Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fr. Michael Gaitley

I had the pleasure of hearing Fr. Gaitley speak on my birthday (that and a concert at the Cathedral were presents to myself). He spoke about maybe one of the coolest things I've ever heard. He calls it the second greatest story ever told. The second, you say? Well yeah, he assumes his audience knows the original greatest story ever told... Charlton Heston played John the Baptist... ok, we're on the same page. Anyway. I am not going to do any justice with what I am about to tell you. Fr. Gaitley is a genius with this stuff and he makes so many connections and tells so many of these stories so wonderfully. You really need to check him out directly.

Divine Mercy
I'm just here to wet your appetite because I think it's such a powerful story and everyone needs to hear it.

It revolves around the two hearts of the Immaculate Conception: the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary's Immaculate Heart. The mission set forth by Jesus and the Blessed Mother in the twentieth century to St. Faustina and the children of Fatima are intimately connected with the major events of the past century. World War II and the rise of communism were both predicted in these apparitions. Both Jesus and Mary gave powerful messages and weapons to these new era prophets. The story is so amazingly interwoven that onl;y God could have wrote this story. The fact that the Divine Mercy message came to be known by the whole world is a miracle in itself. The role Poland plays in this whole story is amazing in itself. Again, I don't have room here to expound on all the wonderful twists and ironic turns present in the story. I can tell you though that after hearing Father Gaitley speak, it truly is the second greatest story ever told. If you are a member of the parish you can access the video series and accompanying study guide at

Formed.org

using the parish access code Y4MJDZ all caps.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Renee Descartes

A long time ago, there was a philosopher names Renee Descartes. He wrote a work called The Meditations. In it, he proposed to start from scratch to figure out what was really true. Now in philosophy there are two kinds of truth. A posteriori is what we think about as truth in modern terms. Scientific, or empirical, truth is known from experience; which is why science does experiments. If we see something happen a bunch of times the same way, we call it a fact. The problem with this kind of truth is that it is truth with a small "t". There's always a chance it can be disproved if we have an experience that contradicts it. For example, we can say that "fire is always hot", but if we ever felt a cold fire that statement would be proven untrue. There is nothing inherent in fore that says it has to be hot, we've just always experienced it that way. Descartes was looking for what philosophers call A priori truth (with a capital "T", conversely), that is, something that cannot be unproven because the fact is inherent of our understanding of the subject. A statement like "a triangle has three sides" will always be true because we could never hope to find a four sided triangle. It would obviously be a square or a rhombus, or some type of parallelogram. Anyway, that little foray into Philosophy 101 is to set the stage for Descartes.

He wanted to find something that was undeniably true aside from our senses and experience. He would eventually become the father of a whole line of thought called Rationalism. Western Philosophy really then breaks down into two camps at that point. Rationalism (which was more popular in continental Europe), and Empiricism (more popular in the British Isles). But back to The Meditations. Descartes eventually arrives at the point that he cannot doubt his own existence. This becomes the basis of all the other truths he claims to uncover afterwards. This is the one True fact that he cannot deny. He famously wrote it in Latin, "Cogito ergo sum." Which roughly translates into I think therefore I am. As he works through his meditations, he finds that he while he can trust in his own existence, he can still doubt everything around him. Anything he knows through his senses, his body, other people, the entire outside world, are things that he can only know conditionally. He can therefore find reason to doubt their existence. This sets up what is later referred to as Cartesian Dualism. Essentially, there is a fundamental difference between the self and everything else: the True and the doubtful. He eventually uses God as his go between. He cannot bring himself to believe that an omnibenevolent or "all good" God would choose to deceive him. He also says he cannot doubt God since the idea of an infinite being has to originate from an actual infinite being, since a finite, or limited mind, his self, could not conceive of an infinite or limitless being on his own.

I think this dualism has set us up for what we call the postmodern condition. We believe ourselves to be something different than the rest of the world. This has the potential of leading the human self to be separate from everything around it. It can lead to a real sense of loneliness. I think this is the reason so many of us, while so connected through technology and our daily interaction with others can feel so isolated, so alone. We don't see ourselves as a part of creation, but as a single entity, that has some privileged view of the world that no one else can experience.

True knowledge then comes from the realization that we are not alone. Our world is shaped through experience and interaction. Our self, or soul, is affected by the things that happen to us and around us. And thanks to the Christian viewpoint, we are most definitely not alone. Christ plays an intimate role in who we are, and has an infinite desire to shape us into the best version of ourselves. We have all been invited to play a special role in the salvation story. We are not merely individual selfs on a journey through an isolated life. We are called to be Christs for each other. We need the other in order to realize the true potential of who we are. This, in a roundabout way, leads us back to Descartes juncture in his reasoning. It is through God that we can begin to see the connection from our undeniable self to the rest of the speculative world. We realize that we are not special because we are a singularity in the universe, but that we are deeply connected to the universe through our connection to God and the Sacred Heart.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

All Souls Day and Grief

Last night was our parish's Remembrance Mass. After the homily, the names are read of all of those parishoners that have gone home this past year. I was shocked at how many people I knew in the congregation this time. I knew that they had lost a loved one, but to see them all together is a different story. It made me think about the sadness that can accompany that kind of loss. Last year, I lost my grandfather, who was the last of my grandparents. As an aside, my grandparents were two of the most amazing people I ever had the privilege to know. I'm not saying this to brag. I'm sure your grandparents were awesome in their own right. I say this to point out that I miss them terribly. We had a remarkably close relationship.

No, I'm not using the parish blog for sympathy points. Later in the mass, I was paying special attention to the Liturgy of the Eucharistic. It had extra meaning for me last night, because I remembered that the mass takes place in heaven too. Every time the priest lifts the host and the chalice, we are not only united with Christ, we are united in the Body of Christ... with the "communion" of saints (see what I did there?).  I realized when I was a kid, I felt something special when we were all together at mass, my extended family. I never really put it together until last night. It was a foreshadowing of how I would be with my family, those still here on Earth and those in Heaven. It's the ultimate family reunion. Every saint is present at the sacrifice of the mass. And this lead me to another thought:

I never really mourned their passing. At first, I thought maybe I was in denial, or not present emotionally, or closed off somehow, all of the classic psychoanalysis terms. Let me clear, I was sad, I knew how empty life seemed without them. But it certainly didn't feel like the classic mourning that I was picturing. I had lost friends and other relatives before that, but never someone as close to me as they were. I guess, in my mind, mourning had something to do with feeling bad that the person has died, like they lost something, or that death itself is a bad thing. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't associate negative feelings with their deaths. How could I? I knew where they were and I knew it was the most amazing place they could be. I guess I could compare it to your best friend landing his or her dream job working at Disney World. Sure, you'd miss them, but if you truly loved them, you couldn't be anything but happy for them.

So there it is. The consolation of the Eucharistic. I don't know if you've lost someone. I don't know if perhaps someone in your life is ill. But there is so much solace and comfort, if you truly understand and embrace what is happening during the mass. I am so grateful to God for choosing to place my soul in this time and place; for letting me meet such amazing people and have the honor of calling them Mommom and Poppop. But I am most grateful for the gift of His Son, for the gift of His ultimate sacrifice, for the gift of never having to really say goodbye since He has conquered death.