Monday, October 31, 2011

3 Ways To Redeem Halloween

Redeem Halloween

This Article is written by Guest Blogger Dr. Brian McAdam, FOCUS Missionary in the National Formation Department

Halloween is the vigil of a major Catholic feast day. Let’s redeem it!

The word “Halloween” is a contraction of “All Hallows’ Eve.” It is the evening before All Hallows’ Day, which is what we used to call All Saints’ Day in the Church. So Halloween is the vigil of All Saints’ Day.

All Saints’ Day, in turn, is a solemnity (major Catholic feast) in the Church instituted to honor all the saints both known and unknown. Halloween should be for All Saints’ Day what Christmas Eve should be for Christmas: namely, a time of preparation before a great feast!

Is this what you think of when you hear the word “Halloween”? Probably not. Most of us probably think of trick-or-treating, horror movies, and pumpkins — or, if you’re posh enough, pumpkin spice lattes! Halloween has come to include so many secular elements that its original meaning has been largely covered up.

How should Catholics serious about their faith participate in Halloween?

One extreme would be to plunge headfirst into everything that Halloween has come to imply for some people. The big mistake here would be to participate in things we should always avoid, like the occult (see CCC #2116). We also want to avoid things that take the focus off God and His saints; horror movies, for instance, might be an example.

Another extreme, however, would be to abandon Halloween altogether on account of the fact that it is often associated with things like horror movies and occult practices. The big mistake here would be to detract from the Church’s Solemnity of All Saints by not keeping its vigil.

The best course of action would be for us to redeem Halloween. “Redeem Halloween” — say it three times fast! Here are a few examples of how we can redeem Halloween:

1. Pray and fast

Pray and fast in preparation for the great feast that is All Saints’ Day. Ask for the grace to emulate the saints who have gone before us in faith.

2. Watch a movie about a saint

Rather than watch a horror movie, watch a movie about a saint’s life. Among the many great movies about saints are those listed on the Vatican Top 45 Movie List.

3. Dress up as a saint

When others ask about your costume, you can tell them you’ve dressed up as such-and-such saint and use the opportunity to share with them the Catholic meaning of Halloween.

How else can we redeem Halloween? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Outreach - University of Louisiana-Lafayette

Fall Outreach is a huge event on all of our FOCUS campuses.

What does this look like?

I let this video for the FOCUS missionaries from University of Louisiana-Lafayette speak for itself.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

JPII- The Polish Pope

Happy first feast day of Blessed Pope John Paul II! What a day! It has always been my dream to summarize one of the most prolific pontificates in the history of the Church in one blog entry. Not. But alas, I will attempt to give you a few of the major highlights of Blessed John Paul II's reign as successor of the Chair of St. Peter.

In 1978, after the very short papacy of Pope John Paul I, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla was chosen to be his successor, to the surprise of mostly everyone in the Church. There was something very different about him from the beginning. He was the first non-Italian Pope in 445 years, he denied the papal tiara, and he also broke tradition by addressing the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square:

"Dear brothers and sisters, we are saddened at the death of our beloved Pope John Paul I, and so the cardinals have called for a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a faraway land – far and yet always close because of our communion in faith and Christian traditions. I was afraid to accept that responsibility, yet I do so in a spirit of obedience to the Lord and total faithfulness to Mary, our most Holy Mother. I am speaking to you in your – no, our Italian language. If I make a mistake, please forgive me…"
The Church knew this was the beginning of something incredible.

JP II was more traveled than any other Pope in the history of the Church. He made the decision that He needed to go out and meet the people that could not come to the Vatican, to "bring the Vatican to them." He traveled to 129 countries. That's a lot. And when he traveled, people showed up. In fact, the largest ever crowd assembled in human history at one time for one specific event is claimed to be the closing Mass at World Youth Day in the Philippines, where an estimated 5 million plus people were in attendance.
Speaking of World Youth Day, he started that too. In 1984, he invited youth from around the world to gather in Rome for a week of prayer, catechesis, and fellowship. It continues to this day, and the next one is in Rio De Janeiro in 2013 .

Another cornerstone of JP II's pontificate is his Theology of the Body (TOB for short). TOB was the topic of 129 of JPII's Wednesday papal audiences (from 1979-1984). It is essentially his integrated vision of the human person-body, soul, and spirit. It revolved around the philosophical concept of the human person as gift. Man was made to give of himself to another, and human sexuality can only find its true meaning in light of that truth. I would expound upon this but there are many folk much more intelligent than I who have already done so. So if you are interested in more, I will bow to their brilliance and point you here.

JP II was also known for his love for the giants that had gone before him. He canonized many of our beloved saints, including the likes of St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Juan Diego, St. Pio of Pietrelcina (formerly known as Padre Pio), St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, and 478 others. Not kidding...478.

He saw sainthood as something achievable for every human on Earth, and often spoke of each individual's call to the heights of holiness. He expected greatness from his flock. It seems that all that the body of Christ needed was to be encouraged and called to something more, and He did just that. This invitation of his manifested in what he called the New Evangelization. JPII saw the severe lacking of evangelistic efforts in the Church, and so he proclaimed:
"I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization…No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”

FOCUS was born as a response to the New Evangelization, and seeks to fulfill Christ's Great Commission re-promulgated by JP II's commission of the New Evangelization. Full circle.

On April 2, 2005 our beloved Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke his last words "Let me depart to the house of the Father," and soon thereafter entered into his final rest. And alas this humble gentle giant who changed the world through his response to God's call in his life and through his unending charity and care for all of humanity received his heavenly reward: eternal bliss. Let us not forget his example of a life "hidden with Christ" (cf. Col 3:3), and let us never tire in responding to his New Evangelization by bringing the love and truth of Christ to the ends of the earth. Let these words forever ring in our ears:
"Do not be afraid of presenting Christ to someone who does not yet know Him. Christ is the true answer, the most complete answer to all the questions which concern the human person and his destiny. Without Christ, the human person remains an unsolvable riddle. Therefore, have the courage to present Christ!"
Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us, that we may see the face of Christ!

By Guest Blogger Austin Ashcraft, FOCUS Missionary

Friday, October 21, 2011

JP II - A Testimony of Love

A couple months ago, I was on a very un-air-conditioned train in southern Poland. A few friends and I had taken a week after World Youth Day to travel and make a little pilgrimage. I think I was so distracted by how glad I was to be in Poland that I hardly noticed the sweat dripping down my face and neck or my legs sticking to the seats. Even the graffiti-laden buildings seemed beautiful. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t pronounce dzień dobry (hello), let alone speak the language; all that mattered was that we were in Poland, the homeland of my hero: John Paul II.

My first encounter with John Paul II was when I was 15 on his Papal visit to St. Louis. In his address to young people there, he said, “Young friends…remember: Christ is calling you; the Church needs you; the Pope believes in you and expects great things of you!” Never before had I been convicted of my personal call to holiness. I knew that he spoke with authority because his very life was a testament to holiness. He radiated truth and love. He told me that my life mattered to him, to the Church, and to Christ. At that moment, this feeble Polish Pope won my heart and my lifelong fidelity to Christ and His Church.

From then on, I also became something of a JPII groupie. I bought The Jeweller’s Shop movie, which is based on a play he wrote as a young bishop in Kraków, I would listen to a CD of him praying the rosary in Latin on my way to high school, I went to World Youth Day in Toronto, and then spent three months with him in Rome while I was studying abroad in college. I remember the last time that I saw him and I remember crying in the street when I first heard that he had died. It was as if my own grandpa had died. He had been such a huge part of my life and had given me courage to make decisions that have shaped me into the woman I am today.

So, being on that muggy train in Poland was less of a discomfort and more of a gift. I’d waited all these years to go to the place that formed this holy man. This very place has been totally transformed because of one man’s response to God’s call. Still today, the devotion of the Poles is unmatched in Europe. I’ve seen many churches in many countries, and none are filled like they are in Poland. Masses are packed, adoration chapels are filled, young and old, men and women, are on their knees. They’ve ousted the Nazis, the Communists, and those who would take away their culture and their heritage. Priestly and religious vocations are common and encouraged.

John Paul II still gives me courage today. He is doing more from heaven than he ever did on earth. I am a missionary today largely because of him, and I will always look to his heroic witness as I continue to strive to live a holy life and respond to God’s call.

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us, for Poland, for Europe, and for the world. Dear young people, do not be afraid to open wide the doors to Christ!

By Guest Blogger Trish Metzger, FOCUS Missionary

JPII - The Path to the Papacy

As we mentioned yesterday, by the age of 20, Karol had suffered the death of his mother, brother, and father. He was now the only remaining member of his immediate family. I remember when I heard this the first time, I was stunned at this fact. I could not imagine losing a single member of my family by that age, much less every single one. I thought to myself, why would God allow such suffering and pain to happen to this young man who He had such great plans for? One word: detachment. Our Heavenly Father, in his infinite and unrelenting passionate love for Karol, stripped him of all earthly things he could possibly cling to so that Karol had no other choice but to cling to his Father in heaven who alone can satisfy his deepest desires. God was completely detaching him from everything to prepare him for sainthood.

Karol recognizes this initiative on God's part and responded quickly. Soon after his father's death, he spoke of the clarity and the inner conviction of his calling to the priesthood. At the age of 22, Karol entered the seminary in Krakow. He had an eventful four years there, including the 1945 German invasion of Krakow causing heavy damage to the seminary. After the Germans left, Karol and a friend volunteered for the delightful chore of cleaning up the frozen excrement from the lavatories (talk about consecrating the mundane...). Later on that year on All Saint's Day, Karol was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ.

Karol quickly set himself apart due to his love for academics and his natural intelligence. During the early years of his priesthood he earned both a doctorate in sacred theology and philosophy. Pope Pius XII saw the incredible amount of potential in young Wojtyla and in 1958 while Wojtyla was out on a kayaking trip, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow . At the age of just 38, Karol became the youngest bishop in Poland (6 years later he was appointed primary Archbishop of Krakow).

As bishop, Karol played an important role in the Second Vatican Council. He was a main contributor to both Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et Spes. Both of these documents were influential to the Church after Vatican II and are still of great significance for us today. Being a big proponent of life and the dignity of every human life, he also was instrumental in the formulation of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae. In the midst of all of this theological writing, Karol was still known for his presence to the person in front of him and his incredible attentiveness and love he showed to each person that he met. He never lost his wonder and awe for the human person, which finds its meaning only in the person of Jesus Christ.

In 1967 he was promoted to the Sacred College of Cardinals, which would be his last promotion before his election to the Chair of St. Peter...

By Guest Blogger, Austin Ashcraft, FOCUS Missionary

Thursday, October 20, 2011

JP II - The University Student

We continue our series on Blessed John Paul II's life as we prepare to celebrate his first feast day on October 22nd.

Today, we look at Karol Wojtyla's (JPII) life as a university student. This was by far some of his most formative and life changing years.

Karol Wojtyla enrolled at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland to pursue literature and theater and quickly continued his academic success. But, Karol's path would soon be disrupted by Germany's invasion of Poland and the start of WWII. For Karol, the war was not something out there. It intimately affected his own life and those around him. The German occupation brought fear, bloodshed, poverty, and death. 184 professors from Jagiellonian University were arrested. 3,646 Polish priests and 1,117 nuns were sent to concentration camps. One third of all Polish clergy were killed during the occupation.

Karol continued his studies in secret and was a part of a understand cultural movement to keep Polish culture alive. He also met a man who would have a deep impact on him, Jan Tyranowski. Through Living Rosary small groups, Jan helped Karol develop a deep prayer life and sent him out to lead other groups as well.

At this time, Karol was a manual laborer at a chemical plant. The work was difficult but the travel to his job was enough of a sacrifice. On his walk to the plant, Karol would put petroleum jelly on his face to keep it from freezing during the winter. This wouldn't be Karol's greatest struggle. Having already lost his mother and brother before, his father passed away during this time, leaving Karol the only remaining member of his family.

Amid the madness of the German occupation, many despaired, lost hope, or turned to violence. Karol had a different reaction. In the face of such tragedy and with the help of Jan Tyranowski, Karol slowly brought himself to a place of what he called "inner illumination." Karol became progressively detached from his earlier plans of acting and turned his thoughts towards the priesthood. While seminaries were underground and clergy were being arrested left and right, Karol still felt a calling to give his life in the face of such despair.


Tomorrow, we will look at what JPII was like as a priest.

Detachment from his earlier plans