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Friday, December 30, 2005

Thursday, December 29, 2005

St. Thomas Beckett

Today (December 29) is the feast of St. Thomas Beckett (1118 - 1170). Very interesting story (courtesy of Catholic Encyclopedia) behind this saint and martyr.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

St. John of the Cross

Mighty in the Spirit, indeed, and it was his feastday yesterday, a day to remember this priest and doctor of the Church (links to the Catholic Encyclopedia). It was a day to examine the writings (links to CCEL) of a man who was on fire for Christ. The Dark Night of the Soul (online via CCEL) is considered to be his most widely known work. Clayton, at his blog, The Weight of Glory, writes this prologue to his famous book. He also went on a binge of links about the great saint.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Co-Option of Jesus..

.. into the reigning plausability structure. Sure, it's a mouthful, but it is a point well made. Got this from the Pontificator's site.

A Nun On Fire for Christ

Got this story via the Curt Jester. Sister Clare Marie Klein, nun since age 17 (now 22), is all fired up:

" I fell in love with Jesus. When this happened, everything changed, and I wanted my whole life to be about Jesus. I am not saying that at that moment I became perfect! It's just that at a certain point, I realized that nothing matters without Him. ... There is no meaning, no purpose in life without God. ..."

And as for deciding to become a nun of her order at all, she says

"I saw their love for Jesus in the Eucharist, their dedication to service of the church, their devotion to the Blessed Mother, the centrality of Scripture, and the fact that the religious habit is still a reality in the community. As a young person of the current generation, signs and symbols are a necessity to me. I need to know and see the difference between one lifestyle and another, and I understand the importance of a visible witness."

Sister Clare should all the more be in our prayers, for perseverance on her part and so that the Holy Spirit will continue the good work that's been started in her.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Catholic Universities Harmful to Catholics???

This is bad, and this is the second such study. The first one pertained to Catholic universities in the USA. I wonder if the same holds true of any substantial number of Catholic primary or secondary schools? Found this through Catholic Analysis (thanks, Oswald).

What on earth are those educators up to? Are they so driven to conform to the post-Christian world? Why are they ashamed of Jesus Christ, who was ever radical for his faithfulness to the will of God?

Do they forget that we are called to be prophets of God, sharing the light of Christ with the world?

"As for you, little child, you shall be called a prophet of God, the Most High.
You shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare his ways before him.
To make known to his people their salvation through forgiveness of all their sins,
the loving kindness of the heart of our God, who visits us like the dawn from on high.
He will give light to those in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death, and guide us into the way of peace." -- from The Benedictus

"Jesus the Radical"

From Oswald Sobrino of Catholic Analysis, a good piece that challenges us to be constantly amazed at how radical Jesus and the Gospel really are. If we have never heard of the "hard sayings" of Jesus Christ, then we aren't getting the full story. We shouldn't get stuck on the epistle to the Romans, or on the Pauline epistles only, or on the conversion stories only, or on any some portions only. We should get the whole story. And the gospels are a great place to start.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Why is the Immaculate Conception a Dogma?

Well, sure, it was a tradition from ancient times, but does it have to be dogma?

Yes, and Mark Shea briefly explains why it has to be.

While many Church Fathers referred to the sinlessness of Mary in life, there were differences about when her sinlessness begins -- yes, begins, because we all know that she was also saved by the merits of Christ (she said so herself in her canticles, and the Church says so in the dogma itself). For example, St. Thomas Aquinas apparently preferred the moment of birth (or before birth) instead of at conception. Here's a piece from (I think) James Akin, and another one from Mark Bonocore.

Must-Read: "Conscience and the Dictatorship of Relativism"

From John Mallon, a must-read (including the side-bar from Dr. Peter Kreeft) on what is really at stake when the Church, and C.S. Lewis mid-last centrury, warns us of relativism whose madness is probably just getting warmed up. Thanks to Mark Shea for this one. Please visit Mark's blog for a more lively discussion.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Nice Song and Video on the Eucharist

Thanks to Tony at Happy Catholic for this link.


It worries me that many non-Catholics (and non-Lutherans) disbelieve the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist for "enlightened" or anti-superstitious reasons, i.e., that it is beyond reason to think that Christ's flesh and blood become bread and wine. One with such a mindset is a short step away from disbelieving the mystery of the Incarnation, that the same Jesus Christ who was crucified and rose from the dead was God. And here again are truths that run in parallel: the Real Presence of Jesus Christ -- body, blood, soul and divinity -- in the Eucharist, and the Incarnation of the Son of God as a human being. Being in parallel, rejecting one puts an individual at risk of rejecting the other. A warped view of one, i.e., that Christ is only spiritually or symbolically in the Eucharist, risks having a warped view of the other, i.e., that Jesus Christ was only a man with the spirit of God, or was only a man annointed by God to be the archtype of sonship, a symbol or pattern for us to follow. There have been many objections to both mysteries, and they run in parallels, too, which is what makes a right understanding of the Eucharist so important.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Critiques and Reactions to "God on the Internet"

Over at the blog Against the Grain (Christopher Blosser's), summarizes the many critiques of Jonathan Last's "God on the Internet." It seems to not be sitting very well, particularly where the article appears to have gotten a few things wrong concerning Gregory Popcak's "Exceptional Marriages" website and Stephen Ray's "Defenders of the Catholic Faith." I happen to read the latter from time to time and find it an excellent resource. I feel that only half of what Mr. Ray offers in his ministry is for sale. Hardly a logical strategy for a business venture, I think. For whatever reason, Mr. Last jumps into the odd conclusion, presented as if it was fact, that Mr. Ray's website is primarily "to move product." Note to self: be careful not to offer opinion as if it were fact, and be most careful in getting the facts straight before presenting them.

A Thought on Family

Some truths run in parallel, and this is no exception. The health of a family member impacts the rest of the family, too. For example, my family is plagued by a cold right now. Everyone except my eldest son, at the moment. My youngest couldn't sleep through the night because of it, and neither could my wife, as a consequence. We didn't all catch it at once, and it is likely that one caught it first, and it was caught by another, and so on. The parallel truth here is how one's moral health -- our ability to discern what is right from what is wrong, and acting accordingly -- also bears an impact on the rest of the family. Most striking is when the individual whose health is in question is the parent. Just as good health proceeds from the parent -- notably the mother, from whom the milk and the first antibodies come from -- so, too, does good moral character. I cringe at the thought of post-modern parents who choose to be ambiguous about the Christian upbringing of their children, as if the Christian faith will one day simply fall like a comet upon their children when they are "old enough." But more than that, I tremble at the thought of what my poor health is causing my family. As far as my physical health is concerned, my excessive nighttime jaunts in the world of MMORPG (massively multi-player online roleplaying games) means lack of sleep. Lack of sleep affects my temperament, the store of patience I need with my children, and the energy I need to care for them, my wife, even our home and our car. It even affects my ability to function at 100% at work, so that I could be jeopardizing our source of income. As far as my moral health is concerned, let's just look at the same thing as an example. The Psalmist says "my sin is ever before me," and I thank God for the grace to be able to recognize the same thing. When I tell my children that it is time for bed, that there is a time for play and a time for sleep, I am painfully aware of my hypocrisy. But that hypocrisy is not just between me and my God. There are rare times when one of my kids do catch me still on the computer at 1 AM, 2 AM, and that obviously confuses them should they have the mind to look at the clock and recall what I said earlier about bedtime. Those are just the many lapses pertaining to my own bedtime. What about lapses in keeping my temper in check?
When I think about it, parenthood scares me spitless, but it also humbles me to think that God would grant me this awesome responsibility -- to raise up children. But there is no need for despair, because God is reasonable and wise. Looking at my physical surroundings and even my own body, one has to admit that we who are given life are given the means to maintain it and to thrive in it. So, too, does he provide us with the means to maintain and thrive in a moral life. In the first place, we have our conscience and our reason. Second, he gives us his Son, by whose grace we are justified and made partakers of his divine life -- what we call a state of sanctifying grace. And this state of grace is of itself nourishing, the means by which we can grow in holiness, provided we do nothing to compromise it. As for that, if we think of sanctifying grace as oxygen, we compromise it by refusing to breathe, or by strangling ourselves or by wrapping our heads with a plastic bag.
So there is reason to hope, too, because the grace of God is more than sufficient, always. But it still scares me spitless, sometimes. But it's a good thing to be in-between those two: the hope and the fear and trembling.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Three months in Toronto and not a nun In sight

Some friends wonder why they haven't seen a single nun in Toronto, so far. They have been to the church of Our Lady of Lourdes on Sundays as well as in other days, because it is beautiful they say, but not a nun in sight. Why is this significant? Well, where we (my friends and I) come from, you can't go to Church on Sundays or even walk around the city proper on most weekdays without seeing a nun. They're visible. They're part of the visible Christian identity of the Philippines. Which is why it is sad that many nuns now go around without wearing habits. Not these nuns, of course, but it would be nice if there was more visibility. If the Church has no visibility and no opinions to share then it is not the Church that Christ established to be a sign to the nations, a city built on top of a hill, salt of the earth and leaven for the world. I'm not saying that visibility and opinion-sharing is everything that the Church should have, but it certainly is one of them. I am not pushing for visibility over substance, but visibility and substance. As with many other things, it is not either/or.

"Why Do Some Fairies Have Glasses"

My son asks an interesting question. Why do some of the fairies in the video he was watching have glasses? You'd think that, with all that vaunted magic of theirs, they could have magicked their nearsightedness away. In fact, there are many cases where you can ask why X, despite so much Y, still suffers from Z. The rich are still lonely, the powerful are still anxious, the famous are still insecure. Inconsistency bites, doesn't it?

Friday, December 02, 2005

"No Blood for Oil"

The Curt Jester covering this story. It's not what you think.

It's Not About Who Doesn't Get In

Mark Shea, fave author/blogger/sometimes-mentor, makes the case that the Church and the sacraments are not about keeping people out. It is perfectly true that many Catholics might entertain such a mistaken notion. I suppose it's human nature to extend "who gets in" to "therefore, so and so won't get in because ...." But wasn't it St. Paul who left room for people who don't get to hear the gospel but have should be able to discern God through his creation and through natural law that is discernable even to them? There will always be some who are "invincibly ignorant" of the Lord. Why focus on where they will go? Focus instead on inviting everyone into the kingdom! The Church militant is the city built on top of a hill, a sign to the nations (which requires visible unity, I might add, not visible division), a key instrument of the Lord to reach out to the world, inviting them into his family, his kingdom. They should be enticed to "taste and see the goodness of the Lord" for themselves, in the sacraments, in the written Word of God, in the mostly Blessed Sacrament, Jesus Christ himself. What the nations should first notice about this city is its light, not the height and impossible strength of its walls. Drawing near, they should marvel at the joy and love evident among its citizens, not their shrill arguments. Like pagan Rome of old, they should marvel and say "See how these Christians love each other!"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

From Tonight's Vespers (Evening Prayer)

Psalm 29 (30)
Thanksgiving for rescue from death
Lord, I will give you all praise, for you have rescued me and not let my foes triumph over me. My Lord God, I cried to you and you healed me. Lord, you led my soul out from the underworld, gave me life so that I would not sink into the abyss. Sing to the Lord, his holy ones, and proclaim the truth of his holiness. His anger lasts a moment, but his favour for a lifetime. At night there are tears, but in the morning, joy. Once I was secure. I said, “I will never be shaken”. Lord, by your favour you had given me strength, set me high; but then you turned your face from me and I was shaken. I cried to you, Lord, and prayed to my God. “What use is my life, when I sink into decay? Will dust proclaim you, or make known your faithfulness?” The Lord heard and took pity on me. The Lord became my helper. You have turned my weeping into dancing, torn off my sackcloth and clothed me in joy, It is my glory to sing to you and never cease: Lord, my God, I will proclaim your goodness for ever. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Exploiting the Most Vulnerable?

Could this be true? According to HealthWorld Online, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking at allowing pesticide testing on orphans and mentally handicapped children. They're drafting legislation to permanently ban chemical testing on pregnant women and children, but the draft legislation proposal includes some serious loopholes that leave the most vulnerable unprotected. As the EPA is still accepting public comments, this is the perfect time to voice objection.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Endurance

The Gospel reading for Nov. 23 comes from Luke 21:12 - 19:

Jesus said: ‘Before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

and the notion of endurance comes up again. When I was looking at Hab 2:4, Heb 10:38, Rom 1:17 and Gal 5:6 in an earlier post, the notion of endurance also seemed to be relevant. The original context in Hab 2:4 was when God was reassuring the prophet Habakkuk and his people of Israel to endure the suffering they were undergoing at the hands of foreign oppressors. 'He will not delay' and the prophet was referring to the Messiah who was coming to save his people. In the meantime, the upright, through faith, shall live.

I get uncomfortable when someone preaches a nice, no-suffering, no-hardship gospel. I agree that the tribulations we must endure for the gospel do not give glory to God simply because they are painful, and it is no cause for pride on our part. But I'd be very careful myself not to give the impression that following the Lord is burden-free. The Lord said "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt 11:25-30).He did not say that there was no yoke, that there was no burden. I am reminded instead of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Pio of Petrelcina, and perhaps every martyr whose tribulations and martyrdom were endured with great hope, faith and above all, love. There is a burden involved in following Christ, but the one thing that makes that burden easy and light is love, and it is love which gives glory to God because it is exactly that which our God wishes us to learn and live in our lives. St. Francis found out the paradox of absolute freedom and joy when he embraced Sister Poverty as he called her, not because being absolutely without material possessions was pleasurable but because it was liberating to be in total abandonment to God's providence.

Endurance. Because love endures.

Pope St. Clement I of Rome

On Nov. 23, the Church celebrates the feast of Pope St. Clement I, fourth bishop of Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a good entry about him. Most of the writings attributed to him are in dispute, but the epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians is not only widely held to be authentic, it was being read in Corinth during the liturgy as late as AD 170. It was also proposed to include it in the canon of the New Testament when that was being decided in the 4th century. Not necessarily a strong candidate, but it was considered to be authentically written by Pope St. Clement and quite orthodox. Written late in the first century, it found favorable use in many churches outside of Corinth as well.

Here is an English translation of the epistle by Charles H. Hoole in 1885. Note that there are other translations as well. It's a good read because it shows signs of early developments in the doctrine of the Trinity, Apostolic succession and the structure of the Church. I found an amusing summary or abstract of the epistle someplace which said that the church in Corinth hadn't changed much since St. Paul's day. How so? Schisms, infidelity to orthodoxy, the sort of things that probably gave St. Paul and Pope St. Clement a "this-stiff-necked-people" sort of headache.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

By Faith the Righteous Shall Live

A friend asks about that and here I try my best to respond. May the Holy Spirit guide what follows and strengthen both my friend's faith and mine.

This is cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church thus:

1814 Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God." For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work[s] through charity."

The theme of the original words of the prophet Habakkuk (Hab 2:1-4) is persevering by faith (or faithfulness). Romans 1:17 uses these words to explain why the gospel is so important for faithful living: because the gospels reveal God's righteousness which encourages us (Rom 1:11-12) to be faithful. The righteous by faith in God naturally seek to know God's will, and this, the gospel reveals. But the word used in Hab 2:4 also means faithfulness, which extends faith into a faith that is lived. This necessarily places the faithful among those to whom the promise extends. Hab 2:3 tells us: 'For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.' Hebrews 10:37 phrases this wondrously: 'For yet "in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay"' -- linking the enduring confidence or trust of the faithful to the promised reward of salvation through Jesus Christ. And this saving faith is summed up in Gal 5:6 when St. Paul addresses the Christians who are reverting to Judaism and is emphasis on the Law, e.g., circumcision: 'For in Christ Jesus neiher circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working (or made effective) through love.'

Citations from Scripture:

`
Gal 3:11 It is plainly written that no one becomes righteous, in God's way, by the Law: by faith the righteous shall live.
  In the surrounding text (Gal 3:1-14), St. Paul is pointing out to Jewish converts, reverting to Judaism away from Christianity, that life is no longer to be had by observance of the Law, but through faith. Gal 3:12 says: 'Yet the Law gives no place to faith, for according to it: the one who fulfills the commandments shall have life through them.' Instead of trusting in what we do, we ought to have faith in God, and persevere in faithfulness.
Rom 1:17 This Good News shows us how God makes people upright through faith for the life of faith, as the Scripture says: The upright one shall live by faith.
  In he surrounding text (Rom 1:16-17), St. Paul points out how the gospel, received by those who have faith, reveals the righteousness of God. He cites the faith (or faithfulness) of the righteous, as spoken of in Hab 2:4, perhaps to support the context of what he is preaching the gospel for: to strengthen the faith (and/or faithfulness) of the righteous. In both Romans 1:1-17 and Hab 2:1-4, note that the theme is encouraging us (Rom 1:11-12) to trust, patience and hope (Hab 2:3). It certainly is logical to view the gospel, the power of God for salvation, as crucial in encouraging the righteous, for in revealing to us God's righteousness, the gospel strengthens our faith. The theme of God's righteousness is prominent in the whole epistle to the Romans.
Hab 2:4 "I don't look with favor on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by faithfulness."
  In the surrounding text (Hab 1:12-17, 2:1-5), the prophet Habakkuk complains to God about the oppression of his people. God replies that the oppression will end, with the upright persevering in a life of faithfulness.
Heb 10:38 Be patient in doing the will of God, and the promise will be yours. A little longer, a little longer -- says Scripture -- and he who is coming will come; he will not delay. My righteous one will live if he believes; but if he distrusts, I will no longer look kindly on him.
  In the surrounding text (Heb 10:19-39), the message is an encouragement to trust in God and to persevere. Distrust is not an option (Heb 10:38, Hab 2:4 "the one who gives way")!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Chirst, the King

Today we solemnly celebrate the universal kingship of Jesus Christ. Not only our savior, but our king. The Gospel reading from Matthew 25:31 - 46 brings to our attention the judgment of our king at the end of time, and it brings home a crucial point which I feel can be neglected: when our king makes his final judgments, 'he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats.' That actually cuts both ways. Not only will his judgments pronnounce rewards, they will also pronnounce justice: '“Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.”'

We can lay this out gently, knowing how full of love and mercy our king is. The bottom line remains: those pronnounced guilty will reap eternal misery, and that is a tragedy we must avert for ourselves, our family and for those whose lives we may touch. Better still, there is a great surprise awaiting those who do sow in faith, hope and love: '“Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world...”'


Update: Suggested reading on this topic:

Our King and Shepherd from Heart, Mind and Strength blog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"In his death, a model of courage"

The First Reading on the 15th of November (2 Mc 6:18-31) proudly tells the story of a martyr. Dying with dignity used to mean something else:

Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes, a man of advanced age and noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork. But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement, he spat out the meat, and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture, as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life. Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately, because of their long acquaintance with him, and urged him to bring meat of his own providing, such as he could legitimately eat, and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice prescribed by the king; in this way he would escape the death penalty, and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him. But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner, worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age, the merited distinction of his gray hair, and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood; and so he declared that above all he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.

He told them to send him at once to the abode of the dead, explaining: “At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age. Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.”

Eleazar spoke thus, and went immediately to the instrument of torture. Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed, now became hostile toward him because what he had said seemed to them utter madness. When he was about to die under the blows,

he groaned and said: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.” This is how he died, leaving in his death a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation.

Some mistakes we keep repeating...

The state of many post-Christian societies today came to mind when I came across 1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63, which was read at the celebration of the Eucharist last 14th November:

[From the descendants of Alexander’s officers] there sprang a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus, once a hostage at Rome. He became king in the year one hundred and thirty.seven of the kingdom of the Greeks.

In those days there appeared in Israel men who were breakers of the law, and they seduced many people, saying: “Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.” The proposal was agreeable; some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles. Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs. All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.

On the fifteenth day of the month Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-five, the king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar of burnt offerings and in the surrounding cities of Judah they built pagan altars. They also burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. Any scrolls of the law which they found they tore up and burnt. Whoever was found with a scroll of the covenant, and whoever observed the law, was condemned to death by royal decree. But many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean; they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Terrible affliction was upon Israel.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Gerry Matatics, Sedevacantism and Stumbling on Peter

Somewhere below, Lito from extranos has been asking me to give my two cents on his two cents on Gerry Matatics' sedevacantism, i.e., he declares that the seat of Peter has actually been vacant for a while on the grounds that a string of popes including the present one are heretical and therefore are not valid popes.

I'm not sure what to say. Perhaps Lito should had given me some specific questions to answer. I've never come across Gerry Matatics before, but this is not the first I've heard of sedevacantists and I've come across cases where people go further and declare themselves (or have a small group of "Catholics" declare them) as the valid bishop of Rome holding office in.. the porch of some house in some town in the United States, for example.

Dave Armstrong's comment boxes as well as Mark Shea's provide great clues as to why I won't be changing my Sunday plans anytime in this lifetime or the next. Moreover, Gerry's views are not as simple as they can be made out to be. Compare what Gerry says about his own beliefs in the institution of the papacy:

'By invoking the Old Testament testimony of Isaias, by borrowing his language and concept of the chief steward, or prime minister, Jesus, in effect, is saying to Peter: "The Church I will build is the Kingdom of God. I, the Son of David the King, will be its King. But I must have My officers, My ministers, My stewards. You are going to be My chief steward. So, I'm going to give you the keys the chief steward carries." And, since the chief steward's office is one of dynastic succession, Our Lord intended Peter's office and authority to be transmitted to successors.

And so we come to the final consideration: historically, who, in fact, inherited Peter's office and authority? There's only one candidate -the Bishop of Rome! I saw from early Church history that all Church Fathers who talked about where Peter went, talked about his going to Rome. It's as historically documented as any fact we know about the early Church - that Peter went to Rome, that he died in Rome, and that the next bishop of Rome acted confidently as the possessor of his authority, which the early Church sought and accepted.'

with this statement from extranos:

'There are some things that Mr. Matatics agree with the Protestants, the papacy is the seat of the anti-Christ so says their confessions of faith.'

It appears that Gerry will disagree that the papacy is the seat of the anti-Christ.

So what is Gerry's problem? I am still trying to discover that. From what I can tell thus far, he has a falling out with the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) and the popes who held the See of Peter from then until now. I agree with him that liturgical abuses are deplorable. However, I don't see that as somethng that was dogmatically perpetrated by Vatican II, nor by the popes of the last 40 years or so. If anything, it is due to laxity on the part of the Church Magisterium to enforce faithful adherence to the Catholic faith, in both liturgy and in catechism.

I sympathize with Gerry, but off-hand I think he's made a similar mistake that many have made when they went up against past or present popes: he is, in effect, arrogating for himself, good intentions and all, an authority higher than that of the Church Magisterium. When he wrote these words,

'This would include, not only the manifest heretics John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II, but also the manifest heretic and present illicit and invalid occupant of the See of Peter, Benedict XVI'

I was prompted to ask myself "manifest to whom?" I am also obliged now to consider a few key questions: What is heresy, and how have the popes mentioned promulgated heresy? Were they considered heretics before or after being elected as popes? Were they even confronted about their alleged heresy? Was their election invalid due to procedural lapses in the election process? And perhaps ultimately, how does a sedevacantist foresee an end to the vacancy of the seat of Peter?

I am reminded of the paradox that was the choice of Peter. He truly is blessed, because nothing of what was to be the papacy belongs nor originates from the man who is chosen. It is not flesh and blood that reveals truths to him, nor is he the builder of the Church. He is of practical use, a rock upon which to build. He is to hold the keys that are not of his kingdom but of Christ's. He is given the authority to bind and to loose on earth as in Heaven, but since the latter is the greater, it is the former that bends to the source of his authority: Christ. Sedevacantists and Protestants alike dash their teeth against this or that pope without realizing that they have probably fallen into a cynicism that does nto admit the possibility that Christ shepherds His Church exactly as he said he would, through Peter and in spite of Peter's falls. (Matt 16:17-19, John 21:15-17, Luke 22:31)

I also got to thinking that perhaps there is no small amount of pessimism among people who wish to use Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus without any qualifications. Perhaps it is the vehemence of a man who wakes up to a new day convinced that his past life was horrible to the utmost. Unfortunately, that can often be carried too far.


UPDATE: Robert Sungenis makes some good points about this.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Time for a Song

I have never heard this sung here in Australia during the celebration of the Eucharist (the Mass, the Divine Liturgy), but we used to sing this a lot back in La Salle. One of my favorites, too. "Holy Spirit goosebumps" and all (borrowed that phrase from Gus Lloyd). God grant that I would surrender so much, and more -- and all.

Take and Receive

Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty.
Take all my will, my mind, and memory.
All things I hold, and all I own are thine.
Thine was the gift, to thee, I all resign.
Do thou direct and govern all and sway,
Do what thou wilt command, and I obey.
Only thy grace, thy love on me bestow,
These make me rich, all else will I forego.

(Googled and found at CaptainPineda)

Defending the Catholic Faith

Steve Ray steps up marvelously.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Even Drunk, He Prays

You might have to be Catholic to appreciate the joke. :)

My First Critic

I guess my sermon on Romans Chapter 8 wasn't quite as exciting as I thought it was. :-P

Surfing Around: An Orthodox Critique of English Bibles

Found interesting critique of various English translations of the Bible from an Orthodox perspective.

Jimmy Akin on Identifying Infallible Statements

Here's an old but noteworthy piece by Jimmy Akin from This Rock magazine (2001) about identifying infallible statements. This is important before attacking the Catholic faith on the basis of what might be mistakenly waved about as proof that papal infallibility has fallen flat on its face. What I mean is that something that was not meant to be taken as infallibly defined says nothing about the doctrine of infallibility.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Burning Heretics and the Will of the Spirit

A Reformed Protestant friend continues our discussion: 'I was just reading the papal bull issued to Luther --Exsurge Domine. One of the things the bull condemns and views heretical is item 33. "That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit". So I guess the pope *_did _*believe that burning heretics is the will of the Spirit....' I wouldn't be surprised if various clerical authorities, including the pope, were supportive of capital punishment via burning at the stake. I can only be thankful that this is not dogma. Pope Leo X did not go on to state his objections to that item 33 as motivated by some doctrine that burning heretics is indeed the will of the Spirit. He didn't and I can only thank God for that. On the other hand, neither can the Church assent to Luther's assertion about the will of the Spirit because we have no authority to assert that. Scriptures do speak of rebels against God dying in various ways, some quite horrible. True, too, that Scriptures warn those who oppose God of unquenching/eternal flames in Hell. I know you call this equivocation, but, to me, that's exegesis. There are difficult passages like that couple dropping dead when St. Peter exposed them of pulling a fast one on the Church. Did St. Peter will them to die? I don't know, but he didn't act surprised when they did. Was it the power of God that slew them? Sure looks like it. God is a loving Father but also a righteous judge. I think item 33 up there from Luther opens up a point of apparent contradiction with Scriptures which can cause confusion. The proper doctrine is that God as righteous judge has the right to pass sentence over the guilty with severe penalties, but we have constant recourse to "the mercy of almighty God who does not wish the death of a sinner but rather that he be converted and live," as stated in the same papal bull. That item cited by the papal bull is not in itself clear about this complicated relationship between mercy and justice. Hence, I would agree that item 33 should be withdrawn in favor of a more complete explanation. Scriptures are clear about the severe penalties against those who cause scandals that cause the fall of those whose faith is yet weak. It is unpleasant to think about it, but the warnings against those responsible for such scandals are clear and are clearly severe. In that papal bull in question, I think what the Pope is saying is "don't say that" rather than saying "the opposite is true." Note as well that this was a rather violent age (16th century). An assent to such punishment on both sides of the Tiber reflects what is known about that period: tolerance had not yet taken root. Finally, I will again assure you that papal infallibility does not mean impeccability. Several popes were guilty of various villainy, including political maneuvers as well as directly condoning sinful acts, but not as dogma. Infallibility is always about universal doctrine on faith and morals, and is always given and driven by the Holy Spirit, in spite of the unsuitableness of the vessel (the apostles and bishops). When I trust the Magisterium, I am not putting my trust in the persons of the bishops and the pope, but on the Holy Spirit. I would also suggest reading through an informative discussion over at Amy Welborn's blog, Open Book, about torture, papal decrees and other such matters. There are some interesting insights in that discussion from a few months ago.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Devouring the Flesh of the Unborn

Modern day cannibalism. All in the interest of the self.<:-( (Invisible hat tip, Mark Shea).

Because They're Not Irrational Beasts

A doctor in Auckland has decided that Kiwis are capable of restraining themselves after all. Parents should be aware that children can be taught from an early age to appreciate consequences that follow their actions. They won't take responsibility for themselves if you don't give them reason to. Prescribing contraceptives and abortion is tantamount to taking away the need for restraint in sexual matters, as it also takes away the reality of consequences for poor choices they might make. (Invisible hat tip to Mark Shea).

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Humorous Mysteries of the Rosary???

Another Island Joe Franchise shares with us the first of the Humorous Mysteries, which highlight that which might have been hidden in Christ's many words and acts in the Gospels: his mirth. Laugh and ponder.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Cleanliness and Almsgiving

Today's Readings: Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11,37-41.
 After he had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, "Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.
No, the Lord is not selling his holiness by almsgiving, but he is pointing out something we often neglect (I know I do): the need to give. A life devoted to avoiding sin is not holy in comparison to a life devoted to giving for the sake of the gospel. Christ offers a challenge beyond piety: to give and give generously in LOVE, for love is to be held of the highest esteem. A clean cup is nice, but one that is full of good wine that is ever ready to pour out for others is even better. The cup is of God, the wine comes from God, and the invitation to pour ourselves out comes from God. Let us cling to his grace and acquiesce to holy inspirations.

From Catholic Exchange Focus

This invitation comes through Catholic Exchange Focus:

Jesus, Peter and the Keys: The Papacy in Scripture
Catholic Distance University invites you to embark on a journey to explore the roots of the Papacy in Sacred Scripture, Nov. 7 - Nov. 28, 2005. This online, three-week Continuing Education seminar, entitled Jesus, Peter and the Keys: The Papacy in Scripture presents an in-depth scripture study on the biblical foundations for the papacy in both the Old and New Testaments. After completing this course, you will be able to explain and defend the Catholic interpretation of "You are the Christ," You are the Peter," and "the Keys of the Kingdom" in Matthew 16:18. Learn more about this seminar and Catholic Distance University at www.cdu.edu.


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Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Gift of Scripture

Lito, a Reformed over at Extra Nos, blogs about the release of the book "The Gift of Scripture" at this the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Dei Verbum. His blog links off to perhaps what started a new round of condemnation from our Protestant brethren about how the Catholic Church is trashing the inerrancy of Scripture. I repeat here what I posted at Lito's comment boxes: I have not read the book "The Gift of Scripture" nor "Verbum Dei" (should be "Dei Verbum", the encyclical) just yet, so I can't comment, and I'd only comment on the book in question, not the article. I wouldn't, not from reading an obviously biased secular source like Times Online UK. A good reading of the article is a giveaway: secular bias, axe to grind against American right, axe to grind against "Intelligent Design" which is a scientific theory, not a Biblical exegesis, etc. Grain of salt. And don't trust mainstream media too far. They don't know what they're talking about. For the Catholic Church to believe that parts of the Bible are untrue is ridiculous in light of what the Church says (edited from "has said before") about Scriptures, e.g., from the Catechism, calling it inerrant, inspired and revealed. Which part of inerrant needs to be explained? I suggest reading what the book actually says rather than believing a secular writer for mainstream media. They're after Intelligent Design proponents, which includes the Catholic Church. But.. the writer (referring to the Times Online article) obviously didn't know that. :P Luckily, Dei Verbum is available online here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Confessional Protestantism

A friend of mine sent me this email which I post here so it can be discussed amongst other people (should a few trickle in by chance):
 'To best understand where protestants are coming from, please take time to read their confessions - Augsburg & Concord also Heidelberg Cathechism/ Belgic Confession or the London Baptist/Westminster Confessions of faith. Interacting with modern day evangelical may be fruitless because most evangelicals are non-confessional. I know they are anti-catholic but one of their weakness is that they are non-confessional. I noticed that you a comfortable with evangelical protestants who became RC, however, my observation is that they are mostly non-confessional in background. That is, their upbringing did not include systematic cathechising and their churches did not conform to a confessional standard( by enlarge). As a test, ask a modern evangelical if they know the difference between Law and Gospel. Ask them what is justification and sanctification as understood by Lutheran & Reformed. If they tell you they are born-again that is good, that is the result of the gospel but I am sorry being born again is NOT the gospel we are called to preach. Most non-confessing evangelicals have a lot in common with RC except that they do not have the sacraments and no bells and incenses as well as saints. For example their view of man is the same as RC, man has a free will that can at any moment can turn to God if man so pleases. That free-will according to most evangelicals is sovereign , that is, God will never alter that will and will hold it in respect for the rest of eternity. For them man can create faith at any moment in time, it can decide to believe. This is quite intuitive but confessional protestant view it different that is why for them the preaching of the Law and Gospel is very important because that is how God creates faith.'
One of the realizations I've had in my interaction with Evangelicals was that they operated on a completely different paradigm, with its own ontology. I drew a diagram several months ago shortly after I realized this and came up with four levels : Scriptures > Reformer's Confession > Pastor > Evangelical. Strangely enough, it also applies to Reformed Protestants, except that the latter are more explicit about the confessions they follow. Evangelicals don't necessarily subscribe to this or that confession but are nonetheless heavily influenced by specific Reformers, e.g., Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, etc. Personally, as a Catholic, my faith system also involves four levels: Deposit of Faith > Tradition/Catechism > Bishop/priest > me. Deposit of Faith to a Catholic is the totality of what St. Paul tells us as traditions "by word or letter" which he tells us to hold fast to. Indeed a great mass of such traditions were eventually written down in what is our New Testament, but a great portion was not. As Rev. Henry Graham writes in Where We Got the Bible, the New Testament works were not meant to codify everything. The epistles in particular were written in response to specific situations -- exactly in the same way that dogmas of the Catholic Church are developed as the need arises. You may have seen this money quote before: "the dogma is the drama," apparently written by Dorothy Sayers. I've also seen, I believe, a variation of this as "the drama is in the dogma." I have to end right here, but I do expect some colorful reactions to my impressions on how faith systems of Evangelicals/Protestants and Catholics are layered in similar structures. How dare this Catholic upstart compares his papist faith system with that of the faithful Christians of Reformed/Evangelical confessions? Indeed I do, but I am only being honest in what I perceive.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

God's Troubadour

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. Can anyone deny, granted that the stories about him are true, that the blessed saint was indeed a man in whose life was the undisputable mark of one who lived the life of Jesus Christ? Here's a link to his story. To those so inclined, here's a link of links about the Poverello.

For Very Small Animals Everywhere

So why have I got the cute little animal graphic? Here's why. Found out via Mark Shea.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Opus Dei: Two Reviews

Here's an interesting review by Christopher Howse of John Allen's "Opus Dei: secrets and power inside the Catholic Church". I haven't read the book, but I attended an Opus Dei study center for a few years back in college. I had a spiritual adviser, we had small-group discussions and catechism, and we had meditation and benediction every Saturday. I do recall some personal issues which led me out of the study center after college, but I wasn't actually "feeling damaged." In fact, I'd kept most of my study tools, most especially that tiny book of reflections, The Way. But it would be years before I'd come to realize that it wasn't the message of Opus Dei that bothered me. In fact, their message is uplifting because it is a message of hope and challenge. But in confronting myself as I was challenged to, I was doing so without joy, and that was my fault. I often lock on to certain aspects of things and forget the rest. But there is this simple joy that one should never lose if one is truly aware of one's self and the love that God bears for the least of his children. It's amusing to think that my spiritual director in this supposedly dark and negative organization was laboring at instilling the hope and joy of Christ in me. As it turns out, I did leave, and my "solution" then to lift that oppressive feeling was to avoid confrontating myself. Therein lies the source of my spiritual immaturity. I realize now that I have been letting this fear stunt my spiritual growth. For example, in the middle of reading St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life, I found myself unable to continue at that point where he challenges the reader to confront the sinfulness of his entire life. It was sufficiently daunting that I haven't so far been able to go through the exercise. That was two years ago. Well, one has to grow up sometime.

Who Speaks of Sacrifice and Sinless Living?

Psalm 49 (50) from today's Divine Office: 'Whoever offers up a sacrifice of praise gives me true honour; whoever follows a sinless path in life will be shown the salvation of God.' What sacrifice of praise could this be? Our Lord is our sacrifice, and through Him, our lives can be one of daily praise to the Almighty Father. St. Josemaria Escriva taught more than anything that our daily work sanctifies us, offered up to God through our Lord. Our daily work must be dispensed worthily, like the first fruits of Abel. Living sinlessly with simple joy and working in a worthy manner, we also hope to move people to ponder where it all comes from. God willing, we may get an opening to tell them, and they may connect our behavior with, as the blessed saint said, reading "the life of Jesus Christ."

Friday, September 30, 2005

Flashback: Dion DiMucci Comes Home

In 1999, Envoy Magazine featured the conversion story of Dion DiMucci from Dion and the Belmonts. Raised a Catholic, Dion left the Church for a sojourn of several years of grace but also some confusion: 'It seemed to me that each individual believer has to acquire enough knowledge on his own in order to know which church can bring him to eternal life. Instead of accepting the Church on God’s terms, I’d have to choose a church of my liking, a church that agreed with me. In those years, I did come to love God’s Word and met some wonderful pastors. But with a new church opening every week with a little different doctrine, it became increasingly difficult and confusing to know what the truth really was.' In the end, he 'met a Father who took this wanderer in His mighty arms, and led him home. Further Reading:

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Küng and Authority

Found this commentary on Prof. Hans Küng by Hans Urs von Balthasar. Perhaps it is not strange that this reminds me of Martin Luther, for whom a major practical, not doctrinal, difficulty was the authority of the Magisterium. I know that this was not the primary issue, but it certainly was a major one. Being Catholic, I've been called a brainwashed fool by many. How amusing to hear them tell me that I am an unquestioning automaton. But while I have posed questions against holy Mother Church, and will continue to do so as the occasion comes up, I do not dissent. There are many doctrines that I had found difficult to accept, but it has so far been the case that it was I who needed to change, not the doctrines. I would not want to end up like Aaron and his wife, who were trying to rise above their station, later painfully put in their place by the Highest Authority. Our leaders are flawed, but so am I. In fact, I am worse in my flaws. I would not want to be guilty of not putting enough trust in God, who assures the Church of the Spirit of Truth, and who has, from the patriarchs down through the apostles, shown that He never abandons his people to set apart a new one.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Surf and Ye Shall Find: The Defender

Found an interesting online newsletter, The Defender. I've only sampled a few articles so far, and they are both quite good. For example, an article called "Angels and Bells, Candles and Smells," and an article explaining the doctrine of Purgatory.

Reviving the Fiction of Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson

Just like Dr. Phil Blosser, I was recently invited by Michael D. Greaney, Director of Research for the Center for Economic and Social Justice, to look at what they're up to. Unfortunately, I am too far from the action to get involved in a project to revive the fiction of Msgr. Benson, but he suggests looking instead at their project to rebuild the areas affected by Katrina and Rita. Nevertheless, interested readers should take a look at that project concerning Msgr. Benson's fiction. Based on what little I'd read so far, I can assure you that his writing is very good. I invite you also to look at the only complete manuscript I've read of Msgr. Benson so far: his confessions concerning his conversion from being Anglican to Catholic.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Interesting Dialogs

It's a bit dated, but this report on efforts to unite 'the two families of the Orthodox Church' is very interesting. Apparently the Council of Chalcedon, perhaps due to politicized maneuvers, created a split in the late 5th century. The Coptic Orthodox Church, however, maintains that it never believed in Monophysitism. Also found this interesting list of reports about official dialogs with other brethren. The list does not seem to include the Join Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Senator Tells the Church: Hands-Off

'THE ROLE of the Church is to guide the morality of its flock, not to meddle in politics, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago warned yesterday.' (from INQ7) She has a point. I mean, who wants to live in a country whose politicians have to care about right and wrong? Yes, that was sarcastic.

Chant, Anyone?

Thanks to the Anchoress, I found this link on Gregorian Chant, from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.

An Invitation to Pray

From The Anchoress, who expects great things, 'not because of I am anyone special, and not because of my puny fast, but because God has promised me - has promised all of us - great things. We know that if we ask for a loaf, we will not be given a stone. He has promised us that a persistant widow can overcome the most heartless and selfish judge. His eye is on the sparrow. He clothes the lillies of the field in splendor, and so much more does he tend to us. And he says that where two or more gather in his name, He is there.' Oremus.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Readings for 15 September 2005 (Our Lady of Sorrows)

First Reading: "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, " (Hebrews 5:7 - 9) Psalm: Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, LORD, faithful God. (Psalm 31) Gospel: "'Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.'" (Luke 2:33 - 35) Commentary, from DailyGospel.org: St. Bonaventure tells us that the birth pains of our Lady were "felt .. later: she gave birth under the cross. " Today's Saint: St. Catherine of Genoa, an inspiration to self-denial and absolute, loving submission to the holy will of God. Her life and doctrines can be found here.
St. Bonaventure tells us that our Lady suffered her childbirth pains at the foot of the cross "from compassion and love." What was it like for her at the foot of the cross? We shall never know, for we did not give birth to our Lord, nor did we raise him up, knowing Him intimately as only a mother would. But Mary is the archetype of all Christians, she who was the first recipient of grace in Christ, the first to love and serve Christ. It is in such pain as hers that one comprehends the horror of sin -- not just our personal unrighteousness, past or present, but those of others. Then comes an understanding of the great price and love by which our salvation was purchased by Christ. St. Catherine of Genoa tells us that God may purify a soul by imparting upon him:
 'a mind occupied with great suffering; for that makes him know himself, and how abject and vile he is. This vision of his own misery keeps him in great poverty, and deprives him of all things which could afford him any savor of good; thus his self-love is not able to nourish itself, and from lack of nourishment it wastes away until at last man understands that if God did not hold his hand, giving him his being, and removing from him this hateful vision, he could never issue from this hell. And when God is pleased to take away this vision of his utter hopelessness in himself, afterwards he remains in great peace and consolation.'
Perhaps this process takes an instance, perhaps longer, but through suffering and sorrow, a soul may come out at the other end contrite, full of repentance and good resolutions, humble and much more eager to cling to the salvation of the Lord. O happy sorrow!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

St. John Chrysostom: Bishop and Doctor

Today (September 13, 2005) we celebrate the feast day of St. John Chrysostom (349 - 407), who was bishop of Constantinople from 397 until his death. He was given the surname which in Greek means "golden mouth" owing to his eloquent preaching. He was inspired by bishop Meletius of Antioch to first became a lector, then a monk, then ordained first as deacon then as a priest. As unexpected Patriarch of Constantinople, he was an able administrator who immediately proceeded to rid his house of corruption. He was also an able preacher, and many of his writings survive today. He may be the most able preacher every produced by the Church, and his homilies are celebrated even today. Details can be found here. The St. Pachomius online library includes the known writings of St. John Chrysostom.

Steve Ray on the Crucifix

How fortunate that I found Steve Ray blogging about the crucifix, given that he is one of my favorite apologist/writers and has studied this and many other issues better than I. Please have a look!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Lest I Forget .. Lead me to Calvary!

Protestants in general seem to be put off that Catholics are so much into crucifixes: in our churches, at home and even around our necks. Patty Bonds tells us why.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

“I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me."

Today's Gospel reading comes from Matthew 18:21 - 35 where, in his righteous anger, the king told the unforgiving servant: “I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?” During the homily today, our priest mentions that 10,000 talents was practically impossible for a servant to repay. So the king's mercy, when he had cancelled the debt earlier, was amazing indeed. But it isn't easy for any of us to forgive transgressions against us, especially the big, serious ones. And yet how could we not, when the Lord Himself is telling us: "forgive or else!" And this is not an unreasonable command. God has acted first by having forgiven us, first. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!" His Son's mercy and compassion is not merely an example, but a promise: we will not be forgiving from the bottom of our heart only, but from the bottom of His. We will forgive not only by ordinary human love, great as the capacity might be, but by God's own extraordinary love, which He will put in our hearts Himself. Still on the topic of discipline of the Lord (Hebrews 12), when God cancels our debt, through the ransom paid for us by Christ on the cross, it doesn't end there. Forgiving others is one of the crucial messages that Christ wanted to get across to us. This, too, is for our own correction. It will be very painful for us to actually forgive others for their trespasses against us, but through that experience, our hearts are changed. In practicing love, we become more loving. In becoming more loving, we become more and more one with Christ.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

You Take It With You

"The love inside, you take it with you." Yes, it is cheesy to borrow a line from "Ghost" (movie with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore), but it did get me thinking: if I were to die today, what will I take with me? A Calvinist recently explained holiness to me in terms of positional and personal holiness. Positional holiness is given to the born-again (converted) believer by the merits of Christ. He is positionally holy through the holiness of Christ. Personal holiness is optional to salvation, accordingly. (Note to self: redouble efforts to rid myself of selfishness, pride, pettiness, tendency to slack off when I should be doing something productive. I don't want to bring THOSE with me.) Make no mistake: good works will not earn salvation for us, for the latter is by grace alone, a free gift. However, while good works do not earn salvation, seriously sinful works will cause forfeiture of salvation.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Did the Church Fathers Teach Sola Fide?

I am not well-versed enough to answer this question, so here is a comprehensive response from someone else. As for whether the Bible teaches sola fide, here's another link to deal with that, focusing on the epistle of St. James who says "For even as the body without the spirit is dead: so also faith without works is dead." (James 2:14-26). It is part of a collection of 12 articles dealing with sola fide, justification and salvation can be found here. Me? I tend to think that this legalism might just obscure what really matters: to love God with all our being -- mind, heart and strength (various forms, Matt. 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28, Deut. 6:2). Yea, and with my works, also. I realize that this makes a hippocrite of me every day, as I do fail the Lord far too often. But I'm workin' on it. God willing, I will grow in faith and love.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mark Shea is Back!

Woot!

Purgatory: Two Views (link to Jimmy Akin's blog)

Jimmy Akin was kind enough to respond to my cry for help via email regarding the quoestions, clarifications and more questions posted in this blog (check the comment boxes) concerning Purgatory, sanctification, temporal punishment, justice, and .. Oh, just read Jimmy's blog and be enlightened. Thanks, Jimmy. :-)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Assistance for Katrina Victims

Please call your favorite charity and see if you can assist the victims of the Hurricane Katrina via a donation. If you don't have a favorite charity that is pitching in, here's a list of 137 charities listed so far from The Truth Laid Bear, with links to those charities. You can also donate via Catholic Charities, and there is a recent cry for help from the New Orleans branch. This is not an occasion for pointing fingers. There will be ample time for figuring out what went wrong after all has been done to assist those still trapped in New Orleans, or are refugees in neighboring Texas or elsewhere. And always and from anywhere, this is an occasion for prayer.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Good Reading for Catholic Apologists

I stumbled upon this very interesting site with several good pieces on various points of Catholic apologetics. I invite all visitors to take a look. While I'm at it, I guess I might as well point out a few other references that I have in my bookmarks:

A Lengthier Response on the Purgatory

I repost (with some editing) a response I made to a comment below: It is true that the term "Purgatory" is exclusively Catholic, but praying for the dead is a practice for the Eastern Orthodox as well as the Jews. The Eastern Orthodox reject only that the purification is literally fiery and that Purgatory involves a place. That is actually acceptable to Catholics because we only use the metaphor of fiery purification based on the words of Sts. Peter and Paul (1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7), and the doctrine speaks of a state, not necessarily a place. Praying for the purification of the dead (the Mourner's Qaddish) is an ancient Jewish practice, mentioned for example in 2 Macc. 12:46. Ancient Christian literature like the non-canonical Acts of Paul and Thecla (2nd century) mention prayers for the dead, as do surviving words from Tertullian (AD 211), St. Cyprian (AD 256), St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:5, AD 392), St. Augustine (City of God, AD 419) and St. Monica (4th century), and of course the oft-mentioned Pope Gregory the Great (6th century), but there is no record of any objection to the practice or the doctrine until the Protestant reformation. Here's an interesting exercise: what if we were to rephrase the doctrine of Purgatory in this manner: "All who are in God's grace and friendship must undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. .. this final purification of the elect .. is entirely different from the punishment of the damned." I deliberately edited that from the catechism of the Catholic Church which teaches that doctrine in the context of those who died in God's grace and friendship. Humor me here: let's talk about that doctrine in the context of the living who are in God's grace and friendship. Let's support that case with these:
 "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
 Paul said he rejoiced "in my sufferings for you, and [I] fill up those things that are wanting in the suffering of Christ" (Col. 1:24). Ronald Knox explained this passage by noting that "the obvious meaning is that Christ's sufferings, although fully satisfactory on behalf of our sins, leave us under a debt of honour, as it were, to repay them by sufferings of our own." Paul did not imply there was something lacking in the Redemption, that Christ could not pull it off on his own, and no Fundamentalist misreads Col. 1:24 that way. Analogously, it is not contrary to the Redemption to say we must suffer for our sins; it is a matter of justice. -- Karl Keating
 Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life. (from the Southern Baptist Convention)
 Would it not beak the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleansed first.' 'It may hurt, you know.' 'Even so, sir.' - C.S.Lewis
My thesis is simple: most Christians have no problem with the concept of needing to become holy, to become pure, to conform to the holiness of God. Most Christians also believe that Christian living will involve suffering from time to time Hebrews (12:6, 11) while in no way claiming that the suffering of Christ on the cross was in any way insufficient. The notion of God's discipline is crucial because discipline is not about payment: it is about correction. It is about growth and becoming mature. It is about transformation. Jimmy Akin says: "Because we still sin in this life, but will not be sinning when we are in glory, between death and glorification must come purification." Because "nothing unclean shall enter heaven" (Apoc. 21:27). No one can hide one's muddy rags and immaturity from the God who reveals all things and sees to the heart. No one wants to stand in dirty rags in the presence of the King, petulant and immature, especially if one considers that, when we finally get our chance to do so, we do so forever. The Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish bone to pick is not the notion of purification itself, but the notion of purification after death. It seems to me that this is repelling to Protestants for a few reasons which should be reconsidered:
  • Does the doctrine of Purgatory claim a second chance for sinners? The answer is a resounding NO. Purgatory pertains only to those who die in God's grace and friendship.
  • Does the doctrine claim that Christ's sacrifice on the cross is insufficient? The answer is also a resounding NO. The purification we undergo to mature in holiness, in justification, has as its source the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. To become Christ-like is our goal. When St. Paul tells us to conform, it is to conform to Christ: his righteousness, his holiness. We already know this concerning the cross that we must take up, the obedience that is due to God, the love that we must manifest in our actions.
Apart from that, there's the natural suspicion that Scriptures do not talk about the dead undergoing any sort of transformation into holiness. Unfortunately, the Catholics and the Orthodox believe that they do. And with the Jews, our traditions do so as well, and these are traditions which pre-date Scriptures while, from our perspective, do not contradict Scriptures. The Bible does not warn against praying for the purification of the dead. One might as well look for dire warnings against those who pray for the sanctification of the living, in case such intentions are an insult to the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Readings for 28 August, 2005

 First Reading: "Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it." (Jer 20:7-9) Psalm: My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.(Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-90) Second Reading: ".. offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship." (Rom 12:1-2) Gospel: "'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.'" (Matthew 16:21 - 27) Commentary, from DailyGospel.org: St. Augustine warns, "You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s.".
The homily in our parish today began with a stark, simple but often neglected truth: to be Christian today is difficult. I still find it odd when a friend of mine, an Evangelical Protestant, stops and reminds me that we need not think about the cross of Christ anymore. To him, the crucifixion of the Lord is a done deal, and we should only think of the risen Lord. We need to remember, however, that our salvation begins with the cross, and that the incredible love of God for us is made manifest on the cross. I suppose that there is a natural tendency to avoid talking about unpleasant things. But it should be increasingly obvious that the reality surrounding Christians today carries the threat of crucifixion. Our faith is increasingly held up to ridicule, contempt and open hostility, albeit with limited violence. To be Christian today is very hard. In such surroundings, having crosses to bear is a given. What sustains us is that these crosses are united with our Lord and Savior who took up the heaviest cross of all. We must form an attitude towards suffering and adversity so that the cross ceases to be a cross, as St. Josemaria Escriva has written. This is crucial because the wrong attitude will blind us to the existence of our cross or cause us to abandon our crosses. The cross is a given. Either we take them up or we turn our back on Christ. In anti-Christian surroundings, the seemingly easy life, one without a cross, should wake us up in alarm and cause us to think deeply, because this is of utmost importance. We must be wary of the perils of having become friends with the world, as St. James warns, when it is clear that the world did not love Christ and has no reason to love Christians. Something else that must be said is the need to be aware of how each and every one we meet has got his/her own cross to bear daily. It would do no good to focus on our own crosses to the point of losing our compassion for others around us whose crosses may just be heavier than ours.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Links on the Purgatory

Rand has written a piece about the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, and he will soon write Part 2. In case you're coming from his blog, I just wanted to provide some links for further reading on the subject written by the following people whom I trust:

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Readings for 25 August, 2005

 First Reading: "May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you." (1 Thessalonians 3:7 - 13) Psalm: Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!(Psalm 90) Gospel: "'Stay awake,' .. 'What sort of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their food at the proper time?'" (Matthew 24:42 - 51) Commentary, from DailyGospel.org: Pope John Paul II says "You must be prepared in the same way." Today's Saint: St. Louis of France, a dutiful king of the 13th century who established courts of law to dispense justice. He was known to be unusually prayerful and charitable even to the destitute in France.
In addressing the anxiety of the disciples, the Lord gives them practical advice: stay awake and be faithfully about your tasks. Exactly when the day of the Lord will come is really not important for the faithful servant. The only concern there is really in the waiting, when impatience might breed anxiety. In the first reading, St. Paul is effusive in his joy at Timothy's news about the Thessalonians' faith and love. With such faith and love, leading to holiness and blamelessness before the Lord, there is no need for anxiety about the Lord's return, but a calm joy in this, our hope, the glorious day of the Lord. An interesting choice from DailyGospel.org for their commentary are some of the late Pope John Paul II's words about his hopes and anxieties in the face of death that can take him anytime. His hopes are on Christ, and while anxious, he is hopeful: "I want everything that makes up my life on earth to prepare me for this moment." One can say that this is a healthy anxiety, the nervousness of the faithful servant who is aware of his basic unworthiness before the King but is nonetheless hopeful for his return because he knows that he has done his best. It is the nervousness of a child waiting for his parents' return, hoping for approval of his conduct (and he has tried his best to behave!) while they were away.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Roots of the Papacy: A Quick Thought

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio gives us a brief look at the papacy in Biblical history that begins with the "Master of the Palace" or prime minister of the Davidic kings. Given the words of the Lord in Matthew 16:13-20, this is the role that was being given to Simon Peter: a rock-like foundation, just as Eliakim in Isaiah 22 is a sure peg on which to hang things firmly. It suddenly hit me while Dr. D'Ambrosio was talking about papal infallibility that even the most fired-up anti-Catholic has no problems with infallibility per se. They do, however, scoff at the idea of papal infallibility. What's the difference? The former is a given gift of certitude in truth that every Christian ascribes to certain key people, e.g., the prophets and the writers of the Bible. We can't claim that the Bible is inerrant and inspired without accepting that the writers of the Bible were infallible in what they wrote therein. Papal infallibility, however, is treated differently. To Protestants, it is not possible simply because the premise is that the Pope is the anti-Christ. I wish they'd dig a bit deeper, however, and explain how they are so sure of this. There have been over 250 popes so far in the last 2000 years, and how they could all have been anti-Christs is beyond me and beyond the evidence (or lack thereof). Another point worth making is that Protestants seem to miss a very, very crucial point that they are implying even while being unconscious of it: in opposing papal infallibility, they have no choice but to substitute but their own. Something to think and pray about.

Two Blogs to Check Out: Doxology and Catholic Pillow Fight

I found Doxology through Catholic Pillow Fight, which I found through Happy Catholic (which is already on my blogroll). Go visit them and enjoy! :-)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Brother Roger (Roger Schultz) (1915-2005)

 Aug. 17 (CWNews.com) - Brother Roger, the founder and leader of the ecumenical Taize community, was killed by a knife-wielding attacker during a prayer service in France on August 16.    A Protestant theologian, Roger Schutz was 25 when he first set up an ecumenical house of prayer in Taize, a village near Cluny in eastern France, in 1940. At first the community was a haven for refugees-- particularly Jews escaping the Nazi regime-- during World War II. Over the years, the Taize community became established as an ecumenical monastery, with Brother Roger as its prior, and more than 100 members, including both Catholics and Protestants. The Taize community, dedicated to reconciliation among Christians, attracts thousands of visitors each year, and Brother Rogers' books of prayers and meditations have proved popular among Christians of many different denominations.
This man's life was tirelessly dedicated to the cause of Christian unity. We should make his cause ours, even in small ways, always with hope and trust in our one Lord.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.

Evangelizing the Evangelizer

I didn't know you could do that. Hilarious!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Galileo, Copernicus and How It Happened

Steve Kellmeyer offers very interesting commentary on the whole Galileo affair. Contrary to what we keep getting told, history appears to record that Galileo's nemesis was not the Church but the academic community who had nothing but contempt for mathematicians such as Galileo. They fooled a dominican priest to fire up a sermon condemning Galileo's heliocentric theories and to get the charges of heresy and such rolling. This was much to the chagrin of the astronomers in Rome, who supported Galileo. The proof seems to be Copernicus himself, a priest and mathematician, who delayed the publication of his book for such a long time precisely because he knew what the academic community of philosophers and theologians (not the Church) would do to him. The twist in Kellmeyer's commentary is that roles are now reversed: today, the scientists and mathematicians prevail over the academic community and are lynching those who are so brazen as to suggest that (gasp) the universe bears the hallmarks of design, even when they use scientific methods and measurements to draw such conclusions. Contrary to what is repeatedly said these days, intelligent design proponents number a great number of much published scientists among them. Have a read of "Galileo Redux" yourself. Very interesting.

Abortion Pill Deaths: 8, Not 4

 That story from After Abortion, and subsequent corrections/clarifications.

Bono on Christ, Excerpts

Fr. John Whiteford blogs some excerpts from Michka Assayas' book about Bono, lead singer of U2 and a rare bird among today's popular recording artists in that he sounds like a very reasoned and faith-filled Christian, and that is so inspiring. I don't know about Bono enough to judge this way or that, but by his thoughts shared in that book, I can only find comfort and joy -- and cheer him on.

Learning from Evangelicals

Fr. John Whiteford blogs about Evangelicals in response to "It's All About Jesus," an article from Christianity Today written by an Orthodox convert (former Evangelical) who is “reconsidering” Evangelicalism from his experiences so far (about 2 years at that time) in the Orthodox Church. (Hat tip to Fr. Stephen Freeman writing at Pontifications.) From Fr. John comes this a gem:
 I was in a discussion between several college students and a Nazarene Missionary to Korea. We had just heard a lecture that spoke of the light and grace that God has made available to those who have never heard the Gospel. One student asked why we would bother sending missionaries to non-Christian countries, because they have their own culture, and if they hear the Gospel that will only increase their responsibility on the day of judgment. Why not just leave them be, and let them be judged based on the light that they already have? The Missionary responded roughly thus: “You tell me that people can be saved without hearing the Gospel, and I accept that as a possibility… and likewise I can believe that a man might be able to sail a kayak across the Pacific Ocean… but if I am in an Ocean liner, I am going to encourage the guy in the kayak to get on board the Ocean liner.
It may seem to be a case of looking down at the non-Catholic, non-Orthodox or non-Christians, but it isn't. It is not that I would view Peter's barque as something to boast about. I didn't build it, and I am simply so grateful to have been invited on board that I cannot help but want the same grace to be extended to anyone roughing it out there. As Fr. John says, "It would only be due to a supreme lack of love and gratitude to God that I would fail to do so." And in case you're wondering, Peter didn't build it either.