We had a great talk from Emily Wilson on “Managing Your Heart in the Mess of Dating,” that she gave at the SEEK23 Catholic Conference. She taught us a lot including: Call it a date. Dating is a process, just go one date at a time. Relationships are about communication. It takes practice to be open and honest; practice when you are dating; marriages don’t thrive on secrecy. Pray together. Find someone who loves Jesus - it’s not too much to ask. People will give you lots of weird opinions, but those people won’t be saying vows with you, or living with you. It’s mainly the two you, for the rest of your life.
We had lots of great discussions where we talked about: Make lots of friends. It will put less pressure on you when dating if you are less lonely; loneliness is an epidemic in our society; loneliness can put a lot of pressure on you to marry the wrong person, to do stupid things, so have lots of friends.
Dating is for marriage, to find someone to marry. When you get married, you stop dating. Don’t date until you are ready to get married, until you are ready to enter into a permanent deep relationship with another person. It’s a mistake to date when you are not ready, and you will pay for it.
No mind reading (this is a huge tip). Talk about your needs and their needs. Marriage is about balance. Ask your friends for their opinion of the person you are dating in case you are blind, and especially ask your parents (unless you really don’t get a long with them); they have a lot of experience with people, and they know and care about you. Find some one with the same faith as you. Beliefs do matter. They affect your behaviour and the thousands of decisions you and your spouse will have to make (on finances, parenting your children, methods, jobs, who will do what work in your home, etc., etc.).
and expect 40%. If the other person is giving 60%, I may only see 40%,
and vice versa. If you give 60 and expect 40, things will work a lot
better (thank you C & H, an awesome couple, who gave me this great
Here is the
video: The Mess Of Dating - Emily Wilson
Brandon Vogt and Bishop Robert Barron continued on with teaching us about Michel Foucault, and his ideas. Foucault is the most influential person on the post modern woke mentality. If you like wokism then Michelle Foucault’s your guy; if you don't like it, he's the one that you should be blaming.
Michel Foucault studied plays of power. “Who's in charge of the society and how are they structuring society in such a way as to maintain themselves in power, that they get people to do what they want them to do, and to think the way they want them to think?” Foucault is like the great masters of suspicion. “I know that’s what’s going on on the surface but what's really going on is something else. I know that discourse you're using and that arguement you're making seems very rational and commonsensical and obvious, but in fact it's serving this hidden power structure. So therefore the really interesting question is who's got power and how are they exercising it and why, who's in who's out. Who in this situation is pulling the levers and and why?” That became a major preoccupation of Michel Foucault.
A lot of today's policing of language, of the way we talk, can be traced back to Foucault. Foucault-ism has run amok today, where there's such suspicion of everyone's claim to anything today. In Foucault-ism run amok we see in the wokism today.
sumed up the right answer: the condition for the possibility of true
objectivity is a properly constituted subjectivity. And his point was
we're not just these little blank slates on which the world writes,
but we're these active involved thinking agents, who go out to meet
the world, and we ask questions, and we draw conclusions.
Here is the
video: Understanding the Present
Moment - Part 4: Michel Foucault
Vogt and Bishop Robert Barron continued on with teaching us about
Jean-Paul Sartre, and his ideas on Existentialism. His main ideas were
that God doesn't exist, there are no objective values - these are
cultural constructs, and they come and they go. What’s really real is
me in my individual freedom. I start with that, and I create my own
world, and I reject values from society, family, heredity, and church,
and make my own self, as in painting on a blank canvas. Decide the
kind of person you will be, and stick to it.
Sartre would see freedom in a typically modern way, as spontaneous self-creation. I’m free in the measure that I’ve thrown off all expectations, pressure, and I, based on my own energy, define who I am. “Spontaneous self-creation.” In the Classical tradition, that’s not at all what freedom means, but it's a disciplining of desire in the direction of the objectively good. Everybody from Plato to Dietrich von Hildebrand would hold to that kind of view of freedom.
If you’re a Sartrian, an advocate of his sort of freedom, then God is the ultimate problem, because God is the ultimate representation of objective value, objective meaning. So according to Sartre, if I’m free, or I want to be free, my opponent is God, above all, who’s hovering in a threatening way above my freedom, preventing from spontaneous self-creation. Society is the enemy, family, inherited values, but haunting all of those would be the supreme value of God, so Sartre would see atheism as a great liberation. Once I've gotten rid of God, I can truly be free to create myself.
What happens is each individual becomes God, because each individual can define his or her own existence.
This culture of self-invention is a kind of fool’s gold. It sounds exciting at first, I get to create myself and define my own existence, but then after a while it seems meaningless, pointless, tiresome. A lot of the deep unhappiness today among young people is directly linked to this culture of self-invention. They’re lost. They have no meaning, and it’s because they’ve dropped the form, dropped the essence of what it means to be human.
The problem is we’re caught in our own little world. It’s the world of my invention, the world that I’ve created, for myself. But the marvellous moments (back to Dietrich von Hildebrand) when objective value breaks into your life - now we’re talking, now things get really interesting, when your kind of pathetic freedom is turned upside down, and you are offered a whole new horizon. It’s not like I just have a blank canvas that I can paint on spontaneously, but now I have some objective value, whether it’s aesthetic, or moral, or epistemic, it breaks into my life and opens me up in a whole fresh way, and I realize my little puny freedom, I mean who cares. And isn’t the game in fact what the classical people told us it was? Now bring your freedom into line with these objective values and conform your life to them. That’s not imprisonment, that’s a liberation. You discover the joy of living when you do that!
Here is the video: Understanding the Present Moment - Part 3: Jean-Paul Sartre
Fr. Jonathan gave us another awesome Bible Study. He took us through St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, and showed us how following Jesus is the only way to true joy. St. Paul had a lot of tough situations, but he was filled with joy. St. Paul tells us to pray, and to focus on the positive, beautiful, and the best, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
heard some great jokes and had lots of laughs (and this was before Fr.
Jonathan's great Bible Study presentation).
Bishop Robert Barron, from Word on Fire video, gave us an aweseome talk on, "Are We Saved by Faith Alone?" He showed us the Bible passages that hint at this, and the passages that show us we are not saved by faith "alone." He showed us by faith, I am accepting the grace of Christ, and through my cooperation, faith expresses itself as love. Christ in me expresses itself as love. As one of our members said in the discussions after, "Faith causes the actions."
To watch this great presentation again: Are We Saved by Faith Alone? - Bishop Barron's Sunday Sermon.
If you want
more information on this, including Bible passages, there's another
great summary of this concept here, on EWTN: Bible Says Faith and Works
Needed for Salvation.
He taught us the purpose of life is to bring our soul back to God, and to bring as many other souls back as we can. And it's to bring our soul back in better condition than when we got it (the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30).
God loves us. The biggest sin is pride, rejecting God. Without God we are nothing. When we reject God, we fail extremely often and bad. And we have a low mental image, low self esteem of ourselves, and we fail at life. God made each of us absolutely unique for a unique mission. The most important influential group on the planet is the Domestic Church, the Family. It's the most powerful entity to bring souls back to God. So treat family well, honour it, nourish it. If we do that, we are more likely be the people God wants us to be, and more likely bring our souls back to God.
would like to reach Mark, you can reach him through his website: www.martha7.com.
Fr. Jonathan gave us a great Bible study. He went through four parables to show us the Kingdom of God.
First we went through The Parable of The Sower (Matthew 13:1-9). We discussed what each of the different kinds of sowing means in our time, and he anwswerd our questions, on a number of different points. Then he went over The Parable of The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32), The Parable of The Yeast (Matthew 13:33), and The Parable of The Net (Matthew 13:47-50). He explained how these all lead us to the Kingdom of God. And we had a great discussions at this meeting.
Brandon Vogt and Bishop Robert Barron continued on with teaching us about Friedrich Nietzsche. They taught us his main ideas were that God is dead, that religion is a slave mentality, and individuals should chose to exert their will, their dominance, and that perhaps this is why so many people today are obsessed with power.
"Like all the great athiests, they construe God as a competitor to our flourishing and our freedom. The true God is not a competive supreme being, but being itself." If Nietzsche had read more Aquinas and understood him, he might have resisted this tendancy to demonize God as a rival to our floushing. Or if he had read more Irenaus he might have avoided some of these pitfalls.
Nietzsche also predicted that with the loss of God would come much struggle and chaos as happened in the twentieth century, with Nazi-ism, Communism, Stalin, Hitler, etc. and a lot of deaths. Bishop Barron also taught us John Lennox noted Stephen Hawking said religion is a fairy tale for people who are afraid of the dark, and Lennox responded with athiesm is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of the light. Bishop Barron pointed out these basically cancel each other.
common ground and objective morality in order to know what is best.
Otherwise it's, "I’ve got my right, and you’ve got your right." The
result is the war of all against all. When you lose the objective, in
terms of the epistemic and the moral, all you are left with is a
constant battlefield of self assertive wills.
The Christian tries to rise above sin, above a sinful way of being, which is self absorbed, and self preoccupied.
Here is the video: Understanding the Present Moment - Part 2: Friedrich Nietzsche
Vogt and Bishop Robert Barron look at four massively influential
figures who together help explain our present moment, how we arrived
at where we are today. The ideologies undergirding much of the unrest
in our culture stem from these four thinkers: Karl Marx, Friedrich
Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Michel Foucault. Once we understand
these figures and their key ideas, we will recognize them everywhere
and be prepared to engage today’s challenges."
In this first discussion, they focused on Karl Marx. They taught us Karl Marx' basic philosophy of super structure versus sub structure, revolution to eliminate the classes, reductionism (over simplifying), and the way he proposed the destruction of capitalism with revolution, and how this is repugnant to Catholic Social Teaching, which is based on a non-antagonistic social theory.
Here is the video: Understanding the Present Moment - Part 1: Karl Marx
are some other useful web pages we talked about:
A Philosophical Refutation of Reductionism, by Peter Kreeft
Bishop Robert Barron taught us "The Most Serious Sin is pride. Because pride means I turn myself into God. Therefore the greatest virtue is humility. When I lower myself in the presence of God, I open myself to the influence of God. It’s not easy. We’re all prideful. We all resist the path that’s opened up to us by humility. But by following that path, we come to be healed."
Here is the video: The Most Serious Sin, with Bishop Robert Barron
Bishop Robert Barron also taught us about the Culture of Contempt on Social Media, and lessons form the book Catholics and Contempt, by John Allen, Jr. When we are faced with contempt online, it’s best not to engage. Or you can smile and make a better argument, but first ask yourself, is providing this argument loving? He also said it is a good idea to get off social media for a while, for a better part of the day, or even for a month at a time, to detox. Or we can look for good news, for places that are less toxic, and we can reward those sites and those journalists, by going there and reading them instead. And it is important to meet people face to face, so they are not just words on a screen, but so we can see them and relate to them as another human being.
Here is the
video: Catholics and the Culture of Contempt, with
Bishop Robert Barron
Chris Stefanick and his awesome team at Formed.org taught us the Church is a way for us to encounter the presence of God, that we need to live life to the full. It gives us authoritative teaching, to apply to our lives today, to guide our lives to be happy. It takes us into the depths of this life, faster, more safely, more efficiently, than we ever could hope to go by ourselves. We can encounter Jesus by ourselves, but it’s not quite enough. You can’t fulfill your intended purpose from God, you can’t grow into your full stature as who he created you to be, you cannot be saved just on your own.
Recent studies have shown that loneliness is more dangerous, even for your physical health, than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. The most important study ever done on happiness, was done at Harvard, studying lives of young men. People who went through their life connected to a community, connected to relationships with other people, who didn’t go through life alone, ended up physically and emotionally in much better shape than their peers. The things that didn’t predict their happiness were how much income they earned, what kind of status they had in society, what kind of power they might have had in the world. Human beings need fellowship with other human beings.
We have an Organized Religion. It may have some baggage with it, but it’s better than disorganized religion. And that is the only alternative.
People are messy. God’s calling you to life in the full, don’t let anybody come in the way of that. Maybe it’s my stubbornness, but when I do see scandals in the church, dude, I’m not leaving, because the church isn’t theirs, it’s mine. The life of God is flowing through my veins because of my union with Jesus Christ. He shares his mission with me. He’s given his teaching to me, and to you, to everyone who faithfully follows him.
You have to be part of the transformation. Even a parish can thrive with just one loving person in that parish, one truly loving person who loves God, and loves their neighbour, can change the world. There have been many of those people.
The Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the western world. It has had countless amazing people, fuelled by their faith to do so much good in the world.
If you do an honest search of the real legacy of the Church you will find: We invented the university system, founded in 1088 Bologna, Italy. We started the first hospitals. We became the largest social service provider on the planet. During the plague, 1347-1351 A.D., while everyone ran from their towns, it was Catholic priests and nuns who stayed behind to tend the sick and the dying. You can read the classics, like Socrates or Plato, because they were preserved in Catholic monasteries from barbarian raids in the middle ages, and passed on to you today.
As human beings, we have a need to express these spiritual realities bodily, because we are not just spirits. We have to express all these unseen things tangibly. It’s why we have the most mind blowing part of the church, the Sacraments.
The Body of
Christ, is not just for the whole world, but for you, and you and you.
St. Paul tells us "Do you not know that you are a temple of the Holy
Spirit?" You are the most sacred place in the universe, that God found
worth dying for, and in whom He dwells.
what the Church says about the point of life, is actually true? A lot
of people say ‘I don’t want to follow some man made religion.’ I don’t
either. Our religion was founded by Jesus Christ. Jesus started the
church so that we could encounter and live this reality in our lives,
here and now.
Fr. Jonathan gave us another excellent presentation on Sin, starting with the Ego Drama vs. the Theo Drama, that sin is an offence against reason, truth, and right conscience, and a failure of love for God and neighbour. Then he taught us about the three stages of temptation: suggestion, entertainment, and consent, and to use the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession, and daily prayer to work against temptation. And he answered our many questions.
Chris Stefanick, at Formed.org, taught us how radical Christian forgiveness actually is. He taught us:
"Unforgiveness is serving time for someone else’s crime." - Anonymous.
"Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die." - Mary Ann Williamson.
"The recollection of an injury, is in itself, wrong." - St. Francis of Paola.
is difficult, it’s painful, it’s as radical as the cross, and it's the
only way to build a civilization of love and of peace, and the only
way for you to experience actual freedom, is to be a soul that
forgives every wrong right away.
don’t forgive, all the offence keeps it’s power in your soul. All the
injustice rests in you, and it robs you of everything. It robs you of
your ability to enjoy everyday life, which God wants you to enjoy your
life. He created you for joy. Read the Bible, Heaven is described as a
When you have a readily forgiving soul, people will still offend you. But you don’t have to take offence. You will be like a freshly waxed car: the rain will still fall on you, but it will run off.
forgiveness is NOT:
is to let something go. He taught us to pray, "Father
forgive him, for he knows not what he did to me." And let it go.
is not just about the person you are forgiving. It doesn’t require
that person be back in your life, even. This is about you, living
totally radically free. That’s what Jesus wants for you.
watched Part 6 of "The Search, Am I saved?" It was even better then
the previous ones, and we had excellent discussions after.
Chris Stefanick and his awesome team at Formed.org taught us about "Am I Saved? What Jesus did for us through his life, death and resurrection was the greatest act of love in history. He saved us. He did this for each one of us. Personally. But some might feel unworthy of this gift of love. We may feel we have too much baggage. We may feel unlovable. But God didn’t come to reveal himself to us on a pedestal, he came to enter into our messy human condition. To fix us from within. To transform us from the inside out. Some might be surprised by how generous the love of God really is. We don’t deserve God’s love, but that’s the amazing reality of God’s mercy. This relationship with God isn’t all about our love for Him. It’s about His love for us that changes our lives forever."
Stefanick and his team taught us salvation is not just about the
here after, it’s also about the here now, about being freed from the
slavery of sin. Sin is an act contrary to reason, truth, and right
conscience; a violation of reality. We act against the truth of the
matter, not just against God, but against our own best interests.
God gave us rules that work to make us happy, and not break us, for
us to work with the laws of reality. The deepest part of the problem
of sin, is that it doesn’t have a human solution. The answer is in
Jesus. His grace and power lifts up human fallen nature, and returns
us to the likeness to God that was lost through sin.
The reality is, the difficult thing about Christianity is, that a love mighty enough to create space and time, is all aimed at you. That’s the hard thing to accept about Christianity.
If you decide to follow Jesus more closely, in your every day life, it might look the same on the outside, work, eat, sleep, but on inside, in those little things you do every day, you’re following someone else now, you’re not just following yourself and your desires, everything is different. When you follow Jesus Christ with your whole life, you change. You know he is Lord of the universe, but do you say I want you as Lord of my life? Let’s say yes to him right now.
watched Part 5 of "The Search, Who is
Jesus?" It was another awesome presentation, and we had excellent
Chris Stefanick and his awesome team at Formed.org will be taught us about "Who is Jesus? The most beautiful part of this story is this: we can know God's love, personally. This is the person of Jesus. But how did this seemingly insignificant carpenter born into poverty in a dusty corner of the Roman Empire become the most pivotal figure in all of history? Christianity isn’t simply a philosophy for life - the center of Christianity is a person. We look at the life of Jesus and what he came to do. Ultimately, we need to decide if Jesus really was who he said he was. We can't sit on the fence. Because if Jesus really was who he said he was, we need to make him the Lord of our lives, and everything changes."
Stefanick taught us many things, finishing with, "It’s not about
adding to-do’s. It’s drawing near to the source of life itself. It’s
not about proving our love to him. It’s about opening our hearts to
receive what he did for us. At the crossroads of history, at the
center of every longing we’ve had for happiness, stands a man who
asks, “What do you seek? What are you looking for?” He knew, and he
was the answer.
Dr. Tim Gray on Formed.org taught us about “The Spirituality of Lent,” and it was a great talk. He taught us we should make sacrifices giving up some things, but also to add something positive in it’s place, that we should give up some worldly goods, to create space to focus on spiritual goods, like prayer, spiritual meditation, and growing closer to God. For example, in his family, they give up secular entertainment in terms of movies, screens, and music, and they watch only religious videos and movies, and listen to religious music, during Lent. He also taught us that fasting can be healthy for the body, but add something positive like the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or spiritual reading, or reading the Bible.
Lent is about dying to self. He told us about the Ars moriendi, an old and excellent book that teaches us how to deal with death and how this relates to Lent, that we should be living our lives in preparation for our eventual death, and Lent is a time to work on this. He covered the 5 temptations in dying: doubt, despair, impatience, pride, and coveting earthly goods, and that the 5 temptations are against faith, hope, love, humility, and greed for earthly goods.
Fasting shows us our hunger for God. We can only receive God to the extent that we desire Him.
You can purchse the Ars moriendi in an English translation here: The Art of Dying: A New Annotated Translation. If you are dying, or if you know someone who is dying, this is an excellent resource.
watched Part 4 of "The Search, What's Our
Story?" It was another awesome presentation, and we had some
excellent discussions, and heard some great stories after.
Chris Stefanick and his awesome team at Formed.org will be taught us about "What's Our Story? Your life is a story. And it’s caught up in the great story of humanity. This great story, as we see it in the Scriptures, shows us the amazing love story that is God’s pursuit of man. The God that is love created so we can ultimately be with his love. We were made to be with God. Union with God is so central to the purpose of life, we even see the afterlife in these terms. Our definition of Heaven is union with God, and hell is absence of Him. Your life has a plot. Your life has purpose. Your life has value. We need to see how we fit into this big love story to begin to know why we exist. And that love of God isn’t abstract. It has a face and name: Jesus."
then can you have the joy you have always been looking for; a joy
that doesn’t come from circumstances; a peace that doesn’t come from
how people treat you today, and a hope that not even death can take
We watched "Forgiven: The Transforming Power of Confession, Part 1, Where are You?" and discussed it. It was an excellent presentation. We learned about how too many distractions can stop us from facing our guilt and learning from it, and doing what is right and moving on. We learned about how we often try to rationalize what we did wrong, instead of facing it and growing so we improve, and that God loves each one of us and has a plan for us.
We watched Part 3 of "The Search, Why a God?" It was an awesome presentation, and we had some excellent discussions.
Chris Stefanick and his team at Formed.org taught us about "Why a God? Today we seem to think we’ve moved beyond the idea of God, but this secular view of life is a very new and unusual idea to humanity. Why have we given up on God? Do we think society is better off without him? Do we think science has disproven Him? We talk with astrophysicists, chemists, Harvard professors, and more to make the case that it’s not only reasonable to believe in God, it's essential if you want to have a truly amazing life."
Stefanick said this is the first era in history with so many people
saying, "God if you’re really there, why don’t you reveal yourself
to us?" I think God is looking down from heaven and saying, "Did
you not notice ... everything?" Augustine said question
the beauty of the earth, the beauty of the sea, the beauty in the
air, the beauty of the sky, the beauty of the stars, the sun, the
moon, the animals in the waters and on dry land, that fly in the
air, their souls hidden, their bodies evident. They all answer,
"Here we are, look, we are beautiful."
Science and religion are not in conflict. The Catholic Church supports science, and has for many centuries (even though some "claim" this isn’t true), because science and the Catholic Church are both all about truth. We need both. The scientific method can’t verify everything. But you can still know the truth about friendship, love, the beauty of a sunset, a poem, good or bad literature, etc. Faith opens up your heart and mind to the full big picture of reality.
If you don’t have faith, ask God to show you if he exists or not. If you want a lot more faith, ask him to give you more. What have you got to lose? We are made by God and for God. We are supposed to look for him, to fulfill the deepest longings in our souls.
Orion Wiebe gave us a great introduction to the Eastern Christian Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox. Then he gave us a lot of detail on the Ukrainian Catholic Church, with it's beautiful Divine Liturgy, music, and iconography.
We watched and discussed a great Bible study on "The Birth of the Messiah, Mary, and the Mystery of Christmas" from Dr. Brant Pitre, Distinguished Research Professor of Scripture at The Augustine Institute. He showed us that Jesus was born to the virgin Mary, and that this matters because it shows the divinity of Christ, as well as his humanity. He took us through the prophesies of Isaiah 750 years before Jesus was born, other scriptures, what the Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and one of the beautiful hymns of St. Ephrem the Syrian.
And we had time to visit and find out what everyone was up to, and have some fun after.
We watched the second part of "The Search, Who Are You?" and had some excellent discussions. "To find clues as to the meaning of life, we first look at ourselves. Who am I? Is there more to me than matter? Is there more to us than meets the eye? We talk with neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, and artists to examine the mystery of you. If you're just a body, then satisfaction in life should come from tending to simple bodily needs. Fill your stomach, be comfortable. But there's more to you than that. You are material and immaterial. And that unseen part of you craves for so much more. As C.S. Lewis once said, 'If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.' " It was an awesome talk with so many amazing facts about our bodies, the universe, and how amazing it is that each of is here, and it included near death experiences that prove we have a soul and that there is much more to us than just our bodies and this life.
watched the first part of "The Search, What Do You Seek?" and had
some excellent discussions in our Safe Sharing Small Groups. "What
do you seek? What is that deep longing in our hearts all about?
We're all living for something, and we all strive for that something
out there that is ultimately going to make us happy. But what is it?
For some this questions is on their minds every day. For others,
life goes by in a flash without even asking the question." We
learned, so far, that people seek happiness in many different ways
and things that don't satisfy, and it is very important to ask "What
is the purpose of my life? Why am I here?" to find true meaning and
happiness in your life.
We had a great talk from Chris Stefanick on Formed.org. He taught us how to find and face the negative self-talk we do to ourselves, and how to tell ourselves the truth, and that God loves us, and He wants us to be happy.
Fr. Jonathan gave us an excellent presentation on Sin, about the Ego Drama vs. the Theo Drama, that sin is an offence against reason, truth, and right conscience, and a failure of love for God and neighbour. He also used The Lord of the Rings story, and some video clips from the movies, to teach us about this and other related concepts.
Deacon and Dr. Tom O'Toole spoke with us on the Tools of Catholicism. We are often unaware of the richness and depth of our Catholic heritage. We are not called to be blind followers. Mary questioned God, "How can this be done?" We wrestle with these big ideas. Deacon Tom taught us many different areas of the Bible have great tools to help us live, and he we have the Catholic Tradition, and the Magisterium to guide us even more as we deal with life's biggest questions and challenges.
Fr. and Dr. Peter Doherty gave us an excellent talk on how to forgive others and be healed ourselves. He taught us about false myths in apologizing and forgiving, the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, and how we can forgive others who have hurt us.
Peter's book, "Forgiveness: Breaking Free and Moving On," in which
he explains more on how to forgive, is available here: Forgiveness: Breaking Free
and Moving On.
We had a review of Fr. Cristino's excellent talk to us on Prayer, and some great discussions.
Matthew and Jim looked back and presented a review of some of the best concepts we've learned in our past meetings. They reviewed Discerning Your Purpose, Dr. Bob on Goals, and Dr. Bob on Leadership. We heard a lot of great ideas, and we had lots of fun discussions.
Fr. Julian Studden gave us a great talk on The Good Samaritan, and how we are called to be Good Samaritans, to love those around us in our everyday lives. He also taught us the allegorical meaning of The Good Samaritan, how the elements in the story represent Jesus and how he came to give us healing, redemption, and salvation.
Jolene Smith, the Director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary's University, gave us a great talk about her personal journey in Catholicism, what theology is, why theology is important and how it has helped her in her life.
Ryan Fox gave us an excellent presentation on "The Way of Beauty." He presented three great truths of our Faith, from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation "Christus Vivit": God is love, Christ saves you, and He is alive now. He presented each truth with beauty, with visual art, music, the written word, and discussion.
Fr. Jonathan gave us a great presentation on "The Catholic Imagination in Dante’s Divine Comedy as it exhibits Unity, Harmony and Radiance." He showed us the three sections of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven that Dante travels through, and the 9 levels of Hell and the sins in each level, the 7 levels of Purgatory and the sins they purge, and the 9 levels of Heaven. He explained many details and how these teach many aspects of our Catholic Faith, and gave us lots of great lessons.
Deacon Dr. Thomas O'Toole gave us a great talk on "Mariology," the theological study of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mariology connects doctrine about Mary to other doctrines of the Catholic Faith, such as those concerning Jesus and redemption, intercession and grace. He showed us what the scriptures show us about Mary, and of course including that Catholics revere Mary but we don't worship Mary. He showed us how difficult it must have been for Mary at key times, and how she still said, "Let it be done according to God's will."
therapist Dr. Mark Kolodziej gave us a great talk on "Dealing with
Stress." He taught us stress is something that is important to you
that you don't have 100% control of, and how our brains react to
different levels of stress. He taught us four point breathing, and
other specific strategies to relax, like doing something fun before
an exam, or going for a brisk walk to burn off some of those
hormones (20 minutes of moderate exercise will increase your
performance on an exam). If things are getting stressful in a
relationship or a situation, you can take a break, try a different
approach, or get some help. Avoid multitasking, because it lowers
your efficiency and increases stress. And, make sure you do at least
one hour of self care every day, or you won't be the person God
meant you to be.
If you are worrying, distract yourself by doing something fun to reduce the worry. We need enough exercise, sleep, and good nutrition to work against stress in the long term. We need to socialize. We need to pray, read scripture, and participate in the sacraments. When we forget about God, when we fail, we try harder, and we get depressed. God won’t intervene in your life unless you ask him. But when you do, he is right there.
would like to reach Mark, you can reach him through his website: www.martha7.com.
We watched the God Squad Catholic Men's Conference speaker, Brett Powell, streamed live from the conference to our meeting. He gave us a powerful talk on "Kingdom Leaders for the New Springtime." He taught us, God had something very good in mind, when he created you. You are the good God had in mind. You have a role. The gift of yourself is the highest vocation. Grow to be a leader. Influence through service. Be tender and fierce, at the right times. Bind the broken hearted.
We had an awesome presentation and discussion from Dr. Bob Schulz ("the" Dr. Bob!), on "Sensing, Seizing, and Achieving Your Goals." He taught us that you need to start at the finish line (your goals), and work backwards. We need to be aware of our personal past, present, and possible futures. He told us some great stories of how he learned this in his life, and gave us some ways to think about this and make decisions about our goals. He taught us to build a great life in our careers, personal lives, and spiritual lives, that as one door closes, another opens, and to trust in the Lord!
Fr. Adrian Martens gave us an inspiring talk on The Psalms. He taught us that the Book of Psalms is the Prayer Book of the Church. He said there are many refernces to the Psalms in the Gospels. He showed us the structure of the Book of Psalms. He explained that the Psalms move from lament to praise, in individual Psalms, and in the book as a whole. He said all human emotions are in the Psalms, and that praying the Psalms can be a conduit to express our emotions and be healing, as well as help us to pray. Fr. Adrian really inspired us to want to pray the Psalms more.
Fr. Dan Gurnick, from the Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre, gave a great talk on St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscans. St. Francis is the most popular saint of our time. Pope Francis named himself after St. Francis, to emphasize how important he is 800 years later. Fr. Dan told us about the life of St. Francis, and how he was converted to the religous life. He taught us about the values St. Francis had, and how he got them from the scriptures. And he told us about a number of great things that St. Francis did.
Dr. Peter Baltutis, a historian, Religious Studies professor, and passionate lecturer from St. Mary's University, gave us a great talk on Saint Dominic and the Dominican Tradition. He talked about the fascinating life and vision of Saint Dominic de Guzman (1171-1221), the founder of the revolutionary Order of Preachers (better known as the Dominicans). He discussed the core spiritual values that animate one of Catholicism's most influential and vibrant spiritual movements - the Dominican Tradition - that has produced a remarkable number of saints, theologians, mystics, activists, and artists. He also focused on the unique role that the Laity play in the Dominican Family, both in the Church universal and Diocese of Calgary. It was an awesome talk.
And we had some great discussions and lots of
laughter in our Safe Sharing small Groups, and after the main meeting,
when we played a couple great games of that game we play after each
If you don’t know the rules of the game, it’s
really hard to play well. When you play the game of Life well, it
leads to a lot more happiness (and a lot less pain) throughout your
life. Otherwise ... life can really suck.
We talked about the Bishop's Four Rules (Always do the right thing. Always do your best. Always treat others the way you would want to be treated if you were them. And, you are special!), and about some other great rules to have a great life, including never lie to yourself, seek the truth in everything, feel your feelings, be optimistic and thankful, and of course, love God, and love others as yourself.
Everyone contributed great examples, questions, comments, and we had awesome discussions.
Fr. Julian Studden gave us a great talk on "Gratitude, Generosity, and Joy." He showed us many places in scripture with many people, including Jesus, giving thanks to God, and that gratitude really enhances our lives. He taught us that life is about giving and receiving, that God is generous to us, and that we are fully alive when we are giving, as well as receiving. And, he taught us that we are built for joy, and that joy is different, that we receive joy when we stop looking for joy, and seek Christ and put our trust in Him.
Fr. Jonathan gave us a brilliant talk on "St. Augustine, the taming of his restless heart: a story of an ancient man who speaks to millennial adults." He went over the four levels of happiness, and used examples from St. Augustine's life for each level, that were written by St. Augustine himself in his great book, "Confessions."
Here is a PDF of the Power Point of Fr. Jonathan's presentation.
Fr. Cristino Bouvette gave us an excellent talk on Ethics. He introduced us to the Catholic Church's teaching on ethics, that every moral act should be judged on it's object, the intention of the person acting, and the circumstances of the act. He gave us some great examples of challenging moral situations, how to apply each criteria to determine the right thing to do, and he answered some great questions from us.
Fr. John Wright gave us an excellent introduction to the prophets, where they fit in the Bible, and in history. A prophet is someone who speaks for someone else. They speak for God, warning us to repent to avoid the consequences of sin, and to turn to God and the great life God offers us. Fr. John also gave us a more detailed focus on the prophet Amos, who called people then, and now, to follow Christ and to act with justice, mercy, caring and serving others.
Deacon Stephen Robinson gave us a great talk on "More Truth and Lies," including that lies are wrong, to develop our innate sense of truth, and about morality. He taught us if you want to know what is moral and true, look to Jesus' works and deeds. He reminded us of the golden rule, that gossip is a form of lying, and taught us some standard fallacies. He said look for the truth, recognize where someone is undermining the truth of who you are, and that you are beloved sons and daughters of God.
We also had some great discussions in our safe sharing small groups, on science and reason and truth, and relationships.
Dr. Peter Baltutis, a historian, Religious Studies professor, and passionate lecturer from St. Mary's University, gave us an excellent talk on "What is Vatican II, and why does it matter?" He explained what an ecumenical council is, the history of the 20th century that led to the calling of the Second Vatican Council, how the council was structured, who was there, what their mandate was, and that they went back to the scriptures and early sources of the Church. He also covered two documents and how they changed how we do liturgy and how the laity participates in the Church today.
We had some great discussions in our safe sharing
small groups, and some great questions, plus our a fun ice breaker
game, and socializing.
We had a talk on Affirmations, which are positive
ways to love others and to help others be happy, plus our usual safe
sharing small group discussions, a fun ice breaker game, and
Deacon Stephen Robinson gave us a great talk on
"Truth and Lies," including that the truth is important, there are
many lies on the Internet and in the media today, Jesus is the
ultimate truth, and ultimately you will have to decide if you believe
in faith of the Catholic Church.
We had a great meeting on the Joy of Volunteering.
Jim and Matthew shared some of their volunteer experiences, followed
by everyone else. It was beautiful! And we had a great ice breaker
game, safe sharing small group discussions, and fun playing after the
Fr. Jonathan gave a great talk on "How can we say
God exists in a world like this?" He taught us about physical evil (in
events) and moral evil (from free will), and that God allows evil in
order for it to create a greater good. Jesus experienced the full
weight of human moral evil, and is the counter weight to all the evil
in the world.
Sr. Helena Burns, fsp, gave us an awesome talk on the amazing Theology of the Body. The Theology of the Body is the why to the Catholic Church's sexual teaching, and so much more. It starts with human body and leads into theology and philosophy. It's all about what it means to be a human person - body and soul - and what comes next when we get our bodies back at the Resurrection of the Body!
Here are the three handouts that Sr. Helena sent us for the meeting:
On Wednesday, June 23, 2021, Sr. Helena also did a second presentation to our whole Parish. And, after that, she also generously sent us these two great list of excellent resources:
Cristino gave us a great talk on How to Pray. He taught us that
prayer is a relationship with God, and gave us many ways to build
this friendship, by sharing our thoughts, feelings, and concerns
with God. And he gave us some great tips and examples on how,
when, and where to pray every day.
McGinn talked about how to get a great job in tough times. He gave
us lots of tips, and encouraged us to go for our dream job at our
dream company, to get the job you really want, and that you can
really use your gifts to help people.
Dominique Ma, gave us an awesome talk on "Overcoming Fear" with
lots of tips to deal with day to day stress, fear, and anxiety,
and how our Catholic Faith can also really help us with overcoming
fear and having a great life. If you have any questions for
Dominique, you can reach through her website: www.dominiquema.ca.
Fr. Jonathan gave us a great talk on the 4 levels of happiness. Here is a PDF of his presentation on Four Levels of Happiness.
therapist Dr. Mark Kolodziej gave us a great talk on "Depression and
What We Can Do About It." He taught us do something when you don't
feel like it, set goals and find purpose, be thankful for all your
many graces, and do emotional self-care for one hour minimum per
day. He also showed us how these are all taught in the Catholic
Faith, and he explained how and why these work. If you would like to
reach Mark, you can reach him through his website: www.martha7.com.
We had an awesome presentation and discussion from Dr. Bob Schulz ("the" Dr. Bob!) on "Leadership and Purpose in Your Professional Life." He taught us, with lots of great stories and examples, and with his great energy of course, that most of leadership is doing what you would want others to do to you, and to look and see if you are making other smile.
can listen to this great talk right here: Dr. Bob's Talk.
We had an
inspiring Lenten prayer and message from Pope Francis. Then Fr.
Jonathan explained how Lent is not just a time for giving up things,
but in giving up some things to make room for generosity of spirit,
giving of your time, generosity towards others, and through prayer,
generosity towards God.
shared our favourite photos, we had our usual "safe sharing" small
groups for interesting discussion and socializing, and we played
Skrblio at the end.
the poster of the beautiful Prayer for Lent from Pope
Francis, and the inspiring Message of His Holiness
Pope Francis for Lent 2021.
Wright explained the geography of Israel and the Middle East, and
how it affected many wars and conflicts in the Old Testament. He
also included many photographs of the area to show us what it was
like for Jesus and before him in the Old Testament, and he explained
some very powerful symbolism in the language Jesus used, and why it
was so powerful at the time.
Our Deacon Tom O'Toole gave an inspiring talk on "Sacramental Praxis in a Pandemic."
Deacon Stephen Robinson gave us a great talk on "In the Fullness of Time, The Real Meaning of Christmas" and all the hope that our Catholic faith gives us at Christmas, and that hope is faith extended forward in time.
Fr. Cristino gave us an inspiring talk about Advent and the process the Church goes through before canonizing a saint.
We also watched this short video on Advent in 2 Minutes.
Fr. Arjay told us his personal story of how he became a priest. It was an inspiring talk.
We also launched our 2020 Advent Bible Prayer Challenge. Click here for the 2020 Advent Bible Prayer Challenge - Check List.
Bishop William McGrattan gave us a great talk on "Rejoice and Be Glad, On the Call to Holiness in Today's World," a summary of the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness. Here's the PDF with his power point slides.
Fr. Jonathan did a great presentation on "How to Pray." He showed us some of the Biblical basis of prayer, the main types of prayer, and he explained Lectio Divina. His hand out is here: Lectio Divina Handout.
Then Jim went over Fr. Mario's basic step-by-step guide on how to do daily prayer. His hand out is here: How to Do Daily Prayer, Step-by-Step.
Fr. John Wright showed us how incredibly connected the Old Testament and the New Testament are, and that God has been working throughout history to bring about our salvation.
Fr. Jonathan did another great Bible study with us on Philippians 4, the final chapter of the "Letter of Joy."
Fr. Cristino gave us a very interesting talk on "What is the Church an Expert In?" including humanity, what an expert is, and that an expert helps you to become an expert.
Fr. Jonathan did a great Bible study with us on Philippians 3, the "Letter of Joy."
Deacon Stephen Robinson gave a great talk on "We are called to be in relationship to God and others. It's in our DNA. How does our Catholic culture influence our relationships?"
Fr. John Wright gave a great talk on how, in this very chaotic world, we find enormous joy, which is much better than happiness, in finding out what God wants us to do, and doing it. God says, "Do not be afraid." Read the Bible and find out what Jesus wants you to do, and do it, and you will have great joy!
We had a workshop on Discerning Your Purpose, that gave everyone an opportunity to work on discerning their life purpose. It was beautiful.
We also had a challenging and fun Bible Quiz game at the beginning of our meeting.
Fr. Louis Madey, from the SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary in Michigan, U.S.A., did an awesome and loving talk introducing the Ten Commandments.
Fr. Jonathan did a great Bible study with us on Philippians 2.
And of course we did some other fun things, as usual!
Fr. Cristino spoke to us on vocation, on what is your true purpose in life. He showed us the philosophical proof that God loves each of us and that God created us each with a purpose or purposes in mind.
Fr. Jonathan did a Bible study with us on Philippians 1.
Fr. John Wright spoke to us on Hope. He showed us how hope is infused into the Bible in to both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and how this affects us today.
Fr. Jonathan spoke on "Living our lives from the Mount when we feel way down in the Valley." Here are Fr. Jonathan's notes from the meeting.
And here is the link to the God Squad webpage with Fr. Jonathan's talk on the four levels of happiness.
And here is the link to the website with the list of Masses that are Streamed all over the world, at different times. The times are in our local time (check the clock in the upper right area to verify it is our time zone).
This meeting was cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation.
Fr. Jonathan gave a great talk on Forgiveness and
the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Here is the document he gave us:
Examination of Conscience - 7 Deadly Sins.pdf
And here's a link to the humorous video we watched: Crisis at the Confessional.
The movie we watched was San Paolo, from the formed.org website. If
you want to watch the movie, ask us and we will tell you how to access
it (for free).
Fr. Jonathan introduced the Bible, Part 1 (Part 2 coming soon). We will be posting notes from this talk.
Here are the videos from the presentation:
Here are the two videos from the presentation:
This is quite a big presentation, with a lot of
details. If you missed the meeting, you should go through this
presentation. It's really worth it. The main presentation was "Why
would an all-loving God allow Suffering?" from Fr. Robert Spitzer's
website. This link goes directly to the presentation:
As with our previous meeting, there are 3 guides on the webpage for this presentation (which is Presentation 19). Here are the links to them:
2. Little Book - Volume 19 (43 pages).
3. Big Book - Volume 19 (119 pages).
We also watched a video clip of Bishop Robert
Barron, on "Religion and Happiness." If you want to see it again, it
On a different topic, here's a good article, by Fr. Michael Cummins, on the Word on Fire site:
Dear Young Adults: 6 Reasons Why You Need the Church
This was a very powerful presentation. If you
missed the meeting, you should go through this presentation. It's
really worth it. The main presentation was "True Happiness" from Fr.
Robert Spitzer's website. This link goes directly to the presentation:
There are three other documents that go with this presentation.
1. Presentation Guide 13 has copies of the slides, the Personal Reflection handout, and a few other details. The double sided handout we gave out at the meeting, is on page 19 and 20 of this PDF. Or you can click here to get a PDF of just the double sided handout.
2. There is also a PDF called "Credible Catholic, Little Book - Volume 13, Four Levels of Happiness." This book is 47 pages, and it has lots of details about the topic, and detailed instructions on how to change yourself to have more happiness. The single page handout we gave out at the meeting, is from page 12 of this PDF, and the multipage handout from Fr. Jonathan is from pages 17 to 29 of this PDF. Or click here to get a PDF of just the single page handout, or click here to get the multipage handout.
3. There is also another PDF, called "Credible Catholic, Big Book - Volume 13, Four Levels of Happiness." This book is 80 pages. It covers the same material as the Little Book, but in more depth.
If you want to really apply the lessons from this presentation, get the Little Book or the Big Book and work thought it. If you find yourself getting confused or stressed out while working on this, contact Fr. Jonathan and make an appointment to discuss it with him.
The main presentation was "Why be Catholic?" from
Fr. Robert Spitzer's website. This link goes directly to the
We also watched a video clip of Bishop Robert Barron, called "Called by God: Bishop Barron in Washington, DC." If you want to see it again, it is here:
The main presentation was "Proof of Jesus’
Resurrection and Divinity" from Fr. Robert Spitzer's website. This
link goes directly to the presentation:
In the large group debriefing, after the small groups, we also discussed some ideas, which are presented by Peter Kreeft (among others) in this excellent article, The Divinity of Jesus Christ:
There are also a number of excellent articles on Peter Kreeft's website.
The main presentation was "Evidence of God's
Existence from Philosophy" from Fr. Robert Spitzer's website. This
link goes directly to the presentation:
We also had a sneak preview of Emily Wilson, who was speaking at One Rock this year, called 30 Non-Relgiouis Reasons for Not Having Sex Before Marriage.
The main presentation was "Medical Evidence of a
Soul" from Fr. Robert Spitzer's website. This link goes directly to
We also had a sneak preview of Ken Yasinski, who was speaking at One Rock this year, called How to Get Motivated (Quickly).
The main presentation was "Scientific Evidence of
God's Existence" from Fr. Robert Spitzer's website. This link goes
directly to the presentation:
If you have any more questions on any of the presentations, or the discussion at a meeting, or any other questions about the Catholic Faith, or about life, or any difficulties you are having in your life, please ask your questions.
You can ask your questions in the group at our meetings, you can write your question down and put it in the Question Box at our meetings and this can be anonymous (Fr. Jonathan will answer your question to the group at a meeting), or you can ask me, Fr. Jonathan, directly. I would be happy help you with any questions you have.
Brilliant theologians have been studying the questions of life for many centuries. This may be hard to believe, but it is extremely unlikely that your question or a variation of it, hasn't already been studied intensely. If I don't already know how to answer your question, I can get the answers from our great experts in the Catholic Church.