Saturday, November 20, 2010

Verbum Domini

Earlier this month the holy father released postsynodal apostolic exhortationVerbum Domini, the Word of the Lord.
Rome Reports explains, this is "the most important [Church] document on Scripture since Vatican II."
Carl Olsen of Ignatius Press describes why this is so.

Get it here at ZENIT or in Postscript format here from the Vatican website.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Intrinsic evil

So, in a social justice discussion with a very smart, but theologically mistaken friend I brought up the fact that abortion is intrinsically evil. His response was: Isn't not caring for the poor also an intrinsic evil? The answer is in short NO!
The term intrinsic evil is a technical term. It has a precise meaning which is based on the theology of sin.
Now for a Catholic there are three conditions which must apply for a sin to be a mortal sin. They are:
  1. The sin must involve a grave matter.
  2. The sin must be committed with the full knowledge of the sinner.
  3. The sin is committed with the full consent of the sinner.
So while cheating at chess might be a sin, it is likely not a mortal sin because it does not involve a grave matter.
The person must understand that the act is a sin. (This goes to another concept called vincible ignorance which I will not discuss here.)
The person must consent to the sin. A coerced act will not be a mortal sin.
It becomes obvious that many types of mortal sin are conditional. That is the conditions which surround the act determine whether or not it is a sin. When there is a disagreement about whether or not something is a sin and the Church has not taken a stance then the subject is said to be relegated to the prudential judgment of the faithful. The best way to fight poverty is a matter for prudential judgment, although there are methods, socialism, liberation justice methods and others which the Church has spoken out against due to their negative impact on human dignity.
There are a number of sins which the Church has declared are not open to prudential judgment. These acts are always sinful, irregardless of the situation. They are called intrinsically evil sins. The modern Church recognized five such classes of sins. Three of them have always been opposed by the Church from time immemorial. The other two are the fruits of modern science.
These sins are:
  1. Abortion.
  2. Euthanasia
  3. Support for the normalization of intrinsically disordered sexual licentiousness.
  4. Allowing innocent babies to be conceived for the purpose of scientific study or harvesting their parts, as in stem cell research.
  5. Manipulating human DNA for the purpose of "improving" or duplicating another human being, as in cloning.
These are acts which are unsupportable in Catholic social justice. This means that they are not subjects upon which we can "dialog" or compromise.
A Catholic politician can not support any law which support any of these acts, nor can the any member Catholic faithful vote for any politician who has voted for such a law without themselves committing a mortal sin. That is not my opinion, but the opinion of the Holy Father.
There are no other acts by such a politician, no stand on another issue that makes it alright to vote for such a politician.
Politics is call the art of the possible. It expects compromise might sometimes be necessary in order to reach certain goal. Vote for a bad policy so that a greater good can be achieved.
Salvation does not work like that. It is never permissible to support an elected official who supports an intrinsic evil.
Note this does not mean that it is alright to vote for an opposing politician who would support torture or unjust war or racism. These are acts which are not intrinsically evil, but which are also sins because they impinge on the fundamental dignity of the human person.
The right of a nation to employ capital punishment has always been supported by the church. The Holy Father has said that in modern western society he believes that the use of capital punishment is unnecessary. This is a prudential judgment, and as the Holy Father himself has said it is neither morally equivalent to abortion, nor is support for a candidate who supports capital punishment a sin.
This is not a political fact it is a theological fact.
Could it be then that there may be no candidate in an election for which a Catholic can morally vote. Indeed that can be the case.
If there are two candidates in a race, one of whom is committed to expanding and ensuring the right of abortion under all circumstances, and one of who is committed to reducing the number of abortions while maintaining the "right" of women to kill their unborn babies it is permissible to vote for the second candidate, provided the vote is in spite of their stand on abortion, rather than in support of it.
In an election in which one candidate is a supporter of abortion and the other a foe of abortion, but would support the use of torture, then the prudential Catholic could not, in good conscious, that is without sin, vote for either of the candidates.
If we compromise on evil we sin.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Now that the Holy Father's trip to Britain is several weeks done it is, perhaps, appropriate to review the trip in its entirety so as to aticipate it fruits. That it will have fruits I have no doubt. As Raymond Arroyo wrote:
In other words, the Pope sees his Anglican “fast pass” into the Catholic Church as the fruit of ecumenism — a chance for Anglicans to return to the faith of their fathers before the Reformation and to protect themselves from an insidious secularism that is plaguing society at large and their communion in particular.

With this understanding, the symbolic and stated message of Pope Benedict during his British sojourn comes into stark relief. His meeting with the Catholic and Anglican bishops at Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury for 800 years (the first 70 Archbishops of Canterbury were Catholics), his visit to Westminster Abbey (built by the Catholic king, Henry III and home to Benedictine monks until the Reformation), his moving speech at Westminster Hall (where Catholic martyrs Thomas More, Edmund Campion, Bishop John Fisher, and others were condemned to death for their refusal to disavow their faith), and finally his beatification of the 19th century Anglican convert to Catholicism, Blessed John Henry Newman suddenly all seems one piece. Benedict’s visit was a stand against relativism in the heart of Europe and a plea for Britain to return to herself — to return to her Catholic roots.
All of the Holy Father's speeches while in the UK, (and the speeches of others at each event) are available here. If you haven't heard or read them you should. He was at once orthodox and ecumenical. He gave away something for the cause of ecumenism, but gave away nothing which in any way was dogmatic or would compromise the Truth of which the Church is the guardian.
John Paul's visits to the United States produced many fruits, not he least of which were the strongly orthodox young priests often known as "John Paul priests." Benedict's visit to the U.S. has resulted in a wave of stronger public defenses of Catholic doctrine by American bishops, some who were not so anxious to speak out in the past.
One can only hope that a similar movement will be seen in Great Britain as a result of the Holy Father's visit.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Constantine and Modernism

In a discussion recently about liturgy I was faced with the opinion that during the times between the the time of the Church Fathers and the Middle Ages that the character of the Mass was perverted in the name of clericalism and elitism, primarily by the Roman Emperor Constantine with the collusion of the Pope, who was Sylvester I (and not actually in attendance.)

Constantine did this, the narrative goes because he was seeking to accumulate power, or at least consolidate his power over the Roman Empire. So the narrative goes the laity were excluded from the sanctuary and Latin was enshrined in the Mass in an effort to exercise control over the faithful.

This is not a new narrative. It has been used by Protestants for centuries. In the pre-Vatican II era it was picked up by dissident Catholic theologians and widely used to justify everything form the wreck-ovations of the churches to the army of laity who now minister at Mass.

I will start by stating that contemporary pagan and Christian authors laud Constantine. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, and Church Father wrote a basically unfinished work on Constantine after his death, which was considered the standard on the Emperor's life until the Reformation, when later pagan sources were brought forward in an attempt to discredit him. They were written during the time of the Emperor Julian, called the apostate, who was a pagan and the last Emperor of Constantine's line. Modern secular interpretations of Constatine have ignored the contemporary sources and leaned heavily on the post reformation sources, in the interest of besmirching the Church, and traditional Catholic practices.
Certainly Constantine was interested in supporting orthodoxy, which was why he call for the First Council of Nicaea to deal with the Arian heresy. As far as I know, or have been able to find Nicaea had no role in liturgical practice at all, in either East or West (except for prohibiting kneeling during the consecration on Sundays and during the Pentecost season, and excepting the fact that the Creed was recited at Mass.)

As far as the use of Latin is concerned it was the vernacular for most of the western world until at least the 8th century. This is at least three hundred years after Constantine and Nicaea. Certainly Medieval Latin served the same purpose during the High Middle Ages as French did in the post Renaissance period and that English does today. For example English is used as the international language of pilots and air traffic control, as well as in the Mass in many countries where only a small number of people speak the local dialect, and for which no vernacular translation of the Mass exists. ( I should acknowledged that both Spanish and French perform the same funtion in regard to liturgy in differnet parts of the world.)
The Mass itself , as a sacrificial ritual, predates Constantine. We have records from as long ago as the second century, some written by Pope Clement I, who likely was alive during the time St. Peter and St. Paul were in Rome. Even the Didache describes liturgical worship. I would remind you that this document was unavailable to Renaissance writers and though found in 1873 was mostly ignored by modern historians unitl after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It's definitive origin in the late first century, contemporaneous with the Apostles and the early church was only widely accepted in the 1970s, after the changes in the liturgy which were implemented in the Post Vatican II era.
As for the use of Latin in the Mass this also pre-dated Constantine, probably dating from the middle of the third century. Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century, hundreds of years after Constantine made a major revision of the way the Mass was said, which was in Latin, at that time the vernacular. There were still many regional variations at this time. Charles the Great (Charlemagne), who conquered much of Western Europe during his life ordered that the Mass according to the Roman rite (that is the Mass as celebrated in Rome) be said throughout his realm. By this time the Romance Languages were developing and Latin was a distinct separate language. Spoken by most of the nobility for sure and in most places the only language which actually had a written form. It would be a hundred years or more later before the Romance languages were written and several hundred years later before languages outside of Southern Europe developed their own written language.
I think you can see how something which was ritualistic, like liturgy, that had a rhythm and cycle of readings required a language that not only could be written but was also commonly read in an international sense. Don't forget that for much of this period concepts of French or Italian or German as a national identity did not exists. At the same time there were areas of Europe that did not use the Roman rite. Ireland for example had its own rite, the Celtic rite, which lasted into the 12the century. It was also said in Latin, which was obviously not a vernacular language for that country, but considering that Ireland was Christianize by St Patrick, who was a British Roman I guess that use of Latin should not be surprising.

The narrative of the pre-Vatican II Mass as a exclusionary ritual where by the priest mumbled in Latin while the faithful, ignorant of what was happening, prayed rosaries is mis-guided simplification. The Latin responses were learned by eight year olds. I can attest to you that I certainly knew what Et cum spiritu tuo meant when I intoned it. In Europe and America Latin was taught in every Catholic high school and even many secular ones. I can attest to the fact my father who never never finished high school, could recite the standard prayers in both Latin and English, knew the Tridentine Mass probably better than most modern faithful know the Novus Ordo, and as an adult the Liturgy responses he no doubt learned as a boy. I don't doubt there were people who could not do this and did not understand what was happening at Mass. I would also maintain that many of the modern faithful have mastery of English ( or Spanish or French...) have no idea of what is happening at Mass. Indeed at a certain level no one truly knows, it is a mystery of faith, something we cannot know this side of death. The fact that they understand the words without grasping their meaning, or in many cases misunderstanding their meaning is not an improvement of the situation.
My last point is that the demonizing of Constantine by sources inside the Church as opposed to Protestants outside the Church is a something which has its roots in the mid twentieth century modernist movement. This is the same movement which used Vatican II's valid and specific documents as an excuse to do many things never called for by the council, one of which was the elimination of Latin as a liturgical language. The Vatican II document Sancrosanctum Concilium actually called for Latin to be retained in the Liturgy and required that the faithful (that's us) know all of the Propers of the Mass in Latin. It says:

1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

As can be seen Vatican II called for the retention of Latin in the Mass. Whether its elimination is good or not is another discussion. But whether good or not its elimination was not called for by the council. Books written by people in the group who implemented that change admit that it was an action taken to make the Mass more appealing to Protestants, not an action to either improve the quality of Liturgical Worship nor to edify the sacrifice which is taking place therein.
At many places the sacrificial character of the Mass has been completely subsumed in a paradigm of communal meal, so much so that a good portion of the faithful in those places no longer believe in the Real Presence.

I have been very fortunate at my parish to always have a priest who is faithful to spirit of the liturgical celebration, and one who follows the rubrics and forms of the liturgical worship. Not every parish has been so fortunate, resulting in large numbers of faithful who are more ignorant what is happening at the Liturgy than ever existed when the Mass was said in Latin.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The narrow way

In 1534 John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester was arrested for refusing to swear to the Act of Supremacy. The Act was a law passed by parliament which required everyone to swear to its three clauses, which were: that any heir of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was a legitimate heir to the the throne of England, that the marriage between Henry and Catherine was null and void, irregardless of what the Church said, and that the Bishop of Rome (as the Pope was designated in the act had no more authority or power in England than any other bishop. This John Fisher could not do.
Thomas More, lawyer, former Speaker of the House of Commons, and Chancellor of Henry, also refused to sign the oath, and in 1534 he was also arrested.
It is said that both men arrived at the Tower of London, the place they would spend the rest of their lives, both being executed the next year, at the same time.
Looking at the tower's door Thomas said," My Lord I believe the door is wide enough for both of us."
John Fisher replied, "Thomas, it is narrow enough."
Of St. Thomas More in 1929 G.K. Chesterton said, "Blessed Thomas More is important today, but he is not as important now as he will be in one hundred years from today."
Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy sought to make the state supreme over the teachings of God. Of all of the bishops of England only St. John Fisher chose the narrow way of adherence to the Church over the state.
When he was to die St. Thomas More declared that he died, "the king's good servant and God's first," one among many who would be a martyr for following the path laid down by Christ against the power of the English state.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Marian Gifts: The Assumption

The Angels, both holy and fallen have preternatural gifts. They have abilities beyond those of mortals, gifts of God at their creation.
Adam and Eve were also graced with preternatural gifts at their creation, infused knowledge, immortality of the body and integrity.
Infused knowledge is the ability to recognize the providence of God. Immortality of the body means that the body is immune to disease, incorruptible of body. Integrity is the perfect obedience of emotions to the intellect, to the will. It is the absence of concupiscence, the inclination to sin, though not necessarily to external temptation, as is evident in Adam and Eve's fall to the temptation of the serpent.
These preternatural gifts were lost by our first parents when they committed original sin. No human through the long history of humanity have regain these gifts. Not even Christs death on the cross restored them the humanity. Except for one. Except for the one created without the stain of original sin. Except for Mary.
The knowledge of Mary's sinless nature was not something created by the medieval Church, it was a belief common among the faithful from the second century. It only logically follows that Mary would posses those gifts which were integral to our humanity prior to their loss due to sin.
Infused knowledge is the ability to recognize the providence of God. Mary realized the supernatural significance of things others did not, so as Scripture says she “pondered them in her heart,” and eventually revealed them to St. Luke, where he recorded them in his Gospel.
Integrity is the perfect obedience of emotions to the intellect, to the will. Mary was not troubled by concupiscence, she had not inclination to sin, though she was tempted by external temptation as are all members of the human race, as were Adam and Eve. But though she was tempted she did not sin, not even venial sins.
Finally, immortality of the body means she was not subject to disease. In a very real way her Ascension into Heaven was a result of her preternatural gift of bodily incorruptibility.
The supernatural gift lost by Adam and Eve was to be in Gods family, that is to be Full of Grace. This is a gift that God returned to us through Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Baptism. It is the gift that Mary possessed without baptism, because of her Immaculate Conception.
None of these gifts were Mary's by virtue of any act that she committed. She did not earn them, no more than we can earn God's gift of salvation. They were Gift's of God to His Mother.
In a very real way Mary was part of God' plan from the beginning. She is prefigured in the Old Testament, her place in salvation history reflected in the Book of Kings and in Psalms, in the relationship of the King of Israel to the Queen Mother. She is the Queen in Ophir , the King's daughter, who will be the mother of the King, and whose sons will be the princes of the Earth, who the nations will praise forever.
Through God's gifts she, who was to remain a virgin, saved from the pain of labor, which was a punishment visited on Eve as a result of Original Sin, would have her heart pierced at the foot of the cross, she would never know the death of corruption of the body. She was the first to receive the gift of Her only Son's victory over death. the gift that we will receive at the Last Judgement.
In the Eastern Churches, including the Eastern Catholic Churches the Feast of the Assumption is celebrated as the Dormition of the Theotokos, that is the falling asleep of the Mother of God.

Monday, August 9, 2010

St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross

On this day in 1942, Edith Stein, along with her sister, Rosa were gassed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Stein was a member of the Discalced Camerlite monastery at Cologne. Her religious name was Teresia Benedicta of the Cross.
Born a Jew, she flirted with atheism as a teen but converted to Christianity. She was baptized a Roman Catholic in 1922. She was doctor of philosophy and a professor at Freinburg. She attributed her conversion to Catholicism to her reading of the autobiography of St Teresa of Avila.
In 1933 she wrote a letter to Pope Pius XI denouncing Germany's Nazi regime and asked to Pope to opening denounce them. that same year she entered the convent.
Because of her Jewish background her order transfered her to a monastery in the Netherlands.
In 1942, in the face of great acts of horror on the part of the Nazi regime the bishops of the Netherlands spoke out against them. The response was the arrest of all Jewish converts in the Netherlands and their shipment to Auschwitz. It is very indicative that these prisoners received no numbers. It was the obvious intent that they be executed immediately.
The situation of Edith Stein is a clear indication of what we can sometimes expect when the Church speaks out against evil in the world. It's lesson is not that the Church should not speak out against evil, but that we should be prepared to pay the price Our Lord paid for speaking out against the prince of the world and his minions. It is perhaps even a sign of what we can one day expect in our own lifetimes. It should be remembered that Henry VIII was declared "Defender of the Faith" by the Pope only years before he declared himself head of the Church of England and dissolved the monasteries, in the one of the greatest grabs of Church property in European history.
We may see it's like again.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Tomorrow is the anniversary of that horrific event, the destruction of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb Little Boy, dropped by the U.S. Army Air Corps B-29 bomber Enola Gay. On the next day the bomb named Fat Man was dropped on the Japanease port city of Nagasaki.
Brother Anthony Josemaria looks at this event in light of the large population of Japanese Catholics who died at Nagasaki in The Catholic Holocaust of Nagasaki—“Why, Lord?”
I had known some of the story of the evangelization of Japan before. Who has not heard the story of Paul Miki and the twenty-five martyrs? I even knew a little of the story of Fr. Petitjean and the Urakami Christian. Brother Josemaria gives a very elightening view of Christian suffering and the historical framework of these evnts. An article well worth reading.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dedication of Saint Mary Major

The Dedication of Saint Mary major is the liturgical feast celebrated in honor of the dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, which is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Mother.
This feast commemorates the rededication of the church by Pope Sixtus III just after the First Council of Ephesus.
This council was called to answer the problems caused by the teachings of Nestorius. Nestorianism split the natures of the Christ into human and divine. So while believing that Jesus was God, it denied that Mary was the mother of God. Cyril contested this belief, and at the Council it was declared that Mary was indeed the Theotokos, the birth giver of God.
This church is also called the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. It is said that in the forth century, during the pontificate of Liberius, a Roman patrician named John and his wife, who were without child, pray to the Virgin Mary, that she might make known a way that they might dispose of their property in her honor. On August 5th, in the heat of the Roman summer, snow fell on the Esquiline Hill. The couple had a vision of this event, and on the spot on the hill side which had been covered with snow they built a church.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Don’t Need your Catechism!�|�Catholic Exchange

What is the basis of the Catechetical program in your parish?

I Don’t Need your Catechism!�|�Catholic Exchange

Prayer Time

In our busy world it often seems very hard to find the time to pray. We wake up already having more things to do than time to do them in. The kids need us. We don't get spend enough time with our spouse. We have more work than can possibly be accomplished in the time we have to do it. Where are we suppose to find the time to pray?
St. Francis de Sales when asked how much one should pray said that you should pray for half hour a day, unless you are really busy. If you are really busy, you should pray for an hour.
The great doctor of the Church understood that in being busy we are concerning ourselves with earthly things. Like Martha, the industrious sister of Lazarus and Mary, fluttering around concerned with the tasks of hospitality, but missing the presence of the bridegroom. We must, like Mary, choose the better half and subjugate our earthly concerns to the transcendent.

Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog: Chesterton on the real difference between Paganism and Christianity

Chesterton on Christian virtues by way of Ignatius Insight:

Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog: Chesterton on the real difference between Paganism and Christianity

Friday, July 30, 2010

Warren Harding-- say what??

Not my usual fare, but the Center for Visions & Values has an interesting article on Warren Harding, 29th President of the United States. You'll find lots of facts you probably weren't taught in school. The center for Visions & Values is at Grove City College, a Christian Liberal Arts College associated with the the Presbyterian Church.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why avoid the buffet?

Over the years I have been blogging I have done many posts about Cafeteria Catholicism. As a blog which more or less specializes in catechisis and catechists one might wonder why I spend so much time pointing out dissidence.
The answer is that truth matters. Even if it is inconvenient, difficult and carries personal costs, truth matters. One of the greatest problems with the modern world is the rejection of truth. This can most easily be seen by taking a look at classic literature of drama. Often in the best literature the story turns upon the personal conflict of the protagonist, not against an enemy, but against the truth, that is against the Right Thing. The protagonist knows what the Right Thing to do is, but the circumstances make doing the Right Thing inconvenient, difficult and full of personal cost. The dramatic tension comes from the fact that the protagonist knows what should be done, and the story revolves around the cost of either doing the Right Thing or failing to do the Right Thing.
One of the basic premises of such a story is that there is no question of what the Right Thing is. If the Right Thing did not exist, that is if there were no Truth, i.e. truth was relative, there would be no story. Indeed, one of the things that makes most modern movies and novels so forgettable and ultimately will prevent them from ever being classics is that they reject the concept of truth. That makes their stories at a deeper level uninteresting, and their characters undifferentiated.
Another aspect of this kind of story is the truth that there is not a world without consequence. That doesn't mean that doing the Right Thing is consequence free, it just means that doing something else has ultimate consequences which are even worse.
The consequence of death for standing up for the truth is a lesser consequence than eternal damnation for failing to stand up for the truth.
Cafeteria Catholics pretend they don't know the truth. They are not new or cutting edge or daring for challenging the Church. They are actually following one who is very old, doing something the first recalcitrant fallen angel did before mankind was even formed, rejecting the Truth, challenging the One who is Truth.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


One reason posts have been light lately (though not the only one) is that I have been away doing domestic mission work. My parish has set up a domestic mission program in an economically depressed area of our diocese. We have been doing this for over a decade and have finally broken out, so to speak, into the wider world. This year we are also supporting an international mission trip for our young adult group, as well as helping other parishes set up their own domestic missions.
The reason I say we have broken out is because when a parish queried the diocese on setting up a domestic mission they we told we were th go to guys in the diocese for domestic mission programs. Interestingly enough, at our mission location we work closely with the local county social services office. The office in a neighboring county has also asked us how to get a similar group to work there.
A lot of hard work goes into the weeks we are actually working. We start planning six to nine months ahead of the first group going. We just got back and we are not truly finished for this year until we do our post trip debrief meeting next week.
God's hand is always in our midst. Weather has never interrupted our work, not even when the forecast has been for huge storms. They always seem to hold off until nightfall, or happen on Sunday (which we, of course, take as a day of rest.) We usually plan each job well ahead of time, often visiting the sites a month before we do our work. This year we received a call with a request to put in a ramp the day we arrived. This ramp allowed a man who has not been able to leave his home for two years to join us for dinner at a local church the night before we left for home. Days before we got the call he didn't even know we existed. Coincidence? The result of a lot of hard work and marketing? Rather I would say that we have simply gotten out of the way and let God work.

Upon Peter

When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its comer-stone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob a coward—in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.

Heretics -- G. K. Chesterton

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Catholic Culture How?

If Catholic culture is important,then how are we to pass it on to the ones in our care as catechists?
It would be foolish to think that someone who was ignorant of carpentry could teach another the art of making a house. Or that someone who lacked knowledge of biology could teach another the metabolic processes of a shrimp. How could it be expected that a catechist who is not seeped in Catholic culture could pass the knowledge of the traditions and Traditions of the Church to their students?
It is fairly obvious that to be a devoted minister of the teaching of Church doctrine and Tradition the catechist must pray, and pray often and with real intent. The style of prayer is not terribly important. Each person will prefer a specific style of prayer. The catechist should be familiar with as many styles as possible but in their personal prayer they should use whichever is most comfortable to them.
Likewise it is necessary to be familiar with the Saints. Our elder brothers and sisters have much to teach us. Intercessory prayer to the Saints is a strong component of Catholic culture. We learn from the example of the Saint's lives. We hope for the response of God to the prayers we request of the Saints in our own prayers.
Especially the lives of the martyrs should be studied and read. Their stories give strength and hope to the faithful, as well as a warning of the possibilities to come if the culture of death gets too strong.
We can not know God unless we know Scripture. As St. Jerome said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of God." We must especially know salvation history as it is recounted in Scripture.
A knowledge of liturgy, especially of the general form of the Mass, the liturgical calendar, the significance of the specific seasons and High Holy days is vital. We, as Catholics live in according to a rhythm of prayer and sacrifice and feasting. Day by day we as a Church pray according to the Liturgy of the Hours. Church bells use to mark the passing of the hours. In many places the Angelus is still rung marking morning, noon and night. The seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter are still celebrated at the times set forth by the Church, even by those who deny her authority, even by those who fail to acknowledge the Lord's existence. The catechist should be familiar enough with the rhyme and reason of these facts, else how can they be passed on to the faithful.
Familiarity with the Sacraments is vital to the catechist. Not just theoretical knowledge, but also for the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist a knowledge gain through the regular practice thereof.
It should go without say that regular Mass attendance on all of the Holy Days of Obligation, which includes every Sunday, is a given.
These activities will help prepare the catechist for their ministry. Only with the help and support of the Holy Spirit will success in the transmission of Catholic culture be accomplished. So of all of the above suggestions prayer is the most important.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


The use of fetal matter from aborted fetuses in the creation of vaccines is an immoral practice totally grounded in the wishes of vaccine companies to save money. Even they claim no therapeutic purpose for the practice.
Check out Mark Armstrong's article at Catholic Exchange.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Why Catholic Culture?

Over the weekend I had an interesting conversation with someone about why Catholics being apart from the prevailing culture is a good thing. The contrary position was that we should not try to isolate ourselves from the common culture. The argument was that Jesus did not isolate himself from sinners. That is true. It is also true that Christ always called sinners to repentance.
The point is that in this discussion this is a straw man. I could just as easily counter that Jesus said, as described in Matthew 18:15-17
"If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.'
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.
If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector."
The inference of this passage is that Christians are expected to live apart. In 1 Corinthians 5:10-12 Paul writes:
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people, not at all referring to the immoral of this world or the greedy and robbers or idolaters; for you would then have to leave the world.
But I now write to you not to associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber, not even to eat with such a person.
For why should I be judging outsiders? Is it not your business to judge those within?
As can be seen by Paul there is an assumption that there is a group of people who are within the Church and a group who are without. He assumes that our relationship to our brothers and sisters within the Church will be different than our relationship to those without.
As Christians it is our duty to Evangelize, that is to preach Christ to the world. We cannot do that if we don't know who we are. In a culture based on principles so apart from the principles of the Gospel it is almost impossible to be part of both worlds.
In 2009, in the wake of President Obama's ill conceived invitation to Notre Dame Jody Bottoms wrote impassioned essays on abortion and Catholic culture. Rod Dreher's response was to ask "What Catholic culture?" pointing out that a majority of "Catholics" in the United States help vote in the most pro-abortion president this country has ever had.
This is more a proof of why maintaining a Catholic culture is important that an indictment that it isn't.
It is incumbent on parents to instill Catholic culture on their children. They are the first teachers of their children. Unfortunately too many of them are themselves ignorant of authentic Catholic culture. So it fall to the catechist to introduce aspects of Catholic culture to their students, both child and adult.
For much of modern history the assumption has been that the catechist deals primarily with the child, the exception being those who are involved in RCIA. With an almost entire generation who have not been inculturated with the facts and Truths of Catholic culture it has fallen to the Church and its catechists to now look beyond their traditional students to the greater Church.
To stand against the modern culture of death we must be like the early Christians, who stood against the ancient culture of death that was the Roman Empire. We must, in some sense be apart. We must know who we are in order to stand in the modern marketplace of ideas.
In Isaiah God promises:

I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family;
This passage is referring to the king's steward. In the Church that is Peter, for, as St. Jerome said:

Where is Peter there is the Church.
So guided by Peter, and the Magisterium of the Church, we must stand against the culture a peg in a sure spot. Catholic culture is our peg.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog: "St. Thomas More" by G. K. Chesterton

On this feast of St Thomas More who could more clearly teach on St Thomas than the intellectual giant of the modern age, who might himself one day be among the great doctors of the Church?

Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog: "St. Thomas More" by G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, June 13, 2010

CCHD and bishops

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is an organization which was founded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1970. CCHD has always been controversial to some Catholics. The mandate of the CCHD prevents its grant money from going directly to the poor. Instead its suppose to support organizations which are working to eliminate poverty through social programs.
Most, if not all of its monies go to secular organizations, that is not to expressively Catholic or even Christian organizations. In its past monies which have passed through the national organization have gone to groups which do not support Catholic teaching.
The effectiveness and proper use of grants in individual diocese are very much a function of the level of oversight of the individual bishops. Where the bishop is orthodox and willing to take to time to ensure fund management is scrupulous in adherence to Catholic doctrine on the part of grantees funds donated to the CCHD can do much good. In cases where this is not so funds donated to the CCHD can at the least make possible the diversion of funds to support programs hostile to Catholic teaching and at worst actually support activities which are actually against Catholic teaching, such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality and hostility to the traditional family.
At least eight U.S. bishops have stopped taking donations for the CCHD in their diocese, instead using that same money to support charitable organizations locally, in some cases in programs which would not have been permitted under the CCHD program, such as support for a food pantry for the hungry.
One group Reform The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has sent a report to every bishop in the United States. It should be pointed out that this group is not calling for the elimination of the CCHD, but for meaningful reform. The information revealed in the report is chilling to any faithful Catholic. No less that 18 grantee organizations are revealed in the report to be supporters of abortion or same-sex "marriage." At least 31 are said to require further investigation. In many cases an even cursory look at the web sites or liturature of the offending grantees would show that they support positions at odds with Catholic teaching. No great amount of investigation needed.
It should be mentioned that CCHD has literally hundreds of grantees nationally and many more through the local diocese. One would hope that the vast majority of these groups are compatible with Catholic teaching, not involved in disallowed activities, such as political action or support of specific political candidates or parties and are compatible in their activities with Church teaching.
To count on more than hope, perhaps the USCCB should heed the call for an audit of grantee organizations.
CCHD was founded as a response to the plight of the poor in the United States, for it to fulfill its mission it must be grounded in authentic Catholic teaching.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday was instituted to honor the Most Holy Trinity by John XXII in A.D. 1334. Until 1960s it was celebrated as part of the Octave of Pentecost and marked the end of a three-week period during which weddings were forbidden.
Feasts to honor the Trinity, though not part of the liturgical calendar used for the Mass, were included locally in the Divine Office from the time of Gregory the Great as the Office of the Holy Trinity, with their own canticles, responses and hymns.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a central tenant of the Catholic faith and is excepted by most, but not all, of the other Christian faiths. This is revealed Truth which man could not come to through understanding of natural law. Though in Scripture there is no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together, they are separately described in several places. In Matthew 28:18 Jesus tells the disciples:
...go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
In Luke (1:35) Scripture tells us:
And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
The Most High is the Father, described by a phrase used in the Old Testament, as in Sirach(Ecclesiasticus) 24:
Wisdom sings her own praises, before her own people she proclaims her glory;
In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth, in the presence of his hosts she declares her worth:
"From the mouth of the Most High I came forth..
The references to the Holy Spirit and the Son are clearly stated.
The early Church from Apostolic times taught the doctrine of the Trinity. The baptismal formula is ancient. It had its origin in the oral tradition that became Scripture and it's use predated Scripture.
At the time of the Arian Heresy in the fourth century, the Trinitarian dogma was already encapsulated in the doxologies in use:
Glory to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Ghost.
carried through to the present day as
Glory to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
There are many passages in the ante-Nicene (that is before the Council of Nicene) Church Fathers which attest to the wide spread belief in the dogma of the Trinity; St. Basil tells us that when Christians lit the evening lamp it was their custom to give thanks to God with Prayer
We praise the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God
This is the consistent teaching of the Church Fathers.
In theological terms the Trinity can be described as a mystery. Theologically a mystery is a Truth which we are not only incapable of discovering apart from Divine Revelation, but which even when revealed remains hidden. That is it is a fact so enveloped by an aspect beyond our understanding that even when revealed it is necessary that it's acceptance be a manifest matter of faith. It is, in short, impenetrable to reason, although it contains no intrinsic impossibility which violates the laws of nature. It is incomprehensible, as God will alway be incomprehensible to us on a fundamental level. I leave you with St Jerome who said:
The true profession of the mystery of the Trinity is to own that we do not comprehend it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Marian Prayers

For the Lent and Easter season this year I used a book called Lent and Easter with Mary by Thomas J. Craughwell. A day by day guide through the Lent and Easter season this book includes a different prayer every day, many seldom prayed in today's Church. It also contains many stories of Saints throughout the ages with particular attention given to their Marian devotion.
I would highly recommend it.

Excuses and liturgy

A very bad month for blogging. I am determined to blog more regularly, especially as I feel it will be more important as we in the United States and throughout the English speaking world are introduced to the new English translation of the Mass.
It seems almost certain that the USCCB will set Advent 2011, that is the Advent after next as the official date that the new translation of the Mass will begin being used in Catholic Churches in the United States.
I've discussed the new translation several times, as well as why the catechist should be interested and involved in this change.
It is important that the catechist understands the framework of the change. Beyond the very good reasons for a new translation, the facts of the translation itself should be known and be able to be explained by the catechist.
To begin with the previous ICEL translation is of the Roman Missile promulgated in 1975. In the United States the actual translation used is not the final approved translation, but still contains some parts, the creed for example, where a different translation based on an earlier draft was used.
In 2000 the original Latin edition, which contains some minor revisions, was approved. It was issued in 2002 and is called the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. In 2008 an amended version of this missile was issued which corrects some misprints in the original years 2000 version. This is the version from which the new translation is taken.
There are significant changes to some parts of the Mass prayed by the people and many parts of the Mass prayed by the priest. Without proper preparation many of the faithful will be unnecessarily confused by these changes. It is the responsibility of each pastor, using the resources provided by their bishop and with the help of his parish catechists to prepare the faithful for the use of this new translation.
We have what appears to be a long time to accomplish this catechisis. It will be many month before official volumes of the Sacramentary are available (though parishes should start thinking about budgeting for the new books they will need, as well as the training materials they will need.) However if we don't prepare for the tasks we will have to face next year in the preparations we will not be in a position to ensure a smooth transition.
So if you are a catechist seek out training on the new translation. many diocese have already started to hold training classes of their priest and catechetical leaders. Lots of information is available on line. Start with the USCCB site.
Get to work, time's fleeting.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The first Novena

Novenas have, unfortunately, become rare in some corners of the Catholic Church in America. Along with kneeling, confession and a host of other ancient Catholic practices novenas somehow seemed to have gone "out of fashion" in the post Vatican II Church.
Certainly moving the celebration of the Ascension from its traditional day of the Thursday forty days after Easter to the following Sunday has confused the issue.
What does the day that the Ascension is celebrated have to do with novenas?
Far from being a practice originating in the Medieval Church the concept of the novena is based on the nine days of prayer and meditation practiced by the Apostles in the time between Christ's Ascension into Heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, a period of nine days.
Pentecost itself was a day which pre-dates the founding of the Church associated with the Jewish festival of Shavuot which commemorates the deliverance of the Ten Commandments to Moses, which occurred fifty days after the Exodus, and so fifty days after the celebration of the Passover.
In the later Church the practice of the novena often centers on Mary and in this period of the Early Church Mary was indeed present with the Apostles in the upper room during this period, and on Pentecost itself.
So movement of the date of the celebration of the Ascension does obscure the significance of this nine-day period and this relationship to later practice.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

St. Landry Catholic Church Bell

For hundreds of years the Church set the rhythm in villages, towns and cities through out the civilized world. In answer to the Holy Father's call to integrate the new media into the culture of our faith St Landry Catholic Church in Louisiana is once again tolling the Angelus, the hours and the call to prayer via the Internet!

St. Landry Catholic Church Bell

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Over at National Review Online Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Sister Mary Prudence of the Religious Sisters of mercy of Alma. A very good interview which you should read.
One part which I found enlightening was the result of a question by Lopez:
And you did this of your own free will? Chose to be subservient in a patriarchal church?

Sister Prudence: The first part of this question is important. A simple answer is: “Yes.”

The sister then continues:

The second part of this question is framed within a feminist political ideology. As we say in Catholic philosophy, the mind receives according to the mode of the receiver. If the mode of the receiver is a political feminist ideology, then that is how he or she will perceive the Catholic Church. The word “subservient” as used in your question seems to imply serving in an inferior way, which is not what we do. We serve as Christ, who came “not to be served but to serve.”

The difficulty is that, throughout history, there has been a struggle between basically three different positions about the relation between women and men: 1) traditional gender polarity, which viewed men as naturally superior to women, and its modern counterpart, reverse gender polarity, which views women as naturally superior to men; 2) unisex positions, which claim that there are no significant differences between women and men; and 3) complementary positions, which argue for the simultaneous fundamental equality and worth of women and men and their significant differentiation.
Sister Prudence has a PhD in philosophy, and it shows. Read the whole article and you'll understand why, while some orders are dying others prosper.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Red Tape???

So recently I was fortunate enough to hear a talk by a speaker from a pro-life organization which really opened up an area of the pro-life struggle of which I was unaware. I touched me so deep in my soul with its importance that I felt it an imperative that others in my parish and region be made aware. While my ability to play Paul Revere is as good as the next obnoxious loudmouth often when the message is important enough it is best to get it from the horse's mouth. So, I thought, why not invite this speaker to come to the parish and speak on the subject?
A quick inquiry to the Director of Religious Education(DRE) and I found myself routed to the diocesan theologian. So I found I needed a letter from the speaker's bishop, a CV (curriculum vitae), concurrence with the USCCB Dallas Charter on the protection of young people, etc.
Why so much red tape???
Well for good reasons actually. The bishop as the pastor responsible for all of the teaching in the diocese has a responsibility to ensure that every person who teaches anywhere in a Catholic facility under his control is a orthodox teacher. That is they must teach what the Church teaches. They must also be qualified to teach or speak on the subject that they are presenting. And the bishop must be sure of these facts, hence the requirements.
So many requirements might make some unenthusiastic about bringing in speakers from outside the diocese. But on important matters the extra effort is worth it. So I'll be rolling up my sleeves and working out the details of getting all of this information to the diocese. As an added benefit the next time my speaker is invited to speak in the diocese all of this will have been done.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Queen of Heaven

One of the greatest, last, barriers for those converting to Catholicism is often Catholic devotion to Mary. For many of those coming from the Protestant faith an authentic understanding of Mary and her place in salvation history is a difficulty. One that is often hard for Catholics to help them overcome, because they themselves do not have a sufficient knowledge of Scripture to explain this devotion in a biblical framework.
A statement one often hears from those raised in the Protestant traditions is that honoring Mary is not biblical. This is an understanding that is not based on biblical fact. A prime understanding of the new covenant, the new kingdom is that during biblical times the Davidic kingdom is a model for the eternal kingdom. That is, God uses Israel and its Davidic dynasty to model what the proper relationship is between a king and his people and our Heavenly King and his people. So just as David was a shepherd and a king, so too is David's decedent, Our Lord, Jesus Christ both a Shepherd and a King. As David was a father to his people, so too is our God a Father to his people.
Now in the Davidic kingdom from the time of Solomon until the very end of the kingdom the Queen Mother was a position of unique power and authority. The cultural reasons for this extend beyond Israel to all of the nations of that part of the world...Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia. It is easy to see why. Polygamy was a common practice and the king might have many wives, but he would only have one mother.
In 2nd Kings it says:
Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king's mother, who sat at his right.
This was not a one-time act. The positioning of the Queen Mother at the King's right hand was an indication of her relationship to the king. It was a position of power, down to almost the present day, when the prestige position is at a leaders right hand, so the phase "right hand man." Further, throughout the rest of the books of Kings whenever it lists the name of the king in the genealogy of the Davidic Line it also lists the name of his mother.
So this is model of our proper relationship to Mary and her Son. The Queen Mother holds no power or authority through her own person, but only through her son. So too does Mary hold no power or authority on her own, but only though her Son. Still in the ancient kingdom the Queen Mother was often brought petitions so that she would intercede with the king on behalf of others.
An authentic relationship with Mary includes the understanding that Mary always directs the penitent to her Son. In the Magnificat Mary says:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,

My souls does magnify the Lord,
In every word spoken by Mary in Scripture it is evident that she points to her son. Nowhere is this more evident than in her final words in Scripture, in John 2:5

Do what ever He tells you.
The mark of an authentic Marian Apparition is always "how does it point to Chris?" for Mary never points to herself.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

St. Gianna Molla

I was reading Fr. Z's incomparable blog where he was covering the Wisconsin shrine installation of a St. Gianna Molla relic. He linked to an earlier blog post from 2008 in which he describes St. Gianna's second miracle, the one which resulted in her canonization. I found it so inspiring that I just had to link to it.
Especially important is the bullet list at the end of the piece.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Don't be bitter.

Catholic Exchange has an articel that gives a bit of perspective to the Church's latest problems.

Better than Bitter

I have to say it is very easy to get disheartened at all of the slop that is being shoveled on the Church and our great German Shepherd. Sometimes those of us who work in lay ministries in the Church face challenges from our families, friends and neighbors for our continued faithfulness to the Church.

I would say the historical perspective mention in the article is very important. I love my country. I hope for it a long history, but I know intellectually that it is unlikely in the best of circumstances to last for hundreds and hundreds of years into the future, let alone thousands. I also know that, barring the second coming, in that time that the Church of Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, will still be, in that future. I suspect when English is a language barely recognizable, that Latin will still be chanted, perhaps mixed with a dialect of some modern language I would not dare to name, at a Mass which will still reach its high point when the words are uttered: Hoc est enim Corpus meum, For this is my body.
So don't let the troubles of the day distract your soul from the message of eternity. This too will pass.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why all priest are not called to celibacy

It is not a surprise to most members of the Catholic Church to hear that in the western world the majority of the faithful live in a Roman Catholic bubble. That is, they are most knowledgeable about and when dealing with Catholics from outside their own parish have almost exclusive contact with other members of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. In this rite most priests are under a vow of celibacy. Many do not know that there are some 22 other rites , many of which allow married men to be ordained to the priesthood.
In the universal sense it is not necessary for a man to be celibate to be ordained a priest. It is, however, a discipline of the Roman Rite for a priest to be celibate.
Ordinarily, married men are not permitted to take orders under the Roman Rite if they are married. In no rite is a priest allowed to marry once they have been ordained. Just as for a married deacon, if a priest's wife dies he is not permitted to remarry.
Even in the Roman Rite there are exceptions to this otherwise mandatory discipline. these exceptions are primarily the result of a pastoral provision authorized by the Venerable John Paul II to allow men who had been Anglican(Episcopal) priests before converting to Roman Catholicism to be ordained. This was done for many reasons, one of which was, as might be expected from the title of the provision was pastoral. In some cases these men did not enter the Church alone, but brought along their congregations. JPII allowed these individuals to continued to minister to these flocks, after a suitable period of training and guidance. In fact he created a whole new version of the Roman Rite for them known as the Anglican Use.
Since that time other Anglicans have been accepted into the Church, and because of their experience have been allowed to serve as priest even though previously married., even serving in ordinary parishes, though seldom or never as pastors.
It is likely that we will see a small influx of such men in the near future. Benedict XVI has authorized the creation of a brand new structural entity, the Ordinate, under which parishes, and even diocese, of Anglicans may (re-)join the Catholic Church. Like military diocese these Ordinate will span diocese, their parishes under the pastoral control of their Ordinary, rather than the local bishop. The Ordinary many be a bishop, or he may be priest, abet one who will have some of the prerogatives of a bishop. Initially many of the priest of these parishes, and even the Ordinaries will be drawn from those who have up until now been married Anglican priests.
Such men will have to be in valid marriages, that is they can not be divorced, unless their previous marriage has been validly annulled. They will also have to be ordained, since their Anglican orders are not valid. But they will be priests of the Roman Rite, though they might celebrate according to the Anglican Use, or not. Such details are still being worked out.
They will undergo discernment, so the validity of their call to the priesthood will be determined as carefully as any other candidate. They will be part of a very small group, priests of the Roman Rite not called to the discipline of celibacy. They do not represent a change of heart on the Church's part. Merely a pastoral approach to true Christian unity, so that we may all be one..

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blessed St. Joseph, Husband of Mary

In a very few minutes the Feast of St. Joseph will start. Well actually, in a way it has already started, for anyone who prays the Liturgy of the Hours. This is because the Feast of St. Joseph is a Solemnity.
A Solemnity of the Roman Catholic Church is a principal holy day in the liturgical calendar. On a Solemnity prayers for the day begin at evening of the previous day, just as they do on Sunday. This is primarily because in ancient times (meaning before they had clocks) days started at sundown. We Catholics call this the vigil of the Feast.
So this evening was the Vigil of the Feast of St Joseph.Now most people know (at least those in the United States) that when St. Patrick's day falls on a Friday the local bishop will often dispense the faithful from the discipline of abstaining from meat on Friday. That's because green beer would just not be the same without a nice plate of corn beef. It is also because on St. Pat's day we celebrate the life of the Saint and you aren't doing much celebrating when you are engaged in penitential acts, like abstaining from meat.The bishops have to do this individually because the Feast of St. Patrick is not a Solemnity. It's just a plain old feast.
Now the Solemnity of St. Joseph is different. It is a major feast of the Universal Church. In Rome, where all ten Holy Days of Obligation are still celebrated, the Feast of St. Joseph is a Holy Day of Obligation. On such a day Catholics are not required to abstain from meat when it falls on a Friday. (For those paying attention, in Ireland St. Patrick's Feast Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, and so would not require special dispensation from the bishop when it falls on a Friday.) So the gist of this is that tomorrow, because it is a Solemnity you are not strictly required to abstain from meat. All other disciplines of Lent are still in force. So if you've given up broccoli for Lent I guess you'll have to have carrots instead with your steak.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Catechal Responsibility

I've mentioned again and again and again that the primary responsibility of the catechist is to teach what the Church teaches. Now it is true that to teach well the catechist must be able to relate to the student in an appropriate way. All of the teaching techniques, that is the pedagogical skills necessary to any teacher, must be mastered. The catechist should inspire their students, just as any sucessful teacher will inspire.
But the most inspirational catechist in the world will not be doing his ministry well, or at all, if they do not teach what the Church teaches.
Case in point:
He Said What?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The primacy of Catholocism

So at one time I was facilitating a class on Biblical study and the area being covered was on judges, which ends
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.
This passage can be a reflection of the way in which Protestants view Solo Scriptorum, with the Bible the only source of faith, interpreted by each person themselves.
Sometimes in the modern ecumenical spirit members of the Church forget that the purpose of ecumenism is not just one church or a group of churches which play nice, but the reunification of Christ's Church, that is the separated Protestant communities with the Catholic Church.

Sometimes one will hear from individuals who are well meaning, but have been poorly catechized:
Shouldn't a church be open to anyone who wants to come? It wasn't like Jesus founded the Catholic Church. He founded His Church. If the Catholic church had stayed true to the teachings of Christ and His mission on earth, there never would have been a need for Protestant religions.
This kind of statement shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine. As it states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

*811 *"This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic."
These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. The Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.

*817 *In fact, "in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church - for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame." The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism - do not occur without human sin:
The Church does not deny that members of the Church, even popes, bishops and lay ministers are sinful. The fact that some in the Church sin does not excuse the sin of heresy practiced by the original Protestant schismatics. The Church has also stated that modern members of Protestant congregations, raised in those traditions, are not guilty of the sin of heresy. This does not apply to those members of the Catholic Church, who for reasons of disagreement with teachings of the Magisterium, have left the Church.
Last year the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a document, un-named as far as I have been able to find, which was meant to clarify the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium. In that document it states:
"In fact, precisely because the Church willed by Christ actually continues to exist (subsistit in) in the Catholic Church, this continuity of subsistence implies an essential identity between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church. The Council wished to teach that we encounter the Church of Jesus Christ as a concrete historical subject in the Catholic Church. The idea, therefore, that subsistence can somehow be multiplied does not express what was intended by the choice of the term “subsistit”. In choosing the word “subsistit” the Council intended to express the singularity and non “multipliability” of the Church of Christ: the Church exists as a unique historical reality."
The Church's stance on whether the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ is pretty clear.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The consequences of sin

One of the points often made by atheists is how can a loving God exists in a world with so many bad things?
The explanation for this is often framed in the principle of free will, and indeed that is a major part of the answer. The extension of this point is that we do not live in a consequence free world.
What exactly does that mean? At its most basic it means that if you step off a cliff the natural laws which God has seen fit to enforce in his created universe will cause you to experience a world of hurt as your body makes contact with the ground below.
So in reality the Commandments and teachings which God has given us are warnings about how to avoid bad consequences. Many people point to the Ten Commandments and describe how they are the rules by which a society must live for a community to be able to live together. Certainly a community can not survive if the people in it steal from one another or commit adultery or bear false witness against each other.
In the new age the Church has illuminated the meanings of the original Ten Commandments to tell us about many other things which just seem to have bad consequences when we do them. Most of these consequences are present in this world, so that it really isn't necessary to talk about the dire consequences that will occur in the next.
Sometime the consequences don't seem to follow so directly from our point of view, but the Church has had centuries to think about and see the end results, and knows where individual actions will lead.
That is also why there is no such thing as a private sin. A sin hurts the whole community. There are consequences for the whole community.
This is not a popular stand today. People want a consequences free world. That ain't going to happen!
Live a promiscuous life and there will be consequences. There's heartbreak, low self esteem, using others as objects, which results in loneliness, possible pregnancy, guilt for "taking care" of that "problem", disease, and on and on.
Follow the cult of instant gratification and find a life bereft of meaning.
Cheat on your spouse and destroy your family, lose the respect of your children, your friends, possible even consign the woman you said you loved and your children to a life of poverty, since being from a single female parent household is the greatest indicator of poverty in the U.S.
The God who loves you wants you to avoid bad consequences. He wants it so bad that He has told us how to minimize the chances of making decisions which will cause us to experience a whole bunch of bad consequences. To do that avoid sin. Respect and follow the teachings of the Church. Teachings not created because the Church is anti-this or whata-phobic that, but because these actions, those lifestyles are bad for you. Thaey are bad because they have consequences, in this world as well as the next.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

History lesson

John Henry Cardinal Newman once wrote "To know history is to cease to be Protestant." What Newman meant was that to anyone who read the Church Fathers, who was familiar with Scripture, who knew of Roman history and the history of Europe the truth of the Tradition of the Catholic Church was obvious.
The Bible itself is primarily the story of Salvation History. As such it has depth. I've written about compenetration before. Compenetration refers to the fact that biblical prophecy has an immediate fulfillment while simultaneously having a more ultimate meaning as well. So when Jeremiah talks about the return of Israel from the Babylonian exile he is also talking about the ultimate return to God which will come though the salvation of Christ.
A different kind of depth in Scripture is the way in which ordinary objects, things and concepts in the mortal world reflect or mirror things either spiritual or Divine. The relationship between God and his people, Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament, is mirrored in marriage. Some would even go so far as to say that marriage is a sacrament because it mirrors God's relationship to his Church. So we see in the Song of Songs the relationship of a lover as the relationship of God to his people. We see in Hosea Israel compared to an unfaithful wife, who takes other gods to the sorrow of the true God.
The Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies in which it was kept was believed to mirror Heaven, or at least the Holy Throne Room of God.
Israel itself was to mirror the Heavenly Kingdom. Remember in Scripture God originally did not give Israel a king, even though Moses made allowances for a king in the Law. God was their king. As a matter of fact when the people asked the prophet Samuel to anoint a king for them Samuel was angry. He knew God was their King. But God knew what was best for the people. So he gave them their way, because he knew ultimately he would get his way.
So as God often does he wrote strait with crooked lines. He took many bad and some good kings and paved the way for the Eternal King, Himself.
Along the way he used the trappings and traditions of Jewish royalty to model his Eternal Kingdom and his Church. So a careful reading of the two Book of Kings shows that in the ancient kingdom the king ruled, but the other power in the kingdom was not his wife, for the ancient kings had many wives, but his mother. Read 2 Kings. Note that for every king there is an entry identifying the queen mother, for the queen mother had real authority in the kingdom.
In Isaiah 23 the prophet describes the office of the steward, second only to the king. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus uses the same words when appointing his steward, Peter, the first pope.
So the concept of Mary as the Theotokas and Queen of Heaven are Scriptural in origin, not some post Roman innovation. Likewise the Magisterium and the power of the Pope to bind and loose is a legal concept based on the Scriptural description of the officer of steward in the ancient kingdom of God's people, not some offshoot of Roman government or Catholic power grab.
As Christ said Let those who have ears hear, and I might add let those who have eyes read.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Franz Werfel and Bernadette

So its amazing the way sometimes things just fall into line. Today I was looking up something on Wikipedia and the article included a quote from Franz Werfel. Werfel, was a Jewish poet and play write who wrote against the Nazi's in the period prior to their take over of Austria. As the National Socialist Party came to power he fled to France, only to have to flee again when Germany invaded that country. Unable to procure the necessary documents he fled across France, finally hiding with various families around Lourdes.
While there he learned of the story of Bernadette Soubirous. Werfel made a promise to God that if he and his wife escaped to America he would write a song about Bernadette. With the help of American journalist Varian Fry he managed to escape. In 1941 he wrote Song of Bernadette, a novel about the young girl and the apparition of the Blessed Virgin which appeared to her.
Though Werfel never converted to Catholicism his book was very Catholic in tone.
Amazingly at the present time I'm doing a Lenten reflection on Mary. Today's reading was on Bernadette Soubirous and Our Lady of Lourdes.
Just moments ago someone sent me a factoid. It seems that this year Lent and Easter correspond exactly with those of 1858, the year Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette in Lourdes.
The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes was last week, on Feb 11. Somehow that date passed without my really noticing it. For some reason today the Spirit seemed determine to bring it to my attention

Friday, February 19, 2010

The danger of the mystic

We live in a society where it has become common to face the spiritual with skepticism or indifference. Even in the Church it is not uncommon to find even priests who deny the actual existence of Satan, angels, or demons. Often these same people deny, if not the existence of sin, its power to eternally separate us from the presence of God.
This has resulted in a situation where our youth are exposed to many false and dangerous beliefs. Some of these beliefs are considered harmless or even silly by secular culture, when they are in truth dangerous. Dangerous to the soul and sometimes even dangerous to the body.
Take Wicca. Basically a made up religion with its historical origins in the 19th century. Based upon vague fantasies of a non-existent ancient witchcraft Wiccans themselves do not believe that they worship the devil. However many do call upon powers from beyond this world, attempting to affect happenings in the physical world through the exercise of power.
Now there is a real spiritual world. It is a plane of existence inhabited by the angels and demons, that is fallen angels, and includes the heavens and hell to which those who die go awaiting the final coming of Christ. There is a power in this spiritual world. It is the same power that exists in the mortal plane. The power of God. But God also allows other forces to reach from that plane into the world. Some actions occur through His own power, as when God answers a prayer, or allows the Blessed Mother or a saint to appear to a mortal. Other forces God also allows to enter the world, as when Satan is allowed to tempt the living or when a demon is allowed to possess a person's body.
It has become unfashionable to talk of such things, but they are as much a part of our Catholic teaching as the Sacraments or Original Sin. It is true that not every mentally unstable or epileptic individual is "possessed." But just as most wild bears are not man eaters, that does not mean that there does not exist a man eating wild bear or two. It also means that its a bad idea to dance with the bears.
So in the present secular world its very likely that if you work with a youth group that some of the members of the group have friends who are either dabbling with Wicca or even from families where it or other pagan practices are considered the norm. It is also likely that they have been exposed to Ouija boards, tarot cards or other spiritually dangerous items.
Think this is a silly thing to worry about? Let's look at it this way. Do you believe in the efficacious power of prayer? That is, do you believe that praying to God or to the Saints or the Blessed Mother actually has the result of causing an effect in the physical world? If you do is it then unreasonable to believe that Satan and his fallen angels can also respond to "prayer." God has allowed Satan power in this world, at least until Christ's second coming. If someone is using an object or ceremony or ritual in a way to reach out to a higher power, and the intent of that individual is not directed toward God then does it not make sense that another power could respond?
Even if such a power does not manifest physically it is dangerous to soul to dabble with such things. It is especially dangerous for the young, those who are not fully formed in their faith and the weak willed, those already seeped in sin, to fool with such things.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Media

Now I am of an age where I can say that there was a time when I had a familiarity with literally all aspects of computer and network use. There was, quite literally, no application or protocol used to communicate between computers that I did not have at least a passing relationship with. As an example, several years ago the Smithsonian had an exhibition on computer technology at which were present all kinds of computer hardware from the famous ENIAC to the more pedestrian S-100 bus based PC, Atari, Pet and of course the IBM PC. I took my son though the exhibit, who was in high school at that time and heard, "Dad, don't you have one of those?" at far more of the pieces than I would have expected, starting with the S-100 unit.
On this extensive array of computer hardware I managed to communicate with computer bulletin boards over phone modems, moved onto first AOL and CompuServe, and eventually to the Internet. Once on that world spanning network I found myself using email, Internet Relay Chat, FTP with its ARCHIE search engine, GOPHER with its equivalent VERONICA search engine, and of course Usenet.
Somewhere around the time the WWW came into existence I started to fall behind. Second Life was an environment I only heard about at a Systems Controls conference, where the other programmers had pretty much the same disinterested response I did to the presenter's enthusiastic endorsement of Linden's virtual world. I grabbed onto blogging after a fashion, though my lackadaisical update of this blog shows I'm certainly not in the league of the great Catholic bloggers who typically post a dozen times a day. I found Instant Messaging a total distraction that prevented me from getting any work done. MySpace and Facebook seem to require a much greater level of exhibitionism than I am comfortable with. Twitter? Does anybody really care where I am and what I'm doing?
So how does this great glut of social communication tools effect the ability of the catechist to carry out the mission? The Holy Father has said that it is important that the Church use the new media to evangelize, teach and proclaim the Good News. So it is incumbent on us to think and investigate how it is best to do that.
We must also remember that social media can be a two edge sword. Just as thoughtlessly placed photos on Facebook can cost you a job, it can also cost you the respect and trust of young people placed in your charge. IM or email between adults and young people must be carried on according to the highest standards of propriety.
When youth invite you to their IM buddy lists or friend you they should be made to understand that while you might indeed be their friend, you are also an adult who has a responsibility to report certain things to authorities or parents.
Any kind of relationship which could lead to scandal must be avoided. Remember any piece of information which travels through the Internet and including information which transverses the cell phone system never goes away. It is never private.
Provided that new media is used in a way that enhances human dignity and supports the commission laid on us by Christ it, like writing, radio and television before it can be used to the greater glory of God.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Is America a Christian Country?

Last April America's president stated in a speech given in the principally Islamic nation of Turkey, "America is not a Christian nation." This is a statement for which Barack Obama took a lot of heat, from conservatives, from Christians and even from some Democrats.
Though I personally disagree with Mr. Obama on almost everything this particular statement is one to which I must reluctantly agree. How can that be, you might ask? The United States was founded on Christian principals. The Declaration of Independence appeals to the Creator and natural law for the authority to throw off the bonds of tyranny. Freedom of Religion is enshrined in our Constitution. 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christian.
To that I would say:
How can any nation which allows over one million innocent babies to be murdered a year call itself a Christian Nation?
50 million abortions since Roe v. Wade made abortion the law of the land. To bring that number in perspective 50 million people is the combined populations of the states of California and New York. It is the population of the Union of South Africa, and greater than the population of Spain. It is nearly the population of Canada and Australia put together. It is nearly the number of people killed in every country which participated in WWII. It is greater than the number of people killed by Hitler and Stalin put together.
It is a carnage which is so great that it is in truth beyond normal human comprehension. A moral stench that is truly sickening and that will condemn us all in the minds of our descendants, when finally this Satanic inspired travesty is finally recognized for what it is and is banned as the crime against humanity which it is.
So today when we congratulate ourselves that 300,000 people have descended on Washington to speak out for life, to once again be ignored by the Supreme Court, Congress, the White House and most of the Main Stream Media, we should remember more children died in the first six months after Roe v. Wade became law than will stand in the cold in D.C. today.
It is sobering thought. I pray that God can forgive our nation, else we are surely doomed.