Thursday, April 10, 2014

3 Great Spanish-language Resources for Catechesis and Evangelization

There is a growing need in the U.S. for solid Spanish-language resources to help spread and teach the Catholic faith. Here are three resources I discovered recently:

1. Blogueros con el Papa. Translated roughly as Bloggers with the Pope, this online group joins bloggers from over 20 countries. Its purpose is to support the mission and the person of the Pope and to evangelize through the Internet and social media. St. Peter the Apostle and St. Teresa of Avila are the group's patrons. My Spanish blog, Comencemos en CanĂ¡, recently joined Blogueros con el Papa.

2.Theology of the Body in Spanish. Theology professor Patricio Reidy has a website in Spanish devoted to spreading the message of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body to Spanish-speaking people throughout the Americas. Reidy also produces short videos, called Minutos, to describe TOB in brief detail to a Spanish-speaking audience. These videos are currently available on the YouTube channel of the Daughters of St. Paul. I've featured one of them here.

3. Lenten and Holy Week resources. The Diocese of Dallas has prepared an extensive list of Lenten catechetical materials for individuals, families, and children. Some materials are specifically geared towards Holy Week and Easter. Others have year-round usefulness, such as The Way of the Cross for children and guides for the Sacrament of confession.

If you find these resources helpful, please share them widely! If you know of other Spanish-language resources, please mention them in the comments.

 Photo Credit: kamerakamote via Compfight cc

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Teach These Things to Your Children

A single story that brings your child’s heart nearer to God is worth an infinite number of likes and shares on Facebook. Your Internet audience might include any number of people — friends who are already convinced, strangers who will never be convinced, and people who will forget what you said a minute later. Rarely will you exert as strong an influence over the general public as you do over your own children and grandchildren.

Parents are the primary educators of their children, especially when it comes to faith and morals. Evangelizing must begin at home. Moses emphasized the importance of parents’ teaching their children the law of God, instructing the people of Israel:

“Not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.” (Dt 4:9)

Our primary responsibility is to remember the Word of God and apply it to our own actions. We must learn it and internalize it before we can pass it on. Secondly, we have the joy and the obligation of handing the faith down to our children as a spiritual inheritance.

Children will remember what we say even if they don’t agree with it or follow it 100% of the time. Years later, perhaps when they themselves become parents, they will look back and realize the worth of the values we tried to inculcate in them. We plant the seeds and wait patiently for them to flourish, letting God and the passage of time soften the ground of our children’s hearts.

So, parents, when you talk to your children today, bring God into the conversation. It’s not hard. If your kids fight, mention Cain and Abel. If they play the blame game, talk about how after the Fall, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, everyone turning against one another out of sin. If they say they feel unloved or unimportant, remind them that God has counted every hair on their heads. If they drive you crazy, remember that God “has blessed your children within you” (Ps. 147:13) before they were even born and sent them to you as a gift to propel you along the path to heaven.

Spread the Gospel by beginning at home.

Based on the readings for Wednesday, March 26, 2014: Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9; Psalms 147:12-13, 15-16, 19-20; Matthew 5:17-19. This post also appeared at Catholic Lane.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

To the Woman Who Knows Her Husband Will Never Cheat on Her

Don't ever imagine that infidelity can't happen to you.

The Internet is abuzz with a duel of sorts between Patheos blogger Simcha Fisher and young, engaged-to-be-married Emma Smith, who wrote on Catholic Exchange that she knows for a fact that she and her husband will never have to face the issue of infidelity.

"God is faithful, but we're not marrying God," proclaimed Fisher. "What do we know about human beings? They sin. They sin, and they sin, and they sin. Sometimes they enter into a valid marriage and then they cheat. Sometimes they understand fully what they are supposed to do, and they just don’t feel like doing it," she explained.

I'm inclined to agree with Fisher. Because the issue in Catholic marriage is not whether anything will go wrong, but how will you handle it when it does. In pre-Cana marriage prep classes, many engaged couples fill out the FOCCUS questionnaire, which asks if you "could not under any condition remain married" to your spouse "if he/she were ever unfaithful." If you agree with that statement, then there's a big problem. You can't annul a Catholic marriage for infidelity. Marriage is for life, remember? So no matter how much it hurts, a betrayed spouse has to search deep inside themselves and find a way to forgive and trust and rebuild a relationship that seems irrevocably shattered.

Infidelity can be overcome. My husband has seen it in his psychiatric practice. When both spouses want badly enough to save a marriage even from repeated sexual infidelity, it can happen. There needs to be absolute honesty, a commitment to avoid temptation, and a system of accountability. Therapy helps, spiritual direction helps, and Sexaholics Anonymous can help. It's not easy, but a marriage can make it through that firestorm.

My husband's courtship of me gave me complete confidence that he would be faithful to me. We were young, wildly attracted to each other, and yet managed to stay chaste until the wedding. I figured I would never have to worry about his self-control. But as we get older and our bodies bulge and sag in funny places, I wonder what he sees in me sometimes. And I thank God that my husband has never strayed.

"There but for the grace of God go I" expresses perfectly the awareness that we and the ones we love, when pushed to our limits, are capable of the direst deeds. Temptation strikes the young and the old, the weak and the strong, and it never rests. As one story goes, a priest leaned over a man on his deathbed to give him last rites. The man reached up to touch the cross hanging over the priests' vestments, greedily whispered "gold," and then died.

That's why we're invited to spiritual combat. Growth in holiness doesn't proceed along a smooth incline from base to summit until we step easily through the doors of heaven. Holy marriages aren't formed that way either. They're formed by perseverance in good times and bad, through periods of infatuation and anger, and sometimes through forgiveness in the face of infidelity. Infidelity is horrible, but it's not unforgivable, and doesn't have to be the end.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Betraying with a Kiss

If you've ever been betrayed by a best friend or by someone you loved deeply, remember that Jesus was, too. Judas was a part of Jesus' inner circle. Jesus called him, chose him, spent every day in his company as they traveled together preaching the good news. At the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he ordained his apostles as priests. Assuming Judas was there at the moment of that first Eucharist, then he was also ordained a priest mere hours before he betrayed Our Lord unto death.

My heart breaks for Our Lord and the suffering he experienced by this most intimate betrayal. We could theorize about what drove Judas to betray Christ. It could have been greed and the lure of silver. It could have been disappointment that Jesus rejected the role of an earthly or political Messiah. It could have been political ambition and a desire to ally himself with the powers-that-be. But all those reasons seem so petty.

Jesus understood the blackness of the human heart. He told the story of his betrayal in parables before he died. In the parable of the owner of the vineyard, Jesus tells a tale of how the tenants of the vineyard killed all the stewards rather than give the owner his due. Finally, the owner sent his son to them, thinking "They will respect my son." But the tenants killed the son to steal his inheritance and brought condemnation upon themselves. Whatever goal Judas wanted to obtain by betraying Jesus, Judas did not obtain it. Whatever inheritance the tenants wanted to keep did not remain theirs. Betrayal never accomplishes its goal....

Read more here on CatholicLane, where this post appears as part of the Lenten Reflection series.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Woof!: British Divorcee Marries her Loyal Dog

Proving that truth is stranger than fiction, woman marries dog as 200 people look on.

47-year-old British divorcee Amanda Rodgers married her female Jack Russell terrier, Sheba, in a ceremony in Croatia, and the couple are now making rounds on the British talk show circuit. Two hundred people attended the overseas ceremony, reported the New York Daily News. It is unclear whether the well-wishers were merely curiosity-seekers or whether they truly believed that Ms. Rodgers (and the dog) had found their respective soulmates.

In proposing marriage to Sheba, Ms. Rodgers followed the traditional custom of going down on one knee. "I could tell by her tail wagging that she said 'yes,'" explained Ms. Rodgers. (For more on how to ascertain the consent of non-humans to marriage proposals, see my earlier article on the subject here.)

Ms. Rodgers married a man 20 years ago, but the marriage only lasted a few months. Although Sheba and Ms. Rodgers shared a kiss on their wedding day, men still have a limited role to play in Ms. Rodgers' life as long as Sheba gives her consent. "Men don't come anywhere near the bedroom unless she [Sheba] agrees... One time I made a man sleep in the dog bed for a whole week," remarked Ms. Rodgers. Some might say that takes the saying "sleeping in the doghouse" a bit far. But by and large, Ms. Rodgers is "fed up of men."

What can we say to all this? As popular Catholic theologian Chris West commented several years ago under similar circumstances when a woman married a dolphin:
Our pornified world has turned a large number of men into beasts — wolves with one-track minds, and women are the prey. If I was a woman and I had a choice between a wolf and a dolphin, I’d choose the dolphin, too.
But according to the Bible, continued West, out of all the animals in the Garden of Eden, there was no helper fit for man. And so woman was created. "It’s impossible to speak, even analogously, of the inner life of animals. ...It’s because of our inner life that we have the capacity to marry," postulated West.

Few comments on the current situation of woman-marries-dog rise to the intellectual level of West's analysis. Most people have reacted with horror or shock, but some thought we should just let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. One person commenting on the March 11 article in the Mirror stated:
"As long as she is happy and the dog is looked after who gives a tiny rats [sic] behind!! With all the dog attacks and animal cruelty in the news it's good to know there are people out there who care and look after their pets even if it is in a wacky way."
This commenter's attitude was not shared by the Humane Society of Fairfax County, North Carolina, which last year tipped off the police after discovering that a man had filmed his wife having sex with a pet German Shepherd and posted the video on the Internet. The couple was charged with bestiality and disseminating obscene materials, and the police seized the pets, taking them to an animal shelter.

Some saw the wedding ceremony between Ms. Rodgers and Sheba as a natural extension of allowing same-sex marriage. From comments on the New York Daily News website:
"Well, guess those anti-gay marriage folks were right after all."
"Hey, they love each other, who are we to say that they shouldn't be married ... where have I heard that argument before? ....hmmmm" 
But perhaps the most poignant reaction was from YouTube video artist Ravishing Rick Rude, whose videos are dedicated to the principle of MGTOW, or Men Going Their Own Way. According to the Urban Dictionary of slang, the MGTOW movement asserts that: "as a man I will not surrender my will to the social expectations of women and society, because both have become hostile against masculinity." For Rick, Ms. Rodgers' marriage to Sheba is "a Victory that proves marriage is completely pathetic and not worth men's time." If this is what the future holds in store, "you're going to see a lot of marriages not happening," opined Rick. "This is its own hell."

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