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Monday, December 31, 2007

One heck of a conspiracy theory

Except that it has been getting more and more obvious with each new low in the world today. Mark Shea doesn't doesn't have to spin a conspiracy yarn: he just tells things as they are and they fall into place. The war effort begins with prayer.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Revival

Christianity Today publishes this interesting article from Becky Tirabassi, "Young, Restless and Ready for Revival". The Evangelical term "revival" is not familiar to me as a Catholic, but the way it is described here, it seems akin to the notion of renewal. For Catholics, renewal is something we are challenged to do in different contexts. There is an annual call to renewal at Lent, there is a renewal at every retreat or recollection, and there is a regular call to renewal at every Mass, which means at least once a week. The call to revival/renewal is always a call to action. It is interesting that, even in the Evangelical world, confession (though not quite the Catholic or Orthodox sacrament) is crucial. As David Shutz told me over lunch, there is a great deal in common between Catholics and Evangelicals. So Evangelicals have got confession -- now they just need to make the connection with priestly absolution as Christ had instructed for some sins to be retained or forgiven at the discretion of his disciples.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Are you saved?

Christianity Today has an interesting article written by Erik Thoennes, "Hour of Decision". In it, he talks about the different ways in which salvation is understood amongst, I believe, Evangelicals and confessional Protestants:

  "The term saved is popularly used to refer to regeneration and justification. But when the Bible uses the word salvation in a spiritual sense, it describes the broad range of God's activity in rescuing people from sin and restoring them to a right relationship with himself. Salvation in the Bible thus has past, present, and future tenses. A believer has been saved from the guilt of sin (justification, see Eph. 2:8), is being saved from the power of sin (sanctification, see 1 Cor. 1:18), and will be saved from the judgment and presence of sin (glorification, see Acts 15:11)."
...
"Much of American Protestantism has been influenced by revivalism, which places great emphasis on "making a decision for Christ" in a public, definitive way. These "moments of decision" often become the crucial evidence that one is saved. Other Protestant traditions, less influenced by revivalism (including some Reformed and Lutheran churches), may be content to leave the conversion experience unclearly identified, putting the focus on identification with the church. Both of these traditions have benefits, as well as potential problems."

It is interesting reading. The terminology is not entirely familiar to me, e.g., "glorification", but I am happy to take the approach I learned from a few favorite converts: terms may change but the focus should be on what those terms translate to. I note, too, that at least one Lutheran I know will disagree with the article on a few points. I would point out at least one common point of contention: for an article on salvation, nothing was said about sacramental baptism. But then this is not a mystery, since the article is about that particular point of deciding for Christ and this, not baptism, is what seems to matter mostly in American Evangelicalism. It pays to clarify here that I am not pitting that decision against the sacrament of baptism. They are both necessary as much as possible. Of course, the Catholic view of the obedience of faith makes that decision a lifelong iteration of one decision after another, hopefully, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a perpetually Christ-centered decision day in and day out. Which sounds a lot like being confronted by the Gospel everyday, according to Lutheranism, although there is more to it than that, I'll wager.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Following and preaching Christ

How does one who is not a professional preacher preach Christ? This blog is certainly not enough, for only a handful actually visit, among whom are people who need no preaching from me. But indeed, preaching in and out of season is for all of us. Societies who publicly revel in "diversity" are no less in need of preaching, as Papa Benedict challenges us:

  But does this desire for dialogue and collaboration at the same time mean, perhaps, that we can no longer transmit the message of Jesus Christ, no longer propose to men and to the world this call and the hope that is derived from it? Those who have recognized a great truth, those who have found a great joy must transmit it; they simply cannot keep it for themselves. Gifts so great are never intended for just one person.

In this postmodern world, what is one to do? Plan A for me was as I had been taught at St. Josemaria Escriva's school (so to speak): in my ordinary work, lived extraordinarily with Christ at its center. Plan B was presenting my couple friends with subscriptions to The Majellan. But said subscriptions have lapsed and, after two years, my friends are not interested in renewing them. Indeed, one told me they have moved away from religion to spirituality. Is the Christian faith not both? The idea that my friends consider me to be a backward, prudish and perhaps mindless fundamentalist has dawned upon me and it is not a pleasant thought. It is also an altogether tragic affair, I think, that my couple friends who are raising young children, are not quite interested in a magazine that has got "Champion of the Family" as its logo.

Ah well. Plan A may not be feasible since they cannot taste and see the joy and hope that I see in my Catholic faith, and my life is not visible to them (we meet infrequently). But.. there's always prayer, and that is never a last, inferior recourse. St. Gerard Majella, pray for us! O Holy Family of Nazareth, come to the assistance of all families today!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Celebrating Christmas

Merry Christmas to any and all who visit this blog. May God's blessings rain down upon you, perhaps in ways exceeding what you may have prayed for:

  Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 1,1-18.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'" From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.

Readings from Dailygospel.org.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Looking for the Mother in the birth of the Son

Interesting article: "Looking for Mary in Christmas Carols" by Michael Linton. With so much stacked against honoring the Blessed Mother, one might suspect a bias leading away from the Incarnation. After all, isn't Mama Mary that link between the Son of God and the Son of Man? The former was from the beginning, whereas the latter may actually be traced to a particular event. I recently read about an Evangelical maintaining that the Lord was not formed from Mary's human material, apparently not even her ovum. Those who believe this is perhaps simply making sure that man makes no boast about his contribution to our salvation. But it is certainly a false notion, which also jettisons the Incarnation completely.

p>[Link found via Catholic Report.]

The unwritten word

From Catholic Exchange comes a must-read, "Our Jewish Roots: the Oral Law" by Cheryl Dickow.

[Link found via Catholic Report.]

PETA getting pathetic

Apparently, they go after monks now, driving them out of the egg business which is 60% of their income.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rethinking Global Warming

This is off-topic for this blog, but I'd like to share some interesting developments.

  Working Group I (WG I) is assigned to report on the extent and possible causes of past climate change as well as future ‘projections’... The reports from working groups II and II .., since these are based on the results of WG I, it is crucially important that the WG I report stands up to close scrutiny. ...
  The numbers of scientist reviewers involved in WG I is actually less than a quarter of the whole, a little over 600 in total.
  A total of 308 reviewers commented on the SOR [Second Order Revision -- the final report assembly], but only 32 reviewers commented on more than three chapters and only five reviewers commented on all 11 chapters of the report. Only about half the reviewers commented [on] more than one chapter.
  An example of rampant misrepresentation of IPCC reports is the frequent assertion that ‘hundreds of IPCC scientists’ are known to support the following statement, arguably the most important of the WG I report, namely “Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years.”
In total, only 62 scientists reviewed the chapter in which this statement appears, the critical chapter 9, “Understanding and Attributing Climate Change”. Of the comments received from the 62 reviewers of this critical chapter, almost 60% of them were rejected by IPCC editors. And of the 62 expert reviewers of this chapter, 55 had serious vested interest, leaving only seven expert reviewers who appear impartial.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Entire Episcopalian diocese rejects the Episcopal church

Shame it wasn't a wholesale jump to the Catholic Church instead, but it is definitely one for orthodoxy. The diocese of San Joaquin, California, is now within an Anglican province in Buenos Aires, and remains within the greater Anglican communion under Canterbury. I had to laugh at the New York Times' report that this diocese "has long been different from the rest of the Episcopal Church". That certainly sounds nicer than the truth: that the Episcopalian church in the US has been shifting away from orthodoxy in less than one century (probably less than half a century), and the San Joaquin diocese had simply resisted this shift.

May the Anglican communion go even farther seeking greater orthodoxy, always seeking Christ, the true object of our fidelity. During lunch, David of Sentire cum ecclesia explained a model of Christian unity I hadn't really thought of before. It is not so much that the non-Catholics should seek to become Roman Catholics, but that, in truly seeking the fullness of communion with Christ, we will inevitably end up being in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. That's how I understood him anyway, and that sounds about right.

The angst of Christmas shopping

It started well enough. There was a great big sign on the wall that said 'hope' and 'joy' right outside. And then I went inside, greeted by a mammoth crowd. It only got worse going into the usual mega-stores with the biggest range of toys. I hate crowds to begin with. I also hate shopping when I actually have to buy something. In this season, it only gets worse. Everything screams "buy me!" and the displays fairly reek of material gratification. It wasn't long before I worked myself up to a startling realization: having been unwittingly drawn into the present trap in years past, there is now a bit of pressure to outdo previous presents. The kids are growing up, after all, and they do see the commercials and the catalogs. They know what's out there, and what else is a child to think when they see all those wondrous toys, but that they are meant to have all these things?

And an endless trap it is. There will always be something flashier, with more features, more umph, edgier, etc. What have I gotten my children into?

Persecution, anyone?

A Muslim group who apparently has government support in Jakarta is not so tolerant of Christianity as one might like. But don't think that non-Muslim countries are that much better. All things being equal, if it isn't one group discriminating against Christianity, it's another -- even that which is often claimed to be harmless neutrality to religion.

But this should not surprise Christians, after all. We've been warned 2000 years ago that this is to be expected. But praying for our brethren at the front lines would not hurt.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Great foccacia, even greater company

Earlier today, I made the acquaintance of the best foccacia with chicken, avocado, cheese and veggies I've had in years, down Albert street across from the archdiocese office. Even better, though, was the company: I've finally met David Shutz face to face, who runs the blog Sentire Cum Ecclesia. More importantly, and the reason for our meeting, is his role in the archdiocese in ecumenical and interfaith initiatives. There are some great things going on here, and I am most interested in getting involved, particularly in the ecumenical front (hence, my blog's name).

Anyway, back to David, it was a fruitful lunch and discussion after, I think. Someone (I hope the Holy Spirit) lit me up years ago about the unity of the body of Christ, and this is a step in the direction of doing something concrete about it. I do believe in doing theology on one's knees, though, although I haven't done enough of that, but I pray that I'll get the hang of it as time goes by. And now, perhaps opportunities to serve the Lord in his will for Christian unity.

And on my way back home, I managed to pick up my son's pencil case, which he had left at the train station early last week. A rather fruitful day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mark Shea's masterpiece on the Immaculate Conception

Few contemporary writers I know can lay it down as clearly for modern readers as can Mark Shea. Here is his latest, presented not only as a clear explanation, but one that addresses Evangelical misunderstandings.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

St. Nicholas

Today is the feast of St. Nicholas, 4th century bishop of Myra (in modern day Turkey) and whose person was the basis for modern-day Santa Claus: from the dutch "Sinter Klaus" to the American Santa Claus. While children adore the latter, there is nothing like the real deal. Far from being a mere giver of presents, he is a saint who now favors us with prayers on our behalf. He remains a patron of children, and is still known as he was (not as modern culture has turned him into) in some countries in Europe. CatholicCulture.org and Domestic-Church.Com have some good references about him, which I invite you to read.

Building on rock

From Dailygospel.org, today's gospel commentary comes from St. Augustine:

  Saint Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo (North Africa) and Doctor of the Church
Sermon 7 on St John’s Gospel

Is it surprising that the Lord changed Simon’s name, altering it to Peter? (Jn 1,42). “Peter” means “rock”; so Peter’s name is thus symbolic of the Church. Who is safe if not he who builds on rock? And what does the Lord himself say? “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock..."

Of what use is it to anyone to enter the Church who builds on sand? He hears the word of God but fails to practise it; he builds, but on sand. If he had not been listening, he would not have been building; he hears and so he builds. But on what sort of foundation? If he hears the word of God and puts it into practice, then it will be on rock; but if he hears and does not put it into practice, then it is on sand. And so someone can build in two, very different ways… If you are satisfied by listening without practising, you build a ruin… But if, on the other hand, you fail to listen, you will remain without shelter and be carried away by the torrent of tribulations…

Be well assured, my brethren: whoever hears the word without acting accordingly is not building on rock. He has no connection with that great name of Peter to which the Lord attached such importance.

If Protestants were today asked as to who was the greatest among the Apostles in that age, most of them might proclaim St. Paul as the clear favorite. And indeed, St. Paul was our greatest missionary, and certainly our most prolific New Testament epistle writer. St. Peter is almost obscured by the sheer depth and breadth of St. Paul's preaching. But it was not St. Paul to whom God first revealed the identity of the messiah. It was not St. Paul who was moved to proclaim the Christ, the son of the living God. It was not St. Paul whose name was changed to 'Kepha' ('Petros' in Greek), nor was it St. Paul who was given the keys of the kingdom. That all pertains to Simon Peter, simple fisherman, unlearned, slightly uncouth, impetuous and downright simple. How can this man be the rock upon which the Lord decided to build his Church?

Because the glory belongs to the Lord, who is the builder. So down the ages, we had very human popes, as human as Simon Peter was. Some were much worse sinners, others were more saintly. When St. Augustine had a difference with the pope of his time, you can bet that he was understandably upset. But he recognized in the pope the authority that the Lord anointed the Petrine See with. It is not the pope he obeys, but the Lord, who proclaimed for all the Apostles to hear: "you are Rock, and on this rock I will build my Church... I will give you the keys of the kingdom.."

We build on this rock because the eternal Rock built his Church on this rock. We build on sand at our peril.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The never ending fallacies of AIDS and condoms

People are still wrongheaded about what they think condoms can do, despite the facts that contradict what they're saying. I came across this tragic case of lies and misconceptions almost 3 years ago. Two years ago, there were the same lies and more statistics that contradict those lies, yet the saga continues. Some people, notably foreigners, are still selling the idea that condoms prevent AIDS. But look at these statistics that come from ongoing research:

  "Between 1993 and 2001 in Botswana, as condom sales rose from 1 million to 3 million, HIV prevalence among urban pregnant women shot up from 27% to 45%. During the same period in Cameroon, as condom sales increased from 6 million to 15 million, HIV prevalence rose from 3% to 9%."
  "In the late 1980s, before Western AIDS experts arrived to tell Africans they had it all wrong, Ugandans designed their own homegrown AIDS-prevention health message. It was called ABC (for Abstain, Be Faithful, or if you cannot or will not do either, use Condoms). The ABC message was everywhere: on billboards, in churches, in government offices, in schools. As a result, rates of 13- to 16-year-olds having sex in one district plunged from nearly 60% in 1994 to less than 5% in 2001. Fewer than 10% of unmarried Ugandan women reported multiple partners (compared with 20% to 65% of women in other African countries, such as Kenya and Malawi). Meanwhile, national HIV infection rates in Uganda dropped from 21% to 6%."

And there's still the contradictory accusation about the Catholic Church causing AIDS to spread by forcing people to avoid condoms. If only the accusers could explain how the same people who faithfully follow Church condemnation of condoms fail to uphold Church teaching on abstinence and sex exclusively with one's own spouse.

Teachers, priests and mainstream media bias

Now here's a story: some mainstream media organizations would print 21,000 reports covering the 4,400 Catholic priests who were accused of sexual abuse over a 52-year period, but may not even print reports about 2,500 cases over 5 years perpetrated by American school teachers. Is that a story or what?

Oh wait. No, no, there's no story there after all.

[Link found via Catholic Report.]

Bishop of Rome has primacy, but...

This is supposed to be taken as a sign of hope, that the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople accepts papal primacy to an extent. But it remains a bit frustrating when it stops short of what, in my opinion, the reason for papal primacy is. What was the Lord thinking when he indeed named one of the twelve apostles, perhaps the most impetuous among them, their leader? Why proclaim that he would build his Church on him, Simon Peter, as the rock? Why declare that he now holds the keys of the kingdom, and that he has the authority from Heaven to bind and to loose? Why charge him, who ran away at the Lord's arrest and denied him three times hours later, to strengthen his brothers? How could he trust him, of all apostles, to feed the Lord's sheep?

We'll all be sure to ask when we finally meet the Lord face to face. Somehow I don't think it has that much to do with the impeccable character of Simon, son of John In the meantime, I tend to wonder how St. Peter would feel today if he is now told, "Oh, yes, you do have primacy over all bishops, but only in honor. You have no mandate of discipline over us. We don't have to listen to you, old boy. Collegiality and all that. After all, who needs you to arbitrate for us, when we all have the charism of truth and teaching? I mean, what function do you have, given that we always agree on all important matters of faith and morals anyway?

Uh huh.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Keep the commandments

The following readings are from the Liturgy of the Hours today (from Universalis.com). It speaks once again about free will and resolve. There is no contradiction with the gospel when one considers that this speaks to those who already received the circumcision which consecrates us to the Lord: baptism. Having been baptized, we are already partakers of the Lord's Spirit which enables us to do these things. But like any other father, our Heavenly Father watches us eagerly, urging us on, beaming at our resolve and efforts, confident because we are growing by his training.

  Mid-morning reading (Terce) Deuteronomy 8:5 - 6
  The Lord your God was training you as a man trains his child. Keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and so follow his ways and reverence him.
  Noon reading (Sext) 1 Kings 2:2 - 3
  Be strong and show yourself a man. Observe the injunctions of the Lord your God, following his ways and keeping his laws, his commandments, his customs and his decrees, so that you may be successful in all you do and undertake.
  Afternoon reading (None) Jeremiah 6:16
  Put yourselves on the ways of long ago and enquire about the ancient paths: which was the good way? Take it then, and you shall find rest.

The Golden Compass: masking a menace

The problem with the movie "The Golden Compass" is that it serves intentionally as an attraction to draw in potential readers for Philip Pullman's trilogy, "His Dark Materials." Why is this a problem? Because that trilogy is a deliberate and rather serious attack on Christianity. But so was the Da Vinci Code, so what's the problem here? The problem is that both the movie and the books are aimed at children at around 12 years of age. This is insidious enough that even the USCCB (bishop's conference in the US) has been deceived to the extent that their film review of this movie does not much mention the dangers of the books.

I think that this excellent post by the American Papist must be read in order to understand the implications.