Hunting: God’s gift is good for the body, soul — and the table

Father Joe Classen left his Franklin County hunting ground Oct. 26 after a morning of reflection, prayer and pursuit of deer and turkey.

In the green days of political correctness, environmental activism and animal rights, the American legacy of hunting is coming under more scrutiny than ever. There are many concerns in our culture for animal welfare, and a more “humane” way of living. The idea of armed, camouflage-clad individuals taking to the woods in search of their quarry is abhorred by those whose fantasy view of the natural world is based on the subjective, feel-good nonsense of Disney movies and the like.

Indeed, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation about hunting these days, about its purpose and value as well as the laughable stereotypes of those who hunt and fish. There is the incredibly mistaken notion that we hunters are crazed murderers who have a sick fascination with destroying life. Unfortunately, there are people who fit that description: They are called poachers and they are criminals.

But for those of us who passionately love hunting and all things outdoors, absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Hunters are the first and truest environmentalists. We are the greenest of the green.

Hunters are not mere spectators of creation, as other nature lovers are. Rather, we are active participants as we immerse ourselves completely into God’s creation and take a hands-on role in managing our natural, renewable resources, of which animals are a big part.

Pondering the meaning of hospitality

Often, hospitality involves having a generous heart.

In the narrow sense of welcoming people into my home, hospitality has sometimes been challenging. Oh, I love to entertain, have a friend drop by for coffee or spend the night.

But I also jealously guard my privacy and my quiet time. I’ve never been tempted, for instance, to host a foreign student for the year. I like my boundaries.

In the first days of my marriage, my tiny newlywed home in Anchorage seemed to be a central gathering place as friends journeyed in and out of Alaska.

We were all young and poor, adventuresome and fairly itinerant. Initially, it was great fun with dear friends. Yet the stream of visitors became overwhelming, and I chafed at the sleeping bags piled on the floor and the late-night calls from the airport.

Finding black and white in a multitude of gray

Several years ago, scientists conducted a study where they asked children whether it would be right or wrong for a parent to steal food to feed their hungry child. Young children saw everything as black or white. They said stealing was wrong, therefore a parent taking food was also wrong.

The decision wasn’t as clear for older children. They knew stealing was wrong, but they also knew it was wrong to let a child starve when you could do something about it.

The scientists couldn’t pinpoint exactly when black and white turn to shades of gray, but once the color palette is mixed, it’s almost impossible to separate the colors again.

One of the deepest shades of gray can be used to paint the picture of Tyrone Werts and William Fultz. The two counsel at-risk teenagers. Their actions have reduced the rate of repeat offences. Werts once prevented a rape; Fultz risked his life to deliver medicine to someone needing assistance.

The color you would paint their lives seems pretty clear, until you hear the rest of their story. The two of them are serving life sentences in Pennsylvania, both guilty of murder.

Homily: The genocide of abortion

This homily was given during a Mass Oct. 25 by Father Kevin Schroeder at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

Before I begin this homily, I want to mention that I am preaching on a topic that is a hot-button issue in our nation. And while the morality of this matter is quite clear, it is astonishing how many Catholics remain defiant or at least indifferent to the issue. For many priests, this topic is frightening, so much so that they hesitate to preach on it. Others, when they do so, are surprised at the number of people who walk out of church during the homily. With all of this in mind, as I preach on the topic at hand, I would ask all of you to listen respectfully, not so much to me, but to the words of life given to us by God himself, through the Church. And if you feel like walking out, try your best to stick around until I get to the back of church and then you can confront me face to face about what you disagree or dislike about the Church's unchanged teaching on this topic.

Have Gen X and Y lost their faith?

According to a few recent polls, we can safely say that in the future there will be fewer folks frying fish on Friday and organizing parish picnics than there were in the past.

According to the Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends survey, released in June, as many as one-fourth of Americans ages 18 to 29 say they are atheists, agnostics or have no religion. Only 7 percent of those over the age of 65 describe themselves that way. Among those ages 30 to 49, 13 percent claim to be atheists, agnostics or reject religion.

If that’s not depressing enough, the American Religious Identification Survey, conducted by Trinity College of Hartford, Conn., and published in March, shows that the percentage of Americans who define themselves as Christians has dropped from 86 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2008. And finally, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, conducted by Harvard University professor Robert Putnam, published in May, indicates that the number of young Americans who say they have no religious affiliation has jumped from between 5 percent to 10 percent in past years to between 30 percent and 40 percent today.

Why are we Catholic? ‘Why’ doesn’t matter

Books, baseball, family, love and my Catholic faith — all these came together at an intersection of time in Michigan this summer.

My lakeshore reading at the rental place where the Z’s — 36 of us — “reunioned” for a week was “Battle Creek,” a little-known novel by an author you probably never heard of, Scott Lasser.

The story takes readers through a season with a fictional amateur baseball team. The baseball-lover in me enjoyed its sufficient doses of game action and the inside-baseball thinking that Lasser has down pat, but really, the tale was more about the players and coaches and the choices they make both on and off the field than about balls and strikes.

At one point in the book, a veteran player dates a woman who knows nothing about baseball. Baseball is all the guy ever thinks about; he just loves baseball, and, when the woman discovers this, she asks him why.

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