by Demetrius Minor
One can never fully prepare themselves for pain and anguish. There are times when we attempt to mentally brace ourselves for a tragedy that we see in the near distance, but there are no adequate words to describe the exact pain that one encounters once a crisis has actually occurred. It is natural to became numb to all of the other pleasantries of life and succumb to the hurt that has developed within once a tragedy has been experienced.
Some of the most pressing questions that we vocalize during a tragedy is “Where was God” and “Why would God allow this to happen?” It is difficult to comprehend an infinite God, full of compassion and love, allowing innocent school children to be victims of a tornado, or marathon participants to meet an early grave death due to evil, terroristic acts. It is perplexing to our level of intellect that a destructive soul would be allowed to carry out such heinous acts that are contrary to God’s love for humanity.
In the wake of tragedies, we often feel alone and hopeless. The truth of the matter is that God still speaks to us. It’s not as easy to tune into the voice of God during a time of hurting, because we tend to lean on emotions and feelings, but there is a still, small voice that is being vocalized.
After the bombings that occurred at the Boston Marathon on April 15, there was a vast outpouring of love and support from many Americans nationwide. Through monetary funds and other resources, people expressed their concern and compassion for those who suffered tremendous loss. Their acts of love and kindness are the language of God. Even in the aftermath of a tragedy, God’s voice is amplified.
Tragedies, while often viewed as anguish and grief, can produce beauty. My grandmother died the day before my 7th birthday. As you can imagine, I went from expecting a birthday party with rambunctious-like neighborhood children to being confined to a state of mourning. It was fifty-four days after her death that I found myself at my church preparing myself to be baptized and filled with God’s Holy Spirit. I asked God about the timing and why it happened following a tragic event. He told me I was close to the creation, but not the Creator. The removal of a precious loved one was not intended to make me weak, but to experience God in a deeper and more intimate way.
I am convinced that God feels our pain and sorrow when we experience loss. Because God’s love for humanity caused him to sacrifice his own life, He is familiar with our sufferings. It is important that even in a loss, we can grow to know God. With the comfort he provides in the midst of pain and the peace that surpasses our understanding, it permits us to trust Him.
The human vocabulary is simply not suffice to comfort those who have recently experienced a tragedy, but God’s language is. Through His grace, you will hear Him whispering sweet words of comfort. Through His mercy, you will feel Him uplifting you.
Everyone deals with tragedies in various ways. For some, the sting of death lasts for what seems like an eternity, but through it all, God speaks through acts of love. His biggest question, in the midst of a raging sea, is “Do you trust me?”
's sermon for a Theology course on prophecy and sermon-giving. He discusses the importance of worldly and spiritual freedom, and talks about the importance of subsidiarity in a Christian lifestyle.
A transcript of this vlog can be found here:
March 4, 2013
The Enslaved Are Free and the Free Are Enslaved
Freedom (or the lack thereof) has two distinct impacts on human beings. The obvious and most common effect of freedom is the earthly ability to do as one pleases without hindrance. However, how can we, as sinners, fully experience the gift of freedom which comes from God, if we are shackled with the slavery, penalty, guilt and death of sin? If we are not free spiritually, we are encumbered by the worst oppressor, sin. We sin because we allow temptation and earthly desire to confine our spirits. Our sins contribute to the spiritual enslavement of those around us by creating temptations for others. For example: Say I am infected spiritually with sin and am angry because somebody has cut in line ahead of me at the movies. By cursing and mouthing off, my actions will likely generate within the other person anger and hostility towards me. I have effectively cloned the sin in my spirit and passed it on to this new person. Perhaps with God’s grace, the line-cutter might draw on his own spiritual fortitude to conquer this temptation, but it is more probable that he shall succumb to the temptation to react retributively to my vitriol. I have contributed to the destruction of this person’s spiritual freedom by succumbing to my own lack of freedom.
Unfortunate yet sinful occasions do not affect just our own spiritual well-being, however. Spiritual freedom is essential to creating worldly freedom. Earthly freedom is managed by those who hold power in this realm. It is vital that the powerful are also spiritually free. When a leader succumbs to sin, he/she will make decisions which limit the earthly freedoms of others, to further his or her personal sinful and earthly quest for power. Leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong Un coveted their own power rather than the Will of the Father. Their lack of personal spiritual freedom became the catalyst for sinful acts and the destruction of the spiritual freedom of others. Do we, as men, require others to tell us how to live our lives? Do we genuinely require our worldly leadership to tell us how to behave or how we should think? Are we to ignore the sanctity and gift of free will given to us by our Father? Of course not. We are called by our Church to live with subsidiarity, following the teachings of Jesus to fashion the ways we behave and treat one another.
We embrace the mystery of spiritual freedom by living by God's commands (Peter 2:16). If we allow a thirst for earthly power to direct our actions, we may attain power while on earth, but we starve for spiritual freedom, leaving us vulnerable to sin while we destroy the earthly freedom of others. Unfortunately, many of our political leaders ignore the Gospel; for Jesus suffered His passion for our freedom (Galatians 5:1).
Can we truly love our brothers and sisters while taking away their freedom? Of course not! To love another person is to promote his or her freedom. For example, let us say that you decide to help a homeless person on the street. Even if you simply buy this person a meal at McDonald's, you are giving not just your money and time, you are also giving love and promoting this person's earthly freedom. Being exposed to generosity and love makes us more likely to act with the same kind of freedom-creating love towards others. For all you know, the homeless person you helped may go on to act with tremendous love in the future due to your actions and thereby create freedom for others.
A complex relationship exists between our spiritual freedom and our earthly freedom. Even while one is enslaved, that is to not be free in the earthly sense, one can still be spiritually free. In His Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that those who are weak and who suffer are blessed. Each of us knows, from personal experience and observation, that those who are free on earth can also become spiritually enslaved by sin. The sinful leaders mentioned earlier are iconic examples of individuals who are earthly-free yet still abdicate to sin the control of their actions. We can choose to exercise the gift of free will to enslave ourselves and others through sin, or use the gifts of life and free will to create free communities grounded in spiritual freedom; that is, spiritual freedom that centers on being instruments of love for the Father.
Our Catechism highlights a vital aspect of earthly freedom. Subsidiarity asserts that what one may do for himself, no higher power should do for him (Catholic Church 1883). This is how we are to govern ourselves. While mankind may function more optimally, in some ways, with a centralized governing power, our governments must not control those things that we can and should do for ourselves. Clearly you and I cannot create, by ourselves, the spider-web of roads that we drive upon nor can we as individuals provide for ourselves the necessary protections against all sorts of threats including natural disasters, or external threats by those who would do us harm. For those things which are best done collectively, we should work together, collectively, each contributing appropriately to the common goals. But for those things we should provide for ourselves, we must work honorably to support ourselves and loved ones.
Unfortunately, many in our society believe that voting for politicians and for laws that promote collectivism are purely altruistic and are the best way to serve our poor. Which is a greater act of love: giving money (through taxation) to one governing body that will take a fraction of your "donation" and give it to the poor, or actively and freely serving and assisting others? Do we really need our governments to, on our behalf, perform acts of service which we are called by Jesus Christ to do? Obviously, assisting our brothers and sisters in need is best done personally. Collectivism prevents us from serving freely, the way Jesus calls us to. If we give our resources to our government, we are crippled in our ability to give personal charity.
We can give to the poor and decide where we should live. We can decide what we want to eat and vote for what laws we want to follow for the betterment of society. In no way should those who hold political or judicial power deny others the freedoms stipulated in the Catechism as the liberating tenet of subsidiarity. If subsidiarity is sacred and holy, why do many of us insist on electing people who support collectivism? Do we not understand that the concept of collectivism inhibits our earthly freedoms? We are called to freely use the fruits of our labors to aid our less fortunate brothers and sisters rather than through well-intentioned but grievously immoral oppression by our governments (1885). Just as we all endeavor to become more spiritually free, we must strive to become more free whilst on this earth. The examples of failed collectivist societies are blatantly catastrophic and we must learn from these tragic failures. The Soviet Union murdered millions of its own people, starved hardworking families, banished our Lord from its culture and ideology and ultimately collapsed under the weight of a social structure designed to foster the sovereign power of the ruling elite rather than for the good of the citizenry. Nazi Germany also failed in its sinful quest to dominate, killing millions of innocents, exterminating millions of our Jewish brothers and sisters, and leaving Europe in ruins. Our nations cannot succeed and better mankind when God’s Will is not central to our way of life. We must always structure our nations to promote individual freedom in keeping with God's plan for subsidiary living.
Upon understanding the teachings of Jesus, we are offered transcendental freedom by living within His commandments (John 8:31-32). For the past atrocities of denying our brothers and sisters freedom comes the responsibility and penance of refusing to let the quest for power resume. By loving those in need, and by electing representatives who will labor tirelessly to create freedoms for individuals, we protect and encourage our collective freedom and honor God’s design that man should enjoy His gift of free will. Keeping ourselves free from sin is a vital step we each must personally take to assure our world remains as it should: free, loving and peaceful. Laws, if created with sinful and earthly purpose, fail to do as Jesus did on the cross (Romans 8:1-4). We have been shown the epitome of love and have been given the instructions for achieving ultimate spiritual freedom. We must continue to exercise our freedoms for the betterment of our society: spread worldly freedom and promote the Christian subsidiary lifestyle.
Anna Maria Hoffman
takes on Sandra Fluke's recent ridiculous statements, which claimed that opposing contraception coverage is like opposing Leukemia coverage.
Activist Levi Fox takes on the hypocrisy of liberal use of God, prayer, and the separation of church and state.
Every year, my family and I take a long weekend trip into New York City to soak up the ambiance and spirit of the Christmas season. We usually buy tickets to a Broadway show, so we can go while we are there. Following tradition, this year we decided to see the Book of Mormon. This show has received 9 Tony Awards, and also a Grammy Award. We had read positive reviews, and even heard great things about it from other theatre lovers, so we were excited to see the "best" show currently on Broadway. So even though we knew the basic premise of the musical, we were definitely not prepared for what happened next.
The plot line in the Book of Mormon
is quite simple. Curtain opens and we meet a group of clean-cut, buttoned-up young men who are about to embark on their service mission as members of the Mormon faith. The missionaries are called elders and they are waiting to find out where they will be sent. Elder Price is the lead elder and hopes to begin his mission in sunny Orlando. Instead, he gets sent to northern Uganda, paired with the lowest ranking elder and compulsive liar, Elder Cunningham. The two set off to evangelize for their church, by preaching to the villagers in a remote African community. What follows is a racist, sexist, and atheist production. It not only denies and disrespects the Mormon religion, but it denigrates religion and faith entirely.
The purpose of the musical is a satire of the Mormon faith, also called LDS (Latter Day Saints). It uses crude sarcasm to poke fun at many of the stereotypical beliefs of Mormonism. However, several of the lines and lyrics in the musical have been pointed out as inaccurate. The musical is a mockery of the African people in Uganda. It is incredibly racist in its portrayal of their intelligence and the customs that are embraced in their society. Also, one of the songs is an upbeat number by the Ugandans repeatedly chanting “F--- you God” in their native language. The unnecessary vulgar language did not stop there. This score seems to be determined to include just about every swear word imaginable. The humor is distasteful, and the obscenities are numerous and overwhelming. Forgive me for having too much class and choosing not to repeat them in this article. It is shocking as we see live scenes on stage that depict various sexual objects, inferences associated with "black stereotypes" that include humping on stage, sexual molestation of children and animals, and violence. Also, most of the music used in the songs are actually copied from other musicals that have been give new lyrics. If one really listens to the numbers, and knows their show tunes they will easily recognize that most of the melodies are not original at all. They took some of the best award winning (and wholesome) musicals, and built on their commercial success. However, the producers did not pay homage to these classics, but instead reworked the score to fit their agenda. With all of this in mind the Book of Mormon
, came across as a live musical version of South Park, and perhaps everyone should have been pre-warned because they both have the same writers.
In contrast some people might say that it is simply a show focused on the religious extremes, and harmlessly pokes fun at those who take religion literally. They smugly set about ridiculing the followers of the Mormon faith, and generalized this further by pointing out that religion is just a metaphor, and those that believe are foolish and laughable. However, I believe that the Bible is a series of stories that incorporate a wealth of truths. Other people and religions may interpret the text in a different way, but at the core the Bible is the Word of God. The belief in the veracity of the Bible is not just based on faith (although that should be enough); aspects of the Bible have actually been supported by historical documentation.
For contrast, let's compare the Book of Mormon
with the musical Les Misérables
. The movie version came out a few weeks ago, but I have also seen this musical on Broadway. It is full of faith, good values and moral consciousness, all expressed in a heart warming story line. There is so much depth in this show that I could spend a whole article unveiling the many levels of the religious themes and the transcendent message. Let me suggest that you explore the musical or movie version of Les Misérables
. Trust me you will not be disappointed!
What can we learn from this horrid example of a musical? New York City, Broadway, and the theater community have always been known for its liberal stance. The Book of Mormon
takes disgraceful and outrageous to a whole new level. We find dialogue that is praised as witty satire, but is actually ridicule and malice against different races, cultures, and religious believers. The real "mission" that stands out is how the war on religion and traditional culture has become the main focus of this Broadway Hit. My hope is that this recent spike in interest for Les Misérables
will inspire others to look more deeply into those themes that carry a more inspiring Christian message.
The most concerning topic I find in our society today is the death of active organized religion. Given that Americans reported church as the number one place they would NOT want to be at, it is clear that our churches are doing something wrong. Is the blame on our spiritual leaders, our traditions or just that we Americans no longer wish to have a relationship with our higher power that we should share with others? Maybe our media has dissuaded us from pursuing a faith-instilled life as a community. I personally believe this issue stems from all the possible causes I just listed.
After speaking with Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Protestant friends, we have all come to a consensus: American faith is dwindling. I will be writing this letter from a more specific perspective as I find the Bible very relevant with the issues we face today. As a lifelong confirmed Catholic, I have participated in nearly every experience the Church can offer a young U.S. Catholic—from participating in live nativity scenes as a little kid, to altar serving, to cantering and being a lector, to leading Confirmation and Kairos retreats. I have seen strong Catholic groups, mislead Catholic groups, and downright weak Catholic groups. What makes a strong group? As a Catholic, I would say the Holy Spirit. This can be translated into “fire” or “intensity” in faith. If you are a Christian, you probably can tell the difference too. Have you ever visited a church where people look downright miserable to be there? Hardly anybody sings and if they do, they do it without any ounce of passion. People drag their heels to Communion only to hear “Body of Christ” sound like the same tone as “here comes your flu shot.” The homily from the priest was probably scrapped together three minutes before the Mass and speaks about what the scripture means on the surface level rather than how it applies to us (as if we are too stupid to understand scripture).
I went to churches like these for most of my life until I decided I wanted to be confirmed and was forced to start going to youth group. Everything changed from that point on. I know many people roll their eyes when they hear Christians talk about “their youth groups,” but this is different. I did not go simply because I had friends there. I went because our leader was so incredibly on fire with the Holy Spirit. I did not go to Mass just for the tradition or sacraments, but to share prayer with people who were inspired.
Matt Franklin is a brutally honest individual and an amazing youth group leader. A young father of four children, Matt has been able to retain youth group kids well after they have been confirmed. Matt yields several gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I believe his talent is to discern spirits—to see what is inside all of us. Matt knows what to say and when to say it. He is not afraid to be relevant, to talk about the awkward issues, or to call a person out for slipping into sin. He is humble, forgiving, loving and incredibly strong in his Catholic identity. Matt (along with author Francis Chan, who Matt helped me to discover and whom I now believe is a legitimate prophet) highlighted something strong to me: our churches are weak due to a lack of the Holy Spirit.
Think about it: if one of those dud, dead churches was on fire with the Holy Spirit, people would WANT to be there. Mass would not be a chore but rather an incredible experience. The Eucharist would be the ultimate connection with Jesus for most, and a priest could effortlessly give a relevant, challenging and passionate homily. People would sing not to show off their abilities, but to praise and glorify God. The problem is not about logistics and formulas. It is about inspiration and passion—unconditional faith and love for one’s higher power.
If you are going to a dud church, I encourage you to do one of two things: 1) find another church or 2) change your place of worship by getting involved. If you think you can help bring fire to your church, do it. If you feel called somewhere else, leave. I have found that God is extremely responsive to a prayer that asks “God, I want to worship You more and improve my faith in You. I want to be closer to You. Where should I be?” Personally, I have yet to find a Catholic church that does Mass in a way that strongly inspires me. Since I no longer go to school close to my old youth group, my search continues. I have faith God will put me where He wants me in the big picture, but I do miss the closeness I once had in Mass and being surrounded by Catholics who were indeed on fire with the Holy Spirit.
Prayer and crazy love in action. God bless you all.
When Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg church 495 years ago today, he would never have guessed that the Roman Catholic Church would face oppression from a republican government originally established by Protestants. In 500 years, history has come full circle, and the Roman Catholic Church now stands up to another repressive establishment.
October 31, considered Halloween in most of American culture, also marks Reformation Day – the anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses. Protestants hail this day as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, while Catholics consider it an aberration.
Nevertheless, two weeks before Independence Day, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declared a“Fortnight for Freedom”
to defend religious liberty. Opposing the contraception mandate, which forces healthcare providers
(even religious ones) to provide contraception as “medical coverage,” the Catholics stood up for a historically Protestant freedom–the freedom of religion.June
21, the beginning of the Fortnight, coincided with the eve of the feast of Saint Thomas More, executed for remaining loyal to the Roman Catholic Church when King Henry VIII split from it in 1534.
Throughout America’s history, the Protestant establishment has sought an edge over their Catholic brethren. After the election of the first Roman Catholic President–John F. Kennedy–in 1960, those attempts seemed utterly frustrated.
Earlier this year, however, with the implementation of certain passages of the Obama Healthcare
law, Roman Catholics were again forced to violate their consciences.
As the Weekly Standard’s Jonathan V. Last pointed out, pro-life Democrats have passed from oddity to endangered species
Due to this Democratic shift in favor of abortion, the Roman Catholic authorities are silently shifting in favor of Romney, by promoting unprecedented voter education
Catholics abandoning their traditional Democratic loyalty may be as revolutionary as Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. In solidarity with those who stand with religious freedom, Protestants should join
their separated brethren.
The Church must do as it always done, proving the truth of Christ’s statement, recorded in John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”This article was originally published on Hillsdale Natural Law Review, Tyler's personal blog.
Notre Dame is divided by a misconception of the relevance of Catholic teachings as they relate to American politics. With the general election drawing close, I invite someone to challenge the argument: it is not possible to be a “liberal” and Roman Catholic based on these incontestable reasons:
1. Abortion always results in the taking of an innocent life. Yet, abortion remains a foundational platform of the liberal agenda.
2. Subsidiarity: “the social doctrine that governments exist for the sake of the individual so that what individuals are able to do, society should not take over, and what small societies can do, larger societies should not take over” is central to Catholic teachings (CCC: 1883, 1885). The Church states that governments must provide only those things the individual certainly cannot affect for themselves (military protection, infrastructure, etc). Helping those in need is a personal responsibility and accomplished appropriately and best by individuals, families, churches, communities and private organizations. Forced interdependency is blatantly wrong according to the Catechism.
3. Inexcusably, most liberal politicians remain silent and complicit as religious expression, a First Amendment right guaranteed by the Constitution, is attacked and our freedom is dismantled. These assaults aim directly at Christianity (ie: the mandate that Catholic institutions provide insurance for “no charge” abortifacients and contraception to employees). Freedom to express and practice one’s religion, so long as it does not harm or inhibit the rights of others, is God-given and has been protected by the First Amendment for 223 years.
To my "Catholic" liberal brothers and sisters: These three points are irrefutable and indefensible. I encourage my Catholic/Christian brothers and sisters to vote, led by our informed conscience and values as Notre Dame students. God, country, Notre Dame. In that order. The current administration would have us believe that it should be government, country, God, Notre Dame. The Democratic National Convention ran an ad on C-Span saying “Government’s the only thing we all belong to.” No, we are all the Body of Christ. Keep fighting the good fight and vote like a champion! God bless.This article was originally written for
The Observer, University of Notre Dame's main newspaper.