Friday, December 31, 2010

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...

It's a short list this week...busy with the holidays and vacation time with the family. Hopefully more next week...

Don't Be a Liar at Christmas - "As human beings we are persons with bodies. We have a soul that is spiritual but it is joined with a body that is physical and material... Our Faith has to become flesh, it has to reach and influence our very behavior."

A Meditation On the “Bloody Octave” of Christmas - "...[I]n a certain sense this IS still Christmas day. Christmas Day is one long day of eight days from Saturday the 25th to Saturday January 1st. ...[O]ne of the striking things about the Christmas octave is its bloodiness. It is One of the bloodiest weeks of the Church’s years.

New Year’s and the Lord of History - "...the real 'new year' begins with First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. And if that’s true, then going bonkers over the turn of the civil calendar is giving a bit more to Caesar than Caesar has a right to receive."

The Pope's Warning to a Disintegrating Western Civilization - "Catholics, Protestants, Agnostics... the vast majority of conservatives of every stripe would agree with this almost non-reported speech made by Pope Benedict XVI on 20 December, 2010."

Why the News Makes Us Dumb - "The product of the news business is change, not wisdom. Wisdom has to do with seeing things in their largest context, whereas news is structured in a way that destroys the larger context. You have to do certain things to information if you want to sell it on a daily basis. "

Ezra Klein Lays It On The Line  - "What we see behind this attitude as expressed by Klein is a disdain for permanent things. It is the core issue that separates progressives and conservatives. Conservatives seek to preserve the heritage of the Constitution..."

Obamacare: Undercutting the Rule of Law - "Obamacare’s construction of a system of bureaucratic fiat is not good for health care–nor the country."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas (2010)

In a unique way, the Son of God was born not merely to live a human life, but to die a human death. The stable at Bethlehem foreshadows the cross of Calvary. And the cross in turn gave to us the food of eternal life, Jesus’ flesh sacramentally present under the appearance of bread. In this way Christmas points us toward the Eucharist. The Incarnation (God-made-flesh) gives to us the flesh that is our spiritual food. The biblical story of Christmas hints at this reality.

Jesus was born in a town called Bethlehem. The word Bethlehem comes from the Hebrew for house of bread. So the man who would one day call His own body “the bread of life” took his first breath in a town fittingly named for that purpose. Bethlehem certainly became “the house of bread” on that night.

Jesus was laid in a manger. The English word “manger” is derived from the French manger which means to eat, or possibly from the Latin manducare - to chew. A manger is where food for livestock is placed to be eaten. How interesting that this simple detail of Jesus’ infancy (where they placed the baby) is preserved for us in Scripture. Jesus was placed where food would normally be for sheep and cattle. The symbolism is obvious. His body would one day feed His flock.

The manger says still more… Jesus in His humanity is placed where lesser creatures receive their food. A higher being placed where lesser beings eat. To be humbled in this way was the purpose of His coming. As God’s Son, His divinity far surpasses our weak human nature, and yet our Mighty God offers His own body as food. This higher Being (God Himself) is placed before us to be eaten. So the baby Jesus placed in a manger as food for animals points us to the Eucharistic reality at every Mass. God feeds us with His own Body.

And finally, the star. It shone in the sky above Bethlehem as the first sanctuary lamp. In every Catholic Church there burns a single candle near the Tabernacle to remind us of Jesus’ Presence. We look to it and are assured that He resides there in our midst. So too the wise men gazed at the Christmas star and were led to that divine Presence on the night when Jesus first arrived in the House of Bread. We pray this Christmas that others are led to that reality and see in Christmas a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.

Prayer for the Feast of Christmas

Ant. A light shall shine upon us this day: for our Lord is born to us; and He shall be called Wonderful, God, the Prince of peace, the Father of the world to come, of Whose kingdom there shall be no end.

V. A child is born to us.

R. And to us a Son is given.

Let us pray.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God, that we who rejoice in celebrating the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ may deserve by holiness of life to attain unto fellowship with Him. Who liveth and reigneth forever and ever. Amen.

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...

Putting the Christmas Back in Christ   - "We must never suppose that Jesus abandoned the innocence of that night in Bethlehem. We must not transform Him into those sorts of grownups we readily understand and readily dismiss: as if the 'real' Jesus would only appear once He began to preach in Galilee and Judea, or once He began to reinterpret the old covenant and the law of Moses."

Paradoxes of Christmas - "As we approach Christmas I would like to list some of the paradoxes of Christmas....the word paradox means something that defies intuition or the common way of thinking. It unsettles or startles us to make us think more deeply."
Fathers of the Church - "My Christmas present to readers of this electronic journal this year will be to tell you to go read the Church Fathers...I'd been disposed, by the Protestant environment in which I was raised (as everyone in North America is raised), not to expect the earliest Christian writers to be very Catholic. Only recently has this "nervous twitch" been entirely cured..."

The Christmas Light in the Shopping Madness - "Christmas is a match struck to darkness; its steady light—despite the best efforts of Mad Men and Marketers—still pierces and warms our awareness; we are not wholly overcome."

Facing the scandal of Christmas, will we turn away? Or believe and obey? - "No one, other than the occasional Scrooge, is opposed to celebrating family or giving gifts or singing joyful songs. The scandal of Christmas, however, is that the Incarnation is not a vague, sentimental concept, but a stunning, concrete reality. It is an Event that is a Person. And that Person, Jesus Christ, requires a response."

Defending Christmas in a Secular world - "As Christians, our response should always be: We’re here to share a gift of eternal life and peace with Our Lord Jesus Christ during our time on earth - and turning all your sorrow into joy."

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Advent and Christmas Mystery - "With characteristic insight and eloquence, he penetrates to the heart of the Christian life with practical reflections on love, holiness, spiritual power, miracles, and Christ-like living."

The Old Testament and the Messianic Hope - "The Messianic expectation of ancient Israel consisted of several strands, some of which were highlighted or stressed more at one time or by one prophet than others, but all together they introduce this multifaceted Messianic hope, which God presented in a more and more definite way over the course of the salvation history of the Old Covenant."

Did St. Joseph suspect the Blessed Virgin Mary of sin? - Interesting analysis (from Traditional sources such as the Church Fathers) of Joseph's motives in initially wishing to "quietly divorce" Mary upon finding her "with child." 

2010: The year that Christmas surrendered to mob rule - "...many shopping centers, food courts and malls, from Cleveland to Seattle, have staged these wonderful 'spontaneous' performances of the 'Hallelujah Chorus.'"

Christmas Without Apologies - "NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg reached the front lines in the perennial 'Christmas Wars' with an odd comment during a roundtable discussion "

Barbara Walters’ Question on The View Gives Pregnant Pause - "The View co-host Barbara Walters is getting an earful from popular pro-life blogger and family advocate Rachel Campos-Duffy." 

Take a Virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel  - "The level of detail is superb, making it almost as if you were there, inside the room itself where conclaves are held and popes are elected. Check it out."

Being on God’s Side: An Open Letter to the Religious Right  - "There are those who call us 'Christianists' and claim we are attempting to 'impose a theocracy' - because name-calling and scaremongering are easier than engaging us in debate."

Why Taking Marriage for Granted Fails - "...equality and justice are indeed crucial to the debate over civil marriage law, but that to settle it—to determine what equality and justice demand—one must answer the question: what is marriage? So this is what the debate is ultimately about."

The Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell - "Yes, we respect the dignity of all human beings. But the homosexual agenda is about changing our moral order."

New Census Numbers Make Obama 2012 Re-Election Tougher - "Ultimately, states voting against Obama in 2012 gained eight electoral votes while states supporting him in 2008 lost eight — a total shift of 16 electoral votes."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Keeping 'Mary' After Christmas

As Advent comes to a close, another reflection on a passage from Pope Benedict’s Images of Hope...

Catholics have a special place for Mary among the Saints. She is Queen of Heaven and Mother of God. She is our spiritual Mother and the archetype of the Church. She is the New Eve, conceived without original sin. Christmas especially highlights her role in salvation history, though we have many feasts dedicated to her throughout the rest of the liturgical year. All of this means that Mary is ever-present in Catholic spirituality and devotional practices. The Rosary, the Angelus, statuary and artwork, all bring us closer to the Mother of our Lord.

Our Protestant brethren do not share the same doctrinal beliefs and practices concerning Mary. I have often heard it said that for Protestants Mary is confined to the Nativity crèche. She is “taken out” and “dusted off” once a year, and placed next to the infant Jesus only to be “boxed up” again when the season has ended without much consideration until the next Christmas.

The Holy Father reminds us that Mary’s role as mother of Jesus did not end with His nativity. Just as the Incarnation has implications that go beyond the infancy of Jesus, so too  does Mary’s Motherhood extend beyond the stable at Bethlehem:

“…Christ counts for us not only through his work, through what he did, but above all through what he was and what he is in the entirety of his person. He counts for us differently from any other man because he is not merely man. He counts because in him earth and heaven touch, and thus in him God for us is tangible as man. The Church Fathers called Mary the holy earth from which he was formed as man. And the miracle is that God in Christ forever remains in union with the earth. Augustine expressed the same thought once as follows: Christ did not want a human father in order to make visible his sonship to God, but he wanted a human mother.

“'He wanted to take up the male sex in himself and give distinction to the female sex by honoring his mother…If Christ had appeared as man without regard for the female sex, women would have to despair of it. However he honored both, recommended both, assumed both. He is born of the woman. Men, do not despair! Christ saw fit to become a man. Women, do not despair! Christ saw fit to be born of woman. Both sexes work together for salvation. Come the male or come the female, in the faith there is neither man nor woman.'

“Let us express it a bit differently. In the drama of salvation it is not the case that Mary had a part to play before exiting the stage like an actor who has said his lines and departs. The Incarnation from woman is not a role that is completed after a short time; rather, it is the abiding being of God with the earth, with men, with us who are earth.”

Mary should not “exit the stage” when Christmas is over. She should not be packed up with the tree and the stockings, the garland and lights. These objects are used by us to celebrate the holy event of God-made-flesh; they are removed at the proper time. But Mary is not used in this way – she is an active participant not a passive symbol. God became flesh through the Virgin Mary and through her He raised up mankind. This is a fact that should be celebrated year-round, as indeed Catholics do. We should pray that all Christian find such a place for Mary long after the Christmas season has ended.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sunday Mass Readings

December 19, 2010
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Reading 1

Is 7:10-14

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (7c and 10b) Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.

The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.

Reading 2
Rom 1:1-7

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,

called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,
which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh,
but established as Son of God in power
according to the Spirit of holiness
through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mt 1:18-24

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.

When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

Friday, December 17, 2010

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...
What About Santa? - "Do you teach your kids that Santa is real? Or do you worry that such tales might interfere with their understanding of the real meaning of Christmas?"

Is the Abbreviation “Xmas” Really a Secular Slight of Christmas? Or is it Something Else? - Generally speaking I avoid the term today even though, due to my training, it does not bother me. Tactically speaking I also avoid it due to the fact that we need to unambiguously announce Jesus and “X” just doesn’t do that anymore.

Why we need the Catholic League - Archbishop Dolan: "Bill Donohue hardly needs me to defend him.  He’s well-able to do it himself, and has a lot of experience doing so.  But, he’s stood up for a lot of us before, and I am glad to express my encouragement for the work he does." See also this article.

Do You Renounce Kennedy and All His Works? - "The issue is no longer (as it was for Pope Leo XIII) whether the state should provide a basic 'safety net' to catch the unlucky victims of market vagaries. No, the modern Left wants a comprehensive nanny state that wipes every snotty nose, gives 'time outs' for every insensitive remark, and nudges every citizen toward healthy, tolerant behavior productive of the maximum long-term pleasure."

The Beginning of the End for Obamacare? - "On what basis did the Obama administration and the Congress believe they could use the force of law (IRS enforcement) to compel U.S. citizens to purchase a service, in this case health insurance, against their will? More specific, where in the Constitution is Congress given that kind of power? The answer to that question, given by Judge Hudson, is a blunt, 'nowhere.'"

“The Big Cover” of Government Solutions - "It is a deleterious slab of a 'solution' that suffocates us unless we adapt to it, and in truth make ourselves rather uncomfortable in order to accommodate it..."

Shadowing an Exorcist - "Exorcism was central to what Jesus was trying to do in his public ministry. There was spiritual warfare in the early Church, and it has been passed on to priests today who are now exorcists."

Bearing Better Witness - "Is emotional commitment between two adults what the state should care about in marriage? What should a state that does not establish any religion understand marriage to be? I think the answer is clear. The state must promote the best setting in which to nurture the next generation of wholesome citizens."

The Ethics of Profit, the Profit of Ethics - "We ought to celebrate the free market, the drive for profitability and the quest for efficiency. We ought to acknowledge and thank those business enterprises that do business the right way and realize the financial reward."

What Are We Missing? - "It’s easy to get caught up in the mainstream ideas of what’s important but the fact remains that as Christians we are called to go against the mainstream.Our children are on loan to us from God.  Are we doing what He would want us to for them to get to Heaven?"

The Joys of Boys - "I have to admit that there's a refreshing simplicity about the way that most boys handle conflicts...If they need to, they fight."

Abortion and the Occult: A Glimpse Inside Life at a Death Mill - "Seidman described her mother’s abortion clinic as 'pervaded with occult imagery and practices.' ...Seidman’s story aligns strongly with the experience of Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, an exorcist and former president of Human Life International, who has spoken for years on abortion’s connection to the occult."

The ACLU’s Not-So-Holy Trinity - "The ACLU seems unusually active right now. Maybe it’s the Christmas season, which seems to make the ACLU more miserable than usual."

CNN Clearly Hates Half the Country - "CNN has officially lost its mind. OK. That may have happened a long time ago but this is just too ridiculous."

Please give me some of that ol' time religion! - "I have seriously considered becoming Orthodox as of late..."

Fr.Paul, Fried Chicken and the Immaculate Conception  - Note: This post is a little old since the Immaculate Conception was celebrated on December 8, but I couldn't pass up this quote: "We believe in the Immaculate Conception because the Pope tells us to. Pass the fried chicken."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas People

As Christmas approaches I thought I would share a passage from the book Images of Hope: Meditations on Major Feasts, by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). In this excerpt, the future Holy Father highlights for us the humility of God in the Incarnation, and also how fitting it is that God’s Son should take the form of a child:
“…God truly became ‘Emmanuel,’ God with us. No barrier of majesty or distance divides us from him. He has drawn so near to us as a child that we unabashedly address him familiarly and can have direct, personal access to the child’s heart.

“In the child Jesus, the defenselessness of God is apparent. God comes without weapons, because he does not wish to conquer from the outside but desires to win and transform us from within. If anything can conquer man’s vainglory, his violence, his greed, it is the vulnerability of the child. God assumed this vulnerability in order to conquer us and lead us to himself.

“Meanwhile, let us not forget that the highest title of Jesus Christ is ‘the Son,’ Son of God. The divine dignity is designated by one word that shows Jesus as the eternal child. His being a child stands in a unique correspondence to his divinity, which is the dignity of the ‘Son.’ Thus his being a child gives direction, tells us how we can come to God, how we can come to divinization. It is in this respect that we are to understand his words: ‘Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 18:3).

“Whoever has not understood the mystery of Christmas has not understood what is decisive in being Christian. Whoever has not accepted this cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven…”

Earlier in the same text, Cardinal Ratzinger points out that the original feast of Christianity was not Christmas, but Easter. “For indeed it was the Resurrection that established Christian faith and let the Church come to be… Being a Christian means living from Easter, that is, from the Resurrection that is celebrated every week on Sunday.” Thus it is the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus that marks the beginning of the Catholic Church.

Yet Jesus’ birth (the celebration of Christmas) has great significance for us as well. Certainly Jesus tells us we must take up our cross and follow Him; that we must die to this life so that we might rise with Him to new life; we must conform our lives to the life and death of the adult Jesus. But He also says that we must become like children, we must have the faith of a child, and humble ourselves as He did in taking human form. We are sons and daughters of God as He is the Son of God and the son of Mary.

Certainly Christians are called to be an Easter people, but so too are we a Christmas people. Before the empty tomb there was a stable in Bethlehem. Before the cross there was the wood of the manger.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bearing Witness to Marriage

I just read a great article at First Things that makes the case in favor of heterosexual marriage. While the author is specifically addressing Evangelicals who are waffling on the issue of same-sex marriage, the overall substance of the argument in favor of traditional marriage is important for all of us (Catholic, Christian, or otherwise). I was very pleased to see that the author used exactly the same reasoning that I have employed in this debate. This is the type of logical, reasoned argument (appealing to natural law and common sense) that is needed on this issue. Below is an excerpt:
"Many Americans, including substantial numbers of evangelical youth, ask: How does granting a state marriage license to that 5 percent of the population that is gay hurt the 95 percent that is heterosexual? How can we deny the rights and privileges of marriage to gay people without violating the principles of justice, equality, and respect for individual freedom? Many Americans embrace the libertarian principle that we should maximize the freedom of each individual except where that harms others, and most believe that marriage is 'primarily a way in which two adults affirm their emotional commitment to one another,' as gay activist Andrew Sullivan has written.

"If that is the proper definition of marriage, it is indeed unfair for the state to deny that privilege to a few when it grants it to the majority. But everything depends on the definition. If marriage is not about bringing up children, but about how adults solemnize their emotional commitment to each other, gay marriage becomes plausible. Other relationships become plausible as well. Why should marriage be limited to two people, for example? In fact, in 2006, prominent pro-gay activists, including Gloria Steinem and professors at Yale and Columbia, urged the state to recognize polygamous marriages and relationships of multiple sex partners.

"Is emotional commitment between two adults what the state should care about in marriage? What should a state that does not establish any religion understand marriage to be? I think the answer is clear. The state must promote the best setting in which to nurture the next generation of wholesome citizens.

"In a fascinating article in the Public Interest called 'The Liberal Case Against Gay Marriage,' Susan Shell argues that the state’s central concern is to secure 'the relation between a child and a particular set of parents.' In marriage, Shell notes, 'A husband is, until otherwise proven, the acknowledged father of his wife’s offspring, with recognized rights and duties that may vary from society to society but always exist in some form. And a wife is a woman who can expect a certain specified sort of help from her husband in the raising of her offspring. All other functions of marriage borrow from or build upon this one.'

She asks: 'Can those who are not even potentially partners in reproduction, and who could never under any circumstances have been so, actually ‘marry’?' Her answer is no. Whatever else one may want to say positively about the emotional commitment of two men or two women to each other, it is simply not marriage. If the central concern of the state in marriage law is to secure a good relationship between a child and its biological parents, then by definition marriage can only involve a man and a woman.

"Other things being equal, it is better for children to grow up with their biological parents. Marriage to the mother is by far the best way to ensure responsible fatherhood. When not married to the mother, few men are effective fathers. As far as the state is concerned, the first concern of marriage law must be to protect the interests of children and thereby create an ongoing, stable, wholesome social order."
The piece is titled "Bearing Better Witness," and the author is Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action and professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy at Palmer Seminary at Eastern University. Read the whole article here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sunday Mass Readings

December 12, 2010
Third Sunday of Advent

Reading 1
Is 35:1-6a, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10.

R. (cf. Is 35:4) Lord, come and save us.
R. Alleluia.
The LORD God keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Lord, come and save us.
R. Alleluia.
The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.
R. Lord, come and save us.
R. Alleluia.
The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.
R. Lord, come and save us.
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2
Jas 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,
that you may not be judged.
Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.
Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

Mt 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...
Immaculate Conception - "I understand how non-Catholics may not see or accept the Biblical basis for Catholic beliefs, but what I don't get is how they miss the lack of Biblical support for some of their foundational beliefs and the amazingly weird Biblical interpretations some in their own ranks hold to with utmost sincerity."

Delivered From All Stain - "The Catholic answer to the objection that the doctrine is not found in Scripture is that some things the Church teaches can only be found in the Bible by looking backward from what the Church knows in other ways."

Who Crushes Satan's Head in Genesis 3:15? (Mary or Jesus?) - Historically, there has been a debate over how to translate this verse and render it from the Hebrew. The debate centers on whether God says 'he' shall crush Satan's head or whether 'she' shall crush Satan's head.

The Immaculate Conception - Patristic as well as Biblical sources for the doctrine

Saint Nicholas Punches Heretics  in the Face!!! - "During the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325), Arius was called upon to defend his position on the inferiority of Christ. Saint Nicholas just couldn't listen to all of Arius' nonsense and so he stood up and laid in to Arius with his fist."

St. Nicholas Day and Boy Bishops - "On December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas of Myra, it was common throughout England and on the Continent during the Middle Ages that a Boy Bishop would be chosen at the monasteries and cathedral schools from among the boys in the choir or school."

First the Fast, Then the Feast - "So before the Prince of Peace can usher in a season of tranquility and refreshment, the forerunner must come with his stern message of warfare.  The enemies of peace will not just lie down of their own accord.  They must be put down.  Peace is a fruit of victory."

America Gets Its 1st Approved Apparition! - "The apparition took place in 1859 in what is now the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin."

How Market Economies Really Work - "What is related to the gospel is freedom and virtue. A market, properly understood, is part of a decentralized economy that allows people to take initiative in providing for their own needs and those of others."

The Left's Unjust "Justice" - "America should be a paragon of equal opportunity, not a place where the hefty hand of government robs the fruits of one person’s labor to give to another."

Democracy is rooted in Christian thought, Pope reminds theologians - "...a society that does not understand the philosophical foundations of its own basic beliefs is in jeopardy."

St. Francis Xavier and the necessity of baptism for salvation - "Baptism is the great means of regeneration, who are we to spurn it and search for our own path to eternal life?"

“No Believing Humans Were Interviewed in the Production of this Humanist Ad” – Part two of a Reflection on the Humanist Ad Campaign

Haley: Obama might let S.C. opt out of health care - "Haley says she told Obama that South Carolina could not afford the health care mandate, and that it would cripple small businesses. "

Certainty and Uncertainty - "This is the true reason why Catholics need certainties--because they provide the map for the journey and the machine by which we fly."

Spiritual Dryness: Our Joy Is Not the End - "...this is why the Eucharist is such a perfect way to encounter God: we get all of him, his full self, and our feelings about it are a completely optional part of the package."

Hmmm...who knew that "Messiah" means "Mentor"? - Catholic actor Liam Neeson said he thinks the magical lion of C.S. Lewis' "The Chronicles of Narnia" series not only represents Christ but also symbolizes other great spiritual leaders.

Orlando, Florida: Cathedral of the Incarnation Votes in Favor of Anglican Ordinariate - "On Sunday, December 5, the parish voted to accept the invitation of the Holy Father and request admission to the Catholic Church through the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is often confused with the Feast of the Annunciation, which is when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son whom she would name Jesus. Today’s feast however celebrates not Jesus’ conception, but rather Mary, His mother’s conception. Catholics believe that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin. This means that Mary was in a state of perfect grace from the moment of her conception. Her soul was without blemish, just as Adam and Eve were before the Fall. She received this special gift to prepare her to be the Mother of God.

Many non-Catholic Christians reject this doctrine. They believe that it elevates Mary beyond what Scripture tells us. But common sense argues that the Immaculate Conception makes sense, given what we know about original sin.

Original sin is passed from parent to child – it is inherited. Because of humanity’s fall from grace (when our first parents disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree), we are all conceived with original sin, which damages our relationship with God. The stain of Adam and Eve’s sin is passed from parent to child, from one generation to the next. Because of original sin, we are all in need of salvation. We have inherited a damaged human nature that is prone to sin and unable to attain heaven on our own. There is nothing in our power that we can do to overcome this fallen state. Only an act of God can save us.

Mary was saved by just such an act of God. She was preserved from original sin so that she would be spotless, the perfect vessel for carrying God’s Son. The reason this was theologically necessary is quite simple. If Mary had possessed original sin, she would have passed it on to Jesus, her child. Jesus would then inherit a fallen human nature.

The Protestant rejection of Mary’s Immaculate Conception creates an embarrassing dilemma. If Mary herself was stained with original sin, then God would have had to “step in” at the moment of Jesus’ conception to "save” Him from original sin. Jesus would be in need of God’s grace to protect Him from damnation. But can you imagine a Savior in need of salvation, the Son of God in need of grace? This is obviously not a workable solution. If Jesus had been in need of salvation at the time of His conception, He could not be God.

In order for Jesus' divinity to not be in jeopardy, it must be that He inherited a perfect humanity from His mother. Therefore, it must be that Mary was spared through God's grace so that Jesus would be born
naturally without the stain of original sin.

It is important to note that this does not elevate Mary to the level of God. It was not an act of Mary that caused her to be spared. She owes her salvation to God, as we all do. Yet without this singular act of God’s grace bestowed on Mary the birth of God-made-man would have been a theological impossibility. Mary was spared from original sin so that Jesus (who is God) could be born without the need of salvation, and He could then offer himself unblemished as a sacrifice for us all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sunday's Mass Readings

December 5, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent

Reading 1
Is 11:1-10

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (cf. 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
he shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Reading 2
Rom 15:4-9

Brothers and sisters:
Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.
May the God of endurance and encouragement
grant you to think in harmony with one another,
in keeping with Christ Jesus,
that with one accord you may with one voice
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
for the glory of God.
For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised
to show God’s truthfulness,
to confirm the promises to the patriarchs,
but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written:
Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to your name.

Mt 3:1-12

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Friday, December 3, 2010

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...

"Social Justice" and the New Politics - "The phrase 'social justice,' when invoked by members of the Catholic left, is a euphemism for the agenda of the Democratic Party. ...[T]he Catholic left had invested a great deal in the success of the Democrats and in particular Barack Obama."

Pres. Obama’s speechwriter makes anti-Catholic joke - "At best this reveals a double-standard.  At worst this reveals gross anti-Catholicism."

The Real History of the Crusades - "At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense. "

Benedict's Vigil For Life - "The mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord…reveals to us, with intense light and in an amazing way, that every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity."

Contraception and Homosexuality: The Sterile Link of Separation - "The widespread practice of contraception is a major force behind the rapidly growing acceptance of homosexuality in western societies as a natural, sexual orientation. Bluntly stated, the justification for the one counts as the justification for the other."

Jonah Goldberg: This pope plays the right notes - "'We need more rocks in the river,' my dad explained. What he meant was that change comes so fast, in such a relentless torrent, that we need people and things that stand up to it and offer respite from the current."

Just in time for Advent - Another War on Christmas? - "In the spirit of Herod, the organization American Atheists has launched this new campaign aimed at putting an end to Christianity - claiming our faith is built on myth, using the word in its most common form." As a follow-up: Catholics Fire Back in Christmas Billboard Battle

In 'The War on Christmas,' Christmas is winning - "When your advertising has trees and ornaments and gift wrapping, you're advertising Christmas, so don't call it holiday."

Where’s the Human in Humanism? Humanist Ads Violate their Own Humanist Standards - "I am not sure what part of the human person they think faith resides in but they surely do not think it can be in the intellect. But of course faith IS a way of knowing. "
Obamacare: No Severibility Clause Means Entire Law Could Fall! - "[L]egislators...put a 'severability clause' into legislation, so that if part of a law is found unconstitutional, the rest of it can remain in effect.  But Obamacare has no such clause."

A Funeral of Sorts ... every Sunday for the next year - "a passing of Mass texts that will never be heard again."

Why I Want To Be "Left Behind": How Rapturists Misread Jesus' Words - according to the standard rapturist interpretation, when Jesus says, "one is taken and one is left," he is teaching that the righteous one will be "raptured" while the wicked, unbelieving heathens will be "left behind."
On a Strange and Horrible Biblical Story and the Bad Memory of God - We too do well to consider the rapid descent into evil of our culture as we have increasingly and collectively rejected the true faith.

The Origin of Ave Maria -  "The results of this research tell an untold story of one of the central and most powerful prayers of Christianity in the Middle Ages, still widely uttered in the Catholic Church today."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On Relativism, Then and Now

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, now that the weather has cooled off and I find myself indoors with fewer chores to do. One of the latest books I’ve read was originally published in 1929 but was recently re-published by Ignatius Press in 2008. Entitled One Lord, One Faith, the author, Vernon Johnson, tells of his personal struggles (both spiritual and intellectual) as an Anglican priest converting to Catholicism. I was particularly struck by some passages that could easily apply to our own time even though they were written generations ago. Consider this description of cultural challenges faced by the author in his priestly ministry:

“Another thing that began to perplex me in dealing with souls was the need of something to counteract that slavery to the prevailing fashion of the moment which fetters so many who wish to make the pace with their own special circle. Life today is so very much a series of passing crazes. The latest stunt or fashion victimizes everyone. People must be original. Their lives become a perpetual pose, and in their pursuit of the latest thing they are never themselves. Such a life is all one rush. There is no time for thought, but just a superficial movement which is taken for progress. Real personal life is being lost. This is clearly seen in the break-up of the English home.” [Emphasis added]

The author describes here what he calls the “slavery to the prevailing fashion.” The whims of society are constantly shifting and each person must adapt or be left behind - “Their lives become a perpetual pose, and in their pursuit of the latest thing they are never themselves.”family. As the culture transforms, values change and moral norms shift, with each passing phase we are caught up in this destructive cycle. Institutions that were once anchors of stability in people’s lives crumble. The author specifically points out the damage done to

This “slavery to the prevailing fashion” sounds rather like what Pope Benedict describes as the “dictatorship of relativism.”  The constantly shifting whims of society, the rejection of absolute Truth, the lack of moral certainty, are even more a sickness of our culture today as they were then. Vernon Johnson applies this malaise to his former church as well:

“All this is reflected in the Anglican Church. She is very much the victim of the age at any given moment. In her anxiety to meet the difficulties of the modern mind she is too ready to embrace and give voice to the ideas and theories prevailing at the moment, and to give them an importance which is not really justified. The latest scheme for social betterment, the latest theories in psychology, the latest results of biblical criticism, are preached upon in pulpits, written about in magazines, and discussed at meetings in a way which obscures the great fundamental truths of the Christian religion.

“The result is that the Anglican Church presents the character of a debating society discussing open questions rather than of a teacher of eternal truths divinely revealed for the guidance of the spiritual and moral life of the world.” [Emphasis added]

In this way Anglicanism (and Protestantism in general) is unable to put forth a solid defense against Relativism, which is the greatest threat to Christianity in our time. Instead of certaintyTruth, Protestant Christians are mixed up in a confusion of debated opinion and pet theories with no way to decipher true doctrine. The great fundamental truths of the Christian religion are indeed obscured. and

“I became more and more conscious of the deadly effect of that vague uncertainty with which the Anglican Church surrounds her children, till I became finally convinced that it was entirely contrary to the revealed will of Our Blessed Lord. It does not lead to truth but to a terrible uncertainty and to a real paralysis of faith. Poor human nature needs above everything else a guide which can lift it above the vagaries of the human mind and above the flood of momentary passion. And the Catholic Church alone can do this.”

As Pope Benedict warns us, Relativism is attacking the culture at large, and Christianity is not immune to this assault. As far back as the 1920’s Protestant Churches began to succumb to its lure. At that time the Catholic Church was recognized as a bulwark against the changing whims of society. Vernon Johnson was drawn to Catholicism in part because she is a lone voice standing up for Truth in a shifting culture. How much more today can it be said that the Catholic Church is the surest defense against the attack of relativistic thought.

With the issuing of “Anglicanorum Coetibus” in October of 2009, and the creation of the Anglican Ordinariate we are sure to see more good priests and other Christian souls (like the Vernon Johnsons of our time) fleeing the sinking ship of Anglicanism for the safety of Rome.