Most of you are probably well aware of this, but there are Christians in the world that hate Catholics. They don’t just disagree with our teachings, they do not think that we are Christians, and believe that we are nothing liars and deceivers.

Oh, and they’ve got the “scriptural evidence to back it up.” Because, you know, we don’t read the Bible and have no idea what’s in it.

One of the most common attacks we hear comes in regards to most famous title for a Christian leader: “father.” According to them, it is against the teaching of Jesus. Quoting Matthew 23, they point out that Jesus said “call no one father,” evidence that Catholics don’t care about Jesus’ teaching.

Of course, the Bible is absolutely central to our faith as Catholics. We would never disobey Jesus is such a blatant way. There must be more to the story than what appears on face value!

Hence, this week’s episode of Catholicism in Focus. Enjoy!

If you’ve followed Catholic news much over the past year, you know that there has been a lot of attention give to the Amazon region. Pope Francis convened a synod to explore the needs of the people and what the Church should do in response.

On most people’s minds, there was only one question that mattered: will the pope allow married men to be ordained priests in a region that desperately needs sacramental ministers? This is what the news covered almost entirely, and so for many people, it was seemingly the only issue at hand.

Thus, when Pope Francis remained silent on the issue, many moved on without giving much attention to the post-synodal document. This is a shame, to say the least.

In this week’s Catholicism In Focus, I unpack what the pope actually did say, and why it matters to us. It is a short document (relatively speaking) and so I strongly encourage everyone to read through it yourself. You can find it in its entirety here.

For the past 10 days or so, I have been on the road, visiting Texas A&M University to give a talk, meeting with the friars under five years solemnly professed in St. Petersburg, FL, and attending the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in California. It’s been a bit of a run… and as a result, it appears that I have forgotten to share a few videos with you!

Last Friday I announced a Lenten Series based on my book Let Go. Each Friday I’ll offer a reflection on something that I feel we as Christians need to let go of. Here’s the trailer:

On Monday, I released Catholicism in Focus video about the Rite of Penance. As the lenten season is a popular time to go to confession, I thought it was a good idea to explain what exactly it is that we go to do (or, at least, what we should go to do!) Here’s that video:

And finally, hot off the press today, is a video I recorded while at LA REC last week, in which I asked many of the spiritual leaders present to answer a simple question: What should people ‘Let Go’ of this Lent. Their responses were diverse and wise:

 

It is a very strange situation to be in: you’re standing outside of mass greeting people as they arrive, and someone walks in drinking coffee or finishing some food. It’s rare, but it happens. Far more common is chewing gum while walking into mass, something that I see on a regular basis.

These things, to be clear, are not allowed.

While the Church does not require heavy fasting today like it did for centuries, the Tradition has not changed: fasting is required prior to receiving communion. As with the rule of fasting on Fridays, the Church of the 20th century realized that certain age-old rules were irrelevant or burdensome to some, and so looked to the people of God to act as mature adults and choose for themselves what seemed most appropriate. In the case of fasting on Fridays as well as fasting before mass, this effectively meant that most people abandoned the rule completely.

The Church wanted to make the fast clearer and easier, not nonexistent. There is still a required fast prior to receiving communion. The 1983 code of canon law states three directives:

  • §1. A person who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from any food and drink, except for only water and medicine.
  • §2. A priest who celebrates the Most Holy Eucharist two or three times on the same day can take something before the second or third celebration even if there is less than one hour between them.
  • §3. The elderly, the infirm, and those who care for them can receive the Most Holy Eucharist even if they have eaten something within the preceding hour.

How did we get here, and why does it matter? All of this is answered in this week’s Catholicism in Focus.

Could there be any more important story in the whole Old Testament than the Israelite exodus from Egypt? In it, God rescues his people through his miraculous power; the people are give faith and God establishes a covenant with them; he fulfills his promise from long ago, showing his immense fidelity. All throughout the Old Testament, in almost every book, we hear the biblical writer saying, “Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt.” It is the foundational event that gives meaning to everything else that happens.

And yet… there are many who wonder whether it ever even happened.

As is the case with all ancient stories, our modern world is concerned with one thing, and one thing only: the facts. Who, what, where, when, and why? No embellishment. No commentary. No opinion. What actually happened? It is a mindset that is particularly helpful in crime solving, but ill-suited for theological reflection.

In this week’s Catholicism In Focus, I suggest that there are two extreme approaches to reading Scripture that we want to avoid: the strictly literalist, that takes every word at face value and does not consider science, history, or reason, and the strictly mythological, that focuses solely on the meaning of the story with no regard for historical evidence. Both of these approaches are prominent in our world, and both of them are seriously flawed.

Instead, what we must do is recognize that what makes the Bible the Word of God is not that it is a dictation of God from heaven, word-for-word how it happened, but rather a theological reflection on lived experiences people had of God. The focus is absolutely on the “truth” of the events, but without any “facts”—without an actual event to reflect on—there can be no truth.