Saturday, September 20, 2014

Such an inspiring video! Worth a few minutes of your time!

Designing a Church for the Poor

Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.
—Pope Francis to journalists, March 16, 2013

We all know that the poor need food and clothing, decent education and good jobs. But what about their spiritual and cultural needs? Can a church building serve the poor spiritually through the material? It is an expensive proposition but I would suggest yes. Which leads us to the question of how to design a church for the Poor.

First, let us consider what a church for the poor is not: it is not a church for ascetic monks, who take a vow of poverty, spend their days in prayer and prefer the simple beauty of the cloister to the richness and chaos of the world. On the contrary, a church for the poor should be seen as a place for full-blooded laypeople who need to be drawn into the building through material and tactile means. It is a respite from the world that offers a glimpse of the heavenly Jerusalem to those living in Nineveh.

A church for the poor does not have paintings of abstract or ugly figures but is full of beautiful images of holy men and women who overcame their sinfulness to draw close to God. Even more important, a church for the poor shows them their mother who comforts and their God who forgives. A church for the poor is full of signs, symbols and sacraments: outward signs of inward grace. It cannot be a place where the sacrament of salvation is hidden away, for it should be raised up like Christ on the cross offering his body’s death for our body’s healing.

A house for the poor should not be a modernist structure inspired by the machine, for the poor are surrounded and even enslaved by the machine and the technological. It is rather a building inspired by the human body, the new Adam, and the richness of His creation. For those whose lives may touch on angst and suffering they do not need a contorted building exhibiting disharmony and atonality. Instead they need an architecture of healing, which through proportions, materials and spiritual light bring joy to the heart. A church which is welcoming to those in the state of poverty should not be a theatre church where the visitor is forced to be on stage. Their dignity is respected by allowing them to sit where they want, even if that means in the back or hidden away in a side chapel. The lighting cannot be so bright that one’s deficiencies are revealed to others, but there is a place for prayerful shadow.

A church for the poor is not hidden away in the suburbs or on a highway where it may never be seen and is difficult to get to. It should be placed where the poor are – near the poor villages or the destitute city neighborhoods and in prominent places like downtowns or city parks where the poor sometimes travel. A church for the poor does not close its school just because it is under-enrolled or in financial difficulty. Caritas understands that service to those in need is not optional, nor is it meant to be cheap and easy. In the same way, dioceses should seek creative ways for inner city parishes to remain open even when finances would argue otherwise. One thinks of St. Mary of the Angels and its school located in a tough Chicago neighborhood reopened by Cardinal George and Franciscan friar Bob Lombardo after being closed for fifteen years.

A church for the poor should not look impoverished. It is one of the few public buildings that those without status or money should be welcome to enter. The poor may not often visit the art museum, the symphony hall, or the stately hotel. However, a worthy church can give the poor the same experience of art, fine music, and nobility that the rich and middle class are happy to pay for. And in this way the Church acknowledges that high culture should be even for the those who have nothing. Bishop Suger probably had it right when he rebuilt Saint Denis and invested in beautiful vessels, altars and statues to draw the gaze of the common folk towards the mysteries of the faith.

A church for the poor is not only for the poor, it is for all, both rich and poor, proud and humble. Are there iconographical elements which might draw the needy and inspire others to give? Perhaps images of poverty in the lives of holy saints such as Francis, Dominic, Mother Theresa and many others. Along with these, a church for the poor should have murals, stained glass and side altars portraying the centrality of poverty in the life of Christ. The king is born in a stable, and his family must emigrate to a foreign land to survive. His compassion for the poor, the mother, the widow, the leper and his raising of the dead. His life as a mendicant reliant on the generosity of others for food and lodging (from both priests and tax collectors), his many parables which, like the widow’s mite or the Prodigal Son, speak powerfully to all those in hunger and poverty. But can the poor or the uneducated understand these images or appreciate beauty? When the poor see beauty they see God. Why? Because “Beauty” is God’s middle name.

Why should we design a church for the poor? Because no other building can point the poor to Christ, in the way that a church which embraces them can.

Duncan G. Stroik is a practicing architect, author, and Professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame. His built work includes the Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel in Santa Paula, California and the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Prof. Stroik is also the author of The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence, and the Eternal, and edits the journal Sacred Architecture.
Reprinted from Aleteia.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Order the Third Way DVD's and Study Guides!

I'm very happy to announce that "The Third Way" is now available via DVD, and there are also study guides and teacher's edition study guides available as well.

Click HERE to go to the order page

Thanks for all the support that people have given to Blackstone Films for this endeavor!  We fought the good fight, and we have finished the race!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ray Rice and Being a "Real Man"

First of all, let me state up front that the video of NFL all-pro Ray Rice hitting his then-girlfriend in the face, which was just released yesterday, is disgusting, gross, and should be punished to the full extent of the law.

What has me puzzled about this incident is the fact that the White House and other social commentators are saying things like "a real man doesn't do this!"


But here's the point - we can't talk about "what it means to be a real man" in cases like this, but then turn around and spend most of our days TALKING AS IF THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MANHOOD ANYMORE!!!

Which is it liberals?  Are there now 59 genders, or is there actually such a thing as manhood?

The surest way to cut down on the horrendous and heinous crime of domestic abuse is to talk to boys about what it means to be a real man, but now the only time we can is when it helps us when writing articles and making social commentary in the midst of a media frenzy.

Either "real manhood" is real, or it's a social construct. So I ask the White House and leftist commentators - "which is it?"

Here's a talk I gave on Catholic masculinity if you're interested. Click here to watch

Friday, September 5, 2014

Laura Zetzl - Heading Off to a White Martyrdom

In my three years at Cardinal Ritter High School, I was able to work with a lot of amazing young people!  I walked away from Ritter most days being completely inspired by the perseverance, holiness, determination, and saintliness of the young people that I worked with.  

One such inspiration was a young woman named Laura Zetzl.  Tomorrow morning, Laura will get rid of her cell phone, delete her Facebook and Twitter accounts, and fly to New York and enter the Sisters of Life, cutting most ties with the outside world.  Laura will be spending most of the next 8 years in prayer and formation, discerning whether Christ is calling her to Himself to be his bride forever.  

The Church talks about "white martyrdom" as being a "death" that is suffered by those who leave everything behind and enter religious life.  Laura's being will endure, but she is preparing tonight to spend the next 8 years discerning "dying" and rising as Christ's bride.

I asked Laura the following questions, and received her permission to share her answers here.  Thank you for your witness and inspiration Laura!  Know of our prayers, and keep us in yours!

1) what did you imagine yourself doing with your life when you were in high school?
In high school, my dream was to become a neonatologist and work with newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit. I wanted to be an awesome wife and mother of as many children that God wanted to give me (but hopefully at least ten!) I also knew that I wanted to serve God and the Church in some way, but I mostly just thought of myself as doing that by living as a faithful Catholic and spending time volunteering and serving others where I could.

2) how did you view religious sisters when you were in high school?
I didn’t know any habited Sisters until I went to college, so in high school I had a very limited view of religious sisters. I knew several of the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg, and I saw them as holy women who loved God and wanted to serve Him and others. However, they were all roughly my grandparents’ age, so I generally didn’t think of religious life as something that young people lived anymore.

3) when was the very first time you had the first inkling that maybe God was calling you to this?
I think the seeds of my vocation to religious life were planted in a conversation I had with you, Father, after my high school boyfriend told me he was considering a vocation to the priesthood. I was a little upset about this, which is embarrassing to admit now, but at the time I thought that someday we would be married, and this was messing up my plan! Anyways, you talked me through it, and at the end of the conversation you said that one day I would look back on this and laugh- either we would be married and have a few kids, or we would be married to different people, or maybe he would be a priest and I would be a nun. On that day, I brushed it off as something that was not a possibility for me, but that little thought that maybe I was being called to be a nun or a sister kept coming back to me over the next few years, and eventually my boyfriend and I broke up, so I knew it was time to do something about it.

4) what did you do in order to pursue this inkling? Did you do research online? Talk to a close friend? Talk to a religious sister?
I talked to several priests about this before I told anyone else. I think really I was just hoping that one of them would tell me that I wasn’t being called to religious life so that I could go back to working on my own plans for my life, but that didn’t happen. Each of them told me that God was probably calling me to be a religious sister, and that I should continue to pray about it and look into different communities. So I did that, and eventually learned to start to surrender my own will to the Lord’s. When I finally got to a place where I could say, “Ok Jesus, if this is what you want from me, I will give you nothing less”, I was filled with a joy and a peace that I had never known before. I knew that this was really what God was asking of me, and after that I just kind of dived in. I started telling my close friends and family about it, and really began to prayerfully look at communities and ask the Holy Spirit where He was calling me to be.

5) how did you find the sisters of life since there are so many religious communities out there?
There are a LOT of religious communities out there! I started out by looking online- I found this website called, and took a quiz on the website that was intended to match you up with a community whose charism and lifestyle fits your personality, interests, and values. It was a good place to start, but it gave me 50+ results, and none of them really pulled at my heart. So then I went to talk to one of the Dominican priests at our Newman Center at IU. I told him a little about my life and why I was feeling called to religious life, and he told me that he had the perfect community for me. He pulled up the Sisters of Life website on his laptop, and it was like love at first sight. I went home from that meeting and read everything on the entire website, and I just kept thinking, “this is my heart!” over and over again. So I really didn’t have to look at any other communities after that- I knew the Lord was calling me there.

6) what are you most excited about?
Can I say everything? I am so excited to live in community with the Sisters. Every experience I have had of true Christian community with my friends has felt like a little taste of heaven, and I know that it will be difficult at times, but it will be so rewarding to live with the kind of love and joy and peace, centered in Him, that our Lord intended us to have from the beginning. I am also really excited to live in poverty, to rid myself of the distractions of the world (no phone or facebook!), and to die to my own will and live for Christ instead. It sounds crazy to so many, but it is extraordinarily freeing to give up all of the unnecessary things that fill our lives and instead live outside of yourself for the Lord and for the person in front of you. That is a life of joy!

7) what are you most nervous about?
I am mostly nervous about the unknown that comes along with this type of life change. Even though I have visited the Sisters several times, I don’t know what it’s like to actually live religious life, to be so far away from friends and family, and to be so disconnected from the world. But I think in some ways that’s also the best part- trusting in Jesus and allowing Him to lead you wherever He will is truly an adventure!

8) what have been the reactions of your family? Friends? Any negative reactions out there?
Most of my family and friends were pretty shocked when I told them I was being called to religious life, but I totally understood that reaction because I was a little shocked, too! After the initial “What? Why? How did you know?”, they were generally very supportive and excited for me. Of course there some sadness to all of this, because we all know that this means I will not be around for much of the rest of their lives. I will get to visit yearly, but I’m moving across the country and won’t just be a text, email, or phone call away. But we know that there will be grace enough to sustain us through it all, and so for the most part, they have been really happy for me.

I have been met with some negative reactions; the most common negative that I hear is something along the lines of “What a waste- you could do so much more with your life. You could have discovered the cure for cancer!” I understand that response on some level, but mostly it just tells me that they don’t understand religious life or the power of prayer, and so it becomes an opportunity for me to talk to them a little bit about that, and to pray that God will touch their hearts and give them understanding.

9) how long until you are fully professed?
It is almost eight years until profession of final vows. Formation for the Sisters of Life includes nine months of postulancy, two years of novitiate, and at least five years in temporary vows before final profession.

10) what if you decide it isn't for you?
If I discern that the Lord is not calling me to move forward in formation with the Sisters, I can leave at any time during postulancy or novitiate. After I make temporary vows, I can leave at the end of the vow period if I feel called to do so. The first temporary vow I would take is a three-year commitment, and then that would get renewed twice for one year each before I would profess final vows. After final profession, I would need a special dispensation from the Archbishop of New York in order to leave. But that is part of the reason it is such a long process until final vows- you definitely know what you’re getting into by then!

11) if you become fully professed what would do all day?
First and foremost, my life would be a life of prayer and contemplation. The Sisters spend about four hours each day in prayer (not all at once), and they know that all of the work they do is dependent on and flows from the graces they receive in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. In between Mass, prayer times, and meal times, they work in their apostolate, which varies based on which convent they are living in at the time.

There are two Visitation convents, which serve women who are pregnant and need help. Basically any woman in crisis can come to these convents, and the Sisters just shower her with all of the love and material and spiritual support that she needs to choose life for her child. They walk with her as long as she wants them to from there. There is one Holy Respite convent where pregnant women can live with the Sisters, bringing along their other children as well. The Sisters provide them with a safe place to live, meals, and a loving community. The mothers can live there throughout their pregnancy and then about six to eight months after the birth of their children, and the Sisters support them through this transition period and help them find work, childcare, and housing before they leave. There is also a retreat center convent, where the Sisters give retreats for young women, men, and married couples. One of the most important parts of this apostolate is the Hope and Healing mission, in which the Sisters give retreats for and walk with women who are suffering from abortions in their past.  They help them to experience the unsurpassable love and mercy of God, and to rebuild their lives on that foundation.

The Sisters also have daily recreation, which means they exercise and play! And they have one day each week that is completely dedicated to prayer. They don’t answer the phone or do any work on Fridays, and instead spend the day in silence, with extended hours of Adoration and time to take a walk, read a book, etc. It is a most beautiful day of rest and allows the Sisters to recharge, to receive from the Lord the grace that they need to grow in holiness and to love and serve each person they meet.

12) any advice for young women out there?
First of all, I would say do not fear! It takes a lot of courage to answer a call to religious life, which can seem very scary and like so much of a sacrifice at first. But obviously God’s plans for you are so much greater than anything you can imagine, and He knows what will fulfill the deepest desires of your heart because He made it. Once you learn to trust Him and surrender to His will, He will fill you with joy and peace unlike anything you have known before. And His grace is more than enough to see you through the trials and help you to make the sacrifices for love of Him that maybe you never thought you could.

On a practical note, I would advise you to start going to daily Mass and spending more time in Adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Allow Jesus to speak to you heart to heart, and He will make His will known to you. Talking to a priest about this and finding a spiritual director will also help tremendously. And then dive in and talk to some Sisters! Go on visits to a few communities, and see where your heart feels at home.

Through it all, let the Lord love you and form you into the Saint He created you to be!

Monday, September 1, 2014

On Conservative Priests and Pope Francis

Pretty much every Catholic knows that younger priests, for reasons discussed ad nauseam, tend to skew more "conservative".

Pretty much every Catholic knows that Pope Francis, by his own honest admission, skews more "liberal".

These are broad generalizations, and I raise them only to help make a point:

I know a lot of younger clergy who have been really challenged by Pope Francis, but who have ALLOWED Francis to lead them,
who have worked hard at doing more for the poor
who have taken a hard look at their priesthood and been open to the possibility of growth
who have been open to the possibility that they need to grow
who do believe that the Holy Spirit was, in fact, behind Pope Francis' election

I raise this just to say that I did not witness this "openness" from older more "liberal" clergy with regard to Pope Benedict.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Columbus, Indiana Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew, Vandalized

My friend, Fr. Doug Marcotte, associate pastor at St. Bartholomew in Columbus, IN, called me this evening and let me know that St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church was vandalized late Saturday or early Sunday morning.

The vandals spray-painted "Infidels! Qur'an 3:151" which is apparently a passage that, as Fr. Marcotte relayed, does not convey good news for Christians.

It is important, of course, to recognize that this could be the work people trying to build up some sort of outrage toward Islamic peoples, but either way, it is a horrible incident.

Sadly, Fr. Marcotte noted that St. Bartholomew hosted this weekend a priest who had been imprisoned and suffered greatly at the hands of Muslims in Africa.

We must all pray for peace amidst these difficult times.  Satan loves war and violence.

"You Deceived Me, Lord!"

Atheist Blogger Adopts Catholicism

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beyonce: Feminist or Mysogynist?

I saw on social media that Beyonce Knowles Carter put on a performance recently that lauded performing oral sex and other disturbing S and M topics, complete with herself and back up "dancers" doing what is typically reserved for strip clubs (I didn't watch it, but I've read the transcripts).  Interesting side note, Beyonce's child was in the audience watching this entire performance.  CLASSY!

I saw the following picture from the "performance"

First of all, if you have to tell yourself you are a feminist, that is a pretty good sign that you are not.

Secondly, I think this may be more accurate:

If a "feminist" is a woman who puts on some sort of stripteaze act, how does one do feminist things at the age of, say 70?  Can you only be a feminist in your 20's and 30's?  Is an older woman supposed to be a "feminist" at the nursing home dances?

As the performance was happening, I saw tweet after tweet from young girls praising Beyonce's self-anointing herself a feminist, and I just couldn't help but think that we are getting so close to the point where words in our country have begun to mean the complete opposite of their actual definition.

Authentic feminism is a defense of the feminine, whereas Mrs. Carter (and a lot of her disciples) seem to think that feminism means - "the ability to be as sexually explicit as the foulest man who exists"

The archetype feminist is, of course, our Blessed Mother:

Feminism is not being a glorified prostitute stripper, but is rather having the strength to say:

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Some Prayer Photos from Recent Stops

"Has anyone ever come away from her troubled or ignorant
of the heavenly mysteries?" - St. Amadeus

Daily Mass at Our Lady of the Greenwood

No filter added.  Morning Prayer at Annunciation.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Word to Freshman at Their First Mass

The Homily I Wish I Would Have Heard Growing Up

You can't receive the Eucharist if you've:

1) Missed a weekend or Holy Day Mass
2) Having sex outside of marriage with yourself (masturbation) or someone else
3) desecrated the Eucharist
4) haven't been to confession in a year
5) Use artificial birth control - condoms, pills, patches, IUD's, etc
6) sponsor or help in any way with an abortion or any destruction of an embryo
7) Murder
8) Hate/Anger
9) Lust after someone
10) Pride, Greed, Sloth, Envy

etc. etc.  The list is not exhaustive, and any sin that we have meditated on before hand, understood its gravity, and still chosen to do it can be a deadly sin.

Don't step out of bounds...and by all means...if you do...get back in bounds through confession!  Don't desecrate the Eucharist and receive it as some sort of prize you've earned simply by showing up for Mass!

What Terror Training Videos Tell Us About Terrorists

I was watching the telly on my day off, and something that has always made me chuckle on one level actually got me thinking a little bit about terrorism in general.

The above photo is similar to the type of footage we've all seen for decades.  A couple of observations:

1) The "amateur video" tag has always seemed strange.  Does anyone think otherwise when they watch this footage?  I mean I know why American news outlets put the tag on there, but it has always seemed comical to some extent, as if terror organizations were hoping to win an Oscar for cinematography

2) The fact that these goons are out doing push-ups and sit-ups in the desert seems comical as well.  The footage of these "workouts" seems oddly similar to the footage of workouts from the 1930's.

If Richard Simmons got a hold of this footage, he'd probably have a strong case for a lawsuit for stealing his workouts from the '50's.

I could see the following conversation taking place in the middle of the Syrian desert:

Terror training guru "Al Jazeera Bin Laden" - "Okay boys, give me 10 wobbly pushups, then do four squats with your gun over your head, and then let's go hit the monkey bars"

I bring this all up because I think these videos tell us something about terrorism in general - it is never anything other than evil, and evil is always, in the final analysis, pathetic.

As Tolkien said of all those who join up with evil, their attempts are "only a little copy, a child's model or a slave's flattery, of that vast furnace of great power, which suffered no rival, and laughed at flattery, biding its time, secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength."  The devil surely mocks these guys pretending to work out in the desert

These goons don't ever do anything where they need real strength anyway.  They make road side bombs, they blow up innocent people, they never actually fight or use any strength, but yet they "train" and release these "amateur videos"

There is no need for terrorists to train at all, and it is clear from their "workouts" that they must be going through these exercises simply to tell themselves that they are real men.  Terrorist training videos are the classic example of men trying to convince themselves that they are real men, and there is nothing as sad as watching grown men try to prove to themselves that they are men.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church has some really helpful teachings about terrorism:

Compendium paragraph 513 - "The targets of terrorist attacks are generally places of daily life and not military objectives in the context of a declared war. Terrorism acts and strikes under the veil of darkness, with no regard for any of the rules by which men have always sought to set limits to conflicts."  

The Compendium gives us some other useful information on terrorism:

Compendium paragraph 514 - "Terrorism is to be condemned in the most absolute terms. It shows complete contempt for human life and can never be justified"

Compendium paragraph 515 - "It is a profanation and a blasphemy to declare oneself a terrorist in God's name."


"To define as “martyrs” those who die while carrying out terrorist attacks distorts the concept of martyrdom, which is the witness of a person who gives himself up to death rather than deny God and his love. Martyrdom cannot be the act of a person who kills in the name of God."


"No religion may tolerate terrorism and much less preach it."