Friday, November 30, 2012

That Was My Number, But PLEASE DO NOT Call Me

Dear Online Friends,

I am so sorry. I was pumped to start that monthly series on the Catechism, had invited all of you to call in and chat, and then ... a scheduling SNAFU.  

We won't be able to start that chat until after Christmas!  Please hold onto the number:  1-800-447-6000.  (But be cool; I don't want to find it on bathroom walls.)  

My sincere apologies. - Shane

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Here's My Number, So Call Me Maybe

Toll free: 1-800-447-6000.  That's the number for the radio show (EWTN) that Dr. Kevin Vost and I will be doing this Saturday from 1-2 p.m. ET about the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  If you've never read the Catechism please tune in and give us a call with your questions.  (If you're well-versed in the Catechism, then we hope you will call too and share some of your insights.)  This is the first of several monthly shows where we plan to take you through the Catechism one section at a time.  In the first show we will give you a quick overview (paragraphs 1-25) and then jump into how God reveals Himself to man (paragraphs 26-143).  Why not give them a read over the next couple of days and be ready to jump into the discussion?  Click here to access the material online.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How Does Prayer Work? A Thought

When Jesus prophesied the seige and destruction of Jerusalem, a microcosm of the Final Judgment, he made a couple of very intriguing statements regarding intercessory prayer and God's care of His children:
And alas for those who are with child and those who are nursing in those days!  Pray that it may not happen in winter. (Mk.13:17-18)
If the Lord had not shortened those days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. (Mk.13:20)
Reading these passages in isolation, one may come to the mistaken conclusion that God changes His mind.  He means to do one thing, but then the prayers of His people cause Him to change course.  But these verses from Mark do not exist in a vacuum.  They are understood in the light of the larger corpus of Scripture, the Tradition that has come down from the Apostles, and the sense of the faithful throughout time; and all of these tell us of a God Who stands outside of and above space and time.  He is perfect, not subject to change.

So what good do our prayers do?  Why did Jesus tell the Apostles to pray and say that God would intervene in the tribulation for the sake of His elect?  Let me hazard a partial answer:  It's not that are prayers change God.  Rather, He has already willed them.  From eternity He has already woven them into His plan for the world, freely decided that some graces are released only in response to them.  And this is preeminently true for regarding the prayer and intercession of Jesus!  His human prayers for us, and His offering upon the Cross, and the torrent of grace they released have been woven into all of God's dealings with humanity.  After all, even though Jesus' sacrificial death took place c.30 A.D., Scripture refers to Him as " the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world" (Rev.13:8).

Keep those prayers coming my friends.  God has woven your petitions into His plan for the unfolding of history - both your personal history and that of our world!

"Me, a Priest?"

Photo by Patnac
Yes, me - and you too!  Today is the last day of the Church's year, the Feast of Christ the King, and one of the messages in today's readings is how we share not only Jesus' kingship, but His priesthood!
"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. " (Rev.1:6)
Every baptized man and woman share in the priesthood of Christ, offering all of our words and actions in this world to the Father.  St. Paul wrote of this to the Christians in Rome:
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Rom.12:1)
The ordained priesthood  supports us in this by making Christ's priesthood sacramentally present - feeding us His Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist, absolving our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, communicating the grace of Confirmation and a deeper participation in the Gifts of the Spirit, anointing us to impart strength and healing in the Anointing of the Sick.  Or as St. Paul wrote:
[Jesus] gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  
You my friend share the priesthood of Jesus Christ.  So suit up and start offering your day to the Lord! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Do I Feel "Thankful," or just "Lucky"?

As another Thanksgiving rolls around, I've enjoyed seeing all of the November Facebook posts each day where people recount what they are thankful for.  I am reminded of the trend several years ago when Oprah advised viewers to start a "Gratitude Journal."  Each day they were encouraged to simply reflect upon their day and recognize and record what they were grateful for in that 24 hours.  Brilliant idea, and people reported their outlooks being changed.  When they realized how many good things occurred in the space of a day, good things many of us take for granted as we become consumed with life's struggles and disappointments, their outlook became much more "positive."  They discovered the psychological truth that "being happy with what we have" overcomes the frustration we feel over the things we do not.

The Facebook posts and Oprah's Gratitude Journal are wonderful starts, but today lets go that next step and realize that we human beings only experience "thankfulness," or "gratitude," toward a SOMEONE.  Otherwise what we're feeling is really just "lucky."  Without there being a God that we thank for the incredible gifts of taking our next breath, food to nourish ourselves with, family that we love; what we express when recounting our "blessings" isn't truly gratitude or thankfulness, but a laundry list of how chance has favored us.  If God is not there at the beginning of the "giving chain" that brings us existence, nourishment, and love then these things have not come to us by any great purpose; we simply lucked out! Instead of gathering around a Thanksgiving dinner table to recall what each of us is most "thankful" for, we should probably all meet up at the nearest riverboat casino and take turns rolling the dice.

But no, Thanksgiving is a tradition retained in our culture because whether or not His Name is spoken, in our heart of hearts each of us senses that there is something more at work in life than the roll of the die.  Each of us have been blessed, blessed by a God Who loves us.

So what am I thankful to Him for today?  I am thankful for my children, who are miracles.  I am thankful for this home I live in, that He brought to me through the friendship of Jim and Kathi Strunk.  I am thankful for the dishes given to me by my friend Amy.  I am thankful for the bed I sleep in, that came to me through my sister's generosity, and the pots and pans I cook with that were housewarming gifts from my brother.  (Get the sense somebody started over recently?)  I am thankful to my parents for a lifetime of support and for the incredible feast and night of fun that lies ahead of us.  I am thankful to God for the car that is continuing to run, a year past what I thought it would.  Most of all though, I am sincerely thankful to God that He loves a silly creature like me, that He calls me "son."  I am bewildered that given all the grandeur in this universe He made, He would want to dwell in my soul. I am blessed, more than I could or ever will deserve ... as are we all.  Happy Thanksgiving my friends.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"I Know I Sound Insane ...

... to some of the people who stumble upon this blog.  Jesus being the fulfillment of our deepest needs, angels and saints, my statements regarding Christian divorce and remarriage, sexual expression, contraception, etc.  To a non-Christian immersed in today's culture these things are foreign, if not laughable.  I know I sound insane to self-described "moderate" and "liberal" Christians too.  (Not that these labels from the world of politics actually have anything to do with our commitment to Christ Jesus, the Truth.)

And honestly, they are right ... if Jesus and His promises are untrue.  Christians who actually believe everything Christ taught are the definition of "putting all your eggs in one basket."  In the first decades of our Church, St. Paul wrote:
We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength ... (1 Cor. 1:23-25)
... We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing ... The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them ... (1 Cor. 2:6,14) 
We are speaking truths about human dignity, moral absolutes, the beauty and sacredness of human sexuality that this culture and many of our brothers and sisters have closed their ears to, choosing the voice of the world over the voice of God.  It is a temptation in every period of history and in every life.  But we go on enunciating these truths because they ultimately come from the mouth of Jesus - the Way, the Truth, and the Life - and ignoring them can damage us to such a degree that we are separated from Him for eternity.  We recognize that this makes us look "backward" to some, but our vision is really focused far into the future: 
... If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:17-19)
But our hope in Christ is not just for this life.  This life is only the first moments of eternity, but moments where we choose our trajectory.  A little pain making for an eternity of gain:
... I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Rom.8:18)
So we must go on living and speaking with joy, with your eyes fixed upon Jesus, our End.  We do not compromise with this age - with, for instance, the Planned Parenthoods and the agenda of handing out birth control to our teens because "their just going to 'do it' anyway ..."  We hold out the vision that we are creatures of incredible dignity, with the ability to practice self-control, to sacrifice and make an authentic gift of ourselves in love.  We will not make use of sinful means in the attempt to bring about our desired end because we Jews and Christians have understood that the path to hell is paved with the best of intentions. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Prov.14:12).

So I, so all of us Christians, have to be willing to take our lumps because we believe the One Who said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (Jn.16:33).  We have Hope, the theological virtue of Hope, that looks ahead with incredible joy to the world that is to come.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WHO is Leading a War on Women? (and Who is Fighting FOR Women?)

I had an amazing time praying the Rosary this morning.  I was thinking about Mary being pregnant with Jesus after having just posted my interview with Christopher West and reading one of the most insightful/convicting posts I've come across in ages, Denise Fath's What Went Wrong in the Presidential Election?   (It has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with becoming a passionate saint.)

West has me thinking about the awesome beauty of human sexuality and of women in particular.  Who is more Christ-like than a mother?  Throughout pregnancy she says to her child, "This is my body, given for you ... This is my blood."  She manifests Christ's redemptive love in her body, in her femininity.  Astounding!  And we can't forget how a woman becomes pregnant - a man who gives himself completely to her, through his body.  This is love, a love that images God's.  It's a love that can even be a Sacrament, a conduit of Divine Love, one for the other!  A man surrendering himself to his wife, and a wife surrendering herself to her husband, both of them accepting the other exactly as he and she is ... and the two of them cherishing and nurturing and guiding the child who comes from them to do the same - that's the awesome dignity of the family - of men and women.  How can we not find that beautiful, not desire it for everyone we love?

That's why I not only can't embrace contraception personally, but believe is it harmful to everyone who embraces it - most especially women.  I want to see women loved in their entirety, for who they are - as God made them.  I want to see a woman's fertility cherished for the indescribable gift it is and a woman never made to feel that there is something wrong with her - that she needs to be altered chemically.  (And she should never have to consider "improving" herself through cosmetic surgery either!)  Her fertility can't be thought of as something that "holds her back," it is her.  You love a woman for who she is; you don't divide her up into different aspects or parts!  But that's exactly what I see us doing.  Every one of us is looking for LOVE - for someone to accept us, totally and completely, and to give himself or herself to us in that same way. BUT then we adopt the mindsets and go forward with actions, that make this kind of true marital love next to impossible!

There is deep confusion throughout our culture, and Christians by and large have proved just as susceptible to it as everyone else.  We have mistook Sentimentality for Love.  Sentimentality is all about feeling - desire, warmth - whereas Love is powerful feeling joined to an absolute commitment.  Love knows desire and warmth, but it is able to endure distance and cold It is able to sacrifice, if that it is what is needed to meet the needs of the beloved.  Sentimentality will deny reality or seek to distort it when abnegation is called for, whereas Love recognizes sacrifice as something inherent to itself.

Sentimentality is when a man or woman says to the other, "I have to have you."  But Love is when each says, "I want to give myself to you."  

Sentimentality is at peace with a lie: "I'm in no position to build a life with you.  I have to finish my education and start a career before I could actually stand up before everyone we know and vow to love you until death ... but I want the pleasure of your body now.  I want the warm emotions that come from having you next to me ... lets pretend for tonight ..."  It's a lie!  It's selfishness wrapped up in pleasurable emotion.

And its compounded by another lie and even more selfishness when contraception enters the picture: "I need you, I have to have you right now ... but not all of you.  I don't want your fertility.  Right now we're not in a place for our love to become anything more than pleasurable sensations and emotions."  

Love acknowledges our physical attraction to the beloved but disciplines it for the sake of the beloved.  Not only is that living in reality - it's about the most romantic thing imaginable!  (Look at all of the thirty and forty-something ladies pining for Twilight's Edward Cullen!)  Chastity, abstinence before marriage - that's authentic love.

"But Shane, kids are going to 'do it'!  We have to protect them from the consequences.  Teens need to be given contraception.Sure, if you want to continue the cycle I've been describing.  If the goal is to keep men from truly loving women, from being willing to forego the urge of the moment, then by all means please keep giving kids contraception.  But if we want to teach them that they are something more than an animal unable to control its urges, then we'll tell them what it actually means to love a womanMake the expectation known - extol the virtues of self-control and chastity.  

Yes, we will see pregnancies.  That is the natural end of the sexual act.  It's not an "accident;" everything happened exactly the way it was designed to!  And we cannot pretend these unborn children are accidents to be "cleaned up" through abortion.  No, these children are precious; and we must help their young parents assume their roles, their responsibilities.  That's what their bodies were saying "yes" to when they came together sexually.  Until our society comes to grips with that fact - that sex is the manifestation of a life-long commitment and that the creation of new life is an inherent part of it, we will continue to spiral out of control.  Women's fertility will be looked upon as a detriment instead of a gift.  There is a "War on Women," but it's being waged by those pushing contraception, sterilization, and abortion as "healthcare."  

The way out of this mess is for each of us to desire and work at becoming saints - and to begin expecting the Christians around us to do the same!  I'm not saying "condemn them when they fall;" but make known the standard of Love that we are expected to live up to, and then provide loving support on those occasions when someone does not live up to it.  But we have to stop pretending like real Love isn't possible, that fertility is something bad, that a child is ever a "mistake."  That's a lie.  It's being propagated by the powers that be, but like all great lies it has a demonic origin.  Who today is fighting for women?  Look at who is still standing up and speaking the truth ... the Catholic Church.  And the way this fight will be won is for each of us to embrace and joyfully live this vision of human persons and human sexuality, to celebrate each new life and all of the responsibility they call forth from us.  We have to live with the vision of the saints and recognize the beauty of humanity as it comes from the hand of God.  With that gleam in our eye (and love in our actions) others will be drawn and the culture changed.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

My interview with Christopher West

It has been over a decade since I first read Christopher West’s Good News About Sex and Marriage and then made it required reading for the RCIA program I coordinated.  I couldn’t help myself.  If there was one area in which people seemed most confused it was the Catholic vision of sexuality and I had not seen anyone unpack John Paul II’s Theology of the Body with the understanding and sincere joy of Christopher West.  West has of course authored a number of books since, with his newest Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing due out in January.  He is also about to embark on a 2013 national tour for Fill These Hearts unlike anything we’ve seen before – using the beauty of music, art, and the spoken word to unmask the human longing for God.  Christopher was kind enough to answer my questions about his new book and outreach as well as TOB in general.

Shane Kapler:  What do you say when someone completely unfamiliar with Theology of the Body asks you to explain it to them for the first time?  What are maybe the three or four main points that you want them to walk away remembering?

Christopher West:  Although JP II’s most famous catechesis is quite long and complex, its main idea is quite simple: Our bodies tell a story, the most beautiful story imaginable.  Our bodies, in fact, tell the divine story –that’s what makes them theological.  What is that story?  God himself is an eternal exchange of life-giving love and we are destined to share in that exchange as male and female.  The yearning for love and union that we all experience both in body and in soul is ultimately a cry of the heart for union with God and with all of creation.  And that’s what God wants to grant us – an eternal bliss of union with him, and with everyone and everything.  Scripture calls it the “Marriage of the Lamb.”  The call of man and woman to become “one flesh” tells the story of God’s desire to take on flesh and become one with us.  And that’s precisely why the devil is hell-bent on distorting our understanding of sexuality.  When he twists it out of shape, we can no longer read the story, and our understanding of Christianity is placed in great jeopardy.  At the heart of our faith is the Incarnation: God in the flesh.  So it’s critical to understand that the TOB is not just about sex and marriage.  It takes us to the heart of the Gospel itself.

Kapler:  I know that many of us parents would like to hear your advice on how to introduce our children to TOB.  How did you begin with your own children?  How did you gradually unfold this vision and when/how did you know it was appropriate to fully explain what is meant by the “marital embrace”?

West:  First, we must recognize what a critical responsibility we have as parents to pass on the glory of God’s plan for the body and sexuality to our children.  Silence is not an option.  When we say nothing, the culture fills the void with its terribly distorted message.  But we can’t give what we don’t have.  As parents, before we can pass the TOB on to our children, we have to immerse ourselves in it.

The Church teaches that education in God’s plan for sexuality must begin in the womb, and continue uninterrupted throughout all the ages and stages of development.  So, obviously, we’re talking about much more than just giving our kids “the talk” when they reach a certain age.  We’re talking about a way of living and of embracing life that is itself an education in the meaning of sexuality.  We’re also talking about engaging in an ongoing conversation about the meaning, purpose, and dignity of being created as male and female in the image of God.  One of the things my wife and I have done with our kids is put this ongoing education in the context of our nightly prayers.  Every day since they were born my kids have heard me thanking God for making Mom to be a woman and making me to be a man; for calling us to the sacrament of marriage; and for bringing each of them into the world through Mom and Dad’s love.  Then I ask God to help the boys grow into strong men and the girls to grow into strong women and I ask God to teach them how to give their bodies away in love as Jesus loves.  Then I pray for their future vocations.  Eventually, as they get older they start asking: “What does it mean that I came into the world through your love?”  That’s when we start taking the conversation to the next level – based on their age level and understanding – and it unfolds fairly naturally from there.

If we are presenting God’s plan in all its splendor and in age-appropriate ways, there is nothing to be ashamed of here.  There is nothing to be squeamish about or embarrassed about.  If we find ourselves clamming up and unable to talk about these beautiful truths with our children, that’s an indication, I think, that we ourselves are in need of some healing in this area of our lives.  Taking up a study of JP II’s TOB is a great place to start on that journey.

Kapler:  I would like to hear about the growth of your interior life.   You obviously have a deep appreciation of the Carmelites.   When and how were you introduced to their writings?   Who do you consider your great teachers?

West:  I first got turned on to Carmelite spirituality in the writings of John Paul II.  When JP II speaks of prayer as a journey toward “nuptial union” with the Lord, he speaks by name of Saints John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.  That’s what encouraged me to start reading their works.  To be honest, I had already been speaking and writing about the TOB for several years before I really started pursuing a deeper interior life.  It’s one thing to be able to speak and write about the theological ideas in your head.  It’s another thing altogether to allow those theological truths to penetrate and transform your heart.  Life has a way of compelling you on that journey, but we often resist it because transformation demands purification and that’s painful – it means passing through fire, through trials and dark nights.  Not fun.  But oh so rewarding, and so necessary for our souls!  In 2004 I started seeing a priest for spiritual direction and I’ve been seeing him regularly ever since.  He’s immersed in the mystical tradition of the Church and has helped me tremendously in developing a deeper interior life.  I’d say that he and my wife – and, of course, John Paul II – have been my greatest teachers in that regard.

Kapler:  When I hear your name I immediately think of the Theology of the Body Institute.  When your book At the Heart of the Gospel was released, however, I discovered that you had launched a new apostolate called The Cor Project.  Readers would love to know more about it.  What are its goals?  Does it mean less time working with the TOB Institute?

West:  I co-founded the TOB Institute in 2004 with two other colleagues and was involved for several years in its administration as the Institute was solidifying its mission and programs.  We’ve attracted a top-notch faculty – including Janet Smith, Peter Kreeft, Bill Donaghy, John Haas, and Michael Waldstein – and students come from around the world to take the week-long intensive courses that are part of the TOB Institute’s Certification Program (  I continue to teach about four of these intensive classes every year, but I’ve stepped away from the administrative side of things to pursue a new global initiative called The Cor Project.

“Cor,” of course, is Latin for heart.  At the heart of culture is the relationship of man and woman.  It’s an illusion to think we can renew culture unless we reach this “cor” with a healing, redemptive vision of life, love, and sexuality.  I’ve spent nearly 20 years spreading TOB in Catholic circles, and I’ll continue to serve in that way.  But The Cor Project is working with culture-shaping individuals and organizations around the world – artists, musicians, screenwriters, playwrights, Hollywood and Broadway producers, businessmen and women, experts and pioneers in online education – to take the message to a wider audience.  We feel urgently compelled by Christ’s call to “go into the main streets and invite everyone to the wedding feast.”

Kapler:  You and some of the Cor Project team just returned from Haiti.  What did you see the Lord doing among the Haitian people?

West:  We were invited to educate the priests, but we also had the chance to be among the poorest of the poor.  We spent some time with a lovely Irish missionary nun, Sr. Anne, who, as part of her rounds, took us to meet a paralyzed teenaged girl who lives in a small shack on the side of a mountain.  You would think this girl – who has nothing and lives a life of great suffering – would be tragically depressed, but she radiated joy.  Sr. Anne asked her why she was so joyful and the girl said, “I talk to Jesus all day long, and he talks to me.”  That was the most memorable experience of the trip.

Kapler:  In At the Heart of the Gospel you pointed out, and I would argue rightly so, that we cannot change the culture through a merely intellectual presentation of the Truth, nor one that starts simply by attacking error.  Instead we need to focus upon the beauty and power of the Truth as it comes to us, for example, in John Paul II’s TOB.  But what does that look like?  How should I respond when I am at work and my coworker begins talking about how bigoted it is to oppose same-sex “marriage”?

West:  Yes, where to begin?  I think it’s important to look for common ground before discussing differences.  For instance, everyone yearns for love.  Everyone feels that “ache” inside for fulfillment.  Start there.  Affirm it.  Catholic teaching is so often presented merely as a list of prohibitions rather than as a path by which to pursue the satisfaction of the deepest desires of our hearts.  In my experience, if people know that you are with them in affirming that deepest yearning of the human heart – if they know that you feel that yearning too and are a true seeker of answers to life’s deepest questions – then we can begin a civilized conversation about what fulfills that yearning and what doesn’t.  In other words, we need to love people right where they are and approach them not with an agenda to prove a point or win an argument, but with love, compassion, understanding, patience, and as a fellow seeker in the human quest for answers to life’s questions.

Kapler:  I understand you have a new book about to be released, Fill These Hearts.  What is the focus?

West:  Actually, it’s about precisely what we were just discussing – that “ache” inside that we all feel for fulfillment.  The subtitle is God, Sex, and the Universal Longing.  The Greeks called that longing “eros.”  Fill These Hearts explores the ancient but largely forgotten idea that the restless, erotic yearning we feel at the core of our being is actually our desire for God, for “the wedding feast” that Christ promises in the Gospels.  I try to show that true satisfaction of our hunger lies not in repressing eros, nor in indulging it lustfully, but in learning how to direct our desire according to God’s design so we can safely arrive at our eternal destiny: bliss and ecstasy in union with God and one another forever.  The Gospel in a nutshell is this: there is a banquet that corresponds to the hunger we all feel inside; there is a sweet wine that corresponds to the thirst we feel inside; there is a balm that corresponds to the “ache” in our hearts.  Life, yearning, suffering, love, our cry for intimacy and union – all begin to make sense when the Church’s teaching is properly framed and presented as the beautiful invitation that it is.

Kapler:  Fill These Hearts is more than a book, it’s also a live event.  Would you tell us about that?

West:  Sure.  I’ve been in dialogue with a team of creative thinkers and artists for several years now, all of the “JP II generation.”  Each of us has been impacted by art and music as much as by our study of theology.  We were especially inspired by JP II’s Letter to Artists in which he insists that the Gospel cannot be presented in all of its splendor without the help of art.  With that as our inspiration, The Cor Project has been developing an artistic event that integrates my presentations with the live music of indie folk-rock group Mike Mangione and the Union ( along with other artistic elements like movie clips, classical and contemporary paintings and icons and thematic imagery projected on large screens.

Kapler:  So this is quite different from the church seminars you’ve done in the past?

West:  It’s much more like a night at the theater, a kind of living, moving performance.  The art, the music, and the spoken presentation are all woven together to create a cohesive whole.  I’ve always tried to keep my presentations lively, but you can only go so far with the spoken word.  Art is the language of the heart.  A song, a melody, a movie clip, a beautiful painting projected on the big screen takes the message to an entirely new level.  And the highlight of the evening for almost everyone is the sand-painting.  If you’ve never seen this form of art before, you won’t want to miss it.  It pierces the heart and communicates the message at a much more profound level than a mere lecture ever could.

Kapler:  Who is your target audience for this event and where can people learn more?

West: We want this event to be something that Catholics can invite their fallen-away or even un-churched friends and family to.  This is one of the reasons we typically hold these events in theaters rather than churches.  It is certainly intended to enrich the faith of those who are already active in the Church, but we also want to reach out to those who might not be inclined to attend a “church event.”  We have one more event in 2012, in Sylvania, Ohio, on Nov 17.  Then we’ll be launching a national tour in 2013 in tandem with the release of the book.  If you’d like to attend or inquire about bringing one of these events to your area, you can learn more at

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fundamentalism - What it is, and isn't

You have undoubtedly heard someone say, "We Catholics are not fundamentalists;" and they are correct.  The problem arises when it is followed by something like, "we're not bound by the social taboos of an earlier time.  As a Catholic, I support 'marriage equality,'" and by that mean redefining "marriage" in a way completely at odds with Scripture and the Catholic Faith. (Think I heard our V.P. say something like that recently.)

When a Catholic, such as Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) says that he or she is not a fundamentalist, they do not mean that they have freedom to reinterpret the doctrinal and moral tenets of the Faith, which as Catholics they believe the truth of which is guaranteed by God.  Or to put it in shorthand:
"I am not a fundamentalist" "I can say Scripture or the Church has been wrong on a point of faith or morals"
If someone has led you to believe otherwise then he or she has done you a gross disservice.  The Church's morality, given to her by God, does not changeThe authentic Catholic understanding is:
"I am not a fundamentalist"  =  "When I read the Bible I understand that ancient authors, just like today's authors, make use of literal as well as figurative language; and it sometimes takes study to understand which is which."
In her official documents the Church has stated time and again that Scipture was written in a different culture than our own, and makes use of literary genres that we do not.  History was written under different rules.  When you read that a king reigned "X" number of years, the author may have been using a symbolic number (40 was a popular one, meaning 'fullness'), or a multiple of it - never meaning his number to be read as those recorded in the Encyclopedia Britannica. The Bible's authors used idioms and hyperbole just as we do today ... the only difference being that we are unfamiliar with theirs.  (We're like four year-olds who start to squirm when dad tells them an X-Box costs "an arm and a leg.")  And when we Catholics come at the creation accounts in Genesis 1-3, we understand that the author had no intention of writing a scientific account!  What he wrote was 100% true, but communicated in language we might characterize as a "poetic" history, as opposed to a scientific one. (We understand that man and woman were made by God, that the family is willed by God, there was a Fall from grace, etc.)  When we read Luke's account of the Resurrection on the other hand, he was making claims about what witnesses saw, and reporting history in a way familiar to us today.

When Scripture shows God saying, "Thou shalt not kill ..." it is a positive assertion, and we are bound to it.  Same with the host of biblical statements on marriage and sexual morality that a significant number of Christians today, more influenced by the world than by Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian teaching, seem comfortable ignoring and even opposing.  They misunderstand the statement "We are not fundamentalists" to mean "We do not have to be faithful to these hard teachings, these teachings that our culture has started to belittle."

The Jesus of history, the Jesus recorded in Scripture, made a bold assertion.  It should make us pause before we reject what Christianity has always proclaimed to be true:  "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels" (Lk.9:26).