Why I named my son after a Pope and a 6th century monk.

Benedict!My dear wife and I welcomed our new son to the world back in July, and his name did not come to us easily.  With our daughter, her name came easily by comparison.  We had it figured out months ahead of time, were both comfortable and confident in our choice.  Not so this time around.

We did what most expectant parents did: we made a list.  We whittled down the list to a handful.  I proposed ridiculous (by modern sensibilities) names that I heard during the Liturgy or my theological reading to watch my wife’s reaction, usually this resulted in The Look.  Fun fact: Eusebius is not a favorable name… but I digress.

The big day came and our son was born, but we still weren’t sure about his name.  After some deliberation, and after waiting for the good pain medication to wear off, we made our selection.

We named my son Benedict.

Yes, yes, we know… there was that one guy from American History.

In fact, my own father was quick to point this out seconds after walking into the hospital room.  “They’re going to call him Arnold, you know.”  My father-in-law feels the same way, in an interesting coincidence.

Yes, I know all about Benedict Arnold… but let’s just say we were shooting higher.

via Flickr user Papist

via Flickr user Papist

Is he named after the Saint, or the Pope?

Both, actually… and here’s why.

I have a strong admiration for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  I started writing this blog as part of the Year of Faith and to participate in his call to the New Evangelization.  He will likely go down in history as one of the greatest theologians of our time, and he wrote 68 books, 3 encyclicals, and 3 apostolic exhortations.  He is a defender of the Liturgy and of Catholic doctrine, and literally followed in the footsteps of a saint.  If you haven’t done so yet, check out his Jesus of Nazareth series.  It is mind-blowing.

Medal of Saint BenedictOver the last year or so, I have found a growing affinity to Saint Benedict of Nursia.  His golden rule of ora et labora (pray and work) is a great, simple way to live life.  Saint Benedict lived an inspiring monastic life, authored a Rule that formed the foundation for Western monasticism, worked miracles, and was known to possess the gifts of sanctity and strong character.  His sacramental medal depicts a well known event in Saint Benedict’s life when his enemies attempted to kill him by wine.  He became aware of the plot as he blessed the cup, and it shattered.  It also contains a rebuke to Satan, commanding him to drink the poison himself.  The medal itself wards against evil, poison, temptation (all of these things through Christ).  He is considered to be the patron saint of exorcists, a pretty impressive pedigree… the man was basically a religious superhero, what boy wouldn’t want somebody like that as a namesake?

Both men provide stalwart examples of living an authentic life in Christ, and in different ways they provide some help for learning to live this way… it seems fitting to name my son after men such as these.  Our hope is that when he is old enough, Ben will look to the writings of these men for inspiration and find the examples set by their devout life a template for his own.

There’s at least a little sci-fi in there, too…

Sort of a role model?

Sort of a role model?

My wife and I enjoy multiple layers of meaning to a name, and while the above outlines the primary choices… we also really like Benedict Cumberbatch (from the BBC’s Sherlock, The Hobbit, and other great roles) and Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (Star Wars). This also seems to help our non-religious friends to relate to the name after their eyes glass over when I explain about the pope/saint connection.  Does that count as New Evangelization?

And yes, we are calling him Ben (and sometimes, Benny).  I had a woman at Church implore me to not call him Ben or Benny, because Benedict is just too awesome of a name.  I’m glad to hear that some people get it!


Help me renovate our Church!

saintmarkA few months ago, my priest asked Tasha and I to participate in a feasibility survey to look at the possibility of remodeling our beloved Saint Mark Catholic Church in Westminster CO.  Before long, we were asked to act as campaign directors for this effort.  Since then, we have produced a video outlining the project and we now have archdiocesan approval for the project.  That means it is time for the fun part: the fundraising.

Below is a link to the video, which outlines the reasons why this remodel is important.  We need to raise $6.2 million dollars.  It seems like a lot of money, and it is.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of the current Saint Mark building, and we looked at every option including bulldozing the entire building and starting over (that would have taken about $9 million).  To bring the building up to code, we would have to spend $1.5 million to do anything to add to the structure.  We all feel like the time is now to make a significant change, especially considering the demographics and growth of the Church.

We aim to build a renovated Church that can help us outreach to the growing community, and attract more families to our parish. If you are able to help financially with a one-time or recurring donation over the next 36 months, please contact me.  This is very important to Tasha and I, and can help us build the Kingdom of God here on Earth.  Please prayerfully consider helping us.

View the Partners In Faith Campaign video here.



The Year of Faith is over, but I’m just getting started!

christ-king3Today was the Feast of Christ the King, which marks the end of the Year of Faith.  When I started this site over a year ago, I was aiming for at least one post a week during this special year so I could participate in a small way in Pope Emeritus Benedict’s call for a New Evangelization.

This seems like a great day to take stock.  First, some stats:  I ended up writing 66 posts and 4 pages which totaled up to 41,850 words.  I know of a few short spans where posts lapsed for longer than my desired weekly basis, but it appears that I have made it up in numbers.

Beyond the sheer mechanics, we covered a lot of ground this year.  I received some positive feedback on my Five Facts series, but I enjoy writing the reflections much more.  I also truly enjoyed the (partial) refutation of the pamphlet that was left on my car last summer, made even sweeter by the new knowledge that this was how one of my apologetics heroes Karl Keating got started.  I enjoyed participating (and covering) the first annual Catholic Answers Apologetics Conference.

I have received feedback from some that have said that they discovered something new or learned a new aspect of Catholicism, and I would count the entire effort as ‘worth it’ for that fact alone.  Beyond this, the thing I enjoy the most is the personal connections that I have made throughout the year.  I have met some great people, Catholics and non-Catholics, that each offer a new and valuable perspective and I hope these friendships continue.

What’s Next

I have a long list of topics that I haven’t gotten the opportunity to discuss in detail yet.  I also want to finish the refutation of that pamphlet.  I have learned that apologetics articles (especially ones with sources cited) take awhile to write, and I’m not natural at it.  Yet.  So I’ll keep soldiering ahead.  Ultimately, I want to write about things that you all find interesting.  The only way I can know those topics is if you tell me.

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone that has contributed, shared your thoughts, asked questions, linked the site, or otherwise lent their support over the last year.  Your support has been a great encouragement.  I pray that the Holy Spirit continue to grant me enough grace to continue, and that this effort brings even more people to Christ.


The New Saint Thomas Institute Opens!

New Saint Thomas Institute


Last Monday, one of my favorite apologists/writers/bloggers Dr. Taylor Marshall launched the New Saint Thomas Institute.  I am pleased to be one of the first 500 charter members!

Great!  What the heck is it?

It’s an online institute aimed at bringing theology and philosophy education forward in a fun and engaging way.  If anyone is familiar with Dr. Marshall’s writing and teaching style, they will understand that it is going to be a fun way to dive deeper into the Catholic faith by studying the greats.  As one might imagine from the name, there will be a strong focus on Thomastic scholarship which will be very interesting and rewarding.

What do you get out of it?

One of the other compelling aspects of the Institute is that they are offering a continuing education program for credit, offering a one-year certificate of mastery and an eventual two year Master’s Degree program.  For those of us with busy lifestyles, a job, and a kid being able to study in this way for credit is a real benefit.

I have had an affinity to Saint Thomas Aquinas for awhile, and I even attempted to read the Summa on my own this year.  It was very challenging, so I suspected that I needed some additional background.  (This is actually what led me to find Dr. Marshall in the first place.)  This Institute will provide some of the foundation necessary to appreciate Saint Thomas’ work fully, and I’m very excited about that.  You can read about 7 reasons to join the New Saint Thomas Institute over at Dr. Marshall’s blog.

Also, there is a community aspect.  Dr. Marshall aims for a collegiate-style feel and I have already seen some of that in action.  The member forum is taking on the feel of a college orientation mixer, and I have already been contacted by someone local to me that also belongs to the Institute so we can discuss the video presentations and study together.  My brother-in-law also signed up from Illinois, so plenty of bonding experiences abound.

There’s even a clever mascot, Tommy the Muskox. (Saint Thomas had the nickname “the dumb ox” because he was quiet and large.)

Curious?  Good!

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, I encourage you to check out three preview videos provided by Dr. Marshall.  Then you should really head over and sign up.  You won’t be sorry, it’s great being a Fighting Muskoxen!

If you’re a current member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, feel free to chime in with why you have joined up and what excites you about the program.


Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference: Day 2

I am relieved to finally be back at my laptop after a long day of traveling, so here is a recap of the second day of the Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference.  Before I begin, let me just say that I will not be able to do this conference justice in a short (or even a long) article.  I will do my best to provide a general recap of each talk with a few of my own thoughts.

The Speakers

The day started with Tim Staples’ talk entitled “Black and White in a Gray America”.  Tim was a great speaker to lead off the day with… his enthusiastic speaking style was energizing.  The speech examined the condition of American culture as it relates to moral issues, and laid out a compelling argument for why apologetics is so important.  It provided a good framework for the other presentations of the day, and provided some lucid insights on common moral objections brought forth from our secular society.  Going in, I already understood the many reasons that apologetics is important but this talk provided the proverbial “shot in the arm” that makes me want to dig deeper and learn more.

After a short break, it was time for Trent Horn’s presentation “Science: Necessary but Not Sufficient”.  This was a very broad topic, and Trent provided an articulate, well-defined effort to carefully define some of the terms commonly used by atheists and agnostics to parse out their true points of contention.  He also went on to examine the common arguments for atheism and presented some useful ways we can navigate these seemingly tough questions.  Horn has recently released his new book and DVD entitled Answering Atheism, which provides a much deeper treatment of these topics.  I know these are definitely going on my to-watch/read list.

The highlight of the day was Jimmy Akin‘s talk “The Greatest Scandal of All” which dealt with the important topic of evil and suffering.  Akin explained that the problem of evil in our world is the greatest scandal of all, because of the voracity that it causes doubt in an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God.  He defined evil as both moral evil, and physical evil (such as suffering).  Jimmy went on to provide six examples of things not to say to someone that is dealing with evil (moral or physical) and then three ways that you can actually comfort and support someone in the same condition.  This talk truly resonated with me, so much that I immediately thought of several people that would benefit from hearing his words even while the presentation was still going on.

After lunch, our speaker was Matt Fradd who discussed gender and sexual roles in his talk “Sex-less America”.  Matt presented several cases of an escalating cultural phenomenon of embracing a denial of one’s gender (in some cases even rejecting it).  He cited medical research that explained the physiological differences between the two sexes and outlined some ways to enter a discussion on this topic using a physiological approach and a pastoral approach.  Thankfully, Matt was kind enough to take notes for us and post it up on his own blog for everyone to enjoy.  I haven’t really encountered this sort of discussion yet in my own attempts at evangelization or apologetics, but it certainly was one to file away.

The final speaker of the afternoon was Catholic Answers founder and president Karl Keating.  His speech entitled “Closing Time for Western Civ?” was delivered in a beautiful, traditional oratory way.  Karl took us through around 1600 years worth of history starting with a beautiful imagining of the completion of St. Augustine’s “City of God” and took us to the present time, noting the variety of cultural shifts that took place along the way.  He outlined the need to restore a culture based on truly Christian values, but noted the difficultly presented by the way that cultures can be replaced.  This outlined the true need for well formed consciences and strong apologetics, so that the culture that inevitably replaces ours is better than the one it left behind.  The content was information-packed and very interesting, but I was more enthralled by Mr. Keating’s construction and delivery of the talk itself.  It is definitely one that I must digest further to fully appreciate.

After the scheduled speeches, there was a Q&A panel with the apologists.  Conferees were told to submit questions on 3×5 cards throughout the course of the day, and the panel took turns answering those that fit best into their specialities.  This was a very fun and informative portion of the event, so much so that I wish they would repeat this sort of forum on their radio broadcasts.

The Fellowship

One other major benefit to the conference was the fellowship with other conference-goers.  This event brought together many people cut from the same cloth, and for me it was very much like a retreat in that regard.  You didn’t have to worry about speaking aloud your Catholic faith because you were among people that understand the same as you.  During the reception on Friday night, I got into several great discussions with absolute strangers and I even met a couple that happened to be from a parish right up the road from where I live here in Colorado.  At lunch on Saturday, I met a wonderful couple and we talked about apologetics, youth education, and our own experiences while we sat on a bench on the waterfront.  Just before dinner on Saturday night, I met some wonderful men from St. Paul Street Evangelization (one of which I know has found the blog) and was excited to hear about their ministry and experiences.  I think I met more truly faithful Catholics in one day than I have met in the previous year combined.  I pray that some of these connections continue into friendships.

The Mass

The conference hit a crescendo with the Holy Mass given by Bishop James Conley with a homily by Father Vincent Serpa, the chaplain from Catholic Answers.  There was beautiful singing courtesy of members of Catholic Answers staff, and it was truly awesome to hear a room with 400 Catholics singing Salve Regina together.  I have always enjoyed Bishop Conley’s reverence of the Holy Eucharist.  Father Serpa’s homily was insightful and drew forth from the gospel contemporary examples of serving the poor and the poor in spirit, primarily from Mother Teresa’s life.  The whole Mass was truly gorgeous.

The Dinner and Conclusion

After Mass, I struck up the aforementioned lively conversation with some fellow conference-goers that continued right into dinner.  The discussion was so enthralling I was almost annoyed when the presentation began again, but I was quickly quieted by Bishop Conley’s keynote address entitled “Ever Ancient, Ever New: The Role of Beauty in the Restoration of the Catholic Church”.

I’m not even sure I can adequately describe the breadth of this address.  Bishop Conley took us through his conversion experience, his education in the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas, and how this exposed to him the importance of beauty in life.  Further, he explained how this cultivated for him the ability to appreciate beautiful things ranging from calligraphy to architecture to fine music and that this resulted in many conversions to the Catholic Faith.  He said that the focus must return to this beauty in our culture and our practice of the faith, and that this can rebuild the world.  I sincerely hope this address is made available in some form so it can be heard by others, because the world desperately needs it.

I can say that this short conference was certainly worth the time and money.  I can also say with certainty that the full effect has not yet sunk in, and this experience has given me much to think about.  As always, I thank God for Catholic Answers and the fine work they do, for the friendships gained, and for the beauty that is our Catholic Faith.

I believe that Catholic Answers is going to make some of the conference speeches available in the future.  I strongly recommend you check them out, and plan to attend this conference next year.


Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference: Day 1

20130927-214143.jpgToday I made the trek to the first annual Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference!

The events kicked off at 3 pm with the “live” broadcast of the Catholic Answers radio program. I say “live” because a technical problem prevented the broadcast of the first hour, but the second hour did go out live. The guest was Bishop James Conley, former auxiliary bishop of Denver and the current bishop of Lincoln, NE.

The two hours flew by with some great questions, including one from yours truly. For the record, I was nervous asking a question knowing that millions of people worldwide would hear it. I asked about the importance of consistency in messaging when evangelizing, given the broad spectrum of focus in the Catholic Church. I won’t spoil the answer by poorly paraphrasing it here, but it was very insightful.

After that it was time for a buffet reception, where I got to meet many of my apologetics heroes: Patrick Coffin, Jimmy Akin, Tim Staples and Matt Fradd just to name a few. I also met a bunch of fellow conventioneers, including one couple from a parish not far from my home. Small world!

The first day ended with the opening address by Christopher Check entitled “Put Not Your Trust in Princes” where he outlined the problems facing the Church and society today. He then offered some energizing ways we can cultivate change from within our own family outward to society.

If this sets the tone for the rest of the conference, tomorrow is going to be amazing. More soon!


Heading to San Diego!

In just a few short hours, I will be hopping a plane to San Diego to attend the Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference.  I am excited to get to listen to some of my favorite apologists in person and listen to the great speaker lineup for the weekend.  In an interesting twist, the keynote speaker is our former bishop (now the bishop of Lincoln, NE), Bishop James Conley who I met two years ago at our Knights of Columbus State Convention.  Providing there will be no delays in my flight, I will be there to attend a live broadcast of Catholic Answers from 3 – 5 pm.

Catholic Answers really helped to deepen my faith and they are a large reason why I am out here writing on my own.  To say I am looking forward to this weekend would be a dramatic understatement.  Providing a decent internet connection, I may attempt to post something up from the road… but a full recap will likely have to wait until next week.


Fasting for the Greater Good

Fasting For Syria

This week, Pope Francis has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world.  This day of prayer and fasting will take place on Saturday, September 7.  This particular graphic is courtesy of Ignatius Press, and I have been happy to see this message spread beyond the normal Catholic circles.

One of my Christian friends, in fact, shared the photo with some sentiment that “this doesn’t have to be just a Catholic thing.”  She was right, in fact the transcript directly states that Pope Francis has called “each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will” to participate in whatever way that they can.

But what good will it do?

I got this question after explaining to a few friends that I was going to participate.  Prayer and fasting are two of the three ancient spiritual disciplines (the third being almsgiving) designed to elevate the spirit to God in prayer.

For me, fasting leads directly into prayer.  It usually beings as a superficial “wow, I’m hungry” followed by “remember why you’re doing this” and then leads to prayer for that cause.  This behaves similarly to abstaining from meat on Fridays, but fasting is usually a bit more demanding.  The rules for fasting and abstinence remain less rigorous than in previous decades, but I still tend to prefer the Ash Wednesday and Good Friday rules: no meat and two meals that must not add up to the same amount of food as one meal.

I believe that the world needs more prayer.  The more hopeless or extreme the situation, the more prayer is needed.  In this case, I echo the words of Pope Francis:

It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

You can read the full text of Pope Francis’ Angelus address here.

Join me in fasting and praying for Syria and the rest of Pope Francis’ intentions on Saturday.  Spread the word, share this post, share this graphic, and get the word out!


On Becoming a Grand Knight

Grand KnightYou might have noticed a bit more duration between posts than usual lately.  On July 1, I became Grand Knight of the Saint Mark Knights of Columbus Council #13131.  Getting used to my new role means that evenings and weekends have been spent getting acquainted with the new role, scheduling upcoming events, and preparing for the upcoming year.

Don’t you guys meet once a month and play cards and drink beer?

While we do meet once a month as a Council, we don’t play cards or drink beer as part of the meeting.  This is a very common assumption, but the local Knights of Columbus spearhead many events for charity, Church, and community.  The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by the Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, who started the organization as a way to care for widows and orphans of the surrounding mining and factory community.  The idea was to provide for widows and orphans in the case that the primary breadwinner of the family died, which is where the roots began of today’s modern insurance organization that exists within the Knights of Columbus.

This is also why the principles of the Order are charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism… they all stem from living life as a practicing Catholic man.  You can read more about the timeline of the founding and other key milestones at the Knights of Columbus legacy page.

The reason I point to this history is to illustrate that the Knights are founded on action (none of which are playing cards and drinking beer, to my knowledge).  I got to sit down with our priest this week to look at our event plan for the year, and we have over 15 events on the calendar already.  They range from serving the community (raising food, clothes, and money for the less fortunate), bolstering our own spiritual development by assisting in Church activities, protecting the sanctity of life by raising money for pro-life concerns, and raising money for people with intellectual disabilities.  Just to name a few.

So what does the Grand Knight do, anyway?

Primarily, I get to lead the Council in our projects, run meetings, appoint a few offices, ensure a growing and excited membership, represent the Council in our charitable pursuits, and a host of other small activities.  The best way I can relate it to something that a lot of people know is that it’s like Student Council President.  One of the most important jobs is to set direction for the Council for the year and guide our work toward those goals.

The Knights are blessed, as a whole, to be strong and faithful practicing Catholic men.  I want my Council to be better at the end of the year than it was at the beginning, so I am encouraging us to truly put our faith into action.  I am looking to sterling examples like Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis as exemplars of virtue that we can emulate.  I don’t want people to think that all we do is meet once a month and cut checks, I want them to see the good work that the Knights do and how faith comes alive in us.  My priest put it very profoundly: “The Knights are men of faith.  Do you know how truly rare and wonderful that is?”

I recently came across one of the best motivators in the world: soon to be saint John Paul II speaking about the good work of the Knights (borrowed from this page on the Knights of Columbus website):

This is what the Knights are about!  I am so proud and honored to have the privilege of leading our Council this year, words can’t really express it.

If you are a practicing Catholic man, consider this your gold-engraved invitation to join the Knights.  I encourage you to contact your local Knights of Columbus Council to learn more, or you can feel free to email me and I will do everything in my power to help you.  You can also read much more about the Knights at kofc.org or the Knights of Columbus Wikipedia page.


Real Men Pray The Rosary

rmptr_facebook_2 (2)Last week, amid the noise and gnashing of teeth that is my Facebook page I noticed the news of a truly interesting new apostolate dedicated to promoting the rosary with strong conviction, making a bold claim that ‘Real Men Pray The Rosary‘.  What’s more, they are currently running a 33 Day Rosary Challenge to meditate on the human ministry of Christ… one rosary for each of the 33 years that Christ dwelt among us in the flesh.

The mission of this program immediately resonated with me.  I have been working on ways to add more prayer to my daily life, ways to focus on the mysteries of Christ, and ways to visibly illustrate my internally held convictions.  The problem: it was May 5.  They were already five days into their challenge and I had only just found out about it.

I thought about waiting until June 1st and starting, but I might lose focus and forget… so I did what any real man would do.  I packed up my daughter and off we went to the park.  She’s a two-year-old so she loves to swing and run around the playground, so she swung and went on the slide, and I prayed four rosaries in the middle of the busy park.  I ignored the sideways glances from the group of six or seven teenagers that had congregated to yell obscenities and talk about their latest romantic conquests (I’m being charitable in that assessment, by the way) and carried right on with it.  Eventually the teens dispersed, probably because of the weird guy praying in public.  I’m ok with that.

I picked up the fifth rosary that I needed to catch up later on that night, and have settled into a nice routine of praying the rosary before bed.  Twice this week, I had the good fortune of praying the rosary before my Knights of Columbus meetings.  It’s a very powerful thing, sitting amongst a group of men all praying the rosary.  On Monday I found out that one of my friends, a fellow Sir Knight of Columbus, had entered hospice care so my rosaries this week were dedicated to his strength, the strength of his family, and for God’s Will to be done for him.

This week I have found myself meditating on the mysteries of the rosary a little bit more during the day.  I don’t know if this is simply because I’m becoming more familiar with them or because I am thinking about difficult things like the illness of my friend, but I feel that this 33 Day Challenge is already having a positive effect.

I will join my voice with those that run the apostolate… get those rosary beads out of the drawer and pray them this month!  Don’t worry about catching up, if it had been any later in the month I probably would have just started on an arbitrary day and counted out my own 33 day interval.  I mentioned before that I have a problem remembering the Mysteries, but that doesn’t have to trouble me any longer.  I grabbed the Laudate app (available on iTunes and Android) and discovered that it has an interactive rosary that you can pray anytime and it lists the Mystery of the day on there.  If you don’t have a smartphone, I am sure that your local Church or Knights of Columbus Council has little cards that list the prayers and the Mysteries.  If you’re lucky, they might even have a spare rosary for you too.

Real Men Pray The Rosary and you can too!