Search This Blog

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Denver QB Tim Tebow a Polarizing Force, but Why?...

Last week, as I watched Tim Tebow pull out an improbable win in the last four minutes of the game against the hapless Miami Dolphins, I couldn't help but root for him.

I'll be honest, I wasn't watching the game until that point. I had just returned from a weekend spiritual retreat and just turned on the TV before taking a shower to check the score. 

I'm actually a Washington Redskins' fan and only watch the Dolphins when the game doesn't interfere with my family time on Sundays (or blogging time, as my wife would point out). I'll root for them, if only, because of my father and brother, who are both die hard fans (I'm keeping a suicide watch on both since, like me, they also like the NY Mets).

However, on that Sunday, I found myself rooting for the man, who by his mere presence brings inspiration and passion to his teammates and fans, and the scorn and antagonism of his many detractors.

As many of you know, the Dolphins were winning by 15 points and, until then, Tebow had had a mediocre game at best. But, in his first start as the Denver Broncos quarterback this season, the former University of Florida standout and 2010 First Round pick galvanized his team during the waning moments of the game, by scrambling, throwing pinpoint passes and inspiring them with his poise and headiness. 

Tebow ties game
The Broncos were able to tie the game by scoring two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion, which Tebow himself ran in for the score, to force the game into overtime.  It was unbelievable to watch.  The Dolphins were left dazed and confused (Not that rare after starting 0 and 7!). 

As Denver got ready to kick what would be a game winning field goal, Tebow and several of his teammates were shown by television cameras holding hands on their knees in prayer.

Then, as the kick went through the crossbars and his teammates went into uncontrolled and jubilant celebration, the camera caught Tebow by himself on one knee in prayer.

For his fans, the comeback and his prayerful reaction were Tim Tebow at his finest.  For his detractors, it was more reason to hate him.

The moment has now become known as "Tebowing" and has created a fan frenzy on the social media.  (Check out article)

But, the man that inspires his fans, is also one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL, if not all of professional sports. The question is why?

Why is he the butt of late night show jokes? Why has he been lambasted by critiques despite winning the Heisman Trophy and two NCAA National Championships, being arguably one of the greatest college players that ever played the game, a proven leader and winner at every level, beloved by his teammates and known for his dedication and hard work on and off the field?

There has never been a scandal associated to him.  He is humble and clean cut.  He is not foul mouthed or trash talking, or covered in tattoos.  Despite being single, he is not gallivanting around with women and he embraces his role as a role model for children.

Yet, he is vilified and despised.  Why?  What has he done to elicit such antagonism?

Maybe, it's the fact that he wears his faith on his sleeve and is not shy about proclaiming his Christian beliefs, was home-schooled and spent his summers on missions to help the poor, made a pro-life commercial that highlighted the fact that doctors told his mother to have an abortion because they thought he would be born with a birth defect and she decided to have him anyway (which ran during a Super Bowl) or the fact that he promotes chastity and proudly states that he is saving himself for marriage.

In a recent article, author and columnist George Weigel states that the reason for his unwarranted and  undeserved damnation may be all of the above.
Tim Tebow is a target of irrational hatred, not because he’s an iffy quarterback at the NFL level, or a creep personally, or an obnoxious, in-your-face, self-righteous proselytizer. He draws hatred because he is an unabashed Christian, whose calmness and decency in the face of his Christophobic detractors drives them crazy. Tim Tebow, in other words, is a prime example of why Christophobia—a neologism first coined by a world-class comparative constitutional law scholar, J.H.H. Weiler, himself an Orthodox Jew—is a serious cultural problem in these United States.

It is simply unimaginable that any prominent Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh quarterback, should such a fantasy of anthropology exist, would be subjected to the vileness that is publicly dumped on Tim Tebow. Tolerance, that supreme virtue of the culture of radical relativism, does not extend to evangelical Christians, it seems. And if it does not extend to evangelicals who unapologetically proclaim their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior and who live their commitment to the dignity of human life from conception and natural death, it will not extend to Catholics who make that same profession of faith and that same moral commitment. Whatever we think of Tim Tebow’s theology of salvation, Tim Tebow and serious Catholics are both fated to be targets of the Christophobes.

Wherever the Gospel is proclaimed with fervor, it draws opposition. The ultimate source of that opposition is the Evil One, but we know what his fate will be. What we don’t know is how democracy can survive widespread, radical Christophobia.
Whether last week's miraculous come from behind win against the Dolphins, this week's subpar showing against the Detroit Lions or somewhere in between is indicative of Tebow's future NFL career is irrelevant to me. 

As far as I'm concerned, as a father, whose kids may one day be influenced by public figures, and in my son's case, probably sports stars, it is comforting to know that there are men, such as Tim Tebow, who is unafraid to live his faith, regardless of popularity, and represent the moral values that I hope to instill in them...

[photo credit:]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Visionary and a Mother's Message of Hope...

St. Augustine of Hippo once wrote, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

I’m sure the skeptic might argue that with faith we see what we want to see but, whether that is true or not, without faith, you can’t see anything (at least outside of the material realm, which cannot explain a great part of the reality in which we live).

Anyway, philosophical arguments aside, Monday night, my family and I attended an historic event in Key Biscayne.

It was actually my wife’s idea. In fact, she got upset that I had given it such little thought until Sunday night, but as I told her, I have been rather busy. I was preparing a presentation for the adult catechises program at my parish. After which, I was preparing a talk for a men's retreat I attended last weekend. And, I’ve been blogging. So, I’ve been a little preoccupied.

She shot back something to the effect of, “That’s nice; too busy.  Too busy for the Blessed Mother but, you haven’t been too busy to watch the World Series.”

Nice, I thought.  You had to go there didn't you?  In all honesty I haven’t been paying much attention to the series.  I usually start watching after the kids are in bed anyway.  It's not like if the Mets were playing (you can stop laughing now).

Still, the fact that she was upset at my lack of interest, must indicate I hit a sore spot.

Did she say the Blessed Mother? What is she talking about?

The Medjugorje Visionaries
For the last few weeks, my wife had been harping about Marija Pavlovic Lunetti, one of the six visionaries, who the Virgin Mary first appeared to in Medjugorje (in former Yugoslavia) in June 1981, and continues to get daily messages from the Holy Mother.

Marija was going to be visiting my mother-in-law's parish, St. Agnes Catholic Church, for a special ceremony, which included Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Rosary, a Mass and a message from the Virgin Mother.

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t given it much thought because, I was only thinking about it as a talk by one of the visionaries, which, while interesting enough in itself, would have meant, that instead of coming home and relaxing on Monday night, after having spent the weekend at the retreat house, where I got little sleep, it would mean having to schlep all the way out to Key Biscayne (which despite my wife's insistence that it’s close, it’s actually not!), fighting the traffic of all the other faithful that were attending, finding parking and getting home late; not exactly an ideal scenario for me (at the time).

However, my wife had been looking forward to this. She had invited all her women's group friends and was taking my kids; with or without me.

Let's just say that after hearing one of my good friends say during the weekend retreat that he often does things with his daughters, no matter how tired he is and no matter how mundane it may seem, such as letting them paint his nails or putting ribbons on his hair, because of his obligation to his family as a husband and father, how could I tell my wife, “Hey, honey, why don’t you take the kids to see the Blessed Mother? I’ll catch you when you get back.”

So, instead of vegetating in front of the TV, to watch the WS and Monday Night Football with a Stella Artois in my right hand and the remote in my left (or vice versa, depending on which part of the couch I’m sitting on) and going to bed early, as I hoped, I decided to bite the bullet and take one for the team (not exactly the best frame of mind to have, going into a spiritual experience).

However, the more I thought about it at work, the more I realized what a big deal and unique opportunity this was.

This wasn’t just a visionary talking to a crowd. Marija was actually going to talk with the Virgin during the event and was going to tell us what the Blessed Mother told her.

I mean, millions of people make pilgrimages to Lourdes, France, Fatima, Portugal, Tepeyac, Mexico (Guadalupe), and Medjugorje, among dozens of other locations, just to be in the presence of where the Mother of Jesus has appeared, sometimes centuries ago.

This was an encounter with Mary happening in our own backyard and, more importantly, it was an opportunity to experience it with my wife and kids. I started to get excited.

I left work a little early and met my wife at the field behind the church at about 5:30pm (about two and a half hours after Adoration had begun).

Despite getting very little publicity, outside of the parishioners of St. Agnes and word of mouth (which considering the setting in the school yard that couldn't have accommodated many more people than attended), it was an impressive showing of faith.

About three thousand people from all walks of life, including lay and religious. There were several orders of nuns represented, including a half dozen of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, which sat near my family and faithful of all ages, from babies to very elderly. There was even a small group from Tampa and several visitors from Latin America.

About 45 minutes into the bilingual Rosary, and as the night began to fall, Marija joined in to pray. She was praying in Italian and the rest of us responded in Spanish.

Suddenly, I felt a cool breeze and Marija went silent. Through my eyes and heart of faith, I knew Our Lady was present. We were all kneeling. There was a reverent hush in the crowd. Three thousand people on their knees praying to God and asking the Blessed Mother for her intercession. It was very powerful.

It lasted for about five to ten minutes. Afterwards, there was a brief pause in the program before Mass began.

During the Holy Mass, a young local priest gave a moving homily about his conversion and call to serve as witness, which started in Medjugorje.

The priest said that he grew up in Miami and was doing all the things that many 20-year-olds of his time were doing, including clubbing, drugs and alcohol, until he went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, and there he experience a profound conversion.

Upon his return, he began going to daily Mass, which eventually led him to realizing his call to become a priest.

After the Eucharist celebration, Marija spoke.

She told the story of how the Virgin first appeared to them, while they were children and how the Blessed Virgin instructed them to pray. She told them how prayer was the only way to change the course of history, even in our time. At one time, the six visionaries were told to pray as much as three hours a day.

Marija also passionately told the story of the loss of hope at the foot of the Cross.

All the Apostles, except for John, the youngest of the group, abandoned Jesus and went into hiding. Those few disciples that stayed until the end were sobbing uncontrollably. The man they believed to be their Messiah, their Christ and Lord, who was going to liberate Israel, had just been tortured in the most violent and humiliating way imaginable at the time and hung, dying on a cross. Darkness fell over the whole land and hope was fading with each breath He took.

Then, in Jesus' final act before taking His last breath, He turns to Mary, as she stood at the foot of the cross with the beloved disciple, John, and said, “Woman, behold your son.”

Turning to John, He said, “Behold your mother.”

And with that, Marija said, she became not only our mother, as beloved disciples ourselves, but the mother of hope. She became the hope that would carry us through the suffering and despair to Her Son.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “We receive Jesus through Mary and we return to Jesus through Mary.”

Marija says that one of the most important messages that Our Lady gives us is to pray.

It was prayer that saved Europe from being overtaken by the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto in the 16th Century, where a makeshift and inferior fleet of Christian sailors, put together by the Holy See, appeared hopeless in facing an aggressive Ottoman Empire’s main fleet, which was destroying every opponent in its path.

The fate of Christendom in Europe hung in the balance and hope was quickly diminishing. Yet, the Christian fleet, not only staved off the more powerful Muslim invaders, they soundly defeated them in a port village near Greece. The reason for their victory, Marija said, was prayer. Christians were urged to pray the Rosary before and during the battle and they fervently prayed until the battle was won.

And, Marija said, it was prayer that saved Medjugorje during the Bosnian War, where bombs were dropped but never went off. Scientist claimed that it was because the ground was too soft but Marija said that the truth is that the entire region is very rocky and credits God for sparing Medjugorje because of the prayers of the faithful.

Even in today's world, where economic and political systems are falling by the waste side, and turmoil and unrests rein throughout the world, and hopelessness and despair is growing, Marija says Our Lady urges us to pray. Pray and maybe change the course of history, if it is God’s Will.

The message of the Blessed Mother is that we turn to God, to prayer, to the Eucharist, to the Bible, and to the sacrament of Reconciliation, and through these hope will flourish, as it did on Easter Sunday and as it did in Lepanto. She said we are all called to be saints.

The visionary also said that Mary told her that she had seen us gathered there that night, had blessed us and would be praying for us. 

In her farewell to the Holy Mother, Marija said she told her as she always does, "Until we meet in paradise."

At the end of the event, which lasted over six hours (I missed the first two and a half), I went with my son, who had fallen asleep in his stroller, to get a medal blessed by the Holy Mother while my wife, girls and mother-in-law walked ahead to my mother-in-law’s condo, where we had parked.

As a man with the medals made his way towards us, I noticed that he runs out just before reaching us. Feeling a bit dejected, I was about to turn and walk away, when I saw Marija and her husband walking towards me. I quickly pulled out my Flip camera and hit the on button so I could later show my kids.

Marija waved at the scarce crowd around me, as most had left or in the process of leaving.

I hit the button to stop recording and a few seconds later, noticed that it was still rolling. So, I hit the stop button. Suddenly, I thought, did I record when I thought I was recording? I went to check the video and noticed I hadn't recorded Marija passing by me.

As I walked back to meet my family I realized, I’m sure this was just as well. This wasn’t about Marija anyway, it was about God, His messenger of hope that He gave us at the foot of the cross, and the love and faith that the thousands of people shared and left feeling in their heart…

Thursday, October 20, 2011

From Relative Obscurity to National Champs...

Two years after premiering in the Heartland Film Festival in Indiana, The Mighty Macs, is finally hitting nationwide theatres this weekend.

Billed as a true-life Cinderella story, in the mold of Rudy and Hoosiers (among my favorite movies!), the independent film is about a small town little known all-women’s Catholic school, named Immaculata College, that in 1971 was on the verge of financial despair, with no gym or respectable basketball program.

In comes Cathy Rush, a woman whose basketball playing career had been cut short due to injuries, as the new head basketball coach and the dysfunctional basketball team becomes a national powerhouse. 

During a time when most married women stayed at home, the newlywed Rush sets new boundaries and her unorthodox aggressive, driven to win and empowering style shakes up the way things are done at the college, which is run by an order of nuns.

Despite initial resistance, especially from the Mother Superior (Mother St. John), Rush is able to gain the support of a spunky nun (Sister Sunday) that serves as an assistant coach and several elderly nuns, who become the boosters for the team.

Rush’s contagious personality and leadership ignite a fire on the school and basketball team, turning a hapless and reluctant group of players into a team, despite barely squeaking into the first national women’s basketball tournament, wins it all.  Although, the movie focuses on the first year of the program under Rush, they actually win the national title for three consecutive seasons.

The movie stars Carla Gugino as Cathy Rush, Academy Award and Tony Award winner Ellen Burstyn, as Mother St. John, Marley Shelton as Sister Sunday and Bones co-star, David Boreanaz, as Rush’s husband.

As a father of two impressionable young daughters, I can tell you that this is definitely a must see film for my family.  Not to mention, after taking them to see Courageous last weekend, which by the way, is an excellent film but does have an unexpected twist that had everyone in my family crying during several scenes (except my 4-year-old son, who was upset that Mommy was crying), we need to watch an off-your-seat-cheer-at-the-screen type of feel good movie.

The Mighty Macs is Rated G.

For more on the movie, the real team and the college, see here.
Also, check out this preview:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Toddler Hit by Truck and Ignored Sheds Light on China's Moral Dilemma...

The video, which has made international news in recent days, is disturbing.

It shows the image of a two-year-old little girl walking into a busy alleyway near a marketplace in Guangzhou, China.

As the little girl is walking and looking back, a truck approaches her and, without the girl ever seeing it, plows her over.  The driver apparently notices he hit something, which is a bit incredible he could have missed her in the first place, considering she was in the middle of the road and it was a well lit area.

In any event, after going over the girl's chest with the right front wheel, and the girl is lying face up underneath the truck, instead of getting out and checking, the driver keeps going, running the girl over again with the back right wheel and leaving the scene.

The image is horrific and, as a father, I’ll admit, it broke my heart to watch. However, what happens next is just as disconcerting.

As the girl is lying there like an animal hit by a car, as many as 18 people walk or pass by her and nobody bothers to stop and help.

First a pedestrian walks by, then another, then a man on a motorcycle that looks directly at her and goes around her, then a woman with two kids on either hand, who seems to cross into the other side of the road to avoid her as well (reminiscent of the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan). It was surreal.

It gets worse, while the baby girl, whose name is Wang Yue is lying there helpless, at first eerily still, then she moves her upper body slightly, another truck approaches and runs over the girl's legs again. That driver also keeps going.

Wang Yue, who is affectionately called Yue-yue, apparently wandered away from her father’s business nearby to look for her brother.  As people keep passing by, she lays motionless in a pool of her own blood, apparently unconscious, until a 58-year-old woman, who is scavenging the garbage nearby, notices her and drags her limp body, which at that point terrifyingly looks like a rag doll, into safety before the girl's mother arrives.

It is probably one of the most heart wrenching footages I have ever seen in my 23 years of working in television news. In fact, I decided the video, caught by a surveillance camera, is too gruesome and graphic to put on this blog.

How can it be that so many passersby saw a helpless little girl hurt and bleeding, by the side of the road, and didn’t stop to help?

It is a question that is haunting the entire nation of China, as the video has gone viral and the social media has gone into overdrive with outrage.

CNN reports that Sina Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter, has generated over 4.5 million posts on the incident since it first happened last Thursday.

On the heels of this tragedy, many articles around the world have put into question China’s moral decay  and even government officials have voiced concerns about what this says about its culture.
It’s a disturbing dilemma.
It is a dilemma that many Communist societies eventually face. Let’s remember, the People’s Republic of China waged a war on God and believers, to the point where priests and clergy were buried alive and persecuted, and religion outlawed.

When there is no God, what is the measure of morality? What is the measure of right or wrong for that matter? Is it up to society to determine? How about in cases like China, which suppresses individual freedoms, is the state the sole arbiter of right and wrong and of just and unjust?

In fact, it is China’s own Ministry of Health who, in guidelines released last month, urged its citizens not to help if an elderly person fell in the street. The reasoning being that it might interfere with emergency responders.

So, we can see that the incident with Yue-yue is indicative of a greater scale malaise in Chinese society. An entire generation has lived without God or religion as moral guidance.

Moreover, in China’s one-child per family law, human life has been devalued (at least female life). Last year, The Economist wrote that over 100 million girls have been aborted, as a result of that policy (read more here).

Yet, despite continued government persecution, suppression and harassment, in which the government has even intervened in Catholic Church ecclesiastical affairs by naming their own government-approved bishops, circumventing the Pope’s authority, the country boasts one of the fastest growing Christian communities in the world.

We are all born with a God-given conscious to help us determine right from wrong and good from evil.  Christians would say, it is written in our heart.  It is why most people know without even being told that this story is an aberration.  But, if our consciouses are distorted by an overpowering ideology, such as in China, then we can see the results.

Despite the appalling and gruesome realities of this event, the Chinese have rallied for Yue-yue, who remains on life support in a coma and may have suffered permanent brain damage.

People are flooding to the hospital to show their support for her mother, a “stop the apathy” campaign has been launched over the social media, the woman who rescued her has become a national hero and millions around the world are praying for her recovery. The incident has also shed international light on the moral condition of living without God.

It’s amazing how God can bring good out of something so evil…

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Night in Jail, My Dad and God's Fatherhood...

Which way?
There I was, after spending what seemed to be an eternity in a holding cell, where another “guest” tried to get me to conspire with him to call the guard over and distract him, so that he could jump on him and we could break out, I was finally transferred into a general population cell, where most of the guys were wearing orange jump suits.

It was in the early morning hours and the men were all sleeping.

I don’t know about you, but I had watched movies about what happens in jail, and, in all honesty, despite being in my early 20’s and in one of the best shape in my life (aside from my early 30’s), I was very scared.

“When am I going to get my phone call?” I kept thinking

I sat on a picnic table, as far as possible from the bunks, where the guys in the orange jump suits were sleeping, and prayed I would get out before they would wake up.

C’mon, I was fresh meat in there. It was at a time when tank tops, aka wife beaters, were popular night club wear (at least in my circle of Hialeah friends!) and that's what I was wearing. If those guys woke up, I was toast!

I kept looking at a small window with bars about 20 feet high and could see the darkness of the night getting lighter, as the sun began to rise.  I had the biggest urge to channel Mel Gibson's William Wallace (Braveheart) inside me and yell out, “Freedom!” Only, that may have woken up the guys in the orange jump suits that I was trying desperately to avoid.

“How much longer is it going to take to get my call?” I wondered.

Then it occurred to me, “What am I going to tell my dad?”

At about six o'clock in the morning, I finally got my call.  It was probably the most difficult phone call I have ever made.

Now, as a father of three myself, I know it must have been a great disappointment for my dad. I'm sure I would cringe if I had to bail one of my kids out of jail.

Nevertheless, despite my many teenage misadventures and mistakes, for the most part, I was a good kid. I did fairly well in school. I respected and got along great with my parents and I was never in serious trouble. Yet, there I was at the Broward County Jail, calling my dad to get me out (not exactly my finest moment!).

I remember, my dad actually taking it pretty well. He asked what had happened.

I explained that I had been jumped by three guys in a bar (apparently because they didn’t like the way I looked; maybe it was the wife beater!) and was used as an ultimate fighting punching and kicking bag for several minutes until a bouncer grabbed me in a choke hold, where I could barely breathe, and tossed me out of the club.

After the smoke had cleared, I ended up being the only one arrested (which, as I think about it now, it must have been Divine intervention, since I could have been seriously hurt if I had stayed).

After I finished telling my father the story, he just said, “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

My father has always been there for me.

Whether it was bailing me out of jail, coming to change a flat tire that my friends and I got on the way home from a party, while we were in high school, or rescuing me, several years later, after my car sank in the mud, when I went to make a U-turn on the shoulder of a side street in North Miami, after a heavy thunder storm (I learned that if your car starts to skid in the mud, never hit the accelerator!), my dad never let me down.

Even today, when my car didn’t start several months ago on my way to drop off my son at school, I didn’t call AAA, I called my dad!

God the Father by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni
Last Tuesday, I was asked to speak to a group of men and women in my parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program, which is for people, who are converting to Catholicism, considering converting, or are Catholics that never received one or more of their sacraments, usually of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation or First Holy Communion).

In preparing for the discussion on the first line of the Apostle’s Creed, which states, “I believe in God the Father,” I thought about a way that I could make God’s Fatherhood more tangible for the class.

Let’s face it, God is a mystery that we will never fully understand, and while my focus was on God the Father, I had to set up the Holy Trinity because we can’t separate God; where one is, all are. I knew it could get a bit lofty if I didn’t bring it down a notch.

In fact, as I told the class, the only way to even start to grasp or, even conceive to, understand God is through the eyes of faith.

St. Augustine, a fourth century theologian and one of the greatest minds in Church history once wrote, “Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”

In other words, faith comes first and then we can begin to understand.

If you think about it, as Christians, we profess a belief in One God, yet we believe that the One God is three persons.

That’s pretty remarkable by any standard, especially in today’s skeptical and doubting world.

But, as we delve deeper into our faith and into Sacred Scripture, we begin to see how the unity in the Trinity makes perfect sense.

While I won’t get into the intricate details and specifics of my talk, I would like to share a couple of points on God's Fatherhood and how it relates to us.  

In the Gospels, Jesus reveals the fullness of God in his last command to his Apostles, when he charged them with our Christian mission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name (notice it is singular) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

God the Father by Michelangelo
God, therefore, is described by Christ, as three distinct persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who share one name.

Probably the most beautiful and profound description I have ever read on the Holy Trinity, which brings home the message of God's Fatherhood, comes from Bl. Pope John Paul II, who wrote, “God in his deepest mystery is not solitude but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of the family, which is love.”

Therefore, God is not just the love within family, but family in Himself.

If we take this a bit deeper, we can see that the truest expression of God’s love for us is reflected in the human family; where two flesh become one and then become three. What greater grace than the grace of participating in God’s creation? It’s a life-giving, self-giving love shared between a husband and wife to assist in creating a family.

Furthermore, Bl. Pope John Paul II stresses that in the human family, we experience the inner-most life of the Holy Trinity.”

Therefore, God’s Fatherhood derives from this interpersonal relationship with Himself and extends from His relationship with His Son, who tells us (His adoptive family) to call God "our" Father and, not just father, but "Abba," which is a term of endearment, like saying "Daddy."

And so, Our Father is what God is, and as such, God is life-giving, self-giving, his love is unconditional, and He nurtures us to be reflections of Him.

I gained a greater understanding and appreciation for God’s Fatherhood, the moment my first daughter was born.

Although, I wasn’t very religious at the time, for the first time, I understood, in my limited way, what it meant to love someone unconditionally; a little person that came into being as a result of the love I shared with my wife and would grow up and be molded, according to the values and teachings that I instilled in her.

That realization was a step in my spiritual growth. God used her and our second daughter to draw me closer and stir within me a yearning to know Him and a burning desire to learn my faith.

In effect, my own fatherhood served as an impetus to seek God’s Fatherhood.

As I reflect on my life, that indelible night in jail, and my dad’s benevolence through the years, I can see God’s paternal imprints in the qualities my earthly father displayed; selfless love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy.

In fact, my dad’s example helped to shape the kind of father I have grown to be. 

We live in a time, where the paternal role is being devalued and diminished by the culture. Divorce and the effort to redefine the family is corrupting the traditional father figure role of provider, protector, teacher and mentor.  Some may say it’s indicative of a larger scale attempt to lessen God’s own fatherhood, in an everyday more secularized society.

Unfortunately, we are not only removing God from the public square, but in reducing the father figure in the American home, we may, as a consequence, be deteriorating God’s role within the family.

Even so, despite this cultural tsunami that my kids will be exposed to in the coming years, I can only pray for the strength and ability to overcome the wave of mixed messages on fatherly futility and, like my dad did for me, through example, teach them, at least, to some degree about the qualities of our Eternal Father (hopefully without ever having to bail any of them from jail!)…

Monday, October 3, 2011

Catholicism on Public Television...

The ten-part documentary on the history, beauty and grandeur of Catholicism, which I have blogged about several times over the past year (see here, here, and here), is set to start airing across the country on PBS stations this week (the first two episodes in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale will air on WLRN on Wednesday at 8:00pm and 9:00pm EST).

The documentary, simply named Catholicism, was created by Archdiocese of Chicago priest and well known social media evangelist, Fr. Robert Barron, and NBC Today Show correspondent and acclaimed filmmaker, Mike Leonard, who served as the Executive Producer on the project.

Barron and Leonard assembled a team of highly experienced television and film professionals, who wanted to make the highest quality series possible, in an effort to try to capture some of the essence and splendor of the nearly two thousand-year-old Church.

The undertaking led the production crew to over 50 different locations in 16 countries around the world, including the Holy Land, France, Italy, South America, India, Uganda and much more.  

In the series’ home site, Leonard states that producing the documentary was a life-changing experience.

“This series changed the way I think and act. The global settings were stunning, but it was Fr. Barron’s brilliant insights on life’s most challenging issues that shook me to the core. Whatever your belief or background, there is much to gain from this deep and profound excursion into spirituality, logic, and the human experience."

The quality and scope of the work was enough to convince PBS, which is not exactly a bastion for Christian programming (or religious, for that matter, unless Deepak Chopra is involved), to decide to air the documentary.  And, the elaborate endeavor is getting rave reviews.

Pope John Paul II biographer, George Weigel called it, “the most important media project in the history of the Catholic Church in America… Catholicism could well become one of the most significant efforts ever to advance what Pope John Paul II called the New Evangelization.”

National Review Online Editor, Kathryn Jean Lopez, puts it this way:

You don’t have to be Catholic, want to be Catholic, or even like Catholics to go on this journey. It’s not a homily. Barron doesn’t preach at you. Perhaps wowed by the high-def wonder of it all, more than one PBS station agreed it is worth a look.

The series does not challenge just the viewer, but also the author: Barron’s producer occasionally questions him on camera.

In the midst of years of scandal and crisis headlines, what is good and beautiful about Catholicism still remains. Why? And why would you want it? The series presents answers to these questions, too.
And yet, it’s also the best sermon you’ve ever heard. The best class you’ve ever taken. Or the homily you’ve never heard and the classroom you never had available to you.
On Wednesday, the first episode takes the viewers to the Holy Land and the beginning of the Church. The second episode will focus on God and the Holy Trinity. To check your local listings, see here.

Also, check out this powerful new preview...