Here’s a video I wrote as a reflection on the love that God the Father has for us, based on a true story that Dr. Scott Hahn uses as the introduction of his book, A Father Who Keeps His Promises. Produced by the ever amazing folks at Outside Da Box.
Here’s a video I wrote as a reflection on the love that God the Father has for us, based on a true story that Dr. Scott Hahn uses as the introduction of his book, A Father Who Keeps His Promises. Produced by the ever amazing folks at Outside Da Box.
I could take the “cool” route and pretend I was unfazed by the popularity of the last blog I posted, as if thank kind of thing happens to me all the time. But as everyone who knows me knows, I am not cool. The over 50K people who read the blog means that in the past few days more people have checked out my blog than have over the past year, and I’ve been very grateful and blessed by the encouraging comments that were emailed to me or posted on this site, Facebook, and twitter. I’m honored to have written something that has blessed so many people and given you encouragement in trying times.
A few of you have asked me permission to duplicate what I wrote, and by all means please do. Just acknowledge me as the author and throw the “bob-rice.com” site somewhere on the page so people can know where it came from and how to read more stuff from me.
Well, about 48% of the country is unhappy right now. Consider me one of them.
Like many, I’ve been invested in this election. Read numerous stories and blogs on the Internet. Followed the debates. Talked about it a lot. Prayed. Voted. And yet the same guy who was elected President four years ago is the same guy who got voted in today. Once again he’s talking about “hope” in front of a cheering Chicago audience. After the speech they played Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care Of Our Own.”
I would have rather had an election result that ended with Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
I’m not the only one who prayed and fasted for this day. At Church every Sunday (and daily) we’ve been praying or our country and for the election. Though the prayers never specifically said, “We pray Mitt Romney wins,” that seemed like an easy connection to make. We prayed for a president that respects the dignity of the unborn. We prayed for a president that respects religious freedom.
And yet we now have a president who seems to not care about either of those two important issues. He is more concerned with the rights of same sex couples to be married than the rights of unborn children to live. He is more concerned with the “rights” to free contraceptives than the rights of religious freedom.
So… were our prayers unanswered? Our novenas wasted? On the surface, it seems to be that way.
But God isn’t done yet. He just rarely answers prayers the way we think He will.
God isn’t into democracy. Jesus said, “Follow me,” not, “vote for me.” Though we might feel that our prayers for the election weren’t heard, God is bigger than an election. He’s about saving souls and changing hearts.
Abortions in this country are down. Why? Because abortion centers are closing due to movements such as “40 Days for Life.” This is the most pro-life generation the country has ever seen. Hearts are changing. That’s the work of God, not man. Man can create a law to make something “legal” or “illegal.” But only God makes things “right” or “wrong.” The law is external, the Spirit is internal. God is more concerned about the heart.
Same-sex marriage? Yes, it’s disappointing that same sex marriage won a popular vote in Maine and Maryland. Proponents say this is the beginning of a national trend (as if the 30 previous states who voted against same sex marriage don’t matter.) That may be true. But I think we need to do better in talking about what marriage really is. We’ve been hoping for a vote to “protect marriage,” but perhaps we’ve been too focused in “out-voting” the issue than explaining it. Now we have to be more articulate. I can’t see that as a bad thing.
Religious freedom? That battle is far from over. More lawsuits have been leveled toward the Federal Government on this matter than any other in American history, and most of lower court results have been respecting religious rights. Obama’s reelection doesn’t make the HHS mandate a slam dunk, though that would have been nice—just as it would have been a non-issue if Obamacare was flipped by the Supreme Court. But it seems we’re just not going to get any short cuts on this: the issue of religious freedom will need to be directly addressed by the Supreme Court. And that could be a great thing.
One “positive” thing you can say about Obama is that he’s done more to unite the Catholic Church in America than anyone in the past 50 years. He got every Catholic bishop to stand against him. He also did a lot to unite the Christian Church—remember Mike Huckabee saying, “Today, I’m Catholic!” Heck, he even got evangelical Christians to back a Mormon for president.
If we had woken up this morning with the headline, “Romney is the President,” we might have gone back to sleep feeling secure in one nation under God. We could be thankful that this HHS nonsense is over and we can go back to our lives. We could be hopeful that abortions would be reduced thanks to government intervention. That’s how I hoped to start the day.
But God does not want us asleep. He wants us awake. He wants us to do the same thing we’ve been doing: pray, work, and fast for our country.
If we thought we could wake up and feel safe about these issues because Romney got elected then we’d be as foolish as those on the other side of these issues who think Obama is the “savior.” We can’t depend on the government for our spiritual “welfare.” We’ve got to go out and proclaim God’s truth with our lips and share His love from our hearts.
I’m bummed that Obama won. I know a lot of people who worked really hard during this election and I can’t imagine how devastated they feel: any time you spend work on a “failed” effort it’s always heart-breaking.
But I still have hope, and not the “hope” that Obama talked about to a cheering crowd this morning. His “hope” was optimism based on the human spirit; our hope is rooted in Jesus Christ and in His saving power. The hope Obama offered four years ago hasn’t materialized, but our hope in Christ is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb 6:19.)
The re-election of Barack Obama means that Christians in the United States have to stay united and actively proclaim the truth of the Gospel if we are to protect the values we believe were given to us from God. It means we have to pray more, work harder, and be more active in sharing our faith. If we do that, it would be a more important “result” than any political office we could ever vote for.
I’ll end with what we prayed in Mass this morning: ”The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
I remember looking down and seeing blood on my hands. My head was still spinning from the line of cocaine that I snorted in the bathroom. The prostitute I just had sex with was face down on the bed, murdered. Did I do it? I couldn’t remember. I heard sirens outside and footsteps running up the stairs to my apartment. That was the moment that I realized I needed a Savior. I needed Jesus.
Okay, none of that is true.
Truth be told, I have a very boring conversion story: I always loved Jesus. And then I loved Him more.
I was the good kid. Never drank. Never did drugs. Knew to save sex for marriage. In fact, I lived in fear of letting others down: my parents, my teachers, or even God. I was a straight A student and prayed every night.
So it might not be a surprise when I tell you that one of the most exciting moments in my conversion is when I did something that many consider boring:
I read the Catechism.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but the English translation was released in the spring of 1994. I was living in Orlando, Florida bouncing between two jobs. Some evenings I would play in bars with my band, “The Crowd.” Other evenings I worked at an improvisational comedy club. No matter what I did I was usually out until one or two in the morning, followed by a late night/early morning snack at the only restaurant in the area opened 24 hours—IHOP (which is where I often encountered a young Shaq and his entourage, but that’s another story.)
Getting home at 3 AM I’d turn on the TV and watch CNN, the only thing that was on. And one evening/morning they reported that the Catechism of the Catholic Church was coming out on Tuesday, the first time the Catholic Church had a universal catechism in 500 years. I didn’t know what a “catechism” was, but apparently it contained all the official teachings of the Catholic Church. I knew I wanted it. No, I knew I needed it.
You see, though much of my family was Catholic and I attended Catholic schools, I never really felt like I knew for certain what Catholicism was all about. The only time I heard about the Eucharist was in a Humanities class when the teacher asked, “Do you realize that the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ, not just a symbol? How many of you believe that?” And none of us raised our hands because we had never heard that before.
I had been blessed to have many friends who were Protestant, all of whom professed at times to know what Catholics believed. “You Catholics worship Mary,” one would say. “You think you’re saved by what you do, not by God’s grace,” would say another. This didn’t sound right to me, but I didn’t know how to defend it.
So to finally get the low down on what the Church actually taught was really exciting. I made sure on Monday night to set my alarm to get up early and head to my local Christian bookstore to get the Catechism.
But here was the thing—my local Christian bookstore didn’t carry it. “You should try a Catholic bookstore,” the woman at the counter said.
There are Catholic bookstores? This shows you how out of the loop I was.
So I drove around in haste to find my local Catholic bookstore. I was worried, assuming that every Catholic in Florida watched CNN and would buy up all the Catechisms before I could get one.
I eventually found “The Abbey Catholic Bookstore” in a strip mall squeezed between a pharmacy and a party supply shop. It was so small it felt more like a closet than a store. I remember lots of dark wood, crammed shelves, and no windows. But there on the counter was a stack of the book I coveted… The Catechism of the Catholic Church. I was clearly the first person to get one that day.
Immediately I bought it and took it home. I couldn’t wait to read it. I sat on my couch and looked through the index. There were some immediate questions I wanted to know the answer to: Was the Eucharist really the body and blood of Christ? (Answer: yes!) Do we really worship Mary? (Answer: not in the same way we adore Christ.) And what does the Church actually teach about sex? (Answer: Uh… you should just read it yourself!)
The answers made a lot of sense to me. It was like this book could articulate the things I always believed but never could explain. But once I had my questions answered, it started asking me things: Why did the Word become flesh? What is the purpose of life? Why do our prayers go unanswered sometimes?
As I read the answers, I grew deeper in my faith and fell more in love with the Catholic Church. If you asked me what I believed before the Catechism came out, I would have said I was a Christian who happened to go to a Catholic parish. But after reading the Catechism, I was Catholic.
I’ll never forget going to a Holy Thursday Mass a few weeks after I began reading the Catechism. They processed the Eucharist around the Church and reposed it in the Eucharistic Chapel. I followed it, fell to my knees, and wept. All I could say was, “You are God, You are God, You are God…”
And it was all because of the Catechism.
I know some people only use the Catechism to get answers to things they’re confused about. That’s not a bad place to start. But don’t just use the Catechism to get your questions answered—let it teach you about the faith.
At the end of every section is a summary of what it just taught titled, “IN BRIEF.” Start there. Make it a habit of your daily prayer to read just one IN BRIEF, and watch how your understanding of the faith deepens.
Speaking of prayer, many people suggest that you should start reading the Catechism at the last part, the one titled, “Christian Prayer.” I used to just make up prayer as I went along. But the Catechism gave me the wisdom of two thousand years of saints on how to grow more intimate with God, and my life has never been the same since.
The whole purpose of the Catechism isn’t to fill your head with religious trivia about what Catholics believe. It’s to help you experience “the love that never ends.” (CCC 25) John Paul II said that the aim of catechesis is “to put people, not only in touch with, but in intimacy with Jesus Christ.” And Cardinal Schönborn, who was one of the primary editors of the Catechism, said that Catechism was “a blueprint for the heart of Christ.”
Thanks to some wonderful Protestants who reached out to me in High School, I already had a deep love of Scripture. But reading the Catechism side by side with the Bible (70% of the Catechism’s footnotes are Scripture) transformed me and has made me the man I am today.
I know that my life was never the same after reading the Catechism. And I’m confident, if you start to read it, your life will never be the same as well. It’s a great thing to do during this Year of Faith.
Here’s a vid I wrote based on Francis Thompson’s poem, the Hound of Heaven. What do you think?
Another script has come to life! Man, I love seeing what people do with the words I type.
When I wrote this back in January, I intended the idea of being put on trial for being Catholic as an obvious fantasy. But these days it seems closer to reality than before, doesn’t it?
Regardless, that’s not the point of the video. The question is: do we truly live what we say we believe? I remember when I was a teenager someone asked, “If being Christian was against the law, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” That question always resonated with me, especially with all the legal “loopholes” that are present in our society today. So I thought it would make a cool video and hope it allows the viewer to reflect on if they are truly living their faith in a public way.
What do you think about it?
Thanks to the amazing folks at Outside Da Box for doing such a great job with it.
The 35 Day Workout has been transformed into… the 40 Day Spiritual Workout iPhone App!
I am very proud of it. It was designed by FUZATI (who also designed the Steubenville Youth Conference app) and sponsored by Franciscan University.
For those of you who don’t know, I first wrote “The 35 Day Spiritual Workout” in the late 90s as a follow up to the Steubenville Summer Youth Conferences. When I was a teen and attended a Young Life camp, my youth minister recommended a book called, “My First Thirty Quiet Times.” It was a thirty day devotional that got me into the habit of prayer. I thought that kind of devotional would be great for teens that had a powerful experience at a youth conference but didn’t know what to do when they got home.
Since writing it, over ten thousand people have gone through it and have shared how much they were blessed by it. I was able to offer it for free on my website after the original publisher went out of business.
This summer, the Steubenville Youth Conferences began to look into resources they could offer teens after their conference experience. They created a great website, steubenville.org, and an app to go along with it. I proposed that I could update the 35 Day devotional and they could turn it into an app.
There are a lot of great things with the 40 Day Spiritual Workout App. First, because it’s an app it is a lot more interactive. My favorite thing is that a teen can put their youth minister’s email address in it so they can share with them (or their friends on Facebook) their progress in the workout. It looks really cool, too.
But more important than how it looks is the content. I didn’t just add five days, I went over the whole thing based on feedback I’ve gotten over the past few years. I trimmed back some of the verses, removed days that weren’t as strong as the others, and added stories—many of the stories that I posted on the previous blog (such as my story about the pledge card or St. Reuben, the rich young man.) I also was able to incorporate the five forms of prayer that the Catechism talks about, something that was part of the published book but didn’t translate when I first put it on-line.
But enough of me talking, why don’t you check it out? It’s available for free at the App Store.
No iPhone? No problem. You can also click HERE and sign up to get each devotion through email.
I’m hoping this will bless a new generation of teenagers. I’d be grateful if you could spread the word, and giving it a good review on the App Store might encourage a young person to download it and give it a try.
Hello everyone! The amazing folks at Outside Da Box just produced another video I wrote. It’s to help teens understand why the Bible is important in their life. What do you think?
This past January, Starbucks made a statement about same sex-marriage. This is from an executive vice president:
“Starbucks is proud to join other leading Northwest employers in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples… It is core to who we are and what we value as a company.”
That caused a movement titled “Dump Starbucks” that created an online petition to boycott the coffee company. The result? After a few months of their campaign, they’ve gotten 47,144 people to sign the petition. At the same time, another on-line petition was created to thank Starbucks for their support of gay-marriage. The result? Over 650,000 signatures. Most analysts argue that Starbucks gained more business from the controversy than it lost.
In July, president and CEO of Chick-fil-A said the following:
“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. …We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”
I’m assuming you haven’t been living in a cave the past few months and know what kind of fallout that comment created. (But in case you have been living in a cave—go see the Avengers.) Former Governor Mike Huckabee declared August 1st as “Chick-fil-A” day and all supporters of traditional marriage were encouraged to support the restaurant that day. The result? Hour long waits and the company’s single biggest day of sales in their history. Two days later, some pro-gay groups tried to coordinate a “kiss-in” to protest Chick-fil-A’s statement. In comparison, barely anybody showed up.
In both cases, the boycotts backfired. Now that the dust has settled from the Chick-fil-A support/boycott I wonder, do boycotts even work anymore? So I asked a trusted source: Google. (See? I’m just like my students.)
Aside from the many bloggers who rant their own opinion on their subject (man, I hate those guys!) I did come across an interesting article from the Washington Post back in 2009 by Lawrence Glickman who has written a number of books and articles on economy and history. He wrote, “Despite their frequency throughout U.S. history, boycotts have rarely achieved their intended goals.” So it’s not that boycotts don’t work. It’s just that they rarely work, at least in economically punishing whatever is boycotted.
It seems the real lesson in all of this, no matter what side of the gay marriage debate that you’re on, is most of us would like to have our coffee and eat our chicken, too. Both boycotts were a bust. We live in a culture that would rather support than suspend, rather say yes than say no. It’s easier for people to buy than to boycott. Activists, take note.
But for people of faith I think there is a bigger issue than just the economics. In Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate, he wrote that, “every economic decision has a moral consequence.” Where we spend or don’t spend our money is not about just about the institution we denounce/support, it’s also about ourselves.
I’m not convinced that sipping a Starbucks leads our country any closer to gay marriage than I think that eating a chicken sandwich keeps things “straight.” But I do think it’s important, if only for our own conscience, to financially support organizations that line up with our beliefs, whether they be religious, charitable, or even retail, as well as refrain from supporting those institutions that denounce those beliefs. The “fasting” of something is always harder to do than the “feasting” of something else, but I think both are in order if are to live what we believe and make a difference in the world today.
This should not be a surprise to any who has known me or read my blog. But in case those reading this might need proof of my geek cred, I offer the following for evidence:
It seems silly to have to defend one’s geekiness, since normally admitting you were a geek was proof enough that you were one (just like a man who admits to being a bronie, a male fan of “My Little Pony.”) But apparently that’s not enough for some, or at least for one. Last week the geek world was set ablaze by an article that berated some attractive, young women who the author claimed were just faux geeks looking for attention. It’s quite a statement on the world that there might be women who would fake being into comic books/sci-fi movies/RPGs, etc. to look “cool.” My first thought: where were they when I was young?
My second thought: what does it mean to be a geek?
I’m not the first to ask or try to answer such a question. My usual operating definition of a geek was someone who was really over-the-top passionate about something that wasn’t mainstream. But John Scalzi, popular science-fiction author who has won a few Hugo and Nebula awards and hob-knobs with other famous stars in the geek universe, adds an important nuance to that:
Many people believe geekdom is defined by a love of a thing, but I think — and my experience of geekdom bears on this thinking — that the true sign of a geek is a delight in sharing a thing. It’s the major difference between a geek and a hipster, you know: When a hipster sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “Oh, crap, now the wrong people like the thing I love.” When a geek sees someone else grooving on the thing they love, their reaction is to say “ZOMG YOU LOVE WHAT I LOVE COME WITH ME AND LET US LOVE IT TOGETHER.”
Any jerk can love a thing. It’s the sharing that makes geekdom awesome.
Being a geek is not just over-the-top loving something. It’s over-the-top sharing about it as well. And that made me think: how can we be geeks for Jesus?
I’m not proud to admit I’m more familiar with the geography of Middle-Earth than I am with the United States. But can we get as excited and knowledgeable about our faith as we do about our fiction? I met a wonderful, faithful, young Christian who told me they’ve read the Harry Potter series three times over but, in further conversation, admitted to never having read all (or even most of) the letters in the New Testament. Why?
Let’s be honest, the first letter to Timothy isn’t as exciting (to most) as the first book of Twilight. The US Bishops commented on that in their national document on catechesis:
Most people today, but especially young people, expect learning experiences to be entertaining and tend to judge the effectiveness of those experiences on the superficial level of how entertaining they are rather than how humanly enriching or authentic they are. Young people are taught both by the excitement generated by technology and by the effervescence of popular culture to reject something if it bores them – and often the only things that do not bore them are those that seduce or titillate. (National Directory For Catechesis p.16)
Before we get into the deeper meaning of this quote, let’s first tip our hat to the US Bishops who found a way to use both the word “effervescence” and “titillate” in the same sentence. Double Word Score.
Now on to the deeper meaning: I think this hits a bulls-eye. We have been raised to be amused. In the 70s, Pope Paul VI said the following: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and to teachers only if they are witnesses.” But I think a more modern rendition can replace “witnesses” with “being entertained.” I know some brilliant teachers at my university who many students don’t like because they are “boring.” But those who pay attention discover how intelligent they are and really get a lot of our their classes.
I spend a lot of energy trying to make what I do to pass on the faith both educational and entertaining: short movie scripts, dramatic presentations, song-writing, and even some comedic things I do in class to keep my student’s attention. But if someone is to grow into spiritual maturity, they’ve got to go beyond only what “titillates” them. Falling in love with someone means going deeper than what infatuates us and often involves a struggle. It’s not always “entertaining.” It is so much better. But if our passion for Jesus Christ doesn’t surpass our excitement for pop culture, then our spiritual lives will be shallow and our evangelization ineffective.
Can we be as geeky with saints we are with superheroes? As knowledgeable of doctrine as we might be with Doctor Who? Are we willing to enter into the world of holiness as much as we are the Hunger Games? Or as devoted to prayer as we are to pop culture?
But here is the real challenge for an amusement-addicted culture: are we willing to allow times of “boredom” with God in our spiritual lives, as He detoxes us from the constant stimulation of superficial entertainment, so that He can lead us to a place of deeper intimacy? Of course, the spiritual life is not actually “boring.” As Fr. Thomas Dubay once wrote, “People who are in love are never bored.” But a life of prayer is not seductive, titillating, or entertaining. And if that’s all we’re used to, then spending time with God can be very difficult indeed.
A geek is someone who is not only over-the-top passionate about something, but also over-the-top passionate about sharing that with others. If that’s an accurate definition, then I think it’s appropriate to call the Apostles and all the saints as “geeks.” The question before us is, are we willing to be one as well?
If I can paraphrase the call to the “new evangelization:” we are all called to be geeks for Jesus. And while I don’t mind that people know I collect comic books, enjoy science-fiction, or play role playing games, what I really want to be known for is being a Jesus geek.