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Friday, December 30, 2016

Interesting insights on why good people do bad things

This is an interesting quick take from Business Insider on why good people do bad things, Two jumped out at me: The notion of self-image (labelled under the Galatea effect), which I think is repeated in two other points, is a powerful notion. How do people see themselves such that there isn't a strong resistance to the impulse to do evil? The other is on euphemisms to label an evil thing with a neutral new name (labelled under the Power of Words). While we can appreciate how words are just words, a new label will add a new dimension to an act, which in the case of a deliberately bland or generic euphemism renders it above judgement.

Something else that struck me is (of course) the Christian response. What is the right self-image for anyone to embrace? It is simply that of the image of God. Each human being who accepts this deliberately will never be the same. Far from being defined by one's actions at any moment in time, it is far more correct to view one's entire nature, which does not change and is therefore a firm foundation on which to ground one's decisions. It gives us a clear template, and even a non-believer can appreciate the importance of standards of behavior, hopefully well-considered ones that do not change on whim.

As for the words we attach to acts, there's this time-honored saying: the Truth will set you free. Pretending that an evil was not committed does not make it so. The problem is that it is necessary to look carefully at the two facets of evil: the morality of the act itself and the culpability of the actor. We can't get to the bottom of the act without distinguishing the two. Both are crucially important. You can't do good medicine by pretending that the patient isn't sick. You have to identify the condition after a thorough investigation if there is to be a proper cure. At the end of the day, evil demands a healing response, not condemnation. Because it must be thorough, and because it can be acted out from deliberate reasoning, it is necessary to trace that reasoning and root out why someone chose evil, assuming they did. Ascribing culpability is ultimately about prescribing the cure, because while there's time, amendment requires great deliberation. Conflating the two can result in a disgust with judging what one person did as evil or not, particularly if there's the fear of being condemned irrevocably or "sentenced" unjustly in some way.

A final thought on that article was to find it amusing, considering that we already know about them, particularly the ones I comment on above, but at the same time, it's good to find recent findings in psychology pointing to unchanging truths.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Mind and Heart

Had a good conversation with a friend of mine who invites me to turn to atheism as a progressive step. His view is that religion was useful once but holds us back now (and by some 600 years or so) from true progress. He's got a lot of truth-seeking energy and I think he could become an evangelical Catholic given the chance. One of his recommendations is to look at Sam Harris and his study of the emotional experiences that he thinks are what keep Christians devoted. He probably hasn't been exposed to Catholics for whom emotional aspects, while important, are not the one thing that matters. This bit from this article on Thomism and the new evangelization hits the mark for me:

How does the intellect provide for our deepest happiness? By giving us ultimate perspective. If you know where your true good lies, you can love that good, and in loving that good, you can remain at peace, even in the midst of the storms of life.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Supply and Demand in this Woolworths branch

So there's this branch of Woolworths in Dortmund, Germany, where shoppers were told that Christmas merchandise will no longer be sold there (at least this year), and the story goes viral because a staff member said,

"We are a Muslim business, we don’t want to sell Christmas articles”.

But that's not the problem. It's a business, so it has to move with the demand, and there was apparently little demand for Christmas merchandise. And why is that?

That's the story, I think.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Inevitable clash

Professor Anthony Esolen saw it coming and it did not disappoint. The clash is inevitable because the conflict in principles is that of fundamentals. Christianity, specifically, stands in the way, incompatible with what really looks like an odd mix of Marxist and self-indulgent ideologies.

Really reminds me of the Old World empire that flooded the whole world in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth novels. Only those committed to fight against it made its defeat possible. Today it's not evident that Christians are committed to fight against the growing hostility against Christianity and its heritage.

Many of us in the Catholic Church have a tendency to be too passive. Where is that nonviolent but unyielding power with which Jesus of Nazareth overcame the world, holding to the truth to the end about who he was and what was wrong with the world? We sort of expect our bishops, especially our Pope, to be bold in proclaiming the truth in season or out. I think Professor Esolen is doing a fine job of it.

What about me?

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Faith and works

Explained very well.

Be deaf therefore when anyone preaches to you without mentioning Jesus Christ

St Ignatius of Antioch's letter to the Trallians;

  Be deaf therefore when anyone preaches to you without mentioning Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David, who was truly born of Mary, who truly ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth; who was also truly raised from the dead, when his Father raised him up — just as his Father will raise us up, believers in Christ Jesus without whom we have no true life.

  Flee from these preachers, these wicked offshoots that bear deadly fruit, one taste of which is fatal. These have not been planted by the Father; if they had been, they would grow as branches of the Cross and their fruit would be incorruptible. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The amazing story of Claude Newman

A truly remarkable story, one of those mysteries of the human heart that won't be explained without recourse to one's own. Why would I think that? Because in the so-called human heart, which escapes explanation as one particular human organ, one is confronted with the possibility of something greater than the human body. I do not suggest swallowing any proposition without question. On the contrary, it must raise questions, which in themselves bear an admission of not having all the answers.

That explains a lot...

the diviners have lying visions and publish empty dreams and voice misleading nonsense, naturally the people stray like sheep; they wander because they have no shepherd (Zechariah 9:1-10:2)

But I would be truly dishonest if I did not note how difficult it can be - has been - for anyone in a position to teach or explain, even the simplest of truths sometimes. As a father, it is always a challenge to square what I teach my children as true and how I live that truth, or not, in my actions and decisions. To a lesser degree, the same dilemma can come up in the classroom as well.

Such a challenge is also a blessing, of course, because it forces me to consider things very carefully, particularly when it involves my children. It takes a remarkable leap to tell children one thing and then act or decide contrary to that, particularly, one's own. I used to think that hypocrisy was an easy concept to explain, until my kids started getting older. :-)

So, there are no simplistic judgements on specific persons who may, at one time or another, be guilty of false teaching or leadership. The temptation can be incredible, but so are the consequences, which are inescapable. Sadly, the consequences include collateral damage. Thankfully, God's grace is always sufficient, and his mercy is ever available to the sincere, should they come around and are willing, as with post-operative patients, to get down to the hard but necessary work of recovery.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stopping the flow of discontented Catholics heading out the door

Sherry Wedell tells of a friend who knew a handful of people ' — all unrelated to one another — who came to her one at a time in a single month to say, “I’m thinking about leaving the parish for the mega church down the road because I have these questions, and there isn’t anyone in the parish that I can talk to about this.”'

A close friend way back went and did leave for what we call Born-Again Christianity, and I asked him if he bothered to talk to a priest, and no he didn't, and he didn't ask me either, about his questions.

Our parish priest used to run a program where he is available for hot seat questions, but he is pretty busy these days. An Evangelical Catholic would put his hand up and say "I'm game! Where's the seat?"

I'm game! Where's the seat? :-)

But it's still but a shadow of being really militant in preaching the gospel: why do we not instead do as I see Mormon missionaries do, standing at street corners to propose the gospel to passers by? Is it now considered ill-mannered? Doesn't stop some people from selling me a new energy retailer at my door, or, as once actually happened, campaigning for the election just passed.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pray for a three-year-old with cancer


Is this what is wrong with the West in this 21st Century?

For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, for fear they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me. (Matthew 13:10-17)

Because the irony, judging by history, is that the prosperity and peace, and rule of law, enjoyed by today's post-Christian secular states, are fruits of Christianity. Many have now busied themselves with chopping away at their own foundations for the sake of the spots of corruption. And on account of those who betrayed Christ in their living and governance, they label Christ himself, along with those faithful to him, as the enemy.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

How should Christians behave under hostile secular attack?

One thing is certain: it isn't hiding under the bed. Why not? Simple: because that does the opposite of evangelization, and evangelization is our mission.

As I heard Bishop Robert Barron once explain, when Jesus proclaimed to St. Peter that he was building his Church, "the gates of Hades will not prevail against it", gates don't march -- the Church does. Christians do. We do. In all charity, of course, but never compromising the Truth.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Mercy, not Sacrifice

From dailygospel.org:

John Tauler (c.1300-1361), Dominican 
Sermon 64 

“Matthew got up and followed him.”

Our Lord told Saint Matthew: “Follow me.” This lovable saint is a model for everyone. He was first of all a great sinner, as the Gospel says, and later, he became one of the great ones among all God’s friends. For Our Lord spoke to him in the depths of his being, and then he left everything in order to follow the Master. 

To follow God in truth – that is everything; and in order to do that, it is necessary to truly and completely leave all that is not God, whatever it might be. God is a lover of hearts. He is not interested in what is external; rather, he wants us to give him a living interior devotedness. That devotedness has in itself more truth than if I said prayers so as to fill the whole world, or if I sang so loud that my song rose up to the highest heaven, more truth than everything I might do externally in fasting, vigils and other practices.

But I find it convenient, easier to accomplish or appear to accomplish the externals, also to receive affirmation or recognition for them. But they have no lasting value with those motives, and make me desire only the comfort and recognition, while being almost desperate to protect these earthly aspirations.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

From a sermon by Saint Augustine on this feast of Saints Peter and Paul

This day has been consecrated for us by the martyrdom of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. It is not some obscure martyrs we are talking about. Their sound has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. These martyrs had seen what they proclaimed, they pursued justice by confessing the truth, by dying for the truth.

The blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who was found worthy to hear, And I say to you, that you are Peter. He himself, you see, had just said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ said to him, And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. Upon this rock I will build the faith you have just confessed. Upon your words, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church; because you are Peter. Peter comes from petra, meaning a rock. Peter, “Rocky,” from “rock”; not “rock” from “Rocky.” Peter comes from the word for a rock in exactly the same way as the name Christian comes from Christ.

Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. After all, it is not just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, To you I am entrusting, what has in fact been entrusted to all. To show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: Receive the Holy Spirit; and immediately afterwards, Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained.

Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. It is not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles. Do not be sad, Apostle. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because self-assurance was conquered three times by fear. What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.

There is one day for the passion of two apostles. But these two also were as one; although they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We are celebrating a feast day, consecrated for us by the blood of the apostles. Let us love their faith, their lives, their labours, their sufferings, their confession of faith, their preaching.

(From the Office of Readings today, 29 June, online via Unversalis.com)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Let the Laity take it's proper place in the Church

Dare one say that that place is at the forefront in the public square, in the workplace, in the supermarket, in hospitals, -- everywhere?

It's nothing new, but we take a while to learn, it seems. But didn't St. Josemaria Escriva teach this already? St. Therese? Didn't many saints teach the same? Isn't our Lady of the laity? St. Joseph her spouse?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The God of eternity

"have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the Bush, how God spoke to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is God, not of the dead, but of the living." -- Mark 12:18-27

In reading Msgr. Ronald Knox pointing out the deficiencies of the Church of England about a century ago, one comes to the realization that the symptoms and diagnosis he described only went from bad you worse. The passage above from today's Gospel reading seemed apt for some reason. Msgr. Knox detailed at length how one may be tempted to dilute the gospel from am unnecessary fear that heaters will turn away for one reason or another. In doing so, it seems to me that God so described in modern versions of the gospel, for the sake of being relevant, resembles the God preached by Jesus of Nazareth less and less. As if the God of Peter, James, John and Paul, of Stephen, of Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Augustine of Hippo, or Anselm, of Dominic and Francis, Bonaventure and Thomas, Ignatius of Loyola, Theresa of Avila or Francis Xavier, Josemaria Escriva, of Lorenzo Ruis or Maximilian Kolbe, or Therese of Lisieux or Karol Wojtila, were no longer relevant today. No, he is the one God of the living, and he is not a moving goalpost.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Incredibly Keen foresight

"Would a diocesan Bishop have dared in the middle of the nineteenth century, to express in a newspaper article his disbelief in eternal punishment? Would the rector of a much-frequented London church have preached, and afterwards published, a sermon in which he recommended the remarriage of divorced persons?" -- Msgr. R. Knox, "The Belief of Catholics", 1927

Some names might be recalled today or in the last decade, both non-Catholic and, sadly, Catholic.. Not to focus too much on the clerics in the hierarchy, but it's sort of their job to be the teachers. As it is true for parents to their children. But how can one teach if Truth became a game of splitting nuances. While lawyers might say, "is not about the facts, but about what you can prove," or perhaps, what they can sell. And that's presuming good will. But we are not free to change the product line. We are offering Christ, pure, in unadulterated form. Pun not intended.

Corpus Christi, the Mass and Faded Glory

Has the Eucharist lost its shine? Ironic that. If one thinks that the Eucharist today of but an echo of the Cross and Resurrection 2000 years ago, then one should really think again. This anamnesis makes it present, and that is the point. So, no, the Eucharist can never lose it's shine, but as the article in the link points out, perhaps it is we who are weakening our reception of it, our perception having been shaped perhaps by poor formation or lack of practice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Church, the assembly of God's people

The Catholic, or universal, Church gets her name from the fact that she is scattered through the whole world from the one end of the earth to the other, and also because she teaches universally and without omission all the doctrines which are to be made known to mankind, whether concerned with visible or invisible things, with heavenly or earthly things. Then again because she teaches one way of worship to all men, nobles or commoners, learned or simple; finally because she universally cures and heals every sort of sin which is committed by soul and body. Moreover there is in her every kind of virtue in words and deeds and spiritual gifts of every sort. The Church, that is, the assembly, is designated by this apt term, because it assembles all and brings them together, as the Lord says in Leviticus: Assemble all the congregation at the door of the tent of meeting. Moreover it is worth noting that this word ‘assemble’ is first used in scripture in the place where the Lord appointed Aaron to the high priesthood. And in Deuteronomy God says to Moses: Assemble the people that they may hear my words, that they may learn to fear me. He mentions the Church or assembly again when he speaks of the tables of the law. In them were written all the words which the Lord spoke with you on the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, on the day of the Church or assembly – or to put it more clearly, On the day on which you were called by the Lord and assembled together. The psalmist also says: I will give you thanks, O Lord, in the great Church, in the gathering of the throng I will praise you. Earlier the psalmist had sung: Bless the Lord in the Church, bless God, you who are Israel’s sons. The second Church the Saviour built from the Gentiles, our holy Church of the Christians, of which he said to Peter:  On this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.

After the particular Church of Judea was repudiated, many Churches of Christ are now multiplied throughout the whole world, of which it is written in the psalms: Sing to the Lord a new song, let his praise be in the Church of the saints. Echoing this the prophet said to the Jews: I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of Hosts and immediately adds, For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations. About the same holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy: That you may know how one ought to live in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

-- From the Instructions to Catechumens by St Cyril of Jerusalem

(Taken from today's Office of Readings, via Universalis)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Decline of the Faithful Observed a Long Time Ago

"The main causes of this decline, so far as causes need to be adduced for the defection of human wills, are manifest enough. Undoubtedly popular education and the spread of newspaper culture must be credited, in part, with the result: some of us would say that the mass of the people is now growing out of its old superstitions in the light of new knowledge; some of us would see, rather, the effect of reiterated catchwords upon minds trained to read but not trained to think. The industrial development of the country has added its influence, partly by focusing men's thoughts upon their material interests, partly by setting up, in England as elsewhere, a reaction against old faiths and old loyalties, crudely conceived as old- fashioned. Further, the modern facilities for pleasurable enjoyment have killed, in great part, the relish for eternity. I do not know that this influence has been given its proper importance hitherto. Mass production has made luxury cheap; steam travel, motor-cars, and the penny post have brought it to our doors; anesthetics and the other triumphs of medicine have mitigated the penalties which attach to it. And the same causes which have multiplied pleasure have multiplied preoccupation. A rush age cannot be a reflective age." -- Msgr. Ronald Knox, 1927.

1500-Year-Old Underground Byzantine Church Is Found in Turkey

Ancient and beautiful.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Anti-Catholic Catholic journalism: Today's false prophets

Yeah, Truth matters:

So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. [Ez 33:7-8]

Love and Truth

"protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world. any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth." -- Jesus praying for his disciples in John 17

Respect. Justice. Equality. I see these signs on billboards from this and that campaign but they seem to fall short. What's wrong with simply saying "Love" instead? We've tainted what that means and consider it a romantic or sentimental emotion. It's a verb. It's an act of the will. It covers all those campaigns and more -- but for the obfuscation of Truth as a real concept. How doors one define love, or anything, if one fires not believe in truth as an objective reality apart from subjective perception or consideration?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

From a letter to Diognetus: The Christian in the world

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonour, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred. To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments. Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.

Monday, April 25, 2016

From the treatise Against Heresies by Saint Irenaeus

The Church, spread throughout the whole world, received this preaching and this faith and now preserves it carefully, dwelling as it were in one house. Having one soul and one heart, the Church holds this faith, preaches and teaches it consistently as though by a single voice. For though there are different languages, there is but one tradition. The faith and the tradition of the churches founded in Germany are no different from those founded among the Spanish and the Celts, in the East, in Egypt, in Libya and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world. Just as God’s creature, the sun, is one and the same the world over, so also does the Church’s preaching shine everywhere to enlighten all men who want to come to a knowledge of the truth. Now of those who speak with authority in the churches, no preacher however forceful will utter anything different – for no one is above the Master – nor will a less forceful preacher diminish what has been handed down. Since our faith is everywhere the same, no one who can say more augments it, nor can anyone who says less diminish it

Monday, April 18, 2016

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on the decline of the West

We turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which has imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs… (read more, full address here)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Martyrdom is narrow, and so is the gate


An enemy of truth that had lately ruled widely is sloth. It may not be as evil as pride but it can be devastating when one considers how, daily, Catholics such as myself will find it too inconvenient to inform or consciences with anything beyond a few words. But a tiny crack will have turned a previous vase into so much rubbish. A few drops of poison may yet kill. Falsehood even on so narrow a matter ...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cardinal Burke on Amoris Laetitia


Wednesday, March 09, 2016

A duty forgotten?

Whoever refuses honour to the Son refuses honour to the Father who sent him.

This is part of how Jesus responds to those who question his actions such as healing on the Sabbath in John 5:17-30. It struck me that a similar sending by Jesus will carry the same duty. So the Apostles are sent, Simon Peter in a particular way with the keys, Paul to the Gentiles, and so on. But there's more: these Apostles, of whom Jesus said "he who hears you hears me; he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects the one who sent me"  (Lk 10:16), in their turn sent their successor bishops, who in their turn sent successor bishops as well as ordained priests and deacons. Is there not also a duty to them?

Friday, March 04, 2016

The mystery of the blood of Christ that we drink

From the Moral Reflections on Job by Pope St Gregory the Great:  The mystery of our new life in Christ

Holy Job is a type of the Church. At one time he speaks for the body, at another for the head. As he speaks of its members he is suddenly caught up to speak in the name of their head. So it is here, where he says: I have suffered this without sin on my hands, for my prayer to God was pure.

  Christ suffered without sin on his hands, for he committed no sin and deceit was not found on his lips. Yet he suffered the pain of the cross for our redemption. His prayer to God was pure, his alone out of all mankind, for in the midst of his suffering he prayed for his persecutors: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

fittingly to speak of Christ’s blood: Earth, do not cover over my blood, do not let my cry find a hiding place in you. When man sinned, God had said: Earth you are, and to earth you will return. Earth does not cover over the blood of our Redeemer, for every sinner, as he drinks the blood that is the price of his redemption, offers praise and thanksgiving, and to the best of his power makes that blood known to all around him. Earth has not hidden away his blood, for holy Church has preached in every corner of the world the mystery of its redemption.

Notice what follows: Do not let my cry find a hiding place in you. The blood that is drunk, the blood of redemption, is itself the cry of our Redeemer. Paul speaks of the sprinkled blood that calls out more eloquently than Abel’s. Of Abel’s blood Scripture had written: The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the earth. The blood of Jesus calls out more eloquently than Abel’s, for the blood of Abel asked for the death of Cain, the fratricide, while the blood of the Lord has asked for, and obtained, life for his persecutors.

If the sacrament of the Lord’s passion is to work its effect in us, we must imitate what we receive and proclaim to mankind what we revere. The cry of the Lord finds a hiding place in us if our lips fail to speak of this, though our hearts believe in it. So that his cry may not lie concealed in us it remains for us all, each in his own measure, to make known to those around us the mystery of our new life in Christ.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The meaning of "the fear of the Lord"

From a treatise on the psalms by Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. Notice that when Scripture speaks of the fear of the Lord it does not leave the phrase in isolation, as if it were a complete summary of faith. No, many things are added to it, or are presupposed by it. From these we may learn its meaning and excellence. In the book of Proverbs Solomon tells us: If you cry out for wisdom and raise your voice for understanding, if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord. We see here the difficult journey we must undertake before we can arrive at the fear of the Lord. We must begin by crying out for wisdom. We must hand over to our intellect the duty of making every decision. We must look for wisdom and search for it. Then we must understand the fear of the Lord. “Fear” is not to be taken in the sense that common usage gives it. Fear in this ordinary sense is the trepidation our weak humanity feels when it is afraid of suffering something it does not want to happen. We are afraid, or made afraid, because of a guilty conscience, the rights of someone more powerful, an attack from one who is stronger, sickness, encountering a wild beast, suffering evil in any form. This kind of fear is not taught: it happens because we are weak. We do not have to learn what we should fear: objects of fear bring their own terror with them. But of the fear of the Lord this is what is written: Come, my children, listen to me, I shall teach you the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord has then to be learned because it can be taught. It does not lie in terror, but in something that can be taught. It does not arise from the fearfulness of our nature; it has to be acquired by obedience to the commandments, by holiness of life and by knowledge of the truth. For us the fear of God consists wholly in love, and perfect love of God brings our fear of him to its perfection. Our love for God is entrusted with its own responsibility: to observe his counsels, to obey his laws, to trust his promises. Let us hear what Scripture says: And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God and walk in his ways and love him and keep his commandments with your whole heart and your whole soul, so that it may be well for you? The ways of the Lord are many, though he is himself the way. When he speaks of himself he calls himself the way and shows us the reason why he called himself the way: No one can come to the Father except through me. We must ask for these many ways, we must travel along these many ways, to find the one that is good. That is, we shall find the one way of eternal life through the guidance of many teachers. These ways are found in the law, in the prophets, in the gospels, in the writings of the apostles, in the different good works by which we fulfil the commandments. Blessed are those who walk these ways in the fear of the Lord.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

They sought to destroy whom they feared

Then there came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph. ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further,’ ... Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads. In this way they built the store-cities of Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel. (Exodus 1:1-22)

This reminds me of the eugenics that drove the Nazis to try and destroy the Jews, or drove any group to genocide. Could there be a parallel as well with attempts to destroy Christianity in countries which were once Christian kingdoms, where now they proclaim proudly, at least many of those in political power, that they are secular nations? 'We have no king but Caesar', they might as well be saying.

But for Christians and Jews, we know this: "No sword of their own won the land; no arm of their own brought them victory." For to God we declare: "It was your right hand, your arm and the light of your face; for you loved them." -- Psalm 43 (44)

This does not mean timid acquiescence to secular masters, of course, but it does mean recognizing the real power behind our victory: Christ, crucified and risen. And so our struggles for justice and the spread of the gospel has meaning beyond this passing world. In these days of Lent, let us remember: we are at war with the Enemy, and our King has already won, not with blades and bullets, but, as by missionaries of centuries past, with the Cross.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Happy Lent has come: taking stock in the silence

Bishop Robert Barron, in his video series, Catholicism, noted that Christ on the cross was, one might say, a happy man. The context was the Beatitudes, and those words all applied to him like no other. That turns the meaning of happiness on it's head because we in the 21st century have equated happiness with emotional or physical pleasure, perhaps more than anybody else in the past.

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent. We hopefully remember that the Christian cross, and the doctrines on holy suffering and denying oneself or mortification, is essential to our salvation. Firstly. That is how Christ redeemed us, but that is how we, in our turn, abide in him. A lot of people don't realize that, while we have breath in or bodies, we continue to be at war with our concupiscence, our tendency to sin. It's like gravity that pulls us down. Like a bird in flight, if we stop flapping our wings, we gradually allow down and lose altitude. If that goes on further, at some point we land altogether. We have to keep going, perhaps pacing ourselves, but never stopping, avoiding slowing down. That way, we make better use of our momentum and avoid the bother of taking off again. Of course, there will be times when we do crash and fall. Not a problem, as long as we keep our resolve of faith. Lent helps is there, too.

Lent reminds us why we bother, keeping our eyes on the target rather than getting distracted by the sights along the way. It trains us for battle, too, because there will be moments when great sacrifices alone will win the day, for ourselves or for others.

Happy Lent! Onward!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Is there an End to God's Mercy?

'And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ (Mark 6:7-13)

Is it only a romantic notion that Jesus' mercy and patience is boundless?

For some time now, I have this growing awareness that misunderstanding Time, or omitting it from all considerations, is a key element in much that goes wrong in one's life. I think this is no different. Two things come to mind in this context of closed hearts. First, there is likely to be tomorrow, which means, as a general rule at least, it ain't over 'til it's over. What's the point in leaving a sign as directed above? It wouldn't be a petty, pointless gesture. Sometimes we need to be jolted by a warning, such as the threat of time running out someday, and the offer being forfeited. Second, yes, there is time, and as we know, time waits for no one, it proceeds despite out darnedest wishes to the contrary. With it comes change, for ill or nil, and the true danger is not that God's mercy will end, but that any desire for mercy will be stifled by vice. It sticks like tar and builds up until it becomes incredibly difficult to scrub off.

C. S. Lewis thinks of Hell as being locked from inside, and that's how mercy comes to an end - not from God's end but from Man's.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What do we know?

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’... (Mark 4:26-34)

How much do we really know about anything? It does seem likely that we know less than we think we know, and if we think we've plumbed all the depths on the subject, it's probably because we have simply stopped short of going deeper or further. But who has the time, patience and capacity to go all the way down to the limits of one subject, or several, much less all possible subjects? I've a PhD and I haven't gone all the way down my topics, and certainly not all other topics of interest. If I lived to be a thousand, there'd still be too much for me to cover. I think this is the first step to being wise: I don't know as much as I think I know. In academic circles, we realize by experience that, the more we learn, the less we seem to know relative to everything there is to know. That "everything" doesn't even begin to cover God, and appreciating that is one aspect of "the fear of the Lord", I think. It was never about terror, of course, but about appreciation, grounded in reality.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Venerating the saints: what it means for the venerator

It came to mind after having started to pray this novena I found via the app, Laudate: as the prayer proceeded, the virtues of the saint interspersed with my petitions for assistance, and then it hit me: I sure wish I was virtuous in the same way myself.

It's a novena to Saint Joseph, and it starts "Saint Joseph, you are the faithful protector and intercessor of all who love and venerate you." -- Do I likewise protect those who love me, like my family? "I have special confidence in you." Do I inspire such confidence? "You are powerful with God" -- am I a just man, righteous and therefore whose prayers are indeed powerful? ".. and will never abandon your faithful servants." Have I never abandoned my family? How many opportunities to spend time with or give assistance to them have I rejected or neglected? "By the love you have for Jesus and Mary.." How much have I loved Jesus or Mary by my actions?

And so on it went, making me realize that there is this aspect to prayer where what we say or express is actually addressing us as we pray. I think it was Saint Paul who wrote that it is the Holy Spirit alone who can lead us to that deeply intimate level of prayer, where the groans in our soul are too profound for wordsmithing (by my paraphrasing). This same Spirit teaches us even as we pray through the words of the prayers themselves, addressing us with the words we use, or, in the flesh, addressing us with the lives of the saints we follow.

And so I stumble into one reason why the treasury of prayers in the Church are invaluable rather than useless.  The saints must have known this for centuries, and so came up with monastic and similar rules that revolved around prayer. A pity we no longer emphasize such prayers in even Catholic schools. These troves of intimate prayer have rather been labelled rote, with a subtle or direct emphasis on crafting one's own prayers spontaneously.

I think it's the Catholic both/and principle that makes sense of this. We need these traditional prayers because they are instructive, alongside intimate quiet prayer alone with God in our own words or without any words at all. The words of the prayer are like vehicles in which the concepts are delivered. Once in, it's in, and the Spirit can nurture that into fruitfulness.

Let's bring back those prayers in schools: the Rosary, the Angelus, prayers to particular saints, and novenas. Bring them back and let them work wonders.

Monday, January 18, 2016

New routine needed

'New wine, fresh skins!' (Mark 2:18-22)

Recently, I fell into the bad habit of staying up really late to enjoy streaming video. It was a free one month so I'd been indulging while it lasted. Unfortunately, it comes with other costs, such as sleep, and the toll from lack of sleep. Trying to stop myself once I get started after midnight has been incredibly difficult. It's one of those habits so hard to break because it falls into a routine which, once I start with Step 1, I can't step off easily. It's that first step, I think. I need a completely new routine (at night). I think it's the same principle in the new life, a distinctly different life, of a Christian, as against a non-believer.  They can't resemble each other too much because the routines of the old life will.. remain entrenched in the old life. It's just how it is.