What is a Mortal Sin?

Do you know what really grinds my gears? Finding parish or youth group websites posting lists of mortal sins. Not only does no such list exist in the magisterial teaching of Catholic Church, it would be impossible to make one.

For starters, as I discussed in a previous video, there is no such thing as an act that always bears culpability. The act itself is important, but one must always consider the intent of the actor and the circumstances in which they acted.

On top of that, for something to be a mortal sin, it must have more than just “grave matter.” Simply being serious (or what these homemade lists believe to be serious) isn’t enough. There must also be full knowledge and complete consent on the part of the actor. If they don’t know what they’re doing or are not completely free to say no, it cannot be a mortal sin.

Again, for those sitting in the back. Just because someone has done something grave doesn’t make it a mortal sin. In fact, there are many times in which it isn’t.

So when you see a list suggesting that illegal drug use, theft, gossip, anger without justification, superstition, and pride are all mortal sins, without any reference to intent, circumstances, knowledge, or freedom, please remember what the Church actually teaches. There is no such thing as something that is always a mortal sin no matter the circumstances. There are things that consist of grave matter, yes, but that’s not the same as being sinful, and it most certainly isn’t the same as culpability.

I hope you’re all enjoying your Sunday. If you’re looking for some music to jam to, something that explores some of the biggest questions of life with a Christian heart, I’ve got a recommendation for you: Mumford and Sons.

They’re not Christian themselves (or, at least, don’t claim to be any more) but the band has a strong Christian background and you can’t deny the overwhelming influence the faith has had on their music. Just take a look at some of the names of their songs: Babel (Genesis), Rose of Sharon (Song of Songs), Thistle and Weeds (parable in the Gospels), Roll Away Your Stone (Lazarus, Jesus), Broken Crown (of Christ), Timshel (literally “thou mayest” in Hebrew), The Cave (reference to St. Francis of Assisi), Believe, Awake My Soul, Lover of the Light. Even in songs that are not specifically about the Bible or faith, their way of expression is the language of faith (Babel is about putting on false selves and failing to communicate, a call to take off the mask and tear down the wall. What better way to capture this situation than to invoke the tower of babel?)

When I listen to their music, what I hear is a band that once knew faith quite well, that was excited for the mission of Christ. And then the world happened. And then doubt crept in. (And then being labeled “a Christian band” and being associated with the Christian Music Industry would have killed their success.) So they say publicly that they are people of that don’t consider themselves a part of the Church. Who am I to judge, but I still think they have Christian hearts influencing everything they do. Just because you hit a patch of doubt and go on a wayward journey doesn’t make you no longer a Christian.

No matter what they say, I think they’re furthering the mission of Christ. Subtly, they are opening the door for people who would never come to Church to engage with topics like faith and doubt, sin and grace, shame and redemption, hope and despair. You don’t need to use the name Christ for the mission to grow, and I think they’re doing just that: helping it grow.

Click here to listen

Some movies defy explanation. So against the mainstream, you wonder how it was pushed through production, let alone loved by fanatics. They are, simply put, cult films. This week, Br. Tito and I discuss this strange subgenre of filmmaking and discuss why certain films attract such a devoted audience.

 

Are Marian Apparitions Real?

It is not an uncommon experience for me to get a message from someone asking about the prophecy of Mary or some saint. Generally, they’re terrifying. Mary is nothing like the docile, “do unto me according to your will” mother that we find in the Bible, but is much more a tyrant usurping her son’s throne to inflict some harm.

It’s easy for most of us to dismiss these things as fabrications or the work of the paranoid, but how do we respond to these things? Surely, there must be an objective way to evaluate such apparitions for some semblance of authenticity.

In fact, there is! In this week’s Catholicism in Focus, I look at the Church’s standards to evaluating miraculous encounters and what they mean for us.

You Are a Temple of the Lord

Today’s video is my homily for the 3rd Sunday in Easter. The readings can be found here.

Once again, I find myself a bit behind posting videos to the blog. Here is a video I posted on Friday:

Responding to Myths About the Catholic Church

It was not uncommon for us to have oral exams in seminary. As one professor put it, “When you get a question from a parishioner, you don’t have time to do research and write a 10 page paper. We need to make sure that you can think on your feet and give accurate, succinct answers.” Can’t argue with that logic, and it’s amazing that every class didn’t require them.

Honestly, I think it’s probably good advice for all Catholics. Our faith is never tested on predetermined dates after a week of cramming. People will ask us questions when they have them, not when it is most convenient. Especially when living in places where we are the minority, where questions are more accusatory than anything else, we need to be able to give accurate, succinct answers.

In this video, I look at 15 common misunderstanding that people have about the Catholic Church, and give an answer in 100 words or less.

Believe it or not, this was one a controversial question. Today, many “mixed marriages” take place every year, joining together people of different faiths into one. While it may seem commonplace and routine today, this is only because of major shifts in the Church’s approach to ecumenism, leading to a reform of the liturgy.

If you’re preparing for your own wedding today, the USCCB has some great resources for you to use.

 

Last year, the big question I got everywhere I went was, “What’s next? Where are you going to be assigned?” I must have answered “I don’t know” 1000 times over the course of a year, waiting myself to hear my fate. How great it was when I finally heard that I would be going to the University of Georgia, that I would end my continuous journey of changing houses every year! At last, I could settle in a bit and get to know my surroundings…

Sike!

Today, I find myself in the same position as before, only this time with less to go on. Whereas I was the only piece moving a year ago, right now I am but one of 250 friars awaiting word about their future. You see, every three years, technically speaking, our assignment dissolve and we must be reassigned for another three years. Practically speaking, the majority of people stay where they are, and so there isn’t much fanfare. But they still need to get confirmation. With the spread of a pandemic postponing our chapter, this decision is also getting postponed.

So, what’s next? I’m not sure. And believe it or not, I’m okay with that right now.

5 Must-See Catholic Movies

With many of us stuck at home, we’re all watching more television and movies than we’re used to. If you’re like most of the country, you’ve stuck with things that are familiar and comfortable, and that might have been great at first. But now, what about something a bit more substantial? What about a few movies about faith?

In this video, I recommend five movies that all Catholics must see. They are extraordinary movies that have affected my faith along the way.

But there are obviously plenty of other great movies, even if they don’t fit into the category of “must see.” Here are a few honorable mentions:

Silence The number one movie left in the comments as something I forgot. Folks, I didn’t “forget it.” I simply recognized that it is not a movie for everyone. Based on the true story of the Jesuit missionaries who were tortured in Japan, the movie is profound, well-crafted, and entirely too much for many to handle. It is long and violent, and while I think the book is an incredible work of art, I can’t exactly recommend the movie to everyone. If you can handle an extremely heavy movie, have at it. It’s one of the best.

St. Vincent Melissa McCarthy and Bill Murray aren’t exactly the dynamic duo I would pick for a Catholic film, but this isn’t exactly a normal Catholic film either. A story about finding saints among the sinners, Murray’s character is rough around the edges but has a heart that changes a young boy’s life (who in turn, changes his). While not entirely family friendly, it is a heartwarming story about second chances and the goodness in people we least expect.

Beyond the Gates (Shooting Dogs) Ready for a gut-wrenching film that will haunt you? Probably not. This movie is based on the true story of a Catholic school’s effort to protect its people in the midst of the Rwandan genocide. It is a story of solidarity, sacrifice, and the precious nature of all life.

Romero I’ve heard that this is not the most accurate of movies, but really, what “based on a true story” movie is? A biopic of the now St. Oscar Romero, the film captures the late cardinal’s involvement in the Salvadorian civil war, calling for peace and ultimately giving his life. One of my favorite saints.

The Two Popes Like Romero, it is hardly a work of pure non-fiction. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. Br. Tito and I discussed this a few months ago on our podcast, so I decided to leave it off the list.

Entertaining Angels And finally, an ode to one of my favorite non-saints, Dorothy Day. By no means the work of a major production company, it’s not going to win any prominent awards, but it tells the story of someone everyone should know about. Although I’m not a huge fan of Moira Kelly, it stars Martin Sheen and is written by John Wells, so for those who love The West Wing, it’s a great preview of what’s to come.

Bible Overview: What is it all about?

As most people know, the Bible is less of a book than it is a library. Consisting of dozens of books from different authors written at different times for different purposes, it is hardly a cohesive work. Add this to the fact that the final editors decided to group the books together thematically rather than chronologically, and there is no way to keep everything straight.

Which is why, a) reading from Genesis through Revelation is such a difficult task and many people give up along the way, and more importantly, b) most people have no idea how the stories all fit together. Especially for Catholics, who tend to get most of their Scripture from the Lectionary of Mass (and do little reading at home…) there is a disjointed nature to it all. We have all of the stories, yes, but we have no chronology. No narrative. No overarching story holding everything in place.

In this Catholicism In Focus, I hope to demystify the Bible and make it more approachable. When you have the general structure and know where it’s going (think, reading the Cliffnotes), all of the details become easier to understand. The Bible may not be a cohesive work, but the story of salvation is definitely clear.

Jesus is with you, waiting for you to see

Today’s video is my homily for the 3rd Sunday in Easter. The readings can be found here.

Also, I’m not sure how I missed it, but I apparently never posted the other two videos from this week. If you haven’t seen them already, looks like you have quite a full Sunday ahead of you!