Friday, September 30, 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...

Why the Liturgical Reform? - "The Council’s reform was genuinely needed. But the errors resulting from misinterpretation of the Council were very serious, indeed, and these errors led to divisions within the Church."

Unintended Consequences: Hurting When You Think You're Helping - "I doubt that many people seriously disagree that feeding the hungry and clothing the naked are worthy objectives. A lot of the policies we enact in the name of these goals have unintended and positively counterproductive consequences."

Is It Wrong for Christians to Own Mansions? - "When someone is willing to use his means to let others experience the best of the created world, he can bless people in a way that those of us with less money can’t. And, though it might not be as noble as Mother Teresa in the streets of Calcutta, that’s a way of glorifying God too."

A Taste of Heaven - "Much of what passes as liturgical music today reflects the rhythms and beats present in secular music that we hear every single day, instead of immersing us in the sacredness and reverence of the Mass.  Maybe the lyrics have been changed, but the overall flavor of pop music remains. "

Can the Catholic Church Ordain Female Deacons? - "Proponents of women's ordination to the diaconate pit themselves against the Apostles' clear instructions in Acts 6:3, St. Paul's description of the qualifications needed to become a deacon in 1 Timothy 3, and the explicit teaching of the First Council of Nicea."

Peter Kreeft: Twelve things to know about angels - "We don't see pure spirits, and we can't imagine them. That doesn't mean we can't know or understand them."
7 Things You Need to Know about the Torah - [In honor of Rosh HaShanah] "This is an old post I wrote about the Torah, which I’m republishing here again today..."

The Growing Aversion to Abortion - "The news that the abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years elicits various explanations, from increased use of contraceptives to lack of access to abortion clinics. But maybe the chief reason is that the great majority of Americans, even many who see themselves as pro-choice, are deeply uncomfortable with it."

What Every Catholic needs to know about funerals - "The funeral Mass is a final opportunity to commend the deceased to God’s mercy, and that’s why it must be done with reverence."

Be Awesome - "We're not just anyone, we're Catholics! What we do reflects our Church, and our Church is the only sane thing left in the world! Strive for excellence then,  glorify God by using every drop of talent He's given you..."

4 Guidelines for Catholic Awesomeness - "I’ve found that the four simple rules below act as a safeguard to prevent too much worldliness from creeping into the creative process..."

Good Writing Is Not a Luxury - "It’s very important for Catholics to learn how to write.  At least, if they are going to write, they need to learn how to do it competently.  People form their opinions of our faith based, at least in part, on what they see online—and that means the written word..."

Student Punished for Christian Faith - "...he told the student behind him that he was a Christian and that he believed being a homosexual was wrong... Upon hearing what had taken place and what Dakota had said, the assistant principal gave Dakota a two day suspension from school."

Supreme Court Battle Over Pro-Abortion Obamacare Set for 2012 - "The U.S. Supreme Court appears to be the location for the final battle next summer over the legality of Obamacare, the government-run health care scheme that pro-life groups opposed because it allows abortion funding and prompts rationing concerns."

Peter Seewald describes Pope's visit to Germany as "a small miracle" - "They said the Germans would turn their backs on him and all kinds of other stupidities. There appears to be nothing more offensive in our times than being Catholic."

Three nuggets from pope's Germany trip - "Benedict XVI warned Germans in advance not to expect a 'spectacle' or 'sensations' from his third homecoming but first official state visit, and the four-day swing seemed to deliver on those expectations."

John the Baptist and the Canon of Scripture

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quote of the Week

"To materialists this world is opaque like a curtain; nothing can be seen through it. A mountain is just a mountain, a sunset just a sunset; but to poets, artists, and saints, the world is transparent like a window pane - it tells of something beyond...a mountain tells of the Power of God, the sunset of His Beauty, and the snowflake of His Purity."
- Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week...

Over at the blog Roma locuta est there has been an ongoing series of posts pertaining to the new translation of the Roman Missal. The scope and depth of this series is far beyond anything I could present here, but I would urge anyone who has the time and the interest to check out this page, which compiles all of the posts in the series. It is an ongoing endeavor, so check back periodically for updates.

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I read this on someone's Facebook page:

"In the Bible Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossiper, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Zaccheus was short, Abraham was old, and Lazarus was dead.... God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called!"

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A non-Catholic friend recently asked me: Why does the Catholic Church have nuns? Where did that idea come from?

My reply:

From the earliest times Christians have always held in high honor those who committed themselves to a life of virginity and dedication to serving God. Paul wrote that he wished more people would take up the unmarried lifestyle (as he did) so that they can dedicate themselves to God more fully. Paul wrote: “I would that all men were even as myself; but every one hath his proper gift from God .... But I say to the unmarried and to the widows, it is good for them if they so continue, even as I.” (1 Corinthians 7:7-8) He goes on to point out that people who get married are wrapped up in concerns for worldly things, for their family, for their work, trying to get ahead in the world, etc. But those who are not married can give themselves more completely to God, they are dedicated more fully to the Lord because they have cut their ties to earthly concerns (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

So there has always been a sense that some Christians are called to a different lifestyle which sets them apart from worldly living. Both men and women answer this call. By the late 200’s A.D. men and women who chose to live celibate lifestyles and who dedicated themselves to prayer and doing good works, began living in communities and organizing into groups. Often they were forced out into the desert when Christians were being persecuted and there they formed monasteries and convents as we know them today. They established rules to govern these communities and each member took vows promising obedience to the leadership of the community.

So “nuns” have always been a part of the Church, in some form or fashion.

Perhaps another question might be: Since the early Church had men and women who dedicated themselves to God in this way, why does your church NOT have nuns?

Friday, September 23, 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... 

Fracture since the Second Vatican Council. Are we creating a New Tower of Babel? - "...the new translation is to be accompanied by catechesis on re-sacralising the liturgy - reverence and paying attention to the rubrics is something we are supposed to have been doing with the old missal but many people didn't bother." 

Why Obama is in Danger of Losing the Catholic Vote in 2012 - "...we’ll need all hands on deck to keep Catholics in the column of the candidate and party that best represents Catholic social teaching on foundational issues as life, marriage, family, subsidiarity, and religious freedom in 2012." 

Next Election, Don’t Count on the Seniors - "...the mainstream media utterly abandoned whatever responsibilities to the public trust to which it still felt obliged, tossed presumptive-nominee Hillary Clinton aside and—rejecting any-and-all discomfiting questions about his experience, background, past-operations, education, friendships or capabilities—hoisted candidate Barack Obama upon their shoulders and carried him into the White House in triumph."
Why I Was a Pro-Choice Vegetarian - "When I began researching Catholicism, one of the many things that immediately resonated as true was the Church’s teaching on the dignity of man. This idea that every single one of us has dignity—a dignity that exists simply by virtue of being human, regardless of our of size, intelligence, consciousness, or any other observable traits—was like an articulation of a truth that had been written on my heart all along."
Catholic Orthodoxy is Not Bigotry: A Response to the Hate-Filled Comments Received by a Catholic Blogger - "So much for the 'tolerance' of many of our interlocutors. And yet it is we who are called hateful, bigoted, phobic and so forth."
This statement is not bigotry: Public displays of homosexual affection should be illegal - "While it is certainly possible that some might disagree with the claim that homosexuality is immoral and harmful to society, that is a point which can be debated; but is anyone so narrow-minded as to think that one who questions the morality of homosexuality is therefore a hate-filled 'bigot'?"

What Mormons can teach Catholics about online evangelization - "Stephen Allen, head of the Mormons’ missionary department, explained in a recent Washington Post article that, 'If we don’t show up in the top 10 results on Google, we don’t exist.' The same holds true for Catholics. If we’re missing from search results — or if the results are antagonistic toward Catholicism — then we’re losing out."

Why Virginity Matters - "I’m sure there are all sorts of deep theological reasons for the virgin designation so commonly seen after the names of the saints...but it strikes me that one of the practical benefits of the practice is that it’s a reminder that people can have good lives—great, history-making, God-glorifying lives, in fact—without ever having sex."

Did Mary Write the Bible?  - "Practically, the fact that an entire portion of Scripture is indebted to the witness of Mary should demonstrate her central role in the life of the early Church."

Study reveals many "Da Vinci Code" fans are irrational, illogical, and scared of death - "...contra the 'wisdom' of the day, religious adherents are more open to logic, arguments, and facts than are non-religious folks.

Padre Pio on Hell - "Padre Pio was asked what he thought about modern people who didn't believe in hell. 'They'll believe in hell when they get there.' he replied."

New Translation - It is not a good idea to shield children from difficult words. Better that they know them and are fascinated by them and then learn more about them as they grow older.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen credited with baby's stunning recovery - "Bonnie held her motionless baby for a few brief moments before he was quickly taken away for CPR while an ambulance was called."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quote of the Week

"[T]here are many other things which most properly can keep me in [the Catholic Church’s] bosom. The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15–17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called ‘Catholic,’ when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house"
- Saint Augustine - Against the Letter of Mani Called "The Foundation" 4:5 [A.D. 397]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week... 

I read recently an interesting thought concerning the perceived tension between religion and science. Among other things the author pointed out that religion and science are both seeking Truth, and so there can be no real conflict between authentic religion and authentic science. One cannot pass judgement on the other, for truth cannot contradict truth, faith and science must always be in harmony. To paraphrase the author's words: We cannot judge Truth; Truth judges us.

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Just under 7 weeks until the introduction of the new Mass translation! My only question is, when will missals be available in stores?
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I have continued to make frequent use of Latin in my private devotions, and I strongly encourage others to take up the practice. Praying in this ancient language of the Church has many spiritual benefits, of which I have written here before. With that in mind, I am considering creating a permanent page on this blog with some of the basic Catholic prayers in English and Latin as a quick reference for those interesting in praying in the language of the Church. I will experiment with the layout for this page and post more here if anything comes to fruition.

Friday, September 16, 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...

The Cosmopolitan Conservative - "...liberalism has become insular and narrow-minded. It lacks the capacity for the generous appreciation of other points of view needed in a pluralistic society. That capacity is more likely to be found today among conservatives, particularly religious conservatives." 
Forgiveness at Mass - "...I become irritated with the concept of Mass as fellowship meal being made the main image of understanding the Mass. It's not. It's a secondary image. The primary understanding of the Mass is now, and always has been, a re-presentation of the cross of Christ."

Judgement day has come for Lefebvrians and the Vatican - "The Holy See considers the acceptance of the document as an essential condition for full communion, which would also provide for a legal settlement for the Fraternity founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, probably through the constitution of a similar ordinariate to the one expected for the Anglicans."

Society of St. Pius X Has Meeting at the Vatican: Presented Statement of Principles - "...if all goes well, the likely status of the Society of St. Pius X would be a personal prelature - a Church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives. At present, the only personal prelature in the Church is Opus Dei."

Revisiting External Markers of Our Faith - "As one of my friends tells me, we’re too much into 'Catholic lite.'  And it’s backfiring, I’m afraid.  I hear our Catholics tell me, “We don’t want Catholic lite; we want to be 'lights to the world!'"
Jobs Act Usurps Liberty, Christian Charity - "If one relies on government programs to help the poor, how can one be blamed for asserting 'I gave at the office' rather than ponying up at the Salvation Army drum or the church collection basket, or buying a Christmas goose for the laid-off father of the family at the end of the block?"

Faith and Work, Politics and Jobs - "The faith in government evident here is really just astonishing. Politicians promising jobs is just another example of making grandiose promises that they can’t hope to fulfill. It’s really just telling us what we want to hear (or at least what they think we want to hear), rather than what we need to hear."

Of Atheists and Their Pretensions - "The interview below with Dr. David Berlinski from Peter Robinson’s Uncommon Knowledge represents for me one of those great moments when one can revel in hearing someone much smarter than you agree with the reasonableness of your position."

“Conscience” in a Culture without Truths? - "We are flying an important banner when we unfurl the cause of 'conscience,' but we are flying that banner in a culture that no longer understands us as we understand ourselves. Most people around us think we are simply invoking intense, personal beliefs when we invoke claims of conscience on abortion."

Funding the Couch Bum - "It was kind of like the moment when mom and dad realize that their son’s college friend, who’s been crashing on the couch for the last eight months, can afford an iPhone, a motorcycle, and a $70 pair of jeans, but somehow never manages to scrape up enough cash to pitch in for the rent.  He smokes pot and brings home skeezy girlfriends, and they’re fairly sure he has fleas."

St. John Chrysostom with some…unusual advice - "...go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify your hand with the blow,"

Fragmented Liturgy - There are far too many different ways of celebrating the Mass within the Roman Rite. For the sake of its mission, it's time to restore unity in the Church.

The Massgoer's Guide To Full and Active Participation - [tongue-in-cheek look at what it takes to participate at Mass]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Liturgical Thoughts: Twisting the Mass

Most people are familiar with the game Twister: A plastic sheet, printed with a series of brightly colored circles, is spread out on the floor. Players take turns placing a hand or a foot on one of the circles as determined by spinning a wheel designed to randomly choose the next move for each participant. The object of the game is to see who can “twist” their body into an ever more complex configuration without collapsing onto the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, thus eliminating themselves from the game. As with any game, Twister can be great fun in an appropriate setting. The Catholic Mass is not such a venue.

Now, to be fair, I have not yet seen the colorful Twister mat laid out on the floor of any Catholic parish, but I have seen some dreadful contortions and bizarre body knots undertaken in the middle of Mass that would surely win the aforementioned game. I refer to the practice of holding hands during the Our Father.

Hand-holding during Mass seems to be a regional phenomenon (at least from my limited observation). I have been to Mass at various churches from Nebraska and Minnesota, to Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania and across New England. I have also talked to others who have attended Catholic parishes in regions where I have not. From what I can tell, holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer is most often encountered in the Midwest and South. So this is not a universally accepted practice. It is obviously a culturally influenced addition to the liturgy.

From what I have read and heard, Catholic hand-holding began in the folksy 1970s, when guitar Masses and the Protestant-izing of the Church was in full swing after Vatican II. During this time many unofficial changes and experimentations were done to the Liturgy (with or without approval from Rome or local bishops). I gather that the practice in question was a grassroots movement, primarily a spontaneous act of the people, but perhaps also encouraged by certain priests or “liturgists” as the movement gained ground. Today there are even hand-holding circles on the altar, with the priest in the middle and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and servers flanking him.

But the real show to watch is the people in the seats. Arms stretch out across pews, one hand behind the back, across the aisle, over the shoulder…one foot on red, the other on blue, and spin the wheel for the next challenge. Can you hold that position until the concluding doxology?

What irritates me most about this practice is not the hand-holding itself (although I personally am not a full-contact worshiper - I prefer to keep my hands and arms to myself), what really frustrates me is the broad assumption among these hand-holders that their practice is a required action within the liturgy. I have received more than one dirty look and snooty reaction from those to whom I have denied my hand during the Lord’s Prayer. They seem to believe that I am the one going against the rubrics. But the reality is that hand-holding during this point of the Mass is a distortion of the real purpose behind the Our Father. Hand-holding and the Our Father point to two different Christian concepts…

I have asked some of these hand-holding Christians why they choose to participate in this game of faux-Twister and they usually respond by saying that holding hands demonstrates our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ - the whole congregation linked together as one, (hands-across-America style). The problem is that the Our Father is not that sort of prayer. The words given to us by Jesus in the Our Father form a prayer of supplication. We are asking for things such as “daily bread” and for God to “deliver us from evil.” Sure we are united in our prayer request, but the words simply do not express that concept explicitly. A far better point of unity would be when we recite the Creed. It is at that point that we are praying a prayer of Christian unity – coming together in a verbal confession of faith. So the symbol of holding hands is misplaced within the Mass.

But besides that, the Liturgy already provides us a physical symbol of Christian unity in the Exchange of Peace. You can shake hands, hug, kiss, or offer any other tasteful symbol of unity at this point of the Mass, and the rubrics actually specifically call for such actions. Why introduce an unnecessary gesture into the wrong point of the Mass when the symbol is already present in the appropriate place.

And anyway, the hand-holding just looks plain silly. The congregation stretches into the aforementioned Twister positions; old ladies lose their balance; young kids are stretched out like rubber bands; people stand in the aisles trying to link up with the other side of the congregation, sometimes only able to grasp at fingertip. Is this really liturgically desirable? Does this add or subtract from the solemnity of the Mass? We all need to step back and really look at what this practice has produced.

The Church provides for us the liturgical rites and practices that shape proper Christian worship with the desire that we might worship as one Body. The Liturgy of the Mass is not ours to add to or subtract from as we please. It is not our place to manipulate the rites of the Mass for our own purposes. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is not “family game night” where we get to decide how we want to engage in each activity. I think it is time to roll up the Twister mats and put away our games.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Reprimand and rebuke should be accepted as healing remedies for vice and as conducive to good health. From this it is clear that those who pretend to be tolerant because they wish to flatter - those who thus fail to correct sinners - actually cause them to suffer supreme loss and plot the destruction of that life which is their true life."
- St. Basil the Great

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week...

During the September 11th commemorations this weekend I got to hear again the lyrics of some of the later verses of America the Beautiful. Obviously, the first verse has the words "God shed His grace on thee," but the religious references continue throughout. I was particularly struck by the words: "Confirm thy soul in self-control," in the second stanza. In this age of instant gratification and self-centeredness, at a time when people want all of the pleasure in life without the pain and none of the consequences, this lyric should tell us something about the true fabric of American identity... as it once was. Maybe during these times when we remember the sacrifice of others we can examine our own lives and see where we might benefit from a little more self-control.

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A woman who attends church with us allows her 7-year-old son to wonder up and down the aisles during the sign of peace, shaking everyone's hand as quickly as he can before the opening notes of the Angus Dei. Usually he is still tromping back to his seat from the furthest reaches of the church while everyone else is focused on the Blessed Sacrament and preparing to receive Communion, stopping as he goes, expecting a handshake long after the sign of peace has ended. Needless to say, this presents a bit of distraction.

I recently heard the mother remark, "Some people may think that it's inappropriate for him to run around like that in church, but I see the smiles on people's faces and I just know that it's OK."

Now I do believe that the Mass should bring us joy. Awaiting the reception of the Eucharist might certainly bring a smile to our faces. But that is not the same thing as being distracted by an amusing romp from a seven-year-old during a solemn moment of the liturgy. Is it really "OK" just because it makes people smile? There are any number of things we might do at Mass that would bring a smile to people's faces, but the question is: Are those things appropriate? Are we shifting the focus away from Christ just to get an emotional reaction?

If we just want to make people smile, we could have a comedian do a five minute stand-up routine just before Communion. That would bring a smile to people's faces. We could have the priest wear a clown costume and floppy shoes. We could do many things that bring a smile to people's faces, but the liturgy is not ours to manipulate. Making people smile by distracting them from the Eucharist is not a valid excuse to allow your children to wonder through the aisles unattended.

My wife and I have three young kids. We know that they can be disruptive at Mass, but we try to teach them how to behave appropriately in that setting. We set certain limitations. Obviously there will be occasional outbursts, and misbehavior. I don't mind that ( fact, I expect it). When that happens, we do what is necessary to correct the situation and then hope that they do better next time. People around us are very understanding when our kids misbehave. They usually smile a "knowing" smile and get a little chuckle. It is puzzling to me that a parent would use such a smile from a stranger as a valid excuse to allow (and even encourage!) their child to continue the disturbance.

"...I see the smiles on people's faces and I just know that it's OK." - Well, no, actually it's not.

Friday, September 9, 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...

Why we celebrate Mary's birth - "Of course, the Mother of God was sanctified before her birth – indeed, she was wholly preserved from original sin. Thus, she was holy in her birth in a pre-eminent manner...

The frightening duty of fraternal correction - "The practice of fraternal correction, encouraging and admonishing those around us when they fall into sin, is a harrowing experience. This Christian duty has often been neglected and even disparaged in our individualist culture where we risk being told to ‘mind our own business’."

UK Launches New English Translation - It seems to go off without a hitch... Listening to the new translations has had a more powerful effect upon me than reading them has had."

The Mass: The Gift of the Father - "We have received a gift that explains ultimately what we are. We will not concoct something better. In the meantime, we are asked to keep the reality, the memory, of what the Last Supper is, with its leading to the Crucifixion and our redemption before us."

Are the Four Gospels Historically Verifiable? (Arguments in Favor)  - "There is literally no other literary work that has this much early testimony to support it. The writings of Cicero and Caesar do not even come close - to say nothing of Plato and especially Homer."

In Contraceptive Culture, Women Can Never Rest - "The Church totally called this one. Back in 1968 Pope Paul VI made four predictions about what would happen when the world accepted contraception, and in one of them he stops just short of naming toddler thongs and octogenarian breast implants specifically."
Things That Have No Right To Exist - "I do expose my kids, when they’re ready, to ideas that are contrary to what we believe. On the other hand, one essential way to make them ready is to instill a deep, visceral, emotional loyalty to the ideas which are true (such as: there is a God, the Church is not evil or repressive, and Tolkein could kick Philip Pullman’s bony atheist hinder without even putting his pipe down)."

An Imperial Presidency Revealed - "The National Labor Relations Board's power grab is not limited to Boeing. It's also claiming authority over St. Xavier University, saying that the school doesn't qualify for the religious exemption to NLRB's authority because St. Xavier is not Catholic enough."

New Philly Archbishop... - "'If they don't believe what the church teaches, they're not really Catholic,' Chaput told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday, two days before his installation at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul."

New Cathedral for Raleigh, North Carolina - "For those who don't follow the ins and outs of ecclesiastical architecture very closely, it's worth reiterating: this is a big, big deal. ...[T]his is the first time in our lifetime that a bishop has engaged a specialist in traditional to design and build a new cathedral."

Mel Gibson to make movie about the Maccabees... - "Mel Gibson And Joe Eszterhas To Collaborate On Film Telling Jewish Hero Judah Maccabee Story For Warner Bros."

The Anti-Catholic's Guide to Catholic Comboxes - [Funny...only because it hits so close to the mark.]

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation...

With summer coming to an end, and school in full swing, I thought I would post a few pictures from our vacation...

For many Americans, summer vacation is a time to unwind, relax, and travel. Possible destinations are endless. Disney World and other commercial resorts are at the top of some families' dream vacation lists. Then there are the usual natural wonders: the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, countless beaches, and mountain getaways. Or you could visit national landmarks and historic sites: Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge, Washington D. C. All of these are fine choices. Some of them I have been to myself and enjoyed them immensely. But there are other possible destinations scattered throughout the country that provide an opportunity to incorporate our Catholic faith directly into our vacation plans.

As Catholic parents, my wife and I always plan ahead when we are traveling so that we are near a Catholic Church on Sunday to attend Mass. Indeed it is our obligation as Catholics to do so. But beyond this minimum obligation we Catholics can also enjoy some wonderful and historic pilgrimage sites all across the nation while traveling to vacation spots. Certainly Sunday Mass attendance is a must for our own spiritual benefit, but we can also enjoy many spiritual blessings by taking a brief pilgrimage to various shrines, monasteries, chapels, cathedrals and basilicas while traveling.

With that in mind, our family made two such pilgrimages this summer in connection with our trip to Niagara Falls, NY: Our Lady of Victory Basilica Shrine in Lackawanna, NY; and Our Lady of Fatima Basilica Shrine in Lewiston, NY. Both are within an hour or less drive from Niagara Falls. Both are minor basilicas and so have spiritual significance as pilgrimage sites. And both offer regular Mass schedules. The kids enjoyed seeing these religious sites as much as they enjoyed Niagara Falls, and they were absolutely free to tour (although donations are always appreciated). By incorporating these pilgrimage sites into our vacation plans we can teach our children the importance of bringing our faith with us wherever you go (...we never take a vacation from being Catholic.)
Below are some links to the websites of each of these basilicas, as well as some photos we took while on vacation...

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Of course, included in this trip was a visit to Niagara Falls. When visiting a natural wonder such as Niagara Falls, parents can use this too as an opportunity to point out the beauty of God's creation. It can become another pilgrimage of sorts. The grand churches and basilicas were built by man to give glory to God...the works of nature were created by God to show forth His own glory to man. Either way, vacations can be a great opportunity to connect with the divine.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by those who see us merely as consumers in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth." - Pope Benedict XVI; New Technologies, New Relationships

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week...

The Catholic Church is often criticized for two contradictory flaws: On one side we are attacked for our refusal to change. On the hot-button issues of the day the Catholic Church refuses to alter its teaching or to bend to the cultural whims of society. Yet on the other side we are accused of changing too much. There are those who say that the Catholic Church has manipulated the Gospel message and added doctrines that were not a part of the original Good News proclaimed by Jesus Christ. So which is it? Is the Church an archaic, unbending relic from the past; or is the Church a fabricator of false doctrines that inventor of beliefs irregardless of the teachings of Jesus?

The reality is that the Catholic Church remains steadfast in Truth. But we should not be surprised to find enemies on all sides in this broken world. The world first hated Jesus, and now it hates His Church. We will always stand accused of whatever the world deems most threatening to its refusal to do God’s Will.

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Looking forward to the new Mass translation! Check out this link for sample texts and other resources.

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Today is Labor Day. Except for the fact that my wife and I both have the day off from work and our kids are home from school, it is kind of a non-holiday for us. Just another government-mandated excuse to spend time with the family – which is great, don’t get me wrong; I do love the family time. But as I check out websites of other Christian (non-Catholic) churches I have come to realize that on days like this some Christians seem to take their cues from the secular calendar as opposed to any ecclesial/liturgical calendar.

Labor Day and other national holidays have a prominent role in some Christian churches’ celebrations. There is a nationalistic flair to many American denominations. They have Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, etc. celebrations, and these sometimes seem to overshadow the strictly religious holidays and feast days. By stressing these secular, American holidays they often neglect the global reality of the Christian message (not everyone is American; not every Christian celebrates these holidays). But worse, these secular holidays have little or nothing to do with Christianity at all. Really, the Church has no business occupying its time with planning liturgical celebrations that elevate secular holidays to the level of religious holy days. So, while I do enjoy these days off and I do recognize their value for society, I attach little religious significance to them and I wonder why so many Protestants fail to see the error of placing Caesar on a par with God.

Friday, September 2, 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...
Accepting Evangelization - "Be willing to suffer, but know that you in fact may not. Grace will conquer suffering and turn it into rejoicing. And that, dear fellow Catholics, will make you never want to give up or shut up!

Questioning the Questioners: Why Do You Not Honor Mary in Accordance With Scripture? - "We Catholics are always on the defensive, always in answer mode. But we ought to ask a few questions too."

Defrocked Episcopal priest hopes to join Catholic Church - "You almost never hear of Catholic priests being suspended for being too conservative — but that seems to happened with this Episcopalian from suburban Philadelphia."

The Christian Critic - "I’m a big meany. I’m a mean, mean, meany-pants, and I carry a cane with me at all times, in case I see some pretty flowers that need whacking. But, as Evelyn Waugh said, 'You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid, I would hardly be a human being.'"

Work and Natural Rights - "Unions, along with other associations, could bring the benefits of solidarity joined with love and charity, as members help one another in many ways.  But it was quite another matter when unions use their power to deny, to ordinary people, legitimate work they were willing to do."

Distributists Ignore the Lessons of History - "...distributist system is, if not totally impossible to implement, certainly a cure worse than the disease."

Lessons from Hurricane Irene - "[I]n recent history, the United States has over-federalized disaster response in a way that threatens the resiliency of the nation’s communities, according to a new report from The Heritage Foundation..."

Gay Marriage, Democracy, and the Courts - "The marriage culture, already wounded by widespread divorce, nonmarital cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing will fare no better than it has in those European societies that were in the vanguard of sexual 'enlightenment.' And the primary victims of a weakened marriage culture are always children and those in the poorest, most vulnerable sectors of society."
Far from being opposed to science, Catholicism is its best advocate and defence - "We should rejoice in men like Mgr Georges Lemaître, who are heroes of science and witnesses to the Church's devotion to reason and logic."

Stained Glass and the Book of Revelation - "...But stained glass also served another purpose, that of imaging the foundational walls of heaven. For, recall that traditional church architecture saw the church as an image of heaven."

Benedict XVI: on rediscovering the path of beauty - "Works of art are the fruit of human creativity, which question the visible reality, trying to discover its deep meaning and to communicate it through the language of shapes, colours, sounds."

New England’s European-Style Birth Dearth - "Basically, New England is trending the way of Western Europe. Ironically, this was the area that Europeans first settled, and now those European descendants are going the way of Europe."

Biden One-Child Policy Comment No Gaffe, Obama Admin Ignores It - "...the Vice President was clearly pandering to his Chinese hosts. It wasn’t ignorance and it wasn’t a gaffe. Biden wanted China’s communist leaders to know that he and the President he serves are more than willing to turn a blind eye to atrocities committed in the name of the one-child policy."

Planned Parenthood Abortion v. Adoption Referrals - "The new document the abortion organization posted shows Planned Parenthood provided prenatal services to merely 7,021 women and referred only 977 women for adoption services."

Washington Post Shows Bias Again in Coverage of Abortion - [Media bias - Nothing new about this...]

Answering Seventh Day Adventism - "It's not as if [Ellen] White was wrong on some minor details. She got the basic facts about the core doctrine of Adventism all wrong, and obviously so. It's long past time for Adventists to ditch Ellen White and come home to orthodox Christianity."
Atheist Brokeback Mountain Movie Bombs! - "This really just goes to show that atheists can make movies just as bad as Christians -and let’s face it there’s been some reeeeaaaallly bad Christian movies. But at least Christians make bad movies because they mean well, atheists don’t even have that excuse."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Liturgical Thoughts: The Use of Latin

In a previous post about liturgy I discussed the practice of facing “East,” ad orientem (with the priest’s back to the congregation so that all face one direction together during prayer), as opposed to the priest facing the people, versus populum. The post-Vatican II Mass is predominately celebrated versus populum. Indeed this change to the Mass is one of the most obvious alterations brought about after Vatican II. In my previous post, I argued in favor of a re-evaluation of this practice, and perhaps a re-evaluation of several other post-Vatican II changes to the Mass. Did we go too far, too fast?

Another distinct change after Vatican II is the use of the vernacular (the common language of the people) instead of Latin. At one time, Mass was said the world over in Latin. But today most Masses use the vernacular: in France it is said in French, in Germany it is in German, in Brazil it is Portuguese, and so on. This certainly makes the words of Mass more accessible to the people. It allows ease of understanding. However, just as we examined the possibility of turning again to the East at Mass, I would like to suggest a few benefits of taking up Latin (at least in a limited way) in the Liturgy of the Mass. Below I offer just a few ideas that come to mind:

1) God is a mystery
In changing from Latin to the vernacular, the intention was to make the Mass more understandable to the people. And this is certainly important. But because the Mass has so much to do with the mystery of God, there will always be much that is unknowable. We can only know so much, and then we are lost in the depths of mystery. There is no way to fully comprehend God’s infinite Being. Human words always fall short. Certainly God reveals Himself to us using the human words of the Scripture, but even in this divinely inspired revelation much of God remains hidden to our mortal minds. The use of Latin symbolically represents this idea of mystery. When the words of Mass are cloaked in a foreign tongue it points to the mystery of God. We pray the words without fully understanding, just as we pray to a God Whom we do not fully understand.

2) Being Christian requires effort
Jesus never promised that being His disciple would be easy. He said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” With that in mind, using Latin at Mass means that the people will be challenged to learn and say the correct responses; in other words, they will have to put forth more effort to follow along and participate in the liturgy. This means that the Mass will not come easy for the average lay person. But who ever said that the Mass is supposed to be “easy”? Perhaps if we were required to learn Latin for the Mass, we would also put out more effort in other areas of our religious life. If the Mass offers us the central Sacrament in the life of the Church, then the amount of effort we put into this Holy Sacrifice may translate into a greater effort in other areas.

3) At Mass we worship as one Church
While each individual parish celebrates their own unique Mass, these are really part of one Liturgical action that unites us all in one Body of Christ. Catholics are united as One Body because we participate in one Eucharistic action which began with Christ’s Passion and continues to be made present on the altar at every Mass. By using a common language (Latin) every Catholic uses the same words when participating in this mystery, and so the unity of the Body (the Church) is a tangible reality. We avoid any loss of meaning due to sloppy or incongruent translations, and we thus truly pray the same prayer of thanksgiving (eucharistia). The use of Latin unifies us even where distance may separate us.

4) It is a matter of tradition
While the use of Latin does not rise to the level of “Sacred Tradition” with a capitol “T” (equal to Scripture), it is an integral part of the Latin Rite dating back many centuries. Just as the Eastern Rites and the Orthodox Churches have their own linguistic patrimony, so too do Roman Catholics. With the introduction of the vernacular-only Mass that heritage was effectively tossed aside without a second thought. While it certainly may be pastorally wise to have some of the Mass in the language of the people (such as the readings and the homily and the prayers specific to a particular Sunday of Holy Day), at the very least, Latin might be retained for those parts of the Mass which do not change (such as the Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and especially the Eucharist Prayer itself). This would maintain a link to our liturgical past and keep us in solidarity with those Eastern Churches which have kept their historical liturgical languages intact.

5) Crossing cultural boundaries
When celebrating with Catholics from around the world, for instance at a papal Mass, World Youth Day, or at special conferences and symposiums, the use of Latin provides a common bond between Catholics who might otherwise not be able to worship together in any meaningful way. If Latin were more commonly used in everyday parish life, then large groups of Catholics from different countries would find it easy to worship together in the language of the Church. If their home Mass experience included the regular use of Latin, it would prepare them for these larger gatherings, and thus greater spiritual unity might be felt across international boundaries.

6)  The vernacular can cause divisions
Here in the United States, I have been to more than one parish where a Spanish Mass is offered for Hispanic immigrants who do not speak English. This arrangement points out the obvious fact that the “vernacular” is not the same for everyone…even within the same parish. Special accommodations have to be made when non-English members join in any large number. The result is usually a division within the parish between the two language groups. Sadly, the two groups seldom mingle. When they are thrown together in an effort to build bridges and instill greater congregational unity, the result is usually an awkward bilingual Mass, in which half of the parish feels left out for half of the time as the two sides take turns with different parts of the Liturgy. It is not only ineffective, it is also sloppy liturgy. If Latin were used as a common language, the two sides might find a common form of worship that would draw them closer together and present a more proper liturgical celebration.

7) Latin prevents certain abuses
In the vernacular a priest often feels comfortable playing around with different wording and phrasing of the parts of the Mass. In other words, he may “ad lib” or omit certain parts freely in his own mother-tongue. Sometimes this is quite by accident, or through laziness, but sometimes it is through a conscious effort on his part to insert his own personality into the printed text. This is strictly forbidden, but it happens nonetheless. The use of Latin curbs this tendency dramatically. Only those priests who are fluent in Latin could possibly ad lib their own version of the prayers, and chances are that those who are fluent in Latin are traditional priests who would never dream of such a violation of the rubrics. In this way, Latin would give us a Mass that is much freer of liturgical abuses.

This is in no way a complete list of all the reasons to re-introduce Latin into the New Order of Mass. But it does give a few of the main reasons that come to my mind upon brief reflection. I do use Latin in my own personal prayer life and it has only served to enrich my spiritual experience. This is something I plan to write more about in the future. But I will end here with one final thought: The documents of Vatican II did not call for the wholesale abandonment of Latin in the Mass. The Council Fathers only recommended the prudential introduction of the vernacular where pastoral reasons suggested it would benefit the people spiritually. I think it wise that we revisit the use of Latin in the Mass and see whether our pastoral needs have truly been met by removing Latin entirely from the Liturgy of the Church.