Thursday, December 24, 2009

St. Augustine on the Meaning of Christmas

On this Christmas Eve, I just wanted to share these thoughts, from a sermon by Saint Augustine found in the Office of Readings for today's Divine Office. It concerns the taking on of human flesh by Jesus, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity---which, of course is the REAL point of this whole Christmas thing anyway.

Truth has arisen from the earth and justice has looked down from heaven

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

Concluding Prayer
Hurry, Lord Jesus, do not delay.
We put our trust in your loving kindness:
may your coming bring us consolation and support.
You live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
Find more reflections here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How Can I bring My Fallen Away Catholic Family and Friends Back to the Church?

I have some friends who were born Catholic but who have left for evangelical churches. What are some ways I can nudge these friends to research Catholicism again? They seem to be happy where they are.

While it's primarily the work of the Holy Spirit and God's grace acting with a person's free will that ultimately brings them to conversion, there are still a lot of things you can do to be God's instrument in this.
If they belong to evangelical churches, they may or they may not be happy where they are. In order to make them take fresh look at the Church from an objective standpoint, you have to clearly show them two things:

[1] That there is something that the Catholic Church posseses that they can't get anywhere else, even in a local church community to which they may have some emotional attachment. There are a number of things that fall under this category: The Eucharist and the other Sacraments as means of grace; the Church's historical origin in Christ as well as her historical continuity; an authoritative, Christ given authority to interpret the Scriptures in contrast to the multitude of personal, often conflicting biblical interpretations; the profundity of the liturgy; a unified and clear teaching voice on moral issues; and so on.

To this end, you should be ready to answer any questions they might have about the Catholic Faith (just because they were raised Catholic, you should not assume they know the rudiments of the Faith--in fact, the opposite is probably true since many Catholics drift away precisely because they do not know the Faith, or possess a very young child's understanding of it.). This doesn't mean you need to be an expert in theology, Scripture, Church law and apologetics, but you should at least be able to answer their basic questions. If you don't know something they ask about, don't be afraid to say "I don't know, but I'll look it up and get back with you," then do it.

[2] That they would gain all the things they have at their non-Catholic church but at the same time they would not be losing anything essential if they left there and returned to the Catholic Church. This might be a little tricky if they consider some un-essentials to Christianity itself --such as warm fellowship, good musicians, childcare during services, easy availability of Bible studies, dynamic preaching, etc -- to be absolutely essential. In that case, you'd have to show them how -- nice and helpful as these things are -- they do not comprise the essence of being a Christian -- that is, the grace found in the Sacraments, being in full communion with the Church body established by Christ, the holy example and solicitude of the Saints, and the fullness of truth found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition-- which can only be found in the Catholic Church. Having said that, it's also true that you often can find many of those nice non-essentials in many (though, admittedly, not all) Catholic parishes.

The above, and your own example of a holy, Christian life (with lots of prayer, their own honesty and openess to the truth, and God's grace) will bring them home. Hope that helps. :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pope Benedict on "Faith in Progress"

First, a confession: I've had a copy of Pope Benedict's second encyclical, Spe Salvi (Latin for "Saved In Hope"), on my nightstand largely unread since I bought it shortly after it's release in November of 2007. It wasn't due to lack of interest, of course. My nightstand, at any given time, is normally groaning under the weight of several stacks of new books, books I want to reread, magazines and printouts of articles I've downloaded and printed out from the Internet. It's only since I've self-imposed a moratorium on buying myself new books that the top of the nightstand has begun the see the light of day.

Anyway, I've finally been able to begin seriously reading this (when I first got it I did do a perfunctionary scan). It's not an especially arduous or voluminous work (my copy is 105 pages), but like most worthwhile reads, it is one that takes a while to read if you want to do it justice by pondering and praying over it, and mining the text for nuggets of insight. As one might surmise from the title, the topic is about the Christian virtue of Hope (which is distinct from our common use of the word hope, as in "I hope my team wins the game"). The Pope's first encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, you may recall, was about the Christian virtue of love (or, "charity").

I'm around page 51 of Spes Salvi now, and Pope Benedict is in the midst of a discussion about the virtue of Hope, and it's relation to the virtue of Faith ("Transformation of Christian Faith-Hope"). This discussion revolves around the contemporary meaning of the word "progress" and how it relates to authentic Christian Hope. Here is a passage, from section 22 of the encyclical, which I found striking:

First we must ask ourselves: what does “progress” really mean; what does it promise and what does it not promise? In the nineteenth century, faith in progress was already subject to critique. In the twentieth century, Theodor W. Adorno formulated the problem of faith in progress quite drastically: he said that progress, seen accurately, is progress from the sling to the atom bomb. Now this is certainly an aspect of progress that must not be concealed. To put it another way: the ambiguity of progress becomes evident. Without doubt, it offers new possibilities for good, but it also opens up appalling possibilities for evil—possibilities that formerly did not exist. We have all witnessed the way in which progress, in the wrong hands, can become and has indeed become a terrifying progress in evil. If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth (cf. Eph 3:16; 2 Cor 4:16), then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world. (Emphasis added)

The idea of the incompatibility of man's technical progress with his ethical progress is not original to the Holy Father, of course. Many people in the last century (including, most famously perhaps, Albert Einstien speaking specifically about atomic weapons) have lamented that we have have put the tools of mental giants in the hands of moral midgets. What struck me (albeit not for the first time) was the characterization of "progress" as something a person might tend to put their faith in, i.e. as a type of religion.

On his final studio album, Double Fantasy, the late John Lennon had a very nice song about his young son Shaun called Beautiful Boy. One of the lines in the song goes something like this:

Before you go to sleep, say a little prayer:
"Every day, in every way, it's getting better and better."

This lyric is not merely a reflection of hopeful sentiment; it reflects a worldview popular in the 1970's that you can will positive thoughts into a situation and it will actually make those positive things happen (this is also a premise of the recent New Age book, The Secret, promoted by Oprah Winfrey). In the 19th century among some Christian groups there was a popular doctrine called post-millenialism. Very simply put: looking around at a relatively peaceful time with a great flowering of literary and technological marvels (this was the so called "Gilded Age" of the Industrial Revolution) Christian post-millenialists believed that man would progress and society would improve in a fairly linear manner eventually reaching the point that mankind would reach such a perfected level, it would precipitate (and presumably flow into) the Second Coming of Jesus. After the horrors of two World Wars, the sheen on this particular view dulled quickly, and hardly any mainstream Christians believe it today.

While today you won't find many post-millenialists around, and pop-spiritual fads like The Secret are only taken seriously by the spiritually immature and the flakey, there is an underlying (and I believe pervasive) belief in our culture in the "spirituality of progress." How I would describe it would be as the assumption that most people seem to hold that, since man has progressed in his technological achievements (and they seem to us to be most impressive), the fact that he has devised these things by rational means is de facto license to apply them at will without adherance to objective moral norms.

There are a number of examples I could mention but let me give just one: stem cell research. There is no denying that the technology behind this procedure is truly amazing and that the potential benefits for saving and improving lives is probably immeasurable at this point. However there are numerous ethical problems when the issue of embryonic stem cells is thrown into the mix. These cells, as you may know, are created by fertilizing an egg in a laboratory so that a human embryo is created. The stem cells are then extracted and the embryo is discarded---a clinical euphemism for: a human baby is created, it's useful parts harvested, and then he or she is killed and thrown away.

Apart from the fact that embryonic stem cells are as yet unproven in curing or treating anything (in contrast to adult stem cell and even placental cells which have displayed remarkable promise), what is the moral dilemna here? Is this the killing of an innocent human life, or is it not? If it is, can it be justified in appealing to a "higher good"? And more to the point of the present argument: Just because we are able to do something, does that make it moral to do so?

I would say, generally speaking and apart from any one issue, that every situation having arguable moral implications is worthy serious examination in the light of objective moral norms (what constitutes "objective moral norms" is concurrently under attack in our culture and itself may have to be clarified before one makes a decision. Unbelievably, many people if pressed, cannot articulate a defined set of objective norms). The most basic norm, of course, is the protection of human life -- especially innocent human life. When man arrives at an acheivement that touches upon this most basic of human rights, the default position should always be to do what is objectively moral; to not do evil in the name of good, and at all times to choose life. Then, perhaps we can reach the point that "everyday, in every way, things are getting better and better..."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today is the feastday of Our Lady of Guadalupe which celebrates the occurence of a series of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the poor Indian peasant, Juan Diego, in the year 1531 just outside Mexico City. On the last visit, she left a miraculous image of herself on the humble cloak--or tilma--of Juan Diego, an image that is still visible today. Here is a link to a website that tells the whole story, as well as amazing scientific facts about the image on the tilma of Juan Diego.

This Feastday is extremely important to Catholics of Latin American heritage. Devotion to OLG is also strong in other places such the Philippines. Just this morning, I arrived at our local parish for my usual Saturday morning men's group meeting, and the parking lot was packed with cars at 6:30 A.M.--it was a Mass for the Spanish speaking community for today's feastday. We had our meeting in a small side chapel, but we could hear the celebration going on next door in the main church--joyful singing, clapping and lots of cool mariachi music.

Many years ago, I was extremely blessed to be able to visit the basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and see the image close up, although I didn't appreciate it at the time. This was before my religious conversion and I was visiting the city as a tourist solely to have a good time and to see the many sights, the visit to the basilica (at the time) being just a side trip. I distinctly remember, however, reprobate heathen though I was at the time, being deeply impressed and affected. I can't help thinking now that God used this visit to eventually bring me close to him. There are other episodes in my earlier life that, in retrospect, also seem to have blessed me and prepared me (such when I first saw Pope John Paul II on Guam--but that's another story).

One thing that often annoys me is to see Our Lady's beautiful image in places that don't seem to give her honor. If you see it on a gang-banger's car or t-shirt or tatooed on his back or arm, you can't help but wonder how much of the religious significance of the image is impressed on the wearer. It's a fact that the image is in the minds of many of my fellow Mexican-Americans is as much (or more) a cultural icon as it it is religious.

I say it annoys me rather than angers me because I also know that there is a lot religious ignorance and at the same time good intention involved here. If these particular folks (most of them young men and women) weren't brought up with a good religious education, whose fault is that? Shouldn't those of us who know and love the Faith be doing more to bring the fullness of the truths of that Faith to those who desperately need to hear it?
UPTATE: The blog Whispers in the Logia has uploaded videos of several Guadalupe celebrations going on around the country. You can view the site here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

America's Royal Family Continues It's Downward Slide

Another Kennedy Blasts Bishops over Abortion

Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest child of Robert F. Kennedy, has blasted the nation’s bishops for opposing the use of federal funds to pay for abortions. Mrs. Townsend is the first cousin of Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), whom Bishop Thomas Tobin has publicly called to repentance and conversion for supporting abortion.

“There are millions of pro-abortion rights Catholics who understand that women faced with unintended pregnancies or complications in wanted pregnancies have to make difficult, complex decisions for themselves and their families,” Mrs. Townsend writes. “They do not make the decision to have an abortion lightly and without weighing all of their options. They must retain the ability to make this decision and the ability to access the care they need, whatever their choice may be. That means they must have access to health insurance that covers abortion care-- just as millions of Americans must have access to affordable health insurance and health care.”

Straining credulity, Mrs. Townsend’s concluding paragraph leads readers to believe that the Vatican would support health care legislation that would fund abortions. “I want Catholic bishops to heed the Vatican’s call for charity and justice for all, not just for the wealthy and well connected,” she writes.

Straining credulity, indeed. Does Mrs. Townsend honestly believe that when the Vatican talks about "truth and justice" they are using secret code for "we support governments paying for poor womens (or anyone elses) abortions"? This in spite of the fact of crystal clear, unambiguous Vatican teaching that abortion is an intrinsically evil in any and all circumstances?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (to quote only one source):

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. ( Didache 2,2:SCh 248,148; cf. Ep. Barnabae 19,5:PG 2 777; Ad Diognetum 5,6:PG 2,1173; Tertullian, Apol. 9:PL 1,319-320.)

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes. ( GS 51 § 3.)

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae," by the very commission of the offense," and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

Maybe -- just maybe -- Mrs. Townsend is broadly interpreting the very general term "truth and justice" as what she wants it to mean, i.e., in a manner that is politically expedient to her wrapped in the mantle of compassion. I mean, who could argue with anything in the name of these two great virtues? If Mrs. Townsend were a properly catechicized Catholic with a well formed conscience (i.e., a conscience that is fully formed and guided by the teachings of the Church), she would argue against herself. In that case, it is hoped the better formed and better informed version of her would prevail. A lot of innocent lives could potentially be saved in the process.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Celebrating, Understanding and Defending the Immaculate Conception

Tuesday, December 8th, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Holy Day of obligation for Catholics (so if you're Catholic, get thee to your local parish), but at the same time one of the most misunderstood beliefs that are held by Catholics.

This article and this article will help you appreciate and understand the background of this singular privilige granted to Mary, the mother of Jesus (and, since Jesus is God, the Mother of God) --a privilige granted to her not because of Mary's own merits or glory, but because if it's fittingness in relation to her role as Mother of Our Redeemer (like all of the teachings of the Church about Mary, the doctrine says more about the uniqueness and holiness of Jesus than it does about Mary).
If, however, you find yourself in the position of having to explain this wonderful Christian truth, here is a helpful article from Catholic Answers. It answers the questions:

1. Why does the Church teach that Mary was immaculately conceived? Her conception is never even mentioned in Scripture.

2. If Mary is sinless, doesn’t that make her equal to God?

3. How could Mary be sinless if in the words of the Magnificat she said that her soul rejoices in God her savior?

4. How can you reconcile Mary’s sinlessness with Paul’s statement that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?

5. Didn’t the Church just invent the doctrine 150 years ago?

This article may also be helpful.
To misunderstand a concept is to fear and hate it, but to know the truth often leads one to love it. Be ready when your questioning friends and families are looking for answers and help lead them from fear and hate, to truth and love.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence": What Does It Mean?

One of the favorite hymns we like to sing in our parish men’s group is "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," taken from the 5th century Liturgy of St. James. It is set to the harmony of the French carol, “Picardy” and is a universal favorite during Advent and Christmas. More than once, primarily because of the obscurity of some of the words in the song, the question has been asked “What is the song about and what does it mean?” This is my attempt to explain some of the more arcane features of the song:

In main, the song is primarily a song about the Incarnation (coming in human flesh) of Jesus Christ. From all eternity he was the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the pre-existent Logos (Word of God) as it speaks about in John 1:1-14. Jesus steps out of eternity to become a human being while remaining fully God.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

All mortal flesh (we humans) should stand in awe of the fact that God has come to earth to become man. While thinking and meditating about this, all other (by comparison) unimportant matters should be pushed aside. Our God descended to earth to become one of us, while remaining God, to whom we owe worship!

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood.
Lord of lords in human vesture,
In the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Even though Christ is King of kings, Lord of lords and Creator of the universe, he came in human flesh as a baby, born to Mary. It is this same human flesh, now glorified, that he now gives us to consume in the Eucharist—The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the pow'rs of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

Rank on rank…hosts of heaven—the angels (the host of heaven) are pictured as forming a vanguard (a double line of soldiers lining the path of a person of high rank, like a king or a great conqueror) for Jesus as he descends to earth.
Light of light—Jesus is, as we say in the Creed ‘light from light’; that is, of the same substance of God.
Descendeth…from the realms of endless day—Jesus came down from heaven, where there is no night or no day (Revelation 21:22-25).
The reason Jesus came was to defeat the power of hell (of death) over us, so that we will not have to live in the darkness of sin any more.

At His feet the six-winged seraph,
Cherubim, with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the Presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry,
Alleluia! Alleluia!Alleluia! Lord Most High.

The seraphim are a rank of angel. The name means ‘burning ones’ as they are thought to be the angels that stand closest to God in heaven, and so are burning with the intensity of God’s love and holiness. They are mentioned in the Bible, most notably in Isaiah, chapter 6. They are pictured there as having six wings—two of which are used to cover their eyes in the presence of God, who is too holy for even them to gaze fully upon.
The cherubim are another rank of angel. It was a cherubim that guarded the entrance to Paradise after Adam and Eve were cast out (Genesis 3:24). As a sentries, they never slept.
Alleluia is a combination of two Hebrew words, hallel, which means ‘praise,’ and a contracted form of the divine name Yah-weh, which the Jews avoided pronouncing. Together, it means ‘praise God.”

You can hear a midi version of this song here:

Encouragement For Christians During Tough Times

From St. Paul of the Cross:

"Now that the enemies of your soul have gathered about you, the time has come when God wants you to fight, trusting not in yourself but entrusting everything to him. Observe the spirits of the world, the flesh and the devil but never lose heart. Have courage and be of stout heart knowing that with Jesus Christ you shall have no need to fear. You have no need to tremble before anybody.

The cross is the way to paradise, but only when it is borne willingly. For now, rest sweetly in the company of your beloved spouse, Jesus. Never worry about hell. Never worry about anything in this world. Never worry about your own flesh but have no doubt that the Lord will allow you to be tempted. He will never abandon you , even though interiorly, in the inferior part of your soul, it may seem you are abandoned . . . "

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas is Coming: But Don't Neglect The Advent Season!

In case you missed it, yesterday (Sunday) was the First Sunday of Advent. I kind of had these grandiose ideas of putting up a profound and inspiring post for the beginning of the liturgical season of Advent but, what with the Thanksgiving traveling and all, I'm reduced to giving kind of a reminder/slash/roundup of all the resources that are available for the spiritually conscientious Christian to fruitfully prepare for the pinnacle of this season of preparation, Christmas Day (Advent isn't only a Catholic practice, by the way. Lutherans, Anglicans and many other Christians also observe some form of it).

I suspect that most of us aren't really clear on the significance of this special time in the Church's worship calender. Most of us are already stressing out about a single day at the end of December, the day of Christmas (now less than a month away). Oh sure, those of us who are regular or semi-regular communicants or church-goers are aware of something called Advent -- we see the purple and rose vestments and candles, the change in the emphasis of the prayers, readings and hymns -- but most of us might see it as just so much background clutter to distract us from the real work of preparing ourselves and our families for Christmas -- i.e., the shopping, cooking, eating, socializing and traveling business that leaves us worn out and broke (and, all to often, spiritually empty).

But, in fact, the Advent season is a time of (potentially) great spiritual growth and graces. It is something akin to the liturgical season of Lent (though not as penitential in tone) with it's Great Theme being the work of preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ. This is done on three levels: (1) Where we look with God's chosen people in the Old Testament toward the first coming of the Messiah, a coming that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ; (2) As we look forward to Christ's continuous coming into our lives every day as Lord and Savior; and (3) As we look forward in joyful hope to Jesus' Second Coming either at the end of time, or at the end of each of our earthly lives (whichever comes first). Advent is all about being a season of anticipation and fulfilment. Religiously speaking, in a very real sense, Christmas has very little meaning without Advent, any more than a trip to Disneyland is arguably less meaningful without the giddy air of expectation leading up to it.

Over at the blog of First Things, Joseph Bottum writes the essay that I would have liked to have written, The End of Advent. It is absolutely worth the read.

Having said all that, it's not to late to get into the spirit of things and start celebrating Advent now. As in today.

For more information about the origins of Advent, I'd recommend viewing this very informative post over at the Canterbury Tales blog, Top 10 Things to Know About Advent.

For information about Advent traditions you can celebrate with your family to make the season more spiritually fruitful (and fun), please see the article Catholic Traditions for Advent and Christmas.

A number of excellent resources for Advent can be found at Don Schwager's web page, Readings and Prayers for Advent.

A good way to prepare during Advent is to meditate on the daily Scripture readings from the Mass. You can find those at the website of the U.S. bishops. If you want to listen to some wonderful daily reflections on these readings, they can also be found at the bishop's site, or by downloading or subscribing to the daily Food For the Journey podcast by Sr. Ann Shields at Renewal Ministries.

I'll be posting more resources (and perhaps reflections) all through Advent. In the meantime, find a way to make this the most blessed, peaceful and spiritually fruitful Advent ever for you and yours, and be prepared to meet Our Lord with authentic joy on Christmas Day.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Viva Cristo Rey!" -- The Martyrdom of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro

Today, November 23, is the Feast Day (on the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church) of Blessed Miguel Pro.

The life of Father Miguel Agustin Pro, a Catholic priest, had been as heroic as would be his martyrdom because of his love and faith in Jesus Christ. In losing his life for the sake of Christ, he exchanged his earthly life in hopes of attaining eternal life with God.

I. Blessed Miguel Pro's Life And Work

Born in Mexico, January 13, 1891, Miguel Pro grew up in a large family with six brothers and sisters. Inspired by two of his sisters who entered the religious life, Miguel at the age of twenty, prayed to God in order to learn what God's will was for his own life. Because of his great love for God, and his desire to follow His will, Miguel entered the Jesuit order at the Hacienda El Llano so that he might devote his life to the service of God.

Under the terror of the Mexican regime of the time of Calles' and Obergon's rule, came years of political and religious persecution. During this period, the Pro family suffered great great financial and personal hardship. Meanwhile, Miguel and the other novices of the Jesuit order were also under severe threat of persecution, as Catholic priests and religious were among the targets of the Mexican government reign of terror. After a raid of the religious' house, their superiors ordered Miguel and the other novices to escape from Mexico. Miguel's travels took him to diverse countries such as the U.S., Grenada, and eventually Belgium where he was ordained a priest on August 21, 1925. Even though his family could not be physically present at his ordination ceremony, Father Pro was spiritually present with them; blessing their individual photographs one by one.

Even though he sought to make his internal and physical turmoil hidden from those around him, Father Pro suffered great emotional pain over the constant worry he felt over his family and the physical pain which was caused by stomach troubles. Those around him even noted that at the times he felt the most pain; physical or emotional, that he would seem the most cheerful. Father Pro's physical health weakened despite several operations. In hopes of helping Father Pro to regain his health, his superiors granted his wish to return home to Mexico to be nearer to his family. Little did his superiors realise the extent of the trouble that the Church in Mexico faced.
In 1926, Father Pro returned to Mexico during the height of political terror; at a time in which the Catholic Church faced great opposition as a result of constitutional amendments and legislation which severely restricted public worship. Any Catholic priest who would dare to continue to serve the sacraments such as communion, baptism, confession, confirmation and marriage risked persecution, torture, arrest and even execution!

And so began Father Pro's adventure for God, evading police in any way possible in order that he might minister to the physical and spiritual needs of all people which included the poor, the rich, workers, laborers, business and even Socialists and Communists (who were often openly hostile to Catholic priests and the Church).Traveling via bicycle, and donning disguises such as that of a mechanic, a servant and even that of a cultured man of the world, he was able to carry out his duties for his people such as administering the sacraments and attending to the needs of people. In the spirit of Paul, the apostle, he literally became all things to all people for the sake of Christ. He won souls for Christ through prayer, humor and also through physical and spiritual aid.

While the solders and the police had their guns and rifles, Father Pro had the greatest of all weapons as he had once stated in reference to the crucifix: "Here is my weapon. With it along, I have no fear of anyone."

II. Father Pro's Martyrdom

"I am ready to give my life for souls, but I want nothing for myself. All that I want is to lead them to God. If I kept anything for myself, I should be a thief, infamous; I should no longer be a priest."

In November 1927, Father Pro, along with his brother Humberto, became the scapegoat for an assassination attempt on the corrupt future president. The government authorities linked the Pro brothers to the crime through an old used car that had belonged to one of the brothers. Even though the authorities were well aware of the fact that the brothers were innocent, they were both guilty for being Catholic priests. Because priests were considered to be enemies of the regime, the government had an ulterior motive for convicting Miguel and his brother. Without due process or trial, the brothers were condemned to die. Innocent of any crime, they were only guilty of being Catholic priests.

On the morning of November 23, 1927, Father Pro was led from his cell to the location of his execution. It did not matter to the police and soldiers that beyond the wall, within earshot, a man was shouting that he had in his hands a stay of execution that would free the brothers. The shouts were ignored and Father Pro was lead to his death. As they did so, one of the policemen responsible for his capture asked for his forgiveness which Father Pro freely gave. Just minutes before he was to be executed, Father Pro asked to be able to pray as a last request. During this short amount of time, he kneeled upon the hard, uncomfortable ground, near the bullet riddled wall where he would soon be executed. In submission to God's will, he accepted his fate, stood up, stretched his arms out wide in the shape of the cross in preparation for his death. After forgiving his executors, and as the squad raised its weapons, Father Pro shouted in a clear and loud voice : "Viva Cristo Rey!" (Which means "Long live Christ the King" in Spanish.) With humility and bravery, Father Pro met his martyrdom.

On September 25, 1988, Father Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II. His feastday is November 23.

A Kennedy [Finally] Gets Put In His Place

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Roman Catholic bishop of Rhode Island said Sunday that he asked Rep. Patrick Kennedy in a 2007 letter to stop receiving Communion, the central sacrament of the church, because of the congressman's public stance on moral issues.

Bishop Thomas Tobin divulged details of his confidential exchange with Kennedy after the Democratic lawmaker told The Providence Journal in a story published Sunday that Tobin had instructed him not to receive Communion. The two men have clashed repeatedly in the past few weeks over abortion.
See article here.

Hooray for Bishop Tobin! Rich, powerful fat-cats like the Kennedys have for too long relied on their demigod status among the liberal and the mis-informed to collectively and individually (excepting, perhaps, the late Eunice, may she rest in peace) thumb their noses at the teaching of the Church they profess to follow. Their behavior has been the source of scandal for ordinary Catholics and a scoundrels refuge for other Catholic politicians since Teddy (may he rest in peace) turned pro-abortion at the birth of Roe v. Wade. You may remember a similar post of mine on this topic, found here.

Now if only the bishops of Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Kathleen Sibelius, etc, etc, would quickly follow suit, what a wonderful world this would be.

Friday, November 20, 2009

American Thinker Blog: San Francisco booksellers would rather lose money than go 'Rogue'

LOL. What hypocrites. Add Sarah Palin's book to the list of "Banned Books." Might be too late, however, as it sold out of its first printing and had sales of 300,000 its first day.

Despite San Francisco Bay Area bookseller claims that Sarah Palin's new book "Going Rogue" is "not for thinking people", the Amazon numbers say otherwise.

On a mission to show that Palin's book is selling much worse than, say, the idea of reading Osama Bin Laden his Miranda rights, the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed several local booksellers to find out how well sales of "Going Rogue" were not going:

"Our customers are thinking people," said Nathan Embretson, a bookseller at Pendragon Books in Oakland. "They're not into reading drivel."

"Anything like that we wouldn't carry," said clerk Emily Stackhouse at Cover to Cover Books in San Francisco. "We're a small store and it would probably gross us all out. Some things you carry because of freedom of speech, but a book like that is just gross."

Just gross? Have you ever seen some of the inane, hateful and downright disgusting titles they typically carry at independent bookstores? I always feel I need to take a shower after I wander into one of those places. It is also highly ironic that the website of the bookstore where Ms. Stackhouse works, Cover To Cover Booksellers, is currently highlighting this quote by writer Max Lerner "The crime of book purging is that it involves a rejection of the word. For the word is never absolute truth, but only man's frail and human effort to approach the truth. To reject the word is to reject the human search."
Besides, “thinking people” prefer making their own decision to read, or not read, the book. Real “thinking people” would be perfectly capable of reading the book for themselves and forming an opinion of it, not having it decided for them by wanna-be cultural elites.

I'm confident these highly knowledgable and open-minded booksellers read Palin's book before making such an impartial decision to not carry such an obviously popular and arguably politically relevant book.

"Apparently the job of a "bookseller" in and around San Francisco is not so much to sell product, but rather to give comfort to like-minded ...individuals and convert the remaining unwashed masses to lockstep ideology."
The entire blog can be viewed here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Modesty: Leave Something to the Imagination, Girls

Doris Roberts to Young Women: Provocative Dressing Leads to Trouble, Invites Violence Against Women
The "Everybody Loves Raymond" star has a message she wants to give to young women

Nicole Kidman recently hit headlines when she came out with her opinion that Hollywood probably contributes to violence by portraying women as sex objects, and “Everybody Loves Raymond” star Doris Roberts couldn't agree more. According to Doris, ladies need to leave a little more to the imagination.

“You've got to start with the dolls that are out. We are more than breasts and rear ends, and if you're a child and that's what we're trying to emanate you think that's all we are,” Roberts told Tarts at the recent “Peace Over Violence” event in Los Angeles which was aimed at building support for female victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

Roberts even went on to say that young girls who flash a little too much flesh are perhaps sending an open invitation to danger.

“I'm not a prude. I really am not. But if you're going to dress provocatively, you're going to get into trouble,” she added. “Kids, right now, 12 year olds, 11 year olds, they're dressing and trying to emanate what they see on television or in movies. When you do that, you're judged, and even if you're not selling that, it appears like you are. That is not very good.”

Meanwhile fellow film starlet Rene Russo believes there are many more outlets to blame asides from Tinseltown for the abuse so many women suffer.

“I don't know if I would go as far to say that it's just Hollywood, it's advertising, it's everywhere, it's everything. It's sort of in the fabric, unfortunately, of our society,” Russo said. “I think about it a lot and I'm not really sure what the answers are. Little by little we all need to try to make a difference and get out and support organizations like this because it is a problem. I don't think it's just Hollywood.” (Source)

Surprising talk, especially coming out of Hollywood. Ms. Russo is right on: the influences and forces converging on the innocence of girls in our day are simply oppressive: everything from advertisements, movies, television, pop novels and manga, music -- even the schools and the ever-present peer pressure. Now you have everything from toddler glamour shows to little girls with "Pink" flashed across their rears. Which of course means parents are complicit in this over-sexualization of their little girls, when they should instead be perserving their innocence as long as possible. Are we talking about going Amish or wearing burkas? Of course not, and that quick and cheap comment that always comes up in discussions of this sort is the knee-jerk refuge of the unthinking and those with a guilty conscience.

Let's raise our girls to be wise and to make good choices, certainly, but what's the hurry to expose them to the coarseness of our fallen culture?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mayhem spreads throughout Chicago overnight after meetings to end violence

You can't make this stuff up, folks:

After community activists pleaded Saturday for a day without killing, violence erupted throughout the city after the stroke of midnight on Sunday, leaving at least two people dead and several injured.

At about 12:06 a.m., Frederick Evans, 20, of the 6800 block of South Ada Street was found shot to death in an alley in the 500 block of West 58th Street. He was shot in his back and chest.

Witnesses told police Evans was involved in a dice game shortly before midnight, according to Chicago Police News Affairs Officer JoAnn Taylor. Evans was seen being chased by a unknown person who opened fire, Taylor said. He ran to an alley to take cover before collapsing.

A handgun was recovered from the scene, Taylor said.

Minutes later, a 32-year-old man was shot at about 12:13 a.m. on Chicago's West Side in the Lawndale neighborhood. Police said he was shot after he watched a fight in the 3900 block of West Ogden Avenue. He suffered wounds to his leg and thigh, police said.

At about 2 a.m., Howard Hodges, of Park Forest, was shot and struck by a car near a lounge in the Chatham neighborhood. Hodges, 34, was pronounced dead on the scene.

Another man also was shot in front of the lounge located in the 8300 block of South Vincennes Avenue, but he was taken to St. Bernard Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police said he suffered a wound to his shoulder.

Later, two other people were stabbed in the Englewood neighborhood at about 3:15 a.m. in the 6600 block of South Carpenter Street, and three people were shot in the Brighton Park neighborhood at about 5 a.m. near 47th Street and Homan Avenue, police said.

Several community activists and teens met throughout the city Saturday to discuss ways to end the violence in Chicago neighborhoods.

Wait a minute--I thought President Obama community activist-ed the heck out of this place before he moved into the White House? And isn't this the place where an honor student was recently beaten to death with railroad ties by a gang of young thugs while others cheered them on? Oh yeah, here's the story right here. Maybe it's the 11% unemployment in Chicago (compared to 6.9% last year). Maybe it's the city ban on handguns. How's that Change workin' for ya?

No slam on the doubtless many decent and law-abiding people who live there, but I can't imagine why, despite Mr. Obama's best efforts, this town FAIL!ed to get the bid for the Olympics.
hmmm...Somehow, some way, this must be George Bush's fault.

7th Annual West Coast Biblical Conference, January 22-24

The folks over at St. Joseph's Communications and The St. Paul Paul Center for Biblical Theology are again offering their premier Bible conference for those who are interested in gaining in their knowledge and love of God's Word. The three speakers are top-notch, and these events are always fun and spiritually fruitful, with lots of great Bible study material available for your buying pleasure.

This years conference is focused on the Gospel of John. Concurrently, The St. Paul Center is offering a free online mp3 on that Gospel. Check it out here (on the right hand side of the page).

The basics:
7th Annual West Coast Biblical Conference
John ~ The Sacramental Gospel
Riverside Convention Center - Riverside, CA
January 22-24, 2010
Speakers:Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Brant Pitre and Prof. Michael Barber

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"We Will Never Remove Our Crosses!"

As Europe as a whole continues to descend into a post-Christian, secular morass, two countries --first Italy and now Poland --are at least trying to kick against the goad:

WARSAW, Poland — Heavily Catholic Poland has joined the Vatican in criticizing a European court ruling against the display of crucifixes in Italian schools.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski said his country will never agree to remove crosses from its schools.

The Nov. 3 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights does not require that Poland remove the crosses that hang in most public schools. It could, however, eventually force a review of the use of religious symbols in government-run school across Europe.

The decision touched a nerve in Poland, where religious symbols were banned from public buildings under communist rule but embraced with the return to democracy 20 years ago as an expression of national sovereignty.

During Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday in Warsaw, Kaczynski said that "nobody in Poland will accept the message that you can't hang crosses in schools."

"One shouldn't count on that. Perhaps elsewhere, but never in Poland," said Kaczynski.

Lech Walesa, the pro-democracy dissident and former president — himself a believer who often wears a pin of St. Mary on his lapel — also defended his country's right to display a symbol central to the nation's Christian heritage.

I love Walesa's line here, a common sense blow to political correctness gone amok:

"Minorities must know their place," Walesa said on Thursday during an interview with a TVN24 television station. "We must respect minorities but also protect the rights of the majority."
November 16 UPDATE on this story can be found here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Report Details Harassment and Anti-religious Bigotry Since Prop. 8

Sacramento, Calif., Nov 3, 2009 (CNA).- A think tank has compiled and analyzed reports of the harassment, intimidation, and “gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry” shown in reaction to the successful passage of Proposition 8. If partisans of marriage redefinition continue to increase in power, the analysis warns, those who seek the preservation of marriage as a union of man and wife may risk paying a price legally, socially and economically. The Heritage Foundation’s Oct. 22 report “The Price of Prop 8,” authored by researcher Thomas M. Messner, said that many individuals and institutions who defend the nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman have paid a “heavy price.”

Militant opponents of Prop. 8 targeted supporters with a range of hostility, including “harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry,” the report stated.

Vandalism included a brick thrown through the window of an elderly couple who put a “Yes on 8” sign in their lawn. Another senior citizen with a pro-Prop. 8 bumper sticker had her car’s rear window smashed.

A statue of the Virgin Mary outside one church was vandalized with orange paint. Swastikas and other graffiti were scrawled on the walls of Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco. At Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Riverside, signs were twisted into the shape of a swastika.

A heavy object wrapped with a “Yes on 8” sign was used to smash the window of a pastor’s office at Messiah Lutheran Church in Downey.

Sign theft targeting Prop. 8 supporters was significant, with one source estimating about one-third of the 25,000 signs distributed were stolen or vandalized before the end of the campaign.
Phone calls, e-mails and mailings also targeted supporters of Prop. 8. The messages made accusation of bigotry and used vulgar language. One e-mail threatened to contact the parents of students at a school where a particular Prop. 8 supporter worked.

One individual supporter was the subject of a flier distributed in his town. The flier included his photo and name and the amount of his donation to the pro-Prop. 8 campaign. It labeled him as a “bigot” and reported his association with a particular Catholic church.

Increased support for Prop. 8 among African Americans and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as Mormons, also resulted in their communities being targeted.

Racial epithets were used at anti-Prop. 8 protests, while Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign, targeted the Mormons.

On the Dr. Phil show, responding to a Mormon questioner, he replied: “We are going to go after your church every day for the next two years unless and until Prop 8 is overturned.”

An anti-Prop. 8 advertisement depicted two Mormon missionaries invading the home of a lesbian couple, ransacking their belongings and tearing up their marriage license.

“Anti-Mormon malice reached a new level when someone mailed packages containing suspicious white powder to Mormon temples in California and Utah,” Messner said.

Jose Nunez, a new U.S. citizen, was waiting to distribute signs outside his Catholic church when a man grabbed several signs and fled. He pursued the thief, who reportedly yelled “What do you have against gays?” and punched him in the face.

Nunez suffered a bloody eye and wounds to his face and required 16 stitches under his eye.

Employees of businesses were targeted by some protesters. Some employees resigned, while others took leaves of absence. Some business owners lost business because they had donated to support Prop. 8.

While deeming boycotts a “time-honored form of activism,” the Heritage Foundation’s report commented: “No individual should be compelled to choose between making a living and participating in democratic processes affecting fundamental matters of public concern, such as marriage.”

California law requiring the disclosure of personal information of individuals who donate $100 or more to a ballot measure campaign have made such displays of hostility easier, the report said.
Several websites were designed to use the information to identify and target Prop. 8 supporters.

While acknowledging that many Prop. 8 opponents have rejected such abuses, Messner argues that the ideology underlying the outrage is a cause of hostility.

“Arguments for same-sex marriage, although often couched in terms of tolerance and inclusion, are based fundamentally on the idea that limiting marriage to the union of husband and wife is a form of bigotry, irrational prejudice, and even hatred against homosexual persons who want the state to license their relationships. As this ideology seeps into the culture, belief in marriage as the union of husband and wife will likely come to be viewed as an unacceptable form of discrimination that should be purged from society through legal, cultural, and economic pressure.”

“Individuals or institutions that publicly defend marriage as the union of husband and wife risk harassment, reprisal, and intimidation—at least some of it targeted and coordinated,” Messner continued.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Saints and the Beatitudes

This Sunday, November 1st, is celebrated as the Solemnity of All Saints in the Catholic liturgical calendar. It's one of my favorite feast days because it always calls to mind the great diversity of spirituality that is present in the Church. There's literally a Saint for every person's taste. If you are the intellectual type, we have great Saint-geniuses like Thomas Aquinas and Sr. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (St. Edith Stein). If you prefer deeply mystical Saints, there is St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. If the Saints that had more active apostolates are your thing, you can draw inspiration from Mother Teresa or St. Vincent de Paul.

Fr. Robert Barron, in his homily for All Saints Day, brings up the interesting idea that we should not only foster a devotion to those Saints to whom we feel an affinity, but we should try to get closer to others who we aren't particularly attracted to--or even feel an aversion to. For example, if you think that St. Therese of Liseuix was a little too sweet and girlish, perhaps you need to get to know her better. And if you can't get into St. Padre Pio because you think he is a little strange, all the more reason you should learn about him and even ask his intercession. The idea is that, since all of the canonized Saints have some kind of valid spirituality, perhaps these saints possess that facet of spiritualty that may be lacking in our own lives. In our daily lives, aren't we called to love those that we are not naturally attracted to (Matthew 5:43-48)? Perhaps this is a way of growing in that virtue.

At any rate, in honor of all of the Saints, those holy friends of God who have finished the good fight before us and are now cheering us to heavenly victory (Hebrews 12:1-2), here is the Litany of the Saints.

Also, the Gospel reading for this Sunday is Matthew 5:1-12, which features the Beatitudes. You can go to my weekly Bible Study discussing this and the other Sunday readings here. Also linked below is the best series of articles I know of on the Beatitudes. It is from the Rosary Light and Life page which maintains an on-line newsletter chock-full of high quality articles on just about every Catholic theological or spiritual subject you can think of. I highly recommend it!

Does An Old Bloggers Heart Good

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2009 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Addressing the full Pontifical Council for Social Communications today, Benedict XVI urged its members to help communicate the teachings of the Church on the “digital continent” of the ever-changing technological landscape.

Reflecting on the role of social networking and increasingly real-time electronic communication, Pope Benedict XVI said on Thursday that "modern culture is established, even before its content, in the very fact of the existence of new forms of communication that use new languages; they use new technologies and create new psychological attitudes.”

See entire article here.

Sounds to me like a clarion call for evangelists and ordinary faithful Christians (hopefully one and the same) to get with the program and start reaching out to the Facebook and Twitter crowd. This also includes websites, texting and bloggers and whatever else new "social networking" or "real-time electronic communication" gizmo comes sailing down the pike. Of course, there are already a lot of on fire folks putting out some good efforts (see my sidebar for some of my favorites), but theres still lots of elbow room in cyberspace.

Our gadgets can certainly be real time wasters, but why not follow the Holy Father's call and channel some of that downtime to someone who needs to hear it about The Good News? If an old dog like me can get into it, anyone can.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Anti-Catholicism Is the Nation's Other Pastime

By Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York
October is the month we relish the high-point of our national pastime, especially when one of our own New York teams is in the World Series!

Sadly, America has another national pastime, this one not pleasant at all: anti-Catholicism.

It is not hyperbole to call prejudice against the Catholic Church a national pastime. Scholars such as Arthur Schlesinger Sr. referred to it as "the deepest bias in the history of the American people," while John Higham described it as "the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history." "The anti-Semitism of the left," is how Paul Viereck reads it, and Professor Philip Jenkins sub-titles his book on the topic "the last acceptable prejudice."

(Read more here.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Throw Yourself Into the Fray!

One of the daily Mass readings for today is from chapter 8 of Paul's letter to the Romans. Here is the text:

[18] I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [19] For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God;[20] for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; [21] because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. [22] We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;[23] and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. [24] For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? [25] But if we hope for what we do not see,we wait for it in patience.

The Navarre Bible Commentary's note on verse 18 (highlighted above) is an awesome quote by St. Cyprian, which I thought I would share:

18. “Who is there then”, St Cyprian comments, “who will not strive to attain so great a glory, by making himself God’s friend, to rejoice immediately with Christ, to receive the divine rewards after the pains and sufferings of this life? If it is glorious for soldiers of this world to return to their fatherland victorious after defeatingthe enemy, how much greater and more pleasing glory will there not be, once thedevil is overcome, to return victorious to heaven [...]; to bear with one the trophies of victory [...]; to sit at God’s side when he comes to judge, to be a co-heir with Christ, to be made equal to the angels and to enjoy with the Patriarchs, with the Apostles and with the Prophets the possession of the Kingdom of heaven [...]. A spirit secure in these supernatural thoughts stays strong and firm, and is unmoved by the attacks of demons and the threats of this world, a spirit strengthened by a solid and confident faith in the future [...]. It leaves here with dignityand confidence, rejoicing in one moment to close its eyes which looked on men and the world, and to see God and Christ! [...]. These are the thoughts the mind should have, this is how it ought to reflect, night and day. If persecution finds God’s soldier prepared in this manner, there will be no power capable of overcoming a spirit so equipped for the struggle” (”Epist. ad Fortunatum”, 13).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Boys Are Turning Into Girls

This helps to 'splain a lot.

Here's something rather rotten from the State of Denmark. Its government yesterday unveiled official research showing that two-year-old children are at risk from a bewildering array of gender-bending chemicals in such everyday items as waterproof clothes, rubber boots, bed linen, food, nappies, sunscreen lotion and moisturising cream.

The 326-page report, published by the environment protection agency, is the latest piece in an increasingly alarming jigsaw. A picture is emerging of ubiquitous chemical contamination driving down sperm counts and feminising male children all over the developed world. And anti-pollution measures and regulations are falling far short of getting to grips with it.

See entire article here.

Of course, there's more than this going on (presuming the science used in the above report is legit). There are lot more factors that contribute to the current plague of effeminate and sissified boys.

Dadless Homes.

The overall feminization of schools and ubiquitous daycare. I work in a job where I occassionally have to visit these places. The kids seem so shocked and fascinated to see an adult male, you'd think they'd never seen one. The little boys, especially, flock around me and want to show me their "swords" and "guns" made out of legos. "Look, mister fireman! Look, look..."

Namby-pamby children' programming (All programs for really small kids all necessarily gentle--I'm talking severe cases, ala "Tele-Tubbies.")

Lowering of physical education standards and elimination in schools of any activity that involves the inherent aggressiveness and competitiveness of boys (do you know some schools have even outlawed playing tag?). Many educators, I'm convinced, do not understand boys.

Effeminate media role models. Why do all the male leads in movies these days look like they should be applying for college? Is it really believable when you see the main character of a TV show or movie--who looks like he started shaving last month --identified as someone who has a Phd, served a tour in the Army Special Forces, worked for the CIA, vagabonded around the world, and knows how to operate any vehicle, aircraft or program any advanced computer?

Discouragement of real competition among school-kids (no tryouts for the school play, no incentive to excel in classrooms through special honors for achievement. Everyone's included, everyone wins.

I could go on ad infinitum. How many young guys do you know (late teens, early twenties) that actually talk and walk in a manly manner? (and to be fair, this goes for a lot of older guys --perhaps thinking imitating this style makes them appear younger rather than, well, pathetic. That's another topic.) Have you ever listened to a radio call-in show and found yourself surprised that the caller was a male, and not a teenage girl?

And what do girls think about all this? I guess the upside is that boys like this are easier for them to identify with--more girls to talk to I guess. But don't they ever ask themselves: Where are the men?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Abortion Kills More Black Americans Than the Seven Leading Causes of Death Combined, Says CDC Data

Abortion Kills More Black Americans Than the Seven Leading Causes of Death Combined, Says CDC Data

( – Abortion kills more black Americans than the seven leading causes of death combined, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2005, the latest year for which the abortion numbers are available. Abortion killed at least 203,991 blacks in the 36 states and two cities (New York City and the District of Columbia) that reported abortions by race in 2005, according to the CDC. During that same year, according to the CDC, a total of 198,385 blacks nationwide died from heart disease, cancer, strokes, accidents, diabetes, homicide, and chronic lower respiratory diseases combined. These were the seven leading causes of death for black Americans that year...

This is really depressing. Correct me if I am wrong on this, but don't most Blacks vote Democrat--and isn't "abortion rights" (i.e., the unlimited legal right to kill a child in what should be the safest place in the world, the mothers womb) an important agenda item for the Democratic Party? What is wrong with this picture? What can this be termed: self-genocide? Mass hypnosis? Brainwashing? What would make an entire segment of the population become a willing party to the slaughter of the innocents and it's own self-anihilation? Add this to the fact that, proportionally, abortion kills more females than males, and the voting pattern becomes completely incomprehensible. It's like the flies voting for more fly-swatters.

It is worth noting that Planned Parenthood, the country's leading abortion provider was founded by Margaret Sanger a personal hero of Hillary Clinton and infamous eugenicist (i.e., one who believes that "inferior" peoples -- like Catholics, gypsys and those with dark skin and handicaps-- should be killed off so that the "superior" race can breed more purely). Planned Parenthood clinics are built in dispropotionate numbers in poor, especially Black, communities. Sanger was also an early influence of Adolf Hitler, who racial views are quite well know. Click here for more info.

Some interesting numbers:

Deaths in America per year

1,400,000 people die from abortion
650,000 people die of heart disease
560,000 people die of cancer143,000 people die of stroke
75,000 people die of diabetes

Another perspective:
18,000 - Deaths by death penalty in American history (all the way back to the 1600s).
1,315,000 - Deaths in all American wars combined.
50,000,000 - Deaths by abortion since Roe v Wade

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Question Box: Lost in a Labyrinth

I would be interested to find out the Catholic position on labyrinths. I had no trouble finding the Catholic position on other things like Jung, enneagram, centering prayer to name a few. But I couldn't find anything definitive on this topic. What does the Church teach?

Like a lot of subjects, the Catholic Church does not have an official position on labyrinths. For topics like this we have to use the witness of Tradition, fidelity to the teachings of the Church on similar subjects, and common sense.

Labyrinths appear in many very old Catholic churches in Europe, but their original use gets debated back and forth a quite a bit. One thing we can be sure of is that their original intent was not for some New Age or occultic purpose.

I don't know of any full length treatments of this on-line, but Catholic Answers has a short and to the point answer to the question in one of their "Quick Questions" columns from "This Rock" magazine. It works for me: hope it works for you too. God bless!

Q: Should Christians build prayer labyrinths? My child’s Catholic high school is considering building one.

A: In Christian spirituality, labyrinths originally symbolized the winding streets of Jerusalem, and walking in a labyrinth while praying Christian prayers was a form of virtual pilgrimage for medieval Christians who could not afford the expense and risk of an actual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. If the prayers said in a labyrinth are representative of authentic Christian spirituality and the purpose of the labyrinth is explained to those who will be using it, then the proposed labyrinth would not pose a problem. If, on the other hand, the prayers are representative of a non-Christian or an otherwise questionable spirituality, Catholics should not pray them and a Catholic high school should not promote it to its students.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Sunday Scripture Study Blog!

I've been wanting to do this for a while, but last night I got an unexpected burst of energy and decided to create a discussion blog for my website, Sunday Scripture Study for Catholics. I had a discussion page there at one time and, even though it was fairly well visited, it got to be too hard to moderate, what with my limited (O.K., non-existent) web management skills and constant spam attacks. The new blog is located here, and linked on the sidebar on this blog, and on the website. (BTW, Carol has been slaving away on a complete re-design of the website. I've gotten a peek at it under the curtain, and I'm pleased as to how it is turning out. I hope you are too!)

Anyway, give it a visit and let me know what you think. It's pretty spartan right now, being brand new and all, but my plan at this point is to post the weekly Sunday Scripture study there rather than on this blog and open it up there for discussion. Eventually, I'd like to post other Catholic Scripture related posts, links, and resources there -- but one step at a time. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Must We Do To be Saved?

Readers of this blog who are not Catholic may not know that Catholic Christians not only have Mass on Sunday's, but also have daily Mass, in some places every day of the week. Just like on Sunday, the proclamation of God's Word is made every day during Mass, including two readings from Sacred Scripture, usually one from the Old Testament or New Testament letters, and one from the four Gospels. The first reading from Mass today was from St. Paul's letter to the Romans, Chapter 2, verse 21 through 30. This is such an important reading on so many levels.

On one level, it was the Reformers misunderstanding of this passage (especially verse 28) and similar passages that fueled the Reformation and undergirds much of what Protestant Christians believe today. The main mistaken premise here is that Paul's reference to "works" or "works of the Law" refer to good works in the sense of moral actions, when in fact it has been shown by scholars (Catholic, Jewish and Protestant) that by this term Paul and his contemporaries instead used this term exclusively to refer to the ritual and purity prescriptions of the Torah (the first five books of the Jewish Scriptures). This colors a Christian's entire understanding of Paul's writings and, by extension, what one believes about how one is saved. The Catholic understanding dovetails perfectly with the rest of Scripture, especially James chapter 2 where we are told that "we are not saved by faith alone" and "faith without works is dead."

Anyway, the Navarre Bible commentary on this passage has an excellent summation of official Catholic teaching on salvation as it relates to Romans. Many Protestants will be surprised that they will find much to agree with here, and even that they may be misinformed as to what the Catholic Church believes about salvation and answer the question: "What must I do to be saved?"

What follows is the passage from Romans and then the Navarre Commentary:

From: Romans 3:21-30

Righteousness, a Free Gift through Faith in Christ

[21] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, [22] the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction [23] since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; [26] it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

[27] Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. [28] For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. [29] 0r is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, [30] since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.


21-22. The doctrinal richness of this text and of the whole passage (vv. 21-26) is here condensed in a way very typical of St Paul's style. He explains how justification operates: God the Father, the source of all good, by his redemptive decree is the "efficient cause" of our salvation; Jesus Christ, by shedding his blood on the Cross, merits this salvation for us; faith is the instrument by which the Redemption becomes effective in the individual person.

The righteousness of God is the action by which God makes people righteous, or just (cf. St Augustine, "De Spiritu Et Littera", IX, 15). This righteousness was originally proclaimed in the books of the Old Testament--the Law and the Prophets--but it has now been made manifest in Christ and in the Gospel. Salvation does not depend on fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, for that Law is not sufficient to justify anyone: only faith in Jesus Christ can work salvation.

"If anyone says that, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, man can be justified before God by his own works, whether they were done by his natural powers or by the light of the teaching of the Law: let him be anathema" (Council of Trent, "De Iustificatione", can. 1).

It is not the law, then, which saves, but "faith in Jesus Christ". This expression should be interpreted in line with the unanimous and constant teaching of the Church, which is that "faith is the beginning of human salvation", and a person's will must cooperate with faith to prepare the ground for the grace of justification (cf. ibid., chap. 8 and can. 9).

23-26. The Apostle first describes the elements that go to make up themystery of faith (vv. 23-25): all men need to be liberated from sin; God the Father has a redemptive plan, which is carried out by the atoning and bloody sacrifice of Christ's death; faith is a necessary condition for sharing in the Redemption wrought by Christ; the sacrifice of the Cross is part and parcel of the History of Salvation: before the Incarnation of the Word, God patiently put up with men's sins; in the fullness of time he chose--through Christ's sacrifice--to require full satisfaction for those sins so that men might be enabled to become truly righteous in God's eyes and God's perfections become more manifest.

"The Cross of Christ, on which the Son, consubstantial with the Father,renders full justice to God, is also a radical revelation of mercy, that is, of the love that goes against what constitutes the very root of evil in the history of man--against sin and death" (John Paul II, "Dives In Misericordia", 8).

23. "Fall short of the glory of God": this shows the position man is in when he is in a state of sin. Because he has not the life of grace in him, he is not properly orientated towards his supernatural end, is deprived of the right to heaven that sanctifying grace confers, and consequently does not have these divine perfections which supernatural life gives him.

24. All have been justified, that is, all have been made "righteous" (cf. 1 :17). This justification is the result of a gratuitous gift of God which St Paul describes in a way which reinforces his point ("grace", "as a gift"): this identifies the source of the gift as God's loving-kindness and it also shows the new state in which justification places a person so important is this statement--that grace is a gift which God gives without merit on our part--that the Council of Trent, when using this text from St Paul, made a point of explaining what it meant: that is, that nothing which precedes justification (whether it be faith, or morals) merits the grace by which man is justified (cf. Rom 11:16; Council of Trent, "De Iustificatione", chap. 8).

This new kind of life, whose motor is grace, requires free and active cooperation on man's part; by that cooperation a person in the state of grace obtains merit through his actions: "For such is God's goodness to men that he wills that his gifts be our merits, and that he will grant us an eternal reward for what he has given us" ("Indiculus", chap. 9). The fact that grace is a gratuitous gift of God does not mean that man does not have an obligation to respond to it: we are not justified by keeping the Law or by a decision of our free will; however, justification does not happen without our cooperation; grace strengthens our will and helps it freely to keep the Law (cf. St Augustine, "De Spiritu Et Littera", IX, 15).

Justification by grace is attained "through the redemption which is in Jesus Christ". The Council of Trent teaches that when a sinner is justified there is "a passing from the state in which man is born a son of the first Adam, to the state of grace and adoption as sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ our Savior" ("De Iustificatione", chap. 4). This has been made possible because our Lord saved us by giving himself up as our ransom. The Greek word translated as "redemption" refers to the ransom money paid to free a person from slavery. Christ has freed us from the slavery of sin, paying the necessary ransom (cf. Rom 6:23). By sacrificing himself for us, Christ has become our master or owner, who mediates between the Father and the whole human race: "Let us all take refuge in Christ; let us have recourse to God to free us from sin: let us put ourselves up for sale in order to be redeemed by his blood. For the Lord says, 'You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money' (Is 52:3); without spending a penny of your inheritance, for I have paid on your behalf. This is what the Lord says: He paid the price, not with silver but with his blood" (St Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 41, 4).

Our very creation means that we belong totally to God the Father andtherefore also to Christ, insofar as he is God, but "as man, he is also for many reasons appropriately called 'Lord'. First, because he is our Redeemer, who delivered us from sin, he deservedly acquired the power by which he truly is and is called our Lord" ("St Pius V Catechism", I, 3, 11).

And so, through the Incarnation, whose climax was Christ's redemptive sacrifice, "God gave human life the dimension that he intended man to have from his first beginning; he has granted that dimension definitively [...] and he has granted it also with the bounty that enables us, in considering the original sin and the whole history of the sins of humanity, and in considering the errors of the human intellect, will and heart, to repeat with amazement the words of the sacred Liturgy: 'O happy fault...which gained us so great a Redeemer!'"(John Paul II, "Redemptor Hominis", 1).

25. The "expiation" was the cover or mercy seat of the Ark, which stood in the center of the Holy of Holies in the Temple (cf. Exod 25:17-22). It was made of beaten gold and had a cherub at either end, each facing the other. It had two functions: one was to act as God's throne (cf. Ps 80:2; 99:1), from which he spoke to Moses during the time of the exodus from Egypt (cf. Num 7:89; Exod 37:6); the other was to entreat God to pardon sin through a rite of expiatory sacrifice on the feast of the Day of Atonement (cf. Lev 16): on that day the High Priest sprinkled the mercy seat with the blood of animals sacrificed as victims, to obtain forgiveness of sins for priest and people.

St Paul asserts that God has established Jesus as the true expiation, of which the mercy seat in the Old Testament was merely a figure.

No angel or man could ever atone for the immense evil that sin is--an offense to the infinite majesty of God. The Blessed Trinity decided "that the Son of God, whose power is infinite, clothed in the weakness of our flesh, should remove the infinite weight of sin and reconcile us to God in his Blood" ("St Pius V Catechism", I, 3, 3).

This expiatory sacrifice, prefigured in the bloody sacrificial rites of the Old Testament (cf. Lev 16:1 ff), was announced by John the Baptist when he pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God (cf. Jn 1:29 and note); and Jesus himself referred to the sacrifice of the Cross when he said that the Son of man had come "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28).

This sacrifice is renewed daily in the Holy Mass, one of the purposes of which is atonement, as the Liturgy itself states: "Lord, may this sacrifice once offered on the cross to take away the sins of the world now free us from our sins" ("Roman Missal", Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, prayer over the gifts).

26. In the time prior to Christ's coming the sins of mankind remained unatoned for: neither the rites designed by man to placate God's anger, nor those established by God himself in the Old Law, were in any way equal to atoning for the offense offered to God by sin. Therefore, the just of the Old Testament were really justified by virtue of their faith in the future Messiah, a faith which expressed itself in observance of the rites established by God.

During all this period the Lord kept deferring punishment ("passing over former sins"). This time of "God's forbearance" lasted until the messianic era "the present time", that is, the period between the first and second comings of Christ. On the righteousness of God and God as the Justifier of man, see note on Rom 1:17.

27-31. These words are addressed to the same imaginary interlocutor as appeared at the beginning of the chapter. Although he is Lord of all nations, God showed special preference for the people of Israel. Relying on this, the Jews wrongly thought that only they could attain blessedness because only they enjoyed God's favor. This led them to look down on other peoples. After the coming of Christ, they no longer have any basis for this pride: St John Chrysostom explains that it had simply become outdated, superseded (cf. "Hom. On Rom", 7), for God had set up a single way of salvation for all men--the "principle of faith" which the Apostle refers to. This new way means that Jews must forget their ancient pride and become humble, for God has opened the gates of salvation to all mankind.

Consequently, no one--not even the Jew--is justified by works of the Law. What justifies a person is faith: not faith alone, as Luther wrongly argued, but the faith which works through charity (cf. Gal 5:6); faith which is not presumptuous self-confidence in one's own merits, but a firm and ready acceptance of all that God has revealed, faith which moves one to place one's hope in Christ's merits and to repent of one's sins. Therefore it will be "by faith"--not by circumcision--that the Jews will be justified, and it will be "through their faith" that the uncircumcised will attain salvation. From this it might appear as though the Law had been revoked; but that is not the case: faith ratifies the Law gives it its true meaning and raises it to perfection. For, through being a preparation for the Gospel, the Mosaic Law receives from Christ the fullness it was lacking: the precept of charity reveals the meaning which God gave the law but which lay hidden until Christ made it manifest, for "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom 13:10). St Paul in a way summarizes all this teaching in v. 28, which is the key statement in the passage.
For more information, see my previous post, How Are We saved?