Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is Getting Drunk a Mortal Sin

At our last meeting we decided to address the most common question asked at A&M and brainstormed some responses. This post is the result.

Define the Question:

The first suggestion was to make sure you understood the question being asked. Although this sounds like a very simple question, it could have several different meanings...

What does the person mean by "mortal sin"?

A lot of people throw out the term "mortal sin" around without any idea what it means. For most people it's a vague notion of something very bad that you should never, ever do, but what is mortal sin exactly?

We are called to be in a relationship with God and when we sin we are choosing a lesser perceived good over that ultimate good. When you flick someone off in traffic, you're choosing a perceived good (letting that jerk know what a horrid driver he is) over the greater good (loving one's neighbor as yourself).

Mortal sin is rejection of that relationship completely; turning your back after spitting in his face. It severs the relationship with God when we commit a sufficiently grave act with full knowledge and consent of the will.

Based on this the question becomes not, "how much can I drink before it's sufficently bad" but, "am I choosing to turn away from doing God's will?"

At this point we asked what was meant by getting drunk.

Were they talking about having one too many drinks or purposefully going out and getting trashed?

Drinking in and of itself is not sinful, Jesus himself made and drank the finest wine. Drinking in excess, however, can be unhealthy and even lead to serious medical problems. Also, it can inhibit your ability to discern right from wrong, are you drinking to not be responsible for the actions you take?

No one can analyze another's heart (which is why we're called not to judge), but we can each look into our own actions and consider whether an act is leading us closer or further from God.

This is as far as we got in the meeting, if you are interested in the ethics behind drinking (with plenty of biblical sources) check out the answer given by A&M.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Evangelization 101

This is an overview of the presentation given at the first meeting.

"God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called." Evangelization is not about us showing off how smart and knowledgeable we are, but about allowing God to work through our actions and our words to bring Truth to the world.

While researching evangelization I found that the suggestions There are three things too remember when witnessing to the Truth...
  1. What your responsibility is...and is NOT.
  2. What the most important and useful answer is.
What is Your Responsibility?
Lord, grant me the grace to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
This prayer is receited often, but those who have been through the 12 steps know an interesting truth; there is only one thing you can change. It's not the way your wife sips her soup or husband leaves the seat up, your friends, or those obnoxious neighbors. It's not even yourself, as anyone who's struggled with an addiction can attest to.

You can only change your choice to accept God's grace at this moment or reject it.

How does this relate to evangelizing? Well, it's not about converting your spouse, your friends, or those heretics down the street. You cannot convert them, only God can touch their hearts. And it's not about you having all the right answers and being perfectly articulate and full of charism, because I can assure you, you won't be.

It's about allowing God's grace to work in your life, allowing Him to make you into the best version of yourself you can be. And by allowing this you'll allow His Grace to flow through you and to the whole world.

It's about knowing that you've found Love and wanting to let others know of this Love. Your job isn't to force them to acknowledge the truth, to accept this Love, but only to bear witness to it. It's hard when attacked, but remember when they reject you, that they rejected Him first.

The Most Important and Useful Answer in Evangelization

You've just been asked an impossible question that a seasoned theologian would start at, and Google is no where to be found. What do you do?

The best answer is "I don't know, but I can find out for you..." and then ask for their email address to pass on the answer when you do find it. Why is this not only OK, but an excellent answer?
  • It's honest - you don't actually know (and the truth will set you free...)
  • It teaches you humility (which brings you closer to God)
  • It opens up the opportunity for further communication!
All of these points (and I'm sure many others) make this a great answer. A similar reply is also good if you do know the answer, but don't feel you could reply without disembowling them because they've asked in such a nasty mean-spirited way. If you don't have the patience or meekness to answer, then saying "I'm sorry, but I don't have the ability/resources to answer that question at this time..." would work well.

More on anger management to come...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tips for Building a Good Evangelization Group


In my search for information on evangelization I was told to speak to a young man who goes frequently to daily mass. By young, I mean this guy looks to be about 19, and I wondered what ideas he might have, but wasn't about to turn down a source...outright. I figured if God arranged a time when we could talk then I'd ask him about it.

Well, God did arrange things and I had a small lesson in humility. He happens to be one of the leaders of a state-wide pro-life group and was highly involved in taking it from a few people meeting once in a while to an active and growing organization.

He had four (on the spot) suggestions for developing a strong core group that would most effectively reach out to the world.
  1. Make Jesus the Focus
  2. Build up the Community
  3. Speak the Language of the People
  4. Mary & the Saints
Make Jesus the Focus

We have a message to give to the world that Jesus is the Truth and our lives must point to that. If we want to convince others that Jesus is the answer, we must live as if He is the answer, thus adoration and frequent mass (if at all possible daily) are necessary for every team member.

To help with this, he suggested scheduling meetings to coincide with mass or adoration, and encourage people to go beforehand. Further, asking God for His guidance and grace was crucial.

Build up the Community

To build up the community you first need to have leaders who are excited about the mission and are a good example. Next you need to encourage the social aspect of the community. A schedule where you meet every two weeks. The first week you would have your normal meeting and the second week you'd have a social event. With every social event include an aspect of prayer before and/or after, such as adoration, rosary, mass, etc.

Once a core group is established they should meet and schedule things out for the next 2-3 months. This way a consistency is obtained, yet things get mixed up on occasion. Pray about who to ask to be a team member and try to utilize the skills of the diverse group you have. For example, use the business people to help run things, techies to work on the back end, philosophy/religion people to help with training (etc).

Speak the Language of the People

In order to be able to answer questions effectively you have to be able to speak their language. To learn the language of the day you need to hear it. Read newspapers, especially the opinion pieces, watch current movies and listen to the music.

Have a diverse group At the meetings, spend the last 10 minutes brainstorming, making sure to cover what has been asked and effective ways to answer such questions. Make sure that the groups going out benefit as much as possible from the diversity - sending out a mix of science, philosophy and business people to answer in the language of the questioner.

To further learn the language of the community, try networking with other groups either on campus or in the church. Think about cosponsoring a debate with another group (probably easier with pro-life work, but might have applications here).

Mary and the Saints

Prayer cannot be emphasized enough. Encourage frequent praying of the Rosary - praying a rosary before a social event is one way to encourage this. Find a patron saint, some suggested saints are JPII, Michael the Archangel, Philip Niri, or Dominic. Also, a slogan or an image that will be easily identifiable is ideal.

Above all, remember that you are not the savior, you are just his witness. You may never see souls convert or even have the satisfaction of someone agreeing with your answer. Even if you're ridiculed and hated, if you submit in humility and obedience to whatever God's will may be, he can convert hearts through your witness of the Truth.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What is AACAQ?


While teaching a class while the Director of Campus Ministry at Texas Tech on evangelization, Marcel LeJeune asked his students if they would be willing to go onto campus with t-shirts that said “I am Catholic – ask me a question” and they agreed. He then brought this program to Texas A&M, where it has flourished. It has now spread to the University of Kansas and several other schools are planning on starting it as well.

The AACAQ ministry at UVA, while nascent in the summer of 2009, will be starting the fall of 2009.

Update: see also the complete history of AACAQ.


Teams of three or more commit to at least one hour per week during the semester. For our group here at UVA, there are several individuals who want to take it out into the town as well, visiting the outdoor mall or other popular locations.

These individuals would go through an initial training session where they learn what evangelization is and the basic do's and don't's. There is also a monthly meeting to go over difficult questions from the last month, role play different scenerios, review current issues and topics, and continue to learn and grow in the faith through study.

Once trained they are sent out to bring the Good News to the world with this non-confrontational witness. Through our prayer, words and actions, may the Lord pour out his blessings upon us and the whole world!