Monday, August 31, 2009

What's the Difference Between the Honor We Give to Saints, and the Worship Given to God Alone?

This is a question that pops up from time to time in my discourses with Protestants (and even fellow Catholics). Since we just celebrated the feastday of St. Augustine, I will let him answer this since he does oh so better than I could. This reading is an excerpt from his treatise against Faustus and is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings:

We, the Christian community, assemble to celebrate the memory of the martyrs with ritual solemnity because we want to be inspired to follow their example, share in their merits, and be helped by their prayers. Yet we erect no altars to any of the martyrs, even in the martyrs’ burial chapels themselves. No bishop, when celebrating at an altar where these holy bodies rest, has ever said, “Peter, we make this offering to you”, or “Paul, to you”, or “Cyprian, to you”. No, what is offered is offered always to God, who crowned the martyrs. We offer in the chapels where the bodies of those he crowned rest, so the memories that cling to those places will stir our emotions and encourage us to greater love both for the martyrs whom we can imitate and for God whose grace enables us to do so. So we venerate the martyrs with the same veneration of love and fellowship that we give to the holy men of God still with us. We sense that the hearts of these latter are just as ready to suffer death for the sake of the Gospel, and yet we feel more devotion toward those who have already emerged victorious from the struggle. We honour those who are fighting on the battlefield of this life here below, but we honour more confidently those who have already achieved the victor’s crown and live in heaven. But the veneration strictly called “worship”, or latria, that is, the special homage belonging only to the divinity, is something we give and teach others to give to God alone. The offering of a sacrifice belongs to worship in this sense (that is why those who sacrifice to idols are called idol-worshippers), and we neither make nor tell others to make any such offering to any martyr, any holy soul, or any angel. If anyone among us falls into this error, he is corrected with words of sound doctrine and must then either mend his ways or else be shunned. The saints themselves forbid anyone to offer them the worship they know is reserved for God, as is clear from the case of Paul and Barnabas. When the Lycaonians were so amazed by their miracles that they wanted to sacrifice to them as gods, the apostles tore their garments, declared that they were not gods, urged the people to believe them, and forbade them to worship them. Yet the truths we teach are one thing, the abuses thrust upon us are another. There are commandments that we are bound to give; there are breaches of them that we are commanded to correct, but until we correct them we must of necessity put up with them.

St. Augustine here clearly disguishes between devotion to and veration of the martyrs and saints, and the worship (Latreia) due to God alone. This distinction was clear to the early Christians, but abuses and misunderstandings certainly existed, as noted by this bishop of the late fourth century. Clearly, liturgical or ritual celebration of the memory of the saints through a eucharist celebrated at their tomb on the anniversary of their death, was already a long standing tradition by the time of St. Augustine (ca 400 AD).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reflections on This Sunday's Mass Readings - August 30th

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

And my own study (with Don Schwager's meditations).

Also the weekly audio/print meditation on the readings by Dr. Scott Hahn.

And finally, the weekly video by Professor Michael Barber on the Sunday readings.

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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Question Box: What Does it Mean to Grow in Holiness?

Here is a question that I received from a friend after I sent out the following quote:

To sanctify yourself it is necessary for you to employ the means, — such as, to avoid evil occasions, to remain detached from earthly goods, to live a life recollected in God; and to maintain this, it is necessary to receive the sacraments frequently, to make your meditation, your spiritual reading, and to perform other devout exercises, everyday, otherwise it is impossible to preserve the spirit of fervour. St Alphonsus Ligouri

What does it mean for a Christian to "sanctify oneself"?

That’s a good question. To “sanctify one’s self” is just another way of saying “growing in holiness.” To grow in holiness, one can’t just live a life that only consists of random opportunities to live a godly life pleasing to the Lord, though that is something we should do. God expects us to strive for holiness:

You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Mt 5:48

I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. Romans 6:19:22

Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification…For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thes 4:1-8

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God 2 Cor 7:1

For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness. 1Th 4:7

Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. 1Ti 2:15

Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Heb 12:14

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness. 2Pe 3:11

To positively grow in holiness, one must undertake a plan for holiness. This has nothing to do with piling up works and prayers, or going through the motions. It does, however, involve taking on the exercise of the moral virtues, those attributes that help a mature Christian exercise grow in holiness. Virtues are nothing more than good Christian habits—classically there are seven: Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Prudence and Temperance. Just as a Christian can grow in bad habits—called vices—he can also grow in these good spiritual habits, making it more difficult for him to sin and easier for him to do the right.

To grow in holiness, one also needs to develop a detachment from the world. This means not being attached to the fads, opinions, noise and hyperactivity of the prevailing culture. We should question seriously anything in our lives that leads us away from God. For example: do I neglect to pray because I can’t miss my favorite show, however innocent and even spiritually edifying it might be? Then my favorite show is drawing me away from God. If I can watch my show and pray, then that’s OK. Laypersons like ourselves can never grow completely detached from the world because we live in it everyday, but to the extent that we can, we should.

Speaking of prayer, we won’t grow in holiness without regular prayer. I know you know this, so I won’t belabor it, but we both know it isn’t an option for Christians.

We must leave ourselves open to and take advantage of opportunities for grace. Just being a Christian means, assuming we are in a state of sanctifying grace (i.e. not having any unrepented/unconfessed mortal sins) we have the Holy Spirit in us always, but there are special moments of actual grace that God showers on us. As a Catholic, of course, for me the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist and Confession) are means of grace since they are an encounter with Christ. For married persons, there are also the graces given in the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Finally, one shouldn’t neglect spiritual reading like devotionals, lives of the saints, meditations, and especially the Scriptures. Just like our bodies are trained by the virtues and our hearts are softened by prayer, our minds must be fed with the wisdom of the saints, and the pure word of God.

Hope that helps. I found a good article by Mother Angelica of EWTN who talks about this very subject. Maybe this can be your spiritual reading for today!

You might also find the article "Grace: What It is and What it Does," from Catholic Answers, helpful as well.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Take My Duh Vinci Code -- Please!

Da Vinci Code author 'most donated'

His new novel is tipped to set new global sales records - but Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown's works have been revealed as the books most likely to be offloaded to secondhand shops.
Brown has been named the "most donated" author in a survey of the nation's Oxfam shops as people discard his bestsellers.

But there is some comfort for both the charity and the author, whose much-anticipated book The Lost Symbol is released next month. He is also the second most sought-after writer at Oxfam shops.

Topping the best-seller list at the 700 branches is Ian Rankin, known for his hugely popular Inspector Rebus series.

Rankin is also the third most donated author. He said: "It's always good for an author to know that their books are popular. With Oxfam, it's also heartening to realise that each book donated and bought is helping such a worthwhile organisation."

The publishing world is currently gearing up for a sales frenzy with the release of Brown's fifth novel on September 15. An e-book version will be released simultaneously and the book has an initial English language print run of 6.5 million copies globally.

The Da Vinci Code has the distinction of being the biggest selling paperback of all time in the UK, and Brown has sold more than 11.7 million copies of his books since he was first published in 2003.

I've noticed this myself, how in used bookstores there is a preponderance of these books that people have offloaded. Gee, if it was such a great book, wouldn't you think people would want to hang on to it?

I didn't have this problem, of course, since, not wanting to put money into Dan Brown's pocket, I simply borrowed it from the library. As it was, the book was so eye-rollingly badly written I was still tempted to ask for my money back.

Study on This Sunday's Mass Readings - August 23rd

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

And my own study (with Don Schwager's meditations) from my web page.

Also the weekly audio/print meditation on the readings by Dr. Scott Hahn:

And finally, the weekly video by Professor Michael Barber on the Sunday readings.

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

Brad Pitt: Spokesman for Hollywood Intolerance

As one of the posters to the linked blog says, "My list of people I will never again give my money via movie tickets is getting quite long indeed."

To start with, Brad Pitt said that he was thinking of running for mayor of New Orleans, on an “Anti-religion, pro-legalization of marijuana and pro-gay marriage” platform. I know, I know… What a risky position to take in Tinseltown, right?

After Brads continued “anti-religion” commentary, Bill Maher decided to step up the game with his uniquely hateful brand of bigotry that’s made him oh so popular with 13-year-old atheists everywhere. In a display of “compassion,” Pitt went on to say, “Well I don’t think any Christians watch this show anyway.”

See what happened there…? Without even realizing it, Brad Pitt’s showed us that his use of the word “religion” is really inter-changeable with “Christianity,” as is the case with most of Hollywood. The entertainment industry is never anti-Religion; it’s simply anti-Christian. This goes both hand-in-hand with Hollywood’s obsession with immorality, as well as their compulsion to take shots at society’s whipping boy while praising themselves for their “risky performances.”

That goes for Megan "No Talent" Fox, as well:

Much like the time Megan Fox tipped Tinseltown’s hand when she said that if given the chance, she’d urge Megatron to only murder the “white trash, hillbilly, anti-gay, super bible-beating people in Middle America...”
Nice people. Not.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Husband jumps in river to escape nagging

Poor sap. At least the story seems to have had a happy ending.

A Chinese lorry driver jumped into a fast-flowing river because he couldn't take his wife's nagging anymore.

Zhou and his wife were on a ferry on the Yangtze River when it all became too much for him, reports the Chongqing Evening Post.

Members of the ship's crew saw the man suddenly run out of his cabin with his hands covering his ears, and shouting: "I can't stand it any longer."

They initially thought he was suffering from an ear injury and went to help him but found he was unhurt.

"While we were still puzzling over the this, his wife ran up and continued nagging him," said one crewmate.

"The husband covered his ears again and said: 'I need a break' before jumping over the side into the rushing river.

"We immediately found lamps to light up the water but found nobody. The possibility of survival can be zero."

However, later that night, police found the man who had managed to swim more than a mile across across the broad river.

"I felt I was dying, but even that's better than my wife's nagging," he reportedly told the police.
The couple were reunited the following morning at the local police station where Zhou's wife promised to give up her habit of nagging him.

Study on This Sunday's Mass Readings - August 16th

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

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

Also the weekly audio/print meditation on the readings by Dr. Scott Hahn:
And Michael Barber's video refelections found here.

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

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Requiem in Pacem, Fallen Firefighter

The Phoenix-area fire service family laid to rest another member yesterday. Capt. Eric Tinkham of Queen Creek Fire Department. The story can be found here.

The local news put together a nice tribute video, found here.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Tattoo Me?

What is the Catholic perspective on "gettin' a 'tat"?

Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid, over on his blog site has resurrected an old Envoy Magazine article on the topic of body art called Tattoo You?

My personal take is that this is an area that is one that is mostly a matter of taste rather than morality (unless, of course, the tattoos have immoral subject matter or the piercings are tied in to perverted sexual activity. The less said about that the better.) While not passing judgement on any one who has tattoos or piercings, I would never get one myself. In my opinion, unless one belongs to some traditional native culture or even a modern cultural sub-group (like bikers, Marines, sailors or circus tattoed ladies) which have always used tattoos as a rite of passage or a symbol of group identity, the practice strikes me (again, personally) as vain and a little juvenile. And when it comes to my fellow males, especially, body art and piercings just seems --well, effeminate. Somewhat akin to the 18th century fad of wearing a powdered wig, except without the lice. This might be news to those guys who think (even subconsciously) that getting a tatto makes them tough but, honestly, how tough could it be if you have a bunch of pre-teen girls getting them left and right?

Friday, August 7, 2009

I Wonder If That Includes Catholic Blogs?

Viet Government Blocking Catholic Web Sites

Aug. 6, 2009 ( - Catholic internet sites that have given prominent coverage to a Vietnamese government campaign against the Catholic Church-- including CWN-- are being blocked by government censors.

VietCatholic News, a service staffed by Vietnamese journalists, has long been blocked to users inside the country. Now Catholic World News, AsiaNews, Catholic News Agency, and Independent Catholic News have all been added to the list of blocked sites.

Vietnam strictly regulates Internet access for its citizens, using both legal and technical means. The collaborative project OpenNet Initiative classifies Vietnam's level of online political censorship to be "pervasive" while Reporters without Borders considers Vietnam one of 15 "internet enemies."

The government of Vietnam claims to safeguard the country against obscene or sexually explicit content to justify its blocking efforts, but in reality most of the filtered sites contain politically or religiously sensitive materials that are seen to undermine the Communist Party's hold on power; porn sites can be accessed readily.

Amnesty International has reported many instances of internet activists being arrested for their online activities in Vietnam. OpenNet research found that blocking is concentrated on web sites with contents about overseas political opposition, overseas and independent media, human rights, and religious topics.

At first most of the site blocked to users in Vietnam were written in Vietnamese and covered events in that country. Recently, however, popular Catholic sites written in English which draw a high numbers of readers in Vietnam have been added to the list, along with human-rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Writers Without Borders, and Amnesty International.

The latest crackdown on Catholic sites came after reports of a violent police assault on Catholic activists in the Vinh diocese, in which two priests were hospitalized in critical condition after being brutally beaten.

Study on This Sunday's Mass Readings - August 9th

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

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

Also the weekly audio/print meditation on the readings by Dr. Scott Hahn:

And finally, the (now weekly) video by Professor Michael Barber on the Sunday readings:

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

Just One More Reason To Homeschool: NEA Goes All-Out for Same-Sex Marriage

From the EagleForum,

The National Education Association (NEA), which usually passes a dozen or more pro-homosexual resolutions every year at its annual national convention, this year in San Diego went all-out in support of same-sex marriage. This emphasis on advocacy for homosexuals was spelled out in a five-point New Business Item E.

Point #1 tells its union affiliates to support state legislation that registers same-sex couples in a way that mimics marriage. This registration would cover taxes, inheritance, adoptions, medical decisions, and even immigration.

Point #2 says that states can call this same-sex registration marriage or civil union or domestic partnership so long as same-sex relationships are treated like marriage.

In Point #3, the NEA promises to "support its affiliates" in opposing state constitutional amendments and laws that "could have the effect" of differentiating between homosexual and heterosexual couples. The NEA's California affiliate spent $1.25 million of teachers' dues money on the campaign to defeat Proposition 8 last year.

In Point #4, the NEA supports repeal of federal laws and regulations such as the very popular 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. According to the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) list of laws that use DOMA's definition of marriage, repeal of this law would create new Social Security and joint income tax benefits for homosexual partners.

I think it's safe to say that "hidden" agendas are a thing of the past. What place does any of this have in educating children, you may ask (including children of parents who have strong moral reservations about this issue)? It's a quite simple strategy that abortion advocates have used to good effect over the years. If you want to promote an agenda, the best place to start is the schools, where there are lots and lots of little minnows ready to innocently swallow whatever bait you offer to them. Indoctrinate them early and often in a captive environment and -- viola! --you get a lot of non-thinking automatons ready to follow the Real Smart People in our culture (like rock stars, actors, TV talk show hosts, and the like) who are ready to play on their emotions and lack of critical thinking skills. The problem is those pesky parents who often (but not often enough) push back when they see what they perceive as moral poison being given to their children (stupid, ignorant, intolerant parents! Who knows how to raise your kids better, you or the State?).

So what's a Progressive Movement to do? Why, you must do all you can to help make the thing legal since we are know that if something is legal (like abortion, f'rinstance) it must be, ipso facto, moral and respectable as well. That way, when one of those butt-inski parents object to their 5-year old being taught that Heather has two mommies, not only can you play the "you're so mean" card, but you can piously point to the legality of the thing as evidence of it's cultural normalcy and endorsement.

The parting words of NEA's retiring general counsel, Bob Chanin, are especially telling of the sense of moral superiority these people and their ilk possess:

"Why are these conservative and right-wing bastards picking on NEA and its affiliates?"
Chanin answered, "NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power, and we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year."