Tuesday, December 30, 2014

sanity from da pope

Msgr. Charles Pope, "Does 'Gospel' Simply Mean 'Good News'? Or Have We Unintentionally Defined Ourselves into a Corner?" (Archdiocese of Washington, November 10, 2014), asks some good questions and proposes some good answers:
There are times in the Church when we want to define something rather easily and simply so as to make it memorable and easy to grasp. But in so doing, we run the risk of doing harm to its deeper, richer, and more accurate meaning.
 I wonder if we have not done this with the word “gospel.” Most of us have been trained to define the word “gospel” as “good news.” Clearly there is good news in the Gospels and, by extension, the whole of the New Testament. However, as we shall see, “good news” as a definition falls short of what the term actually means.
Further, in our current cultural setting, the way in which many hear the phrase “good news”  also creates, I would argue, a false impression that all Scriptures are pleasant, happy, cheerful, consoling, and so forth. But the Scriptures are not all in this mode of “good.” Many of the Scriptures challenge, provoke, and even trouble and strike fear.
 Yet, because “good news” has become an interpretive key of sorts, many thus filter what they see, hear, and preach of the Scriptures. If something does not come across as good news, does not fit into the template of being cheerful and consoling, it is either recast with a twisted interpretation, or it is sometimes wholly set aside.  For example, the Lord Jesus often issues fierce messages against sin and unbelief, warns about judgment and Hell, and insists that we follow Him unreservedly, even if this means accepting the Cross, the hatred of the world, or the loss of relationship with certain family members. But because such logia of Jesus Himself do not fit the modern concept of “good news,” such strong statements are too easily set aside by many as not sounding like “the Jesus they know.”
Thus, the common definition of gospel as “good news” tends to be a poor template by which to understand the words and teachings of Jesus Christ.  It makes people averse to the harder sayings of Jesus, even dismissive of them. A woman once remarked to a priest I know who had preached on a difficult topic, “Now, Father, I come to Church expecting to hear something uplifting and encouragement from you. But I did not hear that today from you.”
What then is the fuller and richer understanding of the word “gospel”? Pope Benedict addressed this topic well in Volume I of Jesus of Nazareth:
The Evangelists designate Jesus’ preaching with the Greek term Evangelion. But what does this term actually mean? The term has recently been translated as ‘good news.’ That sounds attractive, but it falls far short of the order of magnitude of what is actually meant by the word evangelion. This term figures in the vocabulary of the Roman emperors, who understood themselves as lords, saviors, and redeemers of the world.  The messages issued by the emperor were called in Latin evangelium   regardless of whether or not their content was particularly cheerful or pleasant . The idea was that what comes from the emperor is a saving message, that it is not just a piece of news, but a changing of the world for the better. “When the Evangelists adopt this word, and it thereby becomes the generic name for their writings, what they mean to tell us is this: What the emperors, who pretend to be gods, illegitimately claim, really occurs here – a message endowed with plenary authority, a message that is not just talk but reality…. the Gospel is not just informative speech, but performative speech – not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform. Mark speaks of the ‘Gospel of God,’ the point being that it is not the emperors who can save the world, but God. And it is here that God’s word, which is at once word and deed, appears; it is here that what the emperors merely assert, but cannot actually perform, truly takes place. For here it is the real Lord of the world – the Living God – who goes into action (Jesus of Nazareth Vol 1 pp. 46-47).

Therefore note some qualities of the term “gospel” and of the nature of God’s Word:
1. The term is not necessarily indicative of something pleasant or happy. It originally referred to the utterance of an emperor, even if the content was not particularly pleasant. For example an “evangelion” might announce an increase in taxes or the summoning of an army. In God’s Word, the Gospel might include promises of salvation, offers of forgiveness, and blessings. But it might also include the teachings on the need for repentance, on the requirement to take up a cross, on accepting that we may well be hated, and on the fact that judgment is looming.
2. The emphasis of the word “evangelion” was that it had authority behind it, authority capable of changing your life. Thus if the emperor announced that he was paving a nearby road, or raising taxes, or summoning men to arms, or declaring a holiday—whatever the message contained, you knew your life was going to change, perhaps dramatically, due to the emperor’s authority. With the Word of God, too, there is declared in the term “gospel,” the truth that when God speaks, His Word has the power to change your life, either by conferring great blessings, or by announcing more challenging things (such as the fact that the day of judgment is looming for us all, or that certain of our behaviors are not acceptable for membership in the Kingdom).
3. The Gospel is not merely noetic (informative); it is dynamic (transformative). God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Thus when God says “Be holy,” His words contain the actual power to effect what they announce, provided we receive them in faith.
4. The Gospel is no mere written word. The Gospel is Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. Therefore the Gospel saves all who receive it (Him) with faith and heed its warnings and teachings with the obedience of faith.
Thus, the term “gospel” means more than “good news.” And given our cultural setting and its presuppositions related to the word “good,” the notion that “gospel = good news” can be downright misleading. It is better and richer to understand the term “gospel” to refer to the life-changing and transformative utterance of God, which is able to save us if we obey its demands in faith. It is in fact Jesus Himself who is the Word made Flesh. Perhaps this is less memorable, but it is more true and less misleading.
[Hat tip to JM]

Monday, December 29, 2014

Pope Francis and the crisis of Catholic higher education

Robert Oscar Lopez, "Catholic Higher Education in Ruins" (Crisis magazine, December 29, 2014). Excerpt:
Only at his church’s peril can Pope Francis ignore the implosion of Catholic higher education. Just as St. Francis of Assisi and countless other saints were called to purify Catholic institutions, Pope Francis needs to be aware that purification is sometimes necessary, and that it is not always accomplished by tolerance or forgiveness. Sometimes it means telling people to choose: leave people free to express and defend Catholic teaching, or go take over student activities boards and faculty senates somewhere else. If Notre Dame, Marquette, or Catholic University are any indication of what is to come, then the future is quite stark. Either the church gives gender studies departments and pro-gay student groups that choice—and enforces the consequences—or else Catholic colleges go to ruin.

I know what my choice would be.
[Hat tip to Dr. E. Echeverria]

Why do Nativity Scenes cause such scandal and hatred?

"Fontgombault Sermon: Christmas Midnight Mass (RC, December 25, 2014). Excerpt:
Those few ounces of clay are bothersome because they ask the world, they ask each of us a question. We can hear its echo from the mouth of children, of little ones, of simple ones, of those who as the shepherds can hear the message of the Crib: “Daddy, Mum, why is this child lying in a crib? Who is his mother, and his father, and the donkey and the ox?” — “Child, you neither need nor have the right to know. It is the most gigantic deception in the world. For two hundred years now, civilised men, free-thinking men, self-enlightened men, have understood that they no longer needed the visitation of this child.”

Enlightened men have refused the Light. They are delivered back to the power of the beast and they deliberately sink into the darkness of their alleged knowledge; as they pass by the Crib, they ignore it, or even, like new Herods, they try to wipe out its presence. What are the lights of our cities as compared to the light of the sun? What is the complexity of our factories as compared to the hugeness of the universe and the structure of the human body, which nonetheless some would ascribe to chance?

Robert P. George on the American phenomenon of Billy Graham

Robert P. George, "'America's Pastor,' About Billy Graham, by Grant Wacker" (Sunday Book Review, December 19, 2014):
I grew up in West Virginia as a Catholic in a Protestant culture, the kind we would today describe as evangelical. We Catholics had the pope — but he was a distant and, to be blunt, foreign figure. Our Protestant neighbors had Billy Graham, the friend of presidents, business magnates and celebrities, who through the magic of television was a frequent, familiar guest in the homes of ordinary people; and he was as American as apple pie....

[Hat tip to JM]

"The spirit" vs. "the letter" as seen by Francis, Benedict, and St. Augustine

Peter Kwasniewski, "A Study in Contrasts: Francis, Benedict, Augustine" (RC, December 22, 2014).

Extraordinary Community News - 2014 Year in Review – Significant Developments

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (December 28, 2014):
2014 Year in Review – Significant Developments

Ordination of Fr. Joe Tuskiewicz: The first priestly ordination of a native son of our local Tridentine communities.

Oakland County Latin Mass Association: The debut of another weekly Mass site warrants special attention, plus this community is the first in the Archdiocese of Detroit to have been chartered specifically as a Tridentine Mass group. The gracious hospitality of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, and particularly of Head of School Sr. Bridget Bearss, RSCJ, along with Archbishop Vigneron’s assignment of Msgr. Ronald Browne as the Chaplain of the OCLMA, has made the work of the organizing volunteers a true delight.

Relocation of St. Benedict Tridentine Community: The unfortunate closing of Windsor’s Assumption Church made it necessary for the St. Benedict Community to find new homes. To accommodate existing parish Mass times, it was necessary to split the Mass schedule across two churches: Second through Last Sundays at 2:00 PM at St. Alphonsus Church; First Sundays at 2:00 PM and every Tuesday at 7:00 PM at Holy Name of Mary Church.

Special Masses: Special Tridentine Masses continue to be held at more churches. In 2014, the Traditional Liturgy was held at these nine sites for the first time ever, or in decades. Masses organized by Juventútem and Prayer Pilgrimages are so designated.
1. St. Albert the Great, Dearborn Heights (J)
2. St. Leo, Detroit (J)
3. St. James, Novi (J)
4. St. Cecilia, Detroit (J)
5. Fathers of Mercy Chapel, Auburn, KY (PP)
6. Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Atlanta (PP)
7. Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal (PP)
8. St. Joseph Oratory, Montreal (PP)
9. St. Anne de Beaupre, Quebec (PP)
Extraordinary Faith: The locally produced first television series focusing on the Extraordinary Form and classic Catholicism, Extraordinary Faith has gotten off to a solid start, with between 14-16 episodes of material already shot [the final episode count will come after editing is complete], and three episodes already aired globally by EWTN. Two episodes were shot in Detroit.

Thanks to Our Volunteers

Those listed in bold deserve special credit for volunteering at multiple sites across metro Detroit and Windsor.

Oakland County Latin Mass Association
Altar Servers: Jim Eatmon, Riley LaMendola, Tyler LaMendola, Kieran McDonnell, Liam McDonnell, Edward Schmick, Elliott Schmick

Volunteer Choir Members: Jill McDonnell, Patricia Seibold

Ushers: Chris Batts, Francis Cizmar, Pete Higgins, Jon McDonnell

Board Members: Cecilia Lakin (Chair), Chris Batts, Rick Kempa, Sanford Lakin, Jon McDonnell

Vestments & Altar Linens: Diane Begin, Julie Eatmon

Rosary leader: Mary Strahorn
St. Benedict Tridentine Community
Altar Servers: Matthew Bombardier, Matthew Charbonneau, Frank De Donatis, Matthew Lacey, Benjamin

McKinley, James Murphy, Jonathan Ozorak, Michel Ozorak, Barry Rafferty, John Tome, Mitchell Witteveen

Volunteer Choir Member: Laura Hurajt

Parish Council: Ted Jankowski, Sharon Moody (Treasurer), Ron Parent, Barry Rafferty

Ushers: Alex Foley, John Foot, Ted Jankowski, Frank O’Reilly
St. Albertus, St, Hyacinth, & Other Sites
Altar servers: Michael Alvarez, Tommy Alvarez, Edward Kotulski, Luke Rzeczkowski, Paul Schultz

Volunteer organist/cantor: Joe Balistreri

Ushers: Bob Kujawa, Ismael Lebron
Please also keep in your prayers the priests who celebrated the Extraordinary Form this past year: Fr. Lee Acervo, Fr. Ross Bartley, Fr. David Bechill, Fr. Patrick Bénéteau, Fr. Mark Borkowski, Msgr. Ronald Browne, Fr. Peter Hrytsyk, Fr. David Jenuwine, Fr. John Johnson, Fr. Ben Kosnac, Fr. Louis Madey, Fr. Robert Marczewski, Fr. Clint McDonell, Fr. Greg Tokarski, Fr. Joseph Tuskiewicz, Fr. Charles White, and Fr. Michael Zuelch.

- Alex Begin, Tridentine Community News editor

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 12/29 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (Day V in the Octave of Christmas)
  • Tue. 12/30 7:00 PM: High Mass at Holy Name of Mary (Day VI in the Octave of Christmas)
  • Thu. 01/01 9:30 AM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Octave of Christmas/Feast of the Circumcision)
  • Thu. 01/01 9:45 AM: High Mass at Academy of the Sacred Heart Chapel (Octave of Christmas/Feast of the Circumcision)
  • Thu. 01/01 2:00 PM: High Mass at St. Alphonsus, Windsor (Octave of Christmas/Feast of the Circumcision)
  • Fri. 01/02 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (Sacred Heart of Jesus) [First Friday]
[Comments? Please e-mail tridnews@detroitlatinmass.org. Previous columns are available at http://www.detroitlatinmass.org. This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for December 28, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Tridentine Masses coming to the metro Detroit and East Michigan area this week

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Greetings from the Twilight Zone

My esteemed friend and irrepressible pro-lifer, Dr. Monica Miller, emailed the following linked video to her colleagues and friends in the educational profession for Christmas, with the following remarks:
Dear Fellow Teachers-- You might find it odd that a Twilight Zone Episode would serve for a Christmas greeting-- but I urge that you watch this one-- In an attempt to chill out late at night I have discovered Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes on You Tube-- as there simply isn't much worth watching on late night TV and Charlie Rose only goes so far! This episode is actually Christmas themed and I believe as educators you will find it very edifying and be reminded that what we do is so important and not lost! Please enjoy-- and a blessed Christmas to you all-- Monica in RST

Pope bids "Merry Christmas" to members of the Curia

Nicole Winfield, "Pope Francis Delivers Blistering Christmas Message To Vatican Curia" (Huffington Post, December 22, 2014).

The Nativity by John Donne

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov'd imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
Th'effect of Herod's jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith's eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitited by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.

The Second Gospel

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. [Genuflect] AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH, [Stand] and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt et sine ipso factum est nihil quod factum est; in ipso vita erat et vita erat lux hominum, et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt. Fuit homo missus a Deo cui nomen erat Iohannes. Hic venit in testimonium ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine ut omnes crederent per illum. Non erat ille lux sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine. Erat lux vera quae inluminat omnem hominem venientem in mundum. In mundo erat et mundus per ipsum factus est et mundus eum non cognovit. In propria venit et sui eum non receperunt; quotquot autem receperunt eum dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri: his qui credunt in nomine eius: qui non ex sanguinibus neque ex voluntate carnis neque ex voluntate viri sed ex Deo nati sunt. [Genuflect]ET VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST, [Stand] et habitavit in nobis et vidimus gloriam eius gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis.
This passage from the Gospel of St. John (Jn. 1:1-14) is read at the conclusion of every Traditional Latin Mass. It is traditionally called the "Second Gospel," since it is an additional Gospel reading that regularly supplements the particular Gospel reading proper to the Mass of the day. Its familiarity for those who regularly assist at the Traditional Latin Mass has the salutary effect of reinforcing the divinity of Second Person of the Trinity who became Incarnate as Jesus Christ. It is also particularly appropriate for the Christmas season. God bless.

A Christmas Reflection: What if the Biblical narrative were true?

It's time to reconsider the reason for the season and the challenges offered by the drive-by "experts" of the day who intend to cast the entire Biblical narrative concerning the Blessed Nativity into doubt. Consider again the Biblical narrative:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pas, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (The Gospel According to Luke, Chapter Two, Verses 13-20)

Here we are again, on the first day of the Christmas season. It has become something of a Christmas tradition for me to engage the following text by C.S. Lewis in connection with the above quoted Scriptures. The reason will be obvious.

Nearly every Christmas, it seems, NEWSWEEK or TIME or some television special will feature the "latest scholarship" questioning the "authenticity" of the Christmas story. I am not concerned with the question about whether the Nativity of our Lord occurred on December 25th. That's a matter of Church tradition and incidental to my concerns here. What concerns me is how the Biblical narrative itself is invariably called into question or even dismissed as mere "myth" -- the account of the shepherds, the Angelic host, the Christ Child in a manger, the Star and the Magi from the East, Herod's slaughter of the innocents, the flight of Mary and Joseph and the Christ Child into Egypt, etc.

The scholarly authorities typically interviewed, whether Catholic or Protestant, are consistently and incorrigibly one-sided, quite thoroughly corrupted by the Humean and Kantian philosophical presuppositions undergirding the historical-critical reading of the Biblical narrative. Typical is the About.com website, where Internet browsers frequent to learn "the facts" about this or that -- a site where one finds this sort of thinking gone to seed in an article by Austin Cline, "Nativity vs Gospels: Are the Gospels Reliable About Jesus' Birth?" (About.com), where the partisan skepticism of such historical critical assumptions is abundantly evident in his suggestions that all the key ingredients of the Nativity story in the Gospels were concocted fictions of various kinds.

The lack of critical circumspection, if not patent fantasy, in all of this would be amusing if it were not so destructive. The upshot is always the same: that the Gospel writers are unreliable and not to be trusted, and certainly not to be taken at face value. Just how ludicrous this all is, however, can be seen easily by anyone with a modicum of familiarity with literature, mythology, and history. One of the best examples of a powerful antedote to this kind of foolishness -- and one I keep using because it is simple -- is a little essay by C.S. Lewis entitled "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," which is available in a collection of essays by Lewis entitled Christian Reflections (1967; reprinted by Eerdmans, 1994). The following are some excerpts from Lewis' essay, which begins on p. 152 and contains four objections (or what he calls "bleats") about modern New Testament scholarship:
1. [If a scholar] tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour...

I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one [of the stories in the Gospel of John, for example] is like this... Either this is reportage - though it may no doubt contain errors - pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative...

2. All theology of the liberal type involves at some point - and often involves throughout - the claim that the real behaviour and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by his followers, and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars... The idea that any... writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.

3. Thirdly, I find in these theologians a constant use of the principle that the miraculous does not occur... This is a purely philosophical question. Scholars, as scholars, speak on it with no more authority than anyone else. The canon 'if miraculous, unhistorical' is one they bring to their study of the texts, not one they have learned from it. If one is speaking of authority, the united authority of all the Biblical critics in the world counts here for nothing.

4. My fourth bleat is my loudest and longest. Reviewers [of my own books, and of books by friends whose real history I knew] both friendly and hostile... will tell you what public events had directed the author's mind to this or that, what other authors influenced him, what his over-all intention was, what sort of audience he principally addressed, why - and when - he did everything... My impression is that in the whole of my experience not one of these guesses has on any one point been right; the method shows a record of 100 per cent failure.

The 'assured results of modern scholarship', as to the way in which an old book was written, are 'assured', we may conclude, only because those who knew the facts are dead and can't blow the gaff... The Biblical critics, whatever reconstructions they devise, can never be crudely proved wrong. St. Mark is dead. When they meet St. Peter there will be more pressing matters to discuss.

However... we are not fundamentalists... Of course we agree that passages almost verbally identical cannot be independent. It is as we glide away from this into reconstructions of a subtler and more ambitious kind that our faith in the method wavers... The sort of statement that arouses our deepest scepticism is the statement that something in a Gospel cannot be historical because it shows a theology or an ecclesiology too developed for so early a date...

Such are the reactions of one bleating layman... Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the Vicar; he now tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more...
Lewis, of course, was hardly a naive ignoramus. He knew all the critical objections to Christianity because for the first part of his life he was himself a confirmed agnostic. He was anything but "soft-minded," to use the Jamesian idiom. He taught philosophy at Oxford briefly before going on to teach Medieval and Renaissance literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, and conclude his prolific academic career teaching at Cambridge. An account of his conversion can be found in his Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life,in which we find the following quotation:
You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words “compelle intrare,” compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation. (emphasis added)
Lewis, an Anglican, was a man of deep Catholic habit of mind, probably because of his immersion in medieval literature; and many have wondered why he never himself crossed the Tiber. Walker Percy even compared him to Moses, who led many others to the Promised Land, though never himself crossing over. A number of books have been written about this, like Joseph Pearce's C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church,and Christopher Derrick's C.S.Lewis and the Church of Rome.The most probable reason is cultural: his father was an Ulsterman. Whatever the reason, his common sense criticisms of those Biblical "experts" who attempt to dismantle the entire Biblical narrative under the influence of Enlightenment prejudices, can be accepted with gratitude.

For further reading: Merry Christmas everyone!

Flash Mob: Jesu, joy of man's desiring ... Joy to the World!

Our tax dollars put to good use in honour of Christ, the King. This occurred on December 5, 2013. I wonder how long our American Caesar's thought police will permit this?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Memorial Mass for Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, S.J.

A memorial Mass commemorating the 14th Anniversary of the death of the Servant of God, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., will take place at 7:00 PM on December 30th at Assumption Grotto Church, Detroit.

Following the Mass a social for all those who knew and loved Fr. Hardon is being planned in the parish Shrine Lounge. Please bring snacks to share. Finger food only please.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Society of Saint Dominic Website

Peter Kwasniewski, "The Society of Saint Dominic Website" (The New Liturgical Movement, December 19, 2014):

Regular readers of NLM will have noticed that we have posted events sponsored by the Society of Saint Dominic, located in Winnipeg. Not long ago they welcomed the great Fr. John Saward to speak to them on "The Call to Holiness and the Hidden Riches of the Traditional Latin Mass."

The Society's mission is ambitious and well in keeping with the best and noblest of Catholic ideals:
The Society's mission: the salvation of souls through the rediscovery of the contemplative Catholic tradition in her arts, her liturgy and the lives and writings of her Saints. Incorporated in Winnipeg -- as a private association of the lay faithful -- it promotes spiritual conferences, public talks and cultural events which emphasize the Spiritual Acts of Mercy; to instruct the ignorant; to pray for the living and the dead. Under the dual Queenship of Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Society of St. Dominic invokes the patronage of one monastic and two mendicant saints: Saint Dominic of Silos, Saint Dominic Guzman and Saint Therese of Lisieux.
My purpose today is simply to direct readers to the stunningly beautiful website they have developed, itself a testimony to their principled love of sacredness and beauty. Its four sections are Musica Sacra, Sacra Liturgia, Architectura Sacra, and Sacra Doctrina. Although currently the Society is mostly making available articles and documentaries produced by others, their website is establishing itself as a very nice gathering spot for lovers of tradition and beauty. I highly recommend a visit.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Messiah's consciousness: an Advent meditation

Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, December 21, 2014):
We are in the habit of celebrating birthdays–for good reason. These were the days when we first came to the light of day, bringing–we would like to think–great joy to our mothers. In reality, the day of our conception is even more important than our birthday for it is the day our lives began, though we were unmindful of the fact at the time. 

In the case of the Son of God become man in the chaste womb of the ever-Virgin Mary, He was indeed mindful of His first earthly “home” on His conception day, celebrated in the Church on March 25th, nine months before Christmas day. His first thought upon entering the world was the sacrifice He had come to make of His human life for saving our souls. “Behold, I have come to do your will, (Father). ...and by that ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.’ (Hb. 10:9,10). Our Lord then entered our world conscious of Himself and of His purpose and mission among men. If we understand this fully, it would mean also that Christ-in-the-womb knew all things in His embryonic state–specifically that He knew us, not as an anonymous mass of humanity, but as individuals, with our total history present to His mind. 

With many errors circulated by presumably well-intended but ignorant (modernist) preaching, many would think the above statements pious hyperbole–claims having been made that Jesus did not know many things, even His identity as God! To hear a reliable voice on the matter, I turn to the orthodox teaching found in the marvelous encyclical (it still is, after so many years) of Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis. “The most loving knowledge...with which the divine Redeemer pursued us from the first moment of the Incarnation surpasses the diligent grasp of any human mind. For, by that blessed vision which He enjoyed when He was just received in the womb of the Mother of God, He has all the members of the Mystical Body (the Church) consciously and perpetually present to Him, and embraces them with saving love. In the manger, on the cross, in the eternal glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church before Him, and joined to Him far more clearly than each one knows and loves himself.” 

I quote this passage to make you realize something almost forgotten nowadays in our Christmas meditations, namely, that the Infant Babe we behold in the manger was a most knowing, fully conscious and indeed infinitely-aware Person who, according to the teaching set forth above, would know you as you are in the present moment, in your past, and in your everlasting future. The Christ Child’s omniscience contrasts with the uncomprehending and empty-eyed-stare of the ox and ass around the manger surely, but it also contrasts with our rather feeble grasp of the divinity of Jesus in that Child. “He was in the world...but the world knew Him not” (Jn. 1:10). Artists fashioning the creche have often made the Infant’s eyes look aware of us before Him. No mindless baby-look in His eyes! Our Lord was conscious of who He was and that He had come “for us men and for our salvation.” This realization of Infant Christ’s cognizance puts a realistic interpretation on many things about the Christmas story that we might otherwise regard as poetical embellishment in phrases such as “sleep in heavenly peace” and “radiant beams from Thy holy face” or “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight’ and “veiled in flesh the Godhead see,” and so on. This is a lesson for us not only about the images we make of the nativity figures in the stable but a lesson about Christ in His other most lowly form of the Holy Eucharist. Just as we would say that He is no oblivious baby in the manger, neither is He unknowing of you when you come before Him in the Holy Sacrament.

And while we’re on the subject of Christ’s infinite knowledge, let’s add a word about Holy Mary, since the liturgy today speaks of Her. She, when responding to the Archangel Gabriel at the annunciation, surely knew what She was agreeing to when She said, “Let it be done to me, according to your word.” Some misguided men have not hesitated to attribute ignorance to Mary in what was being proposed to Her. Gabriel did say that “the Most High will overshadow you” and that the holy offspring to be born of Her would be called “the Son of God.” That ‘overshadowing’ would have been understood from Mary’s knowledge of the Old Testament as the place where the divine presence was preserved (first in the desert tabernacle and later in the Temple). She also knew from reading Isaiah that the Messiah would be the “mighty God.” She would have then known that the Presence in Her was God! 

It is then a bad sign of the times in which we live that we so readily attribute ignorance to Mary at the Annunciation and to Jesus both in His adult life as well as in the manger. It is not they, but we who are ignorant.

I’ll not have another word for you here until after Christmas day has come and gone. My purpose in writing as I have above is that I don’t want you to come to church on Christmas as a “faithless and perverse generation” (Mt 17:17) or as “foolish men, slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Lk 24:25). Come to adore Him, the Lord. Venite, adoremus Dominum.

Fr. Perrone

Breaking: Michigan state gov't orders Detroit area abortion clinic to cease operations in emergency shut down. Attorney General hearing set to investigate botched late-term abortion!

Monica Miller, "Abortion Clinic Must Shut Down While State Investigates Botched 23-Week Abortion" (LifeNews.com, December 22, 2014):
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) ordered the Women’s Center of Southfield, 28505 Southfield Rd., Lathrup Village, MI, owned by abortionist Jacob Kalo, to cease operations beginning Nov. 21, 2014 pending the outcome of an investigative hearing of the Attorney General’s Office scheduled for March 4, 2015.

The clinic shut down was prompted by the official allegation of a botched 23 week-2nd trimester abortion that occurred in February 27-28, 2014. The woman suffered uterine perforation and hemorrhaging resulting in emergency hospital care—with serious physical and emotional consequences. The late-term abortion was a two-day procedure performed by Dr. Reginald Sharpe who is currently under investigation by the State of Michigan.

Two posts on the crisis in Biblical scholarship

(1) Hurd Baruch, "The Crisis in Biblical Scholarship" (New Oxford Review, December 2014). One quote:
"As Pope Benedict XVI lamented, “In the 1950’s the gap between the ‘historical Jesus’ and the ‘Christ of faith’ grew wider and the two visibly fell apart…. The fact is that scriptural exegesis can become a tool of the Antichrist…. The alleged findings of scholarly exegesis have been used to put together the most dreadful books that destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle the faith” (Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, 2007)."
(2) Mark Giszczak, "The Early Responsa of the Pontifical Biblical Commission" (Catholic bible Student, March 20, 2008): One quote:
"So the question is whether the semi-official clarification published in these journals truly repealed the statement of Pius X on Nov 18, 1907 which made the PBC decisions binding. Unfortunately this question has not been completely resolved. Catholic Bible scholars, effectively, do their work as if the responsa of the PBC are not longer binding on the faithful. But as is pointed out by Sean Kopcynski, the responsa have never been officially repealed or eliminated by an official statement or clarification. In the meantime, the PBC has lost its status as an official organ of the Magisterium and is now merely a consulting body (See Paul VI, Sedula cura, 27 June 1971)."
[Hat tip to JM]

Torture: some clarity in an overheated debate

Boniface has a wonderfully thorough and clear-headed analysis of this hot-button issue in his article, "Torture: Historical and Ethical Perspectives" (Unam Sanctam Catholicam, December 2014).

As always comprehensive, Boniface makes numerous indispensable distinctions to understanding what is at issue in this debate. I'll leave you with his table of contents to entice you to read his essay:
I. Definition of Torture
II. A Necessary Distinction
III. Extraction Torture: The Patristic Era
IV. Extraction Torture: Early Medieval
V. The Rediscovery of Roman Law
VI. St. Thomas Aquinas
VII. Extraction Torture: To the Modern Period
VIII. Punitive Torture
IX. The Post-Conciliar Problem
X: Extrajudicial Torture
XI. Conclusion

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"How the Traditional Latin Mass Fosters More Active Participation than the Ordinary Form"

Peter Kwasniewski, "How the Traditional Latin Mass Fosters More Active Participation than the Ordinary Form" (The New Liturgical Movement, December 15, 2014):
How many times do lovers of the classical Roman Rite hear the objection: “The new Mass is better than the old one because it allows for more active participation of the faithful,” or “The old Mass just had to be reformed eventually, because the priest was the only one doing anything, and the people were all mute spectators.” My aim in this article is to refute such claims and to demonstrate that, if anything, the opposite is true.

Active/Actual Participation
People who take the time to sit down and study Sacrosanctum Concilium are often struck by how much of this document is unknown, ignored, or contradicted by contemporary Catholic practice. Often, there are phrases that are so rich, and yet the manner in which they have been turned into slogans has undermined their original nuance and depth.

The most notorious victim of this process of journalistic simplification has been the notion of “active participation” or participatio actuosa—which, in fact, is better translated “actual participation,” where actual has the philosophical sense of really entering into possession of something, rather than having an unrealized capacity for it. In contemporary English, “active” is the contrary of passive or receptive, whereas “actual” is the contrary of potential. Thus, I can be actually receptive to the Word of God; I can be fully actualizing my ability to be acted upon at Mass by the chants, prayers, and ceremonies, without my doing much of anything that would be styled “active” in contemporary English. As St. John Paul II explained in an address to U.S. bishops in 1998:
Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural. [link]
If your choir or schola sings Proper chants or motets at Mass, or if you’d like to see this happen someday, make sure you have this text from John Paul II ready for the person who objects: “But the people need to be singing everything!” Dom Alcuin Reid explained the Council’s intention very succinctly in an interview last December:
The Council called for participatio actuosa, which is primarily our internal connection with the liturgical action—with what Jesus Christ is doing in his Church in the liturgical rites. This participation is about where my mind and heart are. Our external actions in the liturgy serve and facilitate this. But participatio actuosa is not first and foremost external activity, or performing a particular liturgical ministry. That, unfortunately, has been a common misconception of the Council’s desire. [link]
Now, even with the common misunderstanding of “actual” cleared out of the way, it is an extremely curious fact that the full expression from Sacrosanctum Concilium 14 is rarely quoted: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy” (in the original: "Valde cupit Mater Ecclesia ut fideles universi ad plenam illam, consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem ducantur, quae ab ipsius Liturgiae natura postulatur"). Whatever happened to “full” and “conscious”?

Conscious Participation
Let’s probe this matter further.

Extraordinary Community News - Roráte Masses, Advantages of TLM for "active participation," Chicago bus tour, Mass schedule

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (December 21, 2014):
Roráte Masses Every year around this time, photos appear on the Internet similar to the below one. They depict a “Roráte Mass”, so named after the first words of the Introit from the Fourth Sunday of Advent, “Roráte cæli desúper” [Drop down dew, ye heavens]. Despite what one might think on account of the name, a Roráte Mass is not a weekday Ferial Mass, but rather a Third Class Saturday Votive Mass of Our Lady. It may only be celebrated (in the Extraordinary Form) on a limited number of days in Advent, due to the higher ranking of Ferial Days during this season. In 2014, the only days on which a Roráte Mass may be held are December 6 and 13. These Masses are typically held before or at dawn and are illuminated solely by candlelight, symbolic of awaiting the dawn of our Lord’s coming. [Photo from Pópulus Summórum Pontíficum]

How the Traditional Latin Mass Fosters More Active Participation than the Ordinary Form

For years this column has provided evidence that true Active Participation in the Mass, in the sense that the Church intends, is actually more likely to be found amongst the congregation at a typical Extraordinary Form Mass than at a typical Ordinary Form Mass. Such participation means the engagement of the mind in the act of prayer, adoration, and worship, not just verbal and physical activity.

This week Dr. Peter Kwasniewski of Wyoming Catholic College made the same argument with an impressively clear line of reasoning in a post on The New Liturgical Movement blog. Among other points, Dr. Kwasniewski asserts that there is even more active physical participation in the EF than in the OF, a concept never before considered. Read the whole post here: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2014/12/how-traditional-latin-mass-fosters-more.html#.VJYSgV6gDA

Feast of St. Stephen at St. Stephen’s

This month’s Last Friday Tridentine Mass will be held at St. Stephen Parish in New Boston, near Detroit Metro Airport, quite fitting given that Friday, December 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen the Protomartyr. The starting time is one hour earlier than usual, 6:00 PM, with a Rosary preceding the Mass at 5:30. As usual, Juventútem Michigan is organizing a dinner for young adults age 18-35 after the Mass, but people of all ages are always welcome to attend the Mass.

Fr. John Hedges, pastor of St. Stephen, has offered Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form on an occasional basis at St. Stephen since 2007. Deacon Jacob VanAssche, a seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary, hails from St. Stephen and has served as Subdeacon at several Tridentine Masses at various local sites over the past two years.

Last Call for Chicago Bus Tour

A few seats are still available on the two buses that are going on Prayer Pilgrimages’ annual Christmas week bus tour to the historic Catholic churches of Chicago. The tour departs Monday morning, December 29 and returns Tuesday night, December 30. Tridentine Masses will be held at St. John Cantius Church, celebrated by a priest of the parish, and at St. Mary of the Angels Church, celebrated by Canon Michael Stein of the Institute of Christ the King. Members of the choirs of Detroit’s St. Joseph and Sterling Heights’ Ss. Cyril & Methodius Churches will provide the music, and altar servers from Windsor’s St. Benedict Tridentine Community will assist at the altar. Chicago’s churches are some of the most beautiful in the world, and St. Mary of the Angels in particular, having benefitted from millions of dollars of restoration work over the past 20 years, is arguably one of the most stunning churches one will ever see.

Pilgrims will stay in a downtown Chicago hotel and will have free time for sightseeing and shopping. To reserve a seat, call Michael Semaan at (248) 250-6005.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 12/22 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (Greater Feria of Advent)
  • Tue. 12/23 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Holy Name of Mary (Greater Feria of Advent)
  • Thu. 12/25 12:00 Midnight: Solemn High Mass at St. Joseph (Christmas Day – First Mass) – Mozart’s Missa Brevis in B Flat
  • Thu. 12/25 12:00 Midnight: Solemn High Mass at Assumption Grotto (Christmas Day – First Mass) – Otto Nicolai’s Mass in D
  • Thu. 12/25 9:30 AM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Christmas Day – Third Mass)
  • Thu. 12/25 9:30 AM: High Mass at Assumption Grotto (Christmas Day – Third Mass)
  • Thu. 12/25 9:45 AM: High Mass at Academy of the Sacred Heart Chapel, Bloomfield Hills (Christmas Day – Third Mass) – Charles Gounod’s Mass in C
  • Thu. 12/25 2:00 PM: High Mass at Holy Name of Mary, Windsor (Christmas Day – Third Mass) – Mozart’s Missa Brevis in G
  • Fri. 12/26 6:00 PM: High Mass at St. Stephen, New Boston, Michigan (St. Stephen the Protomartyr) – Dinner for young adults age 18-35 follows Mass, organized by Juventútem Michigan
[Comments? Please e-mail tridnews@detroitlatinmass.org. Previous columns are available at http://www.detroitlatinmass.org. This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for December 21, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Tridentine Masses coming this week to the metro Detroit and East Michigan area

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Friday, December 19, 2014

"Extra ecclesiam nulla salus" - What does it mean?

I am looking for a good article to post on this subject, primarily because we have a reader who seems eager to address the issue. Any suggestions?

I see Catholicism.org has a whole list of linked articles on the issue; Farley Clinton has an article entitled "The Leonard Feeney Quarrel and Pius IX on Invincible Ignorance" (CatholicCulture.org) that is fairly lengthy. Googling "Feeney" and "invincible ignorance" brings up an SSPX article roundly criticizing Fr. Feeney's book, The Bread of Life (1952) as contradicting Church teaching. Here are some more historical details concerning Abp Cushing and the Holy Office from EWTN. The bottom line, as far as I can see, has to do with how "Extra ecclesiam nulla salus" is meant to be understood. Feeney (excommunicated in 1953) apparently held that original sin is wiped away only by the character imprinted on the soul by Baptism. Does this mean nobody under the Old Covenant (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses) is to be found among the saved? Absurd. So then, what does the statement mean? Have at it, if any of you are interested. Only, please observe the rules of common sense etiquette. Stick to the subject. No ad hominems or rudeness. No "carpet bombing" of copied text into the combox. No unwarranted inferences from cited sources casting aspersion on anyone. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Related: Geertjan Zuidwegt, "Salvation and the Church: Feeney, Fenton, and the Making of Lumen Gentium" (Academia.edu, Louvain Studies, 37 [2013], 147-178)

Dec. 22, 23, 24 - Let us join the special pre-Christmas Fast of the Catholics of Iraq

Christian refugees in a Chaldean Catholic church in Erbil

Rorate reports:
The Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad Raphael Louis Sako calls on Iraqi Christians to fast on Christmas Eve in order to implore the Lord for the return of refugees in Mosul and the Nineveh plains. At the same time, he asks the faithful not to organise "any worldly celebration" for Christmas and New Year as "a sign of solidarity with their displaced brothers and sisters, who are going through indescribable suffering."


For this reason, he urges them to fast from Monday 22 December until night on 24 December, not touching food or drink until noon, as "in the days of Ba'utha". The Fast of Ba'utha commemorates what the prophet Jonah brought to the people of Nineveh for their conversion.

"We fast," the Patriarch said, "for the liberation of Mosul and the villages of the Nineveh plains, so that peace and security will return to these areas, and everyone will be able to return to his or her home, job and school." (Source)

Msgr. Ocariz named coadjutor to Opus Dei Bishop Ecchevarria

Auxiliary Vicar Msgr. Fernando Ocariz has just been named coadjutor to Bishop Javier Mariano Ecchevarria, prelate of Opus Dei. Msgr. Ocariz helped to write Dominus Iesus and was one of the principal Vatican negotiators with the SSPX.

See "Appointments of an Auxiliary Vicar and a new Vicar General of the Prelature" (Opus Dei, December 12, 2014) and "Important Strategic Course in Selecting the Head of Opus Dei" (The eponymous Fower, December 16, 2014).

[Hat tip to Sir A.S.]

Also in the news: "Cardinal Brandmüller visits SSPX Seminary" (RC, December 19, 2014).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Let's get spiritual, spiritual ... Let's get spiritual, spiritual ...

I saw this online and loved it so much that I had to post it here for everyone. It fills me with such gratitude for the gift of being religious without being spiritual.

"The Bishops and the Catholic 'man-crisis'"

Matthew James Christoff, "The Bishops and the Catholic 'man-crisis'" (CWR, December 15, 2014). "The Extraordinary Synod held in October failed to adequately mention, address, and encourage two groups of Catholics.... Shocking Omission 1: Men; Shocking Omission 2: Intact Families."

The meaning of the entire Tolkien universe in 4 minutes

Should we care about that "Nuns" Document?

Guy Noir writes: "The final report on the Nuns is an embarrassing whitewash.... And a bit jawdropping in an age so keen on anti-sexism: if Betty White was not an old lady, would anyone find her shtick cute or adorable? Not, they'd find it gross. Likewise, if the nuns weren't 'grandmothers,' who'd be defending their nonsense. I think I shared with you my own experience with a nun when I tried to convert: she waived me away from the CCC with 'Oh, most people find that way to hard to read!'

"Here is some excellent commentary with amusing after-comments":

Matthew Archbold, "Why I Just Don't Care About that Nun's Document" (Creative Minority Report, December 16, 2014), writes:
The loooooong awaited report from the Vatican to religious sisters is reportedly a puff piece. I don't really care. I don't even really care enough to read the actual document.

I just can't really bring myself to care about any of it. Look, twenty years ago an investigation and apostolic visitation may have had some relevance. It might have guided religious sisters in the U.S. away from the precipice they were happily barreling towards. But let's face it, most orders in the U.S. went Thelma and Louise a while ago. They're over the cliff. You've seen the numbers.

The total number of religious sisters in the U.S. has reportedly fallen from about 180,000 in 1965 to about 50,000 in 2014. And there's more sisters over 90 than under 60 years of age. That's a cliff. A steep one. For many of the orders that have gone off the deep end, it's last one out roll up the yoga mats time. Fold up the Ouija board and turn out the lights.

There are reports (though conflicting) that some of the more traditional orders have seen an increase in vocations. If we will ever again see a large increase in the number of religious sisters I'm betting they'll spend more time in adoration of the Eucharist than on buses screaming about Congressman Paul Ryan.

"I'll wait for the enneagram translation. (*laugh*) Classic! I don't suppose one has to walk a labyrinth in order to decode it"

"According to the Vatican, the report was a love letter to American nuns. If one considers that most of these orders average 70 years in age, it sounds more like the report was a retirement send-off."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kreeft: Why everybody in the world should be a Roman Catholic

Dr. Peter Kreeft, "Seven Reasons to be Catholic" -- a loose transcription (courtesy of M.W.)
I will give you 7 reasons why everyone in the world should be Roman Catholic. They are, respectively, from:

1. Walker Percy,
2. Cardinal Newman,
3. C. S. Lewis,
4. The Nicene Creed,
5. Thomas Aquinas,
6. St. John of the Cross, and
7. Palestrina.

1. When Walker Percy was asked why he was a Catholic, he answered ”What else is there?” That was St. Peter’s answer to Christ’s question “Will you leave me also?”: “To whom else should we go? Thou alone have the words of everlasting life.” As a philosopher, I like to lay things out logically in order. There are 8 options or choices that any seeker of truth has to make.

(1) The very first choice he has to make is to be honest or dishonest. There is only one reason anyone should believe anything at all: because it is true. If that seems too simple or too tough minded to any of you, I ask “Do any of you believe in Santa Claus?” You did when you were three. And believing in Santa Claus when you were three gave you two of the most important things in the world: it made you very happy and it made you very good, generous, and moral. Do you remember how happy you were and how good you were before Christmas? Well, if you believed in Santa Claus now, you would probably be a better person and a happier person. And does not everyone want to be good and everyone wants to be happy? So, why don’t you believe in Santa Claus? Because it is not true. Truth trumps everything.

(2) The second choice is whether you love the truth, whether you’re passionate about it, whether you desire it. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, separates people into two groups. Not those who know the truth or not, but those who seek the truth and those who don’t. God says to Jeremiah “You will seek Me and you will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” And Jesus says repeatedly “All who seek find.”

Pascal said there are three kinds of people in the world: Those who have sought God and found Him, those who seek God and have not yet found Him, and those who do no not seek and have not found him. There is no one in the fourth class, those who found Him without seeking Him. Those in the first class, those who have found Him are reasonable and happy. They are reasonable, that is honest and wise, because they sought and happy because they have found. Those in the third class, those who did not seek, are not reasonable, because they did not seek, and not truly happy because they have not found. Those in the second class, those who seek but have not yet found, are reasonable because they seek and not yet happy because they have not yet found. However, everybody in that second class is guaranteed entrance into that first class. So the most important thing in the world is to seek the truth. You do not find it without seeking it.

Bertrand Russell asked one of the best questions ever asked by an atheist. A preacher asked him on his death bed, “What if you’re wrong, and there is a God? What would you say to Him?” Russell replied “Fair enough. I think I would ask Him ‘Why didn’t you give us more evidence?’”

The age of laity in the Church? A new angle ...

"I was pleased to see that some Catholic journalists and internet bloggers behaved as good soldiers of Christ and drew attention to this clerical agenda of undermining the perennial teaching of Our Lord."

- Bishop Athanasius Schneider, speaking on the October Synod of Bishops

"It was mainly by the faithful people that Paganism was overthrown ... the body of the Episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism ..."

- Blessed John Henry Newman, addressing what transpired
during the Arian heresy of the 4th century

"Treachery like that of Nestorius is rare in the Church, but it may happen that some pastors keep silence for one reason or another in circumstances when religion itself is at stake. The true children of Holy Church at such times are those who walk by the light of their baptism, not the cowardly souls who, under the specious pretext of submission to the powers that be, delay their opposition to the enemy in the hope of receiving instructions which are neither necessary nor desirable."

- Abbot Guéranger, commenting on the Nestorian controversy
in the 5th century, in The Liturgical Year, IV, p. 380.

[Hat tip to M.V. and L.S.]

While we're at it: Raymond Arroyo interviews Ridley Scott and Christian Bale

Raymond Arroyo interviews Austen Ivereigh, author of Pope's biography, 'The Great Reformer'

Although I remarked on Ivereigh's book earlier, I just watched this interview today, and I thought it had some interesting moments. At the end of the day, I'm not sure Ivereigh will have answered Arroyo's questions to everyone's satisfaction, but he raises some interesting questions. At around 15:17 into the interview, they take up the issue of Pope Francis' election and the question of pre-conclave "politicking."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Japanese high schoolers perform Mozart's Missa Brevis ... well!

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Arne Duncan.

College: where faith and virginity are lost

"Controversy surrounding Rolling Stone’s reporting, or misreporting, of the UVA rape case, highlights the depressing and confusing reality of sexual violence on American campuses," writes Catherine Ruth Pakaluk, in "College: Where Faith and Virtue Go to Die" (Aleteia, December 8, 2014). As a reader said to me, it may be that there is more of a "hook-up culture" than a "rape culture" on campuses, a culture in which rape -- or something not-quite-rape but not-quite-wanted sex -- is simply a predictable by-product.

But here’s a difficulty no one wants to talk about: colleges, most of them anyway, are not in the business of making people better. As a result of various intellectual fashions, colleges have essentially gotten out of the education business and into the activism business – the business of "changing the world" as many mottos boast.

This is another way of understanding the idea that colleges do not wish to act in loco parentis anymore. Such a notion suggests that colleges might aim to finish and complete the work of parents in forming young people – cultivating human, intellectual and spiritual virtues. Instead, most colleges today aim to remain agnostic about virtue, while imparting what they understand to be a neutral creed of self-protection and self-interest.


So colleges aren’t making people better at the most important thing anyone has to learn to do in life – know, love and serve God. Which raises a very interesting question: is it bad to go to college if it makes you worse at religion?

Provocatively, one could paraphrase [the remarks of President Eastman, President of Eckerd College in Florida – where two horrific sexual assault cases emerged in August of this year]. “Hardly anyone’s culture or character or understanding [of the most important things] is improved by attending college.” College certainly isn’t making the typical student any better.

Which brings us back to the difficulties inherent in addressing the perverse sexual culture on campus. The problem is bigger than even Eastman admits. He is right that rules and regulations alone can’t fix it. But it is also true that temperance and sexual restraint are weak recommendations. Religion is, in fact, the only real program for human improvement. Temperance and sexual restraint don’t come from a high-minded resolution to be good. They come from conversion and grace.

So long as we are wedded to a model of college education completely devoid of religious formation, we are bound to remain mired in the miseducation of our youth. It isn’t college that’s so dangerous after all: it’s college without God.
[Hat tip to JM]

Pastoral crisis? What pastoral crisis?

Kevin O'Brien, "Pope Francis, Remarriage and Flag Burning" (Waiting for Godot to Leave, December 11, 2014), says that the following is a sample of what he's been emailing a few friends lately:
In 1974, when I was 14, and still an atheist, I served as godfather at my nephew's baptism. It was my first time inside a Catholic church. I was neither novice nor professed in the Faith [to be professed in the faith is what the 1917 Code of Canon Law required for all godparents]. Had the parish priest been even minimally vigilant, he would not have allowed this.

And so I wonder, as I have for a while now, why we are so worried that, while doctrine cannot change, the practice of it can? For over forty years unchanged doctrine has been abandoned at parishes, at schools and in living rooms. Our infallible teaching has simply been ignored.

So why the hand-wringing all of a sudden in Rome? If there's a problem in the Church, it's certainly not a lack of pastoral care for bigamists. Honestly. Matrimony is in a shambles, and "remarried" Catholics don't seem to have consciences that trouble them. Where's the pastoral crisis?

Why is this suddenly an issue?

Do you remember when the Republicans won Congress in 1994 or thereabouts with their "Contract for America"? They took their win as a license to make sweeping change. And what was the first change they tried to implement? They wanted to pass more strict legislation against flag burning. Flag burning! A thousand things seriously wrong in America, and they went after flag burning! I don't think a U.S. flag had been publicly burned at that time for maybe 20 years.

And now, with the Faith in crisis and marriage in shambles, the pope is concerned about pastoral care for "remarried" Catholics???? That's what amazes me about this.
Quite seriously, I would add that if there is a crisis in this matter, it is the utter lack of solicitude toward those spouses who have been unjustly injured by abandonment, divorce, or even carelessly-granted annulments. Why should all the "pastoral concern" lie on the side of the adulterers, bigamists, and sodomites?

[Hat tip to JM]

Is Catholic culture feminine? Is Evangelical culture masculine?

Upon reading Mark Shea's "Masculine and Feminine, Evangelical and Catholic" (NCR, December 11, 2014), Guy Noir immediately picked up his sharpened quill and wrote:
Heaven help me, but this piece by Mark Shea is actually very good. Even if I still find him to be a jackass.

Also, I think it ignores a rather key factor, and that is Scripture, in its presentation of prayer, certainly seems to favor a masculine approach. That does not mean Marian prayer is thus anti-scriptural, but it does mean the gender classification, though interesting, may be somewhat artificial. I think Fulton Sheen and JPII's prayers seem Marian and rather masculine. The other element he plays fast and loose with is this: Catholics do not worship Mary, but we pray to her. Essentially. For Protestants, that is basically the same thing as worship. Lastly, if Catholic culture is feminine, we would have to ask, "Why?!" Especially given an all male priesthood. If its focus is Christ, and not Mary, and we pray to God the Father, and the priests are all male, how on earth could it be construed as a feminine spirituality?

Meanwhile, given I still think the piece is pretty good, does this mean I might have found Louis Bouyer a jackass?! I hope not! I mean, he was French. I cannot imagine him not finding Shea painfully bourgeoise. I have no room to talk, but still, I laugh ...

Iconoclasm - Muslim, Protestant, and Catholic

Fr. Ray Blake, "Happy St John Damascene Day" (Fr. Ray Blake's Blog, December 5, 2014)

St. John Damascene Priest and Doctor of the ChurchHappy St John Damascene day!
I don't know if it is by accident or design that he is celebrated during Advent, but he is one of the great defenders of the Incarnation.

I thought I would have fun this morning, w3e had a class of 9/10 year olds in for Mass this morning, so I tried explaining iconoclasm and iconophilia to them.
St John of course was a resident of Damascus, in Syria which until 636 had been a Christian city, John was born 10 years after it conquest by Islam. It is worth noting that the Koran says more about Jesus than Mohamed, it is Jesus, not Mohamed who will come as judge at the end of time. Islam denies the idea that God could ever become Man and could suffer and die on the cross.

St John saw Islam as being a Christian heresy, a re-capitulation and extension of Arianism, which ends up by denying God's ability to transcend himself and become one with his creation. The doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation affirm God becomes one with us, he descends to us, becoming Man, and raises us up so the we might become Divinised. For Islam at best man may become a servant or slave of God, but never a Son.

Iconoclasm is more than denying that God can be portrayed, on its simplest level it is about the destruction of icons but underlying that thought is a dis-ease with the notion that God can become one with us, that he can be seen in flesh and blood, the next stage of course is to deny that Holy Eucharist or the Sacraments can be a meeting with the Divine, and beyond that, that we cannot encounter sanctifying Grace.

The Protestantism of the 16th Century was the Wests Iconoclastic crisis, the Counter Reformation the triumph the Iconophiles. Perhaps our problem is that in the West we have never quite taken Second Council of Nicaea seriously enough and so the period after the Vatican II becomes another period of Iconoclasm. It can be seen literally in the purposeful destruction of imagery in churches.

 More than that, it has lead to the profanation of the Sacred Liturgy, to reducing the sacraments to something self referential, to seeing the Church as something quite human rather than of Divine origin and end, and of God's presence in the world. It sees the priesthood and episcopate as mere jobs that even someone in serious sin can do.

Vatican PopeIn many ways the Extra-ordinary Synod on the Family was a battle between iconoclasts and iconophiles, those who believe marriage is an image of the unbreakable union of Christ and his Church and those who don't.

There is an iconophile mindset that always wants to see the image of God and experience his presence, just as there is an iconoclastic mindset wants to move away from God and to shut him out. Iconoclasm is dangerous. |Euthanasia and abortion become so easy if we do not see in the vulnerable the image of God.

I am concerned by a iconoclastic mindset in the Church, not only does it 'wreckovate buildings' but it excludes images of Christ and ultimately the person of Christ from the Church's life, I was given some posters recently to be distributed advertising a Catholic event, lots of pictures of bishops, none of Christ: that is an iconoclastic mindset.

[Hat tip to Sir A.S.]