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.