I couldn’t help but think, though, that in the world’s excitement to see history made with the upcoming papal conclave and all of the talk about who the “candidates” are – that we have forgotten about the man who has guided our Church through some of the most challenging times in history.
Pope Benedict XVI in his eight years as pope will leave behind an amazing legacy, and one that as a teen you should know about.
Picture it: You’re in a hurry. You’re focused on school or work or family or friends, where there are a thousand things going on. You stop “real quick” to eat in the middle of the day. Halfway through the meal – or a little while after – you remember it’s Friday. And it’s Lent! And that’s a burger in your stomach!! In the words of Homer Simpson, “D’oh!”
“Excuse me, you’ve got some dirt on your head.” Every year someone says that to me on Ash Wednesday. Maybe it has happened to you too. In the past it used to frustrate me, but in recent years I have come to see it as a great opportunity to evangelize, to share with someone about the most important person in my life: Jesus Christ.
Each of the three was given a special role in the Church. Peter was the “rock” on which Jesus would build His Church (Matthew 16:18-19). As every group needs a leader, someone to cast the deciding vote, so did the apostles and the bishops. Simon Peter, the fisherman, rose to the occasion. In his line are popes who become saints and popes who were less than saintly; yet every pope was given special authority by God to guide the Church for a time.
John knew what it was like to have a tough childhood. Born to a poor family of farmers in 1815, he lost his father when he was only two. Though very intelligent and quite witty, John was forced to delay his dreams of priesthood while working as a shepherd and farmer, to help support his mother and siblings. At the age of nine, John Bosco had his first vision, one in which a man with a radiant face and flowing robes called him to lead a group of unruly boys behaving like wild animals. Years later John Bosco would fulfill this prophetic vision, feeling called to the missionary field of youth ministry.
I think this is a pretty normal trend — with maturity comes better decisions about our health. We realize fruit and granola makes a better breakfast than doughnuts and mountain dew and preservatives that enable food products to last until the year 3000 (I’m looking at you, Twinkies) should probably be consumed in moderation.
A glaring exception to this is our culture’s enthusiasm for hormonal contraceptives, or “the Pill” as it’s known on the streets. If you’re like me, you hear “pill” and think something that’s good for you and will help you feel better, like Aleve for a headache or Nyquil for a cold.
Have you ever noticed that the Bible doesn’t specifically say how many wise men showed up in Bethlehem? We’re told that wise men from the East followed a star, interacted with Herod, and made their way to the manger (bearing gifts) but nowhere does it say how many men there actually were. So, how exactly did this idea of the “three magi” begin if Matthew 2 doesn’t give an explicit number? Is this just the byproduct of an overzealous songwriter thinking that “We Three Kings” sounded better than “A couple of Kings” or “About Four Kings”?
We have a God who deals in the impossible. This is huge, life-changing, and has everything to do with Christmas. I think we’re so used to the story of “Christmas” that we can easily forget to spend time just letting ourselves be amazed by the story.
As it is with the Christian life, if we want to see clearly – as God sees – we have to look at the “big picture” of salvation. If we want to understand Jesus’ death, for instance, we need to begin with His birth and when we do, we will undoubtedly learn something very interesting . . . that He was born to die.
If you want to get technical, that “pieta” moment first occurred not on Calvary, but in Bethlehem. The manger’s wood was a foreshadowing; it is the “cross” of Christmas. There is far more going on at Jesus’ birth than many of us realize upon first glance.
Do you ever have those days where you feel like you don’t even know yourself anymore? You look in the mirror and think: Who am I? What is my life all about? In my freshman year of college, I faced an identity crisis. Okay, I know what you’re thinking – identity crises = 50 year old dude who buys a red ferrari and moves to the coast. My crisis was on a lesser scale. But it was a time I didn’t know who I was as a college student. In an effort to “reinvent” myself, I cut my hair off (don’t Read more [...]
First, we need to be clear here. The Immaculate Conception is not about the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb. It’s about the conception of Mary in her mother’s womb years before. While Mary was conceived in the normal, human way through her parents (Joachim and Anne), the Immaculate Conception speaks to the fact that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin.
Nicholas was known for his generosity. As tradition goes, he was so selfless that (although he, too, was poor) he helped his likewise poor neighbor support and pay for his daughters’ weddings. Nicholas snuck up to his neighbor’s house at night and dropped a handful of gold coins through the open window so that the eldest daughter could afford to get married. He would later repeat the generous act two more times. From there, the Santa legend grew into what we now know today – stockings, chimneys, a belly like jelly and all that good stuff.
Jesus Himself claims to be God throughout the Gospels as well. Jesus asked the Jews, “Do you say . . . ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10:36). Calling yourself God when you are not is blasphemy, the worst kind of sin for the Jews. That’s why the Jews wanted to put Him to death . . .
That’s why it’s so exciting to think about heaven, right? The moment we are free — no more “too fat,” “too short,” or “too skinny.” We’ll never have to worry about bad hair days, annoying wrinkles, or our bellies protruding over our belts after chowing down on Thanksgiving dessert.
In heaven, we’re going to be spiritual beings, floating on white fluffy clouds (and holding baby puppies) . . . Right?
I was once riding in a shuttle-bus with a number of older folks on the way from an airport. They noticed that I was a priest and started asking questions about it. “Do you do all of the priest stuff?” “Yep.” “Even the Confession thing?” “Yeah. All the time.”
One older lady gasped, “Well, I think that that would be the worst. It would be so depressing; hearing all about people’s sins.”
I told them that it was the exact opposite. There is almost no greater place to be than with someone when they are coming back to God . . .
Catholics take care to honor and bury the dead because St. Paul tells us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, that God lives in our very bodies and therefore we should honor God with them (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Honoring the body doesn’t stop after the person has died.
In the Gospel Jesus compares heaven to life, light, peace, a wedding feast, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, and paradise. But ultimately, we don’t know what it’s like. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The fact is, we’ll just have to wait and see.
“What do you mean, wait and see,” you ask. “I thought people have visions of heaven! So don’t we know?” . . .
This is also a feeling Catholics may have when approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We know we need to go. Christ gave us this sacrament by which we “obtain pardon from God’s mercy” and are “reconciled with the Church” (CCC 1422). We need to hear those words — “Your sins are forgiven, go in peace!” Yet sometimes, like my mother, we do something and while we know it’s wrong we’re not that sorry. Should we still go to confession?