Friday, January 30, 2015

Pray with Pope Francis in February

Zenit just released Papa Francesco's prayer intentions for the month of February. It's a great Catholic act (in both the sense of showing our unity with Peter and in the sense of praying with the Church universally, "catholically") to pray with and for our Holy Father.

Here is what Francis would like us to petition the Lord for this upcoming month,
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity. (universal intention)
That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community. (intention for evangelization)
With all the rumors swirling about the upcoming Synod on the Family and with the German bishops clamoring for the remarried divorced to be admitted to Holy Communion, I find it interesting that the second intention neither mentions remarriage (separation isn't a bar to Communion) or Communion, although others of a less sanguine temperament might read something else into that.

A Catholic Drinking Song for Super Bowl Sunday

Long time readers know of my love for the great British Catholic writers; CS Lewis - who would probably be Catholic today, JRR Tolkien, John Henry Cardinal Newman, GK Chesterton, and Hilarie Belloc. Chesterton and Belloc, who were close friends, were once accused by H.G. Wells (of The Time Machine fame) of having "surrounded Catholicism with a kind of boozy halo."

Chesterton Shaw Belloc
Shaw, Belloc, and Chesterton
With that quote in mind, which is not entirely unfair, I'd like to share (for your Friday enjoyment) a drinking song composed by Belloc himself, note particularly the final two stanzas,
Pelagius lived at Kardanoel
And taught a doctrine there
How, whether you went to heaven or to hell
It was your own affair.
It had nothing to do with the Church, my boy,
But was your own affair. 
No, he didn't believe
In Adam and Eve
He put no faith therein!
His doubts began
With the Fall of Man
And he laughed at Original Sin.
With my row-ti-tow
He laughed at original sin. 
Then came the bishop of old Auxerre
Germanus was his name
He tore great handfuls out of his hair
And he called Pelagius shame.
And with his stout Episcopal staff
So thoroughly whacked and banged
The heretics all, both short and tall --
They rather had been hanged. 
Oh he whacked them hard, and he banged them long
Upon each and all occasions
Till they bellowed in chorus, loud and strong
Their orthodox persuasions.
With my row-ti-tow
Their orthodox persuasions. 
Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail. 
And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Especially barley brew! 

Of course, we wouldn't want to fall into drunkenness, which the Bible and Thomas Aquinas both assure us is a sin, but Belloc's song does remind us not to fall into the equally unchristian Puritan overreaction to drunkeness - that of abstaining from all drink - which the Bible also shows us the error of.

Pope Benedict XVI Beer
Show us how it's done Papa!

So, in the spirit of Chesterbelloc (as George Bernard Shaw once called the friends) enjoy your wine and beer this Super Bowl weekend (and not those spirits that came upon the scene after the Protestant Revolution), but only to "hilarity" and not to drunkenness as St. Thomas recommended.


UPDATE: There's been a question about the tune one would sing Belloc's song to. As it comes from one of his novels, The Four Men: A Farrago, I'm not sure it actually has any music. If any of you readers happen to know of a "performance" of the Pelagian drinking song, let us know! (Or perhaps a particularly intrepid soul with some musical talent could set the song to music and link to a video for us.) Deus benedicat te. - Nathan

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Prayer - the Fruit of Loving Jesus

'"Just one minute of intense prayer is enough.' Someone who never prayed used to say that."
So begins number 465 of St. Josemaría Escrivá's Furrow (a collection of 1,000 "points" or tips or advice on growing in holiness in the midst of the world). The great saint continues with an intimidating question, "Would someone in love think it enough to contemplate intensely the person the love for just one minute?"

Many of us have been (or are currently) in love and we all know the answer that question - of course not. But, aren't we called to love Jesus? Again, we all know the answer is "yes." Why then don't we desire to spend more time thinking about, talking with, and adoring Him?

Such a seemingly simple question cuts us to the bone, for the only answer is that we don't love Him enough to want to be bothered. No, we'd rather just check off "prayer" on our to do list and move on with other things - things that we really love. And isn't that just another way of saying other things we really worship? For we all worship something - yes even atheists are included here. We all put something at the center of our lives, be it riches, fame, power, pleasure, sex, we all have our god who we build our lives around. In that way we aren't really all that different from the ancient Israelites who, a mere forty days after Moses ascended Mount Sinai, opted to build a god for themselves, one made of the things they loved more than God - wealth (gold) and sex (calves were symbols of youth and virility).

We might not be silly enough to worship a statue, but we still value, we still love, money, sex, and other wordily things more than we love God. I've heard Dr. Peter Kreeft, renowned Catholic philosopher, author, and apologist, ask audiences why sports stadiums teem with more energy and passion than churches do on Sunday morning (and this upcoming Sunday morning more than any other here in America). Isn't because we love sports more than God? Would we never consider missing the game, but frequently miss our Rosary (and I include myself here, I love the Rosary, but love the Pittsburgh Pirates all the more)? What's wrong with us? Again, we all know the answer. Sin. Concupiscence. Weakness. Our spirits are willing, but - time and again - we find our flesh to be weak (cf. Matt 26:41). And so we miss prayer time. Maybe we figure, it isn't a mortal sin, I didn't miss Mass after all. And right we would be. But, to go back to St. Josemaría's analogy, would we miss a date with our beloved on Earth and rationalize it because it wasn't her birthday or our anniversary after all? Only if we weren't all that in love I suppose. Lovers are never satisfied with "quality time." Their hearts are too smart for that. They want, no they demand, both "quality time" and "quantity time." And so does our Lord.

Which is exactly why prayer - daily prayer - is so essential to the spiritual life. St. Josemaría goes as far as saying, "prayer is the foundation of the spiritual edifice. Prayer is all-powerful" (The Way, 83). If our foundation is weak, we will never be able to build a strong life, a life dedicated to holiness. Thus prayer, which amounts to no more than speaking with Jesus - being with Jesus, must undergird all the action of our lives.

It is this very point that Pope Francis made so eloquently in a recent homily where he implored the faithful to seek to do God's Will in all things. How do we know God's Will? The Pope's answer? Prayer. How do we gain the desire to do God's Will? Again, prayer. How do we carry through on this resolution? Prayer.

I frequently tell my students that each day must start in prayer. Jesus should have the first appointment in our calendars booked every day.
Here is an effective custom for achieving (the) presence of God: your first audience every day should be with Jesus Christ. (Furrow, 450).
It should then proceed with prayer, and end in prayer (usually including an act of contrition for the things we did that we shouldn't have and for the things we didn't do that we should have). Without this basis, St. Josemaría assures us, we can never be saints, "sanctity without prayer? I don't believe in such sanctity" (The Way, 107), and all we do will come to nought, "action is worthless without prayer; prayer is worth more than sacrifice" (The Way, 81).

So enjoy life, but enjoy Jesus and His presence more. For "the world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:17).

Keeping praying my friends!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Is it Just As Likely for Non-Christians to be Saved?

which occasioned an interesting conversation with an atheist (no, not the usual garden variety angry infantile atheist either, this was an intelligent man with great questions) who assumed I believed that the eternal fate of the saved and the damned depended solely on whether an individual accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior or perhaps on how much good someone did. Apparently, he was only familiar with Evangelical and Pelagian soteriology and, having rightly rejected those, rejected the entire idea of hell as absurd, as the capriciousness of God angrily casting souls into hell against their will. Interestingly, this common view is the exact opposite of what happens. The damned freely choose hell against the Will of God, who desires the salvation of all (1 Tim 2:4). In this way salvation is more like a marriage proposal than like a theology quiz (as we discussed at more length here: The Hell We Choose. An Advent Call to Holiness)

As the possibility of salvation opened for non-Christians, the atheist offered a "summary" of my position including the idea that it was "just as likely" for a Muslim or atheist to be saved as it was for a Christian to be saved. Of course, I had made no such statement as I quickly pointed out. It is an interesting question though and one which I wanted to spend a little more time on than I could on the combox with the atheist.

Our faith tells us a few facts that help us frame an answer to this question. First, we know that explicit membership in the Church is the normal route of salvation, but lacking such membership isn't a one way ticket to hell. The Second Vatican Council made this clear in Lumen Gentium where we read,
those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.... But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God... Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God... Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life... But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to... procure the salvation of all of these... the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (paragraph 16, emphasis added).
Thus we see that no one is damned for not doing that which they could not do. If someone, "through no fault of their own" and "without blame on their part," is unable to come to explicit knowledge of "the Gospel of Christ or His Church" they will not be damned for that reason. They could, of course, still end up damned for other reasons, but no one is damned for failing to do the impossible.

So, what are "the odds" then? Do Christians, Muslims, and atheists all have "equal odds" at getting to Heaven? Perhaps the simplest way to look at this is to use an analogy. Let's imagine three different people all on a journey to the same destination (point b) and all setting forth from the same place (point a).

The first driver has limited experience driving, has seen other people drive quite a bit, and has a pretty good idea where destination "b" is. 
The second driver has never seen a car, let alone driven one, and doesn't really even believe destination "b" exists or that it is at all important getting there. 
The third driver is an experienced driver, has an excellent car, a GPS system, and is dedicated to making it to destination "b" as the single most important goal of his life.
Is it possible for all three drivers to make it to the final destination? Sure. Is it even possible that the first driver might make it and the last driver doesn't? Sure, again. Do all three drivers have the same likelihood of making it to destination "b"? Of course not.

In much the same way a non-Catholic religious person, an atheist, and a Catholic all have a shot at getting to their final destination (heaven), but they don't each have "equal odds." To change the analogy, the Catholic Church is like Noah's Ark sailing through the seas of sin that threaten to drown each person. Those aboard the Ark have a better shot at surviving the flood than those who seek a piece of driftwood from the Ark to float on or who seek to swim solely under their own power through the waves. All can be saved, but being on the Ark is the safest way to make the passage. That's why we seek to stay in the Church and bring as many other souls aboard as we can or, in the words of Lumen Gentium 16, "to... procure the salvation of all of these... the Church fosters the missions with care and attention."

Friday, January 23, 2015

Is It Reasonable to Believe in God? (2 Videos that Say Yes!)

For your Friday viewing pleasure, I thought I'd take a moment to present two great videos by William Lane Craig explaining, simply, quickly and effectively, two of the most common (and effective) arguments for the existence of God.

First, his treatment of the Kalam Cosmological argument,

And second, his treatment of the moral argument,

What makes these arguments so effective is they both start with premises that pretty much everyone agrees upon. For example, science has established the beginning of the universe and everyone lives as if morality is objective (even if some claim to not believe it). The arguments then proceed to show how these commonly accepted facts lead inexorably to belief in God.

Are these videos exhaustive treatments of these arguments? Do they address every possible objection? Of course not. They aren't meant to. Rather they are meant to quickly show how belief in God is rational. I wouldn't necessarily expect a hardened atheist to immediately convert upon seeing them, but they are good grounds for starting a conversation or for introducing these types of arguments to those, both theists and atheists, who might not be familiar with them.

Either way, they are worth a watch. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Real Men Don't Cry? A Biblical Reflection from the Words of Pope Francis.

Saw this on Facebook,

which immediately brought to mind the oft-heard "real men don't cry." Which, in turn, brought to mind the realest of all "real men" (in fact we are only men as dim reflections of His Divine "cosmic" masculinity) - the man Christ Jesus and the most powerful two word sentence ever crafted, "Jesus wept." (John 11:35).

"If we don't learn how to cry, we can't be good Christians." Something to ponder. Do you, good reader, know how to cry? Do I? If we don't do we really love our neighbor as commanded by the Lord (cf. Mk 12:31)?

To see someone suffering and to turn a blind eye and a callous heart to his pain, is that something we want to be reminded of on the dies irae? "And the King answering shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me." (Matt 25:40). If we can't weep with Jesus at the pain of our brethren, His brethren, then can we weep with Mary at the foot of the Cross? If we don't love them, can we claim to love Him? "If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother; he is a liar. For he who loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not?" (1 Jn 4:20). And if we don't love God how can we hope to be saved (salvation is, in the end, nothing more or less than loving God forever.)

"This is challenge." Indeed, Holy Father it is. It is a reminder of the core calling of our Christian, of our Catholic, identity. "See how the Christians love one another" was the cry that launched the conversion of the Roman world (a world not exactly know for love - slavery, gladiatorial combat, infanticide, lust, greed, pride...). Is that what people say when they see you or I or our Catholic brothers in the world? They should. We (and we alone) share the full faith of those first Christians. We are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ. We even have the witness of the Vicar of Christ, which continues to call out the challenge to holiness 21 centuries after God first transformed the world by stepping into His creation.

"Don't be frightened of crying."Here we hear an immediate echo of the recurring theme from the sonata that was the pontificate of Saint John Paul the Great, "Be not afraid," which was itself an echoing, by Christ's Vicar, of God's own words, "Jesus spoke unto them, saying: Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid." (Matt 14:27), which recalls the words God spoke through Isaiah to His chosen ones seven centuries before, "fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God." (Is 41:10). We need fear not the looks or thoughts of a cruel and prideful world, "fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul...", but only to fear God whose justice is always perfect, "...but rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matt 10:28). Which brings us right back to the dies irae. 

In some very real sense, then, we can say, building on the words of our Holy Father and of the Scriptures we looked at, that we can cry with our brethren in this "vale of tears" or we can cry for eternity with damned in hell.

"If we don't learn how to cry, we can't be good Christians. This is challenge. Don't be frightened of crying."Profound words from His Holiness.

Monday, January 19, 2015

We Received an "Honorable Mention" in the 2015 Sheenazing Awards!

I just got word that AdoroErgoSum received an honorable mention in the 2015 "Sheenazing Awards" (named after the inimitable Archbishop Fulton Sheen). While we didn't receive enough nominations to make it on the ballot to win in a particular category, it is still great to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the bloggers that I respect and have been inspired by like Edward Feser (how did he not get more than an honorable mention?), Brandon Vogt, Taylor Marshall, and others. If you'd like to go over and vote you can do so there. Thanks to all the readers and commenters here at AdoroErgoSum and ad majorem Dei gloriam!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pope Francis - "Non" to "Je Suis Charlie" in Line w/ Catholic Teaching

Yesterday, as you probably have seen, Pope Francis was on another airplane speaking to another group of journalists, an always explosive situation

This time, the conversation turned to the recent Islam-inspired terror attack in Paris. The pontiff was asked if freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. His response?
"You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith,"... If you do, he said, you "can expect a punch." (CNA)
In other words, no. Freedom of expression (defined as the right to say whatever you want, insult whomever you'd like to, and attack whatever beliefs you feel like in any obscene manner that strikes your fancy) is not a "fundamental human right."

Pope Francis went on to demonstrate what he means,
"You cannot offend or make war, kill in the name of your religion...But, if... my... friend, says something against my mother, he can expect a punch. It's normal." (CNA)
This is a nice expression of basic Catholic teaching (the Pope, after all and despite what the mainstream media would love you to believe is, in his own oft-repeated words, a "son of the Church.") For those unfamiliar, the Church teaches a freedom for excellence and teaches against an unlimited freedom to do whatever we please, independent of whether what we please to do is good or evil.

Pope Benedict XVI summed up the deficiency in modern understandings of "freedom,"

people have isolated the concept of freedom and have thereby distorted it: freedom is good, but it is only good in association with other good things... freedom must be measured according to... what we are - otherwise it abolishes itself.... If the freedom of man can only continue to exist within an ordered coexistence of freedoms, then this means that order - law - is, not the concept contrary to freedom, but its condition...The absence of law is the absence of freedom. (Truth and Tolerance, pg 245-249) 

In other words, freedom, true freedom, is the right to do what is right, not the right to do whatever we happen to feel like doing. An unfettered freedom (freedom conceived as the right to do good or evil as I happen to please) is in fact the antitheses of freedom - it is slavery, the worst form of slavery, the slavery of sin which Jesus came to free us from,
"I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin." (Jn 8:34
Freedom conceived as a right to decide good and evil for ourselves (i.e. freedom divorced from virtue) is nothing other than the original sin. It is this sin, born from pride - born from the desire "to be gods" (cf. Gen 3:5), leads us out of Eden and onto the "broad road that leads to destruction" (cf. Matt 7:13).

Which is why with freedom of expression, indeed with any freedom, to quote Pope Francis, "there's a limit." That limit was crossed by Charlie Hebdo. It was crossed with those who attacked Charlie Hebdo. Both sides, then, were wrong. Which is why, while condemning the Paris attacked entirely, I am forced to say, "Non je ne suis pas Charlie."

Read CNA's coverage on the full speech over there, Pope on Charlie Hebdo: Don't Kill in God's Name, but Don't Insult the Faith and Full Transcript of Pope's Interview In-FLight to Manila.

Recommended Reading (purchase through this link to support the blog at no cost to yourself!):

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Baseball Player Roberto Clemente to be Named a Saint?

Being a native Pittsburgher and Pirates baseball fan, I was interested to see this story at Catholic News Wire, (my comment in red)
Pope Francis (actually P. Boguslaw Turek, Undersecretary for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints) sent a letter of blessing to the efforts to canonize Pittsburgh Pirates baseball legend Roberto Clemente today. The notification from the Pope came today through his representative, the United States Apostolic Nunciature to Pittsburgh native Richard Rossi, who wrote and directed the feature film "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories," a feature dramatic film that has catalyzed an effort to canonize Clemente as a saint. The letter is from the Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints telling Senor Rossi he has handled the start of the process correctly by his beginning dialogues and answering questions with the bishop of San Juan (the diocese Clemente died in when his plane crashed in a humanitarian mission of mercy).

Clemente was a little before my time, dying in 1972, but his impact on the sports scene in Pittsburgh is still felt everywhere today. In fact, Clemente is one of three Pirates legends immortalized outside PNC park (Honus Wagner and Willie Stargell being the other two) and one of the sections of seats at the park carries his name. He certainly is a legend for both his on-field abilities and his off-field heroics. Whether or not his cause will end in his being named a saint, of course, is still unknown, but I can certainly imagine a few parishes being named "St. Roberto Clemente Catholic Church" in the 'burgh! Besides, it would be nice having someone to pray to with my kids before little league games (right now, we pray to St. John Paul the Great, most because of this:)

Of course, Clemente (would it be Saint Roberto of San Juan?) has a ways to yet go before being raised to the altar. The process has five major steps:
1. The local bishop conducts an investigation of the man's life (this would be the Bishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico not of Pittsburgh).  
2. This investigation is submitted to Rome, to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. They can accept it, reject it, and even decide to conduct their own investigation if they find the original, episcopal, investigation to be lacking. The man now gains the title "Servant of God."
3. The official declaration that the man lived "a life of heroic virtue." This doesn't mean the person under investigation is enjoying the beatific vision in heaven, just that they strived for holiness on Earth and that they lived in such a way as to be considered worthy of possible veneration (not worship) by the Universal Church, thus he is given the title "venerable."
4. After a miracle (typically one of healing which the medical community cannot explain in any other way) has been proven to have been accomplished through the intercession of the prospective saint, he is declared "blessed." 
5. After a second miracle, the person is formally canonized as a saint of the Holy Catholic Church.

Canonizations are acts of the infallible ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church, so there is no doubt the man in question has attained that goal for which we all ought to be striving - eternal union with God.

It is always exciting to have a possible saint closely associated with a geographic area which you are intimately connected to, but it is a long process and many, many cases stall along the way (Arch. Fulton Sheen is currently stalled at "venerable" and GK Chesterton, whose writings are among the best of the twentieth century, is still at stage one above). It will be interesting to watch this develop. I believe Clemente would be the first major professional athlete to be canonized.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Of the Eucharist, Pope Urban IV, Cardinal Newman, and Protestantism

I recently came across this description of the "source and summit of the Christian life" (Lumen Gentium 11, CCC 1324) from 1264 and wanted to share it here with you,
About to pass from this world to the Father, our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, since the time of his Passion was at hand, instituted the great and wonderful Sacrament of his Body and Blood, bestowing his Body as food and his Blood as drink. For, as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we announce the death of the Lord. Indeed, at the institution of this Sacrament, he himself said to the Apostles: Do this
in memory of me: so that for us the special and outstanding memorial of his love would be this venerable Sacrament: a memorial in which we attain the corporeal Presence of the Savior himself.
Other things which we remember we embrace spiritually and mentally: we do not thereby obtain their real presence. However, in this sacramental commemoration, Jesus Christ is present with us in his proper substance, although under another form. As he was about to ascend into heaven, he said to the Apostles and their helpers, I will be with you all days even unto the consummation of the world. He comforted them with a gracious promise that he would remain and would be with them even by his corporeal presence. Therefore he gave himself as nourishment, so that, since man fell by means of the food of the death-giving tree: man is raised up by means of the food of the life-giving tree. Eating wounded us, and eating healed us. Thus the Saviour says, My Flesh is real food. This bread is taken but truly not consumed, because it is not transformed into the eater. Rather, if it is worthily received, the recipient is conformed to it. (Pope Urban IV, Transiturus)

This is the eternal faith of the Church, and indeed of all Christianity. Pope Urban isn't saying anything the Fathers of the Church (i.e. the first Christians wouldn't have immediately assented to).
...there is in me no fire of material love, but rather a living water, speaking in me and saying within me, "Come to the Father". I take no pleasure in corruptible food or in the delights of this life. I want the Bread of God, which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ, who is the seed of David; and as I drink I want his Blood, which is incorruptible love. (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans, circa AD 100)
Or what Christ Himself said only a few decades earlier,
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. (John 6:53-56)
Or what the Church teaches today,
The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III 73, 3c)  In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." (Council of Trent, DS 1651) "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as id they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present." (Paul VI, MF, 39).
Which is the beauty of Catholicism. It is the same yesterday, today and forever - which reminds me of someone.... oh yeah Him (cf. Heb 13:8). In Catholicism there is no rupture, no "great apostasy," no sense that all Christians for centuries were wrong and we suddenly right. No. It is Christianity unmixed by the zeitgeist of the age, uncontaminated by the philosophical presuppositions of modernity. In other words, it doesn't require us to think like this,

Or in the capable words of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (in his account of his conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism),

About the middle of June (1839) I began to study and master the history of the Monophysites . . . It was during this course of reading that for the first time a doubt came upon me of the tenableness of Anglicanism . . . In the middle of the fifth century, I found . . . Christendom of the 16th and the 19th centuries reflected. I saw my face in that mirror, and I was a Monophysite. The church of the Via Media was in the position of the Oriental communion, Rome was where she now is; and the Protestants were the Eutychians . . . It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or Monophysites were heretics, unless Protestants and Anglicans were heretics also; difficult to find arguments against the Tridentine Fathers, which did not tell against the Fathers of Chalcedon; difficult to condemn the Popes of the 16th century, without condemning the Popes of the 5th. The drama of religion, and the combat and truth and error, were ever one and the same. The principles and proceedings of the Church now, were those of the Church then; the principles and proceedings of heretics then, were those of Protestants now . . . The Church then, as now, might be called peremptory and stern, resolute, overbearing, and relentless; and heretics were shifting, changeable, reserved, and deceitful, ever courting civil power, and never agreeing together. (read more from Cardinal Newman HERE).
Which finally lead Newman to declare, "to be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant."

Monday, January 12, 2015

Of Protestantism, Proof Texts, Straw Men, and the One True Church

Saw this "Hot on Google+" post yesterday along with various comments calling the Catholic Church, "the whore of Babylon."

Nice, huh? Really makes you want to be warm and fuzzy and ecumenical, right? Or maybe it makes you want to "fist pump" at something like this,

It certainly makes this blogger start to wonder whether the whole era of ecumenism (which certainly had many positive fruits) might be soon coming to an end. Those who could be drawn closer to the Church through "nice making" have already been so drawn. The "mainline" Protestant groups are drifting farther and farther away from anything even remotely like historic Christianity and the fundamentalist and evangelical groups post (and comment on, and share to the point of trending) things like the chart above.

Each of the points on the "chart" are easily refuted from the "Bible and the Bible alone":

1. Call no man father? Why, then, does Jesus call Abraham father? (Jn 8:39) What do we call that man who married our mother? Jesus, in Matthew 23:9 isn't forbidding our use of the word "father" in some hyper-literal sense (as we can see by His calling Abraham "father"), rather He is teaching us that no man is a father in the way God is Father. Jesus also tells us, right there in Matthew 23, to call no man "teacher" or "master" (including Jesus Himself, and yes, this would include using the word "Lord") but Protestants seem to have no problem understanding Jesus' figurative and hyperbolic speech with these terms. No it is only when they can make a clumsy attack on the Catholic Church that they suddenly loose the ability to take Jesus' meaning as intended. 
2. Don't confess to anyone but God? Not according to the Bible (Jn 20:22-23, James 5:16). The verse cited here (1 John 1:9) reads," if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Yes, that's right, it says absolutely nothing about who we are to confess our sins to. When read in light of the verses I mentioned above (Jn 20:22-23 - "And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." and James 5:16 - "confess your sins to each other") we see yet more reason to reject this absurd claim. 
3. Don't pray to "dead" saints? Who says they are dead? Not the Bible (cf. Matt 22:29-32). I wrote more on this here: 4 Reasons Every Christian Should Pray to the Saints. 
4. Mary is "co-mediator"? "Co" if understood as "co-pilot" not if understood as "another." Mary participates in the unique mediation of Christ like the moon reflects the light of the sun. The Bible calls all of us to do this right in 1 Timothy 2 - the very chapter of the Bible the Protestant is appealing to here! Advice - try reading the Bible in context, just reading a few "proof texts" doesn't equate to having even the smallest understanding of the Bible. I'm reminded of the atheist who excitedly "proved" God doesn't exist by appealing to Psalm 14:1 "... there is no God" (read the beginning of Psalm 14 for the context HERE).  
5. Pray only to the Father? Wrong again. The verse that supposed to "prove" this (John 14:13) says, "I will do whatever you ask in my name" not "don't pray to anyone but the Father." Besides, does the poster really believe we can't even pray to Jesus? Perhaps he doesn't realize "pray" is just another word for "ask". We can ask the (living, as we saw above) saints to pray to God for us, just like we can ask other people to pray for us (reading the whole second chapter of 1 Timothy instead of just the second verse clarifies this one as well). At this point I'm beginning to wonder if the creator of the chart is even literate. Time and again the Bible verses pointed to to "prove" his point simply don't say what he wants them to. 
6. Catholics worship "idols"? No, we don't. We have statues, but don't worship them which doesn't violate God's commands (God actually commands the use of statues in a religious setting, see Ex 25:18 "and make two cherubim out of hammered gold." Is God commanding Israel to break the second commandment? Did He forget His hatred for statuary? Or is our Protestant still not reading very carefully? Let's see. He quotes Exodus 20:4-6 for support, those verses read, "You shall not make an idol for yourself... you shall not worship them." God isn't railing against art, He is forbidding worshipping pieces of art. We don't worship statues, hence they are not idols. We use them in the exact same way God commanded the Israelites to use the cherubim - as aids in worshipping Him. You can read more on this HERE: Do Catholics Worship Statues?

Thus, all these "points" are easily refuted not by appeals to papal encyclicals or conciliar documents or mystical visions of the saints, but simply by actually reading the Bible. It isn't the Bible that is opposed to Catholicism here, but the warped reading of the, obviously very anti-Catholic, created of (and sharers of) the meme. This shouldn't entirely surprise us. The Bible tells us that people will seek out false teachers in an effort to hear what they want to hear instead of "Gospel truth" (cf. 2 Tim 4:3). The tens of thousands of Protestant sects, each set up by someone who didn't like what was being taught by other Christians, certainly proves this prophecy to be true. 

But, perhaps more chillingly, is the glee with which the sharers of the meme call the Church the "whore of Babylon." This is dangerous ground, it seems to me. The Bible tells us the Catholic Church is nothing less than Jesus' Bride (cf. Eph 5:25-27). I'm married and wouldn't be too pleased with people calling my bride a "whore," I'm going to guess Jesus isn't too happy about people calling His Bride a "whore" either. Just saying "I accept Jesus as Lord" isn't enough to guarantee salvation,  "not everyone who says to me "Lord, Lord" will enter the Kingdom of Heaven... I will declare to them 'I never knew you, depart from me" (Matt 7:21-23). I wonder if those who so hate His Bride, which is alternatively described as His Body (for "two flesh shall become one" - MK 10:8), might no find themselves departing from the Just Judge. I hope not, but I wonder. Of course, those invincibly ignorant (those "
who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church" LG, 16) can still be saved, but basing your eternal fate on ignorance when we know it is not ignorance but the truth which sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32), is a rather risking proposition. Therefore, please join me in praying for the conversion of all those who find themselves outside (and even reviling) the Church which Christ Himself founded,

Let us Pray. 
    O Lord, Who wast torn by the rebellion of Thy children whom, at one time within the Ark of Salvation, ventured out into the deep having itching ears, succumbed to the false teachers of Protestant ministers who listened more to the prideful urgings of the devil to break away from the bosom of holy Mother Church and multiply worse than the first thousands of times over. We pray Thee for our formerly Catholic brethren to give them the grace to realize the error of their ways and return to the Barque of Peter. May Thy holy Mother intercede and soften the hearts of those who may not realize the tenets they have been taught are not the full truths Thou charged Thy Apostles to spread throughout the world that all may be one. Show them through Thy wondrous ways that only in the Barque Thou founded can they truly see the marks of the true Faith: one, holy, catholic and truly apostolic. Guide them to accept and cherish Thy blessed Mother and to realize her role which Thou hast chosen for her, the second Eve, as Co-redemptrix of souls. Grant thy true priests the courage to feed Thy lambs with the manna of Thy Spirit so that every people and every tongue may acknowledge and glorify Thee as Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in unity with the Triune Divinity, forever and ever. Amen. (traditional Catholic prayer for the conversion of Protestants).

Friday, January 9, 2015

Of Lust, CS Lewis, Lizards, and Ghosts

As yesterday we looked at Temptation and the all too easy slide into habitual (and even addictive) sin, today I thought we'd look a little closer at one of the favorite sins of the age - Lust. As longtime readers of the blog well know, I am forever reading, re-reading, and quoting CS Lewis, thus a passage from one of my favorite Lewis novels, The Great Divorce, leaps into mind whenever the topic of lust rears its ugly head.

For those who haven't read the book (get your copy on Amazon here and support blog at no additional cost to you!) The Great Divorce is an imaginative tale of several Ghosts who find their way, via a bus of all things, from hell to the outer gates of heaven. These ghosts each have "one last chance" to repent, believe the Gospel, and be freed from hell forever (yes, that's a bit of bad theology, but Lewis is using it as a way of representing, dramatically, the very real choices each of us have to make here and now, which will determine our final destinies).

One Ghost in particular is of interest to us, one who is plagued with Lust (represented here in the form of a whimpering Lizard upon his ghostly shoulder) from chapter 11,
I saw coming toward us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder.... What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitting its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him, he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. 'Shut up, I tell you!' he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him.
The Ghost, quieted by the whisperings of the lizard smiles faintly and turns to leave paradise, ready, apparently, to return to the hell from whence he came. How many of us, when afflicted by any "pet sin" or by lust like the Ghost, make that same choice? We know we can't bring our sins with us into Heaven (cf. Rev 21:27), but how often do we blithely smile and walk away, clinging to the sin rather than holding fast to paradise?

Before our Ghost goes back to hell an angelic being bids him stay, to which the Ghost replies,
'I'm off,... Thanks for all your hospitality. But it's no good, you see. I told this little chap' (here he indicated the Lizard) 'that he'd have to be quiet if he came - which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won't do here: I realize that. But he won't stop. I shall just have to go home.'
Again choosing his sin (lust) to pleasure itself (heaven). The Angel, however, is patience asking,
'Would you like me to make him quiet?"...
'Of course I would,' said the Ghost.
'Then I will kill him, said the Angel taking a step forward.

The Ghost falls back, terrified at the prospect of the angel killing the Lizard, apparently not as ready to have him be quiet as he first thought, explaining
'You didn't say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything as drastic as that.'
'It's the only way,' said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. 'Shall I kill it?'
The Ghost comes up with any number of excuses to not allow the Angel to kill the Lizard. He doesn't want to be such a bother. He'd prefer a gradual method. He'd like a second opinion (from his doctor in hell). And so forth. Again we find ourselves staring in the mirror. Do we come up with excuses for our sins? Do we find a reason why today isn't the right day or now the right time to be healed by Christ? Do we, with St. Augustine of Hippo, pray "Lord give me charity and continence, but not yet?"

The Angel, unable to kill the Lizard without the man's consent, simply asks if he may free the man from his burden while getting closer and closer. The Lizard cries out,
'He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you'll be without me for ever and ever. It's not natural. How could you live?
Finally, convinced it would be better to die than to go on living with the Lizard, the Ghost screams out,
'Damn and blast you! Go on, can't you? Get it over. Do what you like' 
Needing nothing further, the Angel breaks the Lizard's back, seeming to kill it, and tosses it onto the ground before the Ghost. The Ghost isn't killed by the operation (though he "gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth.") After another moment a wonderful transformation occurs, as the narrator relates it,
For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialized while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man - an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel.
Freed from the Lizard, the Ghost becomes a man. While it hurt (and quite a bit, apparently, at that), the operation - the death of the Lizard - didn't kill the man, didn't leave him "only a sort of ghost, not a real man as... now" as the Lizard had predicated. No, instead it freed the Ghost, it made him into a man, one fully alive. Thus we see the cure which we foolishly hold back from. We all too often think we won't be able to be happy without this sin or that, but it is only by killing these sins, by giving them over to Christ to vanquish, that we are ever happy at all.

The Lizard, as with all our sins, too would be reborn,
So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen. 

Indeed, it is on the very back of this Lizard-turned-stallion that the Man charges off into the very heavenly mountains he had been contemplating turing his back on forever at the instigation of the Lizard.

The moral of the story?
'Does it mean that everything - everything - that is in us can go on to the Mountains?' 
'Nothing, not even the best and noblest, can go on as it now is. Nothing, not even what is loves and most bestial, will not be raised again if it submits to death. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.... What is a lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.' 
 And so we can say with any other sin. Think about that for a moment. Which sins are you clinging to? Which things, other than God, are you relying on for happiness? Resolve to put whatever it is to death today. Watch it arise again, purified and as unrecognizable as a stallion is from a lizard, to carry you into the hands of Our Heavenly Father. We may not have the immediate death stroke of an angel to rely on (although the angels and saints are here to help us as much as we allow them to) and it may take a few tries with several set backs, but whatever the sin is you can be free.

Deus benedicat.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Of Character Building, Hell, Demonic Temptation, and St. Anthony of the Desert

In these "scientific" days, many people, even many clerics, blush to speak of the supernatural and yet, it is real, our faith assures us of that (as does reason for those not blinded by a Cartesian worldview). The blinders most of us choose to wear to the supernatural can leave us open to attacks of the demonic, not just Exorcist level possession or obsession, but even just ordinary, run of the mill (though deadly) temptations.

Demonic Temptation has been a problem from the Beginning

There can be many reasons for temptations - past behavior, addiction, poor choices, physiological changes in the brain that make repeated actions easier (including evil ones), and forming bad habits, habits of evil acts. Here an old adage rings true,
Sow an action, reap a habit
Sow a habit, reap a character,
Sow a character, reap a destiny.
In that sense, we are what we repeatedly do. We have the awesome, Godlike (remember we are made in His Image), power to literally create ourselves (not ex nihilio, but in the sense of forming the kind of person we will become.) As Spiderman would say, however, "with great power comes great responsibility" and this case is no different. The great power of forming ourselves comes with the great responsibility to form ourselves into the kind of people that can be united with God forever - i.e. saints - otherwise we are failed humans and failed humans can only have one fate, left on the garbage heap (Gehenna), cast into the outer darkness (cf. Matt 8:12), into the fire where the worm dies not (Mark 9:44). This, as we have seen before, is a fate entirely (and freely) chosen by the damned, not imposed by a "cruel God" (see The Hell We Choose) and, again as we've seen previously, the fate of the damned cannot be less horrible than it is (see Couldn't God Have Made Hell a Nicer Place).

We might ask, however, why would God allow our past actions to so heavily influence our present and future actions? Why should He have so made us that the actions we "sow" today will incline us to certain, similar actions tomorrow to the point that our past actions transform our very characters and determine our destinies?

One reason we've already touched upon, the great gift of allowing us to participate in our own creation, but there is another, more important one - we are supposed to be like God. Indeed, we can only truly know man by first knowing God, or as the Second Vatican Council has it, "Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. (Gaudium et Spes, 22). How, we might ask, does God act? In full accord with His nature - with His character. How, then, does He create us to act? In accord with our nature, with our character. Thus, God wants us to act habitually as this more perfectly resembles the way He acts.

This can be a great good for us, if we habituate virtue. If we, on the other hand, habituate vice (any vice) we can easily find ourselves more and more easily committing the same, and related, vices. Lie once and it becomes easier to do so again. Lie a few times and you might just develop a habit of telling falsehoods. This habit, over time, develops into a character - you become a liar, one who lies and that character can determine your eternal destiny (indeed, bearing false witness violates the Eighth Commandment when the topic is serious enough).

We, then, have to be very careful about the kind of habits we pick up along the way.

What does any of that have to do with "Demonic Temptation?" Well, we know this world isn't a playground (despite post-Enlightenment claims to the contrary), but a battlefield. We are here not for enjoyment, but for spiritual warfare. Who do we battle against? Who is out biggest foe? Satan and his evil minions. Thus, they desire nothing more than to "help" us develop evil habits, habits that they know will, ultimately, grow from the seeds of small acts into the oaks of character. Thus, according to the saints, a frequent demonic tactic is to sideline any Christian who is making progress toward God by tempting them. St. Anthony of the Desert, attests to this,

St. Anthony was no stranger to temptation

The demons, therefore, if they see all Christians... laboring cheerfully and advancing, first make an attack by temptation and place hinderances to hamper our way, to wit, evil thoughts.
Thus, if we are struggling against temptations, we can at least avail ourselves of this thought - we must be making progress enough to be worth tempting. This also means we shouldn't be surprised by the onslaught our spiritual enemies launch against us. In fact it might seem that the more devoted to Christ we are, the more tempted we become. Such is to be expected. Luckily, temptation is no sin. We need not fear temptations for they can be pathways to grow in virtue. Even temptations that arise from the demonic should not be feared, as St. Anthony goes on to attest,
But we need not fear their suggestions, for by prayer, fasting, and faith in the Lord their attack immediately fails. (Life of Saint Anthony, 23)
If you find your self struggling with sin, which - unless you are Mary, you probably are - don't lose heart. Avail yourself of the Sacraments (especially confession and the Eucharist) and keep the faith (for more encouragement to continue the struggle read this - Recurring Sin).

And always remember, God wants you to be free from sin more than even you want to be (He gave His Son just for this end, after all). You can be free, not from your own power (for apart from God we can do nothing - cf. Jn 15:5), but we can be free through His power (for with God all things are possible - cf. Phil 4:13).

Deus benedicat.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Remembering JP2

Religious Education (CCD) starts back up tonight. I plan on showing the following short video on Saint Pope John Paul the Great from Chris Stefanick to introduce the children to a pope none of them remember. Truly a great man who piloted the bark of Peter courageously through some very difficult times. Enjoy...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Favorite Reads & More From 2014

Below is a short list of the books I've read or reread last year (I complied a similar list for 2013 last year) and some other stuff. Do you keep track of your reading? Have you read any of these titles? If so, what were your impressions of them? Is there any book you'd recommend I read or blog you'd recommend I follow in anno Domini 2015?

(If there's a book you are interested in, click the title to be taken to Amazon to purchase - a part of your purchase goes to support the blog at no additional cost to you!)

2. God's Birthday - Taylor Marshall
3. Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages: A Layman's Quick Guide to Thomism - Taylor Marshall
4. A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God's Covenant Love in Scripture - Scott Hahn
7. Jesus Shock - Peter Kreeft
13. Aquinas (A Beginner's Guide) - Edward Feser
14. Furrow - St. Josemaria Escriva
15. The Horse and His Boy - CS Lewis
23. The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky
29. God's Choice - George Weigel
31. The Forge - St. Josemaria Escriva
32. Sword and Serpent - Dr. Taylor Marshall
33. The Fulfillment of All Desire - Ralph Martin
*. Innumerable children's books (the occupational hazard of being a dad & bibliophile)

1. Ineffabilis Deus - Pius IX
3. The Church Evangelizing! - Bishop D. Zubik

7. Psalms 
9. Joshua
10. Judges
11. Ruth



 Saint Josemaría Escrivá

2. Kid's programming (lost of kids programming)
3. Around the Horn

3. 90's music from Spotify
4. Lecrae
5. Jay Z Unplugged - a weakness from my ill-spent youth ;)

Fr. Z's Blog Person of the Year 2014

Here's to a 2015 full of great books! Deus benedicat.