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?

Reflections on this Sunday's Mass Readings - October 18,2009

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

You can find my own study (along with Don Schwager's meditation) on my website.

Here 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.

Discussion and charitible comments are always welcome. Have a blessed and holy Lord's day!

Mom Arrested for Washing Kid's Mouth With Soap

I'm afraid, in these politically correct and insanely permissive days, my Mom would be Public Enemy #1:

A Palm Bay woman and her boyfriend were arrested Monday for child abuse after the couple went old school to punish their 8-year-old daughter for swearing.

They washed her mouth out with soap.

We don't know about you, but we would petition President Obama and Congress to make it mandatory for every parent to carry a bar of Irish Spring in their back pockets with all the profanity kids use today.

Police claim Adriyanna Herdener and Wilfredo Rivera went too far by placing a bar of soap in the girl's mouth and letting it stay for 10 minutes. Herdener did not intervene in the discipline.

The girl eventually vomited and Rivera took her to the local hospital, where hospital staff called police.

No one wants a child to be hurt or inhumanely punished, but parents' discipline choices in this country have come down to calling Dr. Phil or hiding the joysticks to the Wii.

Next time your kid has a potty mouth, just give them some gum.

That is, if you don't want to be turned in and arrested for child abuse. Seems to me the "boyfriend" (who's identified as the father though not married to the mother) had the right idea, but had bad technique. There's a right way and a wrong way to wash away vulgar language. Just ask my Mom.

"Rectum? Dang near killed him!"

This week's Darwin Award goes to the German journalism student who, in attempting to put a moon on The Man, gets taken for a ride, escaping only by the seat of his pants:

A German man mooning at railway staff in a departing train got his trousers caught in a carriage door and ended up being dragged half naked along the platform, out of the station and onto the tracks.

The 22-year-old journalism student shoved his backside against the window of a low-slung double-decker train when staff forced him off in Lauenbrueck for travelling without a ticket, a spokesman for police in the northern city of Bremen said."It's a miracle he wasn't badly hurt," the spokesman said on Monday. "This sort of thing can end up killing you."Instead, dangling by his trousers, the man got pulled along for about 200 metres, all the while managing to keep his legs away from the wheels of the train.

The ordeal ended when a passenger pulled the emergency brake. Rescue services were called in, causing rail services between Bremen and Hamburg to be suspended for over an hour, delaying 23 trains.The man – unharmed except for cuts and bruises – now faces charges of dangerous interference in rail transport, insulting the train staff, and may face sizeable a compensation claim for the delays he caused, police said.

"He was full of remorse when I talked to him," the spokesman said. "And he advised others not to try the same thing."

This last, quite the understatement, I would say.

Why We All Aren't Speaking Arabic: The Battle of Lepanto

This October was the 438th anniversary of an almost forgotten yet crucial battle in the defense of western civilization called the battle of Lepanto.

In 1571, The Turkish Ottoman empire was the superpower of the day. On land, the armies of the Turks, powered by slave soldiers known as Janisaries and with advanced weaponry and artillery carved its way through the Slovaks and eventually would reach the gates of Vienna. On the sea, Turkish galleys, powered by captured Christian slaves devastated mercantile commerce and raided coastal cities throughout the Mediterranean. Europe meanwhile remained divided and at war over territory and religion. Spain, the leading European power had recently overcome the Moors in the Reconquista and was expanding into the Americas. Venice was the commercial capital of Europe and held a monopoly over Mediterranean trade. From the papal states, Pope Pius V ruled as spiritual head over the Catholic nations of Europe, but it was threatened by the Protestant Reformation. In France, conflicts were breaking out, Britain was still a poor backward country that had become the cradle of Protestantism and waged piratical war against the Spanish and Portuguese trade in the new World.

What the Pope dreaded more was the spread of Islam by the sword over Europe. Over thirty years ago, Turkey laid siege to Malta and was narrowly driven back by an army of Crusader Knights and peasants. The stories of atrocities committed by the Turks ran shock waves throughout Europe. In 1570, the island of Cyprus was under siege by the Turks and would eventually fall 10 months later. Its commander, the Venetian Marcantonio Bragadino made a truce with the Turks for safe conduct of his army away from Cyprus when defeat was imminent. Marcantonio Bragadino however was unaware of the Islamic doctrine of Al-Taqyat, or lying for Allah. The Muslims violated the truce as soon as the gates opened, and the army of Greek and Venetian defenders were captured.

Michael Novak, esteemed historian and theologian documented what had happened afterwards. Bragadino was tied to a pole stripped naked and his nose and ears were cut off and he was humiliated in various other ways. In the end he was skinned alive. His skin was then stuffed with hay and kept in the sultan's quarters as a trophy. The Turks then slaughtered many of the inhabitants, forcing the rest to convert to Islam. The men were taken to be slaves on galleys, the women and children taken away to be slaves in the harem. The old and weak were killed.

Emboldened, the Ottomans repeated this in Greece and elsewhere. Pope Pius V had attempted to unite Europe against the Turks by forming a Holy League. Time and time again he failed but with the fall of Cyprus and increased attacks the League began to come about. In addition to this, spies had uncovered a ghastly plot by the Turkish Armada lead by Ali-Pasha to invade Italy. With the help of Don Juan of Austria, the son of the Holy Roman Emperor who would be destined to lead the attack, the League came together. The Holy League consisted of Spain, Venice, Savoy, Sicily, Malta and Genoa with the Vatican as head of the alliance. Admiral Marcantonio Colona was commissioned by the Pope to command the fleet. Colona had been a veteran of the war in Cyprus and was one of the few to escape. He was ordered by the Pope to set up an armada in the name of the Cross. This was to be a holy war; war to save Europe from the clutches of Islamic imperialism.

Don Juan and many of his men spent much of the night before battle in prayer. The fate of their civilization, they knew, depended on their good fortune on the morrow. The uncertainties of the changing winds and choppy seas, and the speed of the two onrushing lines of ships rapidly closing on each other, would erupt in unpredictable havoc. The odds against the Christians in ships were something like 350 ships to 250. But the Christians had a secret weapon.

In Venice and elsewhere, new innovations in naval warfare were being constructed. Among these was the Gallease, a new galley warship that was large with mounted swivel cannons. Its height made it resistant to boarding and its new cannons made it devastating. The Turks, though outnumbering the Holy League 3 to 1 could not keep up with the European mode of invention.

In the end, Don Juan and Colona organized 206 galleys and 6 galleases. This fleet of the Christian alliance was manned by 12,920 sailors. In addition, it carried almost 28,000 fighting troops: 10,000 Spanish regular infantry of excellent quality, 7,000 German and 6,000 Italian mercenaries, and 5,000 Venetian soldiers. Also, Venetian oarsmen were mainly free citizens and were able to bear arms adding to the fighting power of their ship, whereas slaves and convicts were used to row many of the galleys in other Holy League squadrons. Don Juan had also promised the galley rowers who were criminals their freedom if they succeeded.

The Ottomans armada consisted of 222 war galleys, 56 galleys, and some smaller vessels. The Turks had skilled and experienced crews of sailors, but were somewhat deficient in the number of their elite corps of Janissaries. They made up for it with 13,000 sailors and 34,000 soldiers. The slaves below were mainly Christian prisoners of war, some from the recent conquest of Cyprus. An important and arguably decisive advantage for the Christians was their numerical superiority in guns and cannons aboard their ships. It is estimated the Christians had 1,815 guns, while the Turks had only 750 with insufficient ammunition. They instead trusted on bowmen.
Note: Few historians mention that just before the departure, Philip II (King of Spain) presented Don Juan with a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe which she had caused to be miraculously imprinted on the cloak of the Indian peasant Juan Diego in Mexico 40 years before. Don Juan placed the picture in the chapel of the admiral-vessel, asking for Mary's protection of his expedition.

The Holy fleet departed from the Greek Island of Corfu and made its way to the Gulf of Lepanto. Ali Pasha was very confident of victory and brought with him his entire fortune including his Harem. The two forces met on October 7th 1571. Don Juan began by sailing his Gallease at full speed towards the heart of the Ottoman armada, breaking it in half. The other gallease' were placed in the front and used to attack the enemy galleys, sinking two initially. The vast majority of fighting however involved boarding other ships. Witnesses stated that the sea was blood red from the fighting. there were also dead bodies and turbans floating in the water. One of the biggest advantages to the outnumbered Christians was the christian slaves aboards the Turkish galleys. Sensing their chance for freedom, most of them joined the fighting, using their chains as weapons.

During the course of the battle, the Ottoman commander's ship was boarded and the Spanish tercios from 3 galleys and the Turkish janissaries from seven galleys fought on the deck of the Sultana. Twice the Spanish were repelled with great loss, but at the third attempt, with reinforcements, they prevailed. Ali Pasha was killed and beheaded, against the wishes of Don Juan. However, when his head was displayed on a pike from the Spanish flagship, it contributed greatly to the destruction of Turkish morale. Even after the battle had clearly turned against the Turks, groups of Janissaries still kept fighting with all they had. It is said that at some point the Janissaries ran out of weapons and started throwing oranges and lemons at their Christian adversaries, leading to awkward scenes of laughter among the general misery of battle.

The battle concluded around 4 pm. The Turkish fleet suffered the loss of about 210 ships of which 117 galleys, 10 galliots and three fustas were captured and in good enough condition for the Christians to keep. On the Christian side 20 galleys were destroyed and 30 were damaged so seriously that they had to be scuttled. One Venetian galley was the only prize kept by the Turks; all others were abandoned by them and recaptured. The Holy League had suffered around 7,500 soldiers, sailors and rowers dead, but freed about as many Christian prisoners. Turkish casualties were around 25,000, and at least 3,500 were captured.

The engagement was a crushing defeat for the Ottomans, who had not lost a major naval battle since the fifteenth century. To half of Christendom, this event encouraged hope for the downfall of Islam which they regarded as the "Enemy of the Christian." Indeed, the Empire lost all but 30 of its ships and as many as 30,000 men, and some Western historians have held it to be the most decisive naval battle anywhere on the globe since the Battle of Actium of 31BC.

The Ottomans ships were easily replaced, yet it proved much harder to man them, since so many experienced sailors, oarsmen and soldiers had been lost. Especially critical was the loss of most of the Empire's composite bowmen and jannisaries which, far beyond ship rams and early firearms were the Ottoman's main embarked weapon. Historian John Keegan notes that the losses in this highly specialised class of warrior were irreplaceable in a generation, and in fact represented the death of a living tradition for the Ottomans. Convicts also replaced Christians in the galleys.

In Europe, news of the victory was met with great jubilation. Throughout Europe, church bells tolled and there were great celebrations. The victory had been greater than any had hoped for.

Following the battle there were plans by the Vatican to invade Turkey herself, unfortunately, the nations of the Holy League once again began to fight amongst each other and plans were abandoned. After Lepanto the Holy League and other nations and alliances fought further wars and conflicts against Islamic Turkey. Some were victories, some defeats.

Efforts by archeologists to uncover the remains of the battle of Lepanto have unfortunately met with disappointment. The area where much of the battle was fought has receeded. The coast has moved outward. Much of the battleground is now farm land. Other coastal sites have been disturbed over the centuries by Greek fishing trollers, athough some wrecks were found by German and Spanish Archeologists.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the man who would later write Don Quixote participated in the battle of Lepanto. He lost an arm in the battle and was captured by Algerian corsairs years later where he spent 5 years as a slave before being ransomed. The events of Don Quixote such as the freeing of galley slaves were inspired by Lepanto.

As news of the great victory of October 7 reached shore, church bells rang all over the cities and countryside of Europe. For months, Pius V [who was canonized a saint in 1712] had urged Catholics to say the daily rosary on behalf of the morale and good fortune of the Christian forces, and above all, a successful outcome to the highly risky preemptive strike against the Turkish fleets. Thereafter, he declared that October 7 would be celebrated as the feast of "Mary, Queen of Victory." A later pope added the title "Queen of the Holy Rosary" in honor of the laity's favorite form of prayer. All over the Italian peninsula, great paintings were commissioned--whole galleries were dedicated--to honoring the classic scenes of that epic battle. The air of Europe that October tasted of liberties preserved. The record of the celebrations lives on in glorious paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, and many others.

[Slightly edited for spelling and grammar; Source: Free Republic, Catholic Caucus, Daily Mass Readings, October 15, 2009]

To see historian Michael Novak's much more comprehensive (and fascinating) article on this, click here. Novak notes that the Muslims went on to suffer a decisive (at the time) defeat in Europe at Vienna on September 11, 1683. He ends his article with these words:

Still, it should surprise no one that the date chosen to bring the new resurgence of modern Muslim ambition to the whole world's attention was also September 11, 318 years after 1683. The announcement came in the vivid orange bursts of blossoming flame and dark black smoke from two of the tallest towers of the West's financial capital. Muslim memory runs very deep, and so does the Muslim imperative to conquer the world for Allah, not just by force of arms but by conversion to Islam. The West has always refused to give this long and deeply rooted Muslim threat against the West's own soul the sustained attention it requires.

Nonetheless, four centuries after Lepanto, three centuries after Vienna, today in most of the capitals of once-Christian Europe, there are more Muslims attending services in mosques on Fridays, than Christians at worship on Sundays. In some ways, the pluralism of the West is a blessing, even an advantage to the West--and yet its profoundest historical weakness lies in its own divided spirit. The ultimate issue between Islam and the West is not military force. It is the depth of intellect and engagement. In matters of the spirit, we seem always to become tongue-tied, as if lacking in spirited confidence. We do not insist on presenting better arguments in recognition of the inalienable rights to human liberty that our totalitarian opponents deny. Mere secular force will not do, when the fundamental battle is spiritual. Thus, the same movie seems to be played over and over.

That is the historical record, it seems, at least in regard to October 7, 1571, and September 11-12, 1683, after Lepanto, and after Vienna.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reflections On the Mass Readings for This Sunday - October 11

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). We're having a little technical trouble updating this week's study, so if you need it before it gets posted, please e-mail me directly at and I will send it directly to you. BTW, thank you Jackie and others for all the positive comments about the study; it is very encouraging to me!

Here 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.

Discussion and charitible comments are always welcome. Have a blessed and holy Lord's day!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is There A Doctor In The (White) House?

This would be funny, if it wasn't such a sad commentary on both how some shameless politicos believe dishonest means justify the means, and on how far people will let themselves be led around by the nose by their idols:

WASHINGTON -- President Obama yesterday rolled out the red carpet -- and handed out doctors' white coats as well, just so nobody missed his hard-sell health-care message. In a heavy-handed attempt at reviving support for health-care reform, the White House orchestrated a massive photo op to buttress its claim that front-line physicians support Obama.

A sea of 150 white-coated doctors, all enthusiastically supportive of the president and representing all 50 states, looked as if they were at a costume party as they posed in the Rose Garden before hearing Obama's pitch for the Democratic overhaul bills moving through Congress.

The physicians, all invited guests, were told to bring their white lab coats to make sure that TV cameras captured the image. But some docs apparently forgot, failing to meet the White House dress code by showing up in business suits or dresses. So the White House rustled up white coats for them and handed them to the suited physicians who had taken seats in the sun-splashed lawn area. All this to provide a visual counter to complaints from other doctors that pending legislation is bad news for the medical profession.
(Source: New York Post)

I'm sorry, but who is so clueless or purposely blind as to not see the phoniness and blatant manipulation going on here? Surely the doctors present must have chuckled to each other or at least rolled their eyes. But maybe not, as they were all hand-picked supporters of the President and must have been clinically giddy just to be in his presence. Certainly the American people at large aren't that naive? It reminds me of the amateurish propaganda Saddam Hussien would put out during the Gulf War.

"Nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do," Obama told his guests.

Well, these particular M.D.'s just lost a lot of their credibility by playing along with this charade. Mr. Obama? Between his obsession with the failing healthcare bill, his failed and expensive junket to Europe in support of bringing the Olympics to Chicago, and his limp-wristed indecisiveness about the war in Afganistan while more of our brave men and women die everyday, I'm not sure he has much left at this point in the old credibility resevoir.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Reflections On This Sunday's Mass Readings: October 4, 2009

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!

Why The Original "The Wizard of Oz" Would Never Be Released Today

The family all sat down last night to watch the newly re-mastered version of the 1939 classic MGM movie "The Wizard of Oz." When I was a kid, the film came on television once a year around Christmas time and was always a big deal. This was in the days before YouTube, satellite, cable, Blu-Ray, DVD or even VCR and if you missed it that once a year, you had to wait until the next time they showed it. Out of luck, kid; see you next year.

Anyway we all thoroughly enjoyed it as we always do. The picture and sound quality were, of course, much improved, but we mostly just delighted in the usual things that make it worth watching again and again - the wonderful music, the slightly over-the-top performances, the comic timing, and the heart-touching overall message: there's no place like home.

It's common to hear (mostly older) people say "They sure don't make movies like they used to," and that's inarguably true. But why is that? Has society or our tastes --even in so-called "family films" --become more 'sophisticated' (i.e. 'cynical')? Have our tastes become more 'adult' (i.e. crude and vulgar, with the mocking of innocence and idealism)? Do we prefer more 'realism' in our media (i.e. explicit sex and gratuitous violence)?

Perhaps so; but must it be so for us as individuals? Just because the prevailing culture has evolved (or devolved) in this way, do we just lower ourselves and conform our characters to it by lowering them as well? Or, maybe we are living uneasily within our culture, but we still just throw up our hands in defeat, roll over, and go with the flow. Any dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live fish to swim against the current.

Anyway, here are the top ten reasons why the original 'The Wizard of Oz" would not be produced and released in theaters today:

1. No profanity or cruel insults between characters.

2. No nudity (not even skin tight clothes or exposed cleavage!).

3. No sexual situations, even implied.

4. No bathroom humor.

5. No political correctness (there were 'people of color' but they were green).

6. The characters evidently embraced tradtional family values; at any rate they did not mock them.

7. No gratuitous violence.

8. Adult Males were not portrayed as hopeless idiots in contrast to women and children who always know better.

9. Religion was not bashed. In fact Auntie Em proclaimed herself a 'Christian woman' (GASP!)

10. No huge financial killing was evidently envisioned in the form of merchandising and endless sequels and spin-offs.
Despite all these shortcomings, this film has been a beloved classic for 70 years. Will people 70 years from now be able to say the same thing about the last movie you saw in a theater?
(For more thoughts on "The Wizard of Oz," see Deal Hudson's blog, found here.)

Fr. Robert Barron On "The YouTube Heresies"

Here is a two part presentation by Fr. Robert Barron, priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and founder of The Catholicism Project. In these videos he explains modern impediments to embracing Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. Part 1 covers 'scientism' (the belief that science explains everything) and 'angelism' (the belief that if the Church were authentic everyone inside the Church would be perfect). Part 2 discusses fundamentalist versus Catholic methods of interpretation of Sacred Scripture and how, in the popular mind, they are conflated.

More videos by Fr. Barron can be found at his website, found here.
(photo above is an icon of St. Irenaeus)