Friday, May 27, 2011

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...

Little by Little, the Tide Is Turning - "Most of you probably heard of the Gallup Poll released yesterday that showed that 61% of Americans want all, or most abortions, to be declared illegal."

Historic Gallup Poll: Majority of U.S. Supports Gay Marriage  - [Given the news about abortion (see article above) this statistic is indeed sad.]

Awesome! Pro-lifers Take Over NARAL Site - "And here's the thing -as much fun as it is just to mess with them it's also about the fact that you never know who's going to look at it. You never know if your message is going to be the one to turn a heart around."

T-minus six months and counting to the revised Roman Missal! - "Have you begun to prepare for the changes coming Nov. 27, the first Sunday in Advent? Here are some simple ways to welcome the revisions."

Germans present Pope Benedict with his own papal crown - "...from my personal view I would be very happy if we had a Pope who was crowned again like a king or a queen of any other country..."
Church of England tied in knots over allowing gay men to become bishops - [This is why we have the Ordinariate...]

14 Steps to a More Self-Centered Church - [Great satirical piece on just about everything that's gone wrong with the post-Vatican II Mass.]

Advocates press Archbishop Sheen sainthood cause at Vatican - "The canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen moved a step closer today as the official document outlining his cause – known as a 'positio' - was presented to Pope Benedict XVI."
POLL: Nearly 1/3 of Russians believe historic division of Christians to be a mistake - "The Russian news agency Interfax reports today on a recent religion survey that may offer new reasons for hope that there can somehow be a reunion between the Catholic Church and (at least) the Russian Orthodox Church."

Rome's New UGLY John Paul II Statue - "The placement of the statue outside Rome’s main train station—the Termini—is particularly unfortunate, because it ensures a large number of people will see the thing."
Catholic scholar dismantles May 21 Judgment Day claims - [I know this is old news...but this is a great opportunity to provide a lesson on Catholic teaching regarding End Times.]

Endtimes, Millennium, Rapture - "As Cardinal Ratzinger recently pointed out (in the context of the message of Fátima), we are not at the end of the world. In fact, the Second Coming (understood as the physical return of Christ) cannot occur until the full number of the Gentiles are converted, followed by 'all Israel.'" 

Rapture Theology’s Ominous Origins  - "Regardless of whom one regards as the originator of the teaching — whether Ribera, Lacunza, Irving, Darby, or Margaret MacDonald – one thing is obvious; the 'rapture' theory is of recent heterodox origin, has no basis in Scripture, the Fathers, is mentioned nowhere in antiquity, nor was it ever a teaching of the Christ, or His Apostles."

The Rapture and the Latin Vulgate - "We Catholics don't believe in the rapture. The "rapture" is a term created by 19th century Protestant dispensationalists who held that God would 'rapture' all faithful Christians from the earth before the tribulation period of the Antichrist."

Raptured or Not? A Catholic Understanding  - "Will Catholics be raptured? No, of course not, but then neither will be anyone else."

Rev. Sirico: Change thinking on poverty - "Vast amounts of state aid and governments imposing endless regulations are not the way to solve global poverty; rather it will be done through trade, private enterprise and helping populations in poor countries to contribute to their own prosperity."

Boehner’s Critics Misrepresent Catholic Social Teaching - "Catholic social teaching stresses a “preferential option for the poor,” but addressing the problems of poverty involves a heavy dose of prudential judgment. The social encyclicals make clear that the Church offers no political or economic program, that within Catholic orthodoxy many different approaches may be undertaken to achieve the principles and moral teachings that are set out."
'Til Debt Do Us Part - "As predicted, the American government this week reached its $14.3 trillion debt limit...One thing’s for certain: There’ll be no fixing this without significant discomfort on everyone’s part.  The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can get to work fixing this problem." 
Mother of Aerosmith Singer Steven Tyler’s Aborted Baby Now Pro-Life - [This is a follow-up to a piece I posted a week or two ago.]

An Anti-Israel President - [This was the man who received the Nobel Peace Prize?]

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: The Sacraments: A Continuing Encounter with Christ

The "seven holy signs of God's grace"

The year 1976 saw the publication of a book entitled The Teaching of Christ, which presents a thorough overview of the Catholic faith. Several editions of this work have been printed over the years. It has been translated into more than thirteen languages and distributed around the world. The Teaching of Christ has inspired many conversions to the Catholic religion, and has served to deepen and strengthen the faith of those who are already members of the Church. Thirty-five years later, Our Sunday Visitor, the publisher of The Teaching of Christ, has selected and published material from this larger work focusing specifically on the seven Sacraments and presented it in a smaller volume entitled The Sacraments: A Continuing Encounter with Christ.

The arrangement of this book would function well in a classroom or study-group setting. There are individual chapters devoted to each the seven Sacraments, with an introductory chapter on Liturgy. The text of each chapter is further divided into brief sections conveniently labeled with multiple headings and subheadings for easy reference. The entire book is just over 150 pages – just enough space to adequately introduce someone to basic Catholic sacramental theology without overwhelming those who are new to the subject. Scattered throughout are sidebars that serve to clarify terms or to flesh out certain ideas and to give additional background information. While the format is very much like a school text book, the authors avoid the clunky, utilitarian feel that this format can sometimes yield. It is a surprisingly enjoyable read.

My only complaint (if I can call it a “complaint”) is that I did not have access to the larger work from which this book was excerpted. This volume gives the reader a glimpse at why The Teaching of Christ has endured for so many years as a source of inspiration and education in the faith. The writing style is both faith-filled and informative, touching both the heart and the mind - just as the Catholic faith itself does. Reading The Sacraments proved to be a more spiritually rewarding experience than one might expect from a book that at first glance seems like a condensed text book. I can only assume that the full text of The Teaching of Christ contains more of the same solid and inspirational writing.

This smaller book would be ideal for use in a group study on the Sacraments aimed at adult or high school level participants. The material is presented in a simple, easy-to-read style. However it does require at least a basic working knowledge of some theological and technical terms, (though many of these terms are clarified within the text). The Sacraments: A Continuing Encounter with Christ provides a solid, well written introduction to the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. If one is searching for a treatment of other areas of the Catholic faith (perhaps a candidate enrolled in RCIA wanting a complete review of Catholic teaching) the more comprehensive The Teaching of Christ might prove to be a better choice. But as a mini Catechism of the Sacrament this would serve well in a group or for personal use. I would definitely loan this book to those interested in deepening their understanding of the Sacraments without delving into a more complex theological treatise.

As Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl notes in the introduction, the Sacraments are the most visible, outward signs of what it means to be Catholic. They are the tangible realities in which we encounter Christ. When we think of Catholicism, we think of the Mass, of Baptism, of the Liturgical celebrations of the Church. We are introduced to Christ and His Church through the Sacramental signs, words, gestures, and symbols, and these become for us the reality of Christ Himself present to us in the physical world. How fitting it is then that this book, The Sacraments: A Continuing Encounter with Christ, provides an introduction to the larger work, The Teaching of Christ, just as the Sacraments themselves open up to us the reality of the Church. It becomes a point of contact, a doorway through which we may pass to a broader understanding of the faith. With updated references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and ample lists of additional materials for further reading, The Sacraments provides a wonderful foundation on which to build a continuing encounter with Christ.

[This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Sacraments: A Continuing Encounter with Christ. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.]

Friday, May 20, 2011

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...
Holding Hands During the Our Father, and Other Liturgical (or Not So Liturgical) Calamities - "What I find out there sometimes sets my blood boiling, and at best leaves me scratching my head, and at its worst, leaves me poorly disposed to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist."

Solemn Pontifical Mass at the Altar of the Chair, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome - Mass in Latin said for the first time in decades at St. Peter's in Rome

Sola Scriptura and the Authorship of the Gospels - " the extent Evangelicals reject the Church Fathers, they're cutting of the branch on which they're sitting. Without the Fathers, you can't say who wrote the Gospels, or whether the Gospels were considered orthodox by the early Christians, or whether they were considered inspired Scripture."
Serfs of the State Welfare Plantation - " the hands of some Catholics, Catholic social thought has been reduced to another argument for what Blessed John Paul II criticized, in the 1991 social encyclical Centesimus Annus, as the Social Assistance State—what Americans more familiarly call the Nanny State."
Speaker of the House Delivers Address on Humility, Patience, Faith - "Commencement speeches should be about sharing a little wisdom. Here you have the most basic and essential. Delivered with not just talk of humility, but a demonstration of it — in speaking of the source of real power, in speaking of one of his own political falls."

An exchange of letters on the House budget between Paul Ryan and Archbishop Dolan - "Ryan is a Catholic, and the author of the House GOP budget. Dolan is the current president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the former Milwaukee archbishop."
Breaking Stained Glass Windows - "When the Church teaches that we must offer a “preferential option” for the poor, does she really mean that, in every case where a person wants something funded by someone else who has more money, the former should get it? That is what some Catholic writers seem to think."
Is Multiculturalism Just Another Form of Multiculturalism? - "...historically western culture has produced the highest standard of living, had the most stable economies, produced the most just and equitable forms of democratic government, has a rich deposit of learning, and brought forth a great expression of the dignity of the individual."

The Other Gay Marriage Debate - "I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the demand for gay marriage has followed closely on the heels of our culture’s widespread acceptance of contraception, and the radical re-thinking of the purpose of marriage and human sexuality that came with it."

What the Church Has Given the World - "Without the Roman Catholic Church there would be no Western Civilization."

The "experience of the heavenly liturgy has been lost since Vatican II."   - "Our current translations treat the liturgy basically as a tool for doing catechesis. That’s why our prayers so often sound utilitarian and didactic; often they have a kind of lowest-common-denominator type of feel."
Pope's 'reform of the reform' in liturgy to continue, cardinal says - "The pope's long-term aim is not simply to allow the old and new rites to coexist, but to move toward a "common rite" that is shaped by the mutual enrichment of the two Mass forms..."

Who Would Jesus Whip? - "Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans said that a local Catholic school must permanently ban corporal punishment for student misbehavior, even though many parents and alumni support the practice..."

Bishops of England and Wales Re-establish Fish of Fridays - "The decision will go into effect on September 16, the first anniversary of Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland and England."

The restoration of the Friday fast is a historic day for English and Welsh Catholics - "The bishops might now turn their attention to building on their achievement: what about restoring our midweek Holydays of Obligation?"

As new round of Anglican-Catholic talks begin, some question the purpose - "William Oddie, a former Anglican vicar and journalist from England who converted to the Catholic Church, says the problem with ARCIC is that only the Catholic side of the table represents a clear, collective viewpoint." 
The First Mass for Artists - Must see images of gorgeous church in New York. Surprisingly the breathtaking artwork is recent.
Inside story of Marian mosaic told on Bl. John Paul II's birthday - "After the assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, Vatican officials were evaluating the possibility of placing a plaque, or some visible sign, in St. Peter’s Square in the area where the Pope had been shot..."
Rome’s exorcist finding Bl. John Paul II effective against Satan - "I have asked the demon more than once, ‘Why are you so scared of John Paul II and I have had two different responses, both interesting."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Deconstructing Truth

It was announced last week that the Presbyterian Church U.SA. will allow the ordination of practicing homosexuals. (Read the details here.) Understandably this development has been met with mixed reviews from the average Presbyterian in the pew. Some are ecstatic that their denomination has taken this step toward greater inclusivity. Others are heartbroken that their spiritual leaders have voted against Biblical moral truth in favor of secular moral relativism.

Obviously as a faithful Catholic I am in solidarity with the latter group. It saddens me when any Christian denies the Word of God. Yet I am not surprised by this recent event. Presbyterianism (and Protestantism as a whole) is founded upon the deconstruction of Truth. For example, the principle of Sola Scriptura (Bible Alone) came about by rejecting Sacred Tradition. And Sola Fide (Faith Alone) came about by rejecting the merits of our Good Works. The entire Protestant form of Christianity is predicated on the idea that the Catholic Church had gotten it wrong and certain things needed to be removed from the faith in order to set things right. But once the idea of “removing” is adopted where does this end? Where do we draw the line? And in the end, if one of the things we “remove” is the authority of an infallible Church, then it is anybody’s guess what Truths will be protected. It will be left up to the whims of the people and pressures from outside like the pop culture.

And so, here we are, with active homosexuals joining the ranks of clergy in the Presbyterian Church. But this is only the latest in a long line of deconstructions given to us by Protestantism. Eventually they may deconstruct themselves entirely and see Protestantism for the failed experiment it has truly been.

Friday, May 13, 2011

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...

RELEASED: Instruction “Universae Ecclesiae” – the text and my initial observations - From Fr. Z's blog: "Here are some rapid points to help you read the document on your own.   The document is not so hard that it needs a great deal of interpretation.  But some points will need some extra light."

New Guidelines for Tridentine Mass - Ten Key Facts

Our Lady of Fatima - Feast Day May 13

10 Reasons Why Pro-Lifers Will Eventually Win - "#4 We are out-babying the other side. They think babies are a burden. We see them as gifts from God. Our numbers go up while their numbers go down."

Private Charity Versus Government Welfare - "Along with solidarity, Benedict — and indeed all of his predecessors who taught on human development and the justice of economic systems — insists on the principle of subsidiarity."

Does the Church Condemn Capitalism? - "Capitalism, like a handful of other words common in contemporary social and political discourse — rights, liberalism, and religion come to mind — has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people."

Minimum Wage's Discriminatory Effects - " demonstrates that increases in the minimum wage at both the state and federal level are partially to blame for the crisis in employment for minority young adults."

Boehner's Catholic Critics Rush to Defend Welfare State - "It appears then that these Catholic academicians who have written to Speaker Boehner do not understand the distinctions the Church herself makes between fundamental, non-negotiable dogmas and doctrines, and the prudential and debatable give and take when it comes to applying the principles of Catholic social teaching."

PCUSA Drops Sexuality Standard - "...the ambiguity introduced by this latest amendment will allow PCUSA bodies so wishing to ordain ministers, elders, and deacons involved in same-sex or opposite-sex relationships outside of marriage." See also: Presbyterians Welcome Gay Clergy
Our Father hand-holding - "I cannot see this hand holding stretch exercise as nothing but contrived sentimentalism which distracts us from the transcendent nature of God Almighty and the meaning of the petitions in the Our Father."

It's Never a Good Time to Have Kids - "Obviously, there are good reasons out there to avoid pregnancy, financial ones included. But what troubles me is this increasingly popular idea that there is such a thing as the perfect time to have a new baby. There’s not."

Better to Stay in a Bad Marriage? "...the children in stepfamilies were over twice as likely to be reported as having behavior problems compared to children living with their own married parents. The children in a cohabiting step arrangement [a mother living with her boyfriend] were almost three times as likely to have these problems."

Offering It Up - "Our enlightened era looks with skepticism on penance, and believes pain is valueless and must be instantly vanquished. Coupled with a prayer of surrender to the cross of Christ, however, they are enjoined to the power of creative and healing love. And then, penance, pain, prayer—it is all privilege."

Mitch Daniels: Words & Deeds - "Deeds matter.  Words matter.  We are used to politicians who promise everything and deliver nothing.  Governor Daniels seems to want to promise nothing but perhaps he might be the guy to deliver."

Life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful - "Joy is something different than happiness, and it’s a whole lot different than surface-level pleasure or physical comfort. It’s something divine in origin, not subject to the ups and downs of human emotions..."
Aquinas and Horses - "Wyoming Catholic College will celebrate its first commencement on May 14..." [I know a little bit about this college from some mailings I've received. It seems to be a topnotch Catholic institution. They deserve our support.]
‘Stop thinking of her as a person’: a page from Planned Parenthood’s dating playbook

Pastor Uses Jesus Parable to Defend Abortion - "Rev. Westfox would seem to be arguing that only in those cases where everything is perfect should we accept life into the world."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Defending the Speaker

Representative John Boehner of Ohio, Speaker of the House and a professed Catholic, has been selected to give the commencement address this year at the Catholic University of America in Washington D. C. In response to this honor bestowed upon Boehner, a letter has been issued, signed by Catholic college and university faculty from across the country, which states that Boehner's record as a legislator “is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings." Specifically the letter points to the Church's preferential option for the poor and Boehner's conservative stance on "social justice" issues.

This is a bold assertion given the tendency of these same 'Catholic' academics to ally themselves with the dark forces of the "culture of death" simply to advance their Statist agenda of ever-expanding bureaucracy. Many in prominent positions at Catholic institutions of higher learning are willing to support politicians who turn a blind eye to the killing of innocent babies in the womb and the destruction of family and marriage, as long as these elected officials will grow the size of government in the name of "social justice." How can they criticize Boehner (or anyone with such a solid record supporting Church teaching on these moral issues) when their own record is so deplorable?

In response to this letter of attack against the Speaker, Rev. Robert Sirico, the president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, writes succinctly concerning the difference between issues of "life and family"  and economic or "social justice" issues when it comes to judging a politician's record from a Catholic perspective:
"It appears then that these Catholic academicians who have written to Speaker Boehner do not understand the distinctions the Church herself makes between fundamental, non-negotiable dogmas and doctrines, and the prudential and debatable give and take when it comes to applying the principles of Catholic social teaching. Here Speaker Boehner need only consult the text of the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching, which the authors of the letter say they have delivered to him, wherein he will read: 'The Church’s Magisterium does not wish to exercise political power or eliminate the freedom of opinion of Catholics regarding contingent questions.' (no. 571)

"The specifics of the 2012 Budget proposed by the Speaker and his colleagues are, the letter’s authors contend, the result of either ignorance or 'dissent.'  I think they are neither; they simply reflect a different, and in many people’s estimation, more accurate and economically-informed way, of proposing how we achieve worthy goals. Indeed, it could be said that what these Catholic academicians are proposing is not a 'preferential option for the poor,' but rather a preferential option for the State. They make the unfortunately common error of assuming that concern for the economically weak and marginalized must somehow translate into (yet another) government program.

"That assumption is wrong, and flies in the face of another principle of Catholic social teaching — the principle of subsidarity. With good reason, this is something the Catholic Left — or whatever remains of it these days — rarely mentions or grapples with, because they know that it would raise many questions about the prudence of any number of welfare programs they support.

"Indeed, what strikes me about this letter to Speaker Boehner is how reactionary it is. Instead of seeking to contribute to a creative discussion about how we best meet the needs of the poor in a time of economic difficulty, its authors cannot even begin to contemplate that there may be better ways to address such problems than government welfare programs. For a group of people who, I suspect, pride themselves upon having 'progressive' views, their attachment to broken models from the past is rather perplexing and frankly, tiring."
Read the entire commentary by Rev. Sirico here.

See also this piece by Kathryn Lopez at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day and May Crownings

I realize that Mother’s Day has come and gone, but I thought I would post a quick thought about this holiday…

Mother’s Day is not a Christian holiday, which is to say, it is not a part of the Liturgical Calendar. At our parish we did hear a brief mention of Mother’s Day and the mothers in the congregation stood to receive a blessing, but otherwise the Mass was centered on the commemoration of the Third Sunday of Easter. The prayers and readings reflected this liturgical theme. This is as exactly as it should be. Our liturgical celebrations come from 2000 years of lived Christian Tradition, not from ideas borrowed from secular sources like Hallmark greeting cards.

That’s not to say that Mother’s Day should not be celebrated by Christians outside of the liturgy. As a family, we had a wonderful day enjoying the nice weather and making sure that ‘Mom’ received special treatment out of appreciation for all of her hard work.

But our family also marked the occasion in a particularly “Catholic” way by having our own May Crowning. May is traditionally a month dedicated to Mary. Usually on May 1 a statue of Mary is ceremoniously adorned with a crown or wreath of flowers signifying her status as Queen of Heaven. In the United States the May Crowning is often held on Mother’s Day to remind us of Mary’s special role as mother. As the mother of Jesus she is the spiritual mother of all Christians and thus Mother of the Church.

This is the first year that we held this event in our family, so it was very modest to say the least. Our son suggested that we say three Hail Mary’s (just like we do when beginning a rosary) and then place the crown on Mary’s head. And that was pretty much the entire ceremony. The “crown” was a simple wreath of silk flowers we wove together the day before. Perhaps next year we will research other activities we can do, more elaborate prayers, maybe some other customs we can incorporate into the day. Nonetheless, it was a great beginning to a family tradition.

Hopefully our May Crowning will prove to be a great example for our children, teaching them the importance of faith in everything they do. As we see other Christian denominations attempting to fit Mother’s Day (and for that matter, other secular holidays) artificially into their worship, we do well to realize an important truth. Rather than drag Mother’s Day into the Church and attempt to shape the faith around this secular observance, we should instead bring the faith into our secular culture and shape the world to the Truth taught in Christ. Certainly mothers should be celebrated. And the secular world should be applauded for doing so. But rather than push this secular observance into the Church, why not draw on our rich Christian heritage and Christianize what might otherwise be a secular holiday.

Friday, May 6, 2011

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...

John Paul is Blessed! - See video of Rite of elevation... Or watch this high-def video of entire Mass.

First images of John Paul II’s new tomb - Video: "John Paul II’s coffin is now in its final resting place in St Sebastian’s Chapel, inside St Peter’s Basilica."
Blessed John Paul II saved the Catholic Church from going the way of the Anglican Communion - "...secular scholars are unlikely to dwell on the heroic sanctity of the man, which led Pope Benedict XVI to beatify him in a ceremony attended by 1.5 million people. But what they may well say – irrespective of their point of view – is that John Paul II preserved the unity of the Catholic Church at a moment when it seemed likely to fracture."
On The Spiritual Attack of our Converts and What to Do About It - "It is sobering for me to consider how many of the people I have baptized quietly slipped away from the Church in the years that followed." 

Jesus' "Brothers" - "The perpetual virginity of Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been consistently taught from the early Christian era. Western and Eastern Catholicism, and the Orthodox, consider it a fixed doctrine. Even early Protestant reformers, including Luther and Calvin, asserted the doctrine as worthy of belief."
Pope insists that Bible’s truth is found in its totality - "[T]he Pope said clearer explanations about the Catholic position on the divine inspiration and truth of the Bible were important because some people seem to treat the Scriptures simply as literature while others believe that each line was dictated by the Holy Spirit and is literally true. Neither position is Catholic, the Pope said." 
Vatican gathering of bloggers hailed as a success - "Most bloggers in attendance seemed to feel that the Vatican was genuine when it said it didn’t want to control the Catholic blogosphere. There was also a general welcome for the Vatican’s own attempts to overhaul its online presence." 

Bad Liturgical News, Folks - "My problem is with the translators arrogantly deciding to make the changes on their own--as well as introducing other, apparently agenda-driven changes--into a liturgical text. This is the kind of stuff we've had to live with in English liturgical texts for a long time."

'And With Your Spirit': The Big Difference in a Little Phrase - "Cardinal George expressed his hope that this small change in wording will bring about a larger change in the way we experience the Mass... 'Our current translation might seem more personal and friendly, but that’s the problem.'"
Vatican Calls for Reflection After Bin Laden's Death - "Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said in a statement issued today that 'a Christian never takes pleasure from the fact of a man's death.'"

Justice for Bin Laden? - "[S]cholars stressed that the moral justification for killing a terrorist did not include a denial of his fundamental human dignity. The killing should provoke solemnity, not jubilation..."

Why There is no Conspiracy - "I'm already hearing of the conspiracy theories around Bin Laden's death...[but] It's the inconsistencies and contradictions that make it seem genuine."

The Great Lie: Pope Benedict XVI of Socialism - "History is strewn with intellectuals who imagined that they could save the world -- and created hell on earth as a result. The pope counts the socialists among them, and Karl Marx in particular." 

Paying Tribute to a Catholic Reagan - "Bess was married to Neil Reagan, Ronald Reagan’s brother, who was an accomplished advertising executive and who died in 1996."

Rocker Steven Tyler of Aerosmith Haunted by Girlfirend's Abortion - "At the heart of post-abortion healing is the cleansing of a wounded heart. The post-abortive parent must be free of shame, guilt, and grief before he or she can embrace the unborn child with love."

Fear of Hell? - "...when God asks us to do something good—to do something better than our original impulse—we do it not out of fear of punishment, but because we recognize that God is so good to us, so generous." 

Saints and Their Birth Order (Surprising) - [If we want more saints and more priests...then have more kids!]

Interesting Photo: Is Christ in this picture? (Pareidola)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Easter Warfare

With the Easter Season in full swing and the tough disciplines of Lent behind us, it is understandable that we are lulled into believing we can simply cruise through this easy time in our faith without much effort. Easter joy can blind us to the reality that Spiritual Warfare is all around us. We must remember that the devil is not on Spring Break and he does not observe an Easter Holiday. Our souls are still under attack as they were throughout Lent – perhaps more so.

This is especially true for those who were newly baptized and confirmed at the Easter Vigil. Like spiritual newborns, they are in need of our protection.  An article by Msgr. Charles Pope describes the situation:

“It is sobering for me to consider how many of the people I have baptized quietly slipped away from the Church in the years that followed. A couple of years ago I was looking at my notes from past Easter Vigils and gradually my mouth came open. For as I looked back over those notes going back fifteen years, I saw the names of many I had prepared for baptism and reception. But more than half were gone now. And of only a very few could I say, ‘Ah, they have moved and I know that they are in a parish there.’

“I was, frankly, stunned. Some of them had been intense, joyful and excited to be baptized and received. I remember the joy of those congregations gathered at the vigil as, one by one the catechumens went down into the water. ‘Alleluia!’ went forth the song, as each of them emerged from the font. And joy too was expressed for those received into full communion. And now half of them gone, quite certainly lapsed.

“I cannot find any hard data on line, but, I have talked to RCIA ‘experts’ who do work at a national level and they quietly affirm that, within five years, 50% of those who came through RCIA are no longer practicing the faith in any real way. I cannot show you the hard numbers, but I have personally found this to be true.”

These new converts who abandon the faith need our help. But before we assist them, we must be fully aware of what we are up against, as Msgr. Pope explains:

“[T]hey are likely under some level of spiritual attack. Demon, thy name is lethargy, thy name is boredom, thy name is sorrow and sloth, distraction and forgetfulness. Jesus warned:

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Mk 4:15-19)

“Yes, spiritual attack is real. So is the world and the flesh.

“I think, in the early days of RCIA we figured that those who entered in this way had a great advantage over “cradle Catholics,” for they had come to the faith as adults, and made a mature decision to follow Christ. Yes, they would remain firm. But we are waking up from that notion. We need to be more vigorous and sober in our assessment of what new and returning Catholics face. Satan is sure to make some moves on them…”

There are some who would deny that Christianity has anything to do with “warfare” – this type of imagery is frowned upon by Catholics who like to decorate their churches with pictures of rainbows and butterflies, and dislike talk about sin and hell and final judgment. But Spiritual Warfare is a reality and we are all combatants. Easter does not bring a ceasefire to this war, and the newly baptized are not neutral parties. Indeed they are prime targets for the Enemy. Do not allow your Easter celebration to cloud your spiritual judgment. The battle rages on and our new recruits need our prayers and encouragement.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Discovering a Saint

Pope John Paul II was beatified on May 1 and can now be referred to as Blessed John Paul II.

Blessed John Paul, pray for us!

Presumably the next step will be canonization as a Saint…and so his cause continues. The process undertaken by the Church in the cause for sainthood is fascinating but often misunderstood. (For brief description of the process click here.) But aside from the technical procedures involved - the number of miracles required, the review of the person’s writings, the testimony of friends and family - many non-Catholic Christians wonder how the Church can “make” saints at all. Isn’t that something only God can do? Why does the Church assume such power for itself?

I would like to briefly point out a distinction that is often overlooked. Saints are not “made” by the Church; they are “recognized” by the Church. Another way to look at this is to use an analogy from the realm of science and technology.

New scientific or technological advances are made in two ways: invention and discovery. In our quest for knowledge we may construct a more powerful telescope, a ship that travels to the stars, or a machine that processes information. When we use our skills and resources in this way, to make something that did not exist before, this is called invention. On the other hand, we may also find a planet that we never knew existed, realize a link between a disease and a particular gene in our DNA, or study the behavior of a newfound species. When we expand our knowledge about the world that exists around us this is called discovery.

The process for canonization of Saints is often misunderstood as a process similar to inventing – thus the “making” of saints. But this is not an accurate view. The Church does not have some formula or ritual that bestows sainthood on an individual. John Paul did not become a Saint through the power of the Church. The Church did not muster its resources to bestow sainthood on this man. Rather, God’s grace makes us saints. John Paul II is in heaven only through the power of God’s love and John Paul’s cooperation with that love. What the Church does in her process of canonization is more akin to what we would call discovery. The Church studies the facts, reviews the evidence, examines the clues and comes to a conclusion. The Church’s authority on this matter is bound by God’s will. It is a process of discovery. The Church does not make saints – only God can do that. The Church can only observe and take note what God has willed.

In John Paul II we have discovered a great man, a blessed man, and one day we may announce with surety of faith that we have discovered a true Saint.