Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Morality workshop

Saint Thomas Aquinas. He is one of the Doctors of the Church; a philosopher, a theologian, possibly one of the Church's greatest theologians. Among other works he wrote the Summa Theologica, one of the greatest classics of Catholic theological and moral philosophy. It is said that the Summa was so highly thought of that at the Council of Trent it was used after the Bible as the primary source on religious questions.
The principles of Just War are discussed in the Summa as well as the idea of Natural Law. One of the greatest gifts of Aquinas is a philosophical basis for an argument against relativism, making it as relevant to the modern world as it was the year it was written. Saint Thomas maintains that it is possible in almost every situation to draw bright lines between what is moral behavior and what is immoral behavior, between good and evil. It is also almost always that moral behavior is the hard choice. It has always been so.
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.
How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.
Matthew 7:13

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Three in One

Its called perichoresis, its a word that describes the three in one nature of God. The term was originated by Saint Gregory Nazianzus who was a contemporary of Saint John Chrysostom. Saint Gregory was a second generation bishop, because in those days both priests and bishops could be married. Like Saint John he defended the Church against the Arian heresy. He was a teacher of Saint Jerome.
The Latinized version is Circuminsession. It means that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have reciprocal inexistence and compenetration of their Three Persons. They are, as we say in the creed, of one substance with the Father.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I'm in the middle of Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mary of Nazareth. While I don't consider myself a complete idiot (my wife might give an argument to that statement) I do feel that there is usually something I can stand to learn about any subject.
This book is very well written, and while I'm not yet found any large nuggets of unknown knowledge I have found a very reverently written guide to Mother Mary's importance to God's plan for our redemption and very good reasons why she is worthy of adoration.
Now only God is worth of worship, or as it is said in Latin latria. We venerate the Saints, or in the Latin give them adoration, doulia. This is because they, by the actions of thier lives give us an example, as would an older sibling. For Mary we reserve a special kind of veneration, hyperdoulia. This is because by her unreserved devotion to God's path, from the very beginning, she shows us how we should respond to God's love for us. Mary held our salvation in her choice, because like all of us she had the ability to say no to God. Instead she said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord," and spent the rest of her life pointing the way to her Son.
In the appendix to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a number of traditional prayers, many of which are too seldom prayed in this modern time. They include The Angelus, The Regina Caeli, Under your Protection, and the Memorare, all prayers of intercession to Our Holy Mother.
Get it! It's very cheap in paperback and free online.

Songs for Adoration

At the request of a reader some songs we use at Adoration. Let me say first that we observe Adoration in the framework of XLT. So an XLT typically goes like this:
1. A prayer to start, by one of the group of XLT singer/musicians.
2. Two to four songs.
3. A teaching talk, sometimes a witness talk by one of the older youth. sometimes a talk by a visiting priest or deacon or one of the adult/youth catechaical core.
4. A recorded meditation song/video.
5. Adoration consisting of:
a. Reverent music.
b. A period of silent Adoration.
c. Benediction.
d. Reverent music.
e. The end of Adoration.
6. Wrap-up songs.

Our neighboring parish follows pretty much the same format except they always do the Tantum Ergo (I practice I wish we followed.)

So normally in part 1 we do upbeat stuff like:
Come, Now is the Time to Worship
Blessed be You Name
Better is one day
Open My Eyes
Your Grace is Enough
Our God is an Awesome God
I Will Worship

5a & 5d
Frangrance Song
Hail Mary
My Glorious
The Heart of Worship
Your Love is Extravagent
Here I Come to Worship

Big House
Go Make a Difference

Yes a lot of it is from OCP's Spirit & Song.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lent Guidelines part 1

With Lent coming in just two (2) days I've decided to post some guidelines for Lent observance from the USCCB. I'll continue to do throughout the season and into the Easter season.
Let's start with Ash Wednesday. Fasting is part of the observance of Ash Wednesday. All the faithful who are older than 18 tears and have not yet reached the age of 59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday (and Good Friday.)
What does fasting entail? On a day of fasting one full meal may be eaten. Two other meals "sufficient to maintain strength" may also be eaten. Together those meals should not equal a full meal. Eating between meals in not permitted. You can still drink liquids between meals.
Abstinence is also practiced on Ash Wednesday (as well as on all Fridays in lent, including Good Friday.) Abstinence should be observed by all the faithful over 14 years of age. On days of abstinence no meat is allowed.
Now the law does not require that those in ill health, or whose health would by aversely effected, observe fasting. Diabetics come to mind. Someone who can not fast should practice some other suitable form of self-denial. Skip your favorite TV show or drink water instead of soda. Most importantly offer the act to God.
If you do very strenuous physical work and require protein and a regular meal to allow you to safely perform your work then the law does not oblige. If in doubt condult your parish priest.
Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation in the United States. Should you desire to attend Mass that day you will see the Priest, or in some diocese, the deacon bless the ashes. Ashes are made by (previously to the Mass) burning the blessed palms from the previous Palm Sunday. Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, in the United States diocese, are allowed to assist with the distribution of ashes. The ashes should be distributed after the homily.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The King

I had the opportunity to attend two XLT celebrations this week.
XLT (Exalt) is an exciting spiritual gathering for high school teens (and adults.) The evening includes praise and worship, a short teaching, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. XLT began in Atlanta under the leadership of veteran youth minister Paul George. Paul knew that teens needed to grow in understanding and appreciation for the Eucharist - and teens agreed! Soon there were hundreds of teens from around the city coming together for XLT. Now the wonderful concept has spread across the US to other cities.
We began attending XLT, as a youth group function about six years ago, at a nearby parish. We quickly started having our own XLTs, which normally occur on the first Thursday of the month. This month the weather did not cooperate and so it was postponed until this week. We also, from time to time, continue to attend XLT at the nearby parish, as they do ours. So by joyful happenstance we had back to back adoration.
Of course differences in specifics make each enjoyably different. We tend to go toward highlighting the teaching moment and a period of silent reflection, they toward a longer period of adoration and traditional hymns during the adoration segment of the evening.
So in the longer period of adoration I found my mind wandering or perhaps more guided to the Kingship of Jesus, as I contemplated the Real Presence.
Now Kingship is rather a foreign concept in twenty-first century America. I believe that few modern Americans have real grasp of what kingship means (let alone the much deeper mystery of what Kingship [capital 'K"] means.)
Now in the Biblical histories it tells how the Israelites initially had no king. God appointed judges to act as his people's leader, while he retained their Kingship to himself.
The other lands of the time did have kings, even including the Romans. Eventually God relented , due to the pleading of his people and sent a prophet, Samuel to anoint Saul, who later became king. Saul displeased God, who then sent Samuel to Jesse of the tribe of Judah, where at God's command he anointed Jesse's youngest son David, who would one day be the most famous Old Testament king, and the ancestor of Jesus.
Now most moderns believe that kingship most often is passed from father to son. For much of history this was not true. While the kingship of England and France worked this way, more or less, for hundreds of years from the Middle Ages through to almost modern times, many countries elected their king from the noble classes.
So how is a king different from a president or any other political leader? It was not just a matter of being elected or appointed for life. Many dictators are appointed for life, even if they appoint themselves. How is a king different from a dictator?
The way that is relevant to our discussion is that for much of history the subjects of a king were bound by oaths or custom of loyalty the strength and nature which is almost unheard of in modern times. When someone swore fealty to his or her king they were swearing more than just to obey their leaders orders. They were swearing to follow their king, even when they didn't know where they were following. Even when they didn't understand what their king was doing.
This is the part that is difficult for the modern to understand. You mean they would like follow him unto death, even when they thought he was wrong or didn't know why he was doing what he was doing?
We have a problem with this because as educated twenty-first century citizens we feel we have the right to know what our leaders are doing and why. We feel we're just as good as they are and just as smart as they are. And so we might be.
On the other hand we can't say that about our King. We know He knows more than we do. We know He is better than us. So why do have such a hard time giving Him the same level of loyalty and obedience as our ancestors gave their earthly kings?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Our Lady of Lourdes

Tomorrow is the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Were it not it would be the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
On Feb 11, 1858 the vision of a woman ...
...dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary...
appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle outside Lourdes in the Southwest of the Hautes-Pyrenees department of France. Bernadette was 14 years old.
The apparition appeared 18 times. On the 9th appearance the vision told the young girl to drink from a "puddle" which became a spring, the very spring to which thousands of pilgrims travel a year, hoping for a miraculous cure.
The Lady identified herself to Bernadette on her 16th appearance, after the girl asked who she was, at the prompting of her parish priest, Father Dominique Peyramale. She said that she was the Immaculate Conception.
Now while the Immaculate Conception was a belief held by the Church for centuries, it had only been acknowledged as dogma by Pope Pius the IX in 1854. Bernadette was relatively uneducated, have returned to Lourdes only that January to complete preparation for reception of First Communion, hardly someone who one would expect to know about the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Initially the town's mayor had the site barricaded, until that order was overturned by the Emperor of France in October of that same year. In 1864 a statue of the Virgin Mary was place there. In 1876 a basilica was consecrated there.
Bernadette went on to become a nun, a member of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers. She died at the convent at Nevers in 1879 at the age of thirty-nine. When her body was exhumed in 1909 as part of cause for her canonization she was found to be one of the incorruptables, a person, whose body was not embalmed yet does not decay. Most often this is considered a sign of sainthood, or at least a good indication that the person's life should be reviewed by the Church with the possibly existing that the person might be worthy of sainthood.
Saint Bernadette was canonized in 1933.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

New Catholic SciFi

Well I am a total SciFi geek, so it's with great pleasure I can announce that today I found a wonderful compendium of Catholic Science Fiction. It is available in ebook form now and will be in hardcover by april.
Find it at Infinite Space, Infinite God.
Only $5.50 . Read a sample. These Three featuring The Sisters of the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue is a gem.
The section on Catholicism and Science Fiction in the forward alone is worth $5.00.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Catechism Lite

There is a discussion happening on the fiscal policies of the Diocese of Richmond since a priest embezzled a large amount of cash from the two clustered parishes to which he was assigned. The fact that he may be secretly married and was living with a woman only makes the scandal that much worse.
How does that relate to the title of this post. Well on at least one blog someone dragged out an old post from Richmond Catholic on Pathways (the diocesan certification program.) The post itself concerned Pathways and homeschooling. The comments talked about the value of Pathways as a certification program.
Now I've done the phase I Pathways. It is more concerned with teaching things like classroom discipline and management than in setting an orthodox basis for teaching catechism.
This might almost be expected. This course is not really aimed, long term, at the youth minister or catechetical leader. There is a more advanced course for them, plus they should already be qualified for that position, based on their existing education when hired for the position, assuming such a position is indeed a job as well as a ministry.
The most disturbing aspect of the course was the statement that a catechist should always espouse the teachings of the Church, whether they agree with them or not. The part which disturbs me is not the statement, which is absolutely true, but the supposition that a large number of volunteer catechists will not agree with the fundamental teachings of the Church. Such a large number that the statement must be included in this course.
I'm afraid that this is a symptom of the generally poor state of catechesis in the Church in general. Not that there are not issues which good Catholics can't disagree on. Unfortunately the Church in general and teachers in particular have not been scrupulously orthodox in their teachings. This has resulted in a too large number of Catholic adults who have so poor Christian formation that they do not seem to realize that there are subject about which faithful Catholics can disagree and subjects about which one cannot disagree with the Church and remain in communion with it and how to tell the difference.
This is not helped by those on the conservative side who seem to have the same problem discerning what is mere trapping and what is core doctrine. But at least their failings do not, as a rule, result at leading the innocent to damnation.
In most cases one does not even need to go to the source documents for clarification. The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides plenty of clarity, complete with references. Should one feel the need the most of the source documents are now readily available via the Internet.
How does one find the time? Choose between an hour of television and an hour of studying the CCC.
Once at a youth ministry volunteer meeting one of the adult core members expressed the fear that if we asked too much of our volunteers they would quit volunteering. Someone else made the statement "This is a ministry. That is how its workers should see it." Our deacon agreed pointing out that the worker who protested herself spend hours a week supporting the program.
To help support this effort I have found in my own parish that if adult classes are given they will be full of people and often those same people are those who support the elementary, youth and adult catectical programs. This is how you avoid Catechism Lite.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Song of Songs

Tomorrows Edge is about the Song of Songs.
Now we do the Old Testament every three years. Typically we are luck to get through the Pentateuch. For some reason this year we seem to be moving pretty fast. The middle school youth minister did Moses, the short version. Not that I disapprove. Of all of the characters in the Old Testament Moses is probably the best known. Heck, the Ten Commandments is on every year. So we ran Prince of Egypt on one of the off weeks, (we have Edge twice a month) and just moved on,
That has given us the chance to do the Song of Songs. Lots of good stuff there for youngsters on the brink of puberty. Good sedgeway into Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), the importance of true love, and God's love for his Church. They might even read it all the way through!
I'm looking forward to it. I'll post o how it goes.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Presentation of the Lord

The law for the concecration of the first-born male is found in Exodus 13:1-2
The LORD spoke to Moses and said, “Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.”
and in Exodus 13:11-16
“When the LORD, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, which he swore to you and your fathers he would give you, you shall dedicate to the LORD every son that opens the womb; and all the male firstlings of your animals shall belong to the LORD.

Every first-born son you must redeem. If your son should ask you later on, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall tell him, ‘With a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, that place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every first-born in the land of Egypt, every first-born of man and of beast. That is why I sacrifice to the LORD everything of the male sex that opens the womb, and why I redeem every first-born of my sons.’
Luke describes the presentation in Luke:2:22-24
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
But then while Mary and Joseph were there they were approached by not one, but two genuine Prophets.

The first, Simeon, Luke calls:
...righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.
Simeon's blessing over the child Jesus is still said daily in Night Prayers. Luke says that Mary and Joseph were amazed at the words of the prophet.
But then he also had a message for Mary,
“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Next Anna, who Luke specifically calls a prophetess, comes forward, and instead of speaking privately to the holy couple,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
Simeon's forecast is of the price Mary will pay for her unquestioning decision to follow the will of the Lord. This was not a punishment but a natural result of the great love, a mother's love, for her Son.
Often in our lives we experience loss, pain and trouble. Like Mary we have been warned that this will be so. It does not mean that God does not love us or that we have done anything wrong. Sometimes it is just the way of things. When a loved one dies sometimes we feel betrayed by God. If He loves us why would He take our loved one away? We each have our own journey to take to God. When it is time we we all go to meet Him and leave behind those who are not yet ready to go.
Mary was to feel this loss when she stood at the foot of the cross. More on this during Lent.