What’s it like?

Yo, Chris, what’s it like being Catholic?

Absolutely fantastic.

Too often we focus on the “you can’t do this, you have to do this” parts of the faith, and that’s what I’m trying to explain here. But let’s take a deep breath and take a look and see how amazing the Catholic faith is. Here’s a quite blunt summary:

God loves us.
Jesus died for us.
God desires that we are with Him in paradise.
God will forgive us of our sins if we come to Him contrite.
We can confess our sins and be forgiven according to His command.
We can receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist every day.
We can adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
God allows us to be in His presence and even to receive Him.
God cares for each and every one of us, enough so He would have died just for one of us.
God instituted this universal Church to unite the entire world.
Catholics on the other side of the world believe the same exact thing.
We are united with the same Jesus in the Eucharist.
We are also united through time in Jesus in the Eucharist.
We are all one body as we are united in Jesus.
Jesus founded our Church.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.
There is always hope in God.
We have the strength for everything through Him who empowers us.
Who can stand against us, if God is with us?
We have the opportunity to serve Christ in everyone that we see.
We were created in the image and likeness of God.
We all have an inherent dignity as human beings, from conception to natural death.
We all have priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles.
We are called to serve all those in need.
We are called to feed the hungry.
We are called to teach the ignorant.
We are the world’s largest charitable organization.
We have educated the world for years and years.
We founded the first colleges.
We started the first hospitals.
All persons ought to be treated with respect and love.
We don’t just coexist with others, we love others, unconditionally.
Even the most hardened sinners have hope in Christ.
Both men and women have unique and important roles to fill.
Your worth is not determined by your “usefulness.”
There is hope even in the greatest sorrow and despair.
We are God’s people, and He is our God.
The Father will leave the 99 sheep in search of the lost one.
The Father forgives not seven times but seventy seven times.
God desires our participation in His plan of salvation.
Jesus gave us Mary as our mother.
The Saints are praying for us all.
The Lord is our joy.
We are happy who take refuge in the God.
The Lord hears when we call out.
The Lord is at our side, His rod and staff give us courage.
Only goodness and love will pursue us all the days of our lives.
We will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

I’m Catholic and I’m proud. May God bless His Church forever and ever.

The Annunciation

Today Catholics celebrate the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel was sent to Mary and with Mary’s yes, she conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Notice how it’s March 26th, 9 months before December 25th (It is usually celebrated on March 25th but that was a Sunday this year). The following is the tale from the Gospel of Luke:

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.”

-Luke 1:26-38

And with that, I have a few quick reflections to share with you:

This, even more so than Christmas, was the actual moment when Jesus came to us. From this day forth, Jesus was growing in the womb of Mary. Think of the greeting between Elizabeth and Mary, where both Jesus and St. John the Baptist were in the wombs of their mothers (Luke 1:39-45).

God could have come to the world in so many different ways, but He chose to come by perhaps the most normal way possible. The only “supernatural” signs were the appearance of the angel Gabriel and Mary conceiving by the Holy Spirit. For anyone other than Mary and Joseph, these things would have went by unnoticed, even though GOD CAME INTO THE WORLD! (It’s really exciting, please excuse the caps.)

Jesus was conceived. He did not even start out as a fully grown baby. No, God reduced Himself not only to a human, but to mere cells in His mother’s womb, the same way that the rest of us begin our lives. God depended on Mary’s body to nourish and protect Him through those 9 months. And if Mary was alive in the United States today, she could have had an abortion and killed Jesus legally. Think about THAT for a second. Jesus could have been aborted if He was born in the USA anytime after 1973. Of course, the Holy Family had their own problems to avoid, notably when King Herod had all newborns around the time of Jesus’ birth killed. Anyways, I think that in and of itself tells us that God is pro-life. He could have been aborted when He was in the womb, so thank the Lord that He wasn’t.

Emmanuel. God is with us.

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
-The Canticle of Mary

Stand Up For Religious Freedom!

Today I attended the Stand Up For Religious Freedom Rally in Chicago. What a fantastic experience! There was a good crowd in Daley Plaza, with a healthy dose of babies, priests, and other smiling faces. I had a lot of fun playing reporter: taking pictures and video and putting everything interesting up on my twitter feed. We were there to protest the HHS Mandate and rally for our right of religious freedom, which the mandate will negate. This really isn’t about abortion, contraception, or anything like that, this is about our fundamental conscience rights and freedom of religion. Listen to what DEMOCRATIC Representative Dan Lipinski said at the rally:

I found it especially funny that the pro life group that showed up had something like a pirate ship that a kid was riding on! Check out my pics below!

What a creative pirate ship!

Religious Freedom, Baby!

The inspiring scene on the Daley Plaza

“Let the church be the church, and the government be the government!”

God’s Will and Our Free Will- How Do the Pieces Fit?

God has plans for each and every one of us. His will for us is that we might be saints in heaven with Him. You probably are familiar with the famous statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” -John 3:16

God’s plan is for us to partake in His divine plan of salvation. God has no needs that we can satisfy or more glory to gain from it, but rather, out of His infinite love, He desires the best for us: eternal life with Him.

Alright, that sounds all fine and dandy, but about our free will? How does that factor into this all? I do not think that many people doubt our free will, but in case you’re still skeptical, think back to the last time you thought something bad, you did something mean, etc. Did God smite you before you did it? Were you unable to do what you wanted to do? No. People can do some pretty cruel things to each other. Look at the situation where someone went up and shot 4 Jewish people in France the other day. God didn’t want that to happen, but God also didn’t interfere with the shooter’s free will in order to save the innocent, even the children. Every year countless children die from hunger around the world and God doesn’t suspend anyone’s free will to fix it. Remember how Jesus said:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life” -John 14:6

He meant it. If we really care about the starving children and all of the evil in the world, He is calling us to make that difference in the world. As partakers in His divine plan, we have to follow His will and PARTAKE in it! Starting to see what I’m getting at? How could we be doing His will if we are not doing our best to have

“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven” -Matthew 6:10

as He said in the Lord’s Prayer? We help carry out God’s will by serving the poor and the needy, by being good friends, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers, by worshiping God and honoring His commandments.

Our free will is an opportunity for us to choose God over ourselves. In the same way you don’t want to marry someone who doesn’t want to be around you, I don’t think that God wants to invite people to His crib (way more pimped out than anything in Hollywood) for eternity if they don’t know how to “do the dishes” and “clean their room,” if you think of commandments the same way that you think of chores.

If we aren’t friends with God during our time on earth, why would He all of a sudden want to be our friend after we die? That’s the gist of it.

But how “engrossing” is God’s plan for us? I think that many people struggle with this sort of concept, and I’ll include myself in that category. Say I do something against God’s will. Does that mean that God’s plans won’t happen because of me? The simple answer is no. God’s plans will happen because God is God! God is all powerful and can do anything that He wants. God absolutely gave us free will so that we can love Him and others. (It requires free will to love, a conscious choice. Hope that makes sense.) That means that we can do things contrary to God’s will, and He will work with us and give us another chance to make it right. Look at salvation history with God’s relationship with Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, etc. They messed up a lot. For example, as Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments, the Israelites, whom God had just rescued from Egypt and taken through the Red Sea, gathered all of their jewelry together to melt down and make a golden calf, like one of the old Egyptian gods, and worshiped it. Even in that instance, God called an audible on the play and adjusted so they could still get the first down. God was not happy but showed mercy on them, and even didn’t destroy them even though they had sworn an oath never to worship another god. God made the Israelites do daily sacrifices for this mistake and changed other particulars too, but He worked with them and showed mercy. I believe that this is how God deals with us when we make mistakes. He adjusts, and often isn’t necessarily pleased, but He is always ready to give us second chances to convert our hearts to Him. Think of the Parable of the Lost Sheep:

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” -Matthew 18:12-14

Fatherhood

In honor of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, it’s a fantastic day for another post on manhood, specifically fatherhood!

So I’d like to start by stating that many of the issues that we like to talk about nowadays are “women’s issues.” But as much as they might be seen as “woman’s issues,” many of these issues are created by the failures of men and fathers.

For example, the problem of abortion is created by a lack of maturity by men. The choice of having sexual relations with a woman is a major choice that you don’t just do for fun. No, a man should recognize that this action naturally could lead to pregnancy, and with that a greater call to self sacrifice for the mother of his child and his child.

The problem of prostitution and pornography is also created by a lack of self control by men. These “industries” hurt both women and men by treating women as objects of pleasure instead of dignified human beings and trapping men in addictions that are very hard to break. This openness that our society has to these industries also makes it hard for men to remember to treat all women with respect and dignity.

The problem of children growing up fatherless is quite obviously failure on the part of men. What a horribly selfish crime it is that a man would help bring a child into the world, in what is perhaps the most intimate act on earth, only to never be a part of raising and caring his child?

Many children may have fathers but they do not spend enough time with them. I found a fantastic study from the US Department of Health and Human Services on the impact of fathers on children here, that I will be referencing for the rest of this post. According to the study, the way that children see their father treat their mother goes a long way in how they learn to treat others themselves. Sons learn from the good example of their fathers to treat women with respect and dignity at all times, and daughters learn from their fathers’ example how they should be treated by men as they grow up. The study even shows how fathers who do not control their anger or treat their wives with respect often father children who are anxious, withdrawn, or anti-social. On the academic side, the study shows that children whose biological fathers are highly involved in their lives have higher IQ scores and get better grades. The study even notes how it is important for children to be raised not just in a household of cohabitating parents but in a household of married parents. The sad truth is that if the parents are not married yet even though they are living together, it is much less likely that they will ever get married. And if they don’t get married, it is much less likely that they will stay together. Men need to man up and commit, for the sake of their wives and children! The last issue that the study addresses is how children with an involved father are more emotionally and socially secure and outgoing, especially as youths. These children are less likely to suffer from depression or get involved with crime and drugs.

All Christians are called to priestly, prophetic, and kingly roles. As men, we are specifically called to provide for our families and those in need, to teach and instruct others, and to lead in what we say and do. We must follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, thinking of others first and ourselves last. It is very important in our modern age, where we see a void of strong and selfless men in society, that we encourage each other and challenge each other to man up and start living for others instead of ourselves. By doing this, we will be addressing many of the current hot topic issues of our society right at the source.

St. Joseph, pray for us, that we may be men of faith, love, and courage, caring for all of the women, children, and needy in our lives!

I’m pro-life. Why aren’t you?

Being pro-life is one of the most important things to me. I consider it to be perhaps the most important issue of our generation, with now the HHS Mandate situation also receiving consideration. This post is to explain why I am pro-life and why it is an important issue of our time.

The most fundamental reason why I am pro-life is because life begins at conception. As an engineer, it continues to amaze me how our modern “rational” society refuses to look at this issue from the scientific standpoint. This is something basic that I’d imagine we all learned in high school or even grade school. So what happens at conception?

“The two cells gradually and gracefully become one. This is the moment of conception, when an individual’s unique set of DNA is created, a human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated.” -In the Womb, National Geographic (2005)

“By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from from the moment of conception.” -Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chairman of the Department of Genetics at the Mayo Clinic

“The exact moment of the beginning of personhood and of the human body is at the moment of conception.” -Dr. McCarthy de Mere, medical doctor and law professor at the University of Tennessee

It’s simpler than you think. If you and I were not conceived, we wouldn’t be here right now. Right? So how did we get here? We were conceived, we grew in the womb, we were born, and we grew up to be who we are. The most important thing that everything hinges on is being conceived.

Did you know:

  • At 25 weeks, 79% of babies survive premature birth
  • At conception, your intelligence and personality is already set in your genetic code
  • Your heart started beating after just 18 days
  • Your hands formed at 3 weeks and your fingers formed at 6 weeks
  • As a fetus, you actually had a stronger sense of pain than you have now, you felt pain longer and more sensitively
  • As children mature, they lose this extra sensitivity for pain that fetuses have

A fantastic site to check out: Just The Facts

So there’s the scientific side of it. Now, if you’re a Christian, I’ve got some bible for you.

“Thou shalt not kill” -Exodus 20:13

Those who commit child sacrifice “he shall surely be put to death” -Leviticus 20:1-5

“What you did for the least of these, you did to me” -Matthew 25:40

Jesus repeatedly taught us to care for the poor, the weak, the defenseless. And who is more poor, weak, and defenseless than a child in the womb nowadays? To think that according to our national law, a fully grown man has more protection than a child in the womb, is sick. I don’t know about you, but that screams selfishness to me.

The right to life is one of the fundamental rights as listed in the Declaration of Independence, and it is appalling that our country would restrict this right. If we do not have the right to exist, what other rights can we assume the government will give us? It’s a scary situation. And now our government is continuing this abuse of our rights by taking away our right of religious freedom.

Abortion has been legal in the United States of America since 1973 even though it kills a fetus, it kills a human person. Over 50 million lives have been lost, and now 1 in 4 pregnancies end in abortion. Abortion disproportionately affects African Americans and Hispanics. If you really care about helping others and supporting those in need, you need to get involved in this struggle to restore our inherant right of life for all the unborn and end this tragedy that has taken many times more lives than the Holocaust. We have a modern day Holocaust of the unborn taking place across the globe that we must stand against to protect the defenseless and those in need. Was it cool to support the Jews during the Holocaust? No. Was the government and the establishment all for the civil rights movement in the 60′s? No. It’s taken time, but we are going to overcome this injustice. The facts don’t lie, Abortion is murder.

More info:
The Catholic Church’s take
The Bible’s take
Mother Teresa’s take
Life Site News
Students for Life

Sin

The concept of sin is essential for Christians and Jews, but often, from what I’ve experienced, many people aren’t completely sure what sin even is. Popular culture makes sin something that people shouldn’t do, based off of what the culture thinks. Sin seems pretty relative according to this definition, and with this in mind, what it really is is quite different.

Sin is rejection of God and His ways. I’m sure that you are aware of the first sin, as it is presented in Genesis, with Adam and Eve choosing to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and bad, even though God forbade them. It seems pretty straightforward there, as they literally chose to do something that God didn’t want them to do.

Sin is the abuse of the freedom that God gave us. Imagine if we did not have free will. Now in that case, how could it be possible for us to sin? Sin always requires a conscious choice. This is so much so that it is possible (emphasis on possible, this is all theoretical) for an ingrained alcoholic to not sin for drunkenness, since they have lost their self control. What would be a sin in that case were all of the choices that alcoholic had made beforehand of becoming drunk.

Unless you are Jesus or Mary the Mother of God, you’re a sinner. You, me, all of us. Well, that stinks doesn’t it? Yea. And God is very clear that of all things, worshiping Him and following His commandments are most important. Check out the first commandment:

“I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.” -Exodus 20:2-6

But despite this whole sin problem, there is always hope. Immediately after the sin in the Garden of Eden, God made an awesome promise for us all, saying to the serpent:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” -Genesis 3:15

Look at that! There’s a promise of Jesus, offspring of Mary (the woman mentioned), who will crush the serpent!

What is the need for Jesus, son of God, to come to be with us? Sin is the answer, Jesus came to atone for our sins, which He did on the cross. Because we turned against God by sinning, God gave us another chance with the salvation promised to us by Jesus. Before Jesus, sin offerings were sacrifices of animals in the Temple in Jerusalem. #weaksauce. But Jesus was our perfect and holy offering for all of humanity in order to give us a chance at salvation again. #score! Jesus forgave the people of their sins, and get this: He also instituted a sacrament to forgive us of our sins even today! #noway!

“Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” -John 20:23

Sin still is a problem, but look at what solutions we have been given for this problem! So what are you waiting for? Get thee to the confessional! #rightnow

Also see:
Confession