Why the environment was such a great encyclical topic

I must say, Pope Francis’s latest encyclical focuses on the perfect topic: the environment. While I’ve seen a lot of commentary on the content of what Laudato Si says, I haven’t seen a great deal of commentary on the choice of topic.

Here’s why I think the environment was such a good topic for the encyclical:

1. Liberals love it. Not that we’re trying to appease liberals. It’s just that liberals don’t seem to know that the church isn’t purely conservative; they know we don’t like abortion, so all the sudden we’re Republicans. (I’ve talked more about the downfalls of the bipartisan system here.) Pope Francis’s concern for the environment helps show that Catholicism is not as one-dimensional as people sometimes think.

2. It shows that Catholicism is smart. Oddly, there seems to be this perception that either you believe in the Big Bang or you believe in creationism. Psych! A Catholic priest devised the Big Bang Theory. For realz. Anyway, the Catholic Church believes in one Truth. So, if we find something is true by science, it must also fit into the truth of faith. Now, the Big Bang theory seems to be a good scientific explanation of why the universe is expanding. In no way does the Big Bang theory solve the entire issue of creation though!! The question then becomes, “Who/What propagated the Big Bang?” Who/What created the matter in the universe? Perplexing, huh? Catholics do not read the creation stories of Genesis literally like many Protestant groups do, i.e., we need not believe God created the world in 7 days. The important thing to take away from those stories is that He is the Creator of the universe. In this sense, creationism and the Big Bang theory are entirely compatible.

3. It promotes world peace. Pope Francis’s call to safeguard Creation is a group effort. He talks a lot about the connectedness of the world. We’re all in this together; we need to cooperate if we’re going to pass on a healthy earth for the next generation.

4. It takes a stance that most people agree with. Again, we aren’t trying to agree with the world though. But people are more likely to read something they agree with. For example, if Pope Francis had written about the sanctity of marriage, most non-Catholics would just say, “Ew. There goes that antiquated church again.” Of course, I don’t mean to diss the Catholic stance on the sanctity of marriage; in fact, I agree with it. It’s just that the environment is not so controversial. The common non-Catholic might actually read some of this encyclical. And then they will be swept off their feet by the beauty of the holistic treatment of the environment from a Christian perspective. Most people don’t really think about the environment in terms of God. This encyclical is changing that. What I’m trying to say is that it could have more of an impact in drawing people to the Church.

Read Laudato Si here on the Vatican website.


My Top 3 Media Pet-Peeves

Recently I’ve been growing more and more skeptical of the media. Prior to my conversion experience, I was more on the liberal side of things (although, really pretty apathetic towards politics in general). When you see the world through liberal eyes, you don’t really notice the biases of the media because, well, the media definitely has a bias towards the left.

The media really does a great disservice for the Catholic Church. It’s no wonder that people don’t see the Church in a favorable light.

Here are my Top 3 Media Pet-Peeves:

3) The insistence that employers should provide contraceptive coverage for their employees (i.e. news on Hobby Lobby). This is just ridiculous. EVEN if you believe contraception is fine, it’s still ridiculous. Why do employers have to include any particular items in coverage plans? If you don’t like your employer’s insurance coverage, get a job somewhere else!

And to the protesters holding these signs: Hobby Lobby would be more “in your bedroom” when they ARE giving you contraception. They aren’t saying you can’t use it. They’re simply saying they aren’t going to buy it for you.

(Image from: http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/06/30/want-birth-control-go-buy/)

2) Talk of those raging protesters in front of abortion clinics. Ever since the Supreme Court decision that struck down the buffer zone in front of an abortion clinic in Massachusetts, my local news channel has been covering how that ruling will affect Planned Parenthood in my area. I come from a REALLLLLLLLLLY liberal place, and the news is just SOOOO incredibly biased. I expect a more professional presentation from a “news source.” The anchorwoman said that the buffer zone protects women seeking “health care” from “harassment by protesters.” I fully understand that “health care” is a subjective term. But “harassment.” Then the news show flipped to a video of said “harassers.” It was one old lady praying under a tree near the Planned Parenthood door. Harassment? Oh come on. Yeah….she looked pretty threatening.

1) Acting like the Catholic Church has changed, AND how this “change” is an improvement upon the Church’s old backward ways. Several things bug me about this. First, the Catholic Church hasn’t changed. Pope Francis, though his demeanor is much different than that of his predecessor, hasn’t changed doctrines. The media either misrepresents what our Holy Father has said, or they act like what he said goes against Catholic doctrine. That “new” Catholic doctrine?—That’s simply Catholicism, as it always has been. What bothers me most about the media’s portrayal of Catholic “change” is that they act like the Church was awful before. *rolls eyes*

Seriously, I expect so much more out of the media. They should be researching their topics and presenting a balanced look at issues.

Being Catholic…in Public School

I spent grades K-12 in a (*shudder*) public school. Jk, it wasn’t that awful. I now go to a private, secular college. So basically, I’ve always been on chilling out on this little island of Catholicism in a sea of rampant secularism. But the beach is sunny and the sand is warm. (Okay, I think I just took that metaphor too far. Anyway…)

Catholic students at secular schools face a unique set of obstacles. At the same time, they face a unique set of opportunities. In some ways, I think that being at a secular college is easier than being at a secular high school. In high school, your home life is very separate from your school life. In college, however, everything clashes together, and everything is simply life. In college, I do all my studying and socializing at the Catholic Center on campus, which is basically my home. All my close friends also do their studying and socializing at this home.

But high school. If you make it through that as a Catholic, you can make it through anything! (Although, it might depend on which college you go to.)

So, I present to you:

Ways to Stay Catholic, Public School Edition!

  • Find Catholic Friends. Community is so important for keeping you on the straight and narrow path. Especially in an environment where there may be many people who don’t believe what you believe. You might be able to find these people in your church’s youth group or in your Confirmation class. But I will admit, sometimes these people are hard to come by, depending on how secular your area is. It could also help to go on retreats for, say, your diocese. Even if you make friends who don’t go to your high school, they still may be helpful to you (and vice versa) in your spiritual journey.
  • Learn about Catholicism. When you’re faced with people who don’t believe what you believe, it’s good to know your stuff. Even if you don’t have any direct conversations about religion with atheists, agnostics, or Protestants, you may hear them talking, and you need to be able to justify your faith to yourself.
  • Evangelize. One of the unique opportunities of public school! Depending on your comfort level, try to have meaningful conversations with others about religion. They might be interested and start asking you questions. If you don’t know the answers, tell them you’ll get back to them after you research. It’s a win-win situation. You learn more about your faith…and they might end up Catholic some day!
  • Pray to St. Joseph of Cupertino before exams! He’s the best!
  • Make time for God. This is especially difficult in high school. You have homework, homework, and more homework. You have AP Exams. You have extracurricular activities. Much craziness. It’s helpful for you to commit to ways that you will make time for God each day. Once you get into a routine, it gets easier. One thing that’s relatively easy to do is pray to God every night before you go to bed, without fail. And of course, make sure to get to Mass every weekend. Another thing that could be cool would be going to daily Mass–I never did this in high school, but I do this in college. Sometimes daily Mass times don’t work for the high school schedule (it’s a pity, really). If you’re lucky, maybe a church nearby has an evening Mass. Even if you found time to get to Mass once a week besides Sunday, that would be super awesome. (PS–Daily Mass is significantly shorter than weekend Mass–somewhere between 25 and 35 minutes, approximately.) I don’t know why, but whenever I go to daily Mass, my day feels longer…which is wonderful because I need all the time I can get! God certainly rewards you for the time you give to Him!
  • Turn worthless-activity-time into prayer time. Recently, I was like, “I should start praying the Rosary every day.” (Not sure I’ll do that during the school year, but summer for sure.) So I’ve started praying it while I wash up at night. The Rosary takes about 15 minutes, and that’s about how long it takes me to wash up. So it’s perfect! And the great thing is, I wash up every night, so it becomes very natural to pray the Rosary every night. It could also be convenient to pray the Rosary on the bus ride to school. Additionally, last year at college, I realized that once I was done with my homework, I would waste a lot time messing around doing absolutely nothing, really, on my iPad. So I decided that time would be better spent praying or reading the Bible. (There was still some messing around on the iPad, but I devoted a reasonable amount of that time to prayer and religious reading.)
  • Go on retreats. Retreats can be really helpful for re-focusing your life on what’s important. And sometimes public school makes it hard to see what’s important because you get caught up in the day-to-day toil.
  • Try to see God in your school work. Know that your current place in life is as a student, and that it’s your duty to God to live out this calling he has bestowed you with at this time.
  • Go to Confession and/or Eucharistic Adoration. Confession just helps with everything, whether you’re a public school student, or anyone really. It just pours out all this grace you you. Ditto Eucharistic Adoration. Although, I must say that Eucharistic Adoration is the hardest thing to do when you’re busy because it feels (at face value) like you are doing nothing. (In reality, a whole lot is happening.) I will admit that I wasn’t good at getting to Eucharistic Adoration last year in college; that is something I will work on in the coming year.

There are a ton of suggestions here. As far as the prayer-type stuff goes, don’t feel like you have to do all of it. Take on something reasonable. Otherwise you might crash and burn after a couple of days. You’re better off doing a little bit every day rather than having the prayer life of the Pope for two days. (I know I’m exaggerating there, but you get the idea.) I guess it all depends on where you are in your prayer life right now. For me at that stage of life (I didn’t take ownership of my faith till I was 16), it was enough to pray every night, go to Mass every weekend, and casually Google things about Catholicism and watch videos about the faith online when I needed a study break.

Challenge yourself where you are. If your prayer life feels like a burden, you won’t want to pray…so pick something reasonable for you and your school workload.

Doing the types of things outlined above is hard when you’re a public school student because it seems like no one else is doing them. That’s probably the overarching issue for Catholics in public school. You start to wonder if you’re weird or something because you’re…well, different. Indeed, you are different, but it’s a good kind of different.

In conclusion, be a hipster like Pope Francis:

Hipster Pope Francis

(Image credit: http://www.elmiracatholicym.org/home/media/meme-of-the-day/hipsterpopefrancis)

[Shout out to Katie who gave me the idea for this post!]

Is It My Imagination, Or…

Lately I’ve been seeing more people at Mass. More teens. Is it just my imagination? Have you noticed this too? I don’t know if it’s just a local phenomenon or what.

I can think of a few possible explanations for this increase in attendance.

My less interesting theories:

1) The college students are home.

2) With the school year wrapping up, people aren’t as “busy,” which is apparently a common excuse for not going to Mass.

My more interesting theories:

1) Pope Francis is super cool and this inspires people to go to Mass.

2) Or maybe….my generation loves Catholicism!

But seriously! There was a least one teen in every couple of rows of pews today at Vigil Mass! Yesssssss! This is a great sign!

Is my generation more passionate about being Catholic than the Vatican II generation? That would probably be a very good thing. As I understand it, a lot of people who grew up during Vatican II were somewhat discouraged by all the things changing in the Catholic Church.

Over the 2000 year history (oh, no big deal that we’ve been around THAT long, right?) of the Church, there have been highs and lows in Catholic vigor. To my generation: let’s bring Catholicism alive in our time!!!!! 😉