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.