The Culture of Waste and Faith Formation

How to apply tithing to spiritual poverty

Pope Francis is known as “The Quotable Pope”.  An example of this is from each day on Twitter like this one:

” Consumerism has accustomed us to waste. But throwing food away is like stealing it from the poor and hungry. “

,,,, I can relate to this because my family has been in that position of having to turn to our parish and St. Vincent DePaul Ministry or Catholic Charities food pantry to put food on our table.  There is a present statistic out that says the average American family dumps in the trash 140 LBS. of food each year. 

This is food that is paid for from our working incomes. I’m sure we all tithe our cash to give to the church or to further God’s work. Why not make less trash with our food and do the same??

Likewise, when Francis Cardinal George came to be our Ordinary here in Chicago, it wasn’t too long before he said …“The greatest poverty is not to know Jesus Christ” … So, spinning the Popes quote from above, if you will …

” Always be a consistent living example of the Gospel. Because failing to do so is like stealing from the spiritually poor the opportunity to know Jesus’ love”. 

Finally, not too long ago when my son’s were teenagers (they are now in their 20’s) while taking my son to his sports practice, the thought occurred to me how many households in my neighborhood have two parents that work out of the home.  How they put their children into multiple sports programs with the intention of while they are working to “provide” someone else will take their child to the events.

I constantly would get phone calls, emails, etc., (from parents) assuming that since I’m taking my child anyways to take theirs too … and they will lie and rationalize to get it done, without any thought of the liability they put on me in the event something happens to their child.

Personally, my wife and I are that kind of parent who alwyas sat on the sideline even during practices to send the message to our boys they are important to us. Sure we have “better” things to do, but It personally gave me windshield time in the car to talk with them about what they saw happen in practices or in the games, or let them lead the conversation to become more a part of their lives.

We don’t get a second chance at this while they grow up. Sometimes us dad’s, as the priest of our house, have to lead the conversation with our wives about which parent is going to cut back – or cut out – the work load to live on less (maybe less sports programs) to invest more into our children and instilling their faith formation.

“With the “culture of waste”, human life is no longer considered the primary value to be respected and protected.” ~ Pope Francis

By the way, that picture at the top of this article, from the Bishop Perry Men’s Forum, all the left over food goes to the poor.

Frank J Casella

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Being Renewed and Mastered by the Faith

By Frank J Casella

Whenever there are people working on my house, from the plumber to the A/C tech, and most recently the roofer and siding company, I try to spend some time talking with them and to check their ‘spiritual temperature’ to see where God is at work.

My wife and I try to hire a Catholic / Christian to service our home, when possible … keep it in the family.

So, one man was telling me how his son is in jail, and how he bought his son a TV so that he can watch the Cubs games. He also told me that his son started reading the Bible again, and the others in the jail call him the Bible guy.

I asked the man how this came to be, that his son went back to the Bible? He said that now that his son has time on his hands that he can concentrate on it more. Where before he had a lot on his mind and trying to fight his battles in life. I shared with this man what I’m about to share with you below.

After this discussion I said a prayer and thanked God for touching hearts in this way, and prayed the Holy Spirit continue to develop this relationship between the father and the son, and the spiritual growth of the Son while in jail.

Many times, even in my life, it is through our struggles that we mostly come close to God. For God’s will is that we depend on Him. Sometimes He needs to do things that get our attention! … and our response.

There are some important words recently shared by Benedict XVI, pope emeritus, through his reflection The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse. As I was reading the pages of this document, I couldn’t help but see how these words not only speak to this matter in the church, which is deeply important, but also when you take them out of this context how they speak to us in general about living the Faith.

These words in particular jumped off the page at me:

“God became man for us. Man as His creature is so close to His heart that He has united himself with him and has thus entered human history in a very practical way. He speaks with us, He lives with us, He suffers with us and He took death upon Himself for us. We talk about this in detail in theology, with learned words and thoughts. But it is precisely in this way that we run the risk of becoming masters of faith instead of being renewed and mastered by the Faith.”

I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of becoming too busy for God, and to pass on advice to others about living the Faith even when I was failing at being renewed and mastered by the Faith myself. We are raised with knowing the Catechism and the ways of the Faith. But practicing it, living it, and putting it into action is something else.

Life is a work in progress, and it’s understandable how many men I talk with find it a struggle to develop the discipline to grow in the Faith, even though the benefits outweigh the work.

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus had struggles, and ultimately faced His Crucifixion and death, He went to the quiet place to pray? He fought His battles on his knees. He brought himself into one-ness with God, because He could not do it alone in His own flesh, but that of the Father. Just like the man in jail I told you about, I believe he is turning to God because of the place he is at right now – he can not go through it in his own strength.

I am really impressed how this Dad forgave his son while in jail, and supported him by buying him a TV. I’m sure the son feels this encouragement like no other. It’s like during the Passion of Jesus Christ, how Saint Peter denies Jesus three times and runs away. Yet in the end Jesus handed Peter the keys to the Church with true forgiveness.

Likewise, as Benedict XVI says: “A society without God — a society that does not know Him and treats Him as non-existent — is a society that loses its measure.” How many times have we, as men, because we are wired to fix things, taken matters into our own hands confident with how God wants it done, or never considered God’s plan in the first place? This to me is treating God as non-existent.

“The reason is the absence of God”, as Benedict XVI says, “The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.”

If you don’t know were to begin to love God, or make renewal, I’m reminded of these little books by Mother Angelica. She shares in a simple way how to turn to Jesus, say your prayers, pray to the Holy Spirit, and go to confession. That is simply what religion, and loving God, is about. And remember we have Bishop Perry’s Virtues of a Catholic Man to help put this all into action.

You can’t have and live your Faith without action …. towards loving God. You can be given the Catholic sacraments, but they mean nothing unless you work on them … all the time.

The Church is known as the redemptive agency in the world. And a very important aspect of this is the Eucharist. We as men, especially those of us who lead a family, need to bring ourselves to the Eucharist as a living sacrifice. We need to do this to the point of being transformed from the good intentions of viewing it as only a Host, into the right-action of being moved by the presence of the Living Eucharist.

Read these words slowly at least three times shared by Benedict XVI: “The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence. The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons.”

The Living Eucharist is one of the most important ways I think we come to love God, and to become renewed and mastered by the Faith. And to see how and where God is at work in our lives and in others. This is a free gift that helps us, as Benedict XVI says: “To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.”

This is how the man working on my house came to tell me about his son. Because, I gave God my time to just be in the moment, so the man felt the love of God radiate from me to the point that he opened up to sharing what he is struggling with. God presents these moments to us when we bring ourselves into one-ness with Himself, the Master of the Faith. And through people is the most common way I have seen how God works in the world.

Thanks for reading.

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Side Note: To the men reading this from Chicagoland, be sure the check out the Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum coming in two weeks. Hope to see you there!

The Story Behind Catholic Men Chicago Southland

By Frank J Casella

“Catholic Men Chicago Southland is an apostolate of Reverend Bishop Joseph N Perry, and works to encourage and support contemporary Catholic Men to grow spiritually, and to bring Jesus Christ into their daily lives and all of their relationships.” — The CMCS Mission

That was the mission we started with in 2004 when Deacon John Rangel, David Taylor (who no longer lives in the Archdiocese), and I went to Bishop Joseph N Perry with our vision, and hope for his blessing. And it’s still our mission today. We went to Bishop Perry because he was, and is, our local Vicar (as one) of the six Vicariates (divisions) of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

We could have tried to do this on our own, but I learned from my previous experiences, both with the Catholic Men In Action that I was a territory rep for (and is no longer a ministry), and from my photography work for the archdiocese and covering the ministry of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, that you need to have a platform to work from.

Bishop Perry not only understood this, he also was interested is providing a challenge to men in the Vicariate to live the Virtues of a Catholic Man and make Christ the center of our daily lives. So it has been proven many times over the years that Bishop Perry’s belief in CMCS, and nurturing Catholic men’s spirituality, has opened more doors — and hearts — than we could ever do on our own. And this I am personally grateful for!

I’m glad that we also followed his advice to stay a manageable size in the Vicariate, instead of trying to reach the whole archdiocese, since each Vicariate is about the size of the average diocese in the American Church. That if a group of men wanted to start a movement in another vicariate, we’d provide their Vicar with the template for doing this. So far there has been much interest, but no commitment.

You might say that Catholic men’s ministry is second nature to me, having been raised as a third-generation Knights of Columbus. I recall vividly helping my late father as a kid with all the functions, causes, parties, and parades. From going to talk to the butcher, to table set up, promotion and ticket sales, serving the participants, clean up, and finally awarding the results to a charity, which CMCS does today. Event planning is my conditioned skill.

But there was something missing in all of this. I saw this void. A need for a Catholic men’s prayer breakfast, to challenge men to replace bad habits with good habits and to develop a holy life. To feed the stomach, and then feed the Soul.

As far back as the 1980’s I recall men’s conferences starting to trickle into the fabric of our faith life. And this is where I met Deacon John Rangel, who has a passion for parish men’s groups and Pro-Life. We went to many of these events, from many faiths. Some called for men to be accountable to each other, and others had an Altar Call, or to be Born Again. And most of the Catholic men’s conferences had a great message but fell short of making that challenge or commitment to holiness.

We need Catholic and holy men in our lives, who practice virtues and goodness, make a positive difference, and that we can look to as models of a life work in progress.

“We are a people of possibility, the Holy Spirit is the great encourager … holiness is possible.

Matthew Kelly

In Covenant With Jesus

It is true, Jesus Christ wants to have a personal relationship with each of us as our Savior and Lord. But Jesus wants much more than that; he wants us in covenant with himself. I can have a personal relationship with the neighbor down the street; but that doesn’t mean he wants me to move in and share his home.

Jesus Christ wants us in the New Covenant that he established through his own flesh and blood, the same covenant he renews through the Holy Eucharist. When his sacrifice for us is renewed at the altar, we gather at the family table for the sacred meal that makes us one.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.”

(Rev 3:20)

Likewise, in the home, us men are called to lay down our life for our wife. To serve her as Jesus served her. To love and sacrifice for her the way Jesus loved and sacrificed for you.

The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called “the domestic church,” a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1666

But remember Christ’s words to Saint Paul that “power is made perfect in weakness.” That is, most men will admit that their strength, their rock is their wives.

Jesus wants us to know not only the Father and the Holy Spirit but his Blessed Mother and all his sainted brothers and sisters as well. He also wants us to live according to the family structure he established for his Church on earth: the Pope and all the bishops and priests united to him.

The Gospel is not about setting up a legal system, but about transforming hearts. It is about freeing people, one at a time, from the darkness and slavery of sin.

Presenting The Challenge

I remember when the late Cardinal Francis George, then archbishop of Chicago, said one of his many profound words in the public square, when he said that “we as a Catholic Church have much to learn from our Protestant brothers and sisters about marketing and promotion, and evangelization.

This was my answer. So around 2009 we began an online ministry to reach Catholic men in any way possible, and learn from those who are good at it. But Bishop Perry reminded the need to balance that with the community ‘in the pews’. Community is the foundation of our Catholicism.

So in the era of TV Evangelists, Internet Churches, and Social Media Ministry, CMCS sets the tone in Chicago Southland for nurturing Catholic men’s spirituality, and presenting men the challenge for holiness, in Covenant with Jesus. And we do this in-person, through our gatherings, where men can discuss and connect the dots with each other about their spiritual journey. And we have Mass with bishop who presents the challenge to the men.

The men will tell you how the personal impact from this is profound in a way that can not be experienced online. Then, what we do online is a symptom of what is working with community ‘in the pews’, to continue their spiritual journey. We are all a work in progress, and learn from each other.

It’s not about accountability to each other, but Covenant with Jesus that transforms us as men.

I have seen over the years that when you foster a Man in holiness, the positive adjustments he makes creates a upstanding man, husband, or father, and this impact can be felt for three generations. What this takes is (for us) to transform one man at a time from good intentions into right-action, and thus to develop a holy church.

For just as the Church cannot survive without the sacramental priesthood, so too, the father is an essential element of a healthy family. Fathers have a significant spiritual impact on their (and men with all) children precisely because of their unique role in the order of creation.

Frank J Casella is an Artistic Photographer, and co-founder of Catholic Men Chicago Southland, and the Bishop Perry Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum.