick: We try to have a main interview with someone who's prominent, or somebody who has a good story. We do that because people are familiar with that kind of format from main-stream media. And it gives us, myself and Frankie, a chance to interact with somebody, so we can ask them questions that we think our listeners might want to know.
We also have vocation stories and testimonies, and we think this is important because stories inspire; like we've heard at the Congress these last few days, it's stories that inspire and not just facts. I think that's true, that people's lives inspire other people. I don't think I know anyone who's a Christian because someone told them a bunch of facts; they are Christian because other people have inspired them. That's why we have testimonies.
We also have a time of prayer, of reflection, which will be some music and some prayer, and some words of inspiration. That's just [to make it clear] that this is not just a radio episode: this is also prayer, this is also something we should be praying through.
ZENIT: How has this podcast helped you in your own journey of discernment?
Fiztpatrick: Really so much, because we're putting ourselves in a position where we're speaking to some amazing people because we're going out looking for them. The testimonies that we're getting from people we’re listening to first hand, and some of them are just amazing: they blow you away, just hearing how God has worked in people's lives.
Also, the main interviews we try to get, prominent speakers, are people who are known for communication. For example, Fr. Cantalamessa, Fr. Robert Barron from America. We get a chance to sit down with these people and to talk to them about faith, and what other type of role would you get that opportunity to talk to some amazing people about the faith? When we ask them questions, therefore, we're not just asking questions that we think our audience might like to hear, but we're also asking questions that we’d like to hear the answers to as well. In that way, it has really helped us with our own vocations.

Real Encounters

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to Find God (in Six Not-So-Easy Steps)

The following comes from the NCR:

I regularly get emails from people who say that they've been seeking God, but haven't found him. They often express disappointment and frustration at the fact that once-promising spiritual journeys have now led to a dead end, and they want to know: "Is there anything else I can do?"

I'm not a spiritual director or a theologian, but I do have plenty of experience with spiritual dry spells and difficulties in the process of conversion, and I've spent a lot of time talking with wise people about common struggles in this department. While it's important to understand that any kind of powerful experiences of God are a gift, that there’s not some magic formula we can follow that will guarantee that we’ll receive a flood of consolation, there are certain things we can do to make more room in our hearts for God’s presence.

1. Seek humility first
If you feel stuck in your spiritual search, set aside the search for God per se and seek humility instead. The importance of this step cannot be overstated. Pride is one of the most effective ways to block God out of our lives. Throw all your efforts into becoming a more humble person. For inspiration, read up on people throughout history who were known for their humility. If you’re not exactly sure what true humility involves, here's a great article that explains that humility is not the same thing as low self esteem or thinking that you’re bad.

2. Go on a cynicism fast
Commit to a period of time during which you’ll fast from all sources of cynicism: Give up watching TV shows and reading websites that make jokes at other people’s expense (even if it’s about celebrities or politicians); try to change the subject or say something positive if such conversations come up in person; avoid making cynical jokes or comments yourself. You might be surprised at how much this fast will transform your heart.

3. Read the great Christian authors
While a transformation of heart, a turning of the soul toward God, is the most critical step in opening ourselves to God, it’s also important to realize that seeking God does not mean setting aside logic and reason; quite the contrary is true. Asking tough questions and hearing what the great Christian thinkers have said on the matter will only bring you closer to God. Some authors I recommend are C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo.

4. Do the experiment
I believe that God’s existence can be “proven” in a certain sense, as long as you understand that God is Love, and what you’re trying to prove is Love itself. This is not something you can know about from analyzing data or reading books alone. To get the “proof” that you seek, you must enter the laboratory of your heart, and actually conduct the experiment: live, for a while, as if God did exist. Pray. Follow the Ten Commandments. Show love and kindness to everyone, even your enemies. Read the Bible. Give God the thanks and honor and respect you would show him if he did exist. As Pascal suggested, just try it for a while, and see what happens.

5. Pray frequently
This is by far the most important step. I know, you feel like you’re talking to yourself. You don’t see the point of it. I was there for a long, long time. But there is no substitution for humbly, regularly turning toward God with an open mind and an open heart. If you’re stuck for words, consider reciting something like the Prayer of St. Francis, or just pray, “God, I want to find you. Show me how. I’m listening.”

6. Be willing to lose it all
When I originally posted a version of this list at my personal blog a few years ago, it stopped at number five. Then I got an email from a wise reader, who suggested that I missed a sixth step. He wrote:
There was one thing that was essential to my reversion that you do not mention. One must be willing to give up everything for God…I believe that the biggest problem people have with finding God is that they are not willing to give up earthly desires to find Him. People want the best of both worlds. They want a relationship with God and be able to hang on to worldly desires. I think this is all to often overlooked.
One of the things that’s different about seeking the truth about God as opposed to, say, seeking the truth about a mathematical equation, is that the truth about God is personal and transformative. If you’re seeking the truth about mass-energy equivalence and you discover that e=mc², it doesn’t mean anything for you personally. You don’t need to live your life any differently just because you now know that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. But not so with God. Because God is the source of all that is good, to know what God is is to know what Good is. And if you're not open to a new understanding of what is Good, then you're not really open to God.
. . .
The bottom line is this: seek, and you shall find. If you understand what it really means to seek (using both your mind and your heart); and if you understand that the finding part doesn’t necessarily happen immediately, that you’re beginning the long process of building a relationship that will continue to grow and change for the rest of your life, you will find God.