A friend of mine and brother seminarian who also happens to be a fellow apologist has posted and excellent article on evil and the problem atheists have when they try to use it to prove there is no God. You know, the age old arguments that if God is all-powerful, He could stop evil and if He is all-loving, He would stop evil; thus since there is evil, there is no God. Anyway, it is an excellent article so I am reposting it here for your perusal. Joe also has an excellent blog called Shameless Popery. I encourage you to visit it.

Many atheists are fond of using the argument from evil to debunk the notion of God. It goes something like this:

  1. If God is all-powerful (omnipotent), He could stop evil.
  2. If God is all-loving (omnibenevolent), He would stop evil if He could.
  3. Therefore, if an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God existed, evil would not.
  4. Evil exists; therefore, an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God does not.
Another variation of the argument was put forward by the Greek philosopher Epicurus, centuries before the time of Christ:

Against Catholics, this argument is stronger rhetorically than logically. But against atheists, it's ironically quite devastating. Let me explain what I mean.

I. The Problem of Evil for Catholics 
Logically, this argument misunderstands what's meant by God's omnipotence.Omnipotence means that God cannot possibly be more powerful than He currently is. His power is perfect. But within these traditional confines, we still acknowledge that God cannot do the logically impossible. He cannot, for example, will what is contrary to His Will. Why? Because that's a meaningless self-contradiction.

Herein lies the easiest answer to the problem of evil:

  1. God gives us free will, because free will is inherently good.
  2. Free will entails the possibility of doing what is contrary to God's will (this is what we know as evil).
  3. Thus, evil exists, because of man's actions, rather than because of God.
Thus, the notion of an all-loving God is consistent with abundant free will, and abundant free will is consistent with the presence of evil (I discuss that more on my own blog.) You may disagree with that solution—you may not see why free will is better than God forcing us to perform on command, for example—but it at least shows that there's no logical problem with the simultaneous existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God and evil.

II. The Problem of Evil for Atheists 
But today, I wanted to show why this is a particularly bad proof for atheism. It relies (in the fourth point of the argument outlined above) on the proposition “evil exists.” Now there are two things that might be meant by this claim:

  • Subjective evil exists: That is, things exist that I don't happen to like. But if that were the case, the whole argument of evil falls apart. Obviously, an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God might well do or permit things that I happen to dislike. The existence of broccoli and the New York Yankees doesn't discredit God, unless I'm such a narcissist as to think that a loving God would create the universe as best suits my own whims.
  • Objective evil exists: This is what is obviously meant by the problem of evil. Things exist that aren't just contrary to my personal tastes (like broccoli) but which are contrary to what all moral people know to be good (like genocide or the torture of little children).
But here's the problem with that: Objective morality, including objective evil, cannot exist without God. This doesn't mean that atheists can't be moral people, of course. Catholicism teaches that much of objective morality is knowable by natural law. Atheists can and generally do implicitly recognize the moral law, and obey it. The problem is that this behavior appears completely irrational.

More specifically, the problem is that is that there's no way to get from statements about how the world is to how the world ought to be without imposing a value system. And to say something is objective evil—that it objectively ought not to be—you have to believe in objective values, binding everyone (including, in the case of the problem of evil, God Himself). It has to be something infinitely more than whatever your personal values might be.

This, as you can hopefully tell, is a serious problem for atheism, since atheistic naturalism denies any such universally-binding moral laws (since they require Divine Authorship). Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, in his debate with atheist Christopher Hitchens, laid out the problem like this:

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values do exist.
  3. Therefore God exists.
Hitchens misunderstood the argument, and flubbed it pretty badly, so I sought out an atheist response. The atheist responding argues that both of Craig's premises are false:

Firstly, objective morals could well exist without God. They could be hardwired into our genes as an evolutionary survival mechanism. So clearly, Craig’s first premise is incorrect.

Others have used this argument before, but it's quite a bad one. A man might simultaneously be sexually attracted to a non-consenting woman, and conscious that rape is immoral. Why, from a strictly biological standpoint, should the man listen to his genetic hard-wiring when it tells him rape is wrong, and not when it gives him an urge to rape? The answer to that question is a moral one, and one that (by definition) can't come from mere evolutionary urges. The urges are the problem, not the solution.

You can see this with virtually any sin: man both desires sin, and knows it's wrong. If both thedesire and the moral aversion are nothing more than evolutionary conditioning, why listen to the unpleasant one? Why not act like simply another member of the animal kingdom, a world full of rape and theft and killing.

But for that matter, is it morally evil to go against our genetic hard-wiring? If the hard-wiring is nothing more than the result of random chance over millions of years, it's not at all clear to me why it would be morally evil to disregard it. Your body may also decide to start producing cancer cells at a remarkable rate, but you feel no moral allegiance to quietly let it have its way. We constantly subdue our bodies to make them perform better, last longer, and the like.

And indeed, atheists constantly go against their genetic hard-wiring. For example, I'd venture that most atheists use birth control and don't seem to find this immoral, even though it's transparently contrary to both our genetic hard-wiring, and evolutionary survival mechanisms. They're literally stopping evolution from working: a more direct violation of evolutionary hard-wiring is almost unthinkable (except, perhaps, celibacy).

So at most, evolution can explain urges we have for or against certain behaviors. Some of these urges are worth acting upon, some aren't. But to know which to obey and which to ignore is a moral question, not a biological one.

Significantly, when Hitchens eventually understood Craig's argument, he conceded this first premise—because it's undeniably true. That brings us to the second premise, that objective morality exists. The atheist reply continues:

However, objective moral values de facto do not exist. Not everyone has the same moral standards. Our perception of what is right and wrong have changed over the centuries with Richard Dawkins has termed “the shifting moral Zeitgeist”. Indeed, practices in other parts of the World today which are considered the height of piety seem barbaric to Westerners. You only have to look inside the books of our religions and see what these pronouncements mandate to see that this is the case.

If this is true, we cannot criticize the Nazis for killing millions of Jews, any more than we can criticize the Yankees for beating the Tigers. We don't happen to care for Nazi genocide, but their cultural practices are just different from our American values.

More directly, if objective morality does not exist, the problem of evil breaks down. As I said above, if by “evil” you mean nothing more than what you happen to like or dislike, the term is meaningless. So when atheists raise the problem of evil, they're already conceding the existence of objective evil, and thus, of objective morality.

So atheists can either believe that morality is nothing more than a “shifting moral Zeitgeist,” of no more importance than the latest fashion, or they can criticize what's “inside the books of our religions.” But they can't coherently do both.

III. Objective Evil Exists 
Just in case some people reading this would be inclined to give up the problem of evil,in exchange that they don't have to admit the existence of universally binding morals, let me be clear. We can see that objective morals do, in fact, exist. We don't need to be told that raping, torturing, and killing innocent people are more than just unpleasant or counter-cultural. They're wrong—universally and completely wrong. Even if we were never taught these things growing up, we know these things by nature.

Incredibly, even the most evil societies—even those societies that have most cruelly warped the natural law for their own ends—still profess these universal morals. Nazi Germany, for example, still had laws against murder, and theft, and rape. They didn't have some delusion that those things were somehow morally good: it's sheer fiction to suggest otherwise. Everyone, with the possible exceptions of the severely retarded or severely mentally ill, recognizes these things to be evil, whether or not they've been formally taught these truths.

So is the problem of evil a problem for Christians? Sure. There are intellectually satisfying answers, but it's not for nothing that St. Thomas Aquinas lists it as one of two logical arguments for atheism in the Summa Theologiae. But we shouldn't let this fact blind us to the paradoxical truth:the problem of evil is a dramatically larger problem for atheists:

  1. To complain of the problem of evil, you must acknowledge evil.
  2. To acknowledge evil, you must acknowledge an objective system of moral laws.
  3. Objective universal moral laws require a Lawgiver capable of dictating behavior for everyone.
  4. This Lawgiver is Who we call God.
Ironically, this evidence lays the groundwork for establishing that God not only exists, but cares about good and evil.

Written by Joe Heschmeyer. Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

Here is a little tip I picked up on Facebook. Don't know if it works, but it is worth a try. Let me know how successful you are with this.

Items needed:
1 cup of water 
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 gram of yeast
1 2-liter bottle

1. Cut the plastic bottle in half.
2. Mix brown sugar with hot water. Let cool. When cold, pour in the bottom half of the bottle.
3. Add the yeast. No need to mix. It creates carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes.
4. Place the funnel part, upside down, into the other half of the bottle, taping them together if desired.
5. Wrap the bottle with something black, leaving the top uncovered, and place it outside in an area away from your normal gathering area. (Mosquitoes are also drawn to the color black.)

Change the solution every 2 weeks for continuous control.

It is good to be back in a parish!!! Yesterday I started my assignment as St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Southgate (the southern tip of Colorado Springs). It is a parish of about 1,500 families and I am looking forward to my two months here. The pastor, Fr. Gregory Golyzniak has been so very warm and welcoming. I eagerly anticipate this coming Sunday where I get to meet the whole parish.

This being my first week, I am spending the time trying to get settled in, meet the staff and wrap up some leftover items. The Bishop has also been kind enough to allow me to serve as Deacon at some of the Diocesan events this week, so there is no lack of work. As I get adjusted to my new routine, I hope to return to more regular and frequent blogging. Of course, if you have a topic you would like me to address, a question to ask or a suggestion, those are always greatly appreciated. In the mean time, please continue to pray for our Holy Mother Church, Her Clergy, vocations and our men and women in uniform. See you at the Tabernacle!

As I slow down to below light speed...

The ordination was WONDERFUL and now the busyness of friends, relatives, receptions and dinners begins to be replaced by the everyday schedule. What a FANTASTIC time the last week has been. Thank you to all who were able to join me for my ordination to the Transitional Diaconate and to all of you who sent in kind words and supported me with prayer.

It seems like the last month has been a blur. I think it started with finals and rapidly accelerated. It is nice to know that I only have one year left at the seminary. I am sure that will go by very quickly and before I know it, I will be writing about my ordination to the Priesthood.

I hope to have pictures of my Ordination back in the near future from the photographer and when I do, I will post them on the site, so stay tuned. I also hope to return to more regular postings once I move into my new assignment. You may also note that the subtitle of this site has changed. Speaking of assignments, I will be serving at St. Joseph the Worker in Southgate (southern Colorado Springs) this summer. I am looking forward to my new assignment.

Thanks again for all the wonderful support from you readers and followers. By the way, if you read my blog and are on Facebook, please click on the “Networked Blogs” box to the right and sign in to your Facebook. It will update you when I post and help me with my website ratings. Thanks!!

Talk to you all again soon.

All during Lent, I talked about going to confession. I hope and pray that many of you did. However, lest you think that confession is just for Lent, let me remind you that confession is a sacrament all year ‘round. Every two weeks is a good rule of thumb. Remember that we don’t have to wait and commit a “really big one” before we go. We receive many graces each and every time we seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And, of course, if you haven’t gone in a long time, GO! On this wonderful topic the Pope just gave a beautiful homily. I have posted a part of it below and, whether you go weekly or have not been in a long time, it is well worth the read. Remember, we are ALL sinners.

"Walking in darkness means being overly pleased with ourselves, believing that we do not need salvation. That is darkness! When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not easy to turn back. Therefore, John continues, because this way of thinking made him reflect: 'If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us'. Look to your sins, to our sins, we are all sinners, all of us ... This is the starting point. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful, He is so just He forgives us our sins, cleansing us from all unrighteousness…The Lord who is so good, so faithful, so just that He forgives. "

"When the Lord forgives us, He does justice" - continued the Pope - first to himself, "because He came to save and forgive", welcoming us with the tenderness of a Father for his children: "The Lord is tender towards those who fear, to those who come to Him "and with tenderness," He always understand us”. He wants to gift us the peace that only He gives. " "This is what happens in the Sacrament of Reconciliation" even though "many times we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaner" to clean the dirt from our clothes:

"But Jesus in the confessional is not a dry cleaner: it is an encounter with Jesus, but with this Jesus who waits for us, who waits for us just as we are. “But, Lord, look ... this is how I am”, we are often ashamed to tell the truth: 'I did this, I thought this'. But shame is a true Christian virtue, and even human ... the ability to be ashamed: I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country to those who are never ashamed are called “sin vergüenza’: this means ‘the unashamed ', because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed and to be ashamed is a virtue of the humble, of the man and the woman who are humble. "

Pope Francis continued: “ we must have trust, because when we sin we have an advocate with the Father, "Jesus Christ the righteous." And He "supports us before the Father" and defends us in front of our weaknesses. But you need to stand in front of the Lord "with our truth of sinners", "with confidence, even with joy, without masquerading... We must never masquerade before God." And shame is a virtue: "blessed shame." "This is the virtue that Jesus asks of us: humility and meekness".

"Humility and meekness are like the frame of a Christian life. A Christian must always be so, humble and meek. And Jesus waits for us to forgive us. We can ask Him a question: Is going to confession like to a torture session? No! It is going to praise God, because I, a sinner , have been saved by Him. And is He waiting for me to beat me? No, with tenderness to forgive me. And if tomorrow I do the same? Go again, and go and go and go .... He always waits for us. This tenderness of the Lord, this humility, this meekness .... "

Text from a page of the Vatican Radio website.

So what has secularism given us today? Previously, I talked about government officials and public persons asking people to pray after tragedies occur. That article can be found HERE. Today I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal talking about how priests and other religious officials were refused access to the bombing scene at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This is highlighted by the fact that one of the victims who died was young man who just received his First Communion. As a full member of the Roman Catholic Church, it was his right to receive the last rites of the Catholic Church. I understand the need to restrict the area after any major incident not just those which could be acts of terrorism. As an emergency services worker for over 20 years, I am well aware of the need to have the minimum number of personnel present so that people aren’t tripping over each other. I’m also aware, in today’s society, of the need to ensure that personnel coming onto a scene are authorized to be there. Nevertheless, the advance of secularism in our society has placed an undue burden on the members and clergy of religious organizations. It is time that action be taken so that no member of our society, regardless of religious belief, should be denied access to the leaders of his religion at the time of his death. Certainly the proper vetting of religious leaders and the issuance of appropriate credentials can be handled in such a way that this never happens again. We can no longer stand aside and watch our religious liberty be taken away piece by piece. Now is the time for action. Talk to your local priest or religious leader about this issue. Speak to your city leaders, county and state leaders to take steps now to provide for future calamities. I pray that this will be a learning experience for all of us and that that learning curve is very sharp. Religious leaders must be allowed access to their dying members.

Below I have posted the article to which I refer. My emphasis has been added. The complete article can be found on the website of the Wall Street Journal. Please feel free to share, tweet, like and email this article. Buttons for this can be found at the bottom of this article. Let us make sure that in the future, regardless of the reason, no one is denied access to the consolation of their religion at the time of their death.


The heart-wrenching photographs taken in the moments after the Boston Marathon bombings show the blue-and-yellow jackets of volunteers, police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical technicians, even a three-foot-high blue M&M. Conspicuously absent are any clerical collars or images of pastoral care.

This was not for lack of proximity. Close to the bombing site are Trinity Episcopal Church, Old South Church and St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine, all on Boylston Street. When the priests at St. Clement's, three blocks away, heard the explosions, they gathered sacramental oils and hurried to the scene in hopes of anointing the injured and, if necessary, administering last rites, the final of seven Catholic sacraments. But the priests, who belong to the order Oblates of the Virgin Mary, weren't allowed at the scene.

The Rev. John Wykes, director of the St. Francis Chapel at Boston's soaring Prudential Center, and the Rev. Tom Carzon, rector of Our Lady of Grace Seminary, were among the priests who were turned away right after the bombings. It was jarring for Father Wykes, who, as a hospital chaplain in Illinois a decade ago, was never denied access to crime or accident scenes.

"I was allowed to go anywhere. In Boston, I don't have that access," he says.

But Father Wykes says he has noticed a shift in the societal role of clergy over the past few decades: "In the Bing Crosby era—in the '40s, '50s, '60s—a priest with a collar could get in anywhere. That's changed. Priests are no longer considered to be emergency responders."

The Rev. Mychal Judge is a memorable exception. The New York City priest died on 9/11, when the South Tower collapsed and its debris flew into the North Tower lobby, where Father Judge was praying after giving last rites to victims lying outside. The image of the priest's body being carried from the rubble was one of the most vivid images to emerge from 9/11.

But Father Judge had been the city's fire chaplain for nine years, knew the mayor, and was beloved by the firefighting force.

For police officers securing a crime scene, and trying to prevent further injuries and loss of life, the decision to admit clergy to a bombing site is fraught with risk. Anyone can buy a clerical collar for just $10, and a modestly talented seventh-grader with a computer and printer can produce official-looking credentials.

Father Carzon, the seminary rector, said he was "disappointed" when he wasn't allowed at the scene of the bombing, but he understood the reasoning and left without protest. "Once it was clear we couldn't get inside, we came back here to St. Clement's, set up a table with water and oranges and bananas to serve people, and helped people however we could."

By that point, spectators and runners who had been unable to finish the marathon were wandering around, "frightened, disoriented, confused and cold," he said. Father Carzon was able to minister to a runner who wasn't injured but had assisted a bystander with catastrophic injuries. Two hours later, the runner, a Protestant, was still walking around the area in shock and disbelief.

"He came over, and said, 'You're a priest, I need to talk to someone, I need to talk,' and he was able to pour out some of the story of what had happened," Father Carzon said. "Then there was an off-duty firefighter who was there as a spectator, and he, too, got pushed out of the perimeter, and he ended up here to pray. There was a feeling of helplessness we had when we couldn't get close. But doing the little that we could—putting out a table with water and fruit, being there—I realize how much that 'little' was able to do."

In light of the devastation in Boston, the denial of access to clergy is a trifling thing, and it might even have been an individual's error. (The Boston Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on its policy regarding clergy at the scenes of emergencies.)

But it is a poignant irony that Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who died on Boylston Street, was a Catholic who had received his first Communion just last year. As Martin lay dying, priests were only yards away, beyond the police tape, unable to reach him to administer last rites—a sacrament that, to Catholics, bears enormous significance.

As the Rev. Richard Cannon, a priest in Hopkinton, Mass., where the marathon begins, said in a homily on the Sunday after the bombings, "When the world can seem very dark and confusing, the presence of a priest is a presence of hope."

Direct from Denver and the Denver Catholic Register:
DENVER, Colo. – Pope Francis will have a piece of Colorado with him when he celebrates Mass and feeds his flock with the precious body and blood of Christ.

After a chance connection, a Colorado man seized the opportunity to send silver extracted from the mine “In God We Trust” to a silversmith in Argentina charged with crafting the pope’s new liturgical vessels.

The whole idea was inspired by the Holy Spirit, said Zachary Urban, parishioner of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Wheat Ridge.

“It all kind of fell together,” Urban said. “It is definitely a rare opportunity to be a part of this.”

Urban shipped 3 ounces of silver extracted from the gold in a mine in Alma, Colo., to Adrian Tallarols in Buenos Aires during Holy Week. The silver will be used to craft one of several vessels needed during Mass, including a chalice and spoon.

The holy vessels will then be presented to the pope in Rome.

“We wanted to make this happen as a gift on behalf of our parish and the citizens of Colorado to give something from Colorado to be used by the pope,” Urban said.

Before the silver was sent, Father Jason Thuerauf of Sts. Peter and Paul blessed it with holy water.

The opportunity first arose after Urban remembered his connection to Tallarols, a seventh-generation silversmith. It was on his honeymoon in Argentina that 34-year-old Urban and his wife, Melinda, were shopping in the city and decided to look at the handiwork inside the silversmith’s store. They purchased an item and discovered Tallarols had made vessels for Pope Emeritus Benedict.

“He has a picture of him at the time presenting the chalice to Pope Benedict,” Urban said.

After their honeymoon, Urban stayed in touch with the silversmith through email and Facebook messages.

On the day of Pope Francis’ selection as the new leader of the 2,000-year-old Church, Urban thought of his Argentine friend.

“When he was elected that day it clicked that the pope is from Argentina and my friend is from Argentina,” he recalled.

The next day, Urban sent a Facebook message to Tallarols asking if he was going to make new liturgical vessels for the pope, and if so, if he could send silver from Colorado for him to use.

Tallarols said yes.

“Then I had to go about trying to find silver,” Urban said.

After talking with a multitude of people, Urban found a Fort Collins man who had a private reserve of silver, some pieces of which came from the “In God We Trust” mine.

“That was a sign we were going in the right direction,” he said.

He spent $145 to purchase the rectangle of silver extracted from gold found in the mine.

Feeling that a FedEx envelope was not a reverent way to ship the blessed material, Urban carefully tucked the silver into a Maplewood box marked with the sign of the Holy Spirit.

The silver was then shipped to Tallarols’ workshop in Argentina. The silversmith will use the silver to craft, among other items, a chalice, plate and spoon. The spoon is used in Eastern-rite Catholic Churches Divine Liturgy to give parishioners Communion under both species.

The silver that will be mixed with silver from South America is symbolic, Urban said, of the Church’s unity.

“It has a lot of symbolism in mixing the different cultures together and different pieces of the Catholic Church together,” he said. “I think it provides an opportunity to show we all become one Church together.”

Here is a fun little article I came across from Fox News. I never considered Mormon Bishop and Ninja in the same context before. I have bolded the really fun parts. Enjoy.
MILLCREEK, Utah – An LDS bishop with a samurai sword was one of several neighbors who came to a woman’s aide after a man assaulted her and tried to get into her home on Tuesday morning.

Lt. Justin Hoyal, Unified Police Department, said they responded to the incident shortly after 7 a.m. near 2165 East Claybourne Ave.

Hoyal said 37-year-old Grant Eggertsen assaulted a 35-year-old female victim and tried to get inside her home as she was leaving. Hoyal said the two had a professional relationship in the past, and when that deteriorated the victim had obtained a stalking injunction against Eggertsen.

The victim screamed and ran from the home. Eggertsen gave chase, and a physical altercation took place. The victim tried to pepper spray Eggertsen, but that was not effective.

Several neighbors heard the noise and came outside and confronted Eggertsen. One of those neighbors was Kent Hendrix, who is a bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a black belt in karate.

Hendrix says his teenage son alerted him to the incident going on outside.

“He comes running in pounding on my door saying, ‘Dad, someone’s being mugged in front of our house.’ So I threw my clothes on, grabbed my sword and out I came,” Hendrix said.

Hendrix came outside with a samurai sword, and he wielded the weapon while he and other neighbors confronted and then chased Eggertsen away. Eggertsen ran to his car and drove off.

“As he was coming through the fence, this is where I drew down on him and told him to get down on the ground,” Hendrix said. ”His eyes just got huge and he was taken aback that he was staring down 29 inches of razor.”

Hendrix has studied martial arts for decades and owns his own academy. He says he’s thrilled to use his training for good.

“I’ve never had to use my martial arts until today, in anger, happy things worked out well,” he said.

Eggertsen turned himself in within an hour of the incident. He was charged with violation of a stalking injunction, trespassing, attempted burglary and robbery.

“There were several neighbors that came out to this victim’s aide, one of which was carrying a sword,” Hoyal said. “And ultimately, as a result of the efforts of these neighbors, hopefully caused this suspect to give up the attack on this victim and take off running.”

The victim had minor injuries from the assault, and she refused medical treatment at the scene of the incident.

While most of my papers written in seminary are of an academic nature, from time to time, I write one which has practical applications as well. This is one of those times. This paper was written for a grief counseling class and provides a tool to teach children about death before they have to experience it directly when a friend or relative dies. I hope that you may find it useful. Please feel free to share this with others and pass it on. don't forget about the sharing, like and e-mail buttons at the end of the post.

        Our Catholic faith provides us a number of opportunities to teach the lay faithful about how to handle life. This ranges from the day-to-day decisions to the extreme and most life shattering events. One of the things which must be taught to any child is how to understand and handle death. Yet, this is one of those conversations that parents are extremely reluctant to have with their children. Like physical intimacy, the matter is grave and must be taught but parents do not know how to approach the topic, feel unequal to the task and wish to shield their children for as long as possible. I propose that our faith provides several possibilities to assist parents in accomplishing this task, one of which is the use of the Stations of the Cross.

            The Stations of the Cross are a reflection on the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ and as a result, death and how we view death is intimately connected to this pious observance. Additionally, children who are raised in the Catholic Church are already exposed to the Stations every lent and therefore should be comfortable or at least familiar with this observance. Use of the familiar can help the child understand the unfamiliar and uncomfortable topic. Furthermore, placed in the area of catechesis, parents may find it easier to discuss death with their children in the abstract rather than waiting until an actual incident occurs. It is often the case that the biggest obstacle to discussion of serious subjects between parent and children is the lack of a way to broach the subject. The Stations of the Cross provide a remedy to just that issue. The use of this tool provided by our faith will not only help deepen the faith of the children and their understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but can also help them to deal with and understand death when it affects them personally through family members or friends.

Below, I have taken the Stations of the Cross and added discussion topics, appropriate for children, to each of the stations. These are only suggestions and can be modified as the teacher (parent, priest, catechist) sees fit based on the individual child or children they are teaching. I believe that this process can be used either individually or in a classroom setting.

Here are some things to keep in mind: 1) This lesson should be a discussion and not a lecture. Be sure to receive input from the child. Have the child express his views, concerns, and imaginings. 2) Refer to both the Bible and the Catechism especially in those areas where you are not familiar with Catholic teaching. They both can provide great help and consolation. 3) Remember that the child is the center of this lesson not the teacher. Be sure to ask enough questions to ensure understanding and encourage participation and attention. 4) Finally, remember to remain hopeful during each station. Death is frightening to adults and even more so to children. Remember to reassure them and express the hope that our faith gives us no matter what the situation. Above all teach them that in all things they should trust in Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father. Reassure them that all the saints and Our Blessed Mother have gone through this before them and that above all there is hope and joy in looking forward to joining Jesus in heaven.

1.      Opening Prayer
a.       As with any endeavor it is important to start with a prayer that God may direct our actions, provide us the help necessary to be successful in our endeavors and bring our work to a successful conclusion. I recommend that the child be encouraged to pray this prayer. He can talk to Jesus in his own words or use a formulary such as the “Our Father”, “Hail Mary” or “Glory Be”.

2.      1st Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death
a.       This is the opening step and provides us the opportunity to talk to the child about death in very general terms and explain how we must all eventually die. We can talk about how all things die from plants and grass to animals to humans and how this is, for us, a natural part of life. Talk to the child about his ancestors - great, great, great, great grandparents. Tell them stories that are particular to the family. Teach them that because of sin we are all condemned to die.

3.      2nd Station: Jesus Carries His Cross
a.       This is an opportunity for us to talk with the child about the struggles that we encounter every day. Maybe we want to talk about bullying on the playground, maybe we want to talk about a sick friend, relative or even a pet. Maybe we want to talk about things that the child struggles with on a daily basis such as lessons, obeying parents, going to bed, etc. This is an opportunity to discuss things that are very hard for us that occur in our lifetime.

4.      3rd Station: Jesus Falls the First Time
a.       This station gives us the opportunity to talk to the child about failure. Things don’t always go as we want but we have to pick ourselves up and keep going. Sometimes what we want to happen doesn’t happen but we don’t give up. (This discussion should be structured with the second and third falls (station 7 and 10) in mind so read ahead before beginning this lesson.)

5.      4th Station: Jesus Meets His Mother
a.       This station gives us the opportunity to talk about how much we loving care for our family members. In this Station we can reinforce to the child that no matter what they go through, the family will be there to help them and support them. Remind the child that there is nothing that the love of family will not overcome, even death. Love does not cease with death.

6.      5th Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross
a.       This station is a perfect opportunity to discuss with the child how there are always people to help them through any struggle. We can remind the child that even Jesus needed help. In the darkest part of our lives, we can remind the child, that there are always people that they can turn to for assistance. Talk about school counselors, parents, relatives, the priest and so on. Remind the child that there is nothing so dark that it cannot be overcome with help. (The key point is to reinforce with the child that no matter how dark the situation suicide is not an option.)

7.      6th Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
a.       This station provides us the opportunity to talk to the child about how to help those who are grieving. We can talk about caring for people who have lost a loved one, doing things for them. We can talk about how much it means to a person in grief just to know that someone else cares.

8.      7th Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time
a.       In this station (keeping in mind the 3rd station) we can continue the discussion about not always getting what we want. This should take the form of how God does not always answer our prayers the way we expect. We can teach the child that everything happens for a reason and that God allows bad to happen so that good may come of it. Again reinforce the idea that when we fall, when things don’t go our way or prayers aren’t answered the way we expect, we get up and keep moving forward in life.

9.      8th Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
a.       This station provides us an excellent opportunity to discuss how death affects other people. We can talk about grief. We can teach the child that it is okay to cry and to show how hurt we are. We can teach that it is okay to share that hurt in grief with others. We can remind the child that all death hurts those who care about the person. (This is another opportunity to reinforce the idea that suicide is not romantic and that the survivors have to deal with a great amount of pain and grief. Suicide is not an option.)

10.  9th Station: Jesus Falls a Third Time
a.       Keeping the 3rd and 7th station in mind, it is time to the talk to the child particularly about prayers for suffering and dying friends and relatives. Explain to the child how sometimes when we pray for someone who is sick, they die anyway. Talk to the child about loss which seems contrary to what they want or expect from God. Talk to the child about being angry with God. Tell them it is okay to be angry with God and to talk to God about the hurt they feel. Tell the child that this pain should be shared with others and they don’t have to deal with it all by themselves. Remind the child than the end we pick ourselves up and continue on.

11.  10th Station: Jesus Clothes Are Taken Away
a.       This station provides us a wonderful opportunity to talk to the child about leaving everything behind when we die. Teach them that what it comes to death the “things” of this world don’t matter. We don’t get to take our favorite video games, bicycle, and doll, etc. with us. What matters is how we pray and love God. Teach the child to look at the wonderful accomplishments of the person who has died and to reflect on their life with joy while giving thanksgiving to God. Teach what is truly important and to see that in others.

12.  11th Station: Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross
a.       Talk to the child about suffering and the redeeming value of suffering that we are taught by our faith. Talk not only about the suffering of Jesus but also the suffering of the Martyrs of the Church. Perhaps the stories of some of the Saints of the early church would be helpful here. Talk to them about the suffering that goes on in the world today. Talk to them about how people may suffer, sometimes for long periods of time, before they die. Make it personal for the child, talk about how the child sees and view suffering.

13.  12th Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
a.       This, of course, is the station where we should talk about death specifically. Talk about the physical separation of the body and the soul. Talk to the child about what they can expect when they see a dead person. As the child their feelings about death. As the child about how they see death and then teach as necessary remembering that they often viewed death as a physical person. Reassure them that death is part of God’s plan. Remind them that it is only through death that we get to heaven.

14.  13th Station: The Body of Jesus Is Taken down from the Cross
a.       This station and the next provide a perfect opportunity to talk about what happens to a person after they have died. Discuss what a funeral is. Discuss what a casket is. Discuss why some people are cremated and some people are buried. Talk about the difference between our bodies which die and our souls which do not. Talk about the joys of heaven.

15.  14th Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb
a.       Talk about the burial of the body and what they can expect when they go to visit the cemetery. Talk to them about the efficacy of visiting cemeteries, praying for the dead and building a relationship with those who are deceased.

16.  16th Station: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
a.       This station is not normally a part of the Stations of the Cross; however, I believe that in this case it is important to include this station. It is important to remember that in death there is hope. Not just any hope, but the hope which is given to us by our faith in Jesus Christ. We must remind the child that after death, having lived a good life, we go to join Jesus Christ in heaven. We must remind the child that death is not the end but only a passing into another form of existence with God himself. We must teach the child about how our faith teaches us that our bodies will be resurrected. This resurrection of the body will perfect our bodies and there will be no more suffering and pain. It is most important that we in this lesson on a positive note and inspire in the child the hope which Christ has given us.

A number of thing have happened since I last posted. Of course we are all aware of the terrible bombings in Boston and the explosion in Texas and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. But let me draw your attention to a few other things that the press has not covered during this time.

  • Public comment on the HHS Mandate has closed
  • I find it interesting that Well over 200,000 public comments were received before last Monday’s deadline, representing the most filed ever in American history and this was not found to be newsworthy.
  • A federal appeals court in Denver has granted Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.’s request for the entire court to hear its legal challenge over part of the Affordable Care Act
  • Typically, appeals cases are heard by a panel of three judges, but Hobby Lobby had asked the full court to hear the case and since their request was granted, the case will be heard by all nine judges comprising the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. This is rare and not newsworthy.
  • The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday also granted the Oklahoma City-based crafts retailer’s request to expedite the court case.
  •  I would certainly hope so as the company faces potential fines of up to $1.3 million per day for failing to comply with the health care law beginning in July. A hearing date has yet to be set, but Hobby Lobby hopes to have a nine-judge panel will hear oral arguments in the case in April or May.
  • Priests for Life group's case has been dismissed, as requested by the government, on grounds of "lack of ripeness." 
  • This is not as bad as it sounds. What it really means is since the proposed regulations are still being formed, this organization can renew its legal challenge if it is not content with the changes once those regulations are final. In other words, the government does really know what it wants to do here and so filing a lawsuit now is like trying to stand still on quicksand in the back of a moving truck.

Now remembering that so far, more than 50 lawsuits have been filed against the mandate on the basis of violating constitutional protections of religious freedom, I find it odd that NONE of the above information is found to be newsworthy. Of course the common thread in all of this is the attack on religious liberty. There is no longer any room in the public arena for religion. It should be a strictly private matter. This is the basis for the proposed laws and organizations who vocally oppose religion, in any form, in public. Organizations like the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Rational Response Squad, Southern Poverty Law Center and others. They vehemently oppose public religious views and label comments against gay marriage and homosexual unions and activities as hate speech. They insist that one should not impose God on others.

With this in mind, I would now draw your attention back to Boston and Texas. These groups are surprisingly silent when public figures like President Obama say something like “the prayers of the nation are with the victims and their families.” Why do these people not speak up when tragedy happens and people turn to God? These governors, congressional representatives and others are implicitly stating that there is in fact a God. Isn’t this hate speech according to their rules? Perhaps everyone on both sides of this controversy should start saying what they mean! It seems pretty easy to say to people “you’re in my thoughts and prayers” but do we mean it? Why is it that in times of crisis and tragedy people look to God that they deny the rest of the time? If you believe in God, act like it in public and private. If you don’t, then be consistent. Don’t cower during tragedies and crisis.

Say what you mean and mean what you say! Thoughts?