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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI's recent Christmas messages

On Christmas eve, the Holy Father gave a special address to the UK where he said,

  Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation.
  They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.
  God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them.

Full audio and transcription available courtesy of BBC news.

He also gave a Christmas message to Rome and the universal Church, and he began with these words:

  Dear brothers and sisters listening to me here in Rome and throughout the world, I joyfully proclaim the message of Christmas: God became man; he came to dwell among us. God is not distant: he is “Emmanuel”, God-with-us. He is no stranger: he has a face, the face of Jesus.

Read more at The Telegraph

It is amusing what happened when I googled for 'christmas message, pope', where I found these headlines and subtitles from various media sources:

  • Chinese government publication lambasts pope for Christmas remarks..
  • Pope condemns 'oppressors' in Christmas message..
  • Pope's Christmas message admonishes China..
  • Pope urges tolerance in Christmas message..

and so on. Could it be that this is how this went right past many people? How sad, to miss the core of his message for Christmas: the Word became flesh (he repeats that four times).

He ends his address by saying, "Dear brothers and sisters, “the Word became flesh”; he came to dwell among us; he is Emmanuel, the God who became close to us. Together let us contemplate this great mystery of love; let our hearts be filled with the light which shines in the stable of Bethlehem! To everyone, a Merry Christmas!" May it be that this message planted seeds in all who read it in full.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

In pursuit of the perfect Christmas

At the family Christmas vigil a few hours ago, Fr. Michael told us the story of what was to be a perfect Christmas Mass set up by a new parish priest. But there was a mishap involving the children playing Mary and Joseph, and the doll they were carrying to the manger. Despite the priest's consternation, all was well that ended better, for the following day, the sight of the doll in the manger, patched up of its bruising here and there (from the mishap with the hard floor surface), elicited serious reflection from mothers, fathers and children, who realized that they were broken here and there, too. And the fact that God was made flesh, got cut up and seriously bruised along the way to the perfect moment of redemption, was incredible in its simple statement of Hope. Even his beginnings were less than perfect, born as he was in a manger -- the King of Kings!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Full text of Benedict XVI’s address to the Roman Curia

The Professor is in, and there's so much of it to chew on.

Prenatal screening for Down syndrome: genocide?

So says a group of New Zealanders who are calling out the government on policies that can be perceived to encourage abortion of those found in utero to likely suffer from Down syndrome. In highlighting how far this has already gone, they cite "around 90 per cent of these babies in some western countries having their lives terminated in utero."

What is news?

No, that was a rhetorical question. Some people will print whatever they please. (You know, Uncle Diogenes is really good with pithy, funny and insightful. If you like 'em, please support them at Catholic Culture.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Please support Catholic Answers Radio

Please join their Radio Club (pledge drive ongoing). I have been a Catholic Answers podcast listener for over three years now. Catholic Answers has enriched my faith, they have done so for countless others, and may continue doing so in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ across radio and the Internet. They answer questions, they offer hope and clarity, they give encouragement and support. We can't all be full-time evangelists over radio and Internet media, but we can support those who can. Please support Catholic Answers Live and join their Radio Club.

Also, Catholic Answers provides an online discussion forum and online shop for books, audio CDs, DVDs and a lot of other things. I have several of their quality publications on my shelf.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Had questions for gotquestions

I was checking on the gotquestions.org answer on the difference between the spirit and the soul, and I was bothered by this simple assertion in it that says "humanity is naturally evil". I have sent them questions about this, since it calls to question the God who created humanity. I suggested using St. Paul's assertion that sin came into the world through one man, and sin is the taint of evil on humanity. My point was that "it is important to distinguish humanity *as God intends* that to be, and *post-fall* humanity, which we are living with today. I believe that we cannot use "post-fall" and "naturally" in the same sentence because post-fall is *not* the human nature that God created. Getting this wrong would obscure the horrible reality of sin. It would also obscure the glorious hope we have in the salvation won for us at great cost on the cross."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

To my sons who are distracted at Mass

.. from time to time at least, I must remind them that many who start out as Catholics later claim that they never got anything out of the Church. And I am reminded of this passage: We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn. (Mt 11:17). There is a first, perhaps a second reading, plus the Psalms and a Gospel reading at each Mass. The prayers in the Mass themselves are shot through with Scriptural passages, in addition to beautiful articulation of the faith from the Church Fathers and the saints. John 6 and the Last Supper come alive at the Eucharist, and the sacrifice in Calvary becomes present to us, and of course we are nourished with the Bread of Life. Even the chapel itself is an evangelization in colors, shades and depictions of our Christian heritage.

So, to my sons, and all who likewise find the Mass at times unbearably uneventful: could it be that sometimes at least, the Mass would be fruitful indeed if you were to pay a bit more attention to it? Lest you miss the miraculous: ecce homo, an ordinary carpenter, the Son of God just the same.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Immaculate Conception

As lucid a discussion as I can ever find in such a short space. It is a must-read for all, especially those who *think* they know what it's about (as I did!).

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Just to confuse those who are already and really confused about Catholicism

That's from the commemorative Mass of St. Andrew Dung Lac and companions, martyrs. The entrance antiphon says "We should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For to us who are saved the word of the cross is the power of God."
Now 1 Cor 1:18 says "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." So why the discrepancy?
Because the Church reads and teaches Scriptures in a more holistic manner. For example, the analogy of faith, understood in Catholicism, understands that Scriptures is a whole, and so its parts must be understood in light of all the deposit of faith. The New Testament actually tells us at times that we who are baptized are saved, that we are being saved, and that we can hope for that Day when we will be saved! St. Peter wrote, "baptism now saves you" (1 Peter 3:21), by the grace of God, but the story does not end there, because concupiscence remains. And so, again by God's grace, we are being saved throughout our lives through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. If that work were to stop, through our own fault, not only would we stop growing in holiness, there is a real danger that we would fall from grace, as that in itself, in mortal sin, stops this great work until we reconcile with God. And finally, there is the future when we will be saved, if we endure and remain faithful to God.
So why did the antiphon speak of "we who are saved"? I think it is because that statement is true as well as being an inspiration to confident thanksgiving, for thanksgiving -- the eucharist, who is Jesus Christ himself -- should be the source and summit of our Christian life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vatican does NOT change tune on condom use for HIV

So AFP reports that the Pope now allows condom use to reduce risk of HIV (reported here at TheAustralian.com.au), but in fact, he did not say that:
 There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.
 When asked, "Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?" he replied:

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.
[Italics are quoted from what Pope Benedict XVI said in the interview, emphasis is mine, however]
Apart from the link to Dr. Janet Smith's clarification of this above, Jimmy Akin provides more insights in the National Catholic Register.
The Pope says that condoms are not regarded as a real or moral solution, and if it is not moral, then it is immoral, and is therefore wrong. However, he speculates what is actually a valuable insight: it does demonstrate a growing awareness of responsibility or some moral consideration involved for one who would use condoms with the HIV risk in mind. This simply supports the point that the Holy Father is making: that not everything is simply permitted, and there ought to be a more human view of sexuality.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Questions for GotQuestsions: Foundations

GotQuestions starts off by laying down its foundations: "We strongly believe that the Bible is to be our guide for faith and practice. While we recognize the value of church traditions, we refuse to accept any tradition that is not clearly supported by the Word of God."

This is my response:

The books and letters of the nascent Christian Church were written over a long period of time, from St. Paul's letter to the Thessalonians in the AD 40s to the book of Revelations in AD 90 or so. The oldest possible list that we know of that makes the New Testament canon (table of contents) codified or made official is from the Muratorian fragment, which might have been drawn up at the earliest in AD 170, supposedly. Synod-based canonization of the Bible is recorded from Rome (AD 382), Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). My questions then:
  • What then was the "guide for faith and practice" for the early Church before this canon of Scripture was authorized to the universal Church?
  • What is the basis for today's Christians to believe in the canon of the New Testament, and why should they trust these synods of bishops? After all, the Bible does not state which books and epistles are inerrant and God-breathed.
  • How does this professed doctrine of sola scriptura square with St. Paul's straightforward attribution to the Church as "pillar and ground of truth" (1 Tim 3:15)?
Now of course I am not belittling the value of Scripture. It is inerrant and God-breathed in a way that the Church Magisterium is not. The best that the Magisterium has is infallibility (can't teach error as truth) whereas the Bible has God as the primary author. But you can't have one without the other! They are both necessary and are both in God's plan, so neither one should be ignored, nor should they be used incorrectly. One such manner of using them incorrectly is to pit one against the other.

Questioning Catholicism

My sister points to this site, Catholic Questions - questions from Catholics and about Catholicism, and its questions that have gotten her confused. I'll try and sneak in my answers to the site's questions about Catholicism (from a Protestant perspective) and invite all who might wander in to chime in as you please. I'm not a trained Bible scholar nor a theologian, but I'll give it a go with what I have learned so far and what I find as I do some research. Please pray for me and my sister, and all whose faith is shaken by questions like these.

Government in the Church

Fr. Michael Sweeney has written two articles on this so far, and they are must-reads:
Part 1: Introduction & Collaboration Between Laity and Hierarchy and
Part 2: The Church is Neither an Absolute Monarchy nor a Democracy. There are probably rumblings about Church structure and governance in most parishes, especially in western/affluent countries. Some would even link this to the sex abuse crisis, giving too much credit to the structure and too little to sin, I think. But this topic is important for even more fundamental reasons, as I think Fr. Sweeney will make clear in those articles.

Thoughts on a New Knighthood

From Archbishop Charles Chaput. (Link to Catholic Exchange)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

At the massacre in the Syriac Catholic Church, even a 3-year-old was murdered

Monstrous:
 “Among the victims of this senseless tragedy was a little boy named Adam. Three-year-old Adam witnessed the horror of dozens of deaths, including that of his own parents. He wandered among the corpses and the blood, following the terrorists around and admonishing them, ‘enough, enough, enough.’ According to witnesses, this continued for two hours until Adam was himself murdered.”

Catholic Bloggers Ignoring the Pope's "Fundamental Priority"?

From the Sacred Page: I would paraphrase it as "don't forget Domini in the (blogged) verbum. In other words, read Verbum Domini (and I haven't yet).

Update: Five noteworthy points from the exhortation, provided by The New Theological Movement.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Define happiness

So a UK study concludes that only-children are happier than those with siblings. But what constitutes being happy? It is a very subjective word, and if it is characterized (as in the quoted survey questions) as the absence of competition within the family, or adversity, then yeah, I might buy that. But are those the only things that constitute happiness? Are those even the notions of happiness that will ever matter to us in the real world? Hah!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jihadists, Truth and Father Raymond J. de Souza « The American Catholic

From American Catholic. And when you hear of so-called martyrs wearing bomb vests who detonate themselves and other people in their vicinity, remember that a martyr is, literally, a witness. What witness do they offer in these acts of violence? Long before such witness was ever conceived, Christian martyrs have been witnesses of a different sort. They were martyred in the coliseum, shredded by lions. Or on crosses, to die of asphyxiation after hours or days in agony. Or bludgeoned to death with rocks, fists or kicks. In all these, their witness was of a different sort, because they were unarmed. All they had was faith. Sometimes, they had words, but always, unarmed (or they would not be declared martyrs of the Christian faith).

Is that tragic? Yes, truly tragic, but not for them, for in their defenseless deaths, if they were not burning with hatred, they are victorious. The tragedy is for those who hear of these murders and shrug their shoulders in complete apathy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Population bomb still a fizzer 40 years on | The Australian

Full article from The Australian

Did that read like a "rant," perhaps a tad "inflammatory?" No, I didn't think so, and yet that's how it sounded to one commentator. I guess I'm commenting on how people can react when they hear something that they are passionately opposed to. I hear it from my 10-year-old from time to time, and I guess that goes with the age.

But on to the population issue -- being a best-effort (but far from perfectly) orthodox Catholic, I would naturally go with the author: let's be reasonable. I think this debate can do with some balance. We can't blindly advocate for 10 children per family (I have four and that's it), but we can't go the other extreme either. Children are good, in and of themselves. I can't, for the life of me, understand why rich couples would settle for two children! For the rest of us, parents do have to be responsible enough to weigh everything, in prayer, and come up with what's reasonable for them. Applying population science to family sizes, however, is going overboard. Apart from the fact that each family is different, population science can miss many factors, such as man's ingenuity and ability to increase production of needed resources -- without harvesting wheat or taking meat from bovines to extinction. Add to that the complexity of the socio-economic and cultural issues involved.

Let's not forget that today's environmental problems will not be solved simply by tightening belts. We need brilliant minds and mighty sinews for that, which calls for new generations to be born. The way I see it, there's so much going wrong in the world that the best thing we can do -- assuming reasonable prospects for success, is we raise up and throw our best and brightest at those problems. We have to feed them though, and train them up right, but you have two choices when your house is getting cramped: you start throwing people out or you build yourself a bigger house. Which one will it be?

Jesus statue in Poland now taller than one in Rio de Janerio :: EWTN News

Full story from EWTN News

Probably not the most important project to embark on right now; the world needs a living witness, and that would be a Church that was faithful to Jesus and keeps his commandments.

On the other hand, if there were no other pressing matters, there shouldn't be hard feelings about whose statue is taller. Wouldn't it be great if every country had a visible witness that Christ is King? (BTW the feast is coming up: 21 November).

Today my doctor (!) shared an exegesis of the scene where Judas had to kiss Jesus in order to identify him from among his disciples. Why was the kiss needed? Because his faithful disciples (Judas not among them) had become so like Jesus that it really was hard to tell them apart. And that's the challenge to all Christians. As St. Josemaria Escriva says in The Way: How I wish your bearing and conversation were such that, on seeing or hearing you, people would say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.

That's all of us: living witnesses, every one. And that's a more powerful witness than 33-meter-high statues.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Story About Life (abortions in Victoria)

The usual lines in 2008 from members of parliament were "it only legislates what is already reality" and "it will not increase the number of abortions." One is a false and evasive statement and both were proven to be incorrect.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The joy of life, a life of joy

The culture of life, in the Catholic tradition, is for both: life is a cause for joy, and life is about happiness. But it is so important to understand what these words fully mean, and to settle for no less than their fulfillment. God is the ultimate joy, and the fullness of life. And He means them for us in superabundance.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Philippine president caves in on contraception as a cure-all

He should read these prophetic words from Humanae Vitae, and ask himself if this is his vision for his people. All he needs to do is look at the enlightened countries who embrace contraceptives to verify the truth in these warnings:
 Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

From excommunication to canonization

So there's this interesting segment of Blessed Mary MacKillop's history: she and others of her order were apparently excommunicated wrongfully, and if ABC News has it right, it was for exposing a sexually abusive priest. Of course, the ABC news linked to muddles this up a bit: the title says she was excommunicated, then Father Gardiner (who advocated for Blessed Mary MacKillop's cause) says it wasn't an actual excommunication in fact or law, then the article says it was an excommunication in fact, that had to be lifted by the bishop who declared it. I wonder what Father Gardiner meant by his statement though.

The cynics will have a field day with this one, of course, but I have to point out something odd about this. Surely the Church new about this matter, yet went ahead with beatifying her and deciding now to canonize her as a saint (17th Oct). I think there are positive lessons to be drawn here. First, bishops can get it wrong; even the Apostles did, but that didn't stop Jesus from giving them authority. Two, to the faithful (such as Blessed Mary MacKillop), even wrong bishops must be obeyed. Remember Jesus saying that the Pharisees sit on the seat of Moses, and should thus be obeyed. I always thought this meant to keep the order and God himself will sort things out (as He might have concerning St. Mary MacKillop, five months into her excommunication). Three, to the faithful again, even if the Church has her share of wrong and sinful leaders, she is not to be abandoned -- there is all the more reason to come to her aid. Never in St. Paul's exhortations did he advocate schism. In fact, he condemned it.

And the most wonderful part of this story: she was excommunicated wrongfully, and now she is to be canonized Australia's first saint. Some would assert, with no small glee, that she was a rebel, but do they really want to say that? A rebel seeks to overthrow and to divide: is that who Mary MacKillop was? Is that why she's being canonized in October?

[Updated 7 Oct 2010: Oops. That's what I get for trusting ABC Online.]

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Euthanasia: mercy for whom?

David Sh├╝tz hits the nail on the head about what euthanasia can be about. And given that it is up for legislation (at least the process has been initiated), it certainly is something to talk about.

Sunday Mass attendance still declining?

Pews get even emptier in the US, according to this blog from Deacon Greg Kandra. The trend may not be the same in other parts of the world (Africa, for example), but it's certainly not something to take lightly. One lukewarm Catholic is quoted as saying "I do see the value in it, but it's just not for me right now" and, regarding Catholicism, "I don't feel aligned with it any more." That's probably true for a lot of Catholics. I put the emphasis on some of those quotes because they do reveal a lot about relativism, don't they? One of the comments pointed out, "If young people aren't going to Mass, could it be because it wasn't treated as important by their parents?" Indeed.

Another comment begins "I'm convinced the answer is TRUTH. People are starved for it.." Not the vague waffling that tries to accommodate any interpretation so that it isn't confronting (which makes it bland, no more salt). What was it that Papa Benedetto said during his recent tour in Britain?

 "A Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. .. the Church does not seek to be attractive in and of herself, but must be transparent for Jesus Christ.. for the great figure of Christ and the great truth that he has brought to humanity. .."
(Visit Sentire Cum Ecclesia for a longer quote.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

UK judge says that divorcing parents can damage children

Talk about an understatement. Marriage isn't easy, and is certainly harder in some cases compared to others. But barring the exceptional case of violent altercations or abuse, it's hard to prove the point that divorce solves everything, or even most things. It probably does no good to the children (except, as said, for those exceptional cases). I once heard someone on Catholic Answers ask rhetorically, when the parents give up on their marriage and effectively abandon their daily crosses, guess who has to pick them up instead?

The Patriarchal Family in History

Probably horrible words to read for some, but Christopher Dawson makes a cogent case. Read it to believe it (or not).

Ex nihilo: fides

I hope I got that Latin right: out of atheism, Jennifer Fullwiler both receives that wonderful gift, faith.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not to forget the missus

So I enthuse to my wife about this podcast from Catholic Answers Live entitled "Husbands, Love Your Wives!" with guest Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers (a really gifted preacher). So I turn it up for her. Two minutes in, I ask "are you listening to this?" Nope.

I guess that sort of thing should be seen and not heard. :-)

From the mouth of babes and children

Nothing like kids to keep one's feet on the ground. For instance, after remarking about the empty box of chips that I never got to sample, Francis (7) offers me his hand, covered in crumbs, "you can have this!" Er, no. So Patrick (9) then shook the remaining crumbs from the box onto a small dish for me. Perspective...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Gracious God

In 2 Peter 3:13-14, we are reminded of our hope, and to do our best to remain spotless for God, whose patience is our opportunity to be saved. But we know it isn't easy. However, as we are called, so are we gifted, and no giver of gifts is like God. In Ezekiel 36:24-28, the fullness of his graciousness is described. He frees his people, gives them a new heart and spirit each. He replaces hearts of stone with hearts of flesh -- which is not fundamentally evil, being a creation of God. He makes us his people, teaches us to live in holy peace with his statutes and ordinances, and He becomes our God. NB: These readings come from today's morning prayer with the Liturgy of the Hours.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Of life and of death

Just a thought that I'd like to record somewhere (though I haven't the time to develop it now): it is likely that the underpinning for the Catholic doctrines on the morality of artificial contraception can be traced to (and probably beyond) that for the fifth commandment. How so? Well, it is the Lord who gives life, and it is therefore an arrogant act for one of his creatures to control one's life (or death). This needs some nuanced thought, of course, particularly when one is dying and resuscitation is futile because there is no hope of prolonging life in some way. In terms of human conception and artificial contraception, I think it's fairly straightforward. Not that every marital act must be fertile, but that if a marital act is fertile, only God may decide whether this act results in conception or not. Does this make sense? It is 1:21 am after all..

Fad atheism and where's the debate?


Funny, but it does present a challenge. Only one thing to do: test all things, hold fast to what is good. Maybe they don't want to go beyond the entertaining polemics, but we can't stoop to that level. Of course, when testing all things, we do need to be prudent and prepared.
[Thanks to Patrick Madrid for this one.]

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kids and their heroes

Just a thought that came to mind lately: who are the heroes our kids hold up on a pedestal? And why? What characteristics of theirs do they want to emulate? What choices in life would that lead them to? There was a time when I wondered why my kids bring home amoral (no moral teaching) books from Catholic primary school. Yes, they're about reading, but what's wrong with aesop's fables or Hans Christian Andersen? Aren't there any children's books about the saints and people in the Bible? Can't they learn to read with those as well as learn some good morals and maybe even practical wisdom?

But then again, why should it be the school's sole responsibility?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nothing like getting your hands dirty

Just marveling at how much you learn from actual experience. Helping write texts for the Liturgy (introduction, penitential rite, prayers for the faithful), taking a New Testament course which includes exegesis and Greek (!).. Forget "if you build, he will come"... Say rather, if you try it, you might just learn something. Of course, I already knew this from being a network/systems administrator part-time (and formerly, full-time). Why I didn't put this into practice faith-wise, I can only chalk up to ignorance. And too much surfing on the web...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Less stress for married couples

.. according to a small study involving 500 masters students in Chicago University. That doesn't sound like such a huge sample size, but I can relate. However, the label "marriage" by itself doesn't guarantee it, especially if it means different things to different people. Is it religious, carrying with it all the implications of it being transcendent? Is it Christian, with all the implications of a covenant that relies on God, and being patterned after the relationship between Jesus Christ and his bride, the Church? Is it with the commitment and complete self-giving for life, through thick and thin, beyond the ups and downs of "being in love"? After all, even the word "love" gets thrown around lightly -- and ambiguously -- these days.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fr. Val Peter: Love, Warmth and Discipline

This is a great podcast from Catholic Answers Live, on a more common sense approach to parenting that goes the extra mile to equip our kids with the skills and know-how they really need, and that includes loving them enough to teach them discipline.

Monday, August 16, 2010

On the Feast of the Assumption

Just how well does the Blessed Virgin know our Lord? How well does a mother know her own son? What conversations did they have, or what insights were given our Blessed Mother in all those years, even those from the moment of his death and resurrection? And yet only a few words of hers are recorded in Scripture! But the most important, perhaps. 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy words!' 'They have run out of wine.' 'Do whatsoever he tells you!'

And of course, the beautiful Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55):


‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

And so we can marvel and honor our Blessed Mother as did God in these words:
'Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.' (Lk 1:45) 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!' (Lk 11:28)

And in like wise do we hope to hear and to remain faithful!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Ukrainian Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics

... are together building a new church! Sounds like a great venture.

Bob Brown: Greens more Christian than Cardinal Pell

I guess Mr. Brown can say that based on what he thinks Christ teaches. On the other hand, if he really knew Christ, he might have to say additionally that the Greens are more Christian than Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saving the Child by Saving the Parents

I recently saw a poster advocating the vaccination of parents as a reasonable means of protecting children. Fair enough: if the parents are immune to that particular virus, then they probably won't pass the virus onto their kids. There can be other pathways to infection, but at least that from the parents is eliminated.

Are viruses the only things that parents need to worry about? What about bad habits? Crass language? Being lazy? Gossiping? Questionable fashion tastes?? Oh but there is so much more that can seem harmless enough at first glance. What are mom and dad's favorite TV shows? What do they really think about this or that issue? What is their attitude towards this or that ethnic group? Do we drive safely and legally?

And what about faith and morals?

It was only in becoming a father that I was truly challenged to be a disciple of Christ. If I want that of them, then I must be a good one myself. If I am truly convinced that Christ is the Way, Truth and Life, then I should want that of them.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Few are needed

‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. ..’

While I don't want to give the Enemy too much credit, I have occasionally mused on how easy his job can be sometimes. Assuming that it happens to be to cause us harm (and in effect, to cause pain to our Heavenly Father), it seems to me that he can do a lot of damage simply by distracting us.

This reminds me of the junk-carrying lady in the movie Labyrinth, whose heroine was close to defeat .. by distraction. She was on her way to the heart of the Labyrinth in order to save her brother, but there was a deadline. Bad enough that she must weave her way through a labyrinth, then her search is interrupted by the junk lady, loading her up with trinkets, toys and baubles, objects that held some value to her from childhood. Soon enough, with her arms and back beginning to overflow, she oddly starts resembling the junk lady herself! In the meantime, dwelling on sentimentality as she hugs old toys and other little treasures, her time begins to run out.

A recent podcast from Catholic Answers Live, with guest Jeff Cavins, drove home this point for me when I heard it a few days ago. In God Has a Plan for You, host Patrick Coffin and his guest talked briefly about the distractions that are now truly pervasive in this century. So many online distractions: Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. Many things in our lives are not of themselves bad. Even toys serve good purposes .. when we were kids. Social networking and online utilities serve communication purposes, which can be a good thing.. but it can also become a bad thing. Do we really need to know if someone just made a ham sandwich? In the meantime, while we stay connected online, what are we missing out on?

Is it true that if we found ourselves with one free hour of peace and quiet, no scheduled activity, just by ourselves, then we would not know what to do? Do we really need to entertain ourselves in every waking hour? Always plugged into the iPod? Always checking our email?

Jeff Cavins asked a few penetrating questions in that CAL episode: (paraphrased) will we continue on this path at break-neck speed, never pausing to consider what exactly it is that we should be doing? Will we ask that question when we've only four years left to live? Are we simply entertaining ourselves continuously as if we're simply holding on until this is all over?

Is this it?

‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. ..’
-- from today's Gospel reading in Luke 10:38-42

Thursday, July 01, 2010

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Are Catholics Supposed to be Evangelical?

In the podcast episode of Catholic Answers Live that I heard today, a man called up asking out of curiosity if it was Catholic practice to evangelize at all. He framed his question by talking about his experience growing up in a Catholic community where nobody ever invited him to consider Catholicism or (apparently) any Catholic event where he might hear about the Catholic faith.

That says it all, doesn't it? And yet we do know (perhaps vaguely) that Pope John Paul II does mention the "new evangelization" many times in his pontificate (start here). When you think about it, we are told after each Mass to "go to love and serve the Lord", and of course, we all know what the Lord said about evangelization.

Er.. that's awkward. That I have to say "when you think about it" means that it isn't quite so obvious. Jimmy Akin's reply to that question above was that evangelization has not been emphasized much in the Catholic Church in America, but it seems to be preached actively in parts of Africa. I don't remember many exhortations to evangelize during homilies when I was growing up in the Philippines. I don't hear them so much here in Melbourne either. Perhaps it's assumed to be a well-known exhortation to all Catholics anyway? Perhaps there is this expectation that Catholic schools will "take care of that sort of thing"? Hmm.. on second thought, schools will probably worry about political correctness, tolerance, plurality, inclusiveness, etc. What about parents? Hey! I'm a parent! What about me? When am I going to get off my bum and teach my children to evangelize?

Hmm.. I'll probably need to read this. And Redemptoris Missio. And this from Pope Benedict XVI. And Evangelii Nuntiandi. and .. Maybe there's a reason why this hasn't taken off so easy. BUT we have to start somewhere. Right. My kids!

Monday, June 21, 2010

First Communion

Today my heart burned during the homily given by our parish priest for the thirty-odd children receiving their First Communion. He pointed out the reality (not imagined or merely symbolic) of the Eucharist, and used the radical shift in the life of St. Paul as a backdrop. He also pointed out that this was only the beginning, and emphasized the continuity of the sacramental life in frequent Communion. I pray that the parents listened attentively, and took those words to heart, because that sacramental life needs a serious follow-through in family life. As if to illustrate the point, my eight-year old son, Patrick, asked me earlier why some Catholics don't even go to Sunday Mass regularly. (I don't know if it was wise, but I then explained what "cafeteria Catholicism" was, where Catholics pick and choose which parts of the faith they preferred to keep to the exclusion of those they didn't.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Saving lives that at the edge of suicide

Here's a great story about a man in Sydney who saves lives by being there to offer a smile and encouragement to people who were at the brink (literally) of suicide. Compassion in action!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Madness in early childhood education?

Carolyn Moynihan reports about alarming studies in childhood innocence concerning sexuality. Apparently, from seeking to right the injustice of "heteronormativity" that children seem to born with, to the premise that childhood innocence is an "erotic fantasy".

Carlyn points to this inconsistency in society:

 So here we have a really absurd situation. On the one hand, clerics and others being jailed for treating children as sexual agents and destroying their innocence. On the other, academics training childcare teachers to believe that childhood innocence is a myth and that they must actively shape the sexual awareness of their little charges.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Challenge to the Catholic Laity

.. is being thrown by Thomas Colyandro at Catholic Exchange in this article, Time to Clean Up Lay Spirituality Too. Some interesting points:

 Sadly, too many of the lay faithful doubt they have heard His whispers and tend to ignore His booming voice because they have been taught over a four decade or more span that their thoughts, feelings and day-to-day experiences are the valid conduit through which God will save them. In other words, the trend among spiritual bureaucratic types in the Church has been to train lay narcissists fully convinced that “where they are” is simply enough. The rationalization, of course, is that life of the layman is inherently noble with its struggles in and with spouses, children and work.

The time has come to remind the lay faithful that “the perfection of man does not consist in that which assimilates him to the whole of creation, but that in which distinguishes him from the created order and assimilates him to his Creator” (Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p. 114).

Quite a bit more food for thought in that article. My first reaction to the first paragraph I quote above was shock. I am, after all, married with kids, and I do believe, as St. Josemaria Escriva taught, that we are sanctified wherever we act with God's grace. Thus the Holy Spirit uses us to sanctify our work, as a witness to others and a call for them to examine the cause of our joy.

But another thought hit me as I read that paragraph: being a husband, father and worker is indeed what I am, and I think (guided by prayer) what I am called to be. However, that's not the end of it. I am also called to be priest, prophet and king: to offer a sacrifice of praise and mercy to God, to speak God's words as a witness, and to dispense the justice of God. Ah. Now it makes more sense. In whatever role I play, I must be, at the core, nothing more than a disciple of Christ.



Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Concise Primer on Religious Relativism Today

from Dr. Jeff Mirus of Catholic Culture: a must read for those still unfamiliar with relativism in religion today.

If you want history -- DO NOT watch a movie

The movie Agora is apparently about the pagan philosopher and mathematician of that name, supposedly killed by a Christian mob under the orders of St. Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, in the 5th century.

Sherry Weddell explains why this is rubbish:

 The destruction of the Library of Alexandria .. occurred 40 years before Jesus was born and 418 years before Hypatia was born. The part of the Library's collection .. kept in a branch library in a pagan temple in Alexandria .. was destroyed in 391 AD, 24 years before Hypatia was killed and 21 years before Cyril became Bishop of Alexandria.

..

the film is set conveniently in 391 AD ... The problem is that Hypatia was [in] her early 20's in 391 and wasn't murdered until a quarter of a century later in 415 AD. Cyril was a teenager of 15 in 391 AD and wouldn't become Bishop of Alexandra for another 21 years.

..

Yet it was the most popular film of 2009 in traditionally Catholic Spain.

The last note about the film's popularity in Spain might be a reflection on the sad state of Christianity in Spain.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A responsibility to remaining healthy

I held my daughter today, born before noon, and wished that I didn't have a cold so I could give her a kiss, and cuddle her closer to me. As it was I had to hold her and supposed she'd still be exposed to the cold we all had at home by the time I got her home later this week. But it got me thinking about this topic again: our health -- physical and spiritual -- impacts not only our own lives but those around us. And so we truly do have a responsibility to watch our health in all aspects.

I've come to realize that being in a family, especially involving children, confronts us with such a responsibility. Concerning our spiritual health, this means considering our state of grace (or mortal sin). We parents cannot claim that "it's okay for me to... " and then say "it's not okay for my kids to ..", when talking about sinful habits and compromises. These things can be directly catching, or at least the consequences will have an impact on the people around us.

Of course, the 20th century's sad thrust for individualism makes one less likely to consider such things, and so we carry the consequences of that right into the 21st. And look around us now. "Live and let live" almost has to have degenerated into "live and let die".

Impose nothing, yet propose ceaselessly

I like this admonishment, which comes from the Holy Father's address in Portugal:

 We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly, as Peter recommends in one of his Letters: “In your hearts, reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15)

When one has found the greatest of treasures, and not only is it sufficient to share with absolutely everyone, but it is completely logical to do so, we must do no less: propose ceaselessly, because what we have fills us with joy, and we want others to share this joy from the fount of all joy. It is a much better attitude than "live and let die", or even to "live and let live". Better to live and help live, for in Christ alone will our hearts find rest.

[Hat tip to Whispers in the Loggia, which posts the entire homily.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why Truth Matters

We're living in interesting times. I do believe in the springtime that Pope John Paul II wrote about, and oddly agree precisely because atheism, apathy, agnosticism, relativism and all sorts of wrongheadedness are running rampant around us. But this cannot be stressed enough: TRUTH matters. Whether or not you believe that Jesus Christ is the truth (I do), you must understand that it is of paramount importance. Here's Mark Shea sharing some truths to debunk (falsehoods) that would leave you speechless (there's wrong and there's incredibly wrong). Here's Mike Adams with some more shocking truths. These two examples can be classified as falsehoods that people actually eat up and truths that people don't hear about. Either one constitutes grave danger to those who believe the first or are ignorant of the other. Living in this great age of Google as we are, there's little excuse to hide behind.

If you ask rhetorically "what is the truth?" I will answer: "have you even looked?"

Friday, May 14, 2010

Honor your father

The unfounded and unjust attacks on Papa Benedict XVI are irksome enough, but tonight I came to realize that something about this runs deeper, even when the target is not as high profile.

I'd found that some people would make it a point (and my sense that it is an explicitly made act) to drop "Father" in addressing my parish priest. I'm not scandalized so much as offended. Why? Because this priest is my spiritual father. Every priest is, and so is each bishop and pope. Long ago, I'd already made up my mind that it is ridiculous to agitate at the hierarchy of the Church and demand that it be made flat. Just as it is to experiment with familial structures and put parents and their children on the same level. We already know what a disaster such innovations are.

And so it is with the parish. Our parish priest is not only a pastor, he is a father. He feeds us with the sacraments, i.e., with the very life of God. This is especially true in the Eucharist, fed as we are with Christ's body and blood. He also feeds our minds by educating us in the wisdom and knowledge of God in Scriptures and Tradition. He holds authority over our moral upbringing, not only in teaching us right from wrong, but as minister of the sacrament of Reconciliation.

It isn't that the priest is being equated with our Father in Heaven, just as we wouldn't equate our actual dads with Him. But there it is, plain as plain, in God's commandments: Honor your father and mother. Not because they are perfect (they are not), but because, in the familial structure of God's household of faith, priests and bishops are ordained by Christ our king to be spiritual fathers over us. When we rebel against this ministerial fatherhood, we rebel against its author: our Father in Heaven.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Not for the first time

This "news" (from Richard Owens, The Times) leads with "The Pope has admitted for the first time that the Catholic Church must accept responsibility for the child sex abuse scandal". Truly remarkable, because this is not the first time he has done that, as anyone with a web browser and access to Google can easily verify. Nor is this is the first time that a so-called journalist has covered this topic without competence.

 Until now, the Vatican and individual cardinals and bishops have sought to lay the blame for allegations of priestly abuse on the media, the Devil, the permissiveness of the 1960s, and on petty gossip and homosexuality.

Words fail me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Aborted for a cleft lip and palate?

One has to wonder if postmodern society is truly so enlightened as to abort a baby due to a cleft lip and palate, a problem that can be corrected with surgery. To make things worse, how does one silence one's conscience enough so that the baby, born alive, having survived the abortion, was left in a bag to die alone and uncared for?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

On the offensive against sin

Many years ago, my spiritual director at the Opus Dei center I used to attend (back in college) would tell me not to take a purely defensive posture when it came struggling with sin. One of the concrete suggestions he would suggest is to up the tempo in my apostolic life. For example, to engage in acts of mercy, both spiritual and corporal. This is absolutely good strategy. Sometimes, the thought that the Enemy puts stumbling blocks in my path would strike me. While he is certainly disposed to do so, my current spiritual director reminds me that there are more practical concerns in dealing with concupiscence. I think the following are worth noting:

  • There's a reason why we mention "near occasions of sin" in the Act of Contrition (the longer version). That first step can be a doozy alright.
  • The defensive posture is probably more applicable in combat where you're waiting it out until the opponent makes a mistake, giving you an opening to launch your attack. That doesn't apply here, I think. The opponent is concupiscence.
  • Launching the offensive is probably more effective, especially if it is in acting that one gets stronger and gains ground.
  • Focus on one habitual sin at a time. Be methodical. Use psychology or whatever approach will give an edge in order to "know thyself" and thus, to master thyself, one step at a time.
  • Frequent the sacraments, God's means of dispensing grace. The more habitual this becomes, the greater one's capacity.
  • As St. Josemaria Escriva recommends, "[w]ith your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred." -- even those that are left in us. "And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart." You can light up the corners of your heart with that light, rooting out your attachment to sin, one crack, one corner at a time.
  • As St. Paul wrote, "[p]ray without ceasing". I'd forgotten that, once upon a time, I would pray before every activity, making the activity itself part of my prayer. As Fr. Vincent Serpa said in one of his one-minute homilies, the extent to which we spend time with Christ, such as in prayer, is the extent to which we will rejoice when we see him. It is also to that extent that we will know him better, and unite with him more, and with our concupiscence less.

I'm actually writing the above more to myself than anyone else. I have not been living many of the strategies above, at least not so much in recent years.

Time to get cracking.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Unprincipled Laws?

A judgment against freedom of conscience is ironically set in logical tones while being illogical. It was in response to an appeal by a psychologist who was fired for refusing "to give advice on sexual intimacy to a homosexual couple." I would that this would be reasonable, and that the couple would be better served by another psychiatrist.

 Laws made clear that the court did not view legislation protecting individual conscience as justifiable, calling it an irrational position that “is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary."

"The conferment of any legal protection of preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however long its culture, is deeply unprincipled," said Laws in his ruling.

So there he is, a member of the judiciary, whose only authority comes from legislation, and he considers it unprincipled to apply the law when it is clearly applicable. Which case is more guilty of being unprincipled here? And the leap of logic sounds insane:

 Laws said that if the law created special exemptions for adherents of one belief, then it would lead to a disenfranchisement of the rest of the members in society, and would lead to “theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.”

Did anyone miss that huge leap? Upholding one's right to exercise conscientious refusal to act -- which does not take away the possibility of the patient obtaining the same services from a more sympathetic psychologist -- leads to a theocracy? Doesn't theocracy require the adherence to and imposition of a specific religion? He seems to suggest, therefore, that no one is to be granted legal exemptions based on belief, i.e., all must comply with the secular principles of the state. Is that not autocratic?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Preparing for First Reconciliation

One of my kids is preparing for First Reconciliation, and I'm using a book from Catholic Answers, Today I Made my First Reconciliation. It is a good resource, using the story of two children who are preparing for that sacrament and finding themselves in a moral dilemma. There are Scriptural references at the back as well as other useful materials such as a guide to examine one's conscience. One of the things I was taught while attending an Opus Dei center in college was to examine my conscience every night at bedtime.

Some folks might actually be bringing up their kids to make decisions based entirely on amoral consequences. Well if one does not believe in God, then there is no basis for an objective moral code. No basis for a conscience either -- what on earth can that tiny voice say about anything if there is no objective moral code?

One's conscience can either be honed with reasonable attention or dulled with disuse. It can be informed with education or atrophy with neglect (life's too busy, no shortage of engaging pursuits). I'd prefer the former. The latter sounds more like what happened to those folks recently captured on video walking on by while a man lay dying on the sidewalk. Some might say that it was no big deal, it wasn't illegal to mind your own business. What, you actually need someone explaining this, and do you need legislation to tell you that you ought to call 911?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Much ado about nothing indeed

James Valentine in The Australian muses how one goes [B]ack and forth in the quest for diddly-squat The same thing has been on my mind, too. One of the things I distinctly remember from Og Mandino's books is this line from his "God Memorandum": to be everywhere is to be nowhere. I've always been a dreamer, a planner, but my doing needs an upgrade. In fact I've probably missed 20 years of upgrades by now. While my life is far from flat and lifeless -- my kids remind me everyday that they are like plants that will grow in spite of me -- I do feel this frenzied activity around my two jobs and a quarter (no, really, I virtually have three employments right now), and the accomplishments are lacking.

This has been on my mind since the start of the year. Yes, God must be trying to tell me something when I read articles as above, and my kids just happen to have watched Mary Poppins tonight, and their school is preparing for a production of that great movie and its great lesson. And I'm Mr. Banks, make no mistake.

How bad can it get? I haven't had a seven hour sleep since my last bout with a bad cold. Otherwise, I'd be lucky if I get away with six hours. The worst part is it's all my doing. My pride, arrogance, lack of reliance on God and too much on me.

Right. Off to bed, it is 1 am.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sin and its effects

One of the most daunting things I've discovered about parenthood is how much influence my actions have on my children. Whether it is a matter of bad example, which they might emulate. Or depriving myself of sleep and making myself vulnerable to illness (which I can pass on) or unsafe driving. Or me on the keyboard at 2 in the morning, disturbing their rest. Let's face it -- I can certainly cause my children harm.

Something else that resonates for this topic: take even a cursory look at the news concerning the pope and the sex abuse scandals here and there. What trouble visited upon the Church, the faith of her members, disturbing their peace, and that of majority of her priests and deacons who are not sexual abusers. What horrors unleashed upon the victims! The Church is a household, and the sins of one can gravely affect a multitude, from the victims to their victims (for those who end up emulating the abuse) to the average Catholic whose faith is shaken.

But then that influence can work the other way too. What can we do to make amends? We can pray. We can encourage. We can clarify and expose the truth.

I'm off to bed. My kids need me awake enough to drive.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Did the Pope give the Milwaukee sex abuser a free pass?

There is much in the news these days about the alleged culpability of the Church leadership, all the way to the pope, concerning an American priest-abuser of about 200 victims. We would not be human if we remained indifferent to such charges, given the gravely evil nature of the abuses perpetrated. But we would not be rational if we fail to investigate the evidence prior to making up our minds. In Scoundrel Times, journalist George Weigel helps us get started. Jimmy Akin provides a more detailed investigation based on letters and accounts concerning the matter. Two other posts by Jimmy add further details: accounts from the tribunal judge involved in the case and analyzing the 1998 memo concerning this case. The evidence is there for all to consider. The only logical conclusion is that, while there is culpability in cooperating with grave evil to dole out, they cannot be assigned to Pope Benedict XVI.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dr. Jeff Mirus on Infallibility

An informative read. I heard a helpful comment about this recently by Catholic Answers podcast: when dad tells his kids to do something, he does not have to issue a threat each time. That doesn't mean that the kids don't need to obey him during those times, however.
Update: here's an interesting discussion of ancient beginnings of papal infallibility, although not yet defined in detail, in the Council of Chalcedon in the 5th Century. The statements from leaders of Eastern Orthodox are quite striking.

And more are coming home: Traditional Anglicans in Canada

.. are asking to be let in as well. Ut unum sint!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Sshh.. the body of Christ is fasting...

Image name: desert death valley ubehebe crater. Photographer: Jon Sullivan
It's the second week of Lent. Why do we fast at Lent? Why do we observe Lent at all? Perhaps because it is a season of grace, given to us (who observe the season) for our own edification. It isn't about what Protestants might fear -- works-righteousness. It's not that the Catholic Church presumes to think that its Lenten observances add to the finished work of Christ on the cross. No, I think it is that Christ takes us unto himself, riding along his own Lenten on earth 2000 years ago, in order to complete in our bodies what is lacking. What is lacking? For ourselves, I think we lack the experience of profound sorrow at the horror of sin and concupiscence. For others, especially those for whom the cross is alien, they lack the witness of the cross and how great the love of God is. I heard Patrick Coffin at Catholic Answers recently say that sacrifice is the measure of love. This is Lent. It's a season of sacrifice: Christ's sacrifice, and we're here for the ride -- desert and all. Thank God.

Monday, February 08, 2010

To be aware, and to dare

A few things came to mind last Sunday, after hearing the readings. In the first reading, Isaiah is called, and he answers "Here I am, send me!" In the second, St. Paul talks about his commissioning to evangelize. The Gospel talks about some of the first of Jesus' disciples, and how they were called to become fishers of men. Hearing the readings and the excellent sermon of our parish priest, the following seemed noteworthy to me. First, all the commissioned men were aware of their sinfulness. St. Peter sums it up best: "Leave me Lord, I am a sinner!" But of course, the Lord loves him more than that. Second, they were called anyway. To Isaiah, these words were said:

 ‘See now, this has touched your lips,
your sin is taken away,
your iniquity is purged.’

Jesus says simply, "Do not be afraid."

It seems to me that here there are two aspects in this conversation between myself and God: to be aware of who God is, and of my sinfulness, and to dare to take His hand and follow after Him. I think that the former is necessary in order to get to the latter. Not because the Lord disdains the proud -- I think He calls everyone, great and small, good and bad. I think it is more the case that the proud may not be willing to take God's hand. They might instead say "I have it sorted." They might not be timid enough to dare cast their nets.

I have my own version of St. Peter's confession of guilt, and I can't say if it is good or bad, but it is how I find myself saying it. "Don't ever leave me Lord, I am a sinner! Where else can I go?" But I do pray that I will one day attain a level of faith and confidence in God so that I can stop saying that in nervous apprehension. Lord, I do believe, but please help my unbelief! But the answer is probably there already. I should put out into deep water and lower my net.

Friday, February 05, 2010

A Talk and a Discussion

I attended Mark Shea's talk earlier at the Cardinal Knox Centre, a compact presentation (pardon the pun) of just the salient bits from his new book, "Mary, Mother of the Son"

There's also this interesting thread of discussion on predestination. Worth having a look

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Honesty is the best policy

So I have no problems with Tony Abbott as others seem to when he gave straight answers to straightforward questions -- in an interview. Instead, I have a problem with politicians who duck for cover under the I-don't-tell-you-what's-right-and-wrong, or that's-really-old-fashioned. I also have a problem with politicians attacking another politician for imposing his views when answering questions in an interview, but that's an obvious point anyway. My point is that I like my leaders forthcoming about what they think. Guts and integrity beats patronizing and chickening out in my book, and I actually expect my leaders to be capable of original thought.

And I must confess being amused at the naysayers who take issue with Abbott's opinion that virginity is a precious -- sacred -- gift. They end up saying more than they might intend to, I think. In in objecting to that opinion .. well, they reveal a disturbing attitude towards virginity, and by implication, sex.

Now if they could just imagine themselves verbalizing that attitude in front of their mothers, sisters and daughters, they might actually come around and realize that Abbott is right.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Witness or Not?

Of course, and this, I think is the point that should not be eclipsed in discussions like this one, which questions the language in paragraph 841 of the Catechism concerning other monotheist religions, i.e., the Muslims. I have some comments in that discussion, which I might rewrite into a separate blog post here .. when time allows. This year is proving to be a busy one for me! Anyway, the original topic in that above link should pique some interest: "Roman Catholicism: The True Church or a Terrible Cult?" The cheeky answer is "both!", using the traditional and benign meanings of the words "cult" and "terrible", of course.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jason Evert on Why Women Can't be Ordained Priests

His explanations are well worth reading. My own take is based on an observation: today's push to ordain women comes from arguments which, to me, sound contrary to the spirit of mission that Christ imparted. The arguments tend to be rather demanding, many times aggressive, speaking of rights and privileges, and their personal desire to be ordained. Ordination is.. ordination. It comes from God's initiative to anoint. It may well be the case that God does not oppose the idea of women as priests, but that he hasn't actually done so while he was here in the flesh.. is significant.

I also believe that we are all called and gifted in different ways. One of the differences may lie along the lines of our gender. Whatever it may be, our individual missions will be affected by our circumstances. I think our Heavenly Father would be much more interested in our willingness and diligence to serve and to love than the particular vocation we are in. We must never forget this truism in our relationship with God: He takes the initiative. Everything comes from Him and hopefully orients towards Him -- not primarily towards our own self-fulfillment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Procreation

Having three children (and soon, God willing, four), I'm not a fan of population control. I prefer "family planning", which is what I have learned about Natural Family Planning. It sounds more sane to me that couples would jointly (pray and) decide how many children they are invited by God to have, based on their circumstances as a whole. This means of course one, two or more children depending on those circumstances.

Compare that to the notion of population control, negative in connotation and, in practice, negative, period. That a Chinese city is now acknowledging problems with it is very telling. The one-child policy, which actually goes against Chinese custom (I can speak from experience), was not entered into scientifically. That's clear enough since the science of demographics/economics says that the ideal population replacement level is at about 2 children per family. But there's more to it than those numbers. The contraceptive mentality seems to be the first step, where the value of human life is no longer grounded in objective terms, i.e., precious because it is precious to the Creator. In subjective terms, human life is expendable, and its value is relative. The negative connotations of motherhood and children have been sold too effectively, and it will not be easy to now tell women to compromise their careers and comfortable lives and lifestyles for motherhood. So this news about Shanghai, which is not unique (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, some European countries are doing the same thing), is problematic. Baby bonuses will only go so far, I think, whereas the battle will really be in the hearts and minds of women. From a Christian perspective, one can only hope and pray, because it will take the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the postmodern world.

Update: Found this piece and, I have to say, the comments from primary school students therein are eye openers.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mark Shea heading down under!

I wonder if I could have him over for dinner? So the kids can meet the guy who made those blue scribbles on the books of his that I ordered a few years back. The sad thing about ordering e-books of his on CD (which were ordered more recently) is that it doesn't look as impressive on the CD with a marker. Nothing like human penmanship on paper. :-)

Anyway, he's on his way to Sydney and maybe Melbourne for a day or two. His calendar will hopefully be updated if his Melbourne visited firms up.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Christmas Miracle: Mother dies just before delivery, baby appears to be dying, then both revive

Amazing.
 COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, January 4, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A Colorado family's brush with tragedy Christmas Eve transformed into a dramatic celebration of the gift of life when a father says he witnessed his wife and newborn child revive after both appeared to die in the midst of delivery.