Friday, March 25, 2011

The Loving Response of Obedience

"[The breaking of the first covenant] is a situation that comes after the failure of the test connected with the tree of the knowlege of good and evil, which was at the same time the first test of 'obedience,' that is, of hearing the Word in all its truth and of accepting Love according to the fullness of the demands of the creative Will." TOB 11:4

I was struck first of all by the capitalization of Love. Now that sounds very English teachery of me, but it has a great significance. We only capitalize very specific things, the beginnings of sentences, proper names, and places. Love is capitalized because it refers directly to God. Deus Caritas Est.

JP II sees obedience as hearing and accepting Love. Obedience, then, is our response to love. Within that loving response, I spoke last time is also the obedience of God's Will. Obedience and love, then, are intimately connected and intertwined. This connection frees the concept of obedience from oppresiveness, anger, and fear. It connects it rather to a loving response to God's call.

This seems appropriate to today's feast, the Annunciation.  No person in history, other than her Son, showed a loving response of obedience to God's call than Mary.  Mary's obedience became the opposite of Eve's disobedience.  She hears the Word of truth from the proclamation of Gabriel and accepts Love not only in her heart but in her womb.  She literally embodies and houses Love due to her fiat.  Let her be the exemplar for us as we look for freedom in obedience.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Erotic and Godly?

"There is a certain relationship between love and the divine: love promises infinity, eternity--a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence." Deus Caritas Est 5

This quote is within the context of the Holy Father's explication of eros. He refers back to the Greek understanding of an intoxication transcending into the divine so as to experience supreme happiness. He goes on to say this was enacted through various fertility cults, where men would go to a shrine and unleash their passionate desire upon a woman whose sole purpose was to be mediators of divine intoxication as objects of sexual pleasure. They were treated not as human beings, not as persons, but as objects for those men, objects for the sole purpose of pleasure.

This should sound familiar to us today. Pornography is not much different. Neither is prostitution. Pornography, though, seems to be exponentially more dangerous, if not for the sole reason of being much more accessible, but also from Matthew 5 where Jesus tells us that anyone who lusts after a woman already commits adultery in his heart. Pornography degrades, perverts, and deconstructs the idea and truth of eros. It divinizes eros instead of letting eros be a means to the divine. Furthermore, it destroys the God given dignity of the human person, who is himself an end (c.f. Love and Responsibility Karol Wojtyla).

Pope Benedict goes on to mention the Old Testament's rejection of this cult because it is, as shown earlier, "a perversion of religiosity." However, eros was not rejected, rather, its idea and enaction needed to be purified and tempered.

This desire, ultimately, for God is within us. Eros desires to transcend finite reality to be in union with the infinite, namely God. Aristotle had this concept in his cosmology. The umoved mover, whom he referred to as god, moved all things to itself. Everything moved in its own path back toward the unmoved mover. This can easily be translated into Christian terms. God moves "all creation together in Himself." "Father, I pray that they may be one as You and I are one." In the greatest sense, eros can be seen in this light.

However, "eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but also a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns," (Deus Caritas Est 4). The tendency in our culture today is to direct this desire for the infinite, for beatitude, (happiness), toward finite things. These things, or persons, offer fleeting pleasure. Through a temperate direction of eros, we can experience a "foretaste" of eternal life in love. It is like tasting a crumb of the greatest cake ever to be made, and this crumb springs your yearning on ever greater for the whole cake. This foretaste, directed and mediated through temperance, incites full throttle the desire to be in union with our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Honest Young Woman (or, Sincerity and Dialogue)

“An error is more menacing than a crime, for an error begets crimes. An Imperialist is worse than a pirate. For an Imperialist keeps a school for pirates; he teaches piracy disinterestedly and without an adequate salary. A Free Lover is worse than a profligate. For a profligate is serious and reckless even in his shortest love; while a Free Lover is cautious and irresponsible even in his longest devotion.” –GK Chesterton.

It is amazing the kind of friends one meets in this post-modern world of ours. One such friend, who is thoroughly Pro-life has, within the past three weeks, invited me to a couple of meetings with abortionists. The first time round, the abortionist was also a convert, so the meeting made sense. But the second one was unapologetically pro-choice and, what was worst, it was very much political. I make this somewhat flippant statement, but I mean it wholeheartedly. I believe that a sin is not nearly as bad as an erroneous belief, that politically advocating abortions is worse than having an abortion yourself. “For it is out of the heart that good and evil come.” See the preliminary quote if you think this idea needs to be fleshed-out anymore.

That is why, from among the many wonderful and strange things I heard that evening, there are two in particular that I want to highlight. The first came from the mouth of one of the Planned Parenthood doctors who had, from among the many noble elements in her liberal ideology, chosen to retract liberal socialism in favor of fiscal conservativism. Namely, she argued that healthcare reform demands efficiency, that abortions are cheaper and more efficient than paying to carry a baby to term and, therefore, the government should pay for abortions. What a strange logic! It would be like saying that public school meals should be low grade and cheap because that’s what’s best for taxpayers. The health of the person in question in never brought into the question. But is saving tax-payers money really the goal of healthcare reform? Is it not to provide better health care to the poor and marginalized, regardless of price? You cannot in one breath support an admittedly expensive overhaul of the healthcare system and then, in the next breath, say that you want the cheapest alternative. If you want good healthcare, you must be willing to pay for it. Regardless of whether or not socialized medicine is the best approach to solving the problem, it seems quite obvious to me that cheap ‘fiscally conservative’ healthcare is the worst. It’s like the inverse of cash for clunkers, where Uncle Sam forces on his constituents a poor product and in return asks them to pay for it.

I will not dwell on this argument however, for something more fantastic happened that evening. Towards the end of the discussion, when all sides had made their points and spoke their peace, the small, nervous woman who had been running the Powerpoint stood up and spake thus; “I know that there are some conservatives in this room and I applaud them for their ability to remain chaste, but I want to have sex!” The room went quite for a split second before the Planned Parenthood officials interjected, politely asking the poor girl to calm down and reserve such comments for other times. Had I not been one of three men in the room of fifty people, I might have stood up and defended the young woman. I dare say, it is likely that she was the most sincere person in the room that night! If we are to dialogue about sexuality and healthcare, we must begin by discussing the reality of a couple alone in a room wanting to have sex. It seemed to me that the most appropriate time to discuss sexuality’s longings and desires is at a meeting devoted to “healthy sex.” The doctors and lawyers in the room seemed to think otherwise.

Which brings me back to where I began, with Chesterton talking about error being worse than sin. A young woman who stands up in the middle of a crowd and admits to not having the strength to live a chaste life deserves some sort of accolade. She may be a sinner, but it is Lent! Judge her not. Speaking personally, I think that she was honest and should have been commended for it. Yet, notice the strange reality that followed. Rather than being welcomed and applauded by her feminist friends, she is quieted down and asked to keep to herself. They were embarrassed of her (for her, about her, etc?)! I offer no solution to the conundrum here. I simply want to point out how erroneous beliefs lead to paradoxical behavior in reality. I, the close-minded Christian, was more than willing to let people stand up and say “I want to have sex!” It was the progressives that invoked censorship. Indeed, I hope that God rewards the courage of that young woman, the only one of us willing to speak about woman’s sexual desires at a meeting devoted to the topic of woman’s sexual health. More importantly, I pray for those who support abortion on demand but place strange limits on when women can talk about wanting to have sex.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dominus Est!

I love short books. Sure, it can be a hindrance to really delving into a subject deeply, but I still love them. Why? Because they're short - and that means I can read them quickly and feel productive, which in turn encourages me to read even more! 

I got one such small book (maxing out at 51 pages!) in the mail this week. Dominus Est - It is the Lord! by Bishop Athanasius Schneider over in Kazakhstan (Central Asia) is a short work on the adoration and reception of Holy Communion. Interestingly, before getting into the theological arguments or scriptural references, Bishop Schneider first notes the example of three 'Eucharistic women' who demonstrated to him the blessed gift of the Eucharist and the manner in which to receive it worthily. I thought this was rather brilliant because in my own experience people tend to connect and understand more deeply the lived reality of someone else rather than a mere concept or theological point. The three examples of intense faith and longing for the Eucharistic Lord can speak to our hearts in a way that opens us to be more understanding and accepting of the theological points that Bishop Schneider puts forward. I would definitely encourage everyone to read this because it is a great 'primer' on reverence toward the Most Blessed Sacrament and gives us much to contemplate all in about an hour's worth of reading. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reciprocal Love

"Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 John 4:10), love is now no longer a mere 'command,' it is the response to the gift of love which God draws near to us." Deus Caritas Est 1

Christianity is a contiuation of the Shemah. Pope Benedict shares this insight. The Shemah is the prayer of Israel. They have it on their foreheads and on their door posts. "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your hear, and with all your soul, and with all your might," (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). This was the command given to Israel from the Father at Sinai.

The devout Jew utters this prayer throughout the day reminding himself to follow the law. Jesus "came not to abolish the law, but fulfill it," (Matthew 5:17). So what does this mean for us as Christians, this Shemah of Israel?

Well, with Jesus it takes on a new light. "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be expiation for our sins," (1 John 4:10). This is the verse to which the Holy Father alluded. Not that we first loved God (we are not the initiators of this relationship between human and divine), but He first loved us. Therefore, our love for Him is no longer a command, as in the Shemah, but a response.

Our love for God is a response to His love for us. We first experience this love as children in the faith. We experience it most powerfully in our first conversion experience. We experience it at the proclamation of the Gospel during the Liturgy of the Word. We experience it even more so at the Liturgy of the Eucharist where that event is re-presented, becomes present for us. We experience it when we receive the sacrament of penance.

Then, what is our response but to love back. We give back to God what He has given us, by giving ourselves fully to Him just as He gave Himself for us. There is no holding back. It must be our all.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's been a while....

So, it has been a LONG time since I posted anything here on RR. This is due in part to the fact that I have been trying to keep up my own blog that I began last year and also because of the return to classes and the rush to prepare things for ordination. In that time I have been reading a variety of books off and on, but haven't made the time to post anything about them. So I'll start doing so now.

Last fall, as I was finally getting used to the reality that I'm a deacon, I was given a few suggestions on books to read - three on Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and one on St. Therese. Being that I already had a relationship with Therese, I picked that one up first. It was written by Fr. Marc Foley, OCD and is entitled "The Context of Holiness". Essentially the point of the book was to integrate psychology and spirituality rather than keep them separate as we can often try to do (and rightly at points). He spoke of the psychological issues that Therese had to deal with in her own life and brought the spiritual level to them, which was a really interesting aspect for me to see. I had read The Story of a Soul and other writings on the life of Therese, but hadn't really seen it in this light before. The whole basis of the book is that our daily lives are not something to be endured but are actually the context of our own holiness - the decisions we make are the things that can allow us to grow in our union with God. Coming in around 100 pages or so, the book was quite readable and spiritual uplifting for me in dealing with my own trials and struggles in the midst of daily life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Catholic Media Promotion Day

Today is Catholic Media Promotion Day.  Being that, in some small way, this blog is Catholic media.  We are participating.  I speak for myself and not my colleagues with regard to the following picks:

Three Favorite Catholic Blogs:

The Sacred Page, which is co-author by Dr.'s Michael Barber, John Bergsma, and my own Scripture professor Brant Pitre, has been the blog that I have followed the longest.  As a man studying for the priesthood, their Scriptural insights help in reflection and will help in preparation for preaching.

Matthew Warner's Blog hosted by National Catholic Register provides me with constant reflections on Catholic media and how to be Catholic in the digital age.  Matthew always has great insights and garners many comments, which provide for great conversation.

Quiet, Dignity, and Grace is probably not a well know Catholic blog having just got off the ground 4 months ago, but I love its content.  It's written by a friend of mine, Luke Arredondo, who's a Catholic high school religion teacher and masters of theology student.  Luke gives great insights on theological topics. 

Three Favorite Podcasts:
All of which can be downloaded for free from iTunes

The Catholic Underground is the Catholic Media anything that I have followed the longest.  I had the pleasure of being on a show back in 2007.  Fr. Chris Decker, Fr. Ryan Humphries, Joshua LeBlanc, and Daniel Kedinger talk tech and talk all things Catholic.  They always have interesting conversations, and lately they have streamed them live to allow for chatroom interaction from the listeners.  

The SaintCast has been inspirational, helpful, and a downright enjoyable listen.  Dr. Paul Camarata, a medical doctor and surgeon, talks saints.  He introduces the English speaking world to the world of the saints.  I have learned many great things from his podcast.  

The Catholic Foodie brings together the two best things about New Orleans, food and the Catholic faith.  Jeff Young brings much more to the table than merely recipes and reviews. The show highlights how food - good food - can be a sign to us of God’s love and care for each of us and our families. The tagline, "where food meets faith," speaks volumes about the importance of family, which is so often developed around the kitchen table. 

Three Random Catholic Media:

I would be remiss if in a discussion of Catholic media I didn't mention the first national Catholic media presence, EWTN.  This television station pioneered Catholic media in the United States.  Mother Angelica's tiring efforts paved the way for many others to attempt authentically Catholic media.  EWTN has now branched out onto the internet with a great database of Catholic writings, Catholic news, and Catholic film.  

In this, I feel the need to mention my favorite Catholic book publisher, Ignatius Press.  This San Francisco company is not only the pope's American publisher, but has republished classic Catholic works from the early twentieth century.  They always have great books, fiction, non-fiction, theology, and philosophy.  They also have built up a small but solid group of films about saints.  Along with all of this, their blog Insight Scoop provides excerpts from the books it publishes as well as very as sundry things from the mind of Carl Olsen.  

Three Catholic Apps:

iBreviary Pro Terra Sancta is by far one of best apps on the market for Catholics.  I provides daily updates of the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayers and readings for each daily liturgy, it has all of the rites used by a priest, as well as some of the blessings from the book of blessings.  It is one the most used apps on my iPhone.  

iPieta , though, tops even iBreviary.  Not only does it have the full Douay-Rhiems translation of scripture, but all the daily readings (in the D-R translation, not NAB).  It also has the full host of prayers you would find in the Pieta prayer book.  It has most prayers that you would ever need, including the Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.  These things alone would make it a great app, but its developers didn't stop there.  It also contains a library of the great works of Catholic spirituality from St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, St. John Vianney, St. Therese of Liseux, St. Louis de Monfort, and many others.  And that would enough for app, but why stop there.  It also contains the full texts of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, his collection of commentaries on the gospels by the fathers named the Catena Aurae, the 21 Ecumenical Councils, the Haydock Bible Commentary Series from Genesis to Revelation, Encyclicals from Gregory XVI (1835) to Benedict XVI, and writings from many of the Church Fathers.  

Here I have to support the work my diocese has done in Catholic media.  They have created an app, iFaith, that allows anyone in the area to access info about mass times and confession times.  It uses the GPS of the phone to locate where the person is and recommends the closest churches.  It also provides news, an events section for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, a connection to Archbishop Gregory Aymond's v-logs, and a connection to the Archdiocese's Twitter feed.  

Friday, March 11, 2011


I decided to go a different direction for my blog creations. I want to spend less time on the internet in general. Writing in web browser on the blogspot site means I could easily click to another tab to be distracted or such. It inhibited writing and growth in virtue.

I shopped around for a blog creation program for Mac. I looked through many things, but I was most impressed by a program I already had, but didn’t realize it’s full capability. I had downloaded a trial version of MacJournal, not soon after I got my Macbook in 2007, from the beautiful site, MacFreeware.  MacJournal allowed for journaling and the funneling of ideas into one space. Over the past four years, it came into disuse because, well, I like writing with a pen as opposed to typing. As I was searching for blog writers, I came across an updated version of this wonderful piece of software that offered so much more than the small trial version that I had. So I bought it.  It works with many different blog sites.  I am so excited with all the possibilities it holds​.

Check out the program and others here.

Do you use something different?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lenten Reading

We're a less than a week away from Lent.  This liturgical season provides so much possibility for growing in virtue, especially the virtues of faith, hope, and love.  I'm sure many of you have things planned.  You will give up this or take up that devotion.  

I would like to let you in on something.  A group of friends from the bibliophile social networking site, Goodreads, have gotten together to do a Lenten reading.  We've chosen Jean-Pierre de Caussade's famous work Abandonment to Divine Providence.  If you would like to join in the discussion or join in the reading, be our guest.  

You can find discussions and reading schedules somewhere around here.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Praise of My First Parking Ticket

O joy and rapture, my first parking ticket! Months after discerning out, of fearing that my blank record would reveal me to be the abnormal former-friar that I am, I can regain anonymity under the guise of illegality. The solemn pink slip of paper. The unsettling surprise of finding it on the windshield before pulling off. The slight sigh of relief when you realize that it will only cost you $30. $30! That’s barely half a tank of gas. What a bargain! And apparently I can pay it online. With the great advances of the digital age, I’m spared the hassle of digging up an envelop, writing a check, packing postage or going down to the station to see that my bill is clear.

The back story, though, is more epic still. I was on the way to adoration at Tulane Catholic Center and could not find a parking spot. (A pox upon ‘The Boot’ and its Monday night reveling!) I was first tempted to park in an empty teacher parking lot, but my conscience grabbed me and I chose to pull out. Then, I almost pulled in behind a small Civic that had left just enough room for one more vehicle. But, alas, my conscience gripped me again. The bumper-stickers and ornaments indicated that the owner was a female and the thought of blocking a woman in on a Mid-City night while I ran off to be with Jesus was too terrible to bear. Therefore, rather than stop, I rounded the block, returned to the Catholic Center and saw the fated spot. It was behind the old Newman Girls College. A car was already occupying part of the space. There was a ‘no parking’ sign, but it was frightfully askew and hung next to an adjacent dumpster. I assumed that it indicated ‘do not block this dumpster’ which, due to my pathological fear of being crushed by a garbage truck, is the very thing I always try to avoid. I considered my situation, that I was burning gas and missing out on time with the Lord, and decided that the signage was ambiguous enough to warrant the risk. I pulled in all the way, as far from the dumpster as possible, and ran inside to adore Christ. The chapel being located directly above the spot, I comforted myself by thinking that the Lord and I could look out together and discern the results of my actions. The Just Judge would be there with me when I discovered whether or not I had committed a crime.

Admittedly, the situation was full of moral ambiguity. As much as I might be tempted to compare my thirty dollars to St. Paul’s lashings thirty nine lashes, I know that the gravity and intentions of the situations separate our sufferings. Yet, I must say that it is some consolation to know that I was in the upper room in prayer when first the arm of the law was raised against me. God be praised! After leaving formation, I return to the world, not as one of its members, but as one of those commissioned by their baptism to convert it. Fasts and solitude are wonderful: but the thrill of risking a parking ticket to be with the Lord is a new one and, I say, a quite refreshing one. So take heart, my friends. We may not have persevered to the point of shedding blood, but our witness to a world is heroic none-the-less. O, if only I could talk to the one who gave me the ticket, to make that one understand that I would do it all again (my ignorance of the law remaining) just to be alone with the Lord!