Why People Find No Hope

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I read in the morning paper that the number of suicides in this part of the world had increased significantly and the local coroner was baffled. I can explain why some of them are occurring, why we have a major problem with meth labs and drug overdoses: the world does not offer enough. We are at a sad crossroad here. People have abandoned the “old country” roots of God and family and have replaced it with Lady Gaga and Lil’ Wayne. This leaves them neither vested in either one. It is so sad to watch what our country has done to young people. People from the “greatest” generation have flown the coop looking for their own adventure, not being grand fathers and grand mothers but acting like 80 year old teenagers. Parents have spent so much time chasing the American dream that children are an after thought.  Wake up America. You need God and your children need you.

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The Dreams of Don Bosco

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The Biographical Memoirs of Saint John Bosco reports 153 dreams that the Saint wrote down, narrated, or merely mentioned Don Bosco’s biographers, like his immediate listeners, generally take for granted that most of these dreams, if not all of them, were more than ordinary. Although there are many collections of the dreams, culled from the Biographical Memoirs, to my knowledge no one has made a systematic study of their nature, kinds, and meaning. The distinguished Salesian historian Pietro Stella notes that the extraordinary phenomena—miracles, dreams, predictions—which pervade Don Bosco’s life must be viewed in the larger context of his own religious formation, his religious outlook, and the way in which he interacted with his social and cultural environment.

John was about nine when he experienced his first extraordinary dream. This first dream, the most important one, set the course for his whole life. He tells us of it in his autobiographical Memoirs of the Oratory.

John saw himself playing with a crowd of neighborhood boys; many of them were fighting and swearing. He told them to stop, then leapt in with both fists when they did not. Suddenly a stranger, a noble and radiant gentleman, appeared. He told John that he needed to use kindness, not blows, to win over these children. John did not understand. The man said he would give him a teacher, and a majestic Lady showed up. She instructed John to watch, and the boys turned into wild animals—bears, goats, dogs, cats, etc. “This,” she told him, “is your field of work. Make yourself humble, strong, and energetic, so that you’ll be able to do for my children what you’ll see now.” And the beasts turned into gentle lambs. In his confusion, John began to cry. The Lady assured him that in due time he would understand. And he woke up.

Evidently John realized this was no ordinary dream, even if he did not understand it. Yet he was quite skeptical about it: “I wasted no time in telling [my family] all about my dream…. Each one gave his own interpretation…. But my grandmother, though she could not read or write, knew enough theology and made the final judgement, saying ‘Pay no attention to dreams.’ I agreed with my grandmother.”

But he could not forget the dream. With variations it apparently recurred in subsequent years and was followed by others that seemed to point out his calling from God or the future of his work. He remained skeptical until his mentor, Father Cafasso, advised him, around 1846: “Go ahead. You may quite safely give special significance to these dreams. I am convinced they are for God’s greater glory and the welfare of souls.” Even then he remained ill at ease, especially with those dreams that seemed to predict deaths. Years later he confided to Father John Baptist Lemoyne, who would become his most important biographer:

At first I was hesitant about giving these dreams the importance that they deserved. I often regarded them as mere flights of fancy. As I was narrating these dreams and predicting deaths and other future events, several times I wondered if I had rightly understood things, and I became fearful that what I said might actually be untrue. Occasionally, after narrating a dream, I could no longer remember what I had said. Therefore, in confessing to Father Cafasso, I sometimes accused myself of having spoken perhaps rashly. The saintly priest would listen to me, think the matter over, and then say: “Since your predictions come true, you need not worry. You may continue to make them.” It was only a few years later, though, that I firmly came to believe that those dreams were from God. That was when the young boy Casalegno died and—exactly as I had seen in my dream—his coffin was placed on two chairs on the portico, notwithstanding Father Cagliero’s efforts to have it moved to the usual place.

In allegorical form Don Bosco’s dreams

enabled him to perceive hidden facts or future events: sometimes in general terms, sometimes in very specific terms; sometimes with a feeling of certainty about the meaning of symbols, sometimes uncertain about his own interpretive capabilities. Don Bosco then waited to see how things would turn out in reality. He, like others, waited for verification of something that had seemed to him to be a prophecy but that he chose out of prudence to present merely as a parable.

Don Bosco was reluctant to talk about the charism he exercised: “To those who asked him how he could reveal hidden things Don Bosco was wont to give a jocular reply. He said that he used a magical formula: otis botis pia tutis. In short, he evaded the question and thus invited the curious to halt at the threshold of mystery.” (courtesy of bosconet.aust.com)

Part1-Shocking Beauty-Peter Kreeft

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Don’t Give Me That Bullcrap – You Haven’t Tried to Live as Christ Taught

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“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

– G. K. Chesterton

I have shared my thoughts on many different faith topics; spirituality, the lives of the Saints, basic tenets of the faith, the love and joy of being a Christian, philosophy, secularism, materialism, prayer and other subjects. There are two things I will say here, actually three things and then I will begin my point of discussion. First, Christ is the center of my life, He is the center of my being. It is from that point that I live. I am not saying this to be braggadocios, or to impress you with my piety. Rather, I want you to know that I think and act – in  nearly every case with God in my mind and in my heart. I really don’t concern myself with anything else that does not work to give glory to God. Second, I am a father of four children – I have invested my life in them and I am well aware of what the world has offered them and has taught them. I know the secular mindset, probably more now than ever because it opposes much of what I live and breathe every day for. Third, I am a high school theology teacher and I have heard it all from premarital sex to Lady Gaga, how religion is a waste of time to how hell doesn’t exist, from Lil’ Wayne to getting high on Saturday night. I also might add that I have been there done that and know it inside out. I do have qualifications and I do know what I am talking about. I can give you several categories of those who oppose Christianity and they go like this: a) Its a fairy tale not based in truth, b) Christians are phony and so are their beliefs, c) I hate Christianity but I don’t know jack shit about it d) All that religion stuff  exists to take the fun out of my life e) I suffered in my life and its all God’s fault f) eat, drink & be Merry, take all that you can get out of life and use as many people as necessary to do it – that’s not in Christianity and therefor not of any use to me. Now I’m sure there are others out there but they are some variation of the above. If you go on any discussion board about Christianity you will find in most of the comments that are made that most people who are living the secular life do not know Christianity. There are some good reasons for that; most understand Christianity from a Protestant perspective, you know the television evangelists. Some are good, some are not, all are not preaching the complete and true faith that is present in the Catholic Church. I have written about for instance Joel Osteen, who has a huge following preaching the “prosperity Gospel.”  Hey, I more than anybody I know can confirm that God is good and that He has given me countless blessings, but that is not the entire picture, there is this problem called sin and repentance, that seems to have been left out. The other problem of course is the scandalous behavior of the sex abuse priests of the Catholic Church. They are despicable and have aided Satan himself in turning away people from Christianity. And yes, the Church was slow to correct things (part of it because they relied on secular psychologists) but in any case, all wrongs were caused by not living as Christ taught, and in no way deters or detracts from the Truth of Jesus Christ. It is not a valid nor legitimate reason to reject Jesus Christ. So here’s my take – Don’t give me any bullcrap about Christianity unless you have truly heard, followed and lived what Christ has taught and from the fullness of the Catholic Church. There is nothing I detest more than an argument from ignorance and laziness and mediocrity which is widespread in much of secular thinking. Believing in God, loving Him and your neighbor, obeying His commandments, living a virtuous life, and receiving His graces was, is, and always will  be good, true, and lead to our happiness.

Father Barron on St. Thomas Aquinas

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The Angelic Doctor

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To say that St. Thomas Aquinas left his profound imprint on the theology of our Catholic faith would be an understatement. Much of how we describe why and how we come to believe comes from this great mind.

Son of the Count of Aquino, born in the family castle in Lombardy near Naples, Italy. Educated by Benedictine monks at Monte Cassino, and at the University of Naples. He secretly joined the mendicant Dominican friars in 1244. His family kidnapped and imprisoned him for a year to keep him out of sight, and deprogram him, but they failed to sway him, and he rejoined his order in 1245.

He studied in Paris, France from 1245 to 1248 under Saint Albert the Great, then accompanied Albertus to Cologne, Germany. Ordained in 1250, then returned to Paris to teach. Taught theology at University of Paris. He wrote defenses of the mendicant orders, commentaries on Aristotle and Lombard’s Sentences, and some bible-related works, usually by dictating to secretaries. He won his doctorate, and taught in several Italian cities. Recalled by king and university to Paris in 1269, then recalled to Naples in 1272 where he was appointed regent of studies while working on the Summa Theologica.

On 6 December 1273 he experienced a divine revelation which so enraptured him that he abandoned the Summa, saying that it and his other writing were so much straw in the wind compared to the reality of the divine glory. He died four months later while en route to the Council of Lyons, overweight and with his health broken by overwork.

His works have been seminal to the thinking of the Church ever since. They systematized her great thoughts and teaching, and combined Greek wisdom and scholarship methods with the truth of Christianity. Pope Leo VIII commanded that his teachings be studied by all theology students. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567.

St. Angela Merici

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When she was 56, Angela Merici said “No” to the Pope. She was aware that Clement VII was offering her a great honor and a great opportunity to serve when he asked her to take charge of a religious order of nursing sisters. But Angela knew that nursing was not what God had called her to do with her life.
She had just returned from a trip to the Holy Land. On the way there she had fallen ill and become blind. Nevertheless, she insisted on continuing her pilgrimage and toured the holy sites with the devotion of her heart rather than her eyes. On the way back she had recovered her sight. But this must have been a reminder to her not to shut her eyes to the needs she saw around her, not to shut her heart to God’s call.

All around her hometown she saw poor girls with no education and no hope. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century that Angela lived in, education for women was for the rich or for nuns. Angela herself had learned everything on her own. Her parents had died when she was ten and she had gone to live with an uncle. She was deeply disturbed when her sister died without receiving the sacraments. A vision reassured her that her sister was safe in God’s care — and also prompted her to dedicate her life to God.

When her uncle died, she returned to her hometown and began to notice how little education the girls had. But who would teach them? Times were much different then. Women weren’t allowed to be teachers and unmarried women were not supposed to go out by themselves — even to serve others. Nuns were the best educated women but they weren’t allowed to leave their cloisters. There were no teaching orders of sisters like we have today.

But in the meantime, these girls grew up without education in religion or anything at all.

These girls weren’t being helped by the old ways, so Angela invented a new way. She brought together a group of unmarried women, fellow Franciscan tertiaries and other friends, who went out into the streets to gather up the girls they saw and teach them. These women had little money and no power, but were bound together by their dedication to education and commitment to Christ. Living in their own homes, they met for prayer and classes where Angela reminded them, ” Reflect that in reality you have a greater need to serve [the poor] than they have of your service.” They were so successful in their service that Angela was asked to bring her innovative approach to education to other cities, and impressed many people, including the pope.

Though she turned him down, perhaps the pope’s request gave her the inspiration  or the push to make her little group more formal. Although it was never a religious order in her lifetime, Angela’s Company of Saint Ursula, or the Ursulines, was the first group of women religious to work outside the cloister and the first teaching order of women.

It took many years of frustration before Angela’s radical ideas of education for all and unmarried women in service were accepted. They are commonplace to us now because people like Angela wanted to help others no matter what the cost. Angela reminds us of her approach to change: “Beware of trying to accomplish anything by force, for God has given every single person free will and desires to constrain none; he merely shows them the way, invites them and counsels them.”

Saint Angela Merici reassured her Sisters who were afraid to lose her in death: “I shall continue to be more alive than I was in this life, and I shall see you better and shall love more the good deeds which I shall see you doing continually, and I shall be able to help you more.” She died in 1540, at about seventy years old. (courtesy of http://www.catholic.org)

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