Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Virtue

Lift High the Cross

Today, the Church celebrates the Triumph of the Cross. Through this precious wood, the Christ was strapped, nail, bled and die – thereby winning our redemption. Christians reverence and exalt the cross because it is the proximate cause of our salvation. To adore the cross is to adore the Christ who hung upon it. It is the real symbol of the entire Paschal mystery: the passion, death and resurrection of the Son of God.

History demonstrates that public veneration of the Cross has taken place since the fourth century. Tradition also shares with us that on September 14, 326, St. Helen, the mother of Constantine, miraculously discovered the cross.

The crucifix is the universal symbol of Christianity and our “calling card”. While an image of disgrace to the Romans and all those in their empire, it became the symbol of freedom, salvation and the desire of every Christian’s heart. It is the most basic and beloved symbol that identifies a Christian.

Today, most Catholics have adapted a Quaker’s religious piety – no sacred symbols in their homes or on their persons. This is a shame. St. Paul encourages us to not only display it but become it:

From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. (Gal 6:17)

or again,

More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:8-12)

In a society that spurns and avoids (even reminders of it) suffering at any cost, the crucifix is the singular reminder that suffering, when united with Christ, is a holy act. With Christ it also becomes a human act. The crucifix is our sign of victory. It is the primary instrument through which we have access to heaven and meritorious grace.

Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio spoke of the home as the domestic Church. In one sense he was addressing the family, while in quite another he was addressing every Christian home. When we walk into our home or even our bedroom, what is the first thing we see? What are the most prominent objects in our home/room? Whatever is most prominent is 9 times out of ten the most important object in our lives. If it is not the Christ, we should tremble…or are we embarrassed of Him? If it is embarrassment we need to remember those deadly words our Lord spoke in the Gospels,

But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. (Matt 10:33)

What do you notice first when you walk into your living space?

Steve Camp in the 1980s wrote a song entitled, What would the Devil Say. The song asks if there is enough evidence to convict us for knowing the Christ. As Catholics, we understand that our physical actions and choices are a direct expression of our heart…and yes, we can lie with our actions as well – Scripture calls that being double-minded (see James 1:8). All things being equal, in our own homes and lives, is there enough evidence that the world would know we are a Christian if we were mute? Is there enough evidence not only in our lives but our possessions? Will hell acquit us or convict us of a Capital Crime…I pray all of us would receive a death sentence from hell!

I doubt if any of us will ever be a St. Francis, St. Padre Pio or a Theresa Neumann who bore the physical wounds of Christ. So, we will have to settle for hanging our crucifixes and and sacred art to remind ourselves and all those who enter into our lives and homes,

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! (Joshua 24:15)

Loving to Hate

Today’s pericope from the Luke 14: 1-25-33 may seem to some as severe. Many of us are likely to chalk the language that our Lord uses as hyperbolic and in need of moderation. And yet, there is a simple truth in the following words of our Lord:

If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

The word “hate” may seem extreme but what does the word mean. Our word hate, which is closely related to the word loathsome, was first used in the 12th century and is derived from the Greek word kedos. Kedos meaning to worry or mourn. Maybe by adding this nuance, we can expand the meaning of hate in these verses to understand. Our Lord calls us to worry about our attachments and mourn for our need to need these attachments. Our Lord is not schizophrenic. He cannot say, “Honor (glorify) your father and mother” and hate them in the same breath. He instead is commanding us to love them, honor them, serve them and attach ourselves to only Himself who “is all good and deserving of all my love.”

I would like to turn our attention though to a hatred that we should all embrace. We value and allow our opinions, beliefs and our worldview to rule our life instead of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church – in every area of our life. I believe there is a new type of Catholic duality that has emerged in our midst. The new Catholic is the one who is the evangelist and faithfully obeys the doctrines, dogmas  and precepts of the Church all the while not allowing for the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Living a double life.

Don’t get me wrong. We all find ourselves in this position at times. But I am talking about the obstinate person who wants to live the Gospel on their own terms. Maybe if we are worried more about how our culture is influencing us and less about everyone loving us, what we are doing on our time off and what music mesmerizes our soul; perhaps we would be happier and healthier. It is true that we need to understand the culture we live in but that does not mean we need to participate in it wholesale.

Here are some questions to reflect on this Lord’s Day just to test the waters:

  • Do we proclaim the Kingdom of God while in the secret of our homes allow ourselves to be evangelized by the entertainment of this culture?
  • In our business dealings, do we capitalize on the weaknesses of others to get ahead?
  • Our music, the chief evangelist of any culture, how does it square with the Gospel and a true Catholic anthropology?
  • Do we welcome those who “call us” on to holiness or flee to those who will “tickle our ears” (2 Tim. 4:3), compliment us and make us feel good about ourselves?

We need to submit our attitudes, opinions and even our activities to the Lord. For the past 100 years, we have lived by the maxim that we are “people in progress” – usually to suit our own needs. With the help of the Lord’s grace we are not the same person yesterday as we are today. That is what it means to be a person in progress. It does not mean that we can view our bad habits and vices as something we will give up one day thereby giving ourselves tacit approval to retain them today. The Lord said, “Repent and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11).

How do we begin? We become radical – not the 1960/1970’s radical but a true radical. Merriam Webster defines radical as getting back to the root. So it is not acting like some crazy person – though that is usually how the culture views it. To heal this area of our life we first need to re-sensitize ourselves (being desensitized is not an excuse but the proof we enjoy the culture’s poison) by submitting ourselves to Scripture and the Church’s teaching during an extended “retreat” from our entertainment. Once we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch what is not of the Lord then we can start living the joy-filled life the Lord promised us. In fact, we see that our ministry increases because we are no longer living a double life but we become the Gospel we proclaim.

No worries, this is possible! Find some friends or family that will join you on this journey. Let them encourage you and you encourage them. Embrace the truth, regardless of the pain. Then pray, hope and don’t worry. Our Lord will be there to assist us in our need and comfort us in those times when we skirt the edge of despair. As September begins, let us cast off the the old man and take upon Christ our light and life.

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Broken Shells and Broken Hearts

As my kids and I were walking on the beach last night collecting sea shells, my youngest daughter ran up and said, “Daddy look! Isn’t it pretty? It’s a little broken but it is still pretty.” Her simple statement carried me into dreamland just pondering this insight.

At Franciscan University, a musical group had been formed dedicated to sing about the atrocities of abortion called, Little Grace. One of my good friends, Eric Hendry (extremely talented musician – TX make him sing for you!) used to sing a song called Broken Hearted. This is what put me to sleep last night. The words that stood out included:

For He loves the brokenhearted, for He was broken too. The work in you He started is no where near to being through. So, don’t give up hope…

We seem to need to believe that we are perfect (or have it all together) and that we are independent – we do not need help. The exception? Maybe our really close friends who we vent or cry with and then we quickly compose ourselves and move on with life. We have truly perfected the art of unhealthy living.

I wanted just to encourage everyone today that my kids and I prefer broken shells, those that are rough around the edges or have been worn-away by the ocean. They possess a simple beauty about them. Not because they are broken but because they are what they are and do not pretend to be anything else. In their humility of accepting whatever has eroded, tossed or even buffeted them on the bottom of the seafloor they have been shaped into the perfect collectible to be admired for its beauty.

We too need to present ourselves just as we are. My dad gave me a button when I was much younger that says, “God loves you as you are and sees you as you will be.” It is true. We are not the same person that we were yesterday or will be tomorrow. The Father has sent various experiences that will shape us into the the persons He desires us to be. As we face our challenges and combat the areas of sin in our lives the pain, toil and anguish will pay off. Just not today. Don’t stop struggling, let us help you share that burden but don’t get upset because we are not mind-readers. Oh, and if you run away from all those struggles and bury yourself in the sand to you cannot be broken. Sorry, you are already broken but can no longer be collected and admired for your beauty…my kids will be so disappointed.

Now, least we forget, the Father never wishes evil and yet it happens. He does, however, provide us with the grace to smooth out that grain of sand under pressure to form the pearl. Our hope should continue to be in the Lord who loves us simply, just as we are, but gives us the grace and strength to become what we must be…His Beloved.

As you continue through your day, I hope you will remember the words to this simple song,

For He loves the brokenhearted, for He was broken too. The work in you He started is no where near to being through. So, don’t give up hope…

What is Truth Worth to You?

One of my favorite saints, and patron of my diocese is St. Thomas More who gave his life in service of the truth. He was betrayed by all – even his wife and daughters who begged him to perjure himself in order to prevent them from losing their comfortable reputations and lifestyles. For probably all of us, we will never be called to this type of testimony by offering our blood in martyrdom.

What will be asked of us? I don’t know. I do know that regardless of the price, the one thing we do need to commit to is the truth; if we are to persevere until the end.

Hans Urs von Balthasar has been quoted saying, “Truth is symphonic.” This is true and beautiful. But truth is also visceral and expository. It cares not for our feelings and like a brilliant light, exposes all our imperfection to us and others. Truth is not truth if we dress it up and sanitize it – we call that fiction. Truth demands a relationship – if one is to proclaim it, the other must understand they are loved for even the slightest chance that the truth be heard.

The oddest trait of human nature (in my unsolicited opinion) is that we are made for truth but hate it. Well, I guess it would be more correct to say that we hate it when it exposes us. It is in these moments where we either perjure ourselves or accept the pruning in order to grow. Most of us run and find those who will boost our self-image or agree with our sin or disillusionment. For the beautiful among us, they embrace the truth and let it do its work.

In the case of St. Thomas, his closest friend betrayed him, Richard Rich. What was the price of betrayal? Comfortably and self-esteem…oh, and Wales. In today’s society, the synonym of comfortable is tolerance. Be tolerant of my sin, be tolerant of my ignorance, and most of all, I will not tolerate criticism. Many of us wonder why we are not growing or healing…it is usually because we refuse the truth. May we never live the words of Pilate, “Quid est veritas?”

Here is an inspiring testament to truth…enjoy!

Teen sex not always bad for school performance


Well, it seems that the American Psychological Association (APA) is having another Forrest Gump moment. You know, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Except the APA’s box has been sitting outside in the 100 degree Atlanta heat and has melted into utter oblivion. Another way to say it, in Forrest Gump vernacular, “Stupid is as stupid does.” You may be asking, “What is he ranting about today!” Great question, glad you asked.

This morning, the Washington Post published a story entitled, Teen sex not always bad for school performance. To summarize, the APA states that their latest study shows that committed sexual relationships among high school teens does not adversely affect their GPA.  Additionally, those who are in uncommitted sexual relationships or just “hook up” have a slightly worse GPA than those who practice abstinence. Based on this evidence, there is a call to reform the sex ed programs to reflect this new found knowledge and to put the hearts and minds of our teens at ease by telling them it is okay to have marital relations with someone you are not married to while you are in high school.

Initial thoughts

Sooooo, if I want my teen to improve their GPAs I should encourage a committed sexual relationship? Or maybe, “Hey fill in the name of your son and/or daughter here, if you have relations with your date tonight, make sure you two are committed or your grades could go down!” Last but not least, “Mom and Dad, do not tell me that I cannot have relations with my date.  The APA says that if it is within a committed relationship, my GPA could be greater than those who abstain. PLEASE!! I am trying to get into college!”

Serious thoughts

While the APA and other media outlets are campaigning to change our mindsets and steal our teens’ virtue, the Church continues to spread the good news that in Christ there is freedom. The Church is not against the marital act…it encourages the free, faithful, fruitful and total mutual self-giving of persons within the context of a marriage.

It is not like this government-endorsed hedonism is new to the Church. Remember Rome? I find it funny that University of Southern California sociologist Julie Albright or Marie Harvey, professor of public health at Oregon State University think that teens are stupid. Lacking prudence, life experience and adequate control over their hormones…yes.  But they can think and they are observant.  You think they haven’t noticed the disastrous effects of the sexual revolution or that mom and dad switch out marriage partners more often that Paris Hilton changes clothes? I think they are observant and the following statistics are encouraging:

  • 54% of high school students are virgins.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2002). Youth risk behavior surveillance.
  • 58% on teens surveyed recently said sexual activity for high school-age teens is not acceptable, even if precautions are taken against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
    National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2000). The Cautious Generation? Teens Tell Us About Sex, Virginity, and “The Talk”. Washington, DC: Author.
  • 82% of teens desire to have one marriage partner for life.
    Barna Research, 1998
  • 87% of teens do not think it is embarrassing for teens to say that they are virgins.
    National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2000). The cautious generation? Teens tell us about sex, virginity and “the talk.” Washington, DC: Author.
  • 63% of teens who have had sexual intercourse said they wish they had waited.
    National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. (2000). Not Just Another Thing to Do: Teens Talk About Sex, Regret, and the Influence of Their Parents. Washington, DC: Author.

While these numbers are encouraging there is room for improvement. We need them to hear that the Gospel brings freedom in every area of our lives.  That modesty is not just about clothes but about speech and media too. For those of us who work with the youth, we need to show them first. Our living one way and teaching another compromises our witness…whether we believe it or not.

Some final snark

I thought I would end with a few reflections:

I wonder if our students test scores would improve if we spent more time teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic than how to put a prophylactic on a banana or a cucumber. I mean, I need an editor for my blog because writing and editing are not among my gifts (As Chris in a comment helped remind me – thanks Chris for the correction). Or maybe, that dating means I am ready for marriage and that committed till-death-do-us-part relations are vital to our national economic welfare (See the outstanding research presented by Dr. Patrick Fagan at the Family Research Council on this topic). Frankly, I am looking to marry off my kids one day and I need someone that they are worthy of or are worthy of them (BTW, just a note for the future, my best friend has a 9mm).

To my fellow parents, catechists and youth leaders.  How are you educating? Remember that every word, movie/television/music choice and or reference; every giggle or joke about the gift or sexuality, every fashion choice we make is being scrutinized by our children and students. FAITH IS MORE CAUGHT THAN TAUGHT. I am sure you are doing a great job since it is not only our soul but the souls of all who have been entrusted to us that are hanging in the balance. Of course, if we do not know how we are doing, we will at the general judgment when all our sins and meritorious choices will be revealed to all in the light of God’s grace.

To the those at the Washington Post who agree with this report and all the sociologists and sex ed teachers who are looking to warp our virtue: Go back to school, you learned nothing based on your comments. Oh, and demand a refund from your alma mater, you were cheated. Just sayn…

Devotions: Stretching the Heart for the Love of God

How do I grow in the love of God and neighbor? This question should be a daily one that we ask ourselves.  Most Catechists would tell you to live according to the commandments and precepts of the Church while participating in the Sacraments of the Church. Basically, allow the Sacraments of the Church to empower us to live a life of virtue .

The Church also encourages other tools that can assist us to prepare or integrate those graces and virtues into our lives.  We call them devotions. Now, our separated brethernuse the term devotion as our daily discipline of prayer and Scripture reading. That is not what we are discussing. As Catholics, daily prayer and a spiritual life formed by Sacred Scripture is expected, every day. They are not devotions but how we approach them is called devotion, but still not what we are discussing.  So, where do we look to find out what a devotion is and how it should be practiced?

In December 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments promulgated and published the updated version of the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines (Guidelines). Notice that it shares “Principles and Guidelines.” Why? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in paragraph 1674 give us some insight by teaching that:

Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc.

This document (more like a book) governs those devotions that the Church encourages and provides the limits and guidelines on how they should be practiced. Is the Church trying to regiment our devotional practices, by no means.  Any student (current or former) remembers from their history classes the excesses that have been present at different times throughout our history – well meaning albeit excessive.  The Congregation promulgated these guidelines to provide limits for healthy devotion. Again the CCC 1676 teaches:

Pastoral discernment is needed to sustain and support popular piety and, if necessary, to purify and correct the religious sense which underlies these devotions so that the faithful may advance in knowledge of the mystery of Christ. Their exercise is subject to the care and judgment of the bishops and to the general norms of the Church.

At its core the piety of the people is a storehouse of values that offers answers of Christian wisdom to the great questions of life. The Catholic wisdom of the people is capable of fashioning a vital synthesis. . . . It creatively combines the divine and the human, Christ and Mary, spirit and body, communion and institution, person and community, faith and homeland, intelligence and emotion. This wisdom is a Christian humanism that radically affirms the dignity of every person as a child of God, establishes a basic fraternity, teaches people to encounter nature and understand work, provides reasons for joy and humor even in the midst of a very hard life. For the people this wisdom is also a principle of discernment and an evangelical instinct through which they spontaneously sense when the Gospel is served in the Church and when it is emptied of its content and stifled by other interests.

The  Guidelines defines devotions or popular piety stating,

4.(…)Popular piety is an expression of faith which avails of certain cultural elements proper to a specific environment which is capable of interpreting and questioning in a lively and effective manner the sensibilities of those who live in that same environment.

Genuine forms of popular piety, expressed in a multitude of different ways, derives from the faith and, therefore, must be valued and promoted. Such authentic expressions of popular piety are not at odds with the centrality of the Sacred Liturgy. Rather, in promoting the faith of the people, who regard popular piety as a natural religious expression, they predispose the people for the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries.

5. The correct relationship between these two expressions of faith must be based on certain firm principles, the first of which recognises that the Liturgy is the centre of the Church’s life and cannot be substituted by, or placed on a par with, any other form of religious expression. Moreover, it is important to reaffirm that popular religiosity, even if not always evident, naturally culminates in the celebration of the Liturgy towards which it should ideally be oriented. This should be made clear through suitable catechesis.

Hopefully, we are able to see that popular piety is meant to stretch our hearts to receive the grace of God that flows forth from the Liturgy(ies) of the Church (this includes the celebration of the all Sacraments).  I know I definitely want to stretch my heart to receive more grace and penetrate the mysteries of the faith deeper. And these numerous and beautiful devotions are worthy of our consideration

Just for the sake of clarification I thought I would mention what are not devotions. Included among these are:

  • Sacraments
  • Divine Liturgy or the Mass – it is the center of our Sacramental life
  • Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours – it is second only to the Mass and is a liturgy of the Church meant to sanctify our daily lives and time, a practice that has fallen out of vogue
  • Sacred Scripture – Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ (St. Jerome)
  • Solemn Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Hour – elevated after the Second Vatican Council to a liturgy

Notice that not all of these are not mandatory. Obviously, the Sacraments and Mass constitute the foundation of our spiritual lives. These additional liturgies are additional personal encounters where we come into direct contact with the Living God.

So, what are my favorite top five devotions? They include:

Maybe some of my friends would share some of their favorite five devotions:

The Nature of Man

I am pleased to share this fantastic lecture on the nature of man presented by Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand. This talk was given to the students at St. Thomas More Academy (STMA) in Raleigh, North Carolina.  STMA’s mission is dedicated to continuing the vital tradition of Catholic education by integrating the very best academic curriculum with the deepest spiritual wisdom of Catholic Christianity.

Dr. Von Hildebrand’s lecture touches on wisdom and the metaphysical nature of man (a favorite discussion of man). Enjoy!

Alice Von Hildebrand STMA Lecture from Randy Luddy on Vimeo.

Liberty and Freedom, Happy Independance Day!

In the United States of America, today we celebrate Independence Day. We traditionally gather and grill with family and friends and then go and watch a fireworks display. The phrase that sums up our celebrations can be found in the United States Declaration of Independence.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence, and considered by some as part of one of the most well crafted, influential sentences in the history of the English language[1].

For Catholics, this phrase is pregnant with meaning.


Life is given to us by God the Father who not only creates us ex nihilo but also sustains our life through the continuous willing of our existence – before and after death.

Though our lives are contingent upon the Father, all other liberties and virtues flow forth from the fact that we are formed in His image and like and most importantly, we are alive. In particular, the Founding Fathers applied this phrase to all “persons” i.e., those with a rational soul.


In theology, liberty and freedom while related have different meanings. Liberty is freedom, but with a stress on the person who enjoys or exercises freedom; it is the subjective power of self-determination. Freedom strictly speaking is the objective absence of constraint or coercion, notably with reference to civil society; internal or external. This power of the will is oriented to the good.  We are made only to choose that which the intellect discerns as good.

Our founding fathers also chose liberty over the word freedom. Perhaps that is because liberty resides in the will and is constituent to the definition of a person. Freedom is the extension of the person as he or she relates to society. To take it a step further in Catholic theology, St. Paul teaches us in Romans and his Epistle to Philemon that the Christian can experience liberty regardless of their state in life or their particular situation. Meaning, an oppressor can take away our freedom and subjugate a person but it cannot take away our ability to choose.

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Founding Fathers also seemed to be realists.  They knew that happiness in this life was not guaranteed and could never be ensured.  With a deeply Christian sentiment, they knew that we were destined for perfect beatitude in heaven. even if we believe that happiness is guaranteed, experience teaches us differently.

Reviewing the Current Culture

It seems we find ourselves living during a time in which our culture is besieged with not only a misunderstanding of this phrase but also a rejection of our founding Christian values.

Life is being defined through a strictly utilitarian lens without a context. Since we have removed any notion of God out of our social consciousness we have become the masters of all existence.  The unborn are routinely aborted and caregivers now have the option to euthanize the handicapped and elderly in Oregon (no worries, soon it will be coming to a state near you). Why? Only the Blessed Trinity can fathom the human heart. Careful observation reveals that the unborn are said to 1) contribute nothing to society and 2) infringe upon the mother’s liberty to do what she wants as she is the master of her own body.

Liberty has been redefined as the right to make any choice. In fact, it has also been relegated to external liberties and not the internal liberty that we call virtue.  The freedom of the will, as we have already suggested, is oriented to the good.  True liberty frees not only the individual but society and the environment.  Liberty cannot be judged on the basis of self-interest otherwise it withers, dies and becomes the very prison (internal and external) that liberty was meant to avoid.

The pursuit of happiness has become an experiment in hedonism. Over the last five years, I have been amused by the Colonial Williamsburg advertising spot that ends with our phrase EXCEPT that it does not say pursuit of happiness.  Colonial Williamsburg has turned happiness into an inalienable right.  Sadly, many find themselves with everything that money can buy; experienced every pleasure the body can afford; and pursued every adventure their mind could dream of. And still, they are unhappy.

A Future and a Hope

Our Lord reminds us in Jeremiah 29:11,

I know well the plans I have in store for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe. Plans to give you a future and a hope.

Our Lord created us for the good, the true and the beautiful.  When every effort has been exhausted our souls are designed to reach out to the Holy Trinity. Additionally, with all the challenges of our country it still empowers us to change the culture without war or an armed conflict.  That is good news.

How do we recover our culture? Foster the virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance; submit ourselves to the Gospel and let our hearts experience the liberty that may only be found in Christ Jesus.  Happy Fourth of July everyone.

[1] Lucas, “Justifying America”, 85.

Public Policy through Music – Glee

Teens and a few of those in youth ministry continue to encourage me to watch an up-and-coming show called Glee – even if only to hear the talent of the actors.  So, I thought I would do some research and then watch a few episodes.

What did I find? Turns out this popular musical comedy-drama was ranked the eighth best television show of 2009 by James Poniewozik of Time commenting:

…when Glee works—which is often—it is transcendent, tear-jerking and thrilling like nothing else on TV. […] It can be a mess, but it’s what great TV should be: reckless, ambitious, heart-on-its-sleeve and, thanks especially to Jane Lynch as drill-sergeant cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, gaspingly funny. When it hits its high notes, nothing else matters.[i]

Sounds exciting.  What else… The show is enormously popular with teens and young adults.  There are even a number of adults who have succumbed to the sirens’ song.  It has amazing musical performances and is reminiscent of High School Musical. David Hinckley of the New York Daily caught my attention who commented that the target audience of Glee is teens. Sounds good. He complimented the show by likening it to the 1980’s cult-classic Porkey’s (Huh?!?) saying,

The new musical-comedy drama “Glee” dresses like “High School Musical” and has the heart of “Porky’s.”

That’s a compliment.

For those under 28, which is most of the target audience for “Glee,” “Porky’s” was a low-budget, early-’80s teen classic that seemed to sell raunch, but whose real appeal was suggesting outsiders with good hearts could beat all the jerks who had none.[ii]

Now, maybe it is me, but I feel like we cannot divorce the storyline from the story that is told.  My English professors taught me that how something is said is just as important as what is said.  They taught me that the how and what together provide a good picture of the intent and beliefs of the storyteller.

Admittedly, I must confess, as a stupid 12 year old over at a friend’s house I have seen clips of Porkey’s – and my Pastor was happy to hear my confession. Again, why do we want to subject our children to this low-brow entertainment that is not good for the soul? As you know, Porkey’s has also been associated with the introduction of mainstream smut into society. A good story line – I’ll take his word for it. The review did not win me over. I decided to ask for some help and committed to watch the season finale.

How does one look for an example of the best parts of the show? I went to the music aficionado of the family, my wife, and asked her.  It just so happens that she had pulled up on YouTube a few of the musical numbers that she enjoyed immensely.  Since Glee is a television show, we thought it was just as important to watch as well as listen and we were SORELY disappointed and frankly angered. Here is what I watched:

The Wind-up

Case in point. Children are a gift and a blessing of God the Father regardless of the manner in which the child was conceived – it is neither the child’s fault nor concern (let’s avoid the extreme situations at the moment). The latest numbers reported by the National Center of Health Statistics is that 38.5 percent, roughly 1.64 million children are born out of wedlock.[iii] Considering the present view of marriage and statistics (1 in 2 marriages fail in the United States); it is not surprising. Should we be surprised that society as a whole has become utilitarian and tends to love things and use people – all with sincerity? Probably not. But would you ever, in all sincerity, relate the birth of a child to being handed over to Beelzebub? No? That’s what Glee did.

The Pitch…a Swing and a Miss

During the Season 1 finale, Episode 22, Journey to Regionals the producers coordinated the Glee Clubs regional performance of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with the onset, labor, birth and recovery of Gwen and her newborn daughter. It caught me by surprise that the producers chose to coordinate the onset of labor and the rushing into the hospital with the following lyrics,

Mama just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
Mama, life has just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away

I guess I could somewhat understand for a teenage mother – even though that train of thought reduces the child to an object that is disposable and a leech.  My eyebrows raised when, as the father was being berated, he looked on with a painfully glance to the birth and the following lyric was sung:

He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity

But, most alarmingly was the music and acting associated with the birth of that beautiful gift of God. They sang, with the line,

Beelzebub has the devil put aside for me, for me, for me!

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here

The reference to “gotta get out” – nothing to do with the baby wanting to enter the loving and maternal embrace of Gwen. What message was just communicated to the target audience of teens and young adults? Well, you know the old saying; faith is more caught than taught.  Fact: They are hearing some rather great musical performances. Fact: They are also hearing, and we all know that music is the most effective means of teaching, that pregnancy=a life thrown away and a baby=Beelzebub handing us over to the devil himself.

Hmmm? So of course there was a happy ending right? You know, the one where the new mother sees the child and smiles, cries, hugs the child and then refuses to give the child up for adoption. Nope! This is reality television. She smiles, hugs the child and without blinking an eye or reservation says that she has no intention of keeping the child (Wait, I think I have a small tear in the corner of my eye – oh, that is a tear of disgust).


Since we are discussing childbirth, have you ever noticed that Hollywood portrays childbirth as if the mother was being drawn and quartered? Ladies, my wife had four difficult labors and births but she did not carry on like a wailing Banshee all the while dressing me down in a low guttural voice exclaiming, “Look what you have done to me!” There are many women that have challenges in their deliveries and I am sure that more than one hates their child for the pain that they had endured or the new-found stretch marks the child caused. In my house, those are the badges of the sanctity of life and the reward for being a tabernacle. But seriously, the majority of births are not like what you see on television or the movies. It is or can be a joy-filled experience and time of intimacy with your husband. The last three births of our children, we played Scrabble.

Romans 12:9

Back to the topic at hand. We who value life need to start making hard decisions about what we choose to support and fills our ears and hearts.  We also need to not check our minds at the door when listening to an artist. I am sure that I will receive a number of complaints telling me to lighten up because this is entertainment and we need something to enjoy.  I will, if you remember to avoid Rome where so many of the early martyrs were killed because they refused to tolerate that ages version of entertainment. At least the Romans were open about it and didn’t try to subversively win hearts and minds with psychological slight of hand.

Oh, by the way…the ability to have the Church Baptize in public, that is a result of their gift of intolerance. The Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. (Tertullian)

[i] Poniewozik, James (December 8, 2009). “The Top 10 Everything of 2009″. Time. Time Inc..,28804,1945379_1944142_1944160,00.html. (Retrieved July 2, 2010)

[ii] Hinckley, David (September 9, 2009). “On ‘Glee,’ sex is the keynote at musical high school in Ohio”. (Retrieved July 2, 2010)

[iii] CDC. 2006. Unmarried Childbearing. (Retrieved July 2, 2010)

Where Have All the Father’s Gone…

Georges de La Tour: St. Joseph the Carpenter

Pete Seeger in his 1961 hit, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, ponders the loss of innocence and laments our lack of reflection to learn from our mistakes.  He could replace one of the verses to ask the question, “Where have all the Fathers gone?”

Long time past are the times of Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, and the Andy Griffith Show. Instead, we have been left with Two and Half Men, the George Lopez Show and Modern Family (nothing modern about it – this is a recasting of an older drama called Sodom and Gomorrah). These shows are otherwise known as the wimp, the idiot and the lesbian.  Society has emasculated its men and now suffers the consequences.  Adam fails in the garden and suddenly there is no need for husbands and fathers.

On the contrary, research empirically shows that fathers have a major influence in the formation of their children – especially faith formation.  The Swiss government in 1994 (published in 2000) commissioned a study to examine the effects of parental participation on the religious practices of their children.  Startling but not surprising, the report showed:

  1. If both father and mother attended church regularly then 33 per cent of their children became regular churchgoers, a further 41 per cent irregular attenders and about a quarter not practicing at all.
  2. If the mother was a regular church attender but the father irregular then only 3 per cent of their children became regular church attenders, 59 per cent irregular attenders and 38 per cent non-attenders.
  3. If the father was non-practicing and the mother regular only 2 per cent of children were regular and 37 per cent irregular church attenders. 61 per cent did not attend church at all.
  4. Surprisingly, if the father is a regular church attender the childrens’ religious practice varied in an inverse relationship to their mothers’ practice. If the mother was regular 33 per cent of children were regular. If she was an irregular attender then 38 per cent of children were regular. If the mother was non-practicing then 44 per cent of children became regular attenders.
  5. Even when the father is an irregular attender and the mother non- practicing 25 per cent of the children were regular attenders and 23 per cent irregular attenders.

Even the research shows us we need our fathers.  Someone needs to start a revolution around fatherhood. If women want their equal rights and to be treated with respect they should invest in raising virtuous sons.  Not submissive sons without backbone but ones that will rise up and give their life for a stranger at a moments notice. I do not care what the feminists say, I have never met a woman who did not want or need a knight to defend her honor and treat her the way God intended. Yes ladies, you were meant to have the men treat you like the crown jewel of creation that you are. The fact is, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

To this end, you need the father’s involvement.  He needs to model the virtuous warrior-lover that he was designed to be.  DO NOT stop the boys (dads are included as one of the boys) from wrestling and playing those games you consider horrible because there is so much talk about death and there are bruises.  Did you ever notice that when little boys play they die an excruciating death while saving the girl or fellow soldiers at the very last minute.  They are wired to take the bullet and keep walking.  They them become who they are – with all their rough-housing and sensitivity it is the father who knows how to bend and shape their will while the mother ensures it is never broken.

Until this happens, I ask you, why do we support these shows that aren’t fun?  Integrity means that our beliefs conform with our practices internally and externally.  In other words, if you are laughing at these programs that are offensive to our Lord then can you really say that you are allowing the Christ to rule your life. Most youth and young adults quickly retort to me that giving these past times up would mean they have no more entertainment and surely our Lord would not want that. I believe the cross says different.

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rm. 12:2)

Note that the three philosophical goods (good, pleasing, and perfect) are a package deal. I am not encouraging you to throw out the t.v. or never go to the movies (although…) but why support those very things that undermine our society.

Anyway, today is Father’s day.  There is much to celebrate and much to pray for.  Ladies, do you want good husbands and strong fathers? Don’t do his job for him. Encourage him and tell him he is really up for the task and you want him not repeat Adam’s mistake. Be patient with him, he has been told all his life that he is to sit quietly and say “Yes dear, whatever you want dear.” Marry a knight from the get-go.  If you think he will change or you can change him, please go to the local hospital and take a drug test. It’s possible but improbable. Marry someone who cultivates the virtues, especially honor, obedience, simplicity, modesty, purity, humility, kindness, courage and assertiveness. Then commend him over to St. Joseph and St. Michael.  What St. Joseph cannot encourage him to do, St. Michael will use his version of angelic warrior “encouragement” to get the job done.

To you my fellow fathers and brothers…WAKE UP and take back the culture for your wife and children!

Where have all the fathers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the fathers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the father gone?
Society has crushed them every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?