How to Defeat Lucifer ‘Like Mike’

1994-SnuffThePunk
P.O.D.’s “Snuff the Punk” album cover, which contributed to my choosing Michael as my confirmation name

Today, I recall Bishop Patrick Zurek marking my forehead with chrism saying, “Michael the Archangel, be sealed with the Holy Spirit.”

Ever since, my heavenly patron has been teaching me lessons of warfare.

When we think of Saint Michael the Archangel, we usually picture a buff-and-tough soldier with wings, engaging a red-faced, fork-tailed creature in combat. (And kickin’ butt.) Now, I have never seen angels engaged in battle. But we might be forgetting how Saint Michael defeats Satan.

How does he do it?

Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back,
but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. (Revelation 12:7-9)

Scripture tells us that whatever Michael does, we on earth must now do, because Satan and its angels are in our midst.

How do we do it?

To be ‘like Mike,’ we have to embody his name. “Michael” derives from the Hebrew question מי כאל “Who is like God?” Tradition tells us that this was (and is) Michael’s battle cry against Lucifer, the proud angel who declared he would not serve God. (Of course, a prideful angel would find disgrace in serving so humble a God who becomes Man and is ‘born of a woman, under the law.’)

By refusing obedience, Lucifer thought of himself as greater than God. Michael’s battle cry revealed that humility is the key to defeating Satan. Who is like God? No one!

Our Lady knows this well, and exorcists tell us that Satan and his demons tremble at the name of Mary. Why? Because she defeated Lucifer the very same way: her humility allowed God to bring His Son into the world, to save it.

So, let’s ask Saint Michael, all the angels, and the Queen of Angels today to pray for an increase in our humility. Amen.

Are we losing ‘touch’ thanks to new media? PLUS women’s intuition [Marshall McLuhan Monday Makeup]

MMMM Losing touch via new media?

My apologies to all you Marshall McLuhan Monday fans; my Monday was spent without blogging opportunities. Hence, the extra ‘M’ today.

Are new media helping us lose touch with the world? It may well be. Consider this insightful probe from McLuhan (emphasis mine):

There is a great tradition that women are much more integral in their life and men much more specialized, fragmentary, and that’s why women are thought to be intuitive. The world of insight is primarily one of touch rather than sight, and so the woman’s intuition means the use of all the senses at once, a response to which is touch—active touch, that is, not just passive touch. Touch is our primary and deepest experiential mode of relating to the world.

Some points to note:

  • McLuhan’s son Eric has said that his father would have enjoyed tremendously John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. McLuhan clearly had the seedlings of that work, and applied them in probes like this one.
  • The ‘great tradition’ of feminine and masculine tendencies that McLuhan cites has today been seen in modern study of female and male brains.

IF “touch is our primary and deepest experiential mode of relating to the world,” AND our contemporary lived experience involves fewer personal interactions/increased digital interations with the world around us, THEN we must be ‘losing touch’ with the world compared to previous generations. How might that affect us evolutionarily and anthropologically?

IF “woman’s intuition means the use of all the senses at once” AND various media extend various human senses (another McLuhan probe), THEN does imbalanced media exposure affect women’s intuition?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

YouTube empowers Deaf Apostolates

Father Carey signs on a journey

Did you know that Catholic priests were pioneers in sign language and Deaf education?

I didn’t, until my little sister told me. She’s away at college studying American Sign Language. Since her interest in the Deaf and Hearing Impaired community blossomed several years ago, our family has had a heightened awareness of that community, as well.

96 percent of Deaf people do not go to church, because religious services and programs are not as accessible to them as they are to hearing people (National Catholic Office for the Deaf). It’s staggeringly clear that apostolates for the Deaf are urgently needed.

Enter: New media.

YouTube, Google+ hangouts, and all their siblings, have empowered the Deaf to express themselves using sign language with people who aren’t in the same room as them. That’s no small matter. Those of us in the hearing community understand the difference that voice inflections can make when listening to someone speak. For Deaf persons, that’s comparable to the difference that facial and hand expressions make when watching someone sign.

There are some great Deaf Catholics on YouTube, like Mark Seven Bible InstituteTheDeafCatholicMom, Father Mike (Fr. MD), Father Jeremy St. Martin, ASL Catholic, and Ephpheta Centre.

One of my YouTube heroes is Father Shawn Carey, Acting Director for the Archdiocese of Boston, MA’s Deaf Apostolate. His frequent videos – community announcements, check-ins during his travels, and – most especially – personal interviews, demonstrate the variety and beauty found in the Deaf Catholic community. Even as a hearing person, I enjoy watching Fr. Shawn’s videos because they give me a window into the life of my Deaf brothers and sisters…and Fr. Shawn is a hoot.

Here’s one to give you an idea: A Live It Up! With Fr. Shawn episode featuring an interview with Fr. Christopher Klusman. F.r Christopher is a Deaf priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Here, he’s chatting with Fr. Shawn about his first-year experiences as a new Deaf priest.

Why the Electric Generation Prefers Habits on Nuns [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

Habits and Herbert Marshall McLuhan

It’s made news for the last few years: Young adults entering religious life are opting for more traditional religious orders. From the National Religious Vocation Conference:

Both men and women seem to be drawn to habited communities. About two thirds of the newer members say they belong to a religious institute that wears a habit. Among those that responded affirmatively, a little more than half indicate that the habit is required in all or most circumstances.

Interestingly, almost half of the men who belong to an institute that does not wear a habit say they would wear it if it were an option, compared to nearly a quarter of the women respondents.

But why? One word:

Identity.

Our old pal Marshall McLuhan saw this coming decades ago. He continually stressed that electric media contribute to a certain identity loss, partially because media like TV, radio—and now the Internet—can transmit a person’s image, voice, facial expressions, ideas, and nearly everything…except their bodies. As a Catholic, McLuhan realized that this split between the soul and body would lead to personal identity loss.

Now, for his words on religious habits:

Today, for example, the plain-clothes priest, or the plain-clothes nun, presents a sort of CIA or FBI scandal. It is one of the ludicrous hangups of our time. What the young are obviously telling us is: we want beards, we want massive costumes and vestments for everybody. (Electric Consciousness and The Church)

Some context: McLuhan is discussing younger generations’ desire for belonging. Personally, as a member of this ‘electronic generation,’ (the first generation to grow up practically surrounded by electronic media) I have observed the deep desire within myself and my peers for a sense of belonging to a group. For a sense of rootedness. Roots give us a past, which is hard to come by in the age of ‘right here, right now.’ Roots tell us where we’ve come from, and whose we are.

So, when I first read McLuhan’s thoughts on identity loss and younger generations, I immediately understood.

Taking Sides

While I discerned religious life, I was fascinated by how polarized women religious can get in this “habit vs. plain clothes” debate. But taking McLuhan’s insights into account, I’m beginning to see why women of my mother’s generation weren’t clamoring for habits. Let’s look at statements from two women of different generations.

First, the electronic age. Sr. Julia Walsh joined The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at age 24. She’s a millenial. Her thoughts on the habit?

It’s a sensitive topic. Some older sisters have a lot of pain about it. But it was important to me to ask if we could create room for members who want to wear a veil and habit to do so. I want people who don’t know me to know I’m a sister, to gain some joy from knowing that young women religious exist. (Source)

For Sr. Julia, the habit would identify her as a religious, and she wants this to happen. Now, let’s see what Sr. Anne Marie Gunderson, age 51, has to say:

St. James said to wear the dress of the times and I am a modern woman. I don’t need the habit to be a nun. I won’t hide behind that to be recognized as a sister. (Source)

Her words are revealing. To Sr. Anne Marie, the habit is not a statement about her personal identity. It’s something behind which to hide. She has a completely different perspective on the subject.

Certainly, there are many factors contributing to the “habit vs. plain clothes” debate. But McLuhan’s insights on the electric age’s slow personal identity loss may explain why my generation’s new vocations prefer the habit. We may be overwhelmingly compensating for electronic media’s effect on our sense of personal identity.

Group identity, instead of private individual identity, is now found everywhere, from youth culture to the business world (where it is called corporate culture), to advertising, to feminism and other -isms. […] We also have the tribe of Michael Jackson. The tribe of rastafarian music followers. The tribe of the Beatles. The tribe of Bruce Springsteen. – Eric McLuhan (The Renaissance Around Us)

Why meditate on Mary’s sorrows? Immaculee Ilibagiza answers.

sorrowful

Immaculee Ilibagiza answers a question especially appropriate today:

When I first heard about the Seven Sorrows Rosary, I remember thinking, “This is sad to meditate on sorrows.” When you get to know how to meditate on it well, it is not it is not about the sorrows, it is about knowing the measure of love that you are loved. It is about how much you matter, how worthy you are, and what price was paid so you can live.  We all know that the person we believe truly loves us, is the one who suffered for us, who defended us, and stood by us even when we were wrong.

Pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary with me, to honor Our Blessed Mother’s request in Kibeho.

Site Inspiration – Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.

Screen Shot i - St. Matthew the Apostle Cathedral in D.C.

Here comes another cathedral – this time, in the capitol city.

Screen Shot i - St. Matthew the Apostle Cathedral in D.C.Screen Shot ii - Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in D.C.Screen Shot iii - St. Matthew the Apostle Cathedral in D.C.

My first impression of this website was its impeccable organization. When you organize your website in such a way that it’s easy to navigate and not an eyesore OR overwhelming, you’ve accomplished a mighty feat.

Take note:

  • Mass Schedule; prominent / easy to find
  • Color Scheme & Rotating Photographs: Clearly, the cathedral itself inspired the website’s color scheme and aesthetics. I highly recommend that. Design and photos together contribute to a sense of continuity; I may be at home, but when I visit the website, I feel almost as if I’m visiting.
  • Easy-Access Buttons for commonly sought-out information (ie. bulletin, donation, popular ministries)
  • Functional & Updated Calendar: I am impressed by this calendar. Not only does it aesthetically fit with the rest of the website (quite uncommon), it’s actually put to good use! Click on any event and you’ll be taken to a webpage specifically about that event. Brilliantly executed.
  • Parishioner Registration: Online registration forms are becoming more common for parish websites. This particular form serves as a great example, including option for “Primary Language” and ‘Yes/No’ options to determine whether or not the new parishioner is baptized/confirmed. Check out the form yourself. Information collected can provide an easy way for the parish to take a more personal next step: don’t just mail donation envelopes. Call or email your welcome and include information about getting baptized/confirmed or about parish groups that may interest this individual/family.
  • FAQs: You’d think that more parish websites would include a simple Frequently Asked Questions page; most businesses’ do. The cathedral takes advantage of prime real estate near the Search box for a FAQ link.

Another rarity on this website is the use of a unique parish logo. It’s not tacky, nor does it come across as some ‘marketing tool.’ Rather, the cathedral logo does what it should: serve the cathedral’s brand. Parishes often fail to recognize how building a parish ‘brand’ can help maintain brand awareness. Don’t we want people to have church on the brain?

I played a little “find the parish logo” game. Results:

  • Header & Footer
  • Favicon
  • Facebook badge
  • Bulletin
  • Parish event flyers
  • Forms
  • Letterhead
  • Printable parish ministry handouts

Not only does this consistent use of a parish logo bring a level of professionalism to its communications, but it also gives parish ministries and activities an increased sense of unity. I’d be curious to see parishes lacking in unity try this little experiment.

Keep exploring StMatthewsCathedral.org, and you’ll discover that everything about this website is polished. And why shouldn’t it be? Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle represents the Catholic faith in the nation’s capitol, and they do a brilliant job of it online. Bravo.


This website was designed by the talented Melissa Armstrong (Planned Parenthood recognized her talent and got her to work for them, as well) and developed by Jason Cho of Lattice Group.

Site Inspiration – St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro

Screen Shot i - St Stephen Cathedral, Owensboro, KY

Sometimes in design, less is more.

Screen Shot i - St Stephen Cathedral, Owensboro, KYScreen Shot ii - St Stephen Cathedral, Owensoro, KY

Generally, when you find a “bare bones” or “minimalist” parish website, it’s not a pretty sight. However, Saint Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro, Kentucky, has one of the most straightforward parish websites I’ve ever found that is clean, simple, and attractive.

Take note:

  • Mass Schedule; prominent / easy to find
  • Rotating Photographs constitute a major layout element, and give a glimpse into parish life
  • Plain Jane Menu keeps navigation simple (and encourages webmaster to stick to the essentials)
  • GASP: Aesthetically pleasing and completely appropriate use of the Vatican News widget? This may be a first. It’s also a great initial reminder that we belong to the Church Universal.
  • Home is the highlight. Once you start clicking around this site, you’ll find several spots where things could get better for St. Stephen’s website. This may have been a symptom of Website Developer Lacks Understanding of Parish’s Needs Syndrome (common as the cold these days) or Website Developer Doesn’t Maintain Site Syndrome (also common). I’m not sure what happened in this case, but consider these possibilities when meeting with a website developer.

Readers may have noticed that my last few “Site Inspiration” posts have been less than knock-your-socks-off. Dynamo website spotlights are fun. They challenge parishes to get creative and take chances. (Duc in altum!) But those sites can also be intimidating for a parish council or pastor considering a website makeover.

Websites like St. Stephen’s demonstrate this: Solid parish websites don’t need to be fancy. They need to be organized, aesthetically pleasing, and useful. They should communicate your parish’s unique character. But for Heaven’s sake, don’t feel pressured to have all the latest trends in web design on your parish site.

Important Note: Always consider meetings with potential website developers as two-way interviews. Do not act desperate (even if it’s clear you’re in desperate need of help). For help in taking those first steps, check out the Church Websites 101 Series.

Site Inspiration – St. Peter Claver School in Tampa

Screen Shot i - St Peter Claver school, Tampa

I enjoy stumbling upon fantastic Catholic school websites. Don’t you?

Saint Peter Claver Catholic School in Tampa, Florida, did something seemingly unthinkable for Catholic organizations: hired experts. That’s why this website is professional, attractive, user-friendly, and mobile-friendly.

Take note:

  • Clean design; consistent color scheme and fonts
  • Photographs introduce the school and its community
  • Beautiful navigation with drop-down links in plain English – little guesswork
  • Quick Links to enroll, volunteer, or donate (crucial activities for parochial schools)
  • News blog keeps the homepage fresh and informative

You don’t need bells and whistles to have an outstanding website. Saint Peter Claver school proves that schools serving minorities are no exception to excellence in web presences. Congratulations, St. Peter Claver Catholic School! You’re inspiring.

Many theologians are just playing games. Are you? [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

Jesus

In a 1970 conversation with Hubert Hoskins (now called “Electronic Consciousness and the Church”), Marshall McLuhan drew a key distinction between perceiving God and conceiving of God. An excerpt:

MCLUHAN: I am myself quite aware that there is a great contrast between perceptual and conceptual confrontation; and I think that the death of Christianity, or the death of God, occurs the moment they become concept. As long as they remain percept, directly involving the perceiver, they are alive.

… The revelation is of thing, not theory. And where revelation reveals actual thingness, you are not dealing with concept. The thingness revealed in Christianity has always been a scandal to the conceptualist. […]This is an issue raised in the Book of Job, where faith and understanding were put at totally opposite poles. Job was not working on a theory but on a direct percept, and all understanding was against him, all concept was against him, he was directly perceiving a reality, revealed to him.

HOSKINS: If what you are saying is right, I still don’t see how such an activity as theology is possible even in theory.

MCLUHAN: It should ideally be the study of the thingness, of the nature of God, since it is a form of contemplation. Insofar as it is theoretic or an intellectual construction, it is a pure game, though perhaps a very attractive one. It’s a game that can equally be played with any oriental theology. It has no more relevance to Christian theology than it has to Hindu theology.

McLuhan goes on to remind Hoskins that the Scribes and Pharisees “had too many theories to be able to perceive anything.”

His point, of course, is a central one: Do you perceive God as a real, true being? Alive? Or, do you conceive of God as possible or probable?

This could be metaphorized in G.K. Chesterton’s, “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” You cannot have a love relationship with an idea. Relationships require Someones.

So, Christians, are you living your lives in relationship? Or are you too busy playing theoretical games?

P.S. One place where you can read “Electronic Consciousness and the Church” in its entirety: The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion. (A compilation of McLuhan edited by his son, Eric, and Jacek Szklarek.)