Thursday, June 30, 2011

Off-Topic: Gay "Marriage"

Occasionally, I feel the need to provide some practical knowledge on the issues of the day.  As you probably know, the New York Senate "legalized" gay "marriage" a few days ago.  The Catholic world has been abuzz since with all sorts of meaningful tidbits.

The media in America do not appreciate arguments from faith.  In order to engage secular culture, it is often necessary to use reason apart from the revealed truths of the faith.  That's okay.  On all sorts of moral issues, philosophy provides solid answers without reference to religion.

Specifically, let's take a look at natural law.  Natural law theory states that there is an ethical law built into nature, just like there is a physical law in nature.  That natural law means that things operate according to their natures (which is a very ancient, well-established principle of secular philosophy).  Consequently, the nature of anything has an implicit law on how that thing should act.  A rock just kind of sits there because that's what rocks do.  Their nature is solid matter, more dense than air, but inorganic (or at least not alive).  Consequently, they just sit there.  A plant grows and flowers because that's what plants do.

Among the many things that humans do according to their nature is sex.  The entire gay "marriage" debate comes down to sex.  Sex is what marriage exists for (I'm not talking merely about the sexual act as the purpose for marriage - there is more to sex than just that - but the sexual act is the most direct demonstration, so I will use that).  The sexual act does two things:

  1. Unites two persons into one couple, by which union such persons each transcend their "I" to become "we."
  2. From that unity, sex creates more persons.

Marriage exists because it is a social necessity built into human nature.  From the beginning, throughout the world, we humans realized that the unitive and procreative powers of sex were incredibly wonderful or terribly destructive.  Marriage exists as a natural social structure in which a sexual relationship - the sexual act, romance, and all that we find in such relationships - can take place.  The children that form the family stem from the union of two spouses.  Open marriages, divorce, adultery, and other attacks on the unity of husband and wife harm the dignity of each spouse, who have entrusted themselves to one another, and the dignity of their children, who derive their being and identity from that union.  So sex is central to marriage.  This is why it is called the consummation of marriage, because marriage serves sex and sex is a way of living out marriage in its fullest meaning.

In order to see the nature of sex, we have to ask ourselves what it does.  Fortunately, we already answered this.  Sex (1) unites two persons (2) in the procreative act.  No one can deny this.  Sex obviously unites two persons.  They are physically joined.  What they are joined in doing is the procreative act.  They are joining their reproductive organs, the natural purpose of which is procreation.

So here comes the big conclusion: to use the reproductive organs for something other than their natural purpose would be an abuse of those organs.  You can have unity, but if you do not have the procreative act, then what you are really doing is not sex.  Since you are not engaging in sex, you are engaging in an abuse of the natural functions of the reproductive organs and therefore a violation of natural law.

Likewise, if you have procreation without union, you are not really having sex, and are misusing the sexual faculty against the nature of sex.

Examples of common acts which abuse sex via a lack of the procreative aspect: contraception, homosexual activity, masturbation.

Examples of common acts which abuse sex via a lack of the unitive aspect: open marriage, divorce, adultery, bigamy, masturbation, rape.

Some acts lack both aspects.

Common Objections

  1. Scientific studies show that many other animal species regularly engage in homosexual activities.  Therefore, it is natural.  This is a very common objection, but it falls flat on its face.  First, humans have a human nature, and so the natures of other species are really irrelevant.  Second, all this shows is that other species have members with homosexual attraction.  No one is debating whether some humans have homosexual attractions.  We are debating whether those attractions can be followed morally.  This argument assumes that humans should always follow their instincts and desires, which is evidently a very destructive idea.
  2. Scientific studies show that some species can switch their sex between male and female, so gender is really not as rigid as you suggest. Whenever this does happen, notice that it is always so that procreation may occur.  The frog-genome-injected raptors in Jurassic Park didn't switch from male to female in order to have homosexual activities with the other raptors.  They switched in order to serve procreation.  This argument actually shows how uniform nature is in orienting sex toward procreation.  It is only humans who try to keep sex from being procreative.  As for the rigidness of gender, this doesn't apply to our scenario.  It is not possible in human nature to switch from one sex to the other.
  3. Studies show that children are just as well-developed in homes with same-sex parents as they are in traditional homes.  Be careful about "studies" cited in any argument such as this.  What criteria did the researchers use?  Did they base development on a child's self-esteem?  Tolerance?  Physical health?  We all have different values for which we would test if given the chance.  Many of these studies are very subjective and can easily be tilted to one side of the debate or another.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Humble Macho Catholics

The title of this post is weird, maybe even a little confusing.  We tend to think of humble people as meek and macho people as full of bravado.  Work with me here.

When I created this blog, I was hoping to make it a place to express two current goals of mine.

My first goal was to be more submissive to God's will.  I made some small victories on that battlefield.  My prayer life has gotten better, then a little worse, and now I'm trying to make time for prayer rather than find time. It's difficult with toddlers in the house.  I'm noticing all sorts of little areas where I fail every day.  One of the readers of this blog, Sara (you know who you are), went to college with me my sophomore year at UNL.  I remember once passing across the quad and observing the extremely rude and ignorant fundamentalist preachers at our student union.  There they were, acting all Christ-like, shouting and screaming and pointing at all the "sinners" (I quote it because it was their favorite word, not because I deny there were sinners).  I decided to try to set some things straight with one of them.  When I walked up, I noticed him talking to Sara.  He was telling her that he was a believer in Christ, so he didn't commit any sins.  Ever.  Wow!  Then I remember Sara, clear as if it was yesterday, saying, "I sin every day.  I need God's mercy."  She was trying to convince him that being Christian was a struggle, an ongoing battle.  I remember thinking, "nope, not me.  I don't sin that much.  I'm as righteous as, I'm as righteous as Joseph."  Okay, so I wasn't quite that smug, but you get the point.  The thing is, at that time, I was kind of running on spiritual fumes.  I was making lots of new friends, in a completely different environment, and my prayer life suffered.  I especially forgot to remind myself of my sins on a regular basis.  I couldn't own up to them honestly.  Sara inspired me that day and I spent a long time thinking about it.

I tell my students about how Pope John Paul II went to Confession every week and they're amazed.  I recall a friend a professor at seminary describing St. Augustine's conversion this way: "you know when you're driving a car and the windshield looks clear, and then you turn toward the sun, and the more light comes in your windshield, the more bug guts and bird poop you see?  The more we turn toward God, the more we begin to see the stains on our souls."

So my first goal for this blog, and for myself, being submissive to God's will, is all about humility.  Humility is seeing myself as God sees me, that is, as I really am.  If I ask myself that question, it becomes clear: I am a stubborn Pharisee with mixed up priorities, worried about a whole host of problems (many unrealistic), too indulgent in all things culinary, excessively proud about mediocre achievements, nitpicking, whining, annoying, bragging, somewhat selfish in the fatherhood department, and very selfish in the husband department.  Anyone who knows me knows these things, why is it so hard for me to see it?  And yet, I also know that God sees good things about me.  Humility is not about being against ourselves, it is about being truthful with ourselves.  I know that He sees that I really do want to be a good Christian and a saint, despite my weaknesses.  I know that He sees that I want to be a good husband and father, an good catechist, and a good parishioner.  I know that He sees that I want to have a decent prayer life.  So why do I stink at doing all these things I long to do?

My second goal was to be more manly, more masculine, etc.  I've made some serious strides there, too.  I bought a circular saw and built a podium last week.  It was great fun and I highly recommend it to others.  Of course, my wife was staring at me through the back door the entire time, praying I wouldn't lose a finger.  I should have taken a hot dog piece and some ketchup out there just for fun.  Maybe next time...but I digress...

My wife wasn't sure about my using a big saw like that because, well, I'm a pansy.  That's right.  I said it.  I was raised watching HGTV.  It's something I'd rather not think about.  I actually know the difference between pink, lavender, and purple.  I don't watch sports.  I am a pansy.  Not anymore!

Jesting aside, I wanted to be more masculine.  I believe radical feminism has robbed my generation of a lot of masculinity.  I think we should have a movement for masculinism.  It should involve lobbying for the right to go into the forest during "man PMS" and blowing tree stumps with C-4.  Every man should be required to own and operate a gun.  Not just the stereotypical stuff, though.  Every man should know classical ballroom dances, proper etiquette, and how to cook.  Out of 10, I probably score a 2, a 6, and a 9 on those, respectively.

The real mark of manhood, though, is virtue.  Virtue comes from the Latin virtus, meaning "strength," or even more literally, "manhood" (vir - "man," -tus - suffix for "hood," which came to us directly through German from the Latin -tus).  Virtue is manhood, and one of the virtues, the one I want to talk about for a moment, is courage.

Courage is a mark of genuine manhood.  Without prudence, justice, and temperance, it is meaningless, but it is courage which gives us the strength to do what we know is right.  Going back to my first goal, I left the question hanging: why do I stink at doing all these things I long to do?  I stink at them because even though I know I ought to do them, I lack the courage to do them.  I lack the courage to make time for prayer.  I lack the courage to stand up for my beliefs.  I often lack the courage to face even the simple tasks of daily life.  Men who back away from their family responsibilities aren't lazy, they're cowardly.  Men who don't push the things they want out of the way to make time for the prayer they need, these men aren't intemperate, they're cowardly.  I am a cowardly pansy.

It's time to wake up, men!  It's time to be humble and macho.  You can't have any real male machismo if you shrink from your duties!  You can't do your duties if you don't have humility!

See, that's where the two come together.  Humility and courage might sometimes seem opposed.  The first submits, the second stands up.  They come together when we recognize that in the moments of our courage, it is not we who act, standing on our own two feet.  Rather, it is God Himself, with His grace, who stands in us for right against wrong, for justice against injustice, and we can only make room for Him in our lives if we are humble.  If we are humble, all things become possible.  If we set down our own wills and our own weapons, we renew the fight with God's own weapons, which He supplies to those who do His will.

The key to being real men, my dear Fiat Men, is humility.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Finding Time for Prayer

"Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will find no time for prayer." -Fr. Hilary Ottensmeyer

I wrote this quote down over a year ago after I saw it on a plaque at a local Catholic bookstore. It was convicting then as now. We modern Catholics are always trying to fit prayer into busy schedules, as if it is an exercise regimine (Jacob's Ladder aside) or a playdate for the kiddos. In so doing, we are presupposing the wrong question. Instead of asking, "where can I find room for prayer?" we should be asking, "how much do I value prayer?"

Let me put this into perspective. It gets lost on us sometimes what words mean, such that the meaning of the above question may not be clear. So, supposing that my readers are all Christians, it really comes down to this decision: "should I spend time in loving conversation with the infinite, eternal, all-knowing, all-loving God, who created me to share in His life and died for me, while I was yet a sinner, for my own good...or should I [insert any other task/activity here]?" Now it seems like a stupid question, huh? Sometimes I think our guardian angels have to be very sore from all the facepalms they must do. Think of all the times you've needed God's help to find something, but use Him as a last resort. "Stupid human! Pray! Why are you looking for your keys in the same spot for the fourth time? Pray!"

As Fiat Men, we should value prayer. I stink at it. I'll be the first to admit it. If we're saying Fiat to God, and we strive to do that always, then we are failing royally, all of us.

Here are a few reasons why people don't pray like they should:

  1. "I don't need to pray about it. I already know where the keys are/what to do with my life." - Really? This is kinda lame. First, it assumes you aren't involving God at all, which is just stupid. It's His plan you're trying to follow! Second, it implies God is only there fore when we think we need His help. Prayer is first and foremost for love, not for favors.
  2. "I don't have time." - If you want less time, don't pray. When you pray, you have God to assist you with the other things you moved to make time for Him. He won't let you down. Bl. Mother Teresa used to get this one from her nuns and would demand they spend more time in prayer. Things worked out better than before.
  3. "I'm using a practical approach." - Prayer is impractical? I teach, and I'm going to start a new policy. I will say at least a quick prayer before applying discipline, before beginning class, before talking with a student one-on-one. I'll let you know how it goes.
  4. "I don't know how to pray." - That's the cool part: on-the-job training. You ask the Holy Spirit to help you and guess what, then you're already praying!

Okay Fiat Men, prayer warriors, go get 'em!



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calibration in Progress

A few weeks ago, my wife decided to splurge a bit and buy me a Wii. I know, I know, it's a brand-new, top of the line product...wait...what? It's 5 years old? Nintendo is already coming out with a new gaming system? Man, i am SO behind the times. I'm gonna go curl up in the corner and sulk about being old now.

Okay, I'm over it. We don't have a huge budget, but I've been locked in with the kids all summer and I could use a little exercise, so we figured this might help. It counted as a Father's Day present, too.

What intrigues me, though, is that every so often in gameplay, I have to calibrate the Wii remote. Why? I guess because it's getting shaken around with all the activity it's experiencing and its sensors are getting messed up. It gets out of sync. This seems especially true if you are boxing or fencing. It needs to re-orient itself.

Then an interesting thought hit me. I need to, and ought to, calibrate myself throughout the day. I get incolved in the world. I have an active life, even during the summer. I work, get frustrated with my family, deal with bad news. I get sorta messed up. There are things out there that put me out of sync with God. I, likewise, need to re-orient myself, literally - I need to look East, ad orientem, toward God and toward the Mount of Calvary in the holy city of Jerusalem. I need to be calibrated.

In the passage on the Last Supper in the Gospel of John (13:5-10), we find the Washing of the Feet of the Apostles.

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Master, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later."
Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me."
Simon Peter said to him, "Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well."
Jesus said to him, "Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all."

Peter has himself all out of sync with Jesus. He needs calibration. We can tell because He argues with someone he already confessed to be God. Anyone who knowingly argues with God is just a little bit in need of some calibration. Once he realizes this, he jumps to bossing God around. Our Lord replies, in characteristic patience, that only Peter's feet need to be washed. This verse used to confuse me, but St. Augustine explains it well:

"Clean all except the feet. The whole of a man is washed in baptism, not excepting his feet; but living in the world afterwards, we tread upon the earth. Those human affections then, without which we cannot live in this world, are, as it were, our feet, which connect us with human things, so that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (1 Jn 1:8). But if we confess our sins, He who washed the disciples' feet, forgives us our sins even down to our feet, wherewith we hold our converse with earth." -Catena Aurea

We Christians go about lives in the world, and it is next to impossible (albeit nothing is impossible for God) to go through even the Christian life without stumbling in the mud of sin a little and getting dirt and dust on our feet, through which we traverse the world living and preaching the Gospel. There can be no excuse for neglecting the calibration we seek in prayer. St. John's Gospel shows that he who is more about the Lord's work is likely the more to need his feet cleansed, to meet the Lord in prayer throughout the day and ask for his sins to be forgiven, not because he who is closer to God sins more, but because He begins all the more to notice his sins.

Now we as Fiat Men should, I hope, desire to get into the practice of turning to God often throughout the day, lifting up our hearts to worship and adore Him, and to ask for His mercy and love on ourselves, or families, and our neighbors.

I, for one, really need to work on this.



Friday, June 17, 2011


Self-centeredness, egoism, and pride are quite possibly the most difficult of all spiritual weeds to yank out by the root. Self-centeredness has led to wars, violence, and all host of social evils. In recent centuries, it has led to a direct assault on truth itself. The philosophy on the Enlightenment was constructed around the ego-centric maxim, "I think, therefore, I am," as if the surest proof of existence was one's own consciousness of it. This idea, pervasive in today's society, is to blame for the Dictatorship of Relativism repeatedly condemned by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI.

The reach of self-centeredness, though, does not end with its philosophical failures. It creates in us a cult of the ego, wherein we worship ourselves as our last end. Logically, we begin to ask what all other things are in relation to ourselves. Initially fine, this might eventually become, "how does this woman please me? Does the attention she gives me satisfy me or should I find a new trophy?" Self-centeredness follows a brief trip down a short road to individual utilitarianism and objectification of others.

Ultimately, this line of thinking leads us to think of our lives as worth living only so long as we are satisfied by the people and objects around us. We find ourselves increasingly unhappy, since, let's face it, nothing ever entirely satisfies us. We shift from one thing to another trying to find fulfillment and happiness, but we instead find disappointment. This is all due to the fact that we ask the wrong question. Instead of asking, "will this satisfy me?," we should ask, "for what purpose do I exist?" The self-centered question assumes that my purpose is my own self, that I am my own last end, that is, it assumes a self-centered foundation. The other question, however, is humble: it assumes the opposite, namely, that my purpose, my end, relies entirely on something external to myself: "For what purpose do I exist? What is God's will for my life? What is God's will for me this moment?"

Now THAT's a Fiat Man way of asking the question!

If you find yourself unsatisfied in life or struggling with the temptation to objectify others, you might consider whether your philosophy is leading you to ask the wrong questions.

All this has come to mind because of the somewhat shocking news that Fr. Corapi will be quitting the priesthood. The following comments should not in any way be misconstrued as an attack on Fr. Corapi. Far be it from me to find personal fault in a man whose soul I cannot see. I'm blind enough when viewing my own soul! However, to judge the apparent situation is an entirely different matter.

Fr. Corapi has done an immense amount of good for many people, but he has always been a lightning rod. Sometimes it is necessary to be a lightning rod. However, the way he handled recent allegations did raise some concerns in my mind as well as the minds of similar thinkers (I find myself agreeing with 99% of what Mark Shea has to say, so you can see his comments on Fr. Corapi). Fr. Corapi, I fear, may have seen himself as the center, the end, of his ministry. Instead of quietly submitting to investigation, he raised his thundering voice against his accuser and investigators. Now he has decided to quit the priesthood and create a new ministry, which, by all accounts, is centered around himself. I hope that I am misunderstanding. I hope that this is all some misunderstanding, but it bears saying: I am a theology teacher. There is a strong temptation at times to tell myself that I must boost my own persona in order to bring Christ to my students. If only I was a better speaker, more popular, etc., then they would want to listen. There is, of course, some degree of truth in that temptation (as in any temptation), but here is the danger: if you find that you are replacing Christ in your ministry, you've wandered into dangerous territory. If you stand as the lofty representative of Christ, rather than as a humble sign merely pointing to Him, then when you fall (and you will fall, in some way), your disciples will follow you in your fall or will lose faith in you (and Christ). As catechists, we must always be careful to relate ourselves to our disciples only enough to introduce them to Christ, so that they may then begin to know Him more and more directly. Like St. John the Baptist, we will bring them to ourselves in order to send them to Christ and say, "behold, the Lamb of God, He must increase, and I must decrease." If you find this difficult to say, then you need to pray for humility!

Priests, no more cults of personality! Catechists, no more cults of personality! This is not a right or left, conservative or liberal, orthodox or heterodox issue. This is an issue of pride, Satan's attempt to invert the apostolic life and turn it on it's head, all for the sake of false concerns for making more disciples. We can only make disciples for Christ if we lead them to Christ, not if we lead them to ourselves!



PS - When I wrote this, I was intending to use the Fr. Corapi situation as a jumping-board to the more general topic of self-centeredness. I don't have any reason to think Fr. Corapi himself was self-centered, although I think his actions lend themselves to that interpretation. I'd like to add that, having read his statement directly, his thoughts seem to be the kind of thing many people would think in these circumstances, but most would not write. He shows righteous indignation (assuming his innocence) and certainly it is true that the system is flawed and frequently abused. Still, quitting without fighting the charges, fighting to defend his priesthood, in order to maintain his public work seems misguided. I cannot say, though, that in his shoes, knowing my pride, I would have done differently. That does not, however, mean that his approach is the way to go. I might have done the same, but I would have found it foolish aft thinking about it. I stand with him in saying that the system needs amending, and understanding his righteous anger, but I have to say that he's going the wrong direction with this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I find it much easier to type things like this in a prompt-response format, so bear with me:

Name: Micah Murphy

Family: Married, two kids

Occupation: Catechist - High School Theology Teacher


Bachelor of Arts 2007 - Dual-Major in Theology & Catechetics (Latin Minor) - Franciscan University of Steubenville

Attended University of Nebraska - Lincoln (2004-2005) and Conception Seminary College (2003-2004)

Temperament: Melancholic


Theological Views:

Theologically, I find myself principally in accord with Carmelite mystical theology, traditional Biblical hermeneutics, an organic, Newmanian approach to the Deposit of Faith, and Wojtylan view of sexual ethics. In other words, I am theologically orthodox, but I prefer to speak in contemporary terms. Quite frankly, scholastic theological language confuses me, but I'm adapting.

Why I made this blog:

I keep this blog because I am far from perfect and full of pride, so I figure making a public log of my struggle for perfection (and many of my failures), perhaps I'll grow spiritually. If it can be edifying for you, even if it just keeps you from falling into the same traps, then it is well worth the effort!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


At Mass this morning, I was struck by the following passage:

"We want you to know, brothers and sisters, of the grace of God
that has been given to the churches of Macedonia,
for in a severe test of affliction,
the abundance of their joy and their profound poverty
overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
For according to their means, I can testify,
and beyond their means, spontaneously,
they begged us insistently for the favor of taking part
in the service to the holy ones,
and this, not as we expected,
but they gave themselves first to the Lord
and to us through the will of God..."

-2 Corinthians 8:1-5

Here, St. Paul is commending the Christians of Macedonia for their charity in coming to the aid of the Church in Jerusalem. Note what he commends them for:

  1. Joy and Poverty - we've all heard the expression that if we don't ever want to be disappointed, we should be pessimists. This is, in fact, a pessimistic twist on a solid Christian principle. True joy, which is never disappointed, is based on poverty of spirit. When we are honest with ourselves, humble and detached from the world of our desires, we begin to realize what we truly deserve. This poverty of spirit, a willingness to accept that we are dust and unto dust shall return, is the key to Christian joy. Only by accepting this can we be filled with an awareness of how much God has given us, a true sense of joy in Christ. This is the opposite of worldy happiness, which we are told comes through asserting our desires and our rights to them.
  2. Overflowing Generosity - only a joy flowing from poverty of spirit could produce overflowing generosity. Notice that the Macedonians' poverty is not financial. They have the means to be generous, although certainly they are more generous in their prayers. Their joy fuels their generosity, and so their poverty makes them more giving: "I am but dust, and yet God has given me so much. How can I help but to share it with those around me, even with my enemies?"
  3. Service Beyond Their Means - the Macedonians even served. They did not stop at throwing a couple drachmas in the collection plate. They didn't just pray. They submitted themselves in service, and even beyond their means at that! With God, we are capable of giving more than we know. They even begged for the opportunity. That truly is generosity. These folks really and truly wanted to be faithful Christians.
  4. Orderliness According to the Will of God - they did not serve God second, they served Him first, and even after serving Him, they served others through the will of God. There is no conflict between serving God and serving others, loving God and loving others, spending time with God and spending time with others, if our serving others, loving others, and spending time with others is the holy will of God. Now God wills that we give ourselves directly to Him in certain ways, first among them the Holy Mass, but for each man, other obligations and devotions vary according to His will. Let us seek to know His will!
  5. Spontaneity - what else did we think He meant when our Savior said that the Spirit moves as He wills, like the wind? The Holy Spirit is no hippie, but He and His will do sometimes seem to us to shift around a bit. As Fiat Men, we must be willing anywhere and everywhere to seek His Holy Will, to follow it with spontaneity, with generous service flowing from the joy of spiritual poverty.

So, let's try to discover spiritual poverty, Christian joy, and spontaneity! I know I've got some praying to do!



Monday, June 13, 2011

Two Weeks!

Would you take a look at that? I predicted I wouldn't make it a week and it's been two.

The last few days have been a bit tight. My wife is preparing to be sliced and diced by a surgeon on Wednesday. That's the lead story. My father's coming to visit and to keep an eye on the kids. Accordingly, the Great Interior Clean-Up has been getting a bit sidetracked in favor of the more external Great Family Visit Clean-Up.

Here's a quick recap, though, of the interior re-ordering going on, along with grades: I've been trying to work on my temperance (C-), my prayer life (A-), and working up the nerve to be a real Fiat Man and do what God asks when He asks (D+...maybe).

Before I give a crazy impression that my prayer life should be a model for anyone else's, I need to clarify that I merely remembered every day of the Pentecost novena. I've never, not once, prayed a successful novena all the way to the end. My perseverence is lacking. My memory for tasks on an agenda is notoriously poor. I was extremely pleased that I completed the novena.

On Saturday, I assisted with a youth rally, part of our Diocesan 25th Anniversary celebration. The youth rally featured Chris Padgett, who is a brilliant speaker, musician, and father of 9. We attended the same parish in Steubenville, and although he wouldn't know me from Adam, I do recall watching his family file into and ocupy an entire pew...something I hope to emulate (at my current personal growth rate, I should take up half a pew soon. The wife and kids might make the difference.



PS - I really needed to get to bed as I wrote this. At one point I fell asleep and started dreaming about buying my daughter a hampster. Then, apparently, I typed about it. I find this on my iPad screen: "I always forget. So it was an A for effort, with a minus so I get thr [sic] hampster."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guest or Gifts: the Wedding Feast at Cana

Today, a friend of mine commented on Facebook about my last blog post.  She commented on her quest for spiritual peace.  I wrote back my own thoughts to her, but I've been thinking on and off today about it and when my mind focused on the Wedding Feast at Cana, it gave me the inspiration to put my thoughts together.

In his gospel, St. John details the wedding feast for us.  There was a wedding in Cana, the mother of Jesus was there, and so were Jesus and His disciples.  They ran out of wine, Mary asked her Son to do something about it, and He did.  He transformed water into wine.  It's an incredibly deep passage with about a bagillion levels of meaning, but I just want to focus on one thing:

And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now."

-John 2:9-10

The headwaiter, who almost certainly knew they were dangerously short on wine, didn't say to the bridegroom, "hey, where'd this extra wine come from?" He was very focused instead on the wine itself and its extraordinarily good quality. The bridegroom, who may or may not have been aware of the near wine shortage, did not marvel at him or wonder where this remarkably tasty wine came from, thinking, "my goodness, I bought this? Certainly not!" Perhaps the folks involved did think these things, but St. John didn't consider it important to mention. I, however, would like to know more about their reactions.

Both figures, you see, seem very focused on the gift and not so much on the Guest who gave the gift. This is a human tendency. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are unholy ingrates or anything like that. It's just that we humans aren't very good at seeing past the tips of our noses or the immediate needs at the ends of our fingertips.

If a saintly Christian, already informed of the Gospel and well-versed in our spirituality, would have been at the wedding,* I think things would have gone differently.

Say Fr. Brown, of Chestertonian fame, was bumbling around at the wedding feast, rubbing elbows with rabbis and being dismissed by everyone in attendance as a simple man from the countryside. How would he respond? I think he would demand to know who had produced this marvelous wine and how!

The thing about a really great gift is that it always comes from a really great gift-giving guest. The whole spectacle of creation must have come from an amazing Creator, one truly worthy of receiving all that I am and have, my very total self-gift, my adoration, and one who, even after receiving all of me, still would not be anywhere near repaid.

So I think one of the keys in spirituality which we so often miss is to love the God of consolations more than the consolations of God. To be sure, there's nothing wrong with loving His consolations. They are a gift. But compared to Him, they are nothing. The true peace that comes with prayer comes after we focus on God rather than His consolations. The true gifts of prayer come when we realize that God is the gift we really want, and that any other gift He gives, He may keep, so long as we have Him. He may deprive us of peace, of food, of shelter, and the companionship of friends, but so long as we have Him, we should be happy and blessed.**

When we pray, do we say, "Lord, give me your peace!" This is a noble prayer. Better still would be, "Lord, you deserve all of me, and I beg you for the grace to give it, so that I may entirely receive you."

When we pray, are we focused on the quality of our prayer, the words we choose, the feelings we have? These are noble intentions. Better still would be to forget ourselves and look at the face of God, speaking to Him openly as we do with friends, when we often speak without concern for quality of conversation, choice of words, and the feelings we receive. In good conversation, those are generally things we appreciate after the fact, as they soak deep into our souls.

When we meet Christ in the Wedding Feast, joining our souls to His in spiritual union, and making Him the guest of our interior lives, do we focus on the gifts or do we look through them to the Guest of our souls who gives them?

Please join me in trying to love God more and more for Himself.



*I am well aware that Mary was at the wedding and was as holy and thoroughly spiritual as they come. But she was in on the whole thing.

**I am not advocating that we reject His gifts or give up these things, unless, you know, you feel called to do that, as some are. We're not Jansenists. We enjoy life, food, shelter, companionship, and that's all fine, but we should not be attached to it.

Reaping the Benefits: Fiat Accompli

Having dedicated myself this last week and a half or so to the Fiat Men experiment, I've found some interesting results. Sometimes, I've failed. Okay, often. Often, I've failed. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how difficult it can be to set aside your will for God's.

If you're just joining us, one of the founding principles I drew on for this blog was the movie Yes Man. If you haven't seen it, please do! It's very amusing. In the movie, Jim Carrey's character, Carl, takes a challenge to say yes to everything. For a year. It takes him on an insanely wild ride, sometimes successful, sometimes not. He discovers a lot of things that truly matter, makes some friends he otherwise would not have, and ends up just having an overall interesting experience.

Here's my twist: what if we men (women are welcome to do this too, by all means!)...what if we men said yes to everything God asked of us? What paths would that take us down? Would we be happier? Would we find real, true, abiding fulfillment? Would we find God? Of course, I know what the answer is. I believe we would find ourselves filled with joy and in love with our Heavenly Father. In fact, that's a doctrine of the Church: following God's will, we will attain to paradise! Why is it we so often choose not to say yes to God, why do we choose not to say, as our Blessed Mother did, "fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum" - "let it be done to me according to your word"? The reason is pride.

What if we all were Fiat Men? I think we would all radiate joy in the Spirit so profoundly the people around us would flock to the Church. The price of water would skyrocket because there'd be so many baptisms going on! A friend of mine, Steve Horvath, a former FOCUS missionary and a subject of the A&E program God or the Girl?, was quoted on a FOCUS pamphlet as saying, "once I saw what they had, I had to have it." He was talking about Catholics alive in their faith.

Let me give you a foretaste. Today was a doozy. I spent the whole day at home alone with my toddlers. My daughter bites...and pushes...and scratches...and pulls hair...and my son, well, he let's her, but whines about it 'til the cows come home. There was screaming and whining and pooping and crying. It was a hard day. So when the Mrs. came home, I decided that I needed to get out. I drove my car down the drive and felt a calling. I felt like I should really go to the Adoration Chapel. This was quite a surprise to me. I was going to go to Walmart and gt some brownies as a little treat to make up for my bad day. I turned left instead of right and off I went toward Jesus. I got into the chapel and felt called to pull out a rosary. I didn't have mine on me (it went missing recently, which saddens me because I really liked it). I prayed, and tried really hard not to think of myself, but to focus on Christ. I found myself praying for some enemies. I didn't find it to be a struggle this time. I really, genuinely wanted these people to get the help of grace. After I finished the rosary, I started looking at the exit and the clock. If you've gone to Adoration before, you probably know what I mean. You start getting antsy. I'm convinced this is because we're still focused on ourself. We've barely even begun to look toward God enough to be doing anything properly called prayer. So I let Him have it. I felt called to surrender. I felt called to stay with Him. So often we say, "mane nobiscum, Domine" - "stay with us, Lord," but we don't consider staying with Him and watching for one hour, as He requested of us. I decided to stay and thoughts flooded my mind. Here was God, before me. Here He was, the fulfillment of my every desire. Everything I wanted in life, everything I feared I would not receive (fear, afterall, is a direct denial of Divine Providence), was nothing compared to Christ. Even if I was to be a complete failure in life. Even if my family and friends abandoned me, I would still have Him. The room grew quiet. I became acutely aware of Him. Not in a "look at me, I'm so holy, watch me levitate...hey, do you smell roses" kind of way. It was as if God was showing me for just a few minutes who He was, reminding me, and re-orienting me from myself and my anxieties to Himself. As I left sometime later, I was filled with peace. I ended up going to Walmart (we needed milk & diapers and I still had a sweet-tooth) and was quiet inside, and joyful outside. I know I brought joy to at least one other customer while I was there.

So here's the challenge renewed: try being a Fiat Man, then write in the comments or send me an email detailing your experiences. Let's always say Fiat to God, and see how many disciples we can make!



Monday, June 6, 2011

Milestones in God's Plan

Usually, we Fiat Men are called to follow God's will in the everyday, the mundane, and the ordinary goings-on of life. Occasionally, though, we reach a milestone in God's plan.

Seven years ago, I went into the office of my vocation director and gave notice that I would be leaving formation as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Omaha. This weekend, I was alerted by a friend to the fact that Andy Syring, a friend and classmate who was a freshman seminarian the same year I entered, was ordained on Saturday. Had I remained in the seminary, as of Saturday, I would have been Fr. Micah Murphy. It's an interesting thought. Would I have been assigned to a country parish? A city parish? A parish with a parochial school attached? A more "liberal" parish? A more "conservative" parish? Would the Archdiocese have taken advantage of my Latin skills and assigned my to St. Peter's, which is leading a revival in the Extraordinary Form?

That decision to leave seminary was one of the most monumental decisions of my life, and had I not made the correct decision, I would have chosen a fork in the road upon which I would never have met my wife, much less have had the opportunity to marry her. If I had not left the seminary, my two beautiful children would not exist today. Imagine, for a moment, the immense weight your decisions bear, even when you think they are minor decisions.

Do you want to choose your own will over God's when the lives of others may never even come into existence if you choose wrongly?

So take a minute today to think about the milestones you've passed in God's will for your life.



Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Great Interior Clean-Up: The Hose Down

One of the things about following God's will as men ought to be a sort of rugged manliness infused with holiness. Manliness? What is that?

My friend, I'm not at all surprised you ask. I mean, let's face it, we live in the most emasculated epoch of our entire western civilization. If you grew up with even the slightest ounce of testosterone, it was nagged out of you by years of feminist elementary school teachers. You know who I'm talking about. It was the math teacher who insisted (against statistics) that girls were better at arithmetic than boys. It was the health teacher who reminded you girls matured more quickly than boys (when you define maturity in just the right terms). It was the gym teacher who outlawed dodgeball because there were too many losers. It was the history teacher who injected world history with all sorts of feminist revisionism. If you managed to make it passed all that, there was always mom, regaling you with stories of her time with Ms Magazine, or a whole substratum of society that calls men to all sorts of vegan-latte-sipping wine and soy-cheese parties. What is manliness? It's certainly not something to be found these days among the leading men of America.

The United States was founded on manliness: men who valued freedom for their families more than cowardice before a tyrant, men who ventured westward into the face of danger to bring orderly to a chaotic frontier, men who woke early and worked all day to bring home the bacon to a family barely scraping by in the grips of the Great Depression.

I'll talk about manliness in more depth later, but it's certainly got to be a part of what being a fiat man is.

For the meantime, let's focus on what I'm going to call the Hose Down. Men get dirty, and when we do, we don't take baths in lavender and camomile. We hose down. We hop in a shower, crank on our elephant showerheads, and slather ourselves in musk.

So if we don't clean our bodies like pansies, why do we clean our souls like pansies? Why do most Catholic men go to Confession only occasionally, mumble through the whole thing, avoid mentioning the gravest sins, and have not the strength to admit their faults and make firm resolutions not to sin again?

If you want to be a Fiat Man, you need to strive to know and follow God's will at any time, and you need to do that like a man. How can you know and follow God's will if you're routinely, habitually violating His will through sin? How can you turn from that sin to make a real effort to know and follow His will if you go to Confession like a pansy?

Newsflash: sin is worse than cancer. Cut it out. Take repentance seriously. Turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

I went to Confession this afternoon. I listed all the sins I could think of, in number and kind, and I got it out. I know the priest. Was I a little nervous about being embarrassed? Sure. I dealt with it. How are you going to get spiritual cancer out if you're not honest with the doctor?

So, fiat men, if you're serious about the Great Interior Clean-Up, I implore you: get yourself to Confession! And make it a hose down! Be a man! Be a Fiat Man!



Thursday, June 2, 2011

Piety & Submission to God's Will

Fr. Z has a very relevant post today on piety and submission to God's will. As a catechist, I really should spend June devoting myself to Sacred Heart devotions.

For those of you who don't have the time to read it in full, here is a must-read summary:

How did our Lord describe the fate of the tepid?  It wasn’t good.

On the other hand, if you are hesitant about the notion of piety, and what you know is going to be the result – giving up things that are incompatible with true piety – here is something from Benedict XVI’s sermon for his inaugural Mass in 2005.

“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.”

To develop a habit, and being pious and devout is a habit, start small.

Fr. Z then advises 3 simple practices:

  1. Nightly examination of conscience, of both sins of commission and omission.
  2. Some short pious prayer to repeat throughout the day.
  3. Taking part in public devotions.

Now, I have some great ideas for where to start. We are sacramental people. Living out devotions in daily life will make those devotions penetrate into our very souls, if we approach them with piety!



Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Great Interior Clean-Up

I am a teacher, which means, invariably, that I spend my summer days at home with my two young children. It's a blessing and a curse. It means I get to see my kids and spent time bonding with them. It means finally being a first-hand observer to all those silly behaviors my kids' daycare teachers have been telling me about all year. It also means more diapers, more chores, and more discipline. In order to simplify the next 10 weeks, this first week of summer vacation, I have been cleaning house. Yesterday and today I cleaned the kitchen (all you stay-at-home parents may be amazed that it only took two days). Tomorrow, the master bedroom. So it seems like a good time also to tackle the Great Interior Clean-Up!

Of course, trying to become a Fiat Man means a great degree of spiritual virtue is needed, but I am a little short on spiritual virtue. I'm overweight, I lose my temper periodically, I am not good at doing the things I should be doing when I should be doing them ("I'll pray a rosary later...when I'm exhausted"). Basically, if you could see my soul, it would be a fat, middle-aged, balding man. Actually, I am bodily two of those things anyway. Bad example.

The trouble with being a teacher is that I am a theology teacher. It's a job I love, but it means that I have the know-how to beat the ever-loving daylights out of myself in self-examination. I'm perfectly well-aware that most of my discipline problems come from a lack of the virtue of temperance. The lack of virtue of prudence, though, is what keeps me from doing anything substantial about it.

Not today! It's the beginning of the Great Interior Clean-Up!

Now, I could embark on some terribly difficult quest to reconquer myself under the name of temperance, but here at Fiat Men, I've decided to go a different route. According to the Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux and Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, the most perfect way for us to attain to holiness is by doing what God calls us to, with love.

Fortunately, my last post was about how love is the one instrument we really need in having the determination to conquer our wills! Over the next few days, I'm going to consider some ways we can put love to work for our cause to become Fiat Men.

Just like the physical clean-up of my home, this interior clean-up, this getting my house in order, should make it easier for me to maintain an orderly spiritual house, always ready to say, "Fiat!" to God's will.