Monday, November 12, 2012

Keeping the Most Important Thing the Most Important Thing

I first heard it from speaker John Findlater: “The most important thing is to keep the most important thing, the most important thing.” The most important thing for us as a Church of course is Jesus. 

One could easily argue that for centuries too much emphasis was paid to the institutional nature of the Church. The Church is still perceived this way today. Jesus, the living head of the Church is cut off leaving nothing but the lifeless body. Of course, Jesus has never really been cut off from the Church, we just haven’t paid the kind of attention to Him we should, and we increasingly live in a world that discounts him entirely.

You could say our Church has been working on this since Vatican II. The council itself was very “Christo-centric,” placing significant emphasis on the person of Jesus Christ. (Some would argue it does so at the expense of the Father and Holy Spirit, but that’s a different discussion.)

John Paul II continued re-focusing us on Christ throughout his pontificate. His call for the “New Evangelization” and the Theology of the Body are just two examples where this effort is plain to see. In the Christ-centered spirit of the Council, Catholic high schools and many parish faith formation programs have begun implementing a theology curriculum outlined by the U.S. Catholic bishops that very much revolves around the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the heart and center of who we are and what we do not just as Catholics, but as human beings. As JPII reminds us, “Christ fully reveals man to himself.” If we want to know who we really are both individually and as a Church, we need to know Jesus.

The most important aspect of keeping Jesus at the center of our lives as Catholics, and a regular theme of Pope Benedict’s writings, is developing a personal relationship with Him. Everything we do as Catholics: the Eucharist, working with the poor, even fish fries, leads to and flows from this relationship.

May we remain focused on Jesus and His saving gospel—keeping the most important thing the most important thing.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why this Catholic Votes Republican

Voting isn't exactly optional for Catholics. It isn't all that easy either. With both major parties holding positions that run against Catholic teaching, our choices are not exactly clear. Usually voting has more to do with one’s philosophy of government than our faith. We have a tendency to bend our faith to fit our politics rather than working to make our politics more in line with our faith.

I have always voted Republican in major races (except once in my college ignorance when I voted for a very pro-abortion Senator—God forgive me). Why do I vote Republican? Allow me to explain.

The number one factor determining how people vote is how their Dad votes. That is largely true for me. My dad was raised with the understanding that Irish, Catholic, and Democrat were a package deal. As the Democratic Party shifted more to the left in the 1970’s Dad became increasingly disillusioned, finally registering as a Republican in the ‘90’s—just as my interest and understanding of politics was beginning to form.

My philosophy of government plays a large part in how I vote. I believe in small limited government. However, the biggest reason I vote Republican comes down to moral issues—first and foremost abortion.

Pro-life voters are often criticized for being one issue voters. While I assure you there are others, the reality is that if we cannot take care of the most innocent and vulnerable humans among us then other justice issues seem rather empty. We also need to remember the harm abortion does to women and families. Being pro-life is not anti-woman, it’s pro-everybody.

It is true that Republicans, including Mitt Romney, are often wishy-washy on abortion. The defining difference is that the Republican party has a pro-life plank in their platform while the Democrats have a very pro-abortion plank in their platform. Romney wants to de-fund Planned Parenthood, while Obama has made funding Planned Parenthood with tax dollars a priority.

There is an increasing wave of secularist priorities in the Democratic party. Just in the past year there has been a growing hostility to religion or any value or moral that could be construed as religious. Two examples are same sex “marriage” and the HHS mandate that requires religious institutions to include contraception and abortifacients in their employee health insurance plans.

Catholics who vote Democratic often explain that vote from a social justice stance. They are concerned with poverty and the widening gap between rich and poor. I too am concerned with these issues, I just don’t agree with the solutions offered by the Democratic Party. 

Some would have you believe that voting Republican would mean leaving the poor out to dry. At the very least we can be assured that no politician in his/her right mind on either side of the isle would advocate removing the “safety net.” No one would advocate eliminating temporary assistance programs that fill the gaps while someone works to become financially stable. The trend among the Democrats, however, seems to continuously expand and redefine who needs assistance from the government and what form that assistance should take.  At times it smacks of paternalism. Helping people is one thing, steering them to become increasingly dependent on government is another.

The Church teaches that it is up to the individual to form his or her conscience and vote accordingly. The U.S. Catholic Bishops have a guide on voting called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship designed to help us sort through the issues. Chances are, you have made up your mind by now. If not, let your conscience be your guide.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Welcome to Stark Raving Catholic. 

I love being Catholic.  Not being Catholic makes about as much sense to me as not breathing (at which point I would no longer be Catholic).  Being Catholic is fun.  Being Catholic is cool.  Most importantly, I firmly believe that living the Catholic faith is the best way to be connected with Jesus Christ and imitate Him.  Stark Raving Catholic (SRC) is a celebration and discussion of all things Catholic and how those things lead us to Christ.  

It is easy to get caught up in all the external features that give Catholicism its unique flavor.  We need to remember that whether it’s the Saints, the Rosary, the pope, or fish on Fridays; everything we call Catholic ultimately points to God, especially in his Son—Jesus.  My hope is that SRC will help all of us grow in appreciation of our Catholic faith and traditions and ultimately draw us closer to Christ and his Church.

I look forward to hearing from you, the reader. Together we will tell the stories of ordinary people with ordinary faith living this extraordinary journey.