Saturday, December 30, 2006


The responses to the execution of Saddam has been the major topic on the blogosphere. On the Catholic blogs many comments seems to be centered on the statement by the Vatican Press Office denouncing the execution. Some posters are going back to the Trent Catechism for justification on a traditional pro-capital punishment stand for the Church, while others quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church to illustrate an anti-capital punishment stand.
Well I'm not gonna talk about Capital Punishment, because I'm much more interested in the real core of this discussion. That being: When is something that is said by the Church an immutable, unchanging and undeniable fact, and when is it an opinion, colored by the times and open to change, especially as the centuries pass?

The first one is easy.
In Roman Catholic theology, the Latin phrase ex cathedra, literally meaning "from the chair", refers to a teaching by the Pope that is considered to be infallible when an official statement on behalf of Church doctrine.
Number two is almost as easy:
Roman Catholic theology divides the functions of the teaching office of the Church into two categories: the infallible Sacred Magisterium and the non-infallible Ordinary Magisterium. The infallible Sacred Magisterium includes the teachings of papal infallibility, of Ecumenical Councils (traditionally expressed in conciliar canons and decrees), and of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. (Despite its name, the ordinary and universal Magisterium falls under the infallible Sacred Magisterium.)
As described above teachings which fall under the non-infallible Ordinary Magisterium are not dogmatic. It is a sin to eat meat on Friday is such a teaching. The sin is not to eat the meat, but to ignore the Churches requirement that meat be abstained from on Friday as a penitential act. But you get the idea. There are rules that the Church can change. As it did when it replaced the abstinence from meat with the requirement that some other penitential act be preformed in its place.
The order of the Mass under the Latin rite can be changed, as indeed it was. There are various licit rites for Mass. All are equally valid. In the past rites have been added and rite have been vacated. The Church has the right to make those kinds of decisions.
Now we get the the important part. That is that as Catholics we are bound to adhere to the teachings of the Church, those both dogmatic and non-dogmatic. It is permissible to discuss and even request change of non-dogmatic stands. And the Church can change those stands.
Since any catechism is likely to include information on both dogmatic and non-dogmatic teachings it is a chancy thing to use an old catechism as a source for what is dogmatic in the absence of other sources. More useful is to go to the original source material. The CCC is extensively footnoted, making it easy find original sources for teachings.
Bottom line: Follow the teachings of the Church. Work to know the dogmatic, infallible teachings, so you know where the hard lines are that way when a non-dogmatic teaching changes it won't seem contradictory.

Friday, December 29, 2006

On good wood

I've been fairly busy this holiday week. I put a new floor in the attic to allow use to store even more junk up there. I spent too much time getting a new portable configured so that it will actually work with my home network. I did various other odds and ends around the house to fill in my free time.
Being the pondering sort, with a degree in History and an insatiable curiosity for facts from the past, I can't help but compare my experiences with those of another carpenter some two thousand years ago. I had all sorts of wonderful gizmo's; a table saw to cut the boards, a chop saw to cut studs(that 2 by 4's), a nail gun, two drills (one for drilling holes, one for driving screws), a saber saw, to cut irregular shapes, not to mention things like mass produced nails and screws and the wood itself.
A couple of thousand years ago a carpenter probably made his own tools, or bought the blades and cutting implements from a blacksmith and assembled them into tools. All his work was done by hand, with human muscle, whether he cut his own wood or paid someone to cut it, the cutting was all done by hand, with axe or saw. And with lots a patience, because it takes longer to do work with only human muscle.
That made things made out of wood expensive, because a lot of man-hours went into them. That also made the carpenter a skilled worker, with a decent income, after a fashion.
Was Jesus a carpenter? Well Matthew and Mark both identify Jesus as "the carpenter's son". At the time the scripture describes St. Joseph is already dead it seems, and mentioned are Mary and Jesus other relatives (either cousins, as is believed in the Western Tradition or step siblings as is believed in the Eastern Tradition.) He himself is never described as a carpenter, but in those days most men learned their craft at their father's knee and it would have been highly unusual if Jesus was not at least trained as a carpenter, as a boy and young man.
The Gospels are very silent about Jesus' youth, telling only of the Holy Families trip to the temple when Jesus was just below the age of manhood. We know that the Holy family fled to Egypt, but not the exact year. Herod the Great, who is traditionally thought to be the Herod who ordered the innocents of Bethlehem murdered, died in 3 BC. Caesar Augustus ruled from about 27 BC until 14 AD. Quirinius was governor in Syria from about 1 AD until 12 AD, too late for Herod the Great to be the Herod mentioned in the bible. Josephus, the great Jewish historian tells us that Quirinius did indeed order a census. Not to worry there were several Herods in the area. Herod Archelaus was ethnarch of Samaria, Judea and Idumea, it was his shoddy tax collecting, which caused Quirinius to be appointed. Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, brother of Archelaus, who eventually had John the baptist killed. Herod Agrippa, only a boy in 1 AD, but later king of Judea, and mentioned in the Acts.
The gospel says that the Holy Family returned when it was safe and settled in Nazareth, in Galilee, where presumably Joseph worked as a carpenter.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

On the fourth day of Christmas...

On the fourth day of Christmas...

On the fourth day of Christmas...

Catholics in America, and I expect most countries where they are not the majority are slightly out of step with other Christians. While they celebrate during the few weeks before Christmas, putting up decorations, singing Christmas Carols, and preparing fro the festive day, Catholics are in the season of Advent, preparing not just for celebrating the birth of the Baby Jesus, but also for Jesus' Second Coming. When Christmas day is over, though most Christians don't immediately pull down their Christmas decorations, they are thinking now about celebrating New Year, with Christmas behind them. Catholics are just getting started. They still have the twelve days of Christmas ahead of them,
First there is the feast of St. Steven the first adult martyred in Christ's name. Steven was a deacon and I think that has it's own significance. On the night he was betrayed Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles. then he dies, rose again, and ascended into Heaven. Pentecost came and the next thing you know the Apostles are saying, "We shouldn't ignore the Word of God to wait tables..." So they appoint deacons to do the serving. And God calls upon one of them to be killed while preaching the word of God. I wonder what the Apostles thought of that?
Next there is the feast of St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist. At his crucifixion Jesus entrusted the care of his mother to "the one who he loved." Of all the Apostles John was the only one to die of old age.
Then there is the feast of the Massacre of the Holy Innocents. These are all of the children murdered by Herod, as described in the Gospel of Matthew. Though unbaptized, these innocents are the first martyrs and so were baptized in the blood of the Lamb, the first of those souls saved by man-God Jesus, excepting perhaps for his mother, born without the stain of Original Sin, for His sake.
So celebrate on, these are pivotal pieces of our Catholic heritage. Still eight days till the Wise Men come calling.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas update

Really didn't think I'd have time today, but I The 11:30 regular Mass was canceled today, reducing father's Mass load to a mere seven Masses in two days. He's asked a retired priest to cover a few daily Masses this week, so he can take a day off. No one to help with the Christmas Masses though. He was upbeat about it, but I know he'll be tired tomorrow. Being able to celebrate Mass must be wonderful, but father is only a few years away from retirement and is not as healthy as he once was.
Sure enough 9:30 Mass was a little lighter than usual, especially considering there was no 11:30 Mass. I mentioned it to one of our teens, who had also noticed. He knew the difference between Advent and Christmas vigil Mass. Too bad some of his elders are not so knowledgeable.
I'll go to the 9:00 pm Mass for two reasons. One is it is the youth Mass and I expect to see a lot of our teens and their parents there, The second is that the midnight Mass is likely to be full of two Mass a year "Catholics" who will ensure that any regular attendee will have to arrive early just to get a seat. A couple of years ago my son and I ended up having to sit out in the common area because all of the pews were full. I wouldn't mind if I thought it would bring them in every week, but we won't see any of them again until Easter Sunday. Maybe a few prayers would be in order to grant them the grace to return full time.
Well again Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. I expect I won't be posting tomorrow or on Monday. A Monday Christmas means that I get a couple more days off since the national lab I work at is in shutdown. Were Christmas on Tuesday this year I would have had to work through the weekend.
So tomorrow the Advent Wreath gets put away and Baby Jesus joins the rest of the figures in the Nativity set.
It also means that I get to attend Mass on both Sunday morning and Sunday night. What? Thought you could double dip this year? Jimmy Akin explains on his blog.
The Church I attend typically has three evening Masses on Christmas Eve. There is a Children's Mass at 5:00. A Youth Mass at 9:00 pm and typically a Midnight Mass too. I haven't seen this year's schedule yet. I'll check the bulletin at 9:30 am Mass tomorrow. We generally have three Masses on Sunday, and a Saturday evening Mass too. With the Christmas morning Mass this would be eight Masses in less than two days for one priest. Quite apart from the norms, which I believe would prohibit that without permission from the bishop, it would be a fairly grueling schedule for father. I suspect at least one Mass will be canceled, probably the Youth Mass or Midnight Mass.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church was first published in 1992. It was written by a number of individuals, among them Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., known for his own tome The Catholic Catechism, published in the 1980s. The CCC bears the Imprimi Potest of none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
I have a well thumbed paperback edition, but find myself using the online edition posted here on the Vatican's site. The electronic version is very easy to search and I have a version of the CCC on my Palm, which means it's always with me to research those difficult to answer, "why does the Church say that..." questions I always seem to get from teens.
Earlier this year the Church published a kind of primer version of the 900 page CCC, called the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This smaller volume is on my Christmas list which hasn't prevented me from downloading it on my Palm.
The compendium starts with the Apostles Creed. The Creed, which probably originated as early as the second century is used by many Christian denominations. The compendium then discusses the sacraments, starting with the liturgy. next comes life in Christ, and finally Christian Prayer.
The Appendixes includes a list of common prayers, in both Latin and the vernacular, both the United States and Canadian versions in the English translation. They also include what the Compendium calls the Formulas Of Catholic Doctrine, which include things like the Beatitudes and the Seven gifts of the Holy spirit. The printed version also includes some beautiful illustration plates in full color.
Spend some time reading the Compendium. Unlike the CCC itself it is quite possible to read the entire Compendium in just s few hours.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Mass

We all go to Mass regularly (hopefully.) The major revision of the Mass that resulted from Vatican II was probably much more sweeping than the original participants anticipated. While many of the changes were a direct result of the revisions, some were authorized or unauthorized experimentation which was, in my opinion allowed to go for much too long. So how to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the Mass?
The place to start is the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GRIM). The fourth edition marked March 27, 1975 is the current document. The GRIM like the Roman Missal is written in Latin. The English translation is prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. Like most Vatican documents it is available on line here.
In the last decade or so the Roman Catholic Church has begun to enforce compliance to the GRIM by Ordinaries, that is bishops, and their priest, especially in the United States, where certain illicit practices had crept into the Mass. Some of the practices were carried out in ignorance, with the best of intentions. Others were not originally illicit, as they were carried out under indults from Rome, which have expired.
Most of these deviations were small in nature, but collectively impact the reverence of the Mass. Most have to do with individuals exceeding the boundaries of their prescribed roles. The GRIM says:

All in the assembly gathered for Mass have an individual right and duty to contribute their participation in ways differing according to the diversity of their order and liturgical function.[45] Thus in carrying out this function, all, whether ministers or laypersons, should do all and only those parts that
belong to them...
That means there are parts of the Mass only a priest can perform. Other parts normally the province of a deacon, if one is present. And other parts relegated to lay ministers.

For example if there is a deacon present it is his role to proclaim the gospel. The priest will not read the gospel if there is a deacon present, that role only relegates to him if there is no deacon.

Likewise the reader(lector) will do the first and second reading and also lead the Psalm, if there is no cantor. The GRIM specifically opens this role to women.

No one questions that only the priest can perform the Consecration. In the same way only an acolyte, deacon or priest can perform certain task in the preparation before and the purification of vessels after Communion.

Since the revision of the Mass there has been more than one translation of the Missale Roma­num into English. This has resulted in what to some seems a never ending tinkering with the Mass. Be advise that the original Latin has not changed. The changes to the English are a result of an effort originally to use a more colloquial translation, which was unsatisfying in its adherence to the specific meaning of the Latin.

One of the results of this was a controversy over the pro multis translation. It is part of the Rite of Consecration of the wine. In Latin the phrase means for many. In the original Latin the priest says: “Qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur.” In the current English translation, the priest says: “It will be shed for you and for all.” "For all" in Latin is pro omnibus.

This is a translation with theological impact because while Jesus died to bring salvation to all mankind, salvation is only granted to those who follow Him. A person can refuse salvation. That is the prerogative of free will. So in truth his blood "will be shed for you and for many," but not "for all."

These changes are not going to happen overnight. The appropriate authorities are determined (finally) to get a proper stable translation that Rome won't second guess them on (again.) So don't expect to see these changes for a few years.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Apostolic Succession

Apostolic Succession: what is it, whose got it and who wants it?
Apostolic Succession is the belief that the Christian Church today is the spiritual successor to the original body of believers in Christ composed of the Apostles. In the Catholic Church this succession is understood to be carried through the sacrament of Holy Orders through the episcopal ordinaries, the bishops. The Pope is the successor of Saint Peter particularly. The Apostolic Succession of the Orthodox Church is recognized by Rome, which is one of the reasons that their sacraments are recognized as valid.
Now to the muddied waters. The Church holds that all bishops have the inherent ability to ordain a baptized male to be a deacon, priest, or bishop. A valid but illicit ordination, as the name suggests, is one where a bishop uses his valid ability to ordain someone whom under canon law or instruction from the pope he was prohibited from ordaining, it therefore being illicit.
However such an ordination is only valid if the properly performed. In the case of ordination this is the laying of hands and the proper charge to priesthood. The Anglican Church, for example is not generally seen to have Apostolic Succession because during the reign of Edward VI the outward forms of ordination in the Anglican Church were changed. Pope Leo XIII wrote a Papal Bull Apostolicae Curae stating that fact. Amazingly some modern Catholic theologians have question this. Further muddying the waters is the fact that in 1922 the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople affirmed that the Orthodox Church does recognize the validity of the Anglican Church's Apostolic Succession and of its Holy Orders. Of course this was before the Anglican Church started ordaining women. Pope Benedict has reaffirmed the Anglican Holy Orders to be “absolutely null and utterly void.”
Another group claiming Apostolic Succession is the Old Catholic Church. The Old Catholic Church stakes its claim on succession though the Apostolic Vicar of Utrecht, the Dutch Archbishop, Cornelius van Steenoven, who had a falling out with Rome. After Vatican I, which the Old Catholic Church refused to recognize, the Church spread to America and other parts of the world. The ordinations of Archbishop van Steenoven are seen by the Roman Catholic Church as valid but illicit.
Can a bishop created by a valid but illicit ordination in his turn perform ordinations? The answer is yes...but the person ordained must be someone who can otherwise by lawfully ordained. For example an unbaptised person could not be validly ordained, nor can a woman. A married man can be validly ordained, and indeed there are married priest in both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.
Unfortunately for the Old Catholics, like the Anglicans, they have taken to ordaining women, which would invalidate any succession in those lines since a woman "bishop" is not a true bishop and has no ability to ordain anyone.
Here's where it get complicated. Many Anglo-Catholics and traditionalist Old Catholics have doubts about the directions of their respective Churches, and care about Apostolic Succession. These members of their respective clergies have personally sought out bishops who, by their lights, might still have true Apostolic Succession via an unbroken line of valid (but illicit) ordinations back to a known Roman Catholic or Orthodox bishop to lay hands upon them and ordain them. Odd isn't it? These break away Christians look to Rome (and our Orthodox brothers) to secure the validity of their priestly orders?
What about Protestants in general? Most don't care about Apostolic Succession at all. I won't even get into the non-Christian Churches, such as the Latter Day Saints.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Today we prayed the rosary outside an abortion clinic with my Middle School Class. The clinic was closed, the idea was not to cause confrontation, but to pray for the victims. Most of these kids do not regularly pray the rosary, so we did a little catechesis after. We talked about how the Apostles Creed can be substituted for the Nicene Creed at a children's Mass. We also discussed how the Fatima Prayer was given by Mary to the children Lucia de Jesus Santos, Jacinta and Francisco Marto. We went over the meaning of the doxology and finished up with where the Hail Mary came from.
This got me thinking about the traditions of Catholic Culture, everything from Saint's feast days to why the priest wears rose vestments on the third Sunday of Advent. There is an incredible depth of culture possessed by the Catholic Church. In the past this culture was passed down from parents, through Catholic education, and many times in the surrounding culture of ethnic neighborhoods.
Today many parents, raised in the post Vatican II period, are themselves disconnected from Catholic culture. In many parts of the country the surrounding culture is secular, sometimes even anti-Catholic. This puts an incredible burden on the catechist to pass on not just dogmatic knowledge of the faith but its cultural norms and traditions too. As always parents are an important support system for this, even if they themselves must be catechized. That is why whole parish catechesis is an important aspect of parish life.

Gaudete Sunday

From Catholic Culture
Today is known as Gaudete Sunday. The term Gaudete refers to the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, "Rejoice". Rose vestments are worn to emphasize our joy that Christmas is near, and we also light the rose candle on our Advent wreath.
This year the Third Sunday of Advent is on December 17. Because of this during the Liturgy of the Hours the readings and Antiphons for the Third Sunday of Advent are replaced with the O Antiphons. For the next eight days, an Octave in the Church calendar the O Antiphons will precede the Magnificant during Evening prayer (Vespers).

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Catechists journey with their charges as teacher and companions. They teach the beliefs and traditions of the Catholic Church, along with their parents, of course. This is an awesome responsibility. It is not something that can be done in two hours a month or even four hours a month. It requires a commitment beyond just a few hours in a classroom.
The catechist should be an example, in prayer life, behavior and piety. We all fail sometimes to follow in the footsteps of Christ, but even in this, the example in the reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation should be there.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Often times things happen in life which are not convenient. A car breaks down or a computer takes a swim and we don't always have funds to deal with these little hiccups of life.
At such times it is important to remember what is vital and central to our lives. Almost any problem of this sort is really one of convenience. A broken car most often means taking the bus or in most American households sharing another car. A cooked computer means a trip to the library or borrowing another computer for vital school related work. The inconvenience is the loss a easy mobility and the ability to play video games. There are people for who such problems are much more serious. Single car families in rural areas, shoestring business who have lost all their records, but for most of us this is not the case.
In all of these cases though, serious or inconvenient the answer is prayer. Prayer brings perspective to the problem. Prayer of help is easy when you have a problem. It is even easier when prayer is a regular part of your life. Sometimes God will decide that the easy answer, the one you are most likely praying for, is not the right answer and there may be a few bumps in the road, but in the long term, on the road to salvation each and every bump is a necessary part of the ride.
I have a friend who if you ask him what he would change about his life will tell you, "Not a thing, because every disappointment, failure and misstep has led me here, to where I am now." This is where God has put him, and he figures this is where he should be.
So when life has bumps, put you faith in God and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Role playing

I am a sometimes Role Playing Gamer and RPG author. That is one of the roles I play in real life, pun intended. But what role do I play in Christ's body, the body of the Church, and what role does this blog play?
I am not a theologian. I leave that role to those who have studied for it. Ex Corde Ecclesiae(from the Heart of the Church) requires that:
those who teach theological disciplines..have mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority.
Now the mandate particularly applies to teachers in Catholic Universities, but anyone who presents himself as a theologian publicly should, in my opinion, tread carefully unless he or she has an ecclesiastic patron, because theology is not a subject like history or math. There are Truths embodied in Church teachings, and while some teachings are open to dialog and discussion other are not and a professional theologian should be able to tell one from the other, but needs a shepherd when they've gone astray.
I am not an apologist. Apologetics is the branch of theology which deals with defense of the faith. A Catholic apologist defends the faith against non-Catholic Christians, pagans and non-believers, as well as our Jewish and Islamic brothers and sisters. Some deal almost exclusively with Protestants, others primarily with non-believers. I write primarily for members of the Catholic faith so I am not an apologist.
If I have a role at all in the Church it is primarily as a catechist. A catechist role is that of a teacher-companion. He or she is to be the voice of the Church, in that they teach what the Church directs. The catechist must be careful to differentiate opinion from Church teaching, and never support deviation from the norms required by the Church. Opinions contrary to Church teachings have no business passing the catechists lips. That does not mean not struggling with any aspect of Church teaching but it does mean leaving it outside the classroom.
It also means lots a prayer. A catechist must pray constantly and study, especially the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Of patrons

Today is the feast of St. Lucy, that is Lucia of Syracuse, who was from a rich family of Greek ancestry. Her Roman father died when she was young and her mother arranged a marriage for her to the Roman pagan Paschasius.
When she refused to marry him he turned her in to the Roman authorities. The consul of Syracuse sentenced her to force prostitution, but when the brothel guards went to fetch her they could not move her, even with a team of oxen. He then ordered her tortured, but her tormentors could not rape her. When they attempted to burn her at the stake the wood refused to burn. They cut out her eyes but God restored them. Finally she was executed by being stabbed to death by a dagger. Legend says that she did not die until decapitated, but still continued to speak even then prophesying against her persecutors and begging all Christians to remain firm in their faith.
Her mother , Eutychia, was said to suffer from haemorrhagic illness, which God cured in answer to St. Lucy's prayers.
She is the patron saint of oculists and diseases of the eyes, and also of authors,glaziers, and cutlers. Because Lucy means bringer of light she is also the patron of electricians, an honor she shares with St. Barbara (who was killed by lightning), and who is often represented in her company in religious iconography.
As I am a sometimes professional electrician I count St. Lucy as one of my patrons. Another is St. Isadore of Seville, patron saint of the Internet and computer programmers. So how does a Spanish bishop become the patron saint of computers?
So, how does Saint Isidore of Seville become the patron saint for the Internet? The Observation Service for Internet, who drew it's mission from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, researched the Internet and related technologies to select a patron saint that best reflects the concerns and ideals of computer designers, programmers and users. The saint chosen by the Observation Service for Internet was Saint Isidore. "The saint who wrote the well-known 'Etymologies' (a type of dictionary), gave his work a structure akin to that of the database. He began a system of thought known today as 'flashes;' it is very modern, notwithstanding the fact it was discovered in the sixth century. Saint Isidore accomplished his work with great coherence: it is complete and its features are complementary in themselves.
I also pray to Fr. Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, who I believe will one day be canonized, and the Servant of God John Paul II, who I know will eventually be officially known as the Great and one of the holiest Popes of the last few centuries.
And, of course, I pray to God, in all of his three persons. The protestants have got it so wrong. They will ask another living person to pray for them, but refuse to ask someone who is already with God to also pray for them. As through asking a saint for intercession means you aren't also going to ask God directly for your blessing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Valid and licit.

Wikipedia has an article on valid but illicit, who knew?
As a matter of fact Wikipedia has quite an extensive collection of articles on the Catholic Church and Christianity. I find that the articles are generally quite good, sometimes even better than the Catholic Encyclopedia. They often include information on the beliefs of other Christian churches and honestly compare the beliefs of various groups, without taking sides. By this I mean they also do not take a secular stand either. I find it a good resource, when properly balanced with other sources.
I find the 'net in it's entirety an amazing resource for an aspiring apologist or catechist.
I've written on the positive effect the Internet can have by exposing groups or individuals who are supporting non-dogmatic stances or performing illicit practices.
Because the Vatican posts just about everything it is a great way to read documents propagated by the Holy See. The Catholic blogosphere passes on news faster than CNN. There are literally hundreds of useful apologetic and catechism sites, which with a little cross checking can ensure that what you teach is the real deal: the Truth as revealed by Mother Church.
It is a much better way to spend your time than "must-see" TV.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Our Lady of Guadalupe

The shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, near Mexico City, is one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimage in North America. On December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian convert, Juan Diego, and left with him a picture of herself impressed upon his cloak. As Our Lady of Guadalupe the Blessed Virgin is the Patron of the Americas.

from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
Guadalupe is strictly the name of a picture, but was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town that grew up around. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico it may represent certain Aztec sounds.
This Marian Feast is especially celebrated in Mexico and Latin America, but is also celebrated in the United States and the rest of North America.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Of creeds and men

The Nicene Creed was originally composed as an answer to Arianism. Arianism denies that the Son is of one essence, nature, or substance with God. The Church's answer was the Creed. In some form the Creed is used by Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, Anglican, Lutheran, and most other Protestant Churches. I have heard a nondenominational Christian minister of my acquaintance quote almost the whole creed verbatim when explaining what beliefs a Christian must hold to be Christian. His interpretation of "We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church" is slightly different than mine, but in the other areas of the Creed we agree almost exactly.
Now one of the reasons that the Creed was created was so that Christians would be able to state what they believed. It was also created so that a priest, bishop or lay person could not finesse the issues. This is what you had to believe. This was the teaching of the Church. This is what you stood up at Mass and said you believed.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a creed of beliefs for the issues of our days? The beliefs are the same as the Church has always held, but what a difference there would be if Catholics had to stand up at Mass and state them. Contraception, abortion, homosexuality. How many would continue to pretend that they didn't understand the Churches teachings, or that they could continue to be Catholic without holding these beliefs in common with the Church?

Friday, December 8, 2006

Immaculate Conception

Mark Shea has a wonderful post on the Immaculate Conception on his blog.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Call to Action

From Amy Welborn's blog

Zinger #2: Cardinal Re, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, has confirmed Bp. Bruskewitz's excommunication of members of Call to Action in his diocese:

"The Vatican has determined that “the activities of ‘Call to Action’ in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic Faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint,” Cardinal Re writes. He concludes: “Thus to be a member of this Association or to support it, is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith.” (CWN, via EWTN)

Another whiff of the grape on St. Ambrose day!

Posted by: Angus McWasp at Dec 7, 2006 6:58:00 PM

For those who do not know CTA is a a fairly radical left wing group which supports female ordination, homosexual marriage, and various other stances, including contraception. Here's an example of some of their shenanigans and here.


It's not what you think. The Dale Carnegie course, as it's first principle says that one should not complain, condemn or criticize, I intend to all three.
I have a breviary, that is a book used in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. It cost about $35.00, as opposed to the multi-volume version which runs about $145.00. Now in the interest of full disclosure I must point out that there are paperback versions of the breviary available for <$8.00. There are also online versions. The full Liturgy of the Hours, in both its unrevised pre-Vatican II and revised post Vatican II versions are available for free in Latin. English is another story. Liturgy of the Hours Apostolate has each day available for a subscription fee, equal each year to the cost of my breviary. It is also available for Palms for a stiffer $50.00. Universalis likewise provides a version of the Hours. Their version lacks the Antiphons, and the Palm version cost 30 pounds, which is anywhere from $38 to $60 depending on the exchange rate.
I don't really know who runs the first site. They have a New York address. Universalis is a publishing company and is based in England. I have nothing against companies trying to make money.
My problem is with the Church trying to make money by charging for something like Liturgy of the Hours. Why doesn't the Church post the daily Liturgy readings on line? I can easily afford the cost of my breviary. Having the hours on my handheld is just convenient when I'm not home and prevents me from having to carry my book around, but that's not the real point.
I know a deacon who works at a convalescent home as the spiritual coordinator. He works with chaplains from many denominations. Because of his position he is constantly being sent materials from the various Christian organizations. He tells me that a Protestant group will send him dozens of magazines to be handed out to the residents, by way of evangelization. Catholic magazines send him solicitations for subscriptions, which are not in his meager budget. The LDS sent him free copies of the Book of Mormon. The Baptists King James versions of the Bible. The Catholic publishers pamphlets on ordering Bibles.
By now I think you get my drift. Somebody is paying for all of this stuff, but most groups consider getting the Gospel, or their version of it, out as part of their mission to preach the word. Somehow the Church has bought into the idea that the word should be sold rather than given away.
Now I know that the Knights of Columbus and many other fine Catholic organizations raise money to give away free Bibles. Heck, my parish gives a new youth Bible to every rising sixth grader when they enter middle school catechesis.
That does not explain why, in the age when just about every Vatican document written is posted on the web, why something as universal as the Liturgy of the Hours is only available by paid subscription.

Sugar-Coating God

Got an email from one of the youth ministers I work with. She said:
Hey everyone, check out this article from time magazine. it's talking about the problems with "sugar-coating" religion and how it really doesn't work in the long run. it's pretty interesting: Sugar-Coating God Keep pressing on and teaching the youth the Truth. They need it!
The article doesn't mention Catholic programs specifically, but we've all seen such religion-lite programs. I consider Life Teen to have latched on to this Scripture based method years ago. Every Life Night program I've seen for years is Scripture and Catechism of the Catholic Church based, with enough music and activities around the edges to make it interesting, but with a core talk which is all no holds barred Truth.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Running through the blogosphere

One of the amazing thing about the Internet and the phenom of blogs is that some Church in the Diocese of Orange has a priest say Mass dressed as Barney and all of a sudden every Catholic blog from Rome to Portland is talking about it. Suddenly the Bishop is getting letters from all over the U.S. The Vatican has to have heard of what is going on, and it's hard to believe that Bishop Brown hasn't heard from someone in Rome with at least a little comment on the incident. Of course the parish did it to itself by first posting the video on-line at their web site.
This brings up the real point. The agendas of Groups, organizations, and parishes who seem determined to go outside the belief structure of the Church become very easy to discover. It has become much harder for a local ordinary to turn a blind eye to such practices, as his fellow bishops and Rome become appraised of what is happening not through private letters to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith but through dozens of blogs where hundreds of comments advertise and denounce the abuses.
While the Church has shown amazing resiliency is ignoring the mainstream media it is a little harder to ignore educated laymen and even clergy quoting chapter and verse of Church documents while denouncing practices which are illicit. Let us hope and pray that the hierarchy will start to effectively use this information to respond to curb these abuses.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Religion in a secular world

I was discussing theology classes with a college student of my acquaintance. He was taking classes at a public college. After talking with him for a short while it became quite clear to me that not only did most of his teachers seem extremely liberal, in a theological sense, but they also seemed to have no real belief in God.
I shouldn't be surprised. Become immersed in comparative religion classes, with a concentration on the academic evaluation of theological sources and it's easy to lose focus on the dogmatic truths taught by the infallible Sacred Magisterium.
The problem with such people is that in many cases there is no common ground for a true discussion of faith. A Catholic Apologist can discuss faith with a Lutheran, a Baptist or even a follower of Islam, but they cannot discuss faith with a secularist who denies the basic premises of faith. As Thomas Aquinas said in the Summa Theologiae :
If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections — if he has any — against faith.
I told my young friend not to confuse the accumulation of facts necessary to pass his courses with the understanding of truths which can only be arrived at through the study of theologically sound doctrine. Proper catechesis prior to exposure is, like a vaccination, always better for spiritual health in such situations.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

First Sunday of Advent

So we move on to a new year.
The liturgical color for Advent is violaceo [violet], commonly called purple by most people. There has been a trend in some parishes in the United States toward the wearing of a more bluish violet in Advent and a darker purplish violet in Lent. This is licit as long as the shade is violet. Of course, blue trim for Advent is also allowed. On the third Sunday of Advent, when we light the pink candle the Missale Romanum allows vestments of coloris rosacei [the color rose].
Father wore a new chasuble and stole this morning. It was of violet, but had a very interesting texture which gave it the look of two shades of violet. The stole had gold thread trim, and I seem to recall that it was a present from the parish on the anniversary of his ordination. Last year I believe he wore violet on the third Sunday of Advent, the rose color is optional and few modern priest seem willing to buy a set of vestments which they can only wear one day a year.
We did O Come, O Come Emmanuel as the opening hymn. The Gloria is omitted in Advent.
The author of the Gloria is unknown. It is of ancient origin, going back as far as the first century. It takes its verse from scripture:
Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among men of good will.-- Luke 2:14.
The Gloria was composed in the East, and probably originally written in Greek, not Latin. It was used in the Morning Office and not the Mass. It is still not used in the Greek Rite. It entered the Roman Rite first as a part of the Christmas Mass, probably in the fifth or sixth century.
The Gloria was not always excluded during Advent either. As late as the twelfth century it was still said during Masses in Advent. At this time the exact wording of the Gloria was not yet constrained and there were many versions, which were song at different Masses. When the Roman Missal was revised at Trent the expansion of the Gloria was prohibited.
Under present usage the Gloria is suppressed during Advent, because it is a penitential season, but the Alleluia is retained, because are still a resurrection people. We are penitent because we look forward to Christ's second coming, with hope and fervor.
But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. --Thessalonians 5.4

Friday, December 1, 2006

Life and death and life

I've got a toothache today. it's not a bad toothache, though it's probably an indication that the tooth will soon have to come out. Its another sign of age, of the rot of that feeble edifice that is my body. Created by God not to last through eternity, but only for a very short human lifetime.
And then what? I can look forward to the slow decline of life, or perhaps the unexpected extinction of life too short. And then death. But if I die in a state of grace, thanks to the salvation given to me by my Lord, given and not earned, for nothing I can do can effect my Salvation except through the Grace of God, I will eventually go to my God.
I will exist only as spirit, but that will not be my final state, because I have a promise:
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; --John 6:54
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. --Rev 21:1
"We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess" (Council of Lyons II: DS 854). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a "spiritual body" (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44). --CCC 1017
So someday I can look forward to a new body, with good teeth.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

St. Andrew

Today is the feast of St. Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, patron of the Orthodox Churches. Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist, and one of those to who left John to follow Jesus. The synoptic gospels all tell how Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw Andrew and Simon casting their net into the Sea and told them to "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." John tells us a little more. Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist. Andrew was with another follower of John the Baptist and John pointed out Jesus to Them and said "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" John went and found his brother Simon and told him, "We have found the Messiah!"
Little is know for certain of his life after Pentecost. He is not mentioned in Acts, except among the list of Apostles, and no mention is made of him in any of the Epistles.
Legend and tradition say that he was crucified on a decussate cross, that is a cross shaped like an X, was bound and not nailed to prolong his suffering and that he died during the time of Nero, executed by a Roman Governor, named Aegeas at Patrae in Achaia.
Most of his relics are in Rome, transported there just before the fall of Constantinople. Pope Paul VI returned some of them to the patriarchate, to the church at Patras, where they are kept in a crypt at the Amalfi cathedral, along with other relics also believed to belong to Andrew.
He is the patron of Scotland Greece, Russia, Romania, Amalfi, and Luqa - Malta. He was also the patron saint of Prussia.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Pope in Turkey

Surely the Catholic blogosphere is abuzz with Benedict's trip to Turkey. The mainstream media is likewise watching every nonce of every word, hoping for either a controversial mistake or a politically correct apology for calling Islam to terms for thier actions.
One fact seldom if mentioned at all on the mainstream media is the Turkish government's systematic program to destroy the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople by closing their only seminary in the 1970's and preventing Orthodox clergy ordained outside Turkey from legally working there. Their goal is the eventual termination of the Patriarchate through attrition.
If Turkey wants to join the European Union it is time for Christians in Europe to demand that reopening of the seminary and reasonable working visa policies for foreign clergy be established, as a condition of entry.
That and lots of prayer. The Orthodox church has both apostolic succession and valid sacraments. Though there are issues between Rome and Constantinople, they are not of such a magnitude that we should wish their primary patriarchate to join those of Revelations in extinction. We should pray for the Holy Spirit to guide the patriarchate to safety and full reunification with the Roman Church.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Mass again

Over at Amy Welborn's blog in a comment on the renovation of Pell's Cathedral in Australia, someone posted a comment on the Mass. It was only slightly relevant to the piece itself, but naturally elicited lots of comments.
I had to go to a meeting before I could post my thoughts and comments were close before I could get back. I'll hold my comments for posting tomorrow, but thought I would write my thoughts here also.
The original comments were:

The fussing about abolition is a smokescreen for the reality of the situation:

1. There are not two Roman Rites, but one.

2. The Missal of 1970 was a reform of the previous Missal.

3. The use of the 1570/1962 Missal, unreformed by the directives of Vatican II, remains a curiosity at best, and a distraction or a banner for schism at worst.

4. The continued emphasis on the 1570/1962 Missal draws energy and effort from the real task of the Catholic liturgy: making it as humanly effective as possible by means of great music, great preaching, great art and architecture, etc..

If lovers of high church ritual, smells, bells, and the like want to continue, there's nothing stopping them from having a Latin-language Mass celebrated with appropriate pomp and spirituality--except perhaps that the traditionalist clergy are fixated on an unreformed and outdated Missal.

The wishful thinking about a "liberation" of an old Missal, given the repeatedly dashed hopes of every "leaked" promulgation date, is a little embarassing.

Todd's a little confrontational in his delivery. I must agree with many of his conclusions. Lets look at the source, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was one of the most significant measures enacted by the Second Vatican Council. According to Wikipedia, (which I have no reason to doubt in this case) it was approved by the assembled bishops by a vote of 2,147 to 4.

"25. The liturgical books are to be revised as soon as possible; experts are to be employed on the task, and bishops are to be consulted, from various parts of the world.
"Wherefore, in the revision of the liturgy, the following general norms should be observed:
34. The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions; they should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation."--Sacrosanctum Concilium

Reading the document, it is quite clear, to me at least, that it was their intention that the 1970 revision was to be a revision of the 1962 revision of 1570 Trent Missal.

As for the 1962 Missal, and its use...There is only one Roman Rite, and it is the Novus Ordo. Why else would an indult be require to say a Mass using the 1962 Missal?

Quoting the Catholic Encyclopedia "Indults are general faculties (q.v.), granted by the Holy See to bishops and others, of doing something not permitted by the common law."

If the Tridentine were indeed a separate rite or licit version of the Roman Missal an Indult would not be required for its use.

Now was the revision done and promulgated as well as it should have been? Should the use of Latin have been more specifically spelled out in the documents? Does the 1970 revision have too many available options for the various parts? These are all valid questions and should be answered, perhaps by another revision of the 30-year old N.O. But this is a separate question and does not speak to the issue of the Tridentine rite, which was replaced by the 1970 revision, except where its use was allowed by Indult.

As a matter of fact, if there are problems with the N.O. Tod is also right that the fixation on the Tridentine Mass by those most likely to push for meaningful reforms of the N.O. is preventing any real progress in getting the excesses properly addressed.

The Tridentine Mass has become a schismatic symbol to groups like SSPX and France's bishops.

And I also agree that some seem to me to see a return to the Latin Mass as a cure all for the problems that the Church has experienced since the 1960's, problems caused by a changing culture. These changes were not caused by the change in the Mass or the Church. I have my own opinions about that, which I will write about another day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Twelve Days of Christmas

My parish did a little preparation for Advent catechesis last night. As part of the warm up we got a sheet with the story of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The original came from the Catholic Information Network. It was written by Fr. Hal Stockert.

Nativity Review & Perpetual Virginity

The Nativity premiered at the Vatican. Father Z was there and his blog has both a review of the movie and a discussion of the theological concept of Mary's perpetual virginity and what that means in relation to the pains of childbirth. The discussion is ongoing so head on over there...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Too many choices

I've been a geek for most of my life. I cut my teeth on a Univac 1108, and played with a PDP/9 as my first micro-instruction computer. I was on AOL when it was still PC-Link and hit the Internet when you basically had to be at a University to get access. I've assemble computers from parts and even written a printer driver to allow an Atari to talk to a PC printer. I was on the web when only Swiss physicists and uber-geeks were and the browser of choice was Mosaic.
So its with some trepidation that I have to admit that the cyber-world has become too big, too diverse for me to keep up. I mean first there was email and newsreaders, then FTP, IRC, and the WWW. Now there's Instant Messenger, Online gaming and Second Life. Second Life?
I attended a conference for personal computer use in control systems. Most of the people there had been in the computer business for years; software, hardware, embedded systems, PLCs(programmable logic controllers), etc., etc., etc. After a week of talks on every conceivable aspect of process control using computers, by an international cast, we had a guest speaker who was to speak on the future of computing.
A guy came in. First thing he did was throw his Powerpoint on the big screen using his phone, like the guy in the MS commercial. He starts by saying, "Well I just attended a client conference in Second Life..."
Blank stares, even from the Americans in the audience. So he tells us how there is this whole virtual world, where people spend and make real money, meet people make friends, etc. Then a couple of days ago, while doing some research on the Mass for a lesson I'm writing I find this.
So I'm thinking, I'd really love to check this out. SL membership is free, but... who has the time?
I sold a single RPG article last month, and haven't started working on another yet. I've got a massive programing project due at work. There's still Christmas shopping to do, and I've promised my dear heart to floor the attic before Advent is over.
I don't have the time to learn another piece of software and explore a whole virtual world. Like the time sinkhole which is instant messenger, I'm going to have to forgo joining Second Life, probably for a couple more years of this life.

The order of the Mass

Trinity Sunday and father was about to go into his sermon on Christ as King, so he asks, "How many noticed that today I'm wearing white vestments instead of green?" A number of hands go up, about 2/3rds of those present. "So how many didn't notice?" No hands go up.
Now this should be prefaced by two facts. Fact one: Father has never been one to allow the laity to fore go their responsibility:
In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy. --Sacrosanctum Concilium.
In father's eyes the responses are part of the office of the faithful attending Mass, and they should loudly and with reverence perform those parts.
Fact two:This particular morning between the Greeting and the Penitential Rite a number of adults were chattering when they should have been silent. Going into the Penitential Rite father felt, quite justifiably in my opinion, that people should have been silently contemplating their sins in preparation for our recital of option C of the rite rather than chatting.
The lack of response to his question, as well as the earlier talking motivated father to toss his homily on Jesus' appearance before Pilot and launch instead into a sermon on appropriate behavior at Mass.
This was not a tirade against the behavior of the community, but rather a thoughtful sermon on the place of the laity in worship. He explained how the Mass was both community and personal. There are parts of the Mass during which the community prays together and parts when we should be praying alone. Response during the proper times is our (the laity's)way of fulfilling our office. Quiet during the proper time is necessary for us to engage in respectful individual prayer during the times when we should be doing so.
I have always been glad that father, while a supporter of the N.O., is very exacting in adherence to the Roman Missal.
After Mass I thanked father for his sermon and expressed my appreciation for his strict stand on the Mass. His answer?
"Well it is the liturgy of the Church. They don't pay me to be creative."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

English translation of the Mass

I have written on the Mass in Latin before. The keynote address at the Gateway Liturgical Conference, St Louis, Missouri, November 11, 2006, LANGUAGE IN THE ROMAN RITE LITURGY:LATIN AND VERNACULAR has been posted at Adoremus.
Generally an illuminating talk, which points out the importance of a new, authentic translation of the Roman Missal. I'm afraid it will take someone of the caliber of St. Jerome to get it right.
Of course it will all be for naught if the ordinaries don't ruthlessly enforce it's use, while continuing to clamp down on illicit deviations from the proper forms.
The Novus Ordo has a lot going for it. More scripture is read at a N.O. Mass than at a Tridentine Mass, at least on Sundays where an Old Testament reading joins the Epistle and Gospel reading. It includes the Responsorial Psalm, which is an ancient part of the Mass predating the council of Trent and going back as far as 400 A.D. The prayer of the faithful goes back just as far in Church history.
But all of these restorations are meaningless if the priest fails to follow the prayers and rubrics of the Mass as laid down in the Missale Romanum. If we as Catholics want to preserve the beauty, reverence and sanctity of the Novus Ordo, whether it is said in Latin, the vernacular or a combination of both, we must urge the ordinary responsible for enforcing the proper celebration of the Mass, our local bishop, to live up to his responsibilities.

Christ the King

Today's Vespers begins Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical year. That means that Advent starts next Sunday. Still need to get Advent candles for my wreath. Went shopping for a new Nativity set, my better half hates the set we have. Truthfully it is oversized for our townhouse, so I'm trying to find one this year that is a little more in scale for our environment. Haven't found one that really strikes us yet, but we have plenty of time.

Friday, November 24, 2006

New computer on the way

Regulars may remember that my son's computer went south on him a couple of weeks ago. I gave him my laptop, because when you're a college student telling your parents you failed a course because you had no computer is no fun. Besides, considering what it's costing me to send him to college allowing him to fail by not helping him have the right tools is not reasonable.
So anyway my lovely and talent wife (have I mentioned she's also very smart) has insisted on buying me a new laptop for Christmas.
It's a Dell 1501, and I have it on good authority it is already on premises. She also picked out a new Pinder bag for me. (My old one went with the computer.)
Meanwhile she has not yet given me a single idea of what she want's for Christmas.:-(

The Nativity

Well, everyone who hasn't been in a cave for the last few months knows that Newline Pictures is releasing a movie on the birth of Christ, The Nativity. The 'net is a buzz with the typical commentary based on half-baked theological mutterings, so I though that this would be an excellent time for a little catechesis on things.

Lets start with vocabulary:

Immaculate Conception:Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin, she therefore, though subject to the ordinary limitations of human nature carried no inherent moral defect. This is the Immaculate Conception. She still had the capacity to sin because like all humans, including her son she possessed free will, however because she was without the stain of sin inherited from Adam and through the grace of God she was virtuous and without sin.

Annunciation:At the Annunciation the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” --Luke 1:30
This might also be called the Virginal Conception, though the term that is usually used is the Incarnation, because it is assumed that the Annunciation is when God through the Holy Spirit caused Mary to conceive the baby Jesus. In the Eastern Church the feast is celebrated as the Incarnation of Christ. It is for this reason that the Annunciation is celebrated nine months before Christmas.

Nativity:The birth of a child, in this case the birth of the baby Jesus.

Christmas:Literally Christ's Mass from the Old English Cristes mæsse. Often abbreviated Xmas because the Roman letter "X" resembles the Greek letter Χ (chi), an abbreviation for Christ (Χριστός). So see you are not "taking Christ out of Christmas" by using the Xmas form.

Virgin Birth:The concept that Jesus was born while Mary remained a perpetual virgin. This is the subject of some controversy in modern times, not because Catholics have any doubt that Mary was a virgin until her death, but because there is a question of the meaning of virgin. Does virgin mean in this case someone who has abstained from sexual intercourse or does it also mean a someone who has an intact hymen?
We know in modern times it is quite possible for a woman who has never engaged in sexual intercourse to have a broken hymen. Also for Mary's hymen to have been intact after she gave birth to Jesus would have required another miracle beyond the Incarnation. Not that such a miracle is beyond God's power, but did it occur? So far the Church has not taken a definitive stand.

The movie itself (which since it has not yet been released, I have not seen) seems to stake a claim out on some of the controversies, while still remaining true to the actual Gospels. Mary experiences childbirth, which means the movies has gone with the non-miraculous birth (not the same as the non-miraculous conception)position.
Joseph is in his twenties, old enough in biblical times to have older children by another (deceased) wife, the Eastern Church's answer to the brothers of Jesus mentioned in the bible. [Roman Catholics typically use the cousin definition of the word.]
Joseph struggles with his love for Mary and this child who is not his, quite believable, since even saints are not perfect, and in line with what the bible says. After all, it took a visit by an angel to convince Joseph to take Mary for his wife. His intention to quietly put her aside, rather than publicly accuse her of infidelity, shows in some measure his character and feelings for her. Unfaithful women under Mosaic law were subject to stoning.
I'm looking froward to the movie. I'll review it when I've seen it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


The point is this. Pro multis has been large in the Catholic blogosphere lately and most of the experts seem to contend that "for all" vs. "for many" wouldn't be a big thing, except that catechesis in the English speaking world is so poor that many Catholics don't realize that while Jesus died to make salvation available for all, it is not available to all, because they reject it. So while he died to make salvation available for all it is really available only for many, because of their own actions in rejecting salvation.
This lack of catechesis in this aspect of our faith extends to many other areas. We have a whole generation who are poorly catechized in the Catholic Faith. It is very easy to rail against the conditions which caused this to happen; Conservatives against Vatican II, orthodox liberals against fixation on rolling back Vatican II as the solution to all ills.
The real question is how to fix the problem? The balance of present day Catholics, both adult and children will never be able to go to Catholic school. For the balance of our families private school is not an option. Home schooling doesn't work when both parents must work just to make end meet.
That does not mean that education doesn't happen in the home, it just means that both the parish and the home have a hand in Catholic Christian formation.
It also means that our Religious Education programs must be effective, they must reach out to children, teens and adults. In two hours a month we can not teach a child all they should know about their faith. I come from a parish with an ambitious Life Teen program, which meets for three hours every Sunday and supplements it with monthly family catechesis. This is still not enough.
Our answer must be similar to the United States' wider educational problems. To create educated students we strive to create lifelong learners. To create well catechized Catholics we must strive to create lifelong catechical learners.
My parish does it by making available adult classes as well as adult and teen bible studies. The real focus of the classes is not to cover it all, but to get out to the participants a sense of the amount of material available and the techniques necessary to absorb the material.
Bible reading, in some form, should be a part of every Catholics life, not just limited to the readings at Mass. All of the Pope's writings are available on the net, as well as writings from the Church Doctors. The documents of Vatican II and the many documents propagated since then are available, with analysis from experts.
Remember if your children see you read the bible every day, do the Liturgy of the Hours, spend time reading books by Thomas Aquinas, John Paul II, Any Welborn or Dave Armstrong then that is what they will do, (even if they don't let you know it!)
And we must work so that the catechism we do at our parishes makes good use of the little time they have to teach a solid foundation.
I work with both middle school and high school teens. No matter what lesson I'm covering there are several things I try to relate. One thing is they should be praying every day, continuously if possible. Another is that reading the bible should be in their day plan too, even if only for five or ten minutes. I quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church, where applicable, especially to the older teens. I make sure they know the CCC and the new compendium are available on the Internet, where most of these kids live.
We can do this, but we need to be in the game and move beyond pointing at the problem parishes.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all from America. A day to thank God for all of the blessings he has bestrode upon us.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Papa Benedicts new book

The Pope has finished the first volume of the book he started when he was still a Cardinal.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has completed the first volume of a major scholarly and spiritual book on Jesus of Nazareth, a work he began several years before being elected pope.

"Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration" is scheduled for a March release in Italian by the Rizzoli publishing house and in German by Herder Verlag.

Announcing the publication Nov. 21, Rizzoli and the Vatican gave reporters copies of the book's preface and a portion of its introduction.

In the preface, signed "Joseph Ratzinger -- Benedict XVI," the pope wrote that for decades he had noticed a growing scholarly distinction between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of faith," a distinction that many Christians now accept as accurate.

But, he wrote, if the human Jesus was totally different from the Jesus depicted in the Gospels and proclaimed by the church, what does it mean to have faith in him?

"I trust the Gospels," the pope wrote.
Hopefully there will be a good English translation.
the preface has been released and Teresa Benedetta has made available a translation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Basilian Father Thomas M. Rosica writes about
a new documentary, produced in part by the Knights of Columbus, which takes viewers on a spiritual pilgrimage to meet some of the Church’s most beloved holy men and women.
In his piece Fr. Rosica says:
Some voices within the Church criticize John Paul II for naming so many saints and blesseds. I disagree with those voices, especially after many years of working with young people. Today’s youth have a desperate need for real heroes and heroines, models and witnesses of faith and virtue that the world of sports and popular culture cannot provide.
In his piece he writes of a pilgrimage with a group of Canadian students after World Youth Day through Europe to discover the places where some of these saints lived.
The Knights of Columbus have produced a video documentary on the lives of some of these heroes, Saints: Gospel Artists. To purchase a copy visit the Salt and Light online boutique at or call 1-888-302-7181.

Pesentation of Mary

Todays feast commemorates the dedication of the Church of Saint Mary, which was built near the Temple Mound in Jerusalem. In both the Eastern and Western Churches this is the day recognized traditionally as the day Mary was presented at the Temple.
The church itself was destroyed, some accounts say by an earthquake in the seventh century, and the ruins were converted into a mosque by Abd El-Wahd in the early eighth century. Muslims believe that this mosque replaced a larger, more ostentatious mosque on this site where Mohammed ascended to heaven, but history does not bear this out, as the church is known to have been built by Justinian and was not destroyed until several years after Mohammed's death.
Why was Mary presented at the temple? Christ was presented at the temple because under Jewish tradition the first born son was presented to God. It was an ancient tradition. Girls were not.
According to legend Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old. This was to carry out a promise made to God when Anna was still childless. This is recorded in the apocryphal the Protoevangelium of James, though the account is not scriptural the story persists in both the Eastern and Western Churches.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Our lesson last night was on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. For those remiss in their theology they are:

1. Wisdom
2. Understanding
3. Counsel
4. Fortitude
5. Knowledge
6. Piety
7. Fear of the Lord

Where do they come from? That is, where does God reveal them to us? The Seven Gifts of the Spirit are from Isaiah 11:2
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of
the LORD.
Fortitude is another word for might. In the book the prophet is foretelling of the coming of Jesus "a shoot coming from the stump of Jesse" and the gifts that he shall have from God. Since both the Father and the Son share their relationship with the Holy Spirit, as we say "I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son," Jesus had all of the Gifts of the Spirit in their highest, most holy, pure form.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says
“The Holy Spirit” is the proper name of the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Jesus also called him the Paraclete (Consoler or Advocate) and the Spirit of Truth. The New Testament also refers to him as the Spirit of Christ, of the Lord, of God - the Spirit of Glory and the Spirit of the Promise.
At Pentecost, the Churches' birthday, the spirit descended upon the Apostles. At baptism the Holy Spirit makes each of us baptized in the name of the Triune God a new creature, a "son or daughter of light." At Confirmation (or as it is called in the Eastern Churches Chrismation for the anointing with holy myron or chrism that takes place) the recipient is given the same gifts that the Apostles were given at Pentecost.
So why don't we start speaking in tongues and rush out to preach the Gospel in the face of persecution and death?
Well some of us do, but like the Apostles we must be ready to receive the gifts of the Spirit. Don't forget the Apostles had already seen the risen Christ. They had broken bread with Him, that is said Mass. They had seen Him raised to Heaven amid the praise of Angels. They could be said to be a little more prepared for the gifts of the Spirit than most of us.
But least we lose hope God places among us those who a ripe with the Gifts of the Spirit. And the Church elevates them as examples for us to emulate. They are the Saints, and in some ways also the Blessed, on their way to sainthood.
Like the Servant of God John Paul II, whose greatest act was perhaps not the defeat of Communism, or the bringing of the Church into the 21st century, but the forgiveness that he gave to a man who tried to kill him. For as Jesus said:
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what
they are doing.” Luke 23:34
In our own time Blessed Teresa of Calcutta provided an example:
Until her death in 1997, Mother Teresa continued her work among the poorest of the poor, depending on God for all of her needs. Honors too numerous to mention had come her way throughout the years, as the world stood astounded by her care for those usually deemed of little value. In her own eyes she was "God's pencil—a tiny bit of pencil with which he writes what he likes." American Catholic

So pray to the Holy Spirit, and ask the Saints to intercede with the Spirit on your behalf. Then go out there rich in the Spirit to do God's work.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pro Multis

Amy Welborn discusss the new translation of the Eucharistic prayer, but the real expert is Fr. Zuhlsdorf, as she says:
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf has a bit of context on the mandate from the Congregation for Divine Worship that "pro multis" in the Eucharistic Prayers be translated as "for many" not as "for all."
Of course this is not the only change in the translation of the Mass as reported at Catholic Online.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Forgiveness is the lords

Recently I had the occasion to read a question and answer column by a priest. In the column a woman mentioned that her son was a God parent at the baptism of a child born to a woman in an unmarried state. The inquirer wanted to know if it was proper for such a child to be baptized. The priest replied that of course it was. He did not however address the underlying assumptions of the inquirer; that the Church would withhold baptism from an innocent due to the sins of it's parents.
I find that assumption most disturbing and counter productive. An unwed birth is most often, especially in the case of a teenage mother, the result of a very bad decision. It could only be more terrible for such a mother to make an even worse bad decision and murder her baby through the sin of abortion.
So the right thing for her to do is have her baby. Some would then cut her off from the pastoral guidance of the Church and deny salvation to the innocent child, for some perceived sin of public scandal.
The sin of an unwed mother is quite visible. The sins of the rest of us are not quite so visible but every bit as real. Our sins, just as hers, are forgiven through the sacrament of Reconciliation.
So my assumption would be that the Church would be quite willing to extend the Sacrament of Baptism for the child and Eucharist for the mother to a repentant sinner, just as she does for all the rest of us repentant sinners. And if we pray for her, perhaps she'll also pray for us.

Dedication of the Churches of St. Peter & Paul

Today is the celebration of the Dedication of the Churches of St. Peter & Paul. From ancient days the Church has celebrated the dedications of Churches, typically linking them to the Saint for which they are named. Fr. Nicholas at Roman Miscellany has a short FYI on the two Churches, as well as pictures.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Pope Benedict's Nov 16 meeting

The Pope met yesterday with members of the Curia to discuss the disobedience of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and requests for dispensation from celibacy by some priests as well as requests for readmission to priestly ministry presented by married priests.
For those who don't know Archbishop Milingo has attempted to ordain and raise to the episcopate several married men, all without Rome's approval, of course. The Holy See has declared that Milingo, and the men he has ordained are in a state of excommunication by their actions.
Jimmy Akin has a good look at the subject at his site.
I have mixed feelings about celibacy. Jesus never married and since he was without sin it can be assumed he was both celibate and a virgin. St. Peter was married, and it is likely that so were at least some, if not most, of the other apostles. St. Paul was likely not married.
Mandatory celibacy of priest did not come about in the Latin Church until the twelfth century. In the Eastern Churches in union with Rome it is still not mandatory for priest, though in most a bishop cannot be married. As for Roman Catholic deacons a married man can be ordained but a priest cannot marry once ordained.
I believe there will always be orders of celibate priest. I also believe that eventually the Church will decide that God is calling many men to the priesthood who are also married, and that the Church is denying the vocations for a reason rooted in niether scripture nor (that's big 'T')Tradition. Certainly the Roman Catholic Church has a thousand year old (little 't') tradition of celibacy, but such a tradition should be held only as long as it serves the Church.
In the last 100 years it has not served the Church. It has contributed to the shortage of priests. I believe it has resulted in a higher percent of homosexuals in the priesthood than in the general population. I also believe it has contributed to the pedophile problem in ways I will not go into here except to say that I would find it hard to believe that a bishop with children of his own would think it reasonable to move a priest who has had several accusations of molestation against him to an assignment in another parish, where he would then once again have access to minors.
Do I expect a rapid change in the policy of marriage and priesthood? Not likely. But at least the Pope is discussing it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Married Love and the Gift of Life

Just went through Married Love and the Gift of Life the USCCB document on marriage. The document, as might be expected from the title, deals primarily with contraception and Natural Family Planning. It is primarily a pastoral letter, in that it explains and guides, rather than threatens and warns. There is no explicit mention of sin, but rather a lengthy explanation of why contraception is bad for married couples and society.
Our culture often presents sex as merely recreational, not as a deeply personal or even important encounter between spouses. In this view, being responsible about sex simply means limiting its consequences—avoiding disease and using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.
This cultural view is impoverished, even sad. It fails to account for the true needs and deepest desires of men and women. Living in accord with this view has caused much loneliness and many broken hearts.
God’s plan for married life and love is far richer and more fulfilling. Here sexuality is the source of a joy and pleasure that helps the spouses give themselves to each other completely and for their entire lives.
The question now will be how many contracepting couple will actually read this document, or hear about it from their priest?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Eucharist Document USCCB

I've gotten through the Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper”: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist.
After reading the document it is much harder to see a justification for refusing to list contraception explicitly as a grave matter that would prevent the reception of communion. Hard to understand when an extensive laundry list of other sins are given:
Objectively, certain thoughts, actions, and omissions entail grave sinful matter. As Catholics, we are obliged to form our consciences regarding what constitutes grave matter in accordance with the Church’s teaching. While it is not possible to make a complete list of thoughts and actions that involve grave matter, they would all be serious violations of the law of love of God and of neighbor. If we follow the order of the Ten Commandments, some examples of such thoughts and actions would be
• Believing in or honoring as divine anyone or anything other than the God of the Holy Scriptures
• Swearing a false oath while invoking God as a witness
• Failing to worship God by missing Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation without a serious reason, such as sickness or the absence of a priest
• Acting in serious disobedience against proper authority; dishonoring one’s parents by neglecting them in their need and infirmity
• Committing murder, including abortion and euthanasia; harboring deliberate hatred of others; sexual abuse of another, especially of a minor or vulnerable adult; physical or verbal abuse of others that causes grave physical or psychological harm
• Engaging in sexual activity outside the bonds of a valid marriage
• Stealing in a gravely injurious way, such as robbery, burglary, serious fraud, or other immoral business practices
• Speaking maliciously or slandering people in a way that seriously undermines their good name
• Producing, marketing, or indulging in pornography
• Engaging in envy that leads one to wish grave harm to someone else
It would almost make one believe that the sin was specifically omitted.

Going through the Married Love and the Gift of Life document now, but I probably won't finish it before I have to go to work. So I'll post on it tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

USCCB Documents

The three documents, which have been voted on by the USCCB are now on line. I haven't finished reading them yet. When I do I'll probably comment. I'm not terribly interested in Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination. The other two Married Love and the Gift of Life and Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper”: On Preparing to Receive Christ Worthily in the Eucharist seem to be most applicable to my ministry. Hopefully I'll get a chance to start on them tomorrow.

All Access

Franciscan University has posted the theme song for their summer 2007 youth conferences. It's by Sarah Bauer and Christopher Sansone.
Missed last years conference. We actually had too many adult chaperons! Hopefully I'll get a chance to go this year. Awesome for any of you who get a chance to go as a teen participant or as a chaperon.


The US Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting is underway and Amy Welborn has been blogging on their public deliberations. Televised on EWTN.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Latin Mass

Amy Welborn as well as many of the other Catholic bloggers have been abuzz in the last month or so over the possibility that the Holy Father will loosen the indult on the Latin Mass. Cardinal Francis Arinze, the head of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments visited St. Louis yesterday and spoke. His talk? "Language in the Latin Rite Liturgy: Latin and Vernacular."
In an hourlong, often humorous, address that received several standing ovations, Arinze suggested that, in order to give Catholics options, large parishes offer the Mass in Latin at least once a week, and in smaller, rural parishes, at least once a month. (Homilies, he said, should always be in the faithful's native language.) Latin "suits a church that is universal. It has a stability modern languages don't have," he said. (from STL today.)
As a transitional Catholic (one who celebrated the Mass in the Tridentine rite as a teen and the Novus Ordo since) I find myself torn. In my opinion the NO has many advantages over the Tridentine Mass, especially in the area of Full, Conscious, Active Participation, a requirement of the celebration. In memory, at least, it seemed that in most pre-NO Masses I attended most of the laity lacked FCAP.
Sacrosanctum Concilium the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, not only dictated the revision of the Roman Missal but also allowed experimentation to take place, with the proper supervision of the local ordinary, the bishop. Unfortunately it appears that the bishops weren't paying attention. The result has been a flood of practices of questionable heterodoxy. Recently, especially in the past year, the bishops, possibly under pressure from Rome, have started to curb the abuses.
The nature of the abuses is, I believe one reason the Tridentine Mass has enjoyed a resurgence. Use the 1962 Missal and you avoid all of the excesses.
I prefer a different way. A properly celebrated NO Mass can be said in Latin instead of the vernacular. The readings would still be said in the vernacular (necessary in my mind for FCAP) while the liturgy proper could be said in Latin.
Music is another area. Many modern compositions are mixtures of Latin and English, and I have attended Masses and XLT's where verses are sung first in Latin and then in English, making a very beautiful method of praying twice.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Life Teen

Awesome Life Teen tonight. The deep spirituality and prayerfulness of our kids never fails to both surprise and comfort me. Our speaker spoke on the Beatitudes and Matthew 25:31.
We did a short Adoration. Our Youth Minister, who is an Extraordinary Minister of Communion, exposed the host. Father had another engagement, so no benediction. It was reverent. At the youth mass this morning we asked the members of the parish to write something they wanted the youth to pray for on a slip of paper and a number of youths picked one of these slips from a basket. They were to pray for each intention this week.
We hold adoration at least once a month, followed by XLT, but naturally the usual suspects attend. Doing adoration as part of Life Teen exposed (pardon the pun) a larger group who never attend adoration regularly. Father has promised to fit another one in when he is available, so benediction can be done.
I think our youth program is fairly successful. We get about 75-100 participants each week. Next week:The Holy Spirit.

Catechetical Meeting

The Diocese of Richmond has required that all catechists undergo training and certification, so this weekend a number of us went away on retreat to view videos and complete question forms to meet the requirements. We stayed in a very nice house at a center maintained by the Episcopalian Diocese of Southern Virginia, which they very kindly made available for our use. The food was very good and the fellowship even better. I learned a few things and believe we made some decisions that will improve our youth program. We use the Life Teen program. I highly recommend it. There was a time when some of the liturgical practices suggested by Life Teen were not in conformance to the requirements, but that is no longer the case. Their Life Night packages are engaging, fun and based on the solid foundation of the Liturgy and the CCC.
I was out of step though. Fully half the participants had laptops along, which allowed them to take notes and complete their assignments while we talked. I quickly scribbled undecipherable notes, which I must go through tomorrow to complete the forms. This due to the fact that my laptop is in the posession of my son who is away at college. His broke down and I have not yet made the decision of whether I am going to replace his or get a new one for myself.
One of the areas we discussed was relational ministry; how we should make our young charges feel we are available as mentors and spiritual helpers to them, especially in times of need. While we were gone one of our kids lost his step-father, and naturally we were all away and unavailable. Thank the Lord for cell phones. While we were generally unavailable caller ID and voice mail allowed us to return calls during the breaks for ministerial situations.
Always a hard thing to balance private time, for prayer and meditation, with the omnipresent communication available with today's tehcnology.
Speaking of technology I've got to give an unsolicited plug to Easy Worship software. We use it for XLT (EXaLT Him) and Life Night. If you've been using Powerpoint, or it's Open Office equivalent Impress, to display lyrics for your worship music then it's time to come into the 21st century. This is a very good program. It lets you jump around between verses (mandatory with our last youth music minister) and quickly move between songs in any order. You can also select Powerpoint presentations (much more useful for talk outlines than for music lyrics) and even videos. My youth minister says it's possible to download songs directly into the software, from online, so that you don't have to type in the words. (They come complete with copyright notice, for a very reasonable cost.) We have a site license, so that we can use it on multiple machines.
Gee, my first software review!

Finally on the 'sphere

Something about me to start, until I have a chance to create a real profile. I am a married fifty-something Catholic. I work in accelerator operations for the U.S. Department of Energy. I also work in youth ministry. I live in Hampton Roads. I am a member of a Catholic parish in the Diocese of Richmond. I am also a sometimes professional writer, mostly of materials for Role Playing Games, especially of the science fiction RPG Traveller.
Do not expect to see much here on nuclear physics or Role Playing. Though I have many interests that occupy me, I find myself spending more of my time in the service of God and in studying and reading the message of God's Church on Earth. In this blog I hope to concentrate on my relationship with God and the Church.
Politically I support some points of the conservative side in some areas and the liberal side in others. Like many Roman Catholics of orthodox leanings I do not fit well into the typical American Democrat/Republican-liberal/conservative pigeonholes. In the spectrum of Roman Catholicism I am fairly conservative, if conservative means believing in the teachings of the Church as embodied in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I am not Trad or a Cafeteria Catholic.
I don't expect many others will find this blog useful to them. I have no great insight into the movings of the Roman Catholic Church. I often read something on another blog and find I have a great deal I would like to say about it. More than would be polite to post as a comment. So I decided to take the plunge and get my own place to ramble on.
So this is the end of my first post. Hope you're not sorry you came and will return soon.