Men Only! Mary Story Contest

When we think about Mary, we tend to think a lot about how women have been helped. I know many men who have also been helped. A few weeks ago, Crossbound rosaries offered me one of their manly paracord rosaries. I want to offer it as the prize for the best story by a man about how Mary helped him. I think this is also a great way to celebrate the month of the rosary.

Here are 3 pictures of the rosary:

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  1. Entries must be received by Monday, October 10th at 2pm Eastern..
  2. Entry is open to males only age 12 and up.
  3. Stories must be about the author (male relatives from the past 100 years can also work).
  4. By entering you give me permission to publish your comments. (I will only put a first name and last initial to protect privacy.)
  5. I will pick what I think is the best entry. My decision of a winner is final and cannot be appealed even though it is likely subjective.
  6. I will contact the winner via email to mail them the rosary.

No more submissions accepted. Winner announced soon.

How I use Twitter

How I use Twitter

I’ve somehow succeeded on Twitter so I finally decided I would explain some of how I work. I did so in a series of tweets I’ll post here as a blog.

Update: I finished out my cleaning at a little over 20,000 people unfollowed a few days ago.

After I thought I’d finished, a few more thought came up:

Genocide of Christians by ISIS a reality we can’t ignore

I think there is a storng moral argument to help persecuted Christians and this argument was just published on Crux.

3269414206_d6fb3b36e5Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Usually, we apply this verse to serving the poor or sick; but if we think about it, a person who faces daily death threats, whose family has been killed, and whose whole society is in real danger of extinction, definitely qualifies as “one of the least of these my brethren.”

In that spirit, the ongoing genocide of Christians in the Middle East, especially in ISIS-controlled areas, is a reality we cannot deny.

Crux editor John Allen Jr. documented the persecution of Christians a few years back inThe Global War on Christians but the situation in the Middle East has deteriorated significantly since then. Christ based his judgment in Matthew 25 on how we dealt with these least: this applies not just individually, but how we – as an at least nominally Christian nation – respond to genocide against these least of Christ’s brothers.

Recently, I was at a conference run by In Defense of Christians, a non-profit founded to help persecuted Christian minorities. Andrew Doran, a senior advisor to IDC, began the conference by laying out the arguments used to convince both the U.S. Congress and the State Department to declare the violence against Christians and Yazidis and other minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide.

Read the rest over on Crux.

Sound Bite Problems… Even in Christian Media

Sound bite problems in Christian Media
I have commented a few times on what helps teens stay active in their faith. About 2 weeks ago, Catholic News Agency contacted me to interview for a story they were doing on a recent CARA study on the how many kids leave the Church. I later got a Google alert that I was mentioned on Christianity Today (yes, I have Google Alerts set up to know what’s being said about me). When I got the the story I was rather disapointed in how reducing me to a sound bite, they lost the meaning of what I said.

I spoke with CNA for about 20 minutes and I think Matt Hadro accurately represented what I said. Here’s part of the section on me (I also commented on faith & science). The article is here.

How can parents raise their children to stay in the faith? Fr. Schneider cited research by Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, who concluded that a combination of three factors produces an 80 percent retention rate among young Catholics.

If they have a “weekly activity” like catechesis, Bible study or youth group; if they have adults at the parish who are not their parents and who they can talk to about the faith; and if they have “deep spiritual experiences,” they have a much higher likelihood of remaining Catholic, Fr. Schneider said.

This mirrors an earlier blog of mine called 3 Things that Almost Guarantee Teens Stay Catholic which I know I was consciously remembering when talking to Matt Hadro. (I put numerous ellipses to shorten it).

Christian Smith is a leading sociologist on the sociology of religion: he did a study of over 2000 young adults in their teen years on the religiosity and then followed up with them while they were in their 20s…. the end of the book, he talks about how different combination of factors can come together to ensure that Catholic teens are active Catholics (for him, this basically means attending mass weekly, although I would hope that a truly active Catholic would do more). There are only seven possible paths that lead to more than 50% of the teens remaining active Catholics as adults – and some of these require 4 or 5 factors to come together. Of the seven paths one stands out for two reasons: it produces an 80% success rate at having active Catholic adults and all three of the factors are things that we can create the environment where there almost definitely going to happen.

The first factor is a teen attends Sunday school. We have to remember that Christian Smith is a sociologist of religion goes beyond the Catholic Church – as most Catholics don’t have “Sunday school” but rather either CCD and/or some form of youth ministry…

The second factor is teen had many religious experiences. We can never create a religious experience but if we provide a wide plethora of retreats, adoration, service to the poor, evangelization opportunities, and other spiritual opportunities the probability that a teen will have a subjective religious experience is very high…

The last factor is: teen has many adults in religious congregation to turn to for help and support. In simple terms this means that teens can talk adults other than their parents about their faith…

So this was picked up by Christianity Today who decided to reduce my comments to a sound bite:

Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC, who worked in youth ministry for four years, meanwhile challenged the parents of today to help their children keep the faith.

Fr. Schneider suggested parents facilitate a “weekly activity” for the kids like catechesis, Bible study or youth group. He added that parents should become more aware of their children’s faith.

Is that what I said? To me, it seems like they reduced my comments to empty platitudes. Of course any reader of a Christian publication should be encouraged to help their children and be aware of their faith… that’s so obvious, it barely needs to be said. And nothing of Christian Smith’s research makes a “weekly activity” particularly transformative for teens’ faith in isolation, only with the other two factors: I’d still encourage it but their are several other more powerful factors in isolation.

Why Catholics are leaving the faith by age 10 – and what parents can do about it

I was intervewed by Catholic News Agency on preventing teens from leaving the Church.

Church_pews_Public_domain_CNAFr. Matthew Schneider, LC, who worked in youth ministry for four years, emphasized that faith and science must be presented to young people in harmony with each other.

A challenge, he explained, is teaching how “faith and science relate” through philosophy and theology. While science deals only with “what is observable and measurable,” he said, “the world needs something non-physical as its origin, and that’s how to understand God along with science.”

“It was the Christian faith that was the birthplace of science,” he continued. “There’s not a contradiction” between faith and science, “but it’s understanding each one in their own realms.”

How can parents raise their children to stay in the faith? Fr. Schneider cited research by Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, who concluded that a combination of three factors produces an 80 percent retention rate among young Catholics.

If they have a “weekly activity” like catechesis, Bible study or youth group; if they have adults at the parish who are not their parents and who they can talk to about the faith; and if they have “deep spiritual experiences,” they have a much higher likelihood of remaining Catholic, Fr. Schneider said.

Read what everyone else said on their site.

Muslims: Nuancing the Good and Bad

I just posted this on the Catholic StandCpnAfEmWYAAeUWv.

About a month ago, during the Euro Cup, I was impressed reading a few pieces in the press about Mesut Özil, an extremely talented Muslim soccer player who often opens his palms in prayer during stoppages in play and reads the Koran before matches. I saw a quote from him saying, “I’d rather not play football again than to not fast in Ramadan,” even though I later found out that during the Euro Cup he took advantage of the dispensation to move fast days if you’re traveling. For those of you who don’t watch soccer, Özil is likely the best playmaker in the world right now, creating more scoring opportunities than any other player in the five major European leagues last year, and breaking the 1 year record in that regard for the English Premiere League by a clean dozen.

Özil even shows certain acts of charity he links back to his Muslim faith and family upbringing like paying for operations for 23 sick children after the World Cup in Brazil and regularly paying for disabled children to come watch his games in London. I believe him 100% when he talks about how positive influence Islam is had on his life. In fact, I’d considered writing a whole article on him titled “The Muslim Tim Tebow.”

Even though I’d love for him to convert to Catholicism, I can see him fitting perfectly into what Vatican II said about Muslims:

The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. (Nostra Aetate 3)

Read the rest on the Catholic Stand.

The Church Just Did for Movements What She Did for Religious in 1978, Only Better

Church-Did-for-Movements-artThe Church does not rush to judgement, but reflects and ponders clearly to ascertain what is God’s will. This can take years, even decades. Vatican II renewed many aspects of Catholic life: the sacramental character of a bishop’s consecration, the lay vocation to holiness, the religious life, and the structure of the Church. All of these have brought about a need for further reflection on the relationship between different branches within the Church. In 1978, the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes published Mutuae Relationes, which gave norms for the relationship between bishops and religious in the Church.

On June 14, 2016, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published similar norms for other charismatic elements within the Church, notably movements and new communities, under the title Iuvenescit Ecclesia. (In this essay, “charismatic” will refer to movements of the spirit in general, not specifically to the Charismatic movement.) My intention here is to explore the similarities and differences between the two documents. When Iuvenescit Ecclesia was first announced, many speculated that it would simply update Mutuae Relationes, as Pope Francis had suggested was needed1; however,Iuvenescit Ecclesia applies rules similar to those found in the first document to entirely new types of groups.

Both documents begin with a section on doctrine, and then move to a section on practical application. I will review each of the two sections in parallel, and then talk about some applications of how to facilitate synergy between religious communities or movements, and dioceses or parishes.

Read the rest on Homiletic & Pastoral Review.

Religious Liberty: an American Innovation and Tradition

flag-300x111If you’ve grown up in the United States in the 20th or 21st century, you might miss how revolutionary the religious liberty in the Constitution is. Until 1791, no national government in human history had officially declared that there was no established religion and people were free to practice whatever religion, and almost every state had some official or semi-official religion. Even the French Revolution, at about the same time, established an official religion of reason rather than permit religious freedom.

What brought this about? First, many of the original 13 Colonies were founded by groups in England who practiced a religion other than state-sponsored Anglicanism in Great Britain. The British government wouldn’t tolerate them at home but would let them live far away if their religion was that important. Second, Christianity is quite unique among world religions in that it is based on personal belief not corporate belonging. From the beginning, Christians lived in opposition to the official religion. Other groups would be fine under Roman rule because Romans would allow you to worship your god so long as you also worshiped their god – a fine proposition for a polytheist but not a Christian. Third, enlightenment philosophy, despite his defects in other areas, was able to see the religious liberty in a way that wasn’t previously clear.

Read the rest on Regnum Christi Live.

When Pope Francis goes off the cuff, think Latin America

Several times, Pope Francis has said things that have really shocked a number of North American Catholics.  Yet if we put the comments in the context of Catholicism in other countries, often we’ll be shocked by the situation in those countries, not by the pope.

Pope Francis is Argentinian and, save a few years of study in Europe, he’s spent his entire life in the Latin American Church. In many respects, the Church in Latin America is in a very different position from the North American Church, both internally and with respect to regional cultural perspectives.

I spent three years studying in Rome in a college where the majority of the religious brothers were from Latin America, and I began to realize how different some of our cultural and ecclesial assumptions are.

I remember talking to a priest from Brazil, for instance, about how in the U.S. many religious communities do philosophy before novitiate. He was shocked because he was certain that most taking philosophy, for those communities, would be cheating the system to get a free education. In the U.S., I don’t think this is an issue, because there are easier ways to get a college degree than faking a religious vocation for four years.

Read the rest on Crux.

12 Students Reveal What It’s Like Being Catholic in School These Days

Catholic School StudentsSchools are where the next generation is formed.

Sometimes, negative things happen there but there is so much positive going on as well. I wanted to know how being Catholic positively affected students’ lives, so I asked them.

I offered a free student planner to the best response to a simple question: “What is different about you at school because you are Catholic?”

Here are the best 12 responses I got from high school and college students – just the age we often lose hope – and I’ll reveal who won at the end.

“My Catholic faith is the reason I am still in college. After wanting to give up numerous times and having gone down a wrong path in the past, my faith is the reason I have persevered so far, and why I feel at peace about the future.”

Dominique C., College Senior

Read the other 11 on ChurchPOP.

Amoris Laetitia Study Guide

I produced a study guide for Amoris Laetitia for I have questions for every chapter so an ordinary Catholic in the pew can discover what Francis wants to teach us all. I also made notes where needed to avoid misunderstanding. You can read it there. If you want a teaser, here are the first paragraphs:

Amoris-Laetitia-Study-Guide-coverAs a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia is supposed to summarize the synods of the previous two years and give the Pope’s recommendations drawn from them. These two synods have been on the family so Amoris Laetitia is a summary of what the Church should do to help the family. As such, Francis mixes analysis of the current situation, theological reflections on marriage and the family, and recommendations going forward.

The first sentence sets the tone for the whole document: “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” Francis has decided to focus principally on the positive aspects and even when he goes into the negative aspects he prefers to focus on the exceptions over coming down hard and fast with lots of rules.

There has been a lot of confusion in the media regarding a few comments made in this document while the rest of it has been forgotten. This guide will mention those items and clarify them but consciously try to focus on the positive message that Pope Francis wants to get across over discussions of those controversies.

Read the rest on

Risen: a Movie Ruined by Trying to Be a Christian Movie More Than Trying to Be a Good Movie

Risen[Spoiler alerts: I give away the plot]

I don’t write movie reviews because I simply don’t watch that many movies. Several people had told me that Risen was a great movie so I found time to watch it a few days ago. I really liked the first two thirds of the movie as it really shows the struggles of a soldier who is slowly coming to believe that the Resurrection might have really happened rather than the official story that the body was stolen.

About two-thirds of the way through, there is an epic climactic scene where the soldier recognizes the risen Lord is the same person that he saw crucified before. This climactic scene shows the definitive choice of the soldier. As a literary and artistic work, it would have been great to and with Jesus calling his name and maybe one 30-second scene for a dénouement, having a wide variety of choices such as the soldier walking with Jesus, the soldier preaching Jesus, the soldier’s martyrdom, or the soldier in a expressing his choice to another soldier.

Instead, the movie decides to write this soldier awkwardly into Jesus’ appearance in Galilee and his Ascension, broken by a nonsensical and cheesy scene where the Roman authorities send 100 men to search for them, they trace them to a hilltop, and one actually finds him but he is prevented from arresting them.

This reminds me a lot of the Gospel of Mark. The original version probably ended with the centurion saying “Truly, this man was the son of God.” (Mark 15:39) The rest of Mark tries to complete the story by adding information from other places in the New Testament. This addition helps complete the story but takes the oomph out of this statement which Mark left as declarative statement intending to lead the reader to say the same. (Note: I accept the canonical version of Mark but 15:40 onward is most likely done later to simply fill out the story.)

Now the additional information completes the Christian story but in both cases the literary unity of the work is compromised by a desire to get the whole story in. Christians want the completion of the Jesus story in the movie, so Risen gives it to them. One of the previews shown before Risen brings this out because they tell the whole story in the preview rather than leave you in suspense. Movies that are good literary works tell an engaging story but movies that try to be Christian movies first make sure the story is perfect and clean and then don’t worry about how they tell it. Why? Their audience who wants Christian movies doesn’t really care. Let me tell you I care and that’s why I be more discerning to pick up a movie just because it is a “Christian movie.”

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