Friday, September 24, 2010

Warning! Says the Bishops. Beware Catholic Faithful.

I was reading the blogs that I frequent and I came across this by Dr. John Bergsma on his shared blog The  Sacred Page.  I was not aware things like this were taken care of at a more local level.  

The USCCB's Committee on Doctrine wrote a document last week warning the faithful of the book, The Sexual Person: Towards a Renewed Catholic Anthropology by Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler.  It finds its empitome in this blurb: 
"Its interpersonal and experiential approach points to a thorough revision of Church teaching on birth control, reproductive technology, premarital sex, and homosexuality." — Edward C. Vacek, SJ, professor, Department of Moral Theology, Weston Jesuit School of Theology (my own emphasis added)
 The bishop's document (found here) is coherent, clear, and straightforward about the inadequacies and outright problems with the work.  First and foremost, it oversimplifies and (possibly) unintentionally desacralizes Sacred Scripture treating it with as much or less reverence than a publication of poems written by and for four year olds.  Each moral statement in Scripture is sociohistorically conditioned, so conditioned as to have no relevance in the 21st Century.  They don't even bother to do the work of deconstruction to take down the arguments they go the easy route of absolute relativism.  However, "The Church has never doubted, however, that with proper study and analysis it is possible not only to come to an understanding of the meaning that the scriptural writer intended but also, through an understanding of the human words, to come to an understanding of what God intended to convey to us by means of the human writers.  History is not an impassable barrier for communication of God's truth through Scripture." (7 of bishop's document)

The document goes on to speak about Salzman and Lawler's lack of grasping the natural law.  Their conclusions are dissident, disrespectful, and moral relativistic.  Be warned this book is not representative of Catholic sexual ethics.  Do not be mislead by their use of Catholic language including the Theology of the Body-esque title of the book.  

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Love or Money?

I found this ad on Facebook.  It's an ad for the sequel of the award winning '80's movie Wall Street.  Is this not indicative of our current culture?  Money or love?  Which would you choose?  Neither!!!  Money has no intrinsic value after its very existence.   I don't want Wall Street's understanding of love either.  Furthermore, I don't care for Shia Lebeouf other than his Even Stevens role.  Money does never sleep, rather it doesn't have the capacity.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Called to be Saints in the New Millemium

 This is taken from the Holy Father's speech to Students Yesterday.
It is not often that a Pope, or indeed anyone else, has the opportunity to speak to the students of all the Catholic schools of England, Wales and Scotland at the same time. And since I have the chance now, there is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.
Perhaps some of you have never thought about this before. Perhaps some of you think being a saint is not for you. Let me explain what I mean. When we are young, we can usually think of people that we look up to, people we admire, people we want to be like. It could be someone we meet in our daily lives that we hold in great esteem. Or it could be someone famous. We live in a celebrity culture, and young people are often encouraged to model themselves on figures from the world of sport or entertainment. My question for you is this: what are the qualities you see in others that you would most like to have yourselves? What kind of person would you really like to be?
When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.
Not only does God love us with a depth and an intensity that we can scarcely begin to comprehend, but he invites us to respond to that love. You all know what it is like when you meet someone interesting and attractive, and you want to be that person’s friend. You always hope they will find you interesting and attractive, and want to be your friend. God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.
In your Catholic schools, there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God, and all that flows from that friendship. So you learn not just to be good students, but good citizens, good people. As you move higher up the school, you have to make choices regarding the subjects you study, you begin to specialize with a view to what you are going to do later on in life. That is right and proper. But always remember that every subject you study is part of a bigger picture. Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world. We need good historians and philosophers and economists, but if the account they give of human life within their particular field is too narrowly focused, they can lead us seriously astray.
A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints. 
 Let us join in the great hope of the Holy Father.  His hope is that he is speaking to some future English saints.  He calls them out at the very beginning.  You are called to be saints, don't settle for something less.  He challenges the celebrity cult.  His goal is to refocus the youth on the saints.  He doesn't want us to settle for created things what he prudently calls, "second best."  Happiness is found only in God.  He invites the youth to friendship with God, what St. Thomas Aquinas called one of the greatest goals of human life.  Friendship with God helps us to see the truth of things in humility.  
The pope knows the scientific outlook is strong in England, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Stephen Hawking being its prime examples.  He warns them of the narrow outlook of scientific mentality.  He calls it dangerously narrow, cataracts on the intellect.  


I have been enthralled by Pope Benedict's visit to Scotland and England.  I've been excited for weeks on end.  He would enter into places previously unfathomed for Pope, Westminster Hall, the place many of our English martyrs were condemned to death most famously Sts Thomas More and Edmund Campion.  Another intellectual Catholic entered that door, this time he is welcomed and not condemned.  What does this mean for Catholicism in England.  Will Elizabeth II undue what was solidified by Elizabeth I?  Probably not, but this visit brings great hope.  Over the last three years the Pope has made a mission to the English speaking world.  He traveled to the United States and Australia in 2008 and England in 2010.  The English language still dominates world intercourse despite diminishing economic stability in the US.  The English changed the course of history with its vast empire.  The Americans controlled the 20th Century by way of a victory in both theatres of World War II.  They created an economic empire.  Australia, well, I don't know much about the land down under, but I can surmise that she is influenced by her two more powerful English speaking sisters.
I think that Benedict sees the enormous influence the English speaking world has on the rest of global civilization.  He is calling us to be the evangelizers of the 21st Century.  We're to pick up were the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italians left off.  Now WE take on the new evangelization.  We bring the gospel anew to those Christian areas.  It is certainly not our burden alone, but to quote Uncle Ben, "With great power comes great responsibility."  We have our chance, English speaking Catholics, to take up the standard of Christ and proclaim the cross!!!  Let us follow in the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier, St. Boniface, St. Columban, St. Augustine of Canterbury, St. Isaac Jouges, and Bl. Junipero Serra.  Let us bring Christ to the world, a world that once knew him, a world that once consecrated itself to him, to the world that fostered saints who imitated him.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, let us be the NEW EVANGELIZATION!!!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fulfill your Baptismal Call, Evangelize the Culture

This is a quote from Pope Benedict XVI's homily to the Scottish Church in Glasgow earlier today.
The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation.
The Holy Father is speaking to the Scots, but it is just as pertinent to us in the US.  This evangelization begins  in our hearts.  We must die to the self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms that are projected onto us by media and our secular education system.  Live a life of the sacraments.  Live a life absorbed in shadow of the cross.  It is then that we will fulfill our baptismal call and evangelize this culture which is ruled by a dictatorship of relativism.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stabat Mater

Stabat Mater dolorósa      
iuxta crucem lacrimósa    
dum pendébat gládius.      

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, or Mater Dolorosa.  This line we know well.  It begins the traditional hymn used in the Stations of the Cross.  This afternoon in going through my daily missal is was filled with both joy and sorrow at finding this.  This familiar hymn is one of a few sequences we have in our liturgical year.  It would have been a great addition to a daily liturgy, but unfortunately it was never even mentioned.  I wish to share it with you, along with a small commentary on a few of the verses.

Stabat Mater dolorosa         At the cross her station keeping
iuxta crucem lacrimosa       stood the mournful mother weeping
dum pendébat gladius.        close to Jesus to the last.
Notice she is standing.  Despite her overwhelming sorrow, she stands at the foot of the cross.  She is not sitting.  The English translation gives the impression of her keeping vigil, like a watchman standing on the parapet in the night.   She is there with the fruit of womb, and there for the fruit of womb.  Her standing could indeed impart that she shares in her Son's passion.  St. Mary Magdalene is usually picture lying against and embracing the cross.  Mary stands with her Son as he is lifted up.  

Cuius animam gementem,     Through her heart, his sorrow sharing
contristatam et dolentem        all his bitter anguish bearing
pertansivit gladius.                now at length the sword had passed.
All three images show the swords piercing her heart.  This is in reference to the passage in Luke about the Presentation of the Christ-child in the temple.  "Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted-and you yourself a sword will pierce-so that the thoughts of many hearts be revealed.'" (Luke 2:34-35).  The image of the Seven Sorrows shows the seven swords that pierced Mary's heart as she, without sin, shared spiritually in the sufferings of her Son.  The third sword seems special to me.  It pierced her when He, at the age of twelve, went missing from their pilgrimage group.  As any mother can agree, the disappearance of a child is certainly a sword that can pierce the heart.  Imagine the piercing of such a pure and tender heart as Mary's, it would have reacted like a warm butter does a knife.  

Who Am I?

Several months ago, I was asked to reflect upon three questions. These questions were to be the center of my contemplative prayer and the answers of which were to be the aim of all my efforts. The questions were: Who am I, Who is God, and What is our relationship.

At first this may seem very simple, and maybe you can even come up with a quick easy answer to these. However, one needs to go deeper than a surface level response in order to remotely grasp the answer. Strip away everything before answering any of these.

All three of these questions have a common link, humility; thus, before going farther, I feel the need to define such a holy fundamental word. Humility is not hiding away your talents. It is not becoming small in the eyes of others. It is not degrading or allowing yourself to be degraded by others. Humility is simply having and acting upon the knowledge of who you are in relationship to God. It means seeing the gifts God gave you and using them when they are needed. Humility means realizing exactly who you are, not what people have made you out to be. It means seeing the great value you are worth and living that truthfully and faithfully.

Now, let us look at the questions. There are two inseparable recognitions one needs to make to genuinely understand who they are. The first aspect is the perception that compared to God we are nothing and deserve nothing. Without God, simply put, we would not be living; in fact, we would not even exist much less be able to take a single breath. The second part is the realization that God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to the world to open the gates of mercy and salvation to us so that we may become His adopted children through the death of Christ, the sacrificial Lamb, upon the cross.

What many of us tend to forget is that God not only made us in His image and likeness, but He also saved us out of LOVE! Live that LOVE and DIGNITY! While the world screams in our ears to be totally self-sufficient and to walk over anyone who gets in the way of our success, our God whispers to our soul, stay in Me and I shall remain in you, be humble and depend upon Me for I shall fill you with My mercy and grace because I love you.

Thus, as I often do, here is my challenge. I dare you to take sometime after reading this and see if you can answer the questions: Who are you? Who is God to you? What is your relationship with Him?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Confessions of a Former Time Killer

"I'm bored."  I found myself, especially in my high school years, saying this line.  "I have nothing to do.  Nowhere to go.  I'm bored."  Time and time again I found myself in that situation.  To relieve boredom I would play video games, call up a friend to go hang out, maybe listen to music, or do other things.  In any case, I felt I had to relieve my boredom by DOING something.  I had to keep myself occupied, although, honestly, I never occupied myself with constructive things like homework or household chores, both being obligations that needed fulfilling. 

At other points in my life, I found myself with others "killing time" either by way of distraction from school work or seminary formation or as a replacement for the obligations of such.  In any sense, this wasn't a productive time, but it wasn't a restful either.

I found that after both trying to relieve boredom or "killing time" I was more restless.  I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't relax.  I felt more tense.  Boredom held for me a certain restlessness.  I can't sleep when I'm bored nor am I wholly awake.  I'm restless.  In all of this, I found myself wishing and desiring rest and relaxation.  Acutal, time worth spending doing nothing. 

"The vacancy left by absense of worship is filled by mere killing of time and by boredom, which is directly related to inability to enjoy leisure; for one can only be bored if the spiritual power to be leisurely has been lost."  My heart was restless because it did not rest in Thee, O Lord.  The restless of boredom directly resulted from my inablity to enjoy leisure.  Each occurence of boredom was an opportunity for leisure.  I was afforded the opportunity for divine worship, and I occupied myself with created things. 

Daily I have the opporunity to be leisurely and worship God.  Those times when boredom sets in or the temptation to kill time comes upon me are times to turn to festivity.  Those are times to glorify God in my heart, and perhaps they are times to practice works of charity.  Where before I was blinded by my restlessness, now I have the oppotunity to be the light of the world. 

Lord give me the gift of leisure that I may love You, serve You, and glorify You each day of my life.

A reflection of Chapter V of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Friday, September 10, 2010

Utility, the Antithesis of Divine Worship

This summer the Archdiocese of New Orleans held a Theology on Tap series at the guest area of a local brewery.  One of the talks, given by Fr. Bryce Sibley, a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, held the name, "Why Does the Church Make Such a Big Deal About Sex?"  With such a title, the talk seemed to be a very intriguing topic.  Fr. Sibley's main point was this: the human and along with it, human sexuality, is connected, at its roots, to divine worship.  The Church makes such a big deal about sex precisely because it relates to divine worship.  Not just in Catholicism but in ancient Judaism (look at the laws in Leviticus) as well as ancient pagan religion, sex is connected with worship.  All this connects through the concept of imago Dei.  Man is made in the image and likeness of God, not just his his soul but in his body.

Karol Wojtyla (JP II), in his early work, Love and Responsibility, spoke about the human body.  He saw in lust and especially in pornography the antithesis of the meaning and depth of human love and the human body (He takes these thoughts and expands on their Biblical roots in his opus magnus, Man and Woman He Created Them: The Theology of the Body.)  He spoke of this antithetical action as utilitarian (in the philosophical sense of John Stuart Mill and co.).  The body, or someone else's body, is not something to be used and them discarded when it no longer provides pleasure.  It is something to be regarded and honored for its own sake.  In TOB, John Paul II would specifically say that it is precisely because we are made in God's image that the human person, body and soul, is an in himself/herself.  Again, we connect the human body with honor of God.  When one honors the human body, as a divine image, he/she worships God for such a great gift.

This though came into my mind when Pieper wrote this,"[Divine worship/sacrifice] definitely does not involve utility; it is in face antithetic to utility."  Worship is the epitome of superfluity.  It goes beyond what is the assumed norm and flows into utter foolishness.  It is as necessary as a bolt or a screw, but it is a bolt or screw made of pure gold and plated in platinum.  Such is the nature of divine worship, to which the human body points.  This is why we have extravagant places of worship and ornate vestments and complicated and beautifully worded rituals.  Divine worship is not utilitarian it is utterly foolish and superfluous.  Praise be to God!

A reflection on Chapter V of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Labor Day, as Artificial as a Maypole

This past Monday we celebrated Labor Day, where everyone gets a day off of work to spend time in rest.  it is a celebration of thanksgiving for all the work that Americans do.  According to Wikipedia, Labor Day is celebrated with, "A street parade to exhibit to the public 'the strength and espirit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,' followed by a festival for workers and their families."  It was established by President Grover Cleveland and Congress.  It was in response to a massive worker strike.  It is a secular festival and celebration, a rather new incarnation of a holiday.  It is secular man's attempt to replace actual festivals which have their "roots in divine worship."  (Now don't get me wrong I don't believe that that was Grover Cleveland's intention.  I would say he was rather a product of his secular culture.)  Since Cleveland, presidents have been in the habit of making many days special days to celebrate the earth, or war veterans, or dead presidents, or social rights activists.  "In point of fact, the stress and strain of giving them some kind of festal appearance is one of the very best proofs of the significance of divine worship for a feast; and nothing illustrates so clearly that festivity is only possible where divine worship is still an act--and nothing shows this so clearly as a comparison between a living and deeply tradition feast day, with its roots in divine worship, and one of those rootless celebrations, carefully and unspontaneously prepared beforehand, and artificial as a maypole."

Festivity is rooted in celebration, which is divine worship.  Fall festivals were created to thank the gods and God for a fruitful harvest.  The Torah lavishly outlines festivals the Hebrews are to celebrate in worship of the LORD.  Saints feast days, Holy Days of Obligation, and Marian Days hold great importance to us as Catholics.  The Muslims have special days and months for special worship.  Our calendar is riddled with names that honor Roman dieties.  All throughout, festivals are related to divine worship.

Now we honor man.  We honor men, such as presidents, veterans, workers, mothers, fathers, and particular great men such as Martin Luther King, Jr.  Secular holidays quietly reinforce secular humanism.

At least here in New Orleans many of our biggest holidays, despite their possible current secular character, are rooted in divine worship.  Mardi Gras comes from a preparation for the austerity of Lent by joyously giving praise to God for the gifts of food and family.  Having a large Irish population, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated.  We thank God for his life and his bringing Christianity to the pagan Celts on  Ireland.  We also celebrate St. Joseph's Day.  Altars are built and meals are prepared to thank God for answering our prayers by way of the intercession of the foster father of Jesus.  Because of the powerful influence of the secular culture, the two former feasts have become, for many, no more than parties of drunkenness and debauchery.

I'm almost positive this theme will be taken up by Ratzinger in The Spirit of the Liturgy.  I can't wait to see what he says.

a reflection on Chapter V of Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leisure as an Attitude of Humility

"Leisure is only possible on the premise that man consents to his own true nature and abides in concord with the meaning of the universe.". It seems to me that from this insight one can understand leisure as an attitude of utter humility.  Both ourselves as humans and the universe.  Both humans and the universe are created things.  It is an acceptance of and assent to divinity.  It is not only essential then for a virtuous life but a saintly life.  This must be why he is constantly comparing leisure with contemplation.  Taking from this analogy though, one can automatically become leisurely .  He must progress in virtue and knowledge and humility to live in leisure.

A reflection on Chapter III of Leisure: The Basis of Culture