Saturday, August 27, 2016

My book, Raising Chaste Catholic Men, is published!!






AHHHHH!!!! After almost 50 years on this planet, I have written my very first book, Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom! You all have been so supportive (and patient, as I've been terribly absent from this blog), and I can't thank you enough. They say that writing a book is like having a baby, and it's sorta true! Excitement at the beginning, long stretches of waiting in the middle, and then pins and needles at the end! Ironically, my "book baby" took about nine months to gestate, from conception to birth! Weird! But so fun!

The book is basically a heart-to-heart yet very practical talk from one mom to another, about what we can do to help our sons remain chaste. It's a worry that so many Catholic moms have (thank goodness for women who care about their sons' virtue and salvation!), and after hearing enough of them ask me to write something helpful, this is the result.

If we are going to change the world for Christ, we have to work together and help one another. I hope this little book will help mothers (and fathers) who are raising sons, so that we can combat the crisis of manhood in our culture, and give the world men who flourish as God intended!

Okay, here is the description, with reviews to follow:


Anxiety among Catholic mothers is sky high. How do we teach our sons to be chaste when a sex-obsessed culture is ready to drag our boys into the pit at every turn? All we want to do is protect the innocence of our little ones and the honor of our teens, yet the snares of ubiquitous porn, hook-up sex, LGBT ideology, and the devaluing of true manhood appear unavoidable. What’s a mother to do? 

Relax, grab your beverage of choice, and flip open Raising Chaste Catholic Men. In this little heart-to-heart between us girls (although the guys can listen in, too), Leila Miller will take your hand and calm your fears by giving you practical advice in simple terms, based on her 25 years of experience in raising eight children, six of them sons. Some of the serious topics addressed with good humor and no fear include:

Three basic rules for parenting
What to do when boys are little
Answering the culture’s accusations
Straight talk about masturbation
Navigating pop culture
What to do when things go wrong
Advice from chaste young men themselves

...and much more, all of it designed to bring your worried heart some peace by giving you a plan of action and the power tools to pull it off. So, trust God and dive in! You’ve got good men to raise, and the world needs them!



PRAISE FOR RAISING CHASTE CATHOLIC MEN

"If I could give every Catholic parent three books, the first two would be easy: the Bible and the Catechism. Next? Probably this one. Leila Miller's guide addresses the one challenge that terrifies almost all parents: How can we raise chaste, Godly children in a culture incessantly feeding them lies about sex and marriage? More specifically, how can we help our boys grow into young men who are free from sexual sin and radiate heroic virtue? If those are your questions, this book has the answers. Leila tackles head-on the most pressing vices such as lust, masturbation, and pornography, showing how to help your son navigate around them. Her advice is hopeful and practical, full of plain-language tips and proven solutions. The many first-hand accounts from admirable young men, including Leila's own sons, show the fruit that will result from these strategies. All Catholic parents should read this book carefully, once by themselves and then once again with their spouse. We live in a crooked sexual culture. This book will make straight the way."

- Brandon Vogt, author of RETURN and Content Director at Word on Fire Catholic Ministries


"If you, like me, want to get into the duck-and-cover position any time the subject of talking to your kids about sexuality comes up, then this book is for you. With the candor of a good friend and the wisdom of an experienced mother, Leila Miller demystifies a subject that is overwhelming for many people."

- Jennifer Fulwiler, bestselling author of Something Other than God and host of The Jennifer Fulwiler Show on SiriusXM

"In Raising Chaste Catholic Men, Leila Miller reminds us moms that the Church is there for us. The thing is, Leila is there for us too, an image of Mother Mary, to show us how the Church helps raise up our future men. In her characteristic style—full of love for clarity, logic, and truth—she gives straight talk to moms about the straight talk we need to give our sons. Her book is a conduit of grace."

- Dr. Stacy Trasancos, author of Particles of Faith


"Our society is in a crisis of authentic masculinity. Parents, even Catholic ones, don't realize the battle they are in for their children's souls, especially for their sons. Leila Miller's book offers sound, practical wisdom to Catholic parents seeking to help their sons grow to become chaste, faithful men. Miller draws from her own experience in rearing faithful sons in a pornified culture and delivers helpful tips for how other Catholic parents can do the same."

- Devin Rose, Catholic father and author of Navigating the Tiber, blogging at heroicvirtuecreations.com


“Every generation has a few writers who can simply and clearly impart wisdom and direction, and Leila Miller is one of these. This book is necessary for any parent, priest, youth minister, or guardian who wishes to tackle the subjects at which most would normally balk. Leila handles the hard questions gracefully and directly, and her succinct, no-nonsense wit keeps you gripped and wanting to know everything she can teach you. I have no doubt that men for many generations will be blessed and thankful for her efforts, not the least of which are her very own successful and honorable sons. Of course she has the right to name the book, but I would call it Manual for Not Raising Derelict Hedonists.”

- Rosalie Contrite, of ContriteCatholic.com and This Catholic Life podcast


In Raising Chaste Catholic Men, Leila Miller provides frank, funny, and faith-filled advice on protecting boys from our diseased culture. If you've given up or given in, thinking that "every family has at least one" child that abandons the faith, this book will renew your hope. Mrs. Miller not only speaks from her experience as a mom; she rounds up young men to speak directly to the reader. You can raise chaste Catholic men! Just grab this book and spend some time on your knees.

- Connie Rossini, author of Trusting God With St. Therese, and ContemplativeHomeschool.com


"I loved this book, and every mother and grandmother of boys should read this. There is such hope and joy in knowing it's possible to raise strong moral men in spite of the culture swirling around them.”

- Rebecca Frech, author of Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us


Please enjoy!

And if you would like a signed copy, email me at raisingchastecatholicmen@gmail.com and I can tell you how that works.


For paperback, go here:
Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom

For ebook, go here:
Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom

(They are not linked for some reason; gotta figure that out.)


+++++++++


First "regular reader" feedback is in! Here is what I heard this morning:



'This was a friendly, supportive, quick read. I liked that your certainity challenged me. "Character formation" is the part that really jumped out at me. I tend to be the easy-going, lets have fun parent. I like that you didn't punish me for having that attitude, but reminded me to do both (parenting & friendship) but do it in the right order (parenting first, then friendship). I felt really encouraged that I am doing similar things in sexual education. I read this thinking "Oh yeah, we're on track." I liked your humility. I didn't feel like you were "teaching me" I felt like you were "coaching me." I loved, loved, loved the quotes from young men in the back. My son is only 11, so I really don't have that feedback loop of young male adults yet. At the end of the read I felt like you said "You've got this" and I mentally answered "Heck, yes!" Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Please write more books.'


'I have it!!! Started reading it this morning after I woke up! Couldn't hold myself back! Leila, it is sooo good. No, I take that back - it is great! Can I say that this just may be the most needed book ever? Lol. Just wanted to give you some early feedback. I'll be writing a review for it on Amazon when I am finished. Congratulations! I was smiling when I read the first few chapters because it was just so YOU!'



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Just Curious: What Have You Published?



So, as I crawl like a beaten-down slug proceed jauntily to the homestretch of my first book, Raising Chaste Catholic Men (due out on August 27, the Feast of St. Monica!), I thought of all the great writers and talent we have out in the Bubble community, and I figured it's time for a fun Just Curious!






What have you published? Do you have a blog? A book? An academic work out there? Assuming it's nothing offensive or objectionable to common decency, I'd love to hear about it, and feel free to share your links and titles with all of us!


Okay, go!



Sunday, August 7, 2016

I've been waiting for decades for these two books to be written!



No joke -- I've wanted the knowledge that is in these books for so long, nicely consolidated for me and easily available on my bookshelf, and here they suddenly come on the heels of one another, written by my friends, Stacy Trasancos and Trent Horn, who are also friends of the Bubble!

You all are going to love this.

In my opinion, the toughest and most common questions (sometimes accusations) that we Catholics have to answer are questions of 1) reconciling faith and science, and 2) questions about the "hard sayings" of the Bible, including the "mean God" of the Old Testament and all the "inconsistencies and contradictions".

Dr. Stacy Trasancos' book, Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science tackles the question of faith and science. Written for for the average layman who may or may not have a background in science (I do not!), Stacy takes us first through her fascinating personal story, including her movement away from the Protestantism of her childhood and into a kind of religious indifference as she moved through her doctoral studies and career as a research chemist. Not without suffering, Stacy ultimately found her way to Catholicism and now occupies space on both sides of the science vs. faith debates, which makes her voice invaluable to all of us today.




The epiphany of how she personally reconciled faith and science is not what I expected, and I could never do it justice here. Expressed so intimately and beautifully, her perspective shuts down the erroneous idea that faith and science must constantly be fighting, and she describes this mystery in a way that only a brilliant scientist and a servant of God can. 

Some of the questions she breaks down and explains:

Can a Christian accept evolution? Does quantum mechanics explain free will? Does the Big Bang prove God? Are Creationism and Intelligent Design correct? When does human life begin? 

There are passages that describe the basics of the atomic world and points of chemistry that I found fascinating but didn't fully absorb (my brain really does not work spatially and scientifically), and that's okay. Skim or skip the technical explanations if you must, and you won't miss a beat. 

Aside from her personal journey ("A Story About the Chasm"), the most compelling part of the book for me was her explanation of the origins of man, specifically, how to reconcile what we know through scientific discovery with our belief in Adam and Eve, our first parents. I feel like I finally have a language for discussing the subject, and much more deeply and thoroughly than I had before.

If you have ever been confused or tongue-tied about how science and faith fit together, read Particles of Faith (available for pre-order now). If you are like me, you'll read it straight through and then keep coming back to it when you need it. I am so grateful to have it. 



I am also incredibly grateful for Trent Horn's Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties. Trent is a writer, speaker, and radio host for Catholic Answers, and I'm not the only one who believes that he is the best Catholic apologist of our day. The man has a gift, people! 




Trent's book covers just about every biblical "hard saying" and misunderstanding you can imagine (and have likely been confronted with) and explains each one with incredible clarity. You will feel blissfully knowledgeable when you walk away from each chapter.

And it's all there:

Is the Old Testament just Bronze Age ignorance? What of legendary biblical creatures, mythical patriarchs, and bungled history? Aren't there 1001 internal contradictions in the Bible? Gospels that can't agree, conflicting advice, and contradictory names and numbers?

And what about all the evil? Isn't the Bible just evil? What of the bad role models, misogyny, bizarre laws, and cruel punishments? Doesn't the Bible (thus God) endorse slavery and genocide? And so much more, including the Catholic view of Scripture and whether or not the Bible has been corrupted.

Hard Sayings is that reference book that you'll return to time and again, sometimes for your own edification and knowledge, and sometimes when a particular question or accusation has been thrown your way.


We are so blessed to have these great minds using their gifts and talents to help the rest of us better understand and defend our Catholic Faith.

Thank you, Stacy and Trent!



_________


On a personal note, I apologize for the dearth of blog posts lately! Believe it or not, I have just today (finally!!) finished writing my book, Raising Chaste Catholic Men, and after I attend to the details of the publishing part of it, it should be ready by (please God) the end of this month. Meantime, I will be taking one of my sons off to his freshman year of college soon, at which point exactly half my children will have flown the coop. Sob! 

Thanks for bearing with me, thanks for any prayers you can spare, and I will be back in the saddle just as soon as I can!




















Friday, July 22, 2016

Hillary's VP pick, Tim Kaine: The worst kind of Catholic politician


Alex Wong/Getty Images


A predictable pick by Hillary Clinton. Pandering to the Catholic vote, and in light of the fact that the majority of Catholics in America are poorly catechized and barely practicing, she tags Virginia Senator Tim Kaine for her running mate, a man who is a "Catholic but":

In an interview in the Capitol, Kaine -- a Catholic who personally opposes abortion -- says his views on the issue have not changed over his career. 
But asked if he would characterize himself as "pro-life," he said: "I've never embraced labels." 
"I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn't intrude," Kaine told CNN. "I'm a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade and women being able to make these decisions."  [emphases mine]

Those who cry out for "integrity" in this election should note well that Kaine is the opposite of integrated. He claims a faith, then rejects it when it actually matters. I'm fairly certain that God is not interested in Kaine's sacrifice of the innocent for political expediency, the esteem of men, and ascendency of power.

As my own wonderful Bishop Thomas Olmsted has said:

"The 'Catholic but. . .' syndrome stands in direct contradiction to Jesus' clear and unequivocal demand (Mk 8:34-36), 'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?'"

Mr. Kaine has a 100% rating and endorsement from rabid pro-abortion groups NARAL and Planned Parenthood, and 100% from Human Rights Campaign [LGBT advocacy] for his "position on marriage" -- namely, his full support of gay "marriage", i.e., his complete rejection of natural law and the teaching of his professed Catholic faith.

So while I am not at all surprised that Hillary picked such a man, each and every time I hear of yet another "Catholic but" (Biden, Pelosi, Sebelius, Cuomo, pick-a-Kennedy, etc.), I immediately think ...

Tell it to the Judge.

And good luck with that. 




Lord, have mercy.












Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Another child married! Such joy!



Praise God from whom all blessings flow!



Aspen Jade Photography



Our eldest son was married on Saturday to his beautiful bride! We could not be happier, and we are still flying high!




Welcome to the family, Mrs. Miller! 





More pictures to come in the future!





Thursday, July 14, 2016

Navigating the Tiber, by Devin Rose




We all have friends, co-workers, and family members whom we would love to welcome into the Catholic Church. And we all have those awkward and sometimes painful discussions with them, when contentious or controverted issues come up in conversation and we don't quite know what to say or how to say it.

Well, our good friend here in the Bubble, Devin Rose, has written a book that eases the way for us. Many of you already know and love him, and I've referenced and written about him many times in the past. He is, quite literally, one of the reasons I have a blog today.

Two years ago, I told you about his book, The Protestant's Dilemma (if you are a non-Catholic Christian, I cannot recommend this book highly enough!) and also linked his compelling appearance on the Journey Home, where he recounts his conversion story from atheist, to Protestant, to Catholic. He also has an important and effective program to help Catholic men fight the beast of porn addiction.

Now we can add his much-awaited Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith, published by Catholic Answers.




I read the entire book, easily, in two nights. As I read, I became excited about how valuable it will be for the many readers who email to ask me the best way to reach their non-Catholic or anti-Catholic family members -- people who love Jesus Christ but do not understand, and in some cases despise, the Catholic Church.

I love this book because it is practical, clear, and systematic. With a clever mariner theme (we are navigating the Tiber River, after all, on our way to Rome!), Devin sets us on our journey by "surveying the depths" -- a short but excellent primer of the different Protestant branches and beliefs (so that we don't talk to a Baptist or a Pentecostal as if he were a Calvinist or a Lutheran, for example).

Then, Devin sails us through the common issues that are bound to surface when we talk to our Protestant friends, co-workers, and family members about the Faith: The question of the Canon of the Bible (which we recently touched upon here in the Bubble); the Protestant pillars of sola scriptura (the Bible alone) and sola fide (faith alone); the Protestant belief in perspicuity (the idea that the "plain meaning" of the Bible is "clear" to any Christian); whether salvation can be lost; the truths about baptism; the objections to the papacy, Mary, and the "pagan superstitions" of the mass.

Devin also sets straight the course regarding the Inquisition and the Crusades; guides us on when to introduce the Church Fathers (and also the actual beliefs of the Reformers!) to our friends; navigates the moral issues of divorce and contraception; shows us how to speak frankly about the priest scandals -- and much more.

He does all of this while giving real life examples of his own interactions with friends and co-workers over the years. There's nothing better than being able to "see" how all this goes down in real life. You'll be equipped on the most practical levels, including advice on timing, suggested reading, and end-of-chapter tips and summaries.

What I love the most, aside from the clarity and accessibility, is Devin's insistence and focus on the preservation and deepening of the relationship with the person we're engaging, even suggesting prayers that can be prayed together. Friendships should never be put in jeopardy just to score points in a debate, or to "win" a theological argument. If we approach our friends and family as if they were projects and not human beings with free will and inherent dignity, we push them further from the Church and harm the Body of Christ. And that makes us a jerk. No one likes a jerk, and jerks make terrible evangelists. :)

Thank you, Devin Rose, my friend, for pouring your heart and soul into another incredible book that every Catholic should have on his or her shelf!


And I don't think Devin would mind that I also ask for your prayers for his little daughter Josephine, who is undergoing cancer treatments. Thank you, dear readers, for your generous hearts!








Sunday, July 3, 2016

Good Christian, WAKE UP!!!



Five years ago I warned readers that folks on the left do not care one whit about your religious liberty.

Four-and-a-half years ago, Pope Benedict voiced particular concerns about "certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion".

Four years ago, the US Bishops launched the first annual Fortnight For Freedom,  running from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day. This event, once unnecessary but now imperative, seeks "to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom" in America.

Unfortunately, the situation for Christians has not improved, but is getting worse by the day.

Laws and lawsuits demanding that Christians violate their consciences and their faith have led to the closure of Catholic charities and adoption agencies, ruinous fines for many mom-and-pop bakers, florists, and photographers, and B&B owners, a years-long federal lawsuit pitting President Obama against the Little Sisters of the Poor, and in the past few days, the rulings against Christian pharmacists and Christian online dating sites, suddenly no longer "allowed" to operate according to the dictates of their Christian faith.

Make no mistake: Secular progressives (who are as fervent about their secular religion as any Christian is about Christ) are not bringing these lawsuits because of any lack of access to gay dating sites, or wedding cakes, flowers, or photographers, nor is there any lack of access to abortifacient pills and devices (all these things are easily accessible to all those Americans who desire them).

No, they are bringing these lawsuits specifically to make you comply to their worldview, specifically to force "acceptance" without dissent, specifically to publicly shame you, specifically to "fundamentally transform America". "Tolerance" was never enough, because it was never the goal. If you've noticed, the forces against religious freedom and conscience rights for Christians are only getting more angry, more fierce, and more unyielding.

If you think that I and others, or perhaps even the bishops, are simply overreacting, you'll want to know that three of the highest judges in our land are themselves explicitly sounding the alarm. Here's the dire warning from Supreme Court Justice Alito in his recent dissent -- which was signed by Justice Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts as well -- regarding the Stormans case (Christian pharmacy owners who did not wish to stock and sell abortion-inducing drugs):

This case is an ominous sign.
At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescrip- tion medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. 
And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. 
If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern. 

[all emphases mine]

In other words, we are coming to a day when you may have your "religion" and your "conscience" -- but only in your head, your church building, or your home. You may not bring or live your faith anywhere else, including your own business. If you do, you will be fined, ruined, shamed, and, well, we can look to history to see the next steps.

And that brings us to St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, and why they mean so much to US Catholics today. In honor of the Fortnight for Freedom activities, the relics of these two martyrs of conscience were brought from England to several American cities, including Phoenix. Local Catholics were blessed to be able to venerate these precious relics of two holy and courageous men.

St. John Fisher's ring on the left (the image is of Aristotle). Fisher was the only Catholic bishop in England at the time who stayed loyal to the Church. He was imprisoned, tortured, and ultimately beheaded, his head stuck on a spike on London Bridge. Two weeks later, St. Thomas More was beheaded, and his head replaced St. John Fisher's on the spike. St. Thomas' beloved daughter retrieved his head, and we see here part of his jawbone and half of his tooth (two of only three first-class relics of his in existence). 


We were also able to attend Holy Mass with our two bishops beforehand. Since the whole world couldn't be there, I'm bringing part of it to you.... Enjoy the inspiring homily of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, which is so profound that it has been shared far past the borders of the Phoenix Diocese (the video can be seen here):



Neither Thomas More nor John Fisher wanted to be martyrs. They wanted to be friends of God and to be faithful to those whom God gave them to love: as a husband and father, lawyer and chancellor of England, or as a bishop and servant of the flock entrusted to his care. Both of them sought to be, as Thomas More put it, “the king’s good servant but God’s first.”

That there is a cost to fidelity to God did not come as a surprise to Thomas More and John Fisher nor should it come as a surprise to you and me. Jesus tells us quite bluntly (Mt 10:34f), “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” The Kingdom of God clashes with the kingdom of darkness. God’s word is a two-edged sword. It requires each person either to accept it or to reject it. Earthly loyalties, even those within the family, are put to the test. “For I have come,” Jesus says (Ibid), “to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

In the last months of his life, Thomas More was called a traitor by King Henry; and his successor as Chancellor of England labeled him “a foolish scrupulous ass.” Far more painful were the words of his own family. His wife Lady Alice disagreed with his “scruple of conscience” and even his beloved daughter Meg, his closest and dearest confidante during his last days in the Tower of London’s dungeon, failed to understand her father, and repeatedly tried to convince him to change his mind so as to save his life in this world. Certainly her words but especially her tears broke her father’s heart.

Jesus goes on to say, in our Gospel, that (Ibid) “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” When Jesus first spoke these words, crucifixion was the most horrifying form of execution employed by the Roman government. Not only was it excruciatingly painful, it was intended above all to be publicly humiliating. Public shaming was a political ploy to secure the grip of control by Rome. Shame was also a primary tool of torture in the days of Thomas More and John Fisher. Public shaming remains a popular tool today, used not only by ISIS terrorists but even by forces within our own country set on destroying the Church’s witness to the Gospel, aimed at silencing voices that uphold the dignity of every human person, that proclaim God’s plan for marriage and that insist on the first of all human rights, that of religious liberty.

In the daily administration of his duties, Thomas More was keenly aware of his own shortcomings and of his constant need of the mercy of God. He knew, too, of the need for reform among the clergy and religious in his day, and the need to restore honesty and civility among the powerful and those seeking positions of political influence. Both he and John Fisher resonated with the wisdom of our First Reading today where St. Peter writes (1 Pet 4:12), “Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you.” It is not strange that followers of Jesus should face hard times, unfair criticism, public shaming, outright persecution and even death for the sake of the Kingdom of God. It is strange and foolish to think that you can be a disciple of Jesus without sharing in the cross.

The irony of the martyrdom of these heroic Englishmen is that both of them had faithfully served the King for many years and were among those he trusted most. Moreover, he knew their loyalty; in fact, he had depended on it constantly. He even appreciated their impeccable integrity—that is, until one day when he asked them to do something that their very integrity did not allow them to do. Even then, Thomas More and John Fisher refrained from speaking out against the person of the king. Still, they refused to tell a lie. They refused to act like false prophets who play with the truth, rather than shape their lives in accord with it. They would not say what the king wanted to hear because they knew it was not what he needed to hear, for his own good on earth and in eternity. They refused, in other words, to say that the king could pretend to be head of the Church in England instead of the Successor of St. Peter. No matter the cost to themselves, they would not betray a well-formed conscience, would not act contrary to the truth they knew by faith in Christ. Thomas More wrote, “When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short road to chaos.”

Since Thomas More is my patron saint, I trust you will understand if I focus a little more attention on him than on John Fisher, although the only bishop in England to remain loyal to the Catholic faith at the time of Henry VIII is certainly worthy of our veneration.

More important to Thomas More than his political influence and public office of Lord Chancellor were his wife and family, his Catholic faith, his daily pursuit of holiness, and his well-trained conscience.  Pope St. John Paul II said of him (Cf. Motu Proprio), “Thomas More witnessed the primacy of truth over power…He died as a martyr because of his passion for truth…for him his moral conscience was a defining voice, the voice of God in his soul.”

Thomas More’s ultimate stand in defense of the truth was determined long before his imprisonment and execution. It was the consequence of seeking, day after day and year after year, to know God’s will and put it into practice.

Already at the beginning of his public career, Thomas More knew that the greatest threat to freedom of conscience did not come from outside a man but from within his own heart. No one can force you to betray your conscience. Freedom of conscience requires freedom from self-deception, freedom from pride and freedom from fear. It has to be won anew through a daily examination of conscience, sincere contrition for any failures and sincere renewal of commitment to Christ. That is what Thomas More did.

It is highly instructive to recall that the first book he published was not about the law or the legal profession but about the spiritual life. At about the age of 25, he wrote, “…if you desire to be secure from the snares of the devil, from the storms of this world, from the hands of your enemies; if you long to be acceptable to God; if you covet everlasting happiness—then let no day pass without at least once presenting yourself to God in prayer, falling down before Him flat on the ground with a humble affection and a devout mind; not merely with your lips, but from the innermost recesses of your heart, crying out [to God].”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the heroic witness of Thomas More and John Fisher is needed today more than at any time in our nation’s history. We Americans are facing an assault on religious liberty from forces within our own country that is unprecedented and constantly on the increase. For this reason, Pope Francis spoke about it more than once during his historic visit last September. In the presence of President Obama at the White House, the Holy Father said, “[Religious] freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions… All are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”

When speaking at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pope Francis said, “Let us preserve freedom. Let us cherish freedom. Freedom of conscience, religious freedom, the freedom of each person, each family, each people, which is what gives rise to rights. May you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God Himself.”

We Americans must also take care not to close our eyes to far worse violations of religious freedom happening in many other countries around the world. We have refugees coming to Arizona as a result of these violations of conscience, and we have much to learn from their words and courageous example.

In its 2016 Annual Report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom stated, “By any measure, religious freedom abroad has been under serious and sustained assault since the release of our commission’s last Annual Report in 2015…” The 2016 report said that the number of those held as prisoners of conscience, those imprisoned for reasons of religion, “remains astonishingly widespread;” and harsh conditions are faced by many millions of believers around the world. We must not close our eyes to these human rights violations or our ears to their cries for help.

In 1929, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death…but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years’ time.” May the Lord give us the grace to imitate John Fisher and Thomas More. Let the words of St. Peter resonate in our minds and hearts (1 Pet 4:12f), “Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.”




As we Americans celebrate this Independence Day, may we never forget that religious liberty was the impetus for the founding of this beautiful nation, and may we never be complacent. May the Lord safeguard our religious freedom and freedom of conscience in this difficult time for our country. God bless America!










Sunday, June 26, 2016

Dear Protestant: Where did you get your New Testament?




Greek Manuscript New Testament


At least a couple of times every week, Protestants use New Testament verses to show me where the Catholic Church is wrong about something. I always make them take the necessary step back by asking the following:

"Where did you get your New Testament?"

When they answers that it came from God (as indeed it did), I say, "Yes, but what was the mechanism God used to bring it to you today? How did it come to you, historically and in real time, since it did not drop out of Heaven into your hands, leather-bound?"

Nine times out of ten, they have no answer because they have never considered the question.

The quick answer:

The Catholic Church officially determined and set the canon of of the New Testament approximately 400 years after Christianity began. The canon was declared by the body of Catholic bishops at the Council of Carthage (397 A.D.) and confirmed by Pope Boniface (419 A.D.).  

This is historical fact.

Let me flesh out a few more of the details, which very few Christians (Protestant or Catholic) know.

After Christ's ascension into Heaven, and after the Holy Spirit descended upon the first Christians at Pentecost, the Church thrived and grew exponentially for years before even one line of the New Testament was written. Let that sink in: Baptisms, catechesis, communal worship, conversions of thousands of sinners, Apostles and their companions traveling to other lands and risking imprisonment, torture, and death to evangelize the world with zeal -- all went on for over a decade before the New Testament was even begun, much less completed.

Without having written a word, the Church was teaching, preaching, growing, and flourishing for many years.

Eventually, a very few Apostles and their disciples starting writing down some of the Church's oral Tradition: The Gospels, which recorded the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and also the Epistles (letters) of St. Paul and others, which gave encouragement and instruction to local churches being established throughout the world. The young Church cherished those gospels and letters, and began to incorporate them into her liturgies and masses.

More and more written accounts and testimonies materialized as the Church grew, but contrary to today's popular belief, it was not obvious to the early Christians which of these writings were truly God-inspired.

As brutal persecution of the Church continued in those first centuries, clarity about Christian writings became important. After all, Christians were being martyred routinely, and it was necessary to know which books were worth dying for.

Three categories of writings existed at that time:

1. Those writings that were universally acknowledged/accepted
2. Those writings that were disputed or controverted
3. Those writings that were known to be spurious or false

The first group included divinely-inspired books that we have in our Bible today, such as the four Gospels, the Epistles of St. Paul, and the Acts of the Apostles.

The second group included books that were simultaneously accepted in some Christian regions, rejected in others, and disputed in others. Some of these were indeed divinely-inspired, such the Epistles of James and Jude, one of Peter's, two of John's, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Book of Revelation, even as many Christians did not believe they were. Some were books that never made it into the final canon of the New Testament, but which several Christian communities considered inspired (and even used for catechizing and in the liturgy), such as the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, Apostolic Constitutions, the Epistle of St. Clement, St. Paul's Epistle to the Laodiceans, etc.

The third group consisted of the fakes floating around, spurious works which were never acknowledged or claimed by the Church, such as about 50 false gospels including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of James, a couple dozen "Acts" (Acts of Pilate, Acts of Paul and Thecla, etc.), and some epistles and apocalypses.

Under the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit and after a long series of historical events, a gathering of Catholic bishops went through the process of authoritatively and infallibly setting the books of the Christian canon, using the following criteria: a) The book in question must have been written in apostolic times by an Apostle or one close to an Apostle, and b) The book in question had to be doctrinally sound, completely conforming to Catholic Church teaching.

Several books met those criteria, and so it happened that some four centuries and 20 generations after Christ's Resurrection, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church authoritatively set the canon of the New Testament, ending all confusion and doubt among the faithful.

Rome had spoken, and the canon was closed.


Which leaves us with some takeaways:


-- If the Catholic Church (bishops and pope) had the authority from God to set the New Testament canon, then she cannot be the corrupt and un-Christian "Whore of Babylon" as is claimed by many Protestants.

-- If one accepts the canon of the New Testament, one must also accept the authority of the entity who gave it to us, i.e., the Catholic Church.

-- If one rejects the authority of the Catholic Church, one should and must also reject the canon of the New Testament that came to us through the authority of the Catholic Church. (It makes sense that Martin Luther, the rebel behind the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, wanted to throw out several of the New Testament books that he despised.)

-- The New Testament cannot be "personally interpreted" by each individual Christian, because it was never meant to be taken outside of the Church from which it came.

-- The New Testament cannot and does not contradict Catholic doctrine, as it was Catholic doctrine that was used as a criterion for its authenticity and authority.

-- The New Testament was discerned and canonized by men who had divine authority to do so -- men who believed explicitly in the Mass, the Eucharist, the ministerial priesthood, Confession, Purgatory, veneration of Mary, infant baptism and infused grace, justification by faith and works, the Communion of Saints, etc., etc.

-- The Bible came from the Church. In other words, the Bible is Church-based, not the other way around. If you get this paradigm wrong, you get some messed-up theology.

-- If a Protestant uses Scripture to attack the Catholic Church, it's like ripping off a man's arm to beat him with it. Using a Catholic Book to beat up the Catholic Church makes no sense.

-- If you believe that your eternal salvation is based entirely on a Book, isn't it important to know where the Book came from and who was given authority to proclaim it? Who meticulously copied, preserved, protected, and guarded it with their lives, and who ultimately vouched for the fact that it is indeed the written Word of God?


There is so much more to discuss, and I would love to do so in the comments. Meanwhile, one of the best books on the subject, which I devoured when I came back to the Church, is Where We Got the Bible: Our Debt to the Catholic Church, by Henry G. Graham.





**Note: I did not include the Old Testament canon in this post, because I wanted to work with something that both Protestants and Catholics agree on, namely, the 27 books of the New Testament.





Tuesday, June 21, 2016

From the Register: "Are Many Marriages Today Invalid?"




In light of Pope Francis' recent off-the-cuff remarks about marriage validity (and subsequent walk-back), a heated discussion has ensued among many Catholics about just how hard or easy it is to confect a legitimate marriage.

Thankfully, and contrary to what we might hear, it's not all that difficult to confect a valid and/or sacramental marriage! This article from the National Catholic Register, lays it all out beautifully:





This fantastic piece is written by Benedict Nguyen, M.T.S., J.C.L./J.D., D.Min (ABD), who is canonical counsel and theological advisor for the Diocese of Corpus Christi and an adjunct professor for the Avila Institute.

I have bookmarked the article for myself and I hope each of you will take the time to read it through. It's clearly written and easy to understand, and many of my own questions were answered.







Friday, June 10, 2016

Loss



Some things stick in our minds and never leave us. When in the midst of my panic attack, my friend Nikki Westby, a cognitive behavioral therapist, said something that had never occurred to me, and which hit me like a ton of bricks:

"From the moment we are born, we begin to experience loss."

Blink. Blink.

I've pondered those words for almost two years now, and the fruit has been profound.

It now makes perfect sense to me that every pain in life, every suffering we endure whether physical or mental or emotional, is connected to some kind of loss.

Loss of childhood.
Loss of youth.
Loss of innocence.
Loss of friendship.
Loss of a romance.
Loss of companionship.
Loss of a loved one.
Loss of a parent.
Loss of a sibling.
Loss of a spouse.
Loss of a child.
Loss of a job.
Loss of a community.
Loss of prosperity.
Loss of security.
Loss of health.
Loss of abilities.
Loss of pets.
Loss of homes.
Loss of expectations.
Loss of an intact family.
Loss of good looks and beauty.
Loss of memories.
Loss of material possessions.
Loss of autonomy.
Loss of one's good reputation.
Loss of identity.
Loss of homeland.
Loss of physical comfort.
Loss of mental acuity.
Loss of dreams. 

And on and on and on.

Ultimately and inevitably, it all culminates in the loss of life itself.

In the western world, we tend to live as if death will never come for us, and we blot it out of our minds by seeking as much pleasure and material comfort as we can. We avoid suffering at all costs. But when we train so hard and condition ourselves so thoroughly for a pain-free existence, we are unprepared, shocked, and even indignant when loss does come our way. It was not, after all, a part of our carefully laid plans.

But no matter how fiercely committed we are to maintaining strict control of our lives, the losses will keep coming, and they will never let up. The more we fight and claw to hold on to the things that cannot ultimately stay in our grasp, the more we compound our pain, suffering, confusion, and angst. The longer we live, the more losses we will endure, and if we have not understood and accepted what God is doing for us, we risk becoming more and more anxious and fearful, perhaps even falling into despair.

What, then, do we do?

The way I see it, we should view every loss for what it is: Our loving Father detaching us from the things of this world, a world which is passing away, so that we might attach to Him. He only allows us to lose something in order to gain something greater. 

Detachment from the world = Attachment to God. 

For a while now, I've been all about the concept of total surrender, abandonment to a God who loves us and can be trusted. Surrender does not mean passivity, as of course we may and should fight disease, disaster, injustice, sin, corruption, and every kind of moral and physical evil while we are here. Fight the good fight every day, for sure, but do so with a proper understanding of holy detachment, and the realization that every earthly loss really is a step toward Heaven. 

When we truly trust the Lord, we no longer live in fear of losses that are beyond our control. The pain of the loss will still be felt, even searingly, but the fear and anxiety that precede and accompany that loss will be replaced with an interior peace, and yes, as the saints tell us, even supernatural, unimaginable joy. 

Back to Nikki's words, then: The image of a newborn baby beginning a lifetime of loss is no longer jarring or tragic, but hopeful. Each loss is a detachment that marks a human life's journey all the way to the Beatific Vision, the end for which we were made. 

From the perspective of Heaven, our loss is gain. And all is well.