Posted by: frroberts | August 30, 2016

Recommended Books for Catholic Parents

Clayton, The Little Oratory.

Montfort, True Devotion to Mary.

Barbeau, Father of the Family.

Lovasik, Catholic Family Handbook.

Van Zeller, Holiness for Housewives.

Newland, How to Raise Good Catholic Children.

Newland, We and our Children.

Pierlot, A Mother’s Rule of Life.

Bennett, The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse.

Bennett, The Temperament God Gave Your Kids.

Popcak, When Divorce is not an Option.

Popcak, Parenting with Grace.

Meeker, Boys Should be Boys.

Meeker, Strong Mothers, Strong Sons.

Meeker, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters.

Posted by: frroberts | August 30, 2016

Spiritual thought for the day

Inspired by Monsignor Pope:

Many Catholics expect more from tylenol than they expect from Jesus in the Eucharist. They take tylenol and expect that something inside them will change.  But when they receive Holy Communion, it does not occur to them to hope that God  change anything about their lives.

Posted by: frroberts | August 30, 2016

Feeling a Little Hot?

One of the most striking qualities of the souls of the damned in the great Italian poet Dante’s Inferno is that, while they can see the past and future with great clarity, they are incapable of seeing the present.   Those in Hell suffer torment because they cannot rest in the present moment.   The Tuscan bard’s poetic vision on this point is pregnant with spiritual meaning for those who make their pilgrim way through this vale of tears in the twenty-first century.  Perhaps one of the reasons that Christianity in the West is so anemic is due the particularly post-modern difficultly Christians currently face in quieting their minds and resting in the present moment.

In western monotheism, God reveals Himself as Presence.  On Sinai, the Lord God tells Moses His mysterious name, “I AM WHO I AM.”  The Bible’s description of God’s revelation to Elijah in a “still small voice” translates the theophany to Moses using different language, but the point is practically identical.   It is impossible to experience the Presence any way but in the present moment.

The fragmentation that is the almost universal experience of post-modern life makes it very difficult to experience communion with God.  Noise saturates almost every moment of the day.  Smart phones, laptop computers, car radios and televisions have made silent stillness, the natural human habitat, into an exotic locale.  Those who seek to be prayerful people while living in the land of a thousand distractions must labor mightily just to slow things down long enough to become present to themselves, which adds difficulties to experiencing actual union with God in prayer.  Obsessive thinking has always been a challenge for Christian prayer.   It is even more of a stumbling block today because of the veritable torrent of information that bombards a passenger on the information superhighway.

Traditionally, Christians practice Lenten disciplines to re-order what is disordered in their lives.  Almsgiving and restricting the amount of food that one eats seek to give freedom from inordinate attachments to food and money, for example.   The end of these exercises is not spiritual athleticism but deeper engagement with God.   In light of contemporary challenges Christians today would do well to examine the extent to which their use of electronic media is closing them off from experiencing the God who they profess to give the eternal rest they one day hope to enjoy.

Posted by: frroberts | August 30, 2016

Inspired by a Russian Classic

A pilgrim traveled for days to make his confession to priest at a monastery known for its holiness and piety.  The pilgrim made his confession.  After several moments of silence, the priest began to offer him counsel:

“You think that you have just made a good confession.  The truth is that rather than confessing the root causes of your sins, you have confessed mere trivialities.”

The priest continued, “Turning my gaze at myself and attentively observing my life, I am convinced through experience of four things:

Firstly, I do not love God.  I think about worldly things with great eagerness, while thoughts of God come with great difficulty.  It is hard for me to pray and when I do I try to find the littlest excuse to cut my time of prayer short.  In useless occupations I pay no attention to time; but when I think about God, an hour seems like a year.

Secondly, I do not love my neighbor.  If I loved my neighbor as myself as the Gospel commands, his misfortune would sadden me and his prosperity would bring me great joy.  On the contrary, I listen with curiosity to accounts of my neighbor’s misfortunes and seem to find satisfaction in them.  Most of the time, I am either completely indifferent to my neighbor or I am jealous of him.

Thirdly, I do not have faith in spiritual realities.  I believe neither in immortality nor in the Gospel.  If I did, then I would be constantly preoccupied with it.   Instead, I am eager to give up studying Scripture promptly in favor of worldly things in which I have greater interest and from which I get more satisfaction.”

“Finally” the priest concluded, “I am full of pride and self love. When I see something good in myself, I wish to display it or brag about it to others.  I am vain about my talents and cannot accept failure.  In a word, I constantly make an idol of myself to whom I give unceasing service.”

Posted by: frroberts | August 30, 2016

Interview with an Exorcist (excerpts)

Original source:

A demon, according to Fr. Thomas, is “an angelic creature who rebelled against the sovereignty of God, and who aligned itself with Lucifer. Demons are fallen angels, and retain their angelic nature even though they’re fallen. They’re aligned with Satan—that’s implied. Scripture, the book of Revelations, tells of a third of the angels rebelling against God. What does that mean numerically? We don’t know.We just know that there was this rebellion in heaven and that Lucifer and some of his company were expelled. But they are angels who have fallen out of grace with God, and rebelled against God over envy and jealousy related to humanity.”

The stance of the Catholic Church is that demons are fallen angels, and retain their angelic nature. They’re not human ghosts or Nephilim spirits or benign passersby on the cosmic scale. They’re powerful, malevolent entities. This fact of their power brought me to my next question.

“Their purpose,” said Fr. Thomas, “is to take as many of God’s children to eternal damnation with them. There’s a parasitic quality to their existence because they are all slowly dying—they’ve been dying since the moment they rebelled against God, and so they often times are attaching themselves to artificially experience life, but their ultimate goal is to take many of us into eternal damnation. Because of their jealousy and envy about the human race, they see us as competition, even though they’re of a higher nature.

You look at the book of Genesis—Satan is never described as Satan when he manifests himself as the serpent. It’s implied and understood as evil presenting itself in this serpentine way, but the whole point of Lucifer doing that was, again, to wreck God’s relationship with the human race because they were created in the image and likeness of God, even though we’re lower than the angels. There was jealousy on the part of Lucifer because of God’s creation of us.”

Jealousy. These angels lost their places in heaven because of jealousy that stemmed from a black knot of pride. Satan could suffer no other being to be more beloved than himself.

What can we do when such power is turned against us, fueled by ancient anger? This, too, I asked Fr. Thomas.

“Their purpose,” said Fr. Thomas, “is to take as many of God’s children to eternal damnation with them. There’s a parasitic quality to their existence because they are all slowly dying—they’ve been dying since the moment they rebelled against God, and so they often times are attaching themselves to artificially experience life, but their ultimate goal is to take many of us into eternal damnation. Because of their jealousy and envy about the human race, they see us as competition, even though they’re of a higher nature.

You look at the book of Genesis—Satan is never described as Satan when he manifests himself as the serpent. It’s implied and understood as evil presenting itself in this serpentine way, but the whole point of Lucifer doing that was, again, to wreck God’s relationship with the human race because they were created in the image and likeness of God, even though we’re lower than the angels. There was jealousy on the part of Lucifer because of God’s creation of us.”

Jealousy. These angels lost their places in heaven because of jealousy that stemmed from a black knot of pride. Satan could suffer no other being to be more beloved than himself.

“Can we defend ourselves against demonic attack?”

Fr. Thomas described four means of protection, four things that Christians should immerse themselves in.

“A faith life, a prayer life, a moral life, and, for Catholics, a sacramental life.

A prayer life would be the rhythm we establish in the way we commune with God. It could be prayers that are formal, based on the authority of a church, or it could be spontaneous or informal prayer that we simply utter when we commune with God. Prayer is communing with God. Prayer is our conversation with God. It can also be quietly waiting for a response from God.

While faith life is about our relationship with God, the prayer life is about taking that relationship to a deeper level. It’s one thing to believe in the existence of God, but do you have a personal relationship with God? Now, people can come to all kinds of different designs of a personal relationship with God, but it’s basically ‘do I know God,’ and ‘do I spend time with God, in or out of a church?’ You can have a relationship with God outside of a church.

For an atheist or nonbeliever, to have a moral life is huge. Are atheists at higher risk? Possibly. But Satan is always looking for people with no relationships or broken relationships, so one can be a Catholic and be baptized, and still have a demonic problem because of doors that have been opened, or that have been opened for them. Evangelicals and fundamentalists, at least some, would say that baptism guarantees a kind of eternal protection. Well, in my experience, that’s not true.

Baptism does give us a kind of protection, but that doesn’t mean that God does not also permit our free will. Most of the people I see are Catholics—not all, but most—who’ve had all kinds of demonic issues because of bad decisions they’ve made, or sometimes decisions they didn’t have anything to do with that have been made for them.”

Posted by: frroberts | August 29, 2016

Studies question that people are “born that way”

Original source

The goal of my column this week is simple: pointing readers to The New Atlantis, one of the nation’s best journals about science, technology and their intersection with ethics. Earlier this week (August 22), The New Atlantis released an important new overview of nearly 200 peer-reviewed studies from the 1950s to the present on issues of sexuality and gender identity, with findings from the biological, psychological and social sciences.

The overview, entitled “Sexuality and Gender,” can be found on line here. While the body of the overview may be data-dense for the average reader, the report’s executive summary, conclusion and prefatory notes to each section are clear, well-written and accessible to any interested adult. And we should be interested, because sexuality and gender identity are now sharply disputed topics with big implications for the health of individuals and our wider culture.

Fortunately, the authors of the overview are both men of distinguished professional credentials. Lawrence S. Mayer, M.B., M.S., Ph.D., is a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University. Paul R. McHugh, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for 25 years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Some of the key findings include:

The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property — that people are “born that way” — is not supported by scientific evidence. Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex — so that a person might be a “man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.

Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. In fact, a large majority outgrow their gender confusion by the time they’re adults. Thus there is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.

Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. And discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

Given the heavy media coverage of transgender issues over the past year, the overview’s third section, “Gender Identity,” is especially valuable. As the authors note, “there is little evidence that the phenomenon of transgender identity has a biological basis. There is also little evidence that gender identity issues have a high rate of persistence in children.”

Additionally, the “scientific evidence suggests we take a skeptical view toward the claim that sex-reassignment procedures provide the hoped for benefits or resolve the underlying issues that contribute to the elevated health risks among the transgender population.”

The authors are especially wary of medical interventions that are “[p]rescribed and delivered to patients identifying, or identified, as transgender. This is especially troubling when the patients receiving these interventions are children. We read popular reports about plans for medical and surgical interventions for many prepubescent children, some as young as six, and other therapeutic approaches undertaken for children as young as two. We suggest that no one can determine the gender identity of a two-year-old.

“We have reservations about how well scientists understand what it even means for a child to have a developed sense of his or her gender, but notwithstanding that issue, we are deeply alarmed that these therapies, treatments, and surgeries seem disproportionate to the severity of the distress being experienced by these young people, and are at any rate premature, since the majority of children who identify as the gender opposite their biological sex will not continue to do so as adults. Moreover, there is a lack of reliable studies on the long-term effects of these interventions. We strongly urge caution in this regard” (emphases added).

We live in a time when fundamental elements of human identity are routinely challenged and reimagined, with consequences impossible to predict. The New Atlantis does all of us a service by publishing the “Sexuality and Gender” report, and restoring some badly needed clarity, scientific substance and prudence to our discussions.

The goal of my column this week is simple: pointing readers to The New Atlantis, one of the nation’s best journals about science, technology and their intersection with ethics. Earlier this week (August 22), The New Atlantis released an important new overview of nearly 200 peer-reviewed studies from the 1950s to the present on issues of sexuality and gender identity, with findings from the biological, psychological and social sciences.

The overview, entitled “Sexuality and Gender,” can be found on line here. While the body of the overview may be data-dense for the average reader, the report’s executive summary, conclusion and prefatory notes to each section are clear, well-written and accessible to any interested adult. And we should be interested, because sexuality and gender identity are now sharply disputed topics with big implications for the health of individuals and our wider culture.

Fortunately, the authors of the overview are both men of distinguished professional credentials. Lawrence S. Mayer, M.B., M.S., Ph.D., is a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University. Paul R. McHugh, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for 25 years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Some of the key findings include:

The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property — that people are “born that way” — is not supported by scientific evidence. Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex — so that a person might be a “man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.

Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. In fact, a large majority outgrow their gender confusion by the time they’re adults. Thus there is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.

Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. And discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

Given the heavy media coverage of transgender issues over the past year, the overview’s third section, “Gender Identity,” is especially valuable. As the authors note, “there is little evidence that the phenomenon of transgender identity has a biological basis. There is also little evidence that gender identity issues have a high rate of persistence in children.”

Additionally, the “scientific evidence suggests we take a skeptical view toward the claim that sex-reassignment procedures provide the hoped for benefits or resolve the underlying issues that contribute to the elevated health risks among the transgender population.”

The authors are especially wary of medical interventions that are “[p]rescribed and delivered to patients identifying, or identified, as transgender. This is especially troubling when the patients receiving these interventions are children. We read popular reports about plans for medical and surgical interventions for many prepubescent children, some as young as six, and other therapeutic approaches undertaken for children as young as two. We suggest that no one can determine the gender identity of a two-year-old.

“We have reservations about how well scientists understand what it even means for a child to have a developed sense of his or her gender, but notwithstanding that issue, we are deeply alarmed that these therapies, treatments, and surgeries seem disproportionate to the severity of the distress being experienced by these young people, and are at any rate premature, since the majority of children who identify as the gender opposite their biological sex will not continue to do so as adults. Moreover, there is a lack of reliable studies on the long-term effects of these interventions. We strongly urge caution in this regard” (emphases added).

We live in a time when fundamental elements of human identity are routinely challenged and reimagined, with consequences impossible to predict. The New Atlantis does all of us a service by publishing the “Sexuality and Gender” report, and restoring some badly needed clarity, scientific substance and prudence to our discussions.

Posted by: frroberts | August 28, 2016

Sermoncast: Hooks for Sharing the Gospel

Posted by: frroberts | August 24, 2016

10 Tips from priests for better Confessions

From Sr. Theresa

1. Fr. Bryan Brooks, Tulsa, OK

By doing an examination of conscience we are confronted with our sins, but when we go to confession we are confronted with God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.

2. Fr. Sean Donovan, Pawhuska, OK:

After saying about how long it’s been since your last Confession, briefly tell the priest about yourself. (Are you single, dating, remarried, a religious sister?) If we know your situation, it helps us to counsel you.

3. Fr. Gabriel Mosher, OP, Portland, OR:

Sins are bad choices, not unpleasant emotions; so, confess your sins, not your emotional states.

4. Fr. Damian Ference, Wickliffe, Ohio

Sins committed are an offense to God, but sins confessed are a Canticle to God. So, when you confess your sins to a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation, know that you are also singing praise to God for his great mercy.

5. Fr. Matthew Gossett, Steubenville, OH

Frequent confession is edifying for your priest and good for your soul! Sins, especially deep-seated or habitual sins, require patience and persistence. Never give up, no matter how many times you’ve committed the same sin… confession is a sacrament of healing, and just like physical wounds, spiritual wounds can take some time to fully heal.

6. Father James Martin, SJ, New York, NY

Confession is not so much about how bad you are but about how good God is.

7. Fr. Anthony Gerber, Cottleville, Missouri

The priest is like a physician: when you go to the doctor, you tell him what has been hurting you and with more or less detail so that he knows how best to heal you. And remember: he has seen many patients with the same symptoms. Trust him, listen to his counsel, and you’ll get better soon!

8. Fr. Joshua Whitfield, Dallas, TX

God works best with a simple, humble confession of sins. God doesn’t need a novel. He’s read it already. Pride and impenitence sometimes hide beneath our many words. Speaking simply and plainly, naming our sins: it’s like being stripped for the Cross, for the death of our sins and the resurrection of forgiveness.

9. Fr. Jeffrey Mickler, SSP, Youngstown, OH

Just go, no matter what. God’s love is stronger than our sins.

10. Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC, Washington DC

For many people, the biggest improvement in confession would be switching from viewing it as an obligatory, abstract listing of sins to the renewal of a relationship with God.

– See more at: http://aleteia.org/2016/08/23/10-tips-from-priests-for-a-better-confession/#sthash.7VX3zAMp.dpuf

Posted by: frroberts | August 24, 2016

Good short film about the Priesthood

Posted by: frroberts | August 20, 2016

Sermoncast: Enter through the narrow way

Posted by: frroberts | August 18, 2016

What I am reading now

Mohler, Symbolism.

Cole, The Hidden Enemies of the Priesthood.

Angelli, The Excellences of the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri.

Posted by: frroberts | August 18, 2016

Upcoming need: St Mary Boiler

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The insurance inspector indicated that the church boiler needed repairs in order continue to receive coverage.  It dates from 1979.  While we think that repairs should buy us some time, it will need to be replaced in the next 5 years or so:

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Posted by: frroberts | August 18, 2016

Important need: Saint Mary bell tower

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Click here

For around a decade, the Saint Mary bell tower in Union City has not been functional.  In order to be safe, the bell-ringing mechanism needs significant work.  Also note that the wooden louvers are in serious disrepair.  Having taken a close look, they probably need to be replaced.  Total cost: yet to be determined.

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Outside view

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The ringing mechanism

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The bell

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Some louvers

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More louvers

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Another look

 

 

In 1999, Saint Mary Church in Union City was renovated.  Due to fluctuations in humidity, the paint already shows signs of significant deterioration.  Also, some of the stained glass windows are worse for the wear.  A new paint job in the church will probably run in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Take a look at a sampling  (note that the date stamp in the photos is incorrect, they were taken August 12, 2016):

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In initial look at Crack #1

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Crack #1 (it is a lot smaller in the summer when it is more humid)

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Crack #2

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In the sanctuary

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Posted by: frroberts | August 16, 2016

Pressing need: Replacement pews at Saint Joseph

The church building at Saint Joseph in Winchester dates from 1978, which makes it relatively new.  Unfortunately, in the 1990s, the church experienced a flood that caused expensive damage to the pews there.  The janitor tells me that he will soon no longer be able to repair them when they brake, a somewhat frequent occurance.  The cost will be considerable.  Take a look at the damage (note that the datestamp is incorrect, the pictures were taken on August 13, 2016):

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