Thursday, February 28, 2013

Catechism for the Year of Faith

Part of a continuing series.
A selected quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in honor of the Year of Faith (October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013)

599 Jesus' violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God's plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: "This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God." This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God.

601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of "the righteous one, my Servant" as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin. Citing a confession of faith that he himself had "received", St. Paul professes that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures." In particular Jesus' redemptive death fulfills Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering Servant. Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God's suffering Servant. After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.

603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned. But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God "did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all", so that we might be "reconciled to God by the death of his Son".

604 By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins." God "shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

610 Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve Apostles "on the night he was betrayed". On the eve of his Passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this Last Supper with the apostles into the memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: "This is my body which is given for you." "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

611 The Eucharist that Christ institutes at that moment will be the memorial of his sacrifice. Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them perpetuate it. By doing so, the Lord institutes his apostles as priests of the New Covenant: "For their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth."

613 Christ's death is both the Paschal sacrifice that accomplishes the definitive redemption of men, through "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world", and the sacrifice of the New Covenant, which restores man to communion with God by reconciling him to God through the "blood of the covenant, which was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins".

614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices. First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.

618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the "one mediator between God and men". But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, "the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery" is offered to all men. He calls his disciples to "take up [their] cross and follow [him]", for "Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps." In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.
Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.
624 "By the grace of God" Jesus tasted death "for every one". In his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only "die for our sins" but should also "taste death", experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead. The state of the dead Christ is the mystery of the tomb and the descent into hell. It is the mystery of Holy Saturday, when Christ, lying in the tomb, reveals God's great sabbath rest after the fulfillment of man's salvation, which brings peace to the whole universe.

627 Christ's death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for "it was not possible for death to hold him" and therefore "divine power preserved Christ's body from corruption." Both of these statements can be said of Christ: "He was cut off out of the land of the living", and "My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption." Jesus' Resurrection "on the third day" was the sign of this, also because bodily decay was held to begin on the fourth day after death.

630 During Christ's period in the tomb, his divine person continued to assume both his soul and his body, although they were separated from each other by death. For this reason the dead Christ's body "saw no corruption" (Acts 13:37).

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Quote of the Week

"I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one's life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own... I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God..."
- Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, February 22, 2013

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...

9 things you need to know about the "Chair of St. Peter" -  "Yes, there is a physical object known as 'the Chair of St. Peter.' It is housed at the Vatican, at the back of St. Peter's basilica. February 22 is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. And there is more to the story. Here are 9 things you need to know..."

The Dynamic Continuity of Benedict XVI and John Paul II - "Papal biographer George Weigel discusses how this pair of Popes has shepherded the Church into a new era of ‘Evangelical Catholicism.’"

Benedict and the Second Vatican Council: Calming the Storm - "Many of us were born post-Vatican II, but we all continue to live the Vatican II challenge in one way or another. In no way is the work of the Council complete, and much of the work up to now has been simply clarifying which Council is our source — the Council of the Fathers or the council of the media."

Benedict XVI: Reason’s Revolutionary - "...if there is one single thing that stands out in Benedict’s papacy, it’s this: his laser-like focus on the root-cause of the intellectual crisis that explains not only Western culture’s present wallowing in facile relativism ...but also the trauma that explains the violence and rage that continues to shake the Islamic world and which Islam seems incapable of resolving on its own terms. And that problem is one of reason."

How Changeable Is the Face of the Papacy? - "The ability of the papacy (and the Catholic Church) to adapt to the needs of every age, and yet maintain the unchanging faith revealed by Jesus Christ to the apostles is the Catholic Church's greatest strength, and this adaptability combined with permanence has only been possible because of the papacy."

An Unchanging Church - "The Catholic Church is a rock in a desert of shifting sands, an unchanging diamond in a sea of shattered glass. Her constancy is Her power; Her fidelity to Christ her strength. Let the Church be as She is, or cease to be."

Msgr. Ratzinger: My Brother’s Decision Was for the Good of the Church - "'He no longer has strength,' Msgr. Ratzinger observed. 'He is going through the natural process of aging, like I am as well.'"

Will Benedict Still Be ‘Pope’? - [I understand that he will revert back to being called Cardinal Ratzinger...but this piece does make a valid argument.]

Vatican says no to conspiracy theories over Papal resignation - "The Church has always been plagued with accusations of scandal throughout its history. Sadly, some of the scandals have been quite real, but many of them have simply been vicious stories concocted by enemies of the faith."

Catholic Left Braces for New Pope - "The Catholic Left will again be in a state of shock once the new pope is named. Having lost on virtually every issue that excites them—and nothing excites them more than sex—they are now bracing for more bad news."

What Popes Are For - [Ordinarily I shy away from posting anything from Huffington Post, but this guy is a solid Catholic writer from Catholic Vote.]

Has Benedict already chosen his successor? - "Speculation is rife as analysts predict who the next pope will be while analyzing changes both made and proposed by Benedict and their impact on who will be our next holy father." [Includes video]

Dolan.? The times and his contributions suggest it. - [An American Pope...Hmmmm. Maybe.] See also this piece: Cardinal Dolan…Pope?

Dear Media: Meet the First African Pope! - "With the imminent election of a new pope, we are sure to hear a lot of talk from liberal media personalities that the Catholic Church should elect 'the first African pope.' Well, good news! We already did."

How to Become Pope - "While most Catholics are likely to already be familiar with the process, my fellow Protestants will likely find this video on how the pope is selected to be helpful and informative."

10 things you need to know about Jesus' Transfiguration -  "The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent commemorates the mysterious event known as the Transfiguration. This event is hard to understand. Why did it happen? What did it mean?"

The Scientific Basis for Defending Life, Opposing Abortion - "We pro-lifers have no excuse to fail to understand or be able to explain exactly how and when human life begins from a scientific standpoint. If you believe that every human is worthy of protection, here’s your scientific basis for arguing that a new human life begins at the moment of fertilization and ought to be protected from that point."

Medical Examiner Confirms 33-Week Abortion Killed Young Woman - [This is just sad. She certainly needs our prayers.]

Legislators Behind Religious-Freedom Law Back Hobby Lobby - "Nearly a dozen U.S. lawmakers who supported a 1993 law protecting religious liberty have formally defended Hobby Lobby in its recent religious-freedom lawsuit."

G. K. Chesterton: It’s Not Gay, and It’s Not Marriage - "...Chesterton’s prophecy remains: We will not be able to destroy the family. We will merely destroy ourselves by disregarding the family."

Obama Administartion may ask the Supreme Court to overturn definition of marriage in California - "Some have interpreted Obama's call for gay rights during his Jan. 21 inaugural address as a signal that he now sees a federal role in redefining marriage."

On Two Compelling Legal Briefs that Challenge Same-Sex Marriage - "A mountain of friend-of-the-court briefs has landed in the hands of the Supreme Court, some of them utterly fascinating. Two of the briefs are notably interesting, one from Professor Robert George of Princeton and his talented young collaborators Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation and Sherif Girgis who is toiling on a law degree at Yale and a Ph.D in Philosophy at Princeton."

Controversial Priest’s Lawsuit Against LifeSiteNews Advances - [It makes me sad that men like this wear the collar.]

What Uncle Sam could learn from the Catholic Church - "Society does not necessarily mean government, although it doesn't exclude it either. It certainly didn't mean 'government' in Aquinas' time. The Christian church pioneered hospitals, outreach to the poor, and education for the masses long before governments decided to enter into those industries, even after they became industries."

“Hurry Up and Die:” Why No Babies Means No Future for Japan - "The economic consequences of declining fertility rates are no secret. Yet, telling people they should have more children these days is only slightly less popular than urging the elderly to 'hurry up and die.'"

6 Reasons Not to Say You're "Done" - "Just as the newlywed who feels sure that she wants 12 kids would be wise to scale back her family size discernment timeframe and take it year by year, so should those of us who feel ready for a break from childbearing think of ourselves as being done for now as opposed to being done, period. Here's why..."

Divorced Catholics and the Eucharist - "It is important to note that at issue here is not only a Catholic’s own personal, internal spiritual state, which might very well be known to him alone; but also his external, visible status in the Church, that may be known by other members of the faithful as well."

NBC declares war on Christians - [Yeah, no kidding. They aren't the only ones.]

Fr. Barron Comments on the Vampire Craze - [As usual, a great video commentary from a great priest.]

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Catechism for the Year of Faith

Part of a continuing series.

A selected quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in honor of the Year of Faith (October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013)

571 The Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God's saving plan was accomplished "once for all" by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.

576 In the eyes of many in Israel, Jesus seems to be acting against essential institutions of the Chosen People:
- submission to the whole of the Law in its written commandments and, for the Pharisees, in the interpretation of oral tradition; 
- the centrality of the Temple at Jerusalem as the holy place where God's presence dwells in a special way; 
- faith in the one God whose glory no man can share.
578 Jesus, Israel's Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all embracing detail - according to his own words, down to "the least of these commandments". He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly. On their own admission the Jews were never able to observe the Law in its entirety without violating the least of its precepts. This is why every year on the Day of Atonement the children of Israel ask God's forgiveness for their transgressions of the Law. The Law indeed makes up one inseparable whole, and St. James recalls, "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.

580 The perfect fulfillment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law in the person of the Son. In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but "upon the heart" of the Servant who becomes "a covenant to the people", because he will "faithfully bring forth justice". Jesus fulfills the Law to the point of taking upon himself "the curse of the Law" incurred by those who do not "abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them", for his death took place to redeem them "from the transgressions under the first covenant".

583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth. At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father's business. He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover. His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.

584 Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce. He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father: "You shall not make my Father's house a house of trade. His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'" After his Resurrection his apostles retained their reverence for the Temple.

586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church. He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God's definitive dwelling-place among men. Therefore his being put to bodily death presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: "The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father."

587 If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel's religious authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumbling-block for them.

588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves. Against those among them "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others", Jesus affirmed: "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.

589 Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God's own attitude toward them. He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet. But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand in consternation, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming as a man who made himself God's equal, or is speaking the truth and his person really does make present and reveal God's name.

590 Only the divine identity of Jesus' person can justify so absolute a claim as "He who is not with me is against me"; and his saying that there was in him "something greater than Jonah,. . . greater than Solomon", something "greater than the Temple"; his reminder that David had called the Messiah his Lord, and his affirmations, "Before Abraham was, I AM", and even "I and the Father are one."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Quote of the Week

“There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord's hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: 'The love of Christ urges us on' (2 Cor 5:14).” 
- Pope Benedict XVI

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Musings

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

Since Pope Benedict’s announcement of his resignation, many people have commented that this move is a sign of his deep humility…and they are exactly right. He is stepping away from a powerful position, relinquishing control of the most influential spiritual office on earth. Pope Benedict is not a power-hungry megalomaniac – despite what many of his detractors would claim. He is a humble man who loves the Church and wants what is best for her members, not his own ego.

But I would be careful how we play up this aspect of his resignation. Certainly it is a sign of humility. But we must also remember that his predecessor famously remained as pope through a long and debilitating illness, and in the end had the fourth longest reign of any pope in history. He did not give up the office of Peter; he did not resign as Benedict has…but that does not mean that John Paul was any less humble. Pope John Paul II allowed his illness and his human frailty to be on display to the world as he suffered in a very public way. That too requires a great amount of humility. But he showed us a different path than Benedict has chosen

So, both Benedict XVI and John Paul II showed us a way to live out the virtue of humility, but each in his own way. No two popes will choose to rule in exactly the same way, and no two pontificates will look exactly the same. With these two great popes in immediate succession, it is inevitable that comparisons will be made with the next pope. But the next Successor to Peter deserves his own time to find his own way to live out this calling. I pray that we give him that space and that he lives up to that challenge.

+        +        +

And now, just because I thought it was funny, and since Lent began last week...

Friday, February 15, 2013

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...

[Can you guess what dominated the news this week?]

Official Vatican Website: Pope Benedict's Announcement (with video): Declaratio, 11 February 2013

Highlights from the Week: Must Reads about B16 -  "...if you read anything about Pope Benedict over the weekend, these selections should be first on your list."

Vatican II & The Legacy Of Pope Benedict XVI - "Whether it was planned or not, the long pontificate of John Paul II and the relatively shorter one of Benedict XVI, worked in perfect tandem to bring forth what our retiring pope called 'the true Council…in all its spiritual strength.'"

Cardinal Dolan: Benedict's Papacy Highlighted His Pastoral, Scholarly, Holy Life - "The occasion of his resignation stands as an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world. Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict."

The Reluctant Pope - "...historians decades from now will take his pontificate seriously. It stands as an important step toward the restoration of order and orthodoxy within the Church after many years of scandal and foolishness."

A Godly Man in an Ungodly Age - "While he could not match the charisma of his predecessor, John Paul II, his has been a successful papacy. He restored some of the ancient beauty and majesty to the liturgy. He brought back to the fold separated Anglican brethren. The Church is making converts in sub-Saharan Africa. And in America, new traditionalist colleges and seminaries have begun to flourish."

There Were Clues Pointing to Pope Benedict's Decision - [I know I had read such things even two years ago.]

Habemus Ex-Papam? Benedict Gives New Life to Old Precedent - "‘The Holy Father is a realist,’ Cardinal Adam Maida explains about the Pope’s startling decision to step down."

Here are two articles I found that have a decidedly negative take on the pope's resignation. I am inclined to lean in  a more positive direction, but I think these authors do have valid concerns: Why it is Worth Worrying: On the Brink of a New Pontificate, and Resignation Aftermath: Pope as CEO?

And now a more positive take: The Catholic Church Can't Change "Even if we entertain the human possibility of a rogue pope, the reality is such a thing is currently sociologically impossible."

Pope Benedict XVI Resignation Announcement Reflection - "Although many questions will likely be answered in time, it is certainly safe to say that this resignation reflects a significant humility on the part of the pope."

Guest Opinion: Ken Blackwell on the Renunciation of Pope Benedict XVI - "In renouncing the power and the glory of the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI is clearly putting the life and mission of the Catholic Church and her 1.2 billion believers above his own earthly being."

Pope Benedict XVI's Last Public Mass - Homily Full Text - [Includes video]

Benedict Will Still Be There for Us - "It’s not as if he’s retiring to the Cayman Islands to avoid the taxman. He’s retiring to a monastery to give the rest of his days to prayer — for us. For you and me."

Goodby, Papa - "I suppose this is our little via dolorosa, with the jeering crowds lining the street on both sides.  These tough, ancient men can keep on walking, and so can we."

Sancte Petre, Ora Pro Eo! - "The challenge of the Petrine service is for the successor to St. Peter to always discern what the Lord is asking Peter to do in this time and place. "

Act of God? Lightning Strikes St. Peter's Dome - [This is just one of those silly things that made its way around the internet shortly after Pope Benedict announced his decision to step down...but I found it interesting.]

Pope Never “Joined” Hitler Youth - [A lot of these accusations were flying around at the time of his election, not they are resurfacing. See also my Monday Musings from this week.]

The Death of the Spirit of (Pre-)Vatican II? - "It seems to me that 50 years after the Council, we see how this Virtual Council is breaking down, getting lost and the true Council is emerging with all its spiritual strength."

Why Now? - "Any one else noticing an extra excitement in the air this Ash Wednesday?"

9 Things You Need to Know About Lent - "This week the liturgical season of Lent begins. Here are nine things you need to know about it..." See also: 9 Things You Need to Know About Ash Wednesday

6 Liturgical No-No's During Lent -  "Like other liturgical seasons, Lent has its own special rules, and there are certain things that should not be done in Lent. Here are 6 of them..."

The Crystal Carafe and the Coffee Cup - "Dorothy Day did something constructive that reminded everyone at the Mass she attended, including the celebrant, that Christ's Real Presence among us sanctifies and sets apart as holy all that comes into contact with it."

Archbishop Chaput: Obama HHS Mandate “Insulting, Dangerous” - "The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services refused on Jan. 20 to broaden the exception to its mandate that nearly all Catholic employers must cover contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization in their health-care plans."

Figure That 98% of Catholic Women Use Birth Control Debunked - "Abortion advocates and the White House are using a misleading figure to defend the new mandate the Obama administration put in place that requires insurance companies to offer birth control drugs that may cause abortions at no cost." [I'm sure it's high, but it's not that high.]

America’s Looming Demographic Disaster - "America, we need more people. People who can work, create, pro-create, educate, learn, and carry us into the next few centuries. We must burgeon or we will break."

Ex-Abortion Worker: “I Saw My Lost Child in Jars of Aborted Baby Parts” - [Gruesome...but powerful testimonies. Must read. And a great piece to share with those on the fence about abortion.]

Five Questions with George Weigel - [How can you go wrong with that? ...I only wish the interview had been conducted AFTER the pope's announcement.]

Tolkien, Mozart, Plato, Latin, Phonetics, Music, the Cosmos, and everything else that has to do with Gregorian Chant - "To assume that any style of music, so long as the lyrical content is religious, is appropriate for the Mass is to deny that music has objective meaning apart from the intentions of the author and performers."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Catechism for the Year of Faith

Part of a continuing series.

A selected quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in honor of the Year of Faith (October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013)

[Before we go into the text, I would like to note that this selection of quotes contains both a reference to Lent as well as a mention of Peter's primacy. Interesting coincidence considering that we have witnessed this week the beginning of Lent and also the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. This was unplanned on my part, but an interesting coincidence nonetheless.] 

535 Jesus' public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan. John preaches "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins". A crowd of sinners - tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. "Then Jesus appears." The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, "This is my beloved Son." This is the manifestation ("Epiphany") of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

537 Through Baptism the Christian is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Spirit so as to become the Father's beloved son in the Son and "walk in newness of life":
Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him.
 Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father's voice, we become sons of God.
538 The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by John. Driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus remains there for forty days without eating; he lives among wild beasts, and angels minister to him. At the end of this time Satan tempts him three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves him "until an opportune time".

539 The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel's vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil's conqueror: he "binds the strong man" to take back his plunder. Jesus' victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.

540 Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning." By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

545 Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father's boundless mercy for them and the vast "joy in heaven over one sinner who repents". The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life "for the forgiveness of sins".

546 Jesus' invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to "know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven". For those who stay "outside", everything remains enigmatic.

547 Jesus accompanies his words with many "mighty works and wonders and signs", which manifest that the kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah.

548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him. To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask. So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father's works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. But his miracles can also be occasions for "offense"; they are not intended to satisfy people's curiosity or desire for magic. Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.

551 From the beginning of his public life Jesus chose certain men, twelve in number, to be with him and to participate in his mission. He gives the Twelve a share in his authority and 'sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal." They remain associated for ever with Christ's kingdom, for through them he directs the Church:
As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Our Lord then declared to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." Christ, the "living Stone", thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.

553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep." The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgements, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.

554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master "began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised." Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he. In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus' Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain, before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus' face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking "of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem". A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Musings

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

OK... maybe not so "random." I mean really, there's just one thing on the mind of Catholics today. As I am sure everyone already knows, Pope Benedict will be stepping down as Supreme Pontiff at the end of February. God bless Pope Benedict XVI as he moves on to the next phase of his journey here on earth. And may God bless the Church as she awaits the guidance of the next successor to Peter.

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So I had an interesting (and frustrating) conversation on Facebook with a friend of a friend concerning Pope Benedict's forced participation in the Nazi youth organization when he was a young man in Germany. The man with whom I discussed this matter said the following (I'll call him 'Bob' - though that is not his real name):

Bob: He is a Nazi. I am surprised how the media is running with the story, as if the Pope is the world's christian leader. The only coverage the Baptist get is about Westboro Church, as if we all act that way.

It seems that Bob is  a Baptist who wishes that his church got more news coverage. Uh, well, Bob, that's not always such a great thing. Have you seen the coverage that Catholics get? Careful what you wish for. It's not as though the media is going to sugarcoat everything about the pope in the next few weeks.

Then someone else chimed in to comment on what Bob had said:

"I'm not a fan of his. I was RC and I did not embrace the direction the RC Church went in or his theological world view. He is not a Nazi, however. He was a teenager in seminary when he got drafted into the German Army. He was in the Hitler Youth as it was required of all German youth at the time. He deserted from the army and surrendered to the Allies and promptly went back to seminary. While I disagree with him on most things theological, I'd not call him a Nazi."

So then the conversation went as follows:

Me: Bob, I find it ironic that in one breath you call the pope a Nazi while at the same time complain that Baptists get unfair treatment in the media. As Mr. ____ pointed out above, the allegation that Pope Benedict is a Nazi is itself unfair and unfounded. So likewise is the idea that all Baptists are of the Westboro mindset. So let's all keep a fair mind in all of this.
Bob: Sorry, he was part of Hitler's Youth Army, not a Nazi. I had no idea there was a difference. I guess we can no longer call members of Al Qaida terrorists.
Me: In Nazi Germany young men and boys were required to join, sometimes being dragged against their a military draft. He was not a willing member. He deserted (as Mr. ____ said above) and turned himself in. He had no desire to be in the Nazi organization and was not a Nazi.
Bob:  No man is forced into being anything, you always have a choice. The Pope could have become a Martyr.
Me: You are correct that no man can be forced to be a either agree with the Party platform or you don't. They may drag you to the camp, force you to wear the uniform, and threaten your wellbeing, but they cannot force you to change your innermost beliefs. Joseph Ratzinger and those who knew him back then all say that he did NOT become a Nazi.
But you also cannot force the enemy to kill you so that you can be a martyr. That was a decision the Nazi's could have made about the young man who is now pope, but obviously Ratzinger had no control over whether the Nazi's would kill him. You are setting up a false choice. He could not choose how the Nazis would react to his resistance. 
There are many Germans who escaped death in much the same way that young Joseph Ratzinger did... Are you calling them all Nazis? You need to think about what you are saying before throwing out labels like that. People may start believing that you are a Westboro Baptist. You're starting to sound like one.
Well, I don't care what the Bob's of the world think (and believe me there will be plenty of Bobs on the evening news between now and February 28), I say: God bless you Pope Benedict! And thank you.

Friday, February 8, 2013

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...

European Archbishops Warn of Increasingly Harsh Attacks on the Church - "The head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says media criticisms are provoking ‘artificially generated anger’ that sometimes is suggestive of ‘a pogrom atmosphere.'"

When Little Government Foxes Spoil the Vines of Business and Ministry - "Abraham Kuyper famously wrote that 'there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’' This view may seem uncontroversial to some, yet it is increasingly seen by our scrupulous government overlords to be irrelevant to First Amendment protections..."

Faith Under Fire: “If Government Can Do This, What Can’t It Do?” - "...the United States government is demanding that 'every business owner, every bishop, every nun, you name it' gives up their freedom to exercise their religion or be fined until they go out of business."

Bishop of Brooklyn: If You Voted for Obama, You’re Responsible for the Culture of Death - "We know that today an Administration that is hostile requires contraception and sterilization. However, as Government involves itself in our internal affairs, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the Government would seek to compel religious institutions to provide abortion services in the future." [I love it when bishops speak the truth so forcefully.]

Catholic Bishops to Obama: “HHS Proposal Falls Short” - "The more you look at the latest HHS ‘accommodation’ the more you realize that the only answer is its full repeal."

No Deal! Bishops to Administration: You Can't Force Lay Catholics to Act Against Faith - "'In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath,' said Cardinal Dolan. 'We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.'"

Making sense of another ambiguous ‘compromise’ - [Letter from Archbishop Chaput on the new HHS mandate 'compromise'.]

Legal Scholar Deplores Media Confusion Over HHS Mandate - "'The explanation was far from clear,' she said, and its complexity has left many people unsure of the proposal's exact details." See also: Bad Science and Failed Freedom Protections in the HHS Mandate, and this : HHS Revisited: The New "Compromise"

Woman Dies After Botched 33-Week Abortion Takes Her Life - [What a tragedy... But we must also realize that every "successful" abortion entails the death of a human being.]

Kids Will Commit Gun Violence Anyway…Let’s Make Sure They Do It Safely - [The logical inconsistencies of the Left never cease to amaze me.]

Those Catholic Women Who Use Contraception - "Now that the issue has been brought to the national stage, however, they understood with clarity that the Church opposes artificial contraception. There was no more room for willful ignorance, no way to avoid the topic. They now saw that, according to their own belief system, their reproductive choices were sinful."

Our Bodies, Our Consciences - "Our problems won’t all be solved through legislative action. And legislative action, while it may sometimes be crucial, can’t be maximized without a fuller context."

Huggies Commercial: “There’s a Human being in Your Stomach” - [Great message in the commercial... but the company has a way to go before you can call them "pro-life."]

Media Bias and the 60 Minutes Obama-Clinton Interview - [Media bias?! Sure not!]

Ronald Reagan: A Pro-Life Hero, Champion on Abortion  - [Don't you wish you could say that about our current President?]

Why is Homeland Security arming itself with 2 BILLION rounds of ammunition? - "Curiously, a surprising number of documents have been leaked, suggesting that there is a network of alarmed and concerned citizens working for the government that are trying to warn the people that something is happening..."

Hastening the Reform of the Reform; or, the End of Clown Masses - "In recent decades, especially in the English-speaking world, the words used in the Church’s sacred liturgy have been miserably inadequate for the glory of their task."

Like the Dewfall - "The breath of the Holy Spirit is all around me.  It wants to cling, to refresh, to nourish -- and to help us reflect back to the world our little portion of light."

When was the book of Revelation written? - [Evidence for an earlier dating]

A Reflection On Infant Baptism From A Night At RCIA -  "Baptism is not about making a personal decision for Jesus. Baptism is about the removal of original sin, the bestowal of real grace, becoming a son or daughter of the Father, and being initiated into Christ’s Church, and much more theological depth than this."

Who Was the First Photographed Saint? (Plus Great Photos of Certain Famous Saints) - [Interesting...]

Is Jesus Christ the "Genetic Twin" of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Let's ask St Thomas Aquinas... - [Not the best way to ask the question, but you get the idea.]

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Catechism for the Year of Faith

Part of a continuing series.

A selected quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church in honor of the Year of Faith (October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013)

515 The Gospels were written by men who were among the first to have the faith and wanted to share it with others. Having known in faith who Jesus is, they could see and make others see the traces of his mystery in all his earthly life. From the swaddling clothes of his birth to the vinegar of his Passion and the shroud of his Resurrection, everything in Jesus' life was a sign of his mystery. His deeds, miracles and words all revealed that "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." His humanity appeared as "sacrament", that is, the sign and instrument, of his divinity and of the salvation he brings: what was visible in his earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of his divine sonship and redemptive mission.

517 Christ's whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ's entire life:
- already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
- in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
- in his word which purifies its hearers;
- in his healings and exorcisms by which "he took our infirmities and bore our diseases";
- and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.
519 All Christ's riches "are for every individual and are everybody's property." Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation "for us men and for our salvation" to his death "for our sins" and Resurrection "for our justification". He is still "our advocate with the Father", who "always lives to make intercession" for us. He remains ever "in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us."

522 The coming of God's Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the "First Covenant". He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming.

525 Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven's glory was made manifest. The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night:
The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal
And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.
The angels and shepherds praise him
And the magi advance with the star,
For you are born for us,
Little Child, God eternal!
526 To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom. For this, we must humble ourselves and become little. Even more: to become "children of God" we must be "born from above" or "born of God". Only when Christ is formed in us will the mystery of Christmas be fulfilled in us. Christmas is the mystery of this "marvelous exchange":
O marvelous exchange! Man's Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.
527 Jesus' circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth, is the sign of his incorporation into Abraham's descendants, into the people of the covenant...

528 The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world...

529 The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the Lord...

530 The flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents make manifest the opposition of darkness to the light...

532 Jesus' obedience to his mother and legal father fulfills the fourth commandment perfectly and was the temporal image of his filial obedience to his Father in heaven. The everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday: "Not my will..." The obedience of Christ in the daily routine of his hidden life was already inaugurating his work of restoring what the disobedience of Adam had destroyed.

533 The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life:
The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus - the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us. . . A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character. . . A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the "Carpenter's Son", in you I would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work. . .
534 The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus. Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's work?" Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary "kept all these things in her heart" during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary life.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

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...

[...I had internet problems on Friday, so this is a day late.]

Social networks need more logic, love and less ranting, rage, pope says - "Social media 'need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation,' the pope said."

Church Militant: Forward March! - "...the Church Militant has its marching orders: we must heal our own wounds first before we can heal the world."

What Does it Really Mean to be a Practicing Catholic? - "Unfortunately, the term practicing Catholic is bit squishy (or vague or ambiguous as lawyers might say) and subject to abuse by all manner of Catholics (in name only) who seek to justify their various stances."

Are You Part of the Great Catholic Migration of the 21st Century? - [I am!] "They are realigning their attendance, resources, skills, and money to those parishes, orders, schools, colleges, and other institutions that support and promote traditional Catholic orthodoxy and practice." See also this follow-up post from the same author: Was the Mass of Padre Pio Equal to the Mass of Fr Marcial Maciel (St Thomas Aquinas Answers This Question)

Obama Offers Yet Another Insufficient “Compromise” on the HHS Mandate - "The biggest problem is that these new (80-page!) regulations still force private businesses (like Hobby Lobby) and business owners to pay for contraceptive (and abortifacient) coverage in their employee’s health plans."

Reporters Who Watch Abortions Tell of Their Brutal Reality - [Gruesome descriptions, but it is important that we never forget what really happens in abortion.]

The Disappearing Pro-life Movement - "Last Friday hundreds of thousands of pro-life ninjas marched on Washington and were so stealthy that news cameras completely missed them. Yet a march for gun control with barely 1,000 people became front-page news."

‘All our detractors can do is call us names’ - " Archbishop of San Francisco, [Salvatore Cordileonehe] is one of the most vocal members of the US bishops’ conference in objecting to the re-definition of marriage."

The Age of Apathy - "Apathy is central. We have too short an attention span to really care. We care about small tragedies, but don’t have time for bigger tragedies and issues, as Joseph Stalin once said,  'The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.'"

The Most Disturbing Aspect of the President’s Inaugural Address - "...what bothers me here is the way in which Obama uses the Declaration of Independence and attempts to transfigure it into something entirely new, and something on the basis of which there can be endless, unpredictable transformation of American society."

Yet another reason why we must fight for the unborn - "Abortion does not save lives. It ends them. 55 million over the past 40 years to be precise. But that irrefutable fact didn’t stop MSNBC host Toure Neblett this past week from thanking God that abortion is legal, and that in some ways it saved his life." See also: Group Drops Sick Ad Celebrating Abortion: “Happy 40th Anniversary Baby”

TV Star Patricia Heaton Tweets Support for March for Life Participants - [There are some respectable Hollywood actors out there.]

Leaning Forward But Knocked Back: Pro-Lifer Rocks MSNBC Interview - "America needs more than media cheerleaders for the abortion industry. We need the truth. And in this MSNBC interview, we speak it."

Why God Does Not Love Us All The Same - "...He has called us in such a way that only we can love Him in a way that is unique to each of us. For just as God does not love us all in the same way each of us loves Him in a way that no other can."

The Good Samaritan Effect: The Virtuous Cycle of Private Charity - "Advocates for government as the primary provider of welfare argue that dependence on private charity demeans aid recipients and that voluntary giving by individuals is too small to meet the needs of the poor. Yet research reveals significant flaws in both of these arguments." [Who knew you would find an article like this on the Huffington Post?)

Want To Tell The State To Stick It? Homeschool Your Kids - "The swelling legions of homeschoolers poke a subtle rebuke at America’s ever expanding nanny state."

Don't Get Inked: Why The Church Should Start Speaking about Tattoos and What It Should Say  - [One of those issues that I just don't think about much, but here's a thoughtful piece on the subject.]

The Feast Day of my patron saint was this week, so here are a couple of pieces about him: St. Thomas Aquinas, and Summa Theologica