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Brittany Maynard: Death with Dignity’s New Face

Advocates of euthanasia, or “Death with Dignity,” say their cause is all about reducing the suffering of a sick person and their family. They argue that by allowing patients to die “on their own terms,” euthanasia eliminates the suffering of all involved. Wesley Smith disagrees. A true dignified death can be realized by eliminating the suffering, not the sufferer.

Kresta in the Afternoon – February 26, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on February 26, 2015

4:00 – Why the Vast Majority of Priests Want a Celibate Priesthood

Every once in awhile, someone will argue that the priest sex abuse scandal is rooted in a priest’s celibate life. They claim that if a priest were allowed to marry there would be nor problems. Fr. John Riccardo has spoken on this before and is with us to discuss why priests really want a celibate priesthood.

 4:20-Developing a Personal Encounter with Christ

Deacon Steve Mitchell, the National Director of the Catholic branch of the Alpha program, joins us along with Fr. John Riccardo. They will discuss the Alpha program, which is designed to bring our faith alive and develop a personal relationship with Jesus.

4:40 –Another American Sniper: A Catholic who Kills for a Living

Jack Coughlin served as a sniper in the US Marine Corps and has more than 60 confirmed kills. He’s also a Catholic who has made peace with his past and doesn’t believe his career is a cause for penance. We speak with Jack about his life as a Catholic sniper.

5:00 – American Sniper: What does it take to get an Insanity Ruling?

Eddie Ray Routh has been convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield and has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Routh’s attorneys argued that he was insane at the time, citing his multiple stays in mental hospitals and diagnosis of schizophrenia in the two years prior to the shooting. Routh’s insanity plea was rejected; what does it take to get an insanity ruling in the courts? Maureen

5:20 – Greece in Financial Crisis: How does it Affect the International Markets?

Greece’s debt problems have reached epic proportions. At the last minute, the country worked out a deal with Germany and other creditors to extend a bailout of 172 billion Euros for the next four months. We ask George Schwartz about the ramifications of Greece’s problems.

5:40 – Kresta Comments: Jihadi John, Medicare and Immigrants

Jihadi John, the ISIS executioner who killed James Foley, Steve Sotloff, Peter Kassig and others in videos released since the summer, has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi. Emwazi is a Kuwait-born British man who grew up in London and graduated from the University of Westminster. Al has thoughts on the significance of knowing more about this murderer. During this segment, we also follow up on a call from yesterday that discussed the health care benefits given to immigrants in the US.

How I Pray: Al Kresta


al_kresta-125x130Read more entries in the How I Pray series.

Who are you?

Hmm, is that a trick question? Didn’t John Paul II say something like we are a riddle even to ourselves? You don’t want anything that grand or mysterious? Okay. Good. Here goes: I’m a Catholic disciple of Christ still learning about grace and mercy, a husband and father still learning to be a faithful lover, a missionary still trying to communicate the Faith to a troubled generation, an American citizen who believes we best bless the nation, if we first build the Church. I’m a baby boomer who remains a traitor to his own generation. Give me World Youth Day and not Woodstock as the sign of the age to come.

Professionally, I’m president and CEO of Ave Maria Communications and host of “Kresta in the Afternoon” a two hour daily talk program that strives to hold conversations of consequence. We are distributed to around 250 stations through the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.

What is your vocation?

To be conformed to Christ like all the baptized. I was called to marriage, to form a domestic church and to raise children to become disciples of Christ. My particular calling, however, goes back to 1974, while I sat toggling between praying and reading in the Michigan State University Student Union. A settled, deep, peaceful sensation rested on me and I knew as certainly as though I had received a telegram that I was called to spend the rest of my life “disseminating the truth of the Christian faith.” At that very moment, both C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Pope John XXIII’s Journal of a Soul were laying on my lap. I was a lapsed Catholic, a stereotypic casualty of the 1960s. But the Truth witnessed to in those books had filled me with such joy, enthusiasm and purpose that I couldn’t imagine not sharing it with people, who like me, needed to know the reality witnessed to in those books.

I was equally certain that I was called to marry a woman who would share a strong sense of Christian mission. Sally Morris did and, yes, she had many other attractions. We married in 1977. Somebody told us to craft a family mission statement. So we did. The aim of our family would be “to demonstrate the existence of the Infinite, Personal, Triune God and the truth of the gospel by living lives of prayer, activism, love and truthtelling.” It sounds a little presumptuous for a 26 and 22 year old who had been Christians for roughly two years. The truth is, we often did it poorly, and sometimes, through tears. Thirty eight years later, however, we are still at it and, by God’s grace, that tattered mission statement is still posted on our refrigerator door.

For the first ten years after graduation, my principal way of disseminating the faith was managing Christian bookstores. In late 1986, an independent charismatic congregation called me to serve as its pastor. Around that same time, I was asked to put together a talk radio format that would apply the Christian faith to current events, marriage and family issues, the arts and sciences, pop culture and media, politics and law. Five years later, when I resigned my pastorate to return to the Catholic Church, radio became full time. I never imagined that nearly thirty years later, people who knew me would largely associate me with radio.

What is your prayer routine for an average day?

Talking about my personal prayer life makes me anxious for two reasons. First, Jesus told us to beware of practicing our piety before men in order to be seen by them. I know lapsed Catholics who stay away because they can’t measure up to some high standard of piety they imagine their Catholic friends actually practice. Someone I love is dead, in part, because of his mistaken notion that he had to get his spiritual life together before he returned to Christ and His Church.

Second, my prayer life is not very impressive and I’d rather not trumpet it and have people think less of me for having disclosed my deficit. On the other hand, you can’t be tempted to play the spiritual peacock when your feathers are few and lack any radiance. Okay. So now, let me tell you about my prayer life.

First of all, Sally and I, as temporarily professed lay Dominicans, pledge to pray the divine office daily. She does. I don’t…at least not consistently. Yes, it really bothers me that I fail to fulfill a pledge. All the saints are clear that a rule, a routine of prayer is essential to spiritual growth. It not only enhances your conversation with God, it gives you mastery over your impulses and distractions. One can’t be a serious Christian without praying as consistently as one eats and sleeps. Then again, I’m not that consistent an eater or sleeper either.

I do pray throughout the day but not on a strict schedule. Morning Prayer often gets me started while I shave and Compline/Night Prayer is not unknown at day’s end. But throughout the day, I usually settle for prayer that runs like a repetitive bass pattern underneath a twelve bar blues rolling through the back of my mind. It is a fairly constant, inarticulate conversation filled with grunts, sighs, humphs and wows.

While poring over news stories, answering listener email, considering policy changes, this droning prayer routinely surfaces and then recedes again. Years ago, Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God first introduced me to St. Paul’s words: “Whether we eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” Even stuffing our face has a divine purpose. In time, Brother Lawrence’s discipline became part of my operating system.

He best describes it: “A little lifting up of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, an interior act of adoration, even though made on the march and with sword in hand, are prayers which, short though they may be, are nevertheless very pleasing to God, and far from making a soldier lose his courage on the most dangerous occasions, bolster it. Let him then think of God as much as possible so that he will gradually become accustomed to this little but holy exercise; no one will notice it and nothing is easier than to repeat often during the day these little acts of interior adoration.”

We try to start all staff meetings with a short prayer. Going to Mass every day is something I intend but haven’t made regular. For two months, I might make it but once my engine is racing, I find it difficult to disengage and sit still even for a speedy thirty minute liturgy. That’s not an excuse, just a description. Other friends and co-workers handle it beautifully. So I’m convinced I will– just not today.

How well do you achieve it, and how do you handle the moments when you don’t?

I often fall. The only real failure, however, is to not get up. I simply try again. Our Heavenly Father takes pleasure in our efforts. Just like I delight in my children and grandchildren as they flop and drop time and again learning to walk, he finds us amusing.

In 2003, I was hospitalized for ten weeks. I didn’t want to waste a moment of suffering but rather offer it up. Pinned to a bed, I had daily Eucharist. Sally visited with a consistent Liturgy of the Hours and an extraordinary Litany of Suffering. Yet “offering it up” wasn’t going very well. My best friend handed me Dom Hubert von Zeller’s soon to be republished, The Mystery of Suffering. Von Zeller showed that what St. Catherine of Siena said about prayer can be applied equally to suffering: “’God does not ask for a perfect work, but for infinite desire.’ So long as the soul wants… to move in a God-ward direction there is nothing to worry about. Imperfections in endurance, like distractions in prayer, are…inescapable in our fallen human state …[T]he substantial element in pain bearing as in praying, is the will to love God.” God’s mercy promises that our prayers will not be valued according to their distractions but by our intentions.

Do you have a devotion that is particularly important to you or effective?

That question asks someone to open the tabernacle of his heart and reveal what keeps it beating. It’s pretty intimate and it certainly trumps asking a person to name his favorite band or movie. So I need to work up to answering it.

Let me start by petting a peeve: devotional pile-ons. Show me some spiritual he-man who claims to go to daily Mass, weekly confession, noonday Angelus as well as perform daily Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Liturgy of the Hours, a list of Litanies and Invocations covering everything from the Crown of the Twelve Stars to a Happy Death and then novenas related to the Miraculous Medal, Immaculate Heart, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Pompeii and, not to mention, all the devotions to dozens of saints and blesseds—and I’ll show you a saint ready to ascend to heaven without passing purgatory or a pathological liar whose children, wife and co-workers need to be consulted to really learn what he is like.

When you lead an apostolate you learn to beware of “mission creep”, i.e., the multiplication of good things to do to the detriment of the one thing God has called you to do. Similarly, all Catholics must beware of “devotion creep” i.e., multiplying our devotional exercises because we can’t possibly say, “No” to St. Drogo of the Ugly, St. Brendan the Navigator, Blessed Diana D’Andalo, Blessed Osanna of Mantua, ad infinitum. And what devotional dunce dares to neglect Our Lady of Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, Perpetual Help, Sorrows, the Lake, Undoer of Knots, Good Counsel, Mount Carmel, etc. Not to mention missing this prayer meeting or that healing Mass and obsessively avoiding sacrilege by not tossing your saint cards into that drawer with the discarded eyeglasses, used theater tickets and dirty handkerchiefs. Enough already! Laity are in the world, not the cloister. I’m a father of five, grandfather of eleven, and clearly no monk. The genius of Catholicism is that it has a devotion for everyone; it doesn’t prescribe every devotion to anyone.

So what do I actually do instead of complaining about devotional posers? My formal devotions are pruned back to keep them simple and sparse, few and focused and with one ultimate aim: “Make my life a prayer to You, I want to do what You want me to. No empty words, no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise.”… I want to be what you formed me to be.

To that end, Eucharistic Adoration remains my top devotion. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic life. Why shouldn’t it occupy the same place in my devotional life? St. Paul said “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”. In Eucharistic Adoration, Christ is present to us as truly as he was to Sts. Peter and Matthew in the first century. Where can I best consult with Jesus? Outside of Mass, it is Eucharistic Adoration. Where can I go to find the peace that passes all understanding? Eucharistic Adoration. Where can I throw all my burdens and parcels of anxiety, resentment, lust and thwarted ambition down at the foot of the cross? Eucharistic Adoration. Where can I hold a sick child, broken relationship, or fear of death up to be bathed in eternal light? Eucharistic Adoration. Sometimes I just sit there and look at Jesus and he looks at me. Other times I pray extemporaneously pouring out my concerns. Other times I use Paul Thigpen’s and Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s collections of prayers for Eucharistic Adoration. For reading, I use the Gospels and Fr. Groeschel’s In the Presence of the Lord; The History, Theology, and Psychology of Eucharistic Devotion.

At home, Sally makes it easy by keeping our family altar adorned with icons, saint cards, statues, plants and symbols drawn from the current liturgical season or feast day. This environment cues us for prayer even as we are arguing over who lost the remote. All this looks so ideal in print. In real life, however, it is often done spottily. We keep a prayer list on the refrigerator but some requests stay up there months and half the time I’m not sure how often anyone is even praying for the poor soul.

A few times a year, Sally and I pray novenas around some particular need. We daily pray for the souls in purgatory and for the usual church, family, national, and world concerns, including the poor and persecuted.

The story of our life together would be incomprehensible without a string of key answered prayers. We enlist the prayers of our children when momentous family decisions need to be made or when tragedy or joy have visited us. We’ve prayed over our children while they sleep, not nightly, but occasionally. We have prayed together and alone on the street, in grocery stores, abortion clinics, automobiles, libraries, doctors’ offices, monasteries, beaches, ferris wheels, trains, planes and cruise ships. Our children may have been occasionally embarrassed but were never surprised for us to stop and just pray, sometimes for very unconventional reasons in unconventional settings.

I once believed that all prayers should be extemporaneous. Then I met the rich, beautiful eloquent Prayers and Thanksgivings from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Why rely on my earnest but clumsy and impoverished spontaneous prayers when I had something so much better? I still use them along with a personal collection of Catholic prayers arranged by intention.

Do you have a place, habit or way of praying?

Before I lost my leg to necrotizing fasciitis in 2003, I loved walking and praying. I loved kneeling. My first book was titled Why Do Catholics Genuflect? After my amputation, my editor suggested we call the sequel How Does This Catholic Genuflect? Well, he doesn’t. My postures are limited.

St. Dominic, however, lists nine ways of prayer. Lying prostrate on the ground, standing in a cruciform position, praying with hands lifted high and others. I sometimes raise my hands in supplication or lie prostrate on my bed. If alone, I might even sing my prayers. Solitude is a must for I have no right to impose penitential practices on the ears of others.

When people ask me what is the best posture for prayer I compare it to the question of what bible translation is best. The question is “Best for what?” If you are just starting to read then the best translation quite simply is the one you will actually read and not just sit on a shelf collecting dust.

The same holds true for prayer postures. What enables you to keep praying? Pray wherever you are comfortable. The same principle holds for duration of prayer. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Remember, after three years of being mentored by Jesus himself, Peter, James and John, his closest friends, couldn’t even watch and pray for one hour with the Master.

If you can spend seven minutes, do it. Use a timer if necessary. Work up to longer periods. Do I pray while driving? Not after I drove past my exit a dozen times. BTW, is praying while driving similar to texting while driving?

I am not a purist and gladly mix praying and reading. At work, I pray as I read the newspapers and magazines. I pray for insight, for the people in the story and the problem described in the articles.

Pray the Scripture you’re reading. It’s a time-honored discipline called “lectio divina.” I also “festoon” my prayers: E.g., “Our Father- who loves us more than we love ourselves, who asks us to embrace all types of human beings in the word Our- who art in heaven- the place of perfection, where tears have ceased- hallowed by thy name- that name which is above all names, that name which was revealed to Moses, that name which drove demons away, that name which is the way, the truth and the life and so forth.” I find it easier to pray for longer periods of time this way. It also keeps my mind from wandering.

Do you use any tools or sacramentals?

I use Surgeworks’ Divine Office on my Iphone. Near my desk, I also keep a gripping icon of St. Paul given to me by my friend, Steve Ray. He knew my confirmation name is Paul. I don’t think he knew it was, sadly, chosen for Paul McCartney when I was 13, long before I ever had an inkling of a missionary vocation. I try to make sure St. Paul is either looking over my shoulder or staring me in the face as I work at my desk at home.

Retreats are also important. I try to spend four days a year at the Abbey of Gethsemani just south of Bardstown, Kentucky. But it ends up being every two or three years. Sometime in the next two years, I hope to go on pilgrimage to the key sites of St. Paul’s missionary journeys.

What is your relationship with the Rosary?

We are friends but see each other infrequently. I prayed the Rosary quite a bit as a young boy. Less so at the moment, proving that the perfect can be the enemy of the good. For me, meditating on the mysteries requires a free mind. I need unstructured time to do this. I rarely get it. Because doing double-time around the Rosary is so subjectively unsatisfying I avoid it.

Are there any books or spiritual works that are important in your devotional life?

As a young evangelical Protestant I was smitten by A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. Later I came to love Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray, Courage to Pray, God and Man. C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer contains honest advice on prayer

Today I find myself praying the psalms rather than reading books on prayer. Thomas Merton has a small booklet that helps to pray the psalms. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms tries to deal with the different types of psalms. Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke showed me that the Psalms are not a disparate collection of random songs, prayers and reflections from ancient Israel. The psalms can be categorized according to intent. There are psalms of lament as well as thanksgiving and confession. Liturgical psalms were used in the Temple or royal enthronement ceremonies. These different psalms possess distinct textures and purposes. They are not a large, lumpy mass of ancient Hebrew pieties. Understanding this, I can make them my own.

What is your most recent spiritual or devotional reading?

I’ve been reading Aquinas at Prayer: The Bible, Mysticism and Poetry by Paul Murray, O.P. It is unusual for me to read such an academically oriented book on prayer. Murray told me how Thomas’ prayer effected his appetite for learning.

When I find a spiritual or devotional book that hooks me, I read and re-read it rather than finding something novel. The test of a good book on prayer is that you close it and start praying. Try Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer. Dallas Willard’s Hearing God, Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart, Dan Burke’s Navigating the Interior Life. His Avila Institute offers outstanding daily reflections at http://rcspiritualdirection.com/.

For years I shied away from the great mystics like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Catherine of Sienna, or teachers like Francis de Sales. They charted the spiritual landscape with its hills and valleys using vocabulary that seemed, at times, contradictory. I wasn’t confident I could follow it. Ralph Martin’s the Fulfillment of All Desire is a patient, workmanlike study that provides all the correspondences and linkages between these teachers. It inspires as it informs.

As an evangelical Protestant I was immersed in the letters of St. Paul. Catholic spirituality, however, privileges the Gospels so I’m spending more time there. If Benedict XVI was writing copy for Cheerios’ boxes, I’d have a big yellow box with me during prayer. I love his search for the face of the Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. What a unique blend of critical scholarship, devotional ruminations and encounter with Christ. Nothing is quite like it. If you don’t connect with it try Romano Guardini’s The Lord (loved by Popes Benedict XVI and Francis) and Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ which is a masterpiece of popular writing while never losing spiritual depth. His most enduring book.

Are there saints or other figures who inspire your prayer life or act as patrons?

St. John Paul II was a once in a century pope. But he didn’t come alive for me as a friend and encourager until his death. Then, strangely, his life was available to me at a level I hadn’t before accessed. Both he and Blessed John Henry Newman are primary patrons along with Thomas Aquinas, St. Paul and Albert the Great.

Thomas Merton is not a patron. He is, however, like an older brother who gave me some very good things and then got into some trouble later in life because of his restlessness and chronic discontent. When he’s good, he’s very, very good. But when he’s bad, he’s awful. His writings between 1948-58 are outstanding. Try Life and Holiness, the Living Bread or Thoughts in Solitude. Beginning with Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander in 1966 he becomes increasingly unreliable. I still love him like a brother but wouldn’t co-sign a loan with him, spiritually speaking. Pray for his soul. He did much good for the Church.

Have you had any unusual or even miraculous experiences as a result of your prayer life?

Yes. As I said above, our life together would be inexplicable if prayers weren’t answered. Pascal said that in prayer God grants us the dignity of supernatural causation. In short, “Prayer works.” As of December 5th, I’ve had a prayer of twenty five years answered in a startling way. While it would not pass muster with the medical board at Lourdes, the events in question are miraculous when seen as part of a long story of divine guidance stretching back through a good part of my adult life.

I would like to see  Dr. Ray Guarendi and Dr. Gregory Popcak answer these questions.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, two things. First, prayer should be as enjoyable as play. Prayer should be as rewarding as conversation with your best friend. So if you are not enjoying prayer recognize that something is wrong. If I told you that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t enjoy football, you wouldn’t say, “He just needs to toughen up and force himself to play.” No, you would think something had gone wrong in his soul. Here is a man who looks like he was created to play. We are created for intimacy with God. So when we don’t want intimacy something is wrong. Relax. Ask why. Perhaps you are hiding a sin. But you really hide nothing from God. Confess it and take joy in his mercy. More likely, you are probably laboring under distorted impressions about God. Maybe you feel he’s like a banker. He gives you only what you put in. So if you don’t pray much, you don’t deserve to enjoy him very much. Nonsense. His mercy endures forever. His love is overflowing. Take advantage of the fact that he knows you but still loves you more than you love yourself. Maybe you see him as a policeman just waiting to bust you. No wonder you want to avoid him. Maybe you see him as an employer, a stern taskmaster who threatens to fire you if he doesn’t get his money’s worth. He isn’t like that.

He is more like what we experience in spontaneous acts of giving thanks. Sacramentally, that is Eucharist, the grace of thanksgiving. When we give thanks from the heart, we taste not only our joy with Him but his joy with us, his good creation. God made us to be motivated through delight. He’s not above even bribing us with promises that at his right hand are pleasures forevermore. So if you are not enjoying time with him, you simply misunderstand him. Don’t stop seeking the pearl of great price.

Second, our prayer, devotions and spiritual reading should be in a style or mode appropriate to ourselves. One reason we don’t enjoy prayer or devotions is that we are like David trying to wear Saul’s armor. He needed his tools, not Saul’s. Our prayer, devotion and spiritual reading should be suited to our distinct mix of emotion, intellect, history, state of life and aspirations for the future. People who find St. John of the Cross dense and unhelpful or who admit that St. John Paul II is baffling are not spiritual pygmies. They simply need a devotional guide whose voice they recognize and understand. By the same token, those who find many popular books on prayer insipid, repetitive and banal are not spiritual snobs or eggheads. Their hearts are aflame when reading John of the Cross rather than when mouthing a praise and worship ditty. Let each person stand or fall to his own Master because “soon and very soon we are going to see the King” and we’ll see Him, the ultimate object of all our desires, face to face.

Student arrested after re-enacting ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ scene

Via USAToday.com

635603657616151926-Screen-Shot-2015-02-24-at-9.09.11-AMA University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) student was charged on Monday with aggravated criminal sexual assault after allegedly re-enacting scenes from Fifty Shades of Grey, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Mohammad Hossain, freshman studying liberal arts and sciences at UIC, committed the crime on Saturday, Feb. 21, after bringing a 19-year-old female, also a UIC student, to his dorm room.

The two had previously been intimate, said Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Karr.

Prosecutors said Hossain bound the female’s hands and legs, covered her mouth with a necktie and repeatedly hit her with a belt. Authorities said Houssain then began punching the victim and sexually assaulted her, ignoring her cries asking him to stop.

Houssain allegedly told authorities that he was reenacting scenes from Fifty Shades of Grey.

Hossain’s roommate arrived at the dorm after the crime. Prosecutors said Hossain blocked the door, preventing his roommate from entering.

The victim contacted the police after she left Hossain’s dorm, according to prosecutors.

Hossain posted a Facebook status nearly an hour after the crime was committed stating, “I’m finally satisfied.”

Hossain was charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault and Cook County Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. set a $500,000 bail.

Authorities said Hossain has participated in several leadership programs at UIC and was a member of UIC Student Alumni Ambassadors and the triathlon team.

Suzaine Suba and Kevin Pham, both former high school classmates of Hossain, say they were caught off guard when they learned Hossain was charged with a crime. Suba says Hossain was a good person and was active at school.

“I remember the time when Hossain told me his experience with being bullied in school…he was just one of those individuals who struggled to fit into society,” says Suba. “I’m still trying to understand why he did what he did.”

Pham says Hossain was always eager in obtaining knowledge to expand his mind. However, he says, “Hossain was very pessimistic and would always put himself at the bottom of a totem pole.”

Kresta in the Afternoon – February 24th, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on February 24, 2015

4:00 – Kresta Comments

In this special hour-long commentary, Al gives his thoughts on a variety of questions and topics. Are secularists a societal liability? Would politicians hire a campaign manager who supported their opponent? Are Christians to blame for the war on Christianity? How does the LA Times decide the news? Is there too much prayer in politics? We’ll also look into yet another report of ISIS violence, this time concerning the kidnapping of dozens of Syrian Christians.

 5:00 – Kresta Comments: And So it Begins: The Aftereffect of 50 Shades 

We won’t say we told you so. A 19-year-old student at the University of Illinois-Chicago accused of sexually assaulting a female classmate says he was reenacting 50 Shades of Grey. According to police reports, Mohammad Hossain went to his dorm with an unnamed 19-year old woman. He removed her clothes down to her underwear, bound her hands and legs, put a cap over her eyes and stuffed a necktie into her mouth. He began to strike her with a belt and she pleaded for him to stop. The woman worked her hands free and Hossain held her arms back and sexually assaulted her. Hossain later said on Facebook that he was “finally satisfied.” Al has some comments.

5:20 – Born into a Battle: Pope Francis and Spiritual Warfare 

Pope Francis has reaffirmed the reality of spiritual warfare throughout his papacy. In order to win the battle against temptation, we must know who our enemy is and how he operates. Once this is understood we can develop tools and strategies for fighting him. Paul Thigpen, author of the Manual for Spiritual Warfare, joins us.

5:40 – Discussing Current Church Events with Archbishop Vigneron

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit is with us to discuss a variety of contemporary Church topics. We’ll talk about the ongoing plight of Christians in the Middle East, the success of the March for Life and Pope Francis’ Year for Marriage

Kresta in the Afternoon – February 19, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on February 19, 2015 

4:00 – Scythian: What Happens when Rock Star Charisma Meets Celtic Dervish Fiddling Meets Ukrainian Ballads

Scythian is a band like no other. Named after Ukrainian nomads, it plays immigrant rock with thunderous energy, technical prowess and storytelling songwriting. They are now celebrating more than ten years of making people dance and are looking forward to more. Band members Alex and Dan Fedoryka join us.

4:40 – Kresta Comments: Why it Matters to Say “Islamic Terrorism”

During this week’s international summit to combat violent extremism, President Obama has made it crystal clear that he does not associate ISIS and other terrorist groups with Islam. He claims that doing so would legitimize the terrorists and further their influence on potential recruits. He has said multiple times that we are not at war with Islam. Al responds that of course we aren’t at war with all of Islam and nobody says we are. But it is foolhardy to disregard any connection between Islam and ISIS. He explains why.

5:00 – 9 Things to Know and Share about Lent

Jimmy Akin is here with the most important things to know and share about the Lenten season. View the list here.

5:20 – PTSD and Veteran Suicide

The enormous success of “American Sniper” and the ongoing trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the man accused of killing Chris Kyle, has given national attention to the issue of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Dr. Edward Tick speaks with us about the nature of PTSD and what we can do to help people suffering with it.

5:40 – Come and See Scripture Study

Laurie Manhardt invites you on a journey through the Holy Land and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. She draws from biblical archaeology, the writings of the early Church and other sources to construct a vivid picture of the life and world of Christ. Laurie is with us today.

“Moderate” Muslims show their true colors

This is a common Muslim point of view. I don’t especially like the headline: “Moderate Muslims show their true colors.”  After all, what is a moderate Muslim? Is it a lukewarm Muslim? A Muslim who disagrees with the Qur’an on democracy, human dignity, religious liberty? A Muslim who is moderate in the use of the penalties prescribed in the Qur’an? I don’t know. Saudi Arabia is our ally and yet there are 1 or 2 public beheadings a week as well as amputations. See the interview with a Saudi executioner below.


9 things you need to know about Lent

by Jimmy Akin via JimmyAkin.com

1. What is Lent?

According to the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar [.pdf]:

27. Lent [is a liturgical season that] is ordered to preparing for the celebration of Easter, since the lenten liturgy prepares for celebration of the paschal mystery both catechumens, by the various stages of Christian initiation, and the faithful, who recall their own Baptism and do penance.

2. Where does the word “Lent” come from?

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

The Teutonic word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days’ fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season. Still it has been used from the Anglo-Saxon period to translate the more significant Latin term quadragesima (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish, cuaresma), meaning the “forty days”, or more literally the “fortieth day”. This in turn imitated the Greek name for Lent, tessarakoste (fortieth), a word formed on the analogy of Pentecost (pentekoste), which last was in use for the Jewish festival before New Testament times.

3. When does Lent begin and end?

The Universal Norms state:

28. The forty days of lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive.

This mean that Lent begins at 12:01 a.m. on Ash Wednesday and runs to just before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday. As soon as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper starts, it’s a new liturgical season: Triduum.

4. Is Lent exactly forty days long as currently celebrated?

No, it’s actually a little longer than forty days. The number is approximative, for spiritual purposes.

More info on the precise number of days here.

5. Are the Sundays in Lent part of Lent?

Yes. See question 1 for the duration of Lent. It runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday. No exceptions are made for Sundays.


30. The Sundays of this time of year are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent [emphasis added]. The Sixth Sunday, on which Holy Week begins, is called, “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.”

6. Why is the number forty significant?

Pope Benedict explains:

Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord’s fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. We read in the Gospel: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” (Mt 4,1-2). Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law (cf. Ex 34,28) and Elijah’s fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings19,8), Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter [Message for Lent 2009].

7. What are the rules for fasting in Lent?

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast. The law of fast binds those who are from 18 to 59 years old, unless they are excused for a sufficient reason (e.g., a medical condition that requires more frequent food, etc.).

According to the Church’s official rules (as opposed to someone’s personal summary of them):

The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom [Apostolic ConstitutionPaenitemini, Norms, III:2].

The system of mitigated fasting that is required by law thus allows for “one full meal” and “some food” in the morning and evening. The Church’s official document governing the practice of fasting does not encourage scrupulous calculations about how much the two instances of “some food” add up to, though obviously each individually is less than a full meal, since only one of those is allowed.

More on the discipline of fasting here.

8. What are the rules for abstinence in Lent?

Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence (as well as Good Friday). An exception is if a solemnity falls on a Friday, but no solemnities fall on Fridays in 2015, so all Fridays are days of abstinence.

The law of abstinence binds those who are 14 years old or older.

According to the Church’s official rules:

The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat [Paenitemini, Norms III:1].

More on the discipline of abstinence here.

9. Do you have to give up something for Lent? If you do, can you have it on Sundays?

The traditional custom of giving up something for Lent is voluntary. Consequently, if you give something up, you set the parameters. If you choose to allow yourself to have it on Sundays as to promote joy on this holy day, that is up to you.

Kresta in the Afternoon – February 18, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on February 18, 2015 

4:00 – What You Need to Know About the Physical and Emotional Consequences of Sex Outside of Marriage 

Teens have their whole lives ahead of them, but making poor choices can undermine their hopes for a bright future. Too many young adults look back on decisions they made in the heat of the moment and regret the path they chose—they wish someone had told them how premarital sex could negatively impact their future relationships. Pam Stenzel has written a book to help teens make the right choices, based on actual questions she has received. “Nobody Told Me” is for young men and women who want passionate, long-lasting marriages in the future but haven’t considered how the decisions they make now impact their chances for fulfillment. Pam joins us.

4:20 – Helping our Leaders to Heal

The St. Gregory Recovery Program for priests offers a comprehensive, holistic approach to treatment that combines the best-available treatments for the whole person, biological, psychological, social, and spiritual. Founder Mike Vasquez views substance abuse not as a disease that someone must carry as a life-long burden but rather as the result of choice and free will and as such a behavioral deficiency that can be overcome with the proper, expert guidance. Mike is with us today to talk about his program.

4:40 – 400 Million Lives ‘Prevented’ Through One-Child Policy

In October of last year Chinese Communist Party officials released statistics to point out how many babies have been aborted in the 34 years since the one-child per couple policy was put in place. It boasted that it has prevented 400 million lives through the one child policy. That is a greater number than the entire population of the United States and Canada combined. We talk to Reggie Littlejohn, who has dedicated her life to opposing forced abortion and sexual slavery in China as well as helping the victims.

5:00 – Special Kresta Commentary on Lent

Al kicks off Lent with a review of the origins, meanings and significance of Ash Wednesday and the preparation for Easter.

Fifty Shades of Sham

article-2516386-14E24915000005DC-385_306x423From a cheesy bit of anonymous fan fiction with vapid characters, ludicrous plot and insipid writing, 50 Shades of Grey morphed into a Harry Potter size marketing phenomenon. When the dust settles, however, we’ll discover it was little more than a self-generated, incestuous bit of media marketing foreplay without the grand socio-sexual climax promised by its boosters or prophesied by its critics. The 50 Shades franchise is a marketing windfall but a cultural dud. One can hope that in five years, it will be hard to find anyone who will admit to having read or seen it. For those imagining that 50 Shades is a rush to the barricades for a new sexual revolution, think again. Neither Alfred Kinsey nor Larry Flynt would have ever been considered a candidate for a Valentine Day’s Vermont Teddy Bear like Christian Grey. Fifty Shades is not a revolutionary moment like Stonewall, Fort Sumner, D. H. Lawrence or Vladimir Lenin. It is just business as usual in a declining America.

Mainstreaming BDSM is a crass, cynical exploitation of frustrated, impotent people who are seeking the real intimacy proper to human nature. A few more fur handcuffs and leather paddles may be sold but they will eventually lie in a bureau drawer with discarded eyeglasses, old concert tickets and unredeemed coupons. Why? Because, as with nudists, most people consider Christian Grey’s antics to be silly, pathological and not to be carried out in our house or with our daughter. Yes, more people will be hurt by this book’s example. But the objectification of women has already been achieved in the unstoppable, long established Internet porn revolution that was the precondition for the book’s success. Fifty Shades is a product of that revolution not its opening volley. It is the problem for which St. John Paul II prescribed the theology of the body.

Even the natural modesty of the young actors playing Christian and Ana asserts itself off the set. He admits he needs to take a long shower before he will touch his wife and baby. She kids about not wanting anyone to see the movie including her parents and her brother’s friends who would retch upon seeing her in the role of Ana. This 50 Shades phenomenon is a report on the poverty of American romance not a proud manifesto for sexual liberation.

50-shadesListen to the consumers of 50 Shades. They aren’t social activists or volunteers for humane causes. They aren’t leaders, revolutionaries, or trend-setters. They are often romance novel readers fantasizing about love rather than risking real intimacy. An M.S.U. study reveals that women 18-24 who have read all three of the Fifty Shades books when compared with those who haven’t read them are 75% more likely to have used diet aids in the last 24 hours, 65% more likely to binge drink, 63% more likely to have had five or more intercourse partners in their 18-24 years of life. Twenty five percent have a partner who yelled or swore at them. And 34 percent have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies. Crudely put, “Losers” are more likely to be drawn to read Fifty Shades of Grey. And author E.L. James admits that writing the book was little more than therapy during her two year mid-life crisis. Even in our Facebook era, some things should be kept private.

Thanks to Dave Barry and others we can appreciate the plot’s inanity without having to swim through the sludge. A pretty, but dowdy virgin, Ana wants transformation into her inner goddess. Christian Grey, a powerful, wealthy, businessman, and a self-absorbed lover of perversion, wants Ana. So he stalks Ana, ties her up with rope, handcuffs, shackles, and tape. He wants to gag her, spank her, whip her, flog here, cane her, paddle her, put nipple and genital clamps on her, bite her and pour hot wax on her. Ana, showing her strength, decides to let Christian flog her on the butt. Then her great moment of epiphany. As Dave Barry puts it: “In the dramatic climax to the story, the moment we have been building up to, Anastasia comes to a shocking, life-changing realization, which nobody could have foreseen in a million years: Getting flogged on the butt hurts. Yes! It’s painful! Anastasia does not like it. So she breaks up with him. And then…. And then…. The book is over.” I’m serious, that’s the plot.

The third book closes with Ana no longer a victim of intimate partner violence and Christian purged of BDSM practices. They marry. In the Epilogue, this first family of sadomasochism is living happily ever after.

How sweet and deceptive. Christian’s “redemption” spells danger for Cinderella syndrome women and, conversely, women who fantasize divine powers to change the lost soul of a pervert. Sadly, Ana’s reckless experiment in risky behavior is vindicated and justified. In real life, prudence would have gotten a restraining order, counseling or, at least, a move to South Central LA where rappers might write songs about her bruised bottom.

Bob-Bashara-sentencingChristian’s “salvation” also dangerously defies reality. His deviant sexual tastes demand greater and growing intensity leading to brutal, uncontrollable, irresistible linkage between sex and violence. Ask jailed Grosse Pointe Park murderer Bob Bashara and his dead wife, Jane.

Some justify the perversions of the book by claiming all was consensual. But consent to bondage is no virtue. Remember the old Virginia Slims ad? “You’ve come a long way baby, you’ve got your own cigarette now baby.” Consent to bondage is as silly, and more dangerous, than congratulating women on sucking cancer sticks like a man. Women can now consent to physical, not merely psychological bondage. How enlightened.

What an opportunity for Catholics to question the operative spiritual and relational assumptions of our culture. Redemption is found in the crucifying of Jesus not the spanking of Ana. Consent does not justify all things. What behaviors should set off warning flares? Since God invented sex doesn’t he know best what makes for the most fulfilling sexual experience? Doesn’t the Catholic teaching on male/female complementarity correct Christian and Ana’s perverse relationship? Let’s get more than moral outrage out of this pop culture craze. Go to avemariaradio.net to find a resource page that will equip you to use the Fifty Shades fervor for good and not just complain of the evil.

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