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Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Value of One Soul


WE are all called to sanctity, but we are not all called to the same kind of mission. As a result, some Christians feel insignificant and that their lives have little impact. In this episode, Mark shares a powerful encounter with the Lord that helped him to understand that nothing in the Kingdom is insignificant because of the value of even one soul… 

To watch this moving episode: The Value of One Soulgo to:

Recently, someone wrote:

I do hope things are okay with you at present. DO not be afraid to be honest with your listeners if finance is TOO tight at present. We do need to hear.  There are just so many needing at present and we all have to constantly choose, so please let us know.

Yes, there are always needs in this ministry since our family of ten depends entirely upon God’s providence through this ministry to make ends meet. We do not charge subscriptions to the webcasts, and aside from the sale of my music and books, the shortfall comes from donations which have, in fact, dropped off sharply. Our largest donations in the past couple of months came from two priests! So, yes, we are in great need at this point. I am always hesitant to ask, always hoping that our needs are simply anticipated by others, so that I have to do less begging. But perhaps that’s presumptuous.

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In the spirit of the season, Taylor Marshall (Called to Communion) offers “top ten ways to have a Catholic Halloween:

This time of year introduces several debates. Among conservative Protestants it’s “Halloween or no Halloween?” which sometimes becomes “Halloween vs. Reformation Day,” the latter being the celebration of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on Oct 31. Even some Catholics are concerned that Halloween has become “evil.” Well, here are ten ways to keep good ol’ Halloween fun and sacred. …

And speaking of our Protestant brethren, John Mark Reynolds (First Things‘ “Evangel”) asks: Is Reformation Day the new Kwanzaa? ;-)

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 30th, 2010 at 8:10 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Actually, I never liked Halloween because of its “trick or treat” stuff. In New York City, where I was brought up, there was just too much emphasis on “Trick” without the “Treat!” I saw some bad stuff being done to people and their property. One that I hated the most was that egg throwing, some of the delinquents do. They stand off the side of a busy road and hurl eggs at passing cars, splattering the windshield and sometimes, if you have your window down, the driver and passengers too! And that stupid graffiti that they do, marking up your doors and walls with black paint, usually sprayed and hard to get off. Sure, the little kids going house to house getting treats is cute, especially the little ones in their costumes, so innocent, but those older vandals need a good spanking or some other “shock straight” treatment to hopefully convert them. Sorry, but I hate Halloween and will not be answering the door when you knock!

The question above has nothing to do with cooking.  Rather, it has to do with the ongoing debate over the role of government vs. the role of the family, churches, charities, and other voluntary private organizations in assisting vulnerable persons such as the poor, children, the handicapped and the elderly.

Generally speaking, liberals argue that government should take the lead in helping such people because private charities and families cannot be counted upon to have the resources to do so. Conservatives, however, counter that an ever-expanding “nanny state” interferes with the ability of the private sector to fill such needs, and if government got out of the way, private individuals and charities would be better able to meet these needs.

So which came first — the “chicken” of family and societal disintegration or the “egg” of big government? Or is it the other way around — is big government the chicken that laid the egg of societal collapse?

I believe both phenomena perpetuate and feed off one another to an extent, but ultimately, I assert that societal disintegration came first and big government followed.

Many conservatives speak with nostalgia of the pre-Great Society era when people believed in self-reliance, “took care of their own” and didn’t rely on government handouts. The implication is that if expensive social programs (e.g. food stamps, Medicaid, subsidized child care) were discontinued, people would quickly revert to the old ethic and start taking care of themselves and their families again.

While I am no fan of an intrusive nanny state, I have to say that simply shutting off the government spigot won’t necessarily yield the results these people expect, at least not in the short term. There are several factors that have drastically changed the playing field in the last 50 years or so, which will make any attempt to shrink the size of government (necessary though it may be) more complex and more painful than a lot of people realize. Some of those factors (listed in no particular order) are:

1. Divorce and single parenthood. These are the two biggest factors contributing to poverty among women and children, and the resultant demand for cash assistance (welfare/TANF), food assistance, and subsidized child care and preschools. A parent raising one or more children alone without the assistance of a spouse may not have anywhere else to turn, except to the government, for help unless they are blessed with an extended family living nearby or with friends and neighbors they can trust to watch their children or supply other needs when necessary.

Some will argue that the creation of the welfare state exacerbated these problems by making it easier for women to dispense with marriage as a precondition for parenthood. That may be, but let’s not forget the effect of the sexual revolution which was already underway before the Great Society/welfare state began to gather steam. (Certain aspects of the sexual revolution, such as movements to promote easier divorce and greater access to contraception, date back to at least the 1920s.) In this case I believe the sexual revolution was the “chicken” and the welfare state just one of the many bad “eggs” that it produced.

2. Spouses both working outside the home simultaneously. Originally I was going to say “women working outside the home,” but then I realized it goes deeper than that.

Obviously the decline in stay-at-home wives/mothers means more reliance on outside child care, as well as more reliance on adult day care, nursing homes, and other means to care for elderly or disabled relatives. It also means fewer people around in most residential neighborhoods during the day — and particularly during the after-school hours of 3 to 6 p.m. — to monitor what children and teens are doing and with whom they are doing it. This leads to more demand for publicly subsidized youth programs, extended school days and school years, and for more law enforcement aimed at curbing youth crime and drug use.

But it isn’t just women that aren’t around to watch the kids anymore. Men who in past generations might have run their own neighborhood businesses (groceries, taverns, clothing/shoe stores, etc.) with their wives, and allowed their children to participate in maintaining and running those businesses, instead drive or take the train to distant workplaces. This also contributes to the problems mentioned above.

3. Loss of agricultural and manufacturing jobs. In the early to mid 20th-century these jobs were a large part of the economy, and they were available in most communities of any size. Just about any able-bodied man or woman who could read and write (and even many who couldn’t) could find some kind of job on a farm, or in a factory, mine, or store or other facility in their area. The decline of these industries meant 1) people were more frequently forced to move away from their hometowns and families of origin to find work that paid a living wage, and 2)  people were more often required to seek education beyond high school in order to become or remain employable.

Moving away from home, or having to move frequently, means not having extended family or trusted neighbors around to help you out in a crisis, or to watch your kids while you work. More demand for postsecondary education means… you guessed it… more demand for state-funded schools and more reliance on government grants, loans and financial aid to pay for it.

4. Decline in religious vocations and religious practice. One of the unfortunate side effects of the decline in Catholic Religious vocations in recent decades is that it gutted an important social “safety net” for entire communities, not just for Catholics. Hospitals, schools, children’s homes, homes for the elderly, soup kitchens and many other programs were run by clergy or by nuns or monks/friars living under vows of poverty. When vocations began to decline, these institutions had to either close or replace their Religious staff with lay persons who had to be paid a living wage and be provided with health insurance and other benefits. The cost of attempting to operate with lay staff only forced more institutions to close and others to merge, dissolve or consolidate with secular entities. A similar process occurred with some Protestant organizations and institutions such as Lutheran Social Services, the YMCA and YWCA, etc.

Meanwhile, the post-Vatican II decline in the number of practicing lay Catholics cut into organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Holy Name and Altar and Rosary societies, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, Catholic Youth Organizations, and others that relied upon volunteers. The same thing happened also to Protestant churches’ ladies’ aid societies and other volunteer groups. Who took up the slack they left behind? You know the answer to that by now.

5. More persons with disabilities living longer. Medical advances have enabled many children born prematurely or with health issues such as heart defects, who would have died had they been born 50 or more years ago, to survive. Many thrive and live healthy and normal lives, but others live with significant disabilities throughout life such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, etc. Also, adults are more likely to survive injuries or diseases that in their grandparents’ time would have killed them.

In the past, families were usually advised to place handicapped children in institutions (some state-operated, others private) or to send them away to special schools. Now, they more often stay at home and attend regular public schools. While I regard this as a good thing, it does of course mean that families who can’t afford to privately pay for the services disabled children or adults need will instead seek government-funded assistance. It also means public schools must seek more funding for special education services, to insure the “free and appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment” that federal law guarantees to children with disabilities.

These are just some of the factors that may make returning to the “good old days” of self- and family reliance not as easy or simple as some would like to think.

I’m guessing that, like me, most people who frequent this blog would like to see the balance of government vs. private largesse shift back in the direction of the private sector, though we may disagree on how far the shift should go and how quickly. But before such a shift is undertaken, we have to consider whether the private “safety net” we are proposing to restore has been weakened, and what can be done to strengthen it, lest more vulnerable people simply fall through those holes as well.

What are your thoughts on how to address this issue? Can you think of any other factors I might have overlooked that caused or accelerated the shift toward government dependency?

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 30th, 2010 at 5:17 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One thing I know is that the Catholic Church does some great work assisting the poor, the sick, orphans, the elderly, etc. with many of it’s Social groups and programs, like the St. Vincent de paul Society, and Blessed Mother Teresa’s organization throughout the world. But little by little, the Government wants to impose its secular and immoral views on what these Catholic programs do. This has to stop and let the Church continue feeding, clothing, caring for all peoples or we will soon be a communist country where Government rules and you die if you don’t obey them!
Deacon John

Fr. Barron on WGN America

Tomorrow morning make sure you watch Father Barron! 

Dear Friends of Word On Fire,

This Sunday, Word on Fire with Father Robert Barron on WGN America features a sneak peek at Episode One of the CATHOLICISM series. The show airs tomorrow morning at 9:30 am EST (9:30 am on the Chicago affiliate, WGN-9).

WGN America Channel Finder

Read what Father Barron says about this special preview during "The Year of CATHOLICISM", see a preview posted by Catholic blogger Matthew Warner of and check out behind-the-scenes pictures from the filming of Episode One in Rome and the Holy Land.


If you'd like to support Father Barron's TV show, please consider a donation today.

Thanks, and God bless you!

-The Word On Fire Team


Zachaeus΄s sycarome in Jericho

The Zacchaeus tree in Jericho. Image via Wikipedia

Mission in Scripture


October 31, 2010

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time


Wisdom 11:22-12:2 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 Luke 19:1-10

Who can tell what might provoke a spirit of conversion in someone? Jesus was certainly well known by the time he got to Jericho. That’s evidenced by the fact that a large crowd had gathered to see him. Even the local tax collector, Zacchaeus, was interested in this famous man. When Jesus looked up and spoke to him, Zacchaeus responded with a change of heart. As we develop a missionary spirit, we become more aware that each moment of our life has the potential to spread the Good News. It might be a kind word, a generous act, a patient response which opens another’s heart to the message of Christ. We don’t have to look up in a tree to find someone who can be touched by the Gospel. Zacchaeus is around us every day. 

Suggested Mission Activity: Be attentive today to the ways your actions can promote or hinder the proclamation of the Good News.


How good and how delightful is your spirit, Lord, in all men!

The eternal Father, indescribably kind and tender, turned his eye to this soul and spoke to her thus:
  ‘O dearest daughter, I have determined to show my mercy and loving kindness to the world, and I choose to provide for mankind all that is good. But man, ignorant, turns into a death-giving thing what I gave in order to give him life. Not only ignorant, but cruel: cruel to himself. But still I go on providing. For this reason I want you to know: whatever I give to man, I do it out of my great providence.

Perugino, Pietro - God the Creator and Angels ...

Image via Wikipedia

  ‘So it was that when, by my providence, I created man, I looked into myself and fell in love with the beauty of the creature I had made – for it had pleased me, in my providence, to create man in my own image and likeness.
  ‘Moreover, I gave man memory, to be able to remember the good things I had done for him and to be able to share in my own power, the power of the eternal Father.
  ‘Moreover, I gave man intellect, so that, seeing the wisdom of my Son, he could recognise and understand my own will; for I am the giver of all graces and I give them with a burning fatherly love.
  ‘Moreover, I gave man the desire to love, sharing in the tenderness of the Holy Spirit, so that he might love the things that his intellect had understood and seen.
  ‘But my kind providence did all this solely that man might be able to understand me and enjoy me, rejoicing in my vision for all eternity. And as I have told you elsewhere, the disobedience of your first parent Adam closed heaven to you – and from that disobedience came all evil through the whole world.

Adam & Eve, Russian Lubok woodcut 1792

Image via Wikipedia

  ‘To relieve man of the death that his own disobedience had brought, I tenderly and providently gave you my only-begotten Son to heal you and bring satisfaction for your needs. I gave him the task of being supremely obedient, to free the human race of the poison that your first parent’s disobedience had spread throughout the world. F

Crucifixion Grunewald

Image via Wikipedia

alling in love, as it were, with his task, and truly obedient, he hurried to a shameful death on the most holy Cross. By his most holy death he gave you life: not human life this time, but with the strength of his divinity.’


Tell My People

c. 1437-1446

Image via Wikipedia

Jesus: "My beloved priest-companion, tell My beloved people that I am the Divine Giver of peace. I want so much to give My people an even greater sense of peace, but many refuse My offer! They think they know their own way to peace and happiness–a way which is not My way. The further they stray from Me, the more restless they become, and the less true peace they have. My way is the only way to peace.


Image via Wikipedia

"My people, come each day to My Sacred Heart. Let Mary lead you to My Heart. The more you dwell within My Heart, the more peace will be yours. I am Lord and Master. Please listen to My words! Do not seek your peace and consolation in worldly pursuits. Come within My Heart, and you will be filled with the peace you so much crave. I will press you to My Sacred Heart. I will tell you how much I love you! The more you realize this love, the more My peace will possess your soul!"

Reflection: The chief fruit of love is peace. The more we open ourselves to the burning love of Jesus' Heart, and respond by loving God and neighbor more and more, the more peace we experience.

Copyright © 1996 Shepherds of Christ.
Rights for non-commercial reproduction granted:
May be copied in its entirety, but neither re-typed nor edited. 
Revised: March 19, 1996