Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oldest Known Icon of St. Paul Uncovered

From Michael Barber's blog "Singing In the Reign" comes this story from the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reporting that an icon of St. Paul has been uncovered in excavations being undertaken in the catacombs of St. Thecla, underneath the streets of Rome. See the story and photos here:

The thing that strikes me is how icons and other traditional images of St. Paul (and other New Testament figures, like St. Peter and even Christ) are uncannily consistent compared with other ancient representations of the same person. Icons in the Eastern Orthodox tradition (based in turn on even more ancient traditions) have very strict guidelines how specific persons and stories are represented.

The image of St. Paul above, for example, is how he is always presented in traditional iconograpy. Compare that with the newly uncovered figure and with ancient written descriptions:

We know from Eusebius (Church History VII.18) that even in his time there existed paintings representing Christ and the Apostles Peter and Paul. Paul's features have been preserved in three ancient monuments:
1. A diptych which dates from not later than the fourth century (Lewin, "The Life and Epistles of St. Paul", 1874, frontispiece of Vol. I and Vol. II, 210).
2. A large medallion found in the cemetery of Domitilla, representing the Apostles Peter and Paul (Op. cit., II, 411).
3. A glass dish in the British Museum, depicting the same Apostles (Farrara, "Life and Work of St. Paul", 1891, 896).

We have also the concordant descriptions of the "Acta Pauli et Theclae", of Pseudo-Lucian in Philopatris, of Malalas (Chronogr., x), and of Nicephorus (Hist. eccl., III, 37).

Paul was short of stature; the Pseudo-Chrysostom calls him "the man of three cubits" (anthropos tripechys); he was broad-shouldered, somewhat bald, with slightly aquiline nose, closely-knit eyebrows, thick, greyish beard, fair complexion, and a pleasing and affable manner. He was afflicted with a malady which is difficult to diagnose (cf. Menzies, "St. Paul's Infirmity" in the "Expository Times", July and Sept., 1904), but despite this painful and humiliating infirmity (2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Galatians 4:13-14) and although his bearing was not impressive (2 Corinthians 10:10), Paul must undoubtedly have been possessed of great physical strength to have sustained so long such superhuman labours (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). Pseudo-Chrysostom, "In princip. apostol. Petrum et Paulum" (in P.G., LIX, 494-95), considers that he died at the age of sixty-eight after having served the Lord for thirty-five years.

Source: New Advent Catholic Super-site

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Oh Yeah? Well, What About the Inquisition?"

The Inquisition -- and a couple of other topics like the Crusades and the Galileo affair -- tends to function as a convenient conversation stopper for those who have an animus against religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. The sad thing is that most people who invoke the specter of these topics have no idea of the historical facts behind them except the stereotypes and caricatures they picked up from ignorant or bigoted college instructors or from the popular media. Basically it is a handy stick to beat Catholics with when one is getting the bad end of a discussion about religion. All one needs to say is, “Oh yeah? Well what about the Inquisition?”

Well, what about it? This is actually one of my favorite topics, because once you learn the facts and the historical context surrounding these times you find that, despite its excesses, the Inquisition actually made a lot of sense for the people that had to live in those times (even if it might not to later generations who tend to judge people in the past by standards of which prior generations had no knowledege). In fact, I’m one of those who believe that the Spanish Queen, Isabella the Catholic (as she was called), who along with her husband King Ferdinand, requested the Inquisition as a means to root out political traitors after centuries of Moslem occupation and oppression, should be proposed for sainthood (there’s a great book about her available from TAN Books, found here:

Serious writing on the roughly 300 year period in which the Inquisition was active has improved drastically as scholars, utilizing the exensive records kept by the Inquisition tribunals themselves, have revealed a far different (and less salacious) reality behind the bigoted "Black Legend" myths which originated in the polemics following the Reformation and that have been uncritically accepted as fact by even well-educated people ever since.

The only cure for ignorance is a balanced education. Here are some links to some of the best articles out there that I know of on the true history of the Inquisition, some of which I have used as handouts when I taught classes about this topic:

HT to my friend, Amy, who got me started on this by asking for some info! :)

Scripture Study on the Sunday Mass Readings - June 28

Here are the readings for this Sunday's Scripture readings from the U.S. Catholic bishops website:

And my own study (and Don Schwager's meditations) from my web page:

Charitible comments and discussion are always welcome. Have a blessed and holy Lord's day!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Dad

One of the nice things about having a blog is that you have a platform for paying a small public tribute to those who have made a difference in your life. On this Father's Day I'd just like to stop and remember my own Dad, Vince Sr., who has gone on to be with the Lord.

Everyone who knew my Dad remembers him for his big heart and his sense of humor, especially his ability to laugh at himself and his own foibles. He had lots of friends and he loved his family, and he made sure we kids knew all our aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins on both sides of the family. Just like the rest of us, my Dad wasn't perfect, but he was a good Dad and I never doubted his love for me, my brother and my sister.

My dad was a hard worker and a good provider. We always had a decent roof over our heads, food to eat and clothes to wear. He worked aerospace most of his life. When he got laid off at Lockheed, he got his foot in the door at Rocketdyne as a janitor and worked his way back up in the company to a place where he could use his experience and skills.

He like to cook, and he liked to eat and he liked to drink, but never alone and never to get into trouble. He loved his mariachis and he loved to dance. He wasn't a big movie-goer or a big reader, but he made sure there were lots and lots of quality books in the house for us kids. 

My Dad was also something of a sage in his own way. One adult memory I have of him is sitting together in a bar in Mexico City sharing a bottle of tequila. He said, "All I want after I am gone is for people to remember me, say a prayer for me, and sometimes put a flower on my grave."

I'm too far away to put a posey on his final resting place in San Diego, but I'm remembering him today and sending out the following prayer. Please pray for him as well -- and for your own father if he has also gone to his eternal reward :

V. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

R. And may perpetual light shine upon him.

V. May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

R. Amen.

If your dad is still around, make sure you call him, or if possible see him to give him a hug and say "Thanks Dad."

As for me, I say, "Thanks Dad. I miss you."

This Sunday's Mass Readings -- and Miracles

Once again, here are some resources for getting a deeper understanding of the readings we'll hear at this Sunday's Mass.

The readings, from the website of the U.S Catholic Bishops (USCCB):

And a study/meditation from my own website:

This Sunday's Gospel reading, of course, relates the well known miracle of Jesus calming the stormy sea. But what about miracles? Specifically, how are we to understand the miracles of the New Testament -- as real events, as pious fiction, as helpful parables, or as just "nice stories" about Jesus?

To shed some light on the Church's teaching on this matter, here is an article by philosophy Professor Peter Kreeft on "Miracles":

Charitible comments and discussion are always welcome! Have a blessed Sunday.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Atheists

Last night at my parish church, I had the pleasure of presenting the first of a series of 12 classes on apologetics - the defense of the Catholic Faith using Sacred Scripture, reason and historical fact. We had a good turnout (about 40 folks) and there was plenty of enthusiasm to go around. For a variety of reasons, attendance typically goes down after the first couple of nights on these courses, but I'm looking forward to a good series which I pray will result in fruitful blessings for those involved.

Anyway, the main topic for the class last night was "The Existence of God." We covered a wide range of proofs and arguments, but one of the questions that came up was how atheists become atheists. I recalled a book I read not long ago called "Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism." Here is the link and their product description:

Starting with Freud's "projection theory" of religion-that belief in God is merely a product of man's desire for security-Professor Vitz argues that psychoanalysis actually provides a more satisfying explanation for atheism. Disappointment in one's earthly father, whether through death, absence, or mistreatment, frequently leads to a rejection of God. A biographical survey of influential atheists of the past four centuries shows that this "defective father hypothesis" provides a consistent explanation of the "intense atheism" of these thinkers. A survey of the leading intellectual defenders of Christianity over the same period confirms the hypothesis, finding few defective fathers. Professor Vitz concludes with an intriguing comparison of male and female atheists and a consideration of other psychological factors that can contribute to atheism.

Professor Vitz does not argue that atheism is psychologically determined. Each man, whatever his experiences, ultimately chooses to accept God or reject him. Yet the cavalier attribution of religious faith to irrational, psychological needs is so prevalent that an exposition of the psychological factors predisposing one to atheism is necessary.

There is also a free downloadable mp3 talk by Professor Vitz on this topic found here:

Professor Vitz examines the lives of several notorious atheists --Voltaire, Friedrich Nietzsche, Betrand Russell, etc -- as well as what he calls "political atheists" ---like Hitler, Marx, and Stalin --and points to the common denominator of a dysfunctional or deficient image of fatherhood in particular and manhood in general in their formative years. Especially interesting was the account of atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair (the one who successfully sued to take prayer out of public schools) who once publicly tried to kill her own father with a butcher knife and screamed at him "I'll live to dance on your grave!"

As a corrollary to this, I think there is good evidence that, even among believers, one's image of God as a fatherly image is greatly affected by how one percieves (or perceived) their earthly father. If one had an abusive or distant father, it is hard to relate to God as caring and loving. If one's father was there but not involved, it makes it that much harder to grow closer to God, our Father in heaven. This can be overcome, of course, by prayer and by growing in knowledge and trust of God over time, but it is still something a lot of folks have to overcome.

Bottom line: If you are a father or serve as a fatherly role model in some capacity, do not under-value or under-estimate your presence and example in your child's or other young person's developing image of God. Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Scripture Study For This Sunday, Corpus Christi

Once again, here are some resources for getting a deeper understanding of the readings we'll hear at this Sunday's Mass. This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, commonly referred to as 'Corpus Christi."

The readings, from the website of the U.S Catholic Bishops (USCCB):

And a study/meditation from my own website:
And here are two very informative articles from The Rosary Light and Life page:

Charitible comments and discussion are always welcome! Have a blessed Sunday.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Firefighters forced to participate in ‘gay pride’ parade win lawsuit

I must have missed this news item when it just came out [no pun intended]. Good for my brother firemen. No one should have to be subject to the kind of official treatment and public abuse that they were.
[Warning: Graphic content]:

Obama plans fence-mending speech to atheists

By: Scott Ott Examiner Columnist

Riding the wave of Muslim approval after his historic speech from Cairo last week, President Barack Obama will reportedly travel to a major secular capital next week in an effort to "hit the reset button on relations with the Atheist World."

"The president knows how it feels to be marginalized," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, "So he won't be going there to lecture the Atheist World on morality or to try to impose American values on them, like the U.S. has done so often in the past."

Administration sources say the president will talk about the contributions of atheists to American society, and he'll quote from respected atheists like Bertrand Russell, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Jodie Foster.

The speech will also include some rather pointed rebukes to the Christian World for its oppressive treatment of atheists -- including its efforts to evangelize them, make them the subject of prayer, and to characterize atheists as 'people without God', a negative stereotype.

"Most peace-loving atheists want nothing more than to be left alone to pursue sensory stimulus, pass along their DNA, and then to allow their carbon molecules to reunite with the soil," said Gibbs, "but instead they bear the reproach of those who blame them for the actions of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and George Soros."

The president believes the Atheist World and America share common values that he plans to highlight in his speech.

"Like most Americans, atheists want safety for their offspring, those charming little vessels of genetic code," said Gibbs. "They want the right to elect representatives who will make laws guaranteeing survival of the fittest. They want freedom to speak whatever ideas the electro-chemical reactions in their brains happen to produce. Ultimately, they just want the liberty to exist until entropy draws their meaningless existence to a close."

If you haven't guessed yet, this column is SATIRE. Had you going there for a minute, though, didn't he?


Thursday, June 11, 2009

"How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" say you were unfortunate enough to pick up a waste of ink like "Angels & Demons" (see post below) and now you're looking for some good non-fiction with REAL facts to get the stench out of your nostrils? Well, take my advice and go to your nearest library or bookstore and pick up "How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization," by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. You know how your college profs, Dan Brown and the History Channel always indoctrinated you into believing that the Church was and is the enemy of science and progress? In this book you'll learn things they never taught you in Western Civ 101, like the following:

It is all very well to point out that important scientists, like Louis Pasteur, have been Catholic. More revealing is how many priests have distinguished themselves in the sciences. It turns out, for instance, that the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body was Fr. Giambattista Riccioli. The man who has been called the father of Egyptology was Fr. Athanasius Kircher (also called "master of a hundred arts" for the breadth of his knowledge). Fr. Roger Boscovich, who has been described as "the greatest genius that Yugoslavia ever produced," has often been called the father of modern atomic theory.

In the sciences it was the Jesuits in particular who distinguished themselves; some 35 craters on the moon, in fact, are named after Jesuit scientists and mathematicians.

By the eighteenth century, the Jesuits had contributed to the development of pendulum clocks, pantographs, barometers, reflecting telescopes and microscopes, to scientific fields as various as magnetism, optics and electricity. They observed, in some cases before anyone else, the colored bands on Jupiter’s surface, the Andromeda nebula and Saturn’s rings. They theorized about the circulation of the blood (independently of Harvey), the theoretical possibility of flight, the way the moon effected the tides, and the wave-like nature of light. Star maps of the southern hemisphere, symbolic logic, flood-control measures on the Po and Adige rivers, introducing plus and minus signs into Italian mathematics – all were typical Jesuit achievements, and scientists as influential as Fermat, Huygens, Leibniz and Newton were not alone in counting Jesuits among their most prized correspondents [Jonathan Wright, The Jesuits, 2004, p. 189].

But wait, there's more:

To say that the Church played a positive role in the development of science has now become absolutely mainstream, even if this new consensus has not yet managed to trickle down to the general public. In fact, Stanley Jaki, over the course of an extraordinary scholarly career, has developed a compelling argument that in fact it was important aspects of the Christian worldview that accounted for why it was in the West that science enjoyed the success it did as a self-sustaining enterprise. Non-Christian cultures did not possess the same philosophical tools, and in fact were burdened by conceptual frameworks that hindered the development of science. Jaki extends this thesis to seven great cultures: Arabic, Babylonian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Hindu, and Maya. In these cultures, Jaki explains, science suffered a "stillbirth." [Thomas'] book gives ample attention to Jaki’s work...

The Church also played an indispensable role in another essential development in Western civilization: the creation of the university. The university was an utterly new phenomenon in European history. Nothing like it had existed in ancient Greece or Rome. The institution that we recognize today, with its faculties, courses of study, examinations, and degrees, as well as the familiar distinction between undergraduate and graduate study, come to us directly from the medieval world. And it is no surprise that the Church should have done so much to foster the nascent university system, since the Church, according to historian Lowrie Daly, "was the only institution in Europe that showed consistent interest in the preservation and cultivation of knowledge."

Here's a link to the authors webpage:

And a good short article:

Are you more of a tapeworm than a bookworm? Here is the entire EWTN series in free downloadable mp3:

Get the Facts: Free mp3 Download about "Angels & Demons"

Just another badly written book? Don't be duped -- this latest laugher (unintentionally) by Dan Brown (and now the movie) targets the Catholic Church directly. And it does so with lies, innuendo, slander and eye-rollingly bad "research" and "facts."

Praise God there is an audio presentation by Matthew Arnold from Lighthouse Catholic Media that sets the record straight. And the best thing is that it is FREE! Share this with everyone you know that has read the book or saw the movie AND is gullible or uninformed enough to buy any of the baloney being sold by Brown, Opie, or Woody.

Find it here:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Scripture Study For Trinity Sunday

Once again, here are some resources for getting a deeper understanding of the readings we'll hear at this Sunday's Mass. This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

The readings, from the website of the U.S Catholic Bishop (USCCB):

And a study/meditation from my own website:
And here is a very informative article from The Rosary Light and Life page:

Charitible comments and discussion are always welcome! Have a blessed Trinity Sunday.