Friday, September 27, 2019


How many of you know what a "saturno" is? In short, it is a hat that (more traditionally minded) Catholic priests wear with their cassock; it is seen very often in Rome. The name comes from the fact that is shaped something like the planet Saturn. It is a noticeable statement that helps the priest to express his calling to others so that they can find him when they need him (trust me, this really makes a difference for many people). You have probably seen them in old pictures and occasionally in a movie here and there. Would any of you like to see me wearing one? With the recent "criticism" of traditional priests wearing a cassock with a saturno, there are a few projects started in order to purchase a saturno for a priest (they can be quite expensive). My name has been put forward to receive one (someone must think I am kind of traditional?), and you can help it to happen by donating a small amount to a gofundme page (see here). Once mine is purchased, the funds will go for a saturno for another priest, so you are helping either way.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Good Guys, Bad Guys, and the Family

I have mentioned before that I like a good scary movie once in a while. No, I am not referring to those "gore fests" that are for people who actually enjoy death and mayhem; I am speaking, rather, about those stories where someone is in a scary situation (supernatural, science fiction, etc.) and has to work to overcome it. Of late, there has been a clear increase in the number of "scary movies" that portray children as the "bad guy" in them (either because they are possessed, or insane or otherwise). If we go back just 30 years, there were almost no children even seen in scary movies, and now there are children who are the main antagonists; something has changed.

Aside from the fact of what is happening to the souls of the children involved in the filming of these movies, there is clearly something wrong with this. What is it that Hollywood is saying in doing this? Unless it is a "Freudian slip" and is expressing the fact that those who are making these movies think their own children are evil, I cannot figure out what the motivation is. It is true that our entertainment is often a reflection of what is going on in society, and sometimes it is even a encouragement from the movie-makers about what they want to have going on in society (like with the push for the normalizing of sodomy back in the 80's and 90's).

So then, what conclusions can we take from this? At the very least it appears that we are seeing stories that show us that parenting has failed. Parents are supposed to teach their children to be good (which all would agree with regardless of their definition of what is "good"). This is not a blame game, but the numbers of people with children who are "out of control" while in the home, who have lost their faith after moving out, or who have left the Church and become protestants is staggering! The parenting techniques used by the vast majority of people (including Catholics) today (which can be summarized as a basic refusal to discipline) has failed; miserably. Something went wrong, and we are now reaping the consequences of it.

Hollywood's surge of movies about "evil children" could very well be an attempt to shove the blame somewhere else. There was a comedian back in the 60's who used the excuse "the devil made me do it" and made people laugh with it. Today, it seems that we can take from these movies that people are wanting to say "the devil made THEM do it" (i.e. their kids). It comes across as "don't blame me for my kids behavior". As a parent, I know that I have made mistakes; I know that I have not always done what was the absolute best for my children, and have not always made the best decisions in every instance. The only hope for success that parents have is the grace of God (no matter how good they are at parenting). Parents fail, and that is why they need to trust our Lord Jesus to help them in their task. Blaming someone or something else never helps to make things better (unless all you care about is your own feelings).

Coupled with this "evil children" surge in movies is another surge which is clearly related to it. If we have degenerated so much that we see it as acceptable for children (who used to be considered innocent and pure) to be the main "bad guy" in our entertainment, then we can just take the next step and have no good guys at all. How many movies are there that are just stories about one bad guy fighting against another bad guy (you may be surprised at how common this is)? How many movies have the police portrayed as the antagonists in the story? How anyone can watch an entire movie or series where everyone is evil, with no movement toward the good and holy, is amazing. Some stories will have a few "good guys" but they are just insignificant background characters (as I have heard about the series called "Game of Thrones"). It takes an incredibly calloused heart for someone to be comfortable with watching stories devoid of what is "true, good and beautiful".

The only way that we can get this far down the scale of moral compromise is if we step away from the godly norm of what family is supposed to be. One of the purposes of the Catholic family is to raise children in a safe environment and train them in how to deal with the world. In other words, teaching them the difference between "good guys and bad guys". Yet, if we are teaching them through entertainment that it is OK for us to cheer for the bad guys, and that children can become the source of evil, then we are not properly training them. Are we surprised in a culture like this that we have children wanting to kill other children at school?

For many in the world today, commitment to family has dwindled down to almost nothing. Many children actually desire to move far away from their parents and relatives (usually for a bigger paycheck or some kind of self-fulfillment!). Fewer and fewer people care about the importance of family, and even fewer understand what a family actually is. Godly family order is becoming a rarity, and it appears that most people do not really care about that either, because they openly express that they do not have a desire to restore it. The family, ordered and disciplined according to the word of God, must be restored. It must be something that we are willing to fight for.

How much are you willing to do to reject the world (and especially its immoral entertainment) so that your family can be faithful? Fathers, are you ready to sacrifice your own desires for the sake of your wives and children? It is what every dad is called to. The Church has, unfortunately, not done a great job of supporting families in recent years, but the means of doing so are firmly planted in our Traditions (cf. the encyclicals, Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, and especially Familiaris Consortio). Parents, have you read them? Do you know what truths they contain? Get copies now; you can download them off the web freely and easily. Know them, learn them, and teach them to your children. This is who we are as Catholics.

Friday, September 13, 2019

How to Learn Like a Catholic (part 2)

Picking up on the topic of my previous post (well over a week ago now--sorry, I've been busy), I need to point out one of the greatest problems that occurs whenever people try to learn more about their faith (which, as I said before, is always a good thing--in principle). We are warned in Sacred Scripture, many times and in various ways, that knowledge can make us become prideful. St. Paul says it this way:
“Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know (1 Cor 8:1-2).
In other words, frequently when people get a bit of knowledge in their heads (especially those who are immature in their faith) it makes them think they know a whole lot more than they actually do (and then leads to pride). Thinking that you are really smart, proves that you are not!

As I mentioned in the previous post, we can practice wrong methods of learning without even knowing it. This creates a problematic situation for those who have a (good!) passion to learn. They begin with the wrong methodology, and then end up applying it to their continued practice of learning. Being prideful about one's knowledge does not go away when further knowledge is gained. The pride just taints that knowledge as well.

I recall once seeing a Dad explain to his 5 year son something about how a car worked. The boy then proceeded to run to all his friends explaining what he had just learned. By the look on his face you would imagine that he had just figured out quantum physics on his own! New converts to Catholicism can easily get puffed up in the exact same way because they read a few books about the faith and then think they are so brilliant they deserve an honorary doctoral degree. People who are more mature in their faith will always be humble about their knowledge. This does not mean that they do not speak about it, but that when they do, they are always aware that they do not know "as they ought to know" (and their humility is evident).

It is a common example of immaturity in the faith when someone presumes that since he knows one detail about a situation or subject that he knows all that he needs to know. This causes these immature "puffed up" Catholics to make quick accusations against others, to be fast to declare every error a "heresy" and to think it right to examine every comment of a theological nature with a fine tooth comb. I often refer to those who are struggling with this issue as being in the "cage stage". The cage stage is when someone is on fire for the faith (which is a good thing) and that fire gets out of control because they do not have enough spiritual formation to know what to do with what they have learned. This state is so dangerous that they should probably be locked up in a cage for the next five years (metaphorically speaking); thus, the "cage stage".

There are many ways to spot when someone is in the cage stage (but is roaming around freely!) and each of us should examine our own hearts in this regard. One is that they constantly want to talk about theology, but have no genuine depth; their topics are often limited to the same few subjects without variation. Another sign of the cage stage is when someone is so excited about their new found faith, that they presume that they should be everyone's teacher (especially on the internet). A third sign is when they portray themselves as being well read (because they have an opinion on everything), but they constantly pronounce technical terms incorrectly (this is because they have no formal training, and have not spent the time to verify what they are reading, they just rush through a few things without any mature guidance).

It is occasionally the case that people with a little bit of "dangerous knowledge" can be calmed down by a friend, parent, or priest, but if their personal pride is at stake, then they usually will not listen to anyone other than those who agree completely with them. It can be frustrating when you meet someone struggling with this type of error because you want to help them, but the error itself is the very thing that will make them doubt your sincerity. When criticized, they usually respond with a claim that the critic is "deceived" or "compromised" because he does not see it their way; they just have a few bits and pieces of knowledge without the genuine depth of the truth (that takes years to grasp fully) so they have gotten "puffed up" as St. Paul said.

Those who are in the cage stage, if left unchecked, will often become satisfied with their limited knowledge and presume that they cannot trust anyone with true spiritual wisdom because the others do not agree with their perspective on things. One of the saddest things about this is that those who could learn more--because they are genuinely hungry for knowledge--end up stagnating because they presume on their own brilliance and refuse to listen to the wise counsel of others.

There are a number of evidences that the Catholic Church recognizes this problem and has worked to overcome it. For example, this "cage stage" experience is the reason why engaged couples need to wait six months between the betrothal and the wedding; it takes time to learn the things necessary to receive the sacrament of matrimony rightly. Another example is the standard RCIA process of catechesis. Most often classes last at least eight months. This is so that they can take time to let things sink in and not presume that what they know on day one is sufficient to understand the Catholic faith. Bad decisions are always made when someone does not have enough information. With formal training we can grow in our faith, with "I taught myself" we can get stuck in a prideful rut of distrust.

Look deeply into your own heart to see if you suffer from the "cage stage" in any way (realize some people can get stuck in this stage for many years!). Humility is hard, but it is always worth the effort. Take to heart St. Paul's admonition that none of us "knows as we ought" to know. We all have room for growth. Next, if you know someone in the cage stage, then pray for them. Pray that they will find humility and pray that they will realize the need to "learn like a Catholic" and be in full submission to the Church and the deposit of the faith (all of it). Let us work to restore the faith of our fathers, but let us do it in a godly manner.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

How to Learn Like a Catholic

I have heard more stories about bad religious formation in Catholic Churches during the 70's, 80's and 90's than I can count. Before I was received into the Church, a Catholic tried to warn me about this situation; he did not have to do so. The overwhelming testimony from unrelated individuals made it perfectly clear: catechesis in those decades was a disaster. Numerous Catholics today are ignorant of large portions of their faith, and many of them that do know what the Church teaches openly express that they do not believe it. Every one of us knows that we need to learn our faith better, no matter how much we know currently, but this problem is much bigger than that.

Thankfully we can see that a good number of Catholics are seeking to remedy this problem. Some are working to develop better catechetical programs in their local parishes, and a good deal of parents are doing the same in their own homes. There are basically two ways that we can grow in our knowledge of the teachings of the Church and they are not morally equivalent. First, learning can be done the way Catholics have largely done it for 2000 years: in submission to the doctrines of the Church and under the guidance of the clergy that God has placed over them. Second, it can be done as protestants have done it for all 500 years of their splintering existence: in self-determined authority, distrusting any and all of the authorities over them.

Now, to be perfectly clear, I have never heard any Catholic come to me and say that he chose to "learn like a protestant", but I have met a number of Catholics who are doing so without realizing what they are doing. I truly believe that if most of them knew what they were doing that they would stop and seek to do things properly. This more protestant methodology has infected many more areas than you may think. It is largely what is taught in public schools and is the reason why there is so much rebellion seen there. If the most common place where Americans are educated takes on this self-focused manner of learning, it is bound to further taint the rest of society.

Here we arrive at the big issue: how you learn will determine how you grow. I know many people who went to public school and never really learned how to read a book. Yes, they know how to read, but they do not know how to dig deeper into a book than the mere surface subject matter. Thus, when they are adults they continue to struggle with how to learn because they were never really taught how to think and examine a subject properly. How you learn, determines how you grow.

In other words, the manner of education determines more than just "what" you learn, it also determines "how" you will think, and that determines much of your future growth. Many "cradle" Catholics were sent to public school for their education, and they learned a very anti-catholic method of learning. These same Catholics now are influencing much of the Church and perpetuating this error without realizing it even is an error. Furthermore, many of those who convert to Catholicism were not only sent to the public schools, but had this selfish methodology ingrained into them in their years as protestants (double whammy!).

Rarely are converts to the Church taught that they need to change their method of education. I try my best to get this point across in every RCIA catechesis class that I teach, but I know that it is not the norm. What I try to teach them is what is stated in 1 Corinthians chapter 2. St. Paul says there that there is a "wisdom" that is different than the world's wisdom. This wisdom can only be understood by those who have the help of the Holy Spirit of God. The very manner of thinking that the Church endorses will look "foolish" by those who have only the world's wisdom, and are ignorant of God's wisdom.

It should be obvious to the most casual observer that this is a crucial aspect of spiritual formation, and yet most people take their manner of thinking for granted. I know that I did for years. This is most especially the case for those who are spiritually immature. They believe that learning is nothing more than stuffing some facts into their heads, so they keep themselves on the throne of their personal knowledge, and everything they learn is done in this way. Because they are seeking to learn about our Lord, they presume that it is all good and holy; all the while unaware that they are opening themselves up for contention and quarrels whenever anyone disagrees with them (not Catholic practice at all).

This is a serious concern, and it is hard to overcome because few realize they are "learning wrong". Usually when you confront someone who is thinking as an independent non-catholic, they process what you have said as an independent non-catholic (the dilemma is obvious). Their very rejection of the truth is because they have brought their errant thinking with them when they converted and became Catholic. Let us each look deeply to see if we have fallen to this same error. In my next post, I will expand on this problem.