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Cases for the Catholic Church: Sacraments

Mass before the March for Life

About a month ago, I was talking with someone who remarked, “You know, the hardest part about living a relationship with God is that I can’t talk with or touch Him.” Obviously she’s got a ways to go in terms of developing a prayer life, the best way to communicate with our Lord (and the way that Jesus Himself talked with the Father!), but she makes a great point. Would God really just leave us all alone after Jesus ascended into Heaven?

Jesus promised that He would never leave us, saying “I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Yet despite that, He ascended into Heaven, so how does this make any sense? First off, God is still with us always. Even the Father personally guided the Israelites personally in the Old Testament times, He is always loving us and desiring the best for us. In addition, the Father and Son gave the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2).

But it makes sense that God would want to give us a tangible way of encountering Jesus through the Church. Jesus gave us the sacraments as signs of God’s love, ways to physically encounter God’s grace. Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to administer the sacraments themselves, and they have continued to carry on this ministry throughout the ages in the Church.

For those who aren’t familiar with the sacraments at all, I sometimes think of them as “power ups” in real life because of the grace that they give. Baptism is like an “extra” life that you get where it initiates you into the Church and is necessary for salvation*. Confirmation is a power up to grow in your faith which gives you more gifts from the Holy Spirit. Confession is how you get “full health again” and God forgives you of your sins. Eucharist is pretty much where you win the game and get to have a meal ZIP with the creator of the game. Marriage… um I guess that one’s pretty self explanatory, I hope, haha. Holy Orders gives men special powers to act in Jesus’ place in administering the sacraments, helping everyone else get their power ups. Finally, Anointing of the Sick is a way to instantly win the game despite being about ready to die.

Ok those comparisons were pretty hilarious for me… but they show the importance of taking advantage of all of the help that we can get in our lives! In video games we try to get the most power ups that we can so that we can do the best. In real life, we should do the same! God has given us help.. the Holy Spirit, the Church, the sacraments, the Bible, so that we wouldn’t have to live our faith all alone.

Instead of doing an in-depth scriptural and general apologetics study at the end to defend each of the 7 sacraments, feel free to check out this more thorough web site: Catholic Apologetics

Dr. Peter Kreeft also defends sacraments as a whole here.

Previous posts on the sacraments:
Baptism: Why Wait?
Confession
Mass: The Liturgy of the Eucharist
Why do Catholics have to go to Mass on Sundays?
Too Wise to Get Married?
Why Can Only Men be Catholic Priests?

Other Cases for the Catholic Church:
Authority
Universality

Cases for the Catholic Church: Universality

When Jesus founded the Church, it wasn’t a bunch of separate churches with their own individual doctrines, but a body with different parts throughout the world. We can see this from how Sts. Peter and Paul jumped from church to church around the Mediterranean Sea, founding churches that supported each other and had the same doctrine and rules.

It only makes sense that if Jesus founded one Church, it would be for the whole world. The word “catholic” comes from the Greek word “katholicos” which means universal. With that in mind, the Catholic Church is the Universal Church for all of humanity founded by Jesus. Only a single Church founded on Christ can fulfill the Great Commission, baptizing and making disciples of all nations.

One of the most beautiful things about the Catholic Church is its universality. No other Church can claim to have 1.2 billion members from nearly every single country on earth. I can attend mass pretty much anywhere around the world, and though I might not know the language, it’ll be the same liturgy with the same Eucharistic Lord and the same beliefs. Do you really think that a Christian missionary in Mongolia is going to have success asking people if they want to be Southern Baptist? In Mongolia people have nothing in common with the American South. The Church must be able to adapt to different cultures without changing the doctrine or liturgy, which has been shown by the Catholic Church time and time again, on all 6 continents.

The most recent cardinals around the world appointed by Pope Francis give a beautiful testimony to the universality of the Church:

Pietro Parolin, Italy
Lorenzo Baldisseri, Italy
Gerhard Ludwig Műller, Germany
Beniamino Stella, Italy
Vincent Nichols, Great Britain
Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Nicaragua
Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Canada
Jean-Pierre Kutwa, Ivory Coast
Orani João Tempesta, O.Cist., Brazil
Gualtiero Bassetti, Italy
Mario Aurelio Poli, Argentina
Andrew Yeom Soo jung, Korea
Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, S.D.B., Chile
Philippe Nakellentuba Ouédraogo, Burkina Faso
Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I., Philippines
Chibly Langlois, Haïti

Catholic Population Around the World

Catholic Population Around the World

Other Cases for the Catholic Church:
Authority
Sacraments

Cases for the Catholic Church: Authority

I’m starting a series of posts on why all Christians should be Catholic. I plan on writing a number of different posts covering different angles of this ecumenical issue. This first one is on authority.

Let’s not even take the idea of “church” for granted. Why should we join a Christian church in the first place? How do we decide which Christian church to follow? Don’t you think that Jesus would have helped us out a little bit more with this crucial decision?

Any bible believing Christian would notice that Jesus founded a church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Let’s look deeper into that verse, highlighting significant points:

Point #1: JESUS founded the Church. God founded the Church. Not a human being. It wasn’t “made up” by people who wanted positions of power. Jesus founded the Church so that it would play a role in establishing God’s kingdom on earth, offering salvation to all of humanity and sharing the good news of the Gospel.

Point #2: Clearly, Jesus founds A Church. One Church. Not 30,000, but 1.

Point #3: We can also notice that Jesus founds His Church on a single person, Peter. Peter is the leader of the Apostles, charged by Jesus to “feed my lambs” and “tend my sheep” (John 21:15,16), shepherding/leadership/servant roles to oversee the Church throughout the world. Peter of course went on to become the first Pope, the Bishop of Rome. This line of succession of the Popes continues today as they lead the Church.

Point #4: Jesus guarantees that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. So.. no matter what, the Church will stand. It will not be destroyed. It will not falter in the faith. God’s got this.

So there’s a bunch that we can get out of one verse, and it answered the basics of the our original questions. We can infer from scripture that Jesus founded a Church led by Peter, the first pope.

How about a few more questions on authority:

What gives someone the authority to start their own church? Since Jesus founded one Church, what need is there for any other churches? Jesus founded one Church with no divisions (1 Cor 1:10). He founded the Church as one body with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God (Eph 4:4-5). He founded a Church that is one as the Eucharistic loaf is one (1 Cor 10:17). St. Paul warned against those who create dissensions against what he originally taught the Christians (Romans 16:17) and urged them to be in the same mind and thinking the same thing (Phil 2:2).

What gives someone the authority to determine doctrine? Obviously we can’t just change the doctrine of the Church to be whatever we want it to be, but have to make sure that it squares with God. How is this done? Well, we know that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15). Jesus gave His authority to the Apostles to in Matthew 18:18, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” An example of this was during the first ecumenical council, the council of Jerusalem, in Acts 15:28-29, even highlighting that it is by the Holy Spirit (God!) that the decision was made, which the Church received at its “birthday,” Pentecost. The Church is even shown to represent God in the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11, where St. Peter says “You have lied not to human beings, but to God.” So in sum Jesus gave the Church an authoritative voice in the world representing God, and it can make decisions on doctrine at a council where all Apostles/Bishops are gathered together. (This is very basic, I’m sure I missed some points here.)

What gives someone the authority to interpret the bible? Can anyone do it? If so, how can we explain all of the different interpretations of scripture? Obviously, I’ve been quoting scripture to back up my claims so far. People might argue with my interpretation of scripture. But ultimately I do not interpret scripture myself but learn from how the Church interprets it. We see this in scripture itself in 2 Peter 1:20-21: “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.” This means that only by the Holy Spirit can scriptures be interpreted properly, and the Magesterium (teaching body of bishops) of the Church has helped us with this throughout history.

Other Cases for the Catholic Church:
Universality
Sacraments

You Can Tell the State of a Church By…

Whether the members are inviting new people to join them in encountering Jesus.

That’s huge. This is a very simple and easy point… and yet…

IT’S SO HARD!!!

The point of the Church is not to just keep to itself. The point of the Church is not to just take the babies baptized into it and hold their hand until they are buried. The Church’s goal is to set the WORLD on fire with the love of God. If there are people who haven’t heard of Jesus yet in your city or town, then you have a job to do. The point of the Church is to send the members of the Body of Christ (you and I!) on mission.

The point of us “pewfolk” isn’t to just to sit and stand when we’re supposed to. WE ARE THE CHURCH. If your next door neighbor hasn’t heard the Gospel, who do you think is more to blame: your priest or you? Just because we aren’t from a 3rd world country doesn’t mean that our churches can’t be missionary churches. We have to stop accepting complacency in church. In the business world, boards of directors don’t give high fives to CEOs for breaking even, and let’s be frank: our churches aren’t even breaking even. Just because church is “religion” doesn’t mean that everyone should receive a gold star for showing up. Our faith isn’t something that is “nice,” it is something that SAVES LIVES FOR ETERNITY. So let’s see churches strive for a growth mindset. You know, every once in a while we see mega-churches have success, and I think that that’s because they have pastors whose very careers (and paychecks) depend on being able to gather believers in. They do have a growth mindset and a sense of urgency. Do we see that in Catholic churches? Do bishops and priests have that same urgency? Jesus is the director of the board in a sense, and He expects us to “go and make disciples.” Jesus wants the best for the world, He wants as many souls as possible to encounter Him at Mass.

“When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” – Pope Francis

Bishops, Priests, and Deacons have a high calling. Their job is to take care of the flock, their local church. Their job is to make sure that we’re receiving the sacraments (ok not the deacons) and getting instruction in the faith. In many churches, this is lacking. In these cases I have much more compassion for the “pewfolk,” who probably are not only clueless on what to do, but have difficulty even understanding what they believe. In these cases, we need better leadership and catechesis from Church leadership. Praise God, I think that this is improving slowly but surely.

But once a lay Catholic has a firm understanding of the faith and is practicing it, that’s not grounds for sitting around and calling it a life! If we truly have encountered JESUS CHRIST at mass, in confession, in prayer, in scripture, etc., then there shouldn’t be a BRICK WALL thick enough from stopping us from sharing that encounter with everyone that we know!

Now if only he yelled out, “HAVE YOU HEARD OF JESUS?!”

As a leader in the Church, you can see whether you’re doing your job well if you see the laity in your parish taking initiative themselves in sharing the Gospel with others and bringing them along to mass, parish events, and getting them involved. If you see that, then you know that you are successfully sharing Jesus with your parish.

As a layperson, if you have encountered Jesus and have decided to live for Him, then it’s time to take the next steps to fulfill the great commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

Who are the people closest to you in your life? Family, friends, coworkers, fellow students, etc.? Have you shared your faith with them? Have you asked them about their own faith journey? Being vulnerable and kind with them will encourage them to open up with you themselves. The goal isn’t instant conversion, but some sort of growth in understanding Jesus and the message of Christianity. When you think the time is right, then make an invitation. Invite them to mass or some other parish event, depending on where you think they would be comfortable first. Keep making friendly invitations even if they decline, sometimes it takes years for people to try out faith. Don’t pester them, of course. You have to use your own judgement. If you aren’t completely sure how to share the Gospel I’ve got a handy overview for you.

So do you see new people showing up at your church? Go for it and invite new people yourselves! Jesus loves you, but He also loves everyone else who isn’t attending and encountering God!

Pope Francis Favela WYD

“I want the Church to go out into the streets, I want us to defend ourselves against all worldliness, opposition to progress, from that which is comfortable, from that which is clericalism, from all that which means being closed up in ourselves. Parishes, schools, institutions are made in order to come out … if they do not do this, they become a non-governmental organisation, and the Church must not be an NGO” – Pope Francis, WYD 2013

Suffering

In many modern day philosophies, suffering is the ultimate evil, and freedom to do whatever you want is the ultimate good.

We are always hearing people give advice like “just do what makes you happy,” or people saying “it’s my life, I’ll live it how I want.”

But how does this selfish, me-first, mindset play out in reality?

  • The hook up culture alienates men and women, turning them more into goods or services to be desired and used than human beings.
  • Men have zero faithfulness to women so that if they ever get pregnant, they just get out of the picture.
  • Why raise your child in poverty when you could abort and get rid of “the problem”?
  • Many marriages are only measured in months, because they didn’t “sign up” for the hard times, too.
  • If grandma/grandpa is really sick and probably going to die, it’s much less painful (and cheaper) to euthanize instead of paying to have them lay on a hospital bed for another year.
  • If little Bobby in the hospital has an illness and can’t be cured, doctors can euthanize him, even as a child.
  • Hard pornography is available everywhere as is prostitution, without anyone ever thinking about whether the women actually want to be doing what they are doing and sticking up for them.

When it comes down to it, it seems like our culture has no balls. Is anyone willing to stick up for what they believe in anymore? I mean really. We consistently take the easiest way out for EVERYTHING. If we ever have the option to make something in the law less burdensome for us morally, it’s bound to pass through. All in the name of “freedom” or “liberty” or “progress” or “happiness” or “painlessness.” Is this a strong culture? Is this the type of society that we should be proud to be from? Does this bring out the best in humanity, or does it lead individuals down a spiral of mediocrity and selfishness?

This is yet another reason why I love the Catholic Church so much. Is anyone else protesting the moral evils of our time as much as the Church? Has anyone else even had the balls to speak up against popular culture?

When it comes down to it, the idea of avoiding suffering at all costs isn’t even possible. Life doesn’t give us that “option” to control. Suffering is a part of life, and you better find a life philosophy that makes some sense out of it, or even gives you hope through it. We never know if we’ll take another breath, or what’s around the next bend in life.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been in agony. I got injured playing basketball, and my leg ended up swelling up from hematoma. Can’t walk. Can’t sleep. Constant pain. Sounds fun right?

It didn’t destroy me, though. As a human person, suffering is a way of life, and my Catholic Christian religion takes this into account. At every church that I ever go to, right there in the middle behind the altar is a crucifix, like this:

crucifix

Seeing a crucifix reminds me of how God doesn’t just love me, but He loves me enough to be tortured and crucified for me. When I am in agony, I know that He is in agony with me too.

Jesus even desires that I offer up my sufferings for Him and for others. It is a great way to sanctify the difficulties of life.

As a Christian, I understand that life isn’t perfect, but at the end of time all things will be made right. I have heaven and the resurrection to look forward to (hopefully, pray for me!), so I really have nothing to lose in this life as long as I’m all in for Jesus.

I’ve found some joy in my sufferings in being able to offer it up for my family and friends, the students that I work with, the mission trip that I was going to go on, etc. It has also revealed how much love my friends have in helping me out by making me food, getting me water, helping me get around, and more. By serving me, they are serving Jesus in a sense through me. Remember the passage, in Matthew 25:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” – Jesus

Those selfish philosophies? They have no way to explain how to deal with pain and struggle in life. “Just do what you want” doesn’t work when you’re in agony. You can’t will yourself to stop hurting. Instead, we have to toughen up and move on. Those philosophies also especially fall short when someone else is in need. As a Catholic Christian, I am called to serve those in need and love all. Just because a person or relationship isn’t convenient doesn’t mean that I should just drop them. We are faithful and loving within the bounds of the relationship.

I think I rambled a bit too much with this one. I’ll clarify my points to try and salvage it:

  1. Philosophies that do not incorporate suffering and pain are insufficient
  2. Doing whatever gives you pleasure in life is selfish, our culture needs to put more value on selfless love
  3. There actually is hope and purpose in suffering especially for Christians because of our faith
  4. God bless you, hope you’re having a great day :)

The Moment it all Changed

I look up, my heart beating fast. I just couldn’t bring myself to read anymore right now, I had too much on my mind. Making the most of each breath and appreciating every moment, it became obvious that I couldn’t live the same way anymore. God had spoken to my heart and it had finally clicked. I responded in prayer.

“Lord, even though I’m scared of what this means, I’m yours.”

As I said in my testimony, God rapidly began to work in my life after I got confirmed. The last two years of high school for me pretty much turned how I lived upside down. Shy to downright boisterous. Alone to “popular.” Trying to not get bullied to befriending all the bullied people. Afraid to speak up for what I believed in to going out of my way to share what I’ve experienced. Afraid of new things to going out of my way to bring people together. Worried about what the “cool” kids thought of me to worried about what the “unpopular” kids thought of themselves and encouraging them through friendship.

I’d always believed in God. But it was more of the existence of God, rather than a personal God who cared about me. Who desired that I live with Him. Being relatively out of touch with what goes on inside my head (extrovert problems?), it took a long time for Him to break through to me. In addition, since most other people didn’t seem to care about me much, why would God, the creator of everything, care about me?

After getting involved in my first “youth group” ever in my senior year of high school, an inspiring talk by one of my friends opened my eyes to an idea I had shelved for a long time: reading the bible. I actually was praying at least before bed every day for years by then, but often it felt like a monologue. Seeing every single one of those prayers answered helped. But a critical way of deepening my relationship with God was allowing Him to speak to me through scripture. Nowadays I’d call this the Catholic practice of Leccio Divina, but it’s kind of amazing how I ended up doing this without any instruction whatsoever. It didn’t come easy, though. I began with Genesis and read a couple hundred pages of the Old Testament before getting pretty bored. By this time it was the summer between high school and college, and I decided to skip ahead to the “good stuff,” the New Testament, starting with Matthew.

Look, as a Catholic I heard a Gospel reading every Sunday at mass, and between CCD and homilies, I didn’t learn many new things by reading the Gospels. What really impacted me was reading about the life of Jesus as a story every night for a couple of months straight that summer. I began to think of Jesus not as a historical figure, but as a man that I could resonate with. Just as Harry Potter came alive to me through reading the books, Jesus became more alive than ever to me through reading the Gospels.

My brother and I in Ephraim, July 2009.

My brother and I in Ephraim, July 2009.

By the end of the summer, I was through Matthew, Mark, and on to Luke. My family was up in Ephraim, Wisconsin on a little vacation at the end of July. Every night I got in my scripture and prayer, after everyone had gone to bed in our cabin.

God had worked in my heart so much by this time. I had read pretty much the same story of Jesus back to back to back in Matthew, Mark, and now in Luke. Until that night, it all still felt somewhat academic.

I was reading my chapter for the night, and suddenly I was overwhelmed. It all had become real to me finally. Jesus had many of the same struggles as I had. He desired that everyone came to know of God’s love for them, and that they would honor God as He deserves. Jesus didn’t live a “safe” life, He lived a life of difficulty and reckless abandon for God. Despite all of the failings of His disciples, the threats against Him from the Pharisees, and the general misunderstandings of the people of Israel, He still persevered on with His mission. He followed through, showing God’s love for us in the most tangible way by dying for us.

It all registered for me at that moment, and I knew that I couldn’t live the same way again. I needed to put God first, like Jesus. That is the only way to true life for myself, and for all of my family and friends. Everything else passes away, but our relationship with God lasts forever.

I knew that I might have to make radical decisions in order to live for God. That scared the heck out of me. But in my head, it made sense. If God died for me, the least that I could do is die for Him. Hopefully I won’t have to actually die like a martyr, but in everyday decisions I had so many opportunities to put God first. I tried to stop complaining, to stop sinning, to love everyone- even my enemies, to serve those in need, to encourage the downcast, to share my faith out of love, to appreciate life and live joyfully, to always make time for prayer, to worship God especially at mass and adoration.

I’m not a finished product now. But this was the moment when I stepped out of the boat with both feet. Please pray for me as I continue to try to follow Jesus, God bless you in your journey as well!

14 Reasons Why You Should Become a FOCUS Missionary in 2014

focus

As some of the last interview weekends of the year are coming up, here are 14 reasons why you should join me in becoming a FOCUS missionary this year!

1. There is a desperate need. It’s a safe bet that most of your fellow students have not heard the Gospel. They do not understand who Jesus is and what Christianity is all about. Their best hope is other young people like you, their peers, to witness to the faith and share Jesus with them.

2. It is our calling as Christians to share the Gospel. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” – Matthew 28:19. “Through Baptism, each of us becomes missionary disciples, called to bring the Gospel to the world. Each of the baptized, whatever their role in the Church or the educational level of their faith, is an active agent of evangelization.” – Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

3. You will grow in virtue and holiness. You will be surrounded by support with your teammates, student leaders, the regional support teams, the chaplain, etc. Your daily holy hour and mass will challenge you to continue to strive closer to Jesus. It’s a great way to train yourself to become a saint!

4. You receive unparalleled formation for life. Leadership skills, people skills, managing small groups, support from teammates, and more. New Staff Training in the summer helps to train us with the very best resources that the Church has to offer for new evangelists. Oh and by the way, going to the March for Life doesn’t require you to “ask off,” you can do it as a part of your job!

5. You meet and work with awesome people. Your “co-workers” aren’t just there because they need to pay the bills. Your teammates are young zealous world changers willing to take risks to help make differences in others lives. In addition, you get to meet so many interesting students from all walks of life, and get introduced to other exciting people in the Church making a difference through overlapping ministries (like all the awesome priests, religious, and campus ministers!).

6. You make a lasting eternal impact on the lives of students. Even one soul that comes to know Jesus is priceless. These students will have changed lives in college, but it doesn’t stop there! They’ll also be influencing others for the rest of their lives! You just get to knock over the first few dominoes (by God’s grace!) and sit back as God does His thing. :)

7. It’s a blast! Come on, does it really sound like a boring job? Hanging out at college for a few extra years… No classes… No homework… No exams… All mission. Oh, and have you heard of these things called FOCUS Conferences?

SLS 14

Leaf Fight

Halloween

Fall Retreat

8. Be at the forefront of the New Evangelization, help to reclaim the culture for Jesus! John Paul II approved.

John Paul II hiking

9. Help to save people’s souls. I guess this should be #1, but this list isn’t in order anyways haha.

10. Acquire skills for lifelong mission. We will continue to live as missionary disciples even after being FOCUS missionaries in our homes, parishes, workplaces, etc. By being a missionary for a few years, we will acquire the skills that we need to make the biggest difference afterwards.

11. 2 years fly by and doesn’t set you back in your career. Really. Fundraising will actually help you out with networking a little, too. At my summer internship before senior year, the CEO (of a very large company) was a high school gym teacher for the first 8 years. Nuff said.

12. You will learn to appreciate your gifts and resources more. Fundraising is awesome! It’s taught me to appreciate other people’s generosity so much more. It’s also been a great way to teach me to tithe myself. This experience has taught me to be more generous to others and fiscally responsible in general.

13. You could meet your future spouse. There have been a pretty good amount of couples that met through FOCUS. One couple went to the Vatican and had their marriage blessed by Pope Francis this fall, actually.

14. It will help you to discern your vocation. The first year dating fast (if it applies) isn’t a big deal at all.. and I’m a first year. Clear your mind from this over-sexualized culture and let God speak to you in prayer. You will be most happy in the vocation that God has planned for you.

This was the post that I wrote a year ago when I made the decision, and the following is a video I just made today where I explained the basics:

Apply here: focus.org/apply

Upcoming Interview Weekends:
Chicago, Feb 7-9
Philadelphia, Feb 14-16
OKC, Feb 28-March 2
Denver March 7-9

Being Faithful Isn’t Manly?

Football Praying

Whether on the college campus or not, in America I’ve noticed that the public doesn’t seem to think that having faith is manly. People seem to think that people who pray are a bunch of sissies who have problems controlling their feelings. A “real man” takes care of things himself and leaves nothing to chance, they claim.

Obviously I’d beg to differ. As a man myself, I have found that my faith has taught me how to grow as a man and be the best one that I can be.

First off, a man must be rational. This is the first task of any man, to wrestle with and find the truth so that they can live the best life possible. What sort of man lives his life according to some sort of fairy tale searching for the fountain of youth or Atlantis? A man ought to live for the truth, not some sort of fake reality- someone who lives in their own little world isn’t a man… the proper description would be insane. There is a God and an eternal reality for us all, and this can be known through philosophy and reason. After wrestling with this and coming to know the truth, the best way to live as a man is to keep that in mind at all times so that we can learn to be responsible protectors of creation and providers for those in need. And who is a better example of this than Jesus, who taught us that the things of God are worth so much more than the things of the world. Just take a look at the beatitudes in Matthew 5!

A man is responsible, he doesn’t just let his life slip away due to alcohol, drugs, pornography, or any other addictions. A man lives with clear convictions and holds to them even if that means that he might have to suffer for them. A man is accountable for his actions and strives to be the best son, father, coworker, citizen, teammate, etc. everyday. Who is a better example of this than Jesus, who followed God with all that He did so that He could teach humanity how we can live best.

A man is humble and a team player. Nobody wants to be on the same team as a ball-hog or work with a coworker who never communicates with the rest of the team. People who are angry and unreasonable ruin relationships and leave a trail of inefficiency behind them. They are a cancer to whatever group they are a part of. Through faith, we learn that we need to encourage others at all times and realize that our talents are merely gifts from God to be used for the benefit of all of humanity instead of being used for selfish gain. Jesus taught us this by never showing off His power any more than He needed to, but simply trusting in God that eventually the disciples would learn to be faithful and follow Him with their whole hearts, without forcing them to.

A man protects those entrusted to him, especially his family, friends, and nation. A man doesn’t just lie down and let evil happen to them, but sacrifices even to the point of death for those under his care. With a secular philosophy, there isn’t much reason to do this at all. In that case, it’s a dog eat dog world where the poor get poorer and those defenseless get taken advantage of without men who stick up for those in need. But we all know that a real man never wimps out of protecting others. Jesus is a fantastic example of this because He gave up His very life freely so that we all could be saved from eternal damnation. God didn’t just sit back and say, hey, I’ll let someone else do the work.. maybe John the Baptist or Elijah! No! God Himself came down as Jesus, walking the walk instead of just talking the talk.

A man provides for his family and those in need. What do you call the boss who lives extravagantly while his employees are barely making minimum wage? What do you call the father who fathers a child but leaves the mother to raise him or her all alone? What do you call the dad who finds time to drink with his friends every night while his children never get to see him? These are obviously selfish and horrible examples, but by living with faith, we can learn to put others first before ourselves instead of forgetting that essential way of life. Jesus gave us a great witness to that when He bent down to wash His disciples’ feet, showing them that the last will be first, and the first will be last.

A man honors his God. As a father, you expect your children to respect, obey, and have a relationship with you. If they don’t, it is very disrespectful. In a similar way, we need to apply this to our relationship with God. God is our Father. Do we respect Him in how we act and talk about Him? Do we speak with Him? Do we love Him? Just a like a good father, God loves us unconditionally and desires to have this relationship with us. Who is better to consul and comfort us than our loving Father?

What I really seem to have focused on is how having faith helps us to be the best men that we can be. It seems to me that without faith, there is no need for virtue. And without virtue, there is no manliness. Come to know Jesus and live for Him, and I promise you that He will constantly challenge you to become a greater man than you were before.

This is an awesome clip I wanted to throw in here with some of the Seattle Seahawks players- who will be playing for the Super Bowl next weekend- talking about their faith.

Be honest, are you happy with how your life has turned out so far?

I saw this post on Reddit a few months ago and I thought it was so interesting to read the posts, so I wrote it down to blog about at some point. You can check out the responses from Reddit here.

Yea! Life is awesome!!!

Honestly… I often think of my life as a movie. Not a super exciting action movie,  or even a movie where anything extremely dramatic happens like people dying, or having to run to save my life from zombies, or even from war. It’s a very regular movie about a white kid from the suburbs. :-D But what makes life exciting is the individual decisions I’ve had to make, the things that I’ve got to experience, the friendships and family time. I definitely see a tale of good and evil (though perhaps less pronounced), just like any good old movie.

Just like any good movie, I have so much purpose in my life! A lot of that comes from recognizing the differences between good and evil and trying to always be on the good side so that I can make this world a better place. This purpose and meaning gets me through the hard times. Despite being a super happy excited guy who gets along with everyone (haha but I’m not afraid to talk and even disagree with regards to religion and politics ;-) ), I have had some rough times in my life as well, just like everyone else. I wasn’t born the person that I am and I sure as heck won’t die who I am right now either. But the joy of it all is that opportunity to continue to grow to become who I (and everyone else!) was meant to be, a saint!

There were people out there who helped me when I needed it the most, and I want to be that person for others as well. Often what makes me the happiest isn’t when I’m trying to help myself but when I’m trying to help others. Seeing changes in other’s lives is absolutely priceless and as a Catholic missionary I get to see that regularly! I just praise God because it was really His work not me and I marvel at how not only are they are living in relationship with Jesus now, but this will lead to a lifetime of them doing the same for others! It’s one of the most fulfilling things ever!

Even in the hardest times, thanks to those great friends and role models that I’ve had and the working of God in my life, I’ve come to know that God has my back at all times, even when I’m in the darkest moments. I know that even if this phase of life doesn’t go so hot, I can hope in life with Him forever. That keeps me grounded. I think we see people all of the time have a couple of unlucky breaks, and then all of a sudden their life spirals out of control. But with faith in Jesus, even the most unfortunate things in the world could happen to me, and I still have hope. Despite everything that can happen to me in this life, if I live it to the best of my ability loving God and others, everything will be okay.

I’m not living for many of the things that people think of when they think of being successful: being famous, powerful, rich, hot, whatever. So that kind of puts my “happiness” more dependent on my relationships and quality of life. Honestly I know that I’m probably not strong enough to be happy without having someplace to live, some friends, and to be liked by most people. But my happiness shouldn’t even depend on that. It’s more realistic this way anyways: what our culture feeds us is just lies to make us buy more stuff or support a cause that they want us to. These things don’t fulfill us the same way as authentic love does. Jesus’ beatitudes reveal that even the poorest of the poor will have joy in the Kingdom of God, and that’s what ultimately lasts.

“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.” – Jesus in Matthew 5:3-10

I’ve been blessed, but I sure as heck have made mistakes, too! Mistakes humble me and make me remember that I’m not perfect or a “finished product.” In these mistakes I have hope in Jesus’ forgiveness and I especially love being able to go to confession so that I can be forgiven as Jesus instituted that sacrament to do. Talk about a weight off of my shoulders.. and knowing of how easily God forgives us encourages me to forgive others too, the people who have wronged me in the past. The way to peace in the world starts with forgiveness.

In sum: The gift of life has been a joy and I’m so thankful. I feel so blessed. I’m sad that many others on that Reddit thread don’t enjoy life as much, but hopefully one day they’ll find Jesus, the source of eternal joy.

“I keep the Lord always before me; with the Lord at my right, I shall never be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure, for you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your servant see the pit. You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at  your right hand forever.” – Psalm 16:8-11

If I were the Webmaster of Vatican.Va

Pope Francis iPad

If I type in “Mormon” into Google, once I scroll past the Wikipedia pages I come across the Mormon portal online, complete with large colorful pictures, an easy to navigate design, simple links to all of the basic issues that anyone would be wondering about. All on the front page.

In comparison, Vatican.Va obviously hasn’t heard that the drop down menu was invented at least 30 years ago. All of the links (that all have almost the same exact font and color despite being on all different parts of the page) are spread out across the page so as to take up as much space as possible, and 90% of them are irrelevant (I’m a missionary and I still can’t tell the difference between an Apostolic Constitution, Apostolic Exortation, and Apostolic Letter). There are Latin words on the page that practically nobody in the world can translate. Francis is the word that jumps out right away, and the words Catholic, Christian, and Jesus are nowhere to be found. Oh yea, and the background reminds me of ugly yellow crinkled paper, kind of like the 10 commandments or all those laws and rules that the Church seems to be about.. The webpage screams “clerical,” it reads more like an index than a front cover.

If I had any questions, the search button looks helpful, but after clicking it, it brings up a separate Google search. I asked a typical question a seeker might have, “who is God?”, which led to thousands of results, mostly encyclicals and really academic looking papers. Not exactly what I’m looking for… just a couple sentences would do.

If I were a seeker and interested in the Catholic Church, I’d be turned off. Is this a website about Pope Francis or the main page of the Catholic Church? Where can I learn about what the Church teaches? Why should I be Catholic? Who is Jesus? What is the meaning of life? What is the Gospel?

The Vatican is looking to improve their methods of communication, and I’m really excited about it. As a 22 year old Catholic, I’m easily frustrated by the Church’s progress on the technology and media front. The secular media tells everyone the stories in an often anti-Christian bend (especially anti-Catholic – as evidence I can’t even count how many times major news outlets have misinterpreted Pope Francis with major news headlines, and he’s only been pope for 9 months), and the Church never gets its point across to anyone other than weekly mass goers who read what the Pope and bishops (and the occasional priest) say about controversial issues and hot topics.

The Catholic Church can’t just sit back and wait for people to come to it anymore. This should be obvious for practicing Catholics, but sometimes we need that reminder. The Church is for everyone, not just for people who happened to be born to Catholic parents. One of the best ways to do that is to have a simple and welcoming home page online. Nowadays when people don’t know something, they’ll often look it up online before they ask a friend or open up a book. A Google search is second nature for anyone 30 and under.

So what should we do? I’ve got some ideas to help the Vatican website become an active part of the New Evangelization…

Applify. Take notes from other successful marketing campaigns like Apple. The website has to be intuitive, for the people, and in a beautiful manner display the Gospel and Catholic way of life. Apple doesn’t sell music playing devices. They sell iPods: a portal to a life of happiness and excitement with your friends. In the same way, people often think that the Church only offers rules and doctrine. What the Church needs to get across to your average Joe is that the Catholic faith isn’t a set of rules, but a way of life in relationship with God, with Jesus! If companies can sell you THINGS by making you believe that your life will be better with them, shouldn’t the Church be able to market FREE ETERNAL SALVATION and FRIENDSHIP WITH A GOD WHO LOVES YOU even more effectively?

Answer the questions clearly. We need an online version of the Catechism, but the “for dummies” version with pretty pictures and video. Use clips from Fr. Robert Barron‘s Catholicism project and Word On Fire ministry, the quick hit videos by Chris Stefanick and talks by Catholic Lighthouse speakers like Fr. Mike Schmitz. Answer the basic questions like how the Catechism does it: “who are we?”, “who is God?”, “who is Jesus?”, “why Catholic?.” Answer the tough questions and common misconceptions.

The Church is big. That can be a bad thing, but it can also be a beautiful thing. Having different pages for different languages makes sense, and even tailoring it to each language would make a lot of sense – Catholics from different countries and continents have different needs and wants with regard to the Church’s website. Take advantage of the different charisma’s of Catholics around the world to showcase the beauty of the faith, especially in the saints, to people interested in learning more. Share the stories of faith and how it’s inspired people to live their best life like OneBillionStories.

Reach out to people through an active and united social media presence. It’s a great first step that Pope Francis has a personal twitter account (and in different languages!). This was spectacular because now He can get points across directly to the people without being filtered by the media. I’m sure that many people are surprised at how beautifully he puts the faith in his tweets when compared to all the corruption and doctrine that the media portray the Church as. The next steps are for Pope Francis to have his own Facebook  page, and for the Catholic Church itself to have a twitter feed and Facebook page. It’s hard to capture everything about the Church in a single feed, but if one feed can constantly update fans about the Chicago Bulls on Facebook and Twitter, why can’t the Church do a similar thing? On the main webpage, make it easy to see what the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, bishops, leading priests and sisters, and other leading laymen and women are saying on social media.

Make resources available. The best bible online. Church Fathers documents. Ecumenical Council documents. Encyclicals and all that good stuff. Have one giant hub with the documents of our faith. Continue working on putting more of those old books and documents online for the public to see. While you’re at it, make all of these resources available on apps for smart phones, iPads, etc.

Respond to and frame public issues in the light of faith. Take advantage of all the great communicators in the Church and get the Church’s opinion on issues out there! If there was a single hub that provided the best responses of the Church to contemporary issues, then we could really dialogue with the world. Think of all that the Dominican preachers alone could do if given a platform to speak to the entire Church on major issues. Right now, they could have given the best speech in the world, but chances are that nobody heard it outside of the church they were at and the little Dominican/parish website that they are on.

Open the webpage with a welcome video from Pope Francis. Boom baby!