Thursday, September 11, 2014

If I Taught An Upper Level Undergrad/Masters Sacraments Course

I was asked by a friend of mine yesterday who will be teaching a course on the Sacraments next semester what books I would recommend. They are as follows:

General Sacraments:
-"Swear to God: The Promise and Power of the Sacraments" by Scott Hahn (This covers all the Sacraments and brings in their relation with covenant oaths. It is strong on Scripture, Patristics, and the Magisterium. It is also an easy read.)
-"Christ, and His Sacraments" by Thomas Donlan, O.P., Francis L.B. Cunningham, O.P., and Augustine Rock, O.P. (This is written by three Domincans, how can you go wrong with a book like that! ;-) This covers all the Sacraments and deals with causality, the sign value of the Sacraments, and all that good stuff. It is presented in a systematic manner with due attention to Scripture, the Fathers, and of course, St. Thomas. This is one of my go-to texts on Sacraments. It is an older text, but still available on Amazon here.
-"On the Mysteries" by Ambrose (A must read!)
-"The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy" by Dionysius the Areopagite (Very good! This combined with Ambrose gives a very good understanding of the Sacraments in the Early Church.)
-"Defence of the Seven Sacraments" by Henry VIII (I know, I know, but this was written before he split with Rome and is a good defense against Luther's innovations. Plus, it is rumored to have been ghost-written by St. Thomas More!)

Specific Sacraments:
-"On Baptism Against the Donatists" by Augustine (A must read on baptism!)

-"Christ and the Catholic Priesthood: Ecclesial Hierarchy and the Patter of the Trinity" by Matthew Levering (I wouldn't recommend the whole book for your Sacraments class. Just chapters 2, 3, and 5. Levering does a good job of drawing from the Tradition while engaging contemporary issues relating to the Sacraments.)
-"Theology of the Priesthood" by Jean Galot (This is a good presentation of the Sacrament of the Priesthood combined with the theology of the Priesthood starting with the institution of the priesthood by Christ in Scripture continuing through the history of the Church and also deals with objections to priestly celibacy and the male-only priesthood.)

-"Three to Get Married" by Fulton J. Sheen (This is a wonderful book and very easy to read. You could use the whole book or just chapters 11 [The Great Mystery] and 12 [The Unbreakable Bond].)
-"On the Good of Marriage" by Augustine (Can't go wrong with this!)

-"The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist" by James T. O'Connor (O'Connor gives a very good overview of the Eucharist throughout the Church's History, with many quotes from primary sources. He goes from the Fathers, to the Medievals, the Reformers and Protestant understandings of the Eucharist, to Trent through Vatican II. He gets into the specific sacramental theology in the last chapter, dealing with transubstantiation, Eucharist as sacrifice, etc. He also deals with the Eucharist and Our Lady.)
-"A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist" by Abbot Vonier (A classic work. Very Thomistic.)
-"The Mass: The Presence of the Sacrifice of the Mass" by Charles Journet (Also, very Thomistic, and all around great book!)

-"Lord Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession" by Scott Hahn (Strong on the relation to covenant and draws copiously from Scripture, the Fathers, and the Magisterium.)

-"Penance and the Anointing of the Sick" by Bernard Poschmann (A good overview of the development from Scripture and in the Early Church with the Tertullian/Montanist controversy. Also, good for the Medieval period to the Council of Trent. Chapter 1-4 are all that is needed. Chapter 5 on indulgences has some questionable stuff. It is best to look to Trent for indulgences.)
-As a bonus, you could also look at Cajetan's defense of Penance and the power of the keys against Luther, the texts of which are contained in "Cajetan Responds: A Reader in Reformation Controversy" edited by Jared Wicks.

For Anointing of the Sick and Confirmation, I would use the Council of Trent's teaching.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pray For Lily!

My daughter, Lily, was born on Saturday by an emergency c-section with no heartbeat and very little blood. They revived her, but she is now in NICU and has suffered damage to her brain through lack of oxygen. I would ask you to please pray for my daughter and encourage others to do so as well. We desperately need a miracle! I have created a blog to keep everyone updated on her progress. It can be found here:

Please share the blog with others and get the word out! Thank you and God Bless you!

Monday, November 11, 2013

New Blog

Check out my new blog, The Bearded Catholic, a blog about all things bearded, Catholic, and the intersection there between.

You can also "like" the Bearded Catholic on Facebook by going here. Spread the word!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

God So Loved The World

Crucifixion is the most horrific and torturous type of death, perfected by the Romans, to inflict the maximal amount of pain upon the one crucified. This execution consisted of a person being affixed to the cross by having a single nail driven between both of his feet, and one nail in each of his palms or wrists. The person is thus hung in a manner in which the downward force makes it immensely difficult to allow air into the lungs, leading to death by asphyxiation. The only way to stop the immense feeling of suffocation is by pushing up on the nails in your hands and feet, causing excruciating pain, in order to allow the slightest bit of oxygen to flow into your lungs. When the Romans were feeling merciful, they smashed the victim’s legs with a giant mallet in order to speed up the agony. And, yet, Christians believe that God the Father sent his only begotten Son, who is innocent and free from all sin, into the world for the specific purpose of dying on the cross for the salvation of guilty and sinful men. ...

Continue reading my most recent article, The Providence of God and the Cross of Christ, over at Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Theological Aesthetics Of Sherlock Holmes

"There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."

-Sherlock Holmes, The Naval Treaty

Friday, September 20, 2013

How NOT To Read Pope Francis

A good rule of thumb is to not read what Pope Francis says through the lens of the headlines of the mainstream media. If you read a headline that says "Pope Francis thinks Catholics are obsessed with homosexuality, contraception, and abortion" and then uncritically accept that the headline is accurate and free of all bias, you are setting yourself up for failure!

And if you are reading a news report on what Francis said, with its own interpretation, instead of going to the actual primary source, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??!! That is laziness of the worst kind. Go to the source! If you can read the New York Times, you can read and comprehend what the Pope said in the actual interview he gave. Think for yourself, do not let the New York Times or any other outlet think for you! You have no right to get mad at the Pope or criticize him because you are too lazy to read what he said in the context in which he said it. "But it's too long!" LAZY! If you can't be bothered to read the whole of what the Pope said, and you go around attacking him based on a faulty news source, you are committing a grave act against charity for which you will be called to account.

Here is the passage that is causing such controversy (but don't just read this, read the whole interview):

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
He doesn't say we can't insist on these issues, rather we can't insist only on these issues. Does this mean the Pope isn't concerned with these issues or that he thinks the Church should change her position on them? Read what he says!  "The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church..." Do you hear that, the teaching of the Church is clear! Have you seen any mainstream news reports that include this line? Why not, do you think? Because they are BIASED! They want Francis to say something that he isn't saying, so they pick and choose from the interview, taking his words out of context and fashioning sensational headlines so you will click on their links and give them higher traffic, which results in more adds and more money. Mainstream media is driven by mammon, why would you think they are going to give you the truth?! Francis is not going to change the teaching of the Church. He agrees with the teaching of the Church. The Church is clear on what she teaches and Francis is a son of the Church, which means what the Church teaches, he teaches and believes! It's all right there if you just read Francis according to Francis and not according to the mainstream media.

But, you say, he says "it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time"! Look at the context!

"Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow."
Francis, as a Jesuit faithful to the original charism of his order, is speaking in the context of missionary preaching. Francis is calling the Church to renewed missionary work, which focuses on the essentials. From the essentials flows the moral consequences. So what are the essentials that Francis wants us to focus on?

"Jesus Christ has saved you."
This is the first proclamation. The gift of salvation through Christ must always be first. From that follows moral consequences. What are we being saved from? Sin. We have separated ourselves from God. What is needed is a recognition of this fact that leads to repentance and from there an acknowledgement that we cannot save ourselves; that salvation comes from Christ alone. With this first proclamation of Christ's saving action, we can be drawn to a life that seeks to live in imitation of Christ. It is the saving action of Christ that must guide all subsequent discussion, especially morality. If one focuses on morality apart from the reasons for living a moral life, the proclamation of morality is going to fall away, having been set on a rocky foundation. Why must we live a moral life? Because Christ died for us in order that we may have eternal life. Our new lives in Christ should reflect that reality.

Pope Francis thinks that we have lost a proper emphasis on the first proclamation. It is this that he hopes to restore. He does not wish to change the moral teaching of the Church, but rather to put it in its proper context. Pope Francis is a son of the Church and we should read him (him, not a news report that claims to represent him) with charity in the context of his fidelity to the Church. To do otherwise is to slander the Vicar of Christ.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blackfriar Films Presents "Come My Way"

Blackfriar Films, the media division of the Eastern Province of the Order of Preachers, have now gotten into the music video business. Check out their new video for the hymn, "Come My Way".

They may not have beards, but they are Dominicans, and well, that's close enough!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Forget The Papal Tiara...


…bring back the Papal Beard!

Yes, all those pseudo-traditionalists out there who are clamoring away about the Papal Tiara--that recent addition to the papal wardrobe first documented in the Liber Pontificalis as being worn by Pope Constantine (708-715)--would do better to direct their energy to an even older tradition that dates back to the very first pope, Peter, namely, the Papal Beard. 

Last I checked, women wore tiaras and men wore beards!
For the first 643 years of the Church, every single pope had a beard!

After all, what is the main reason why Catholics want the Papal Tiara restored? It is a sign of the Pope’s authority. Okay, but what better way for the Pope to say, “I’m in charge, here,” than to sport a full beard? In the East, not to have a beard is considered to be a sign of weakness and lack of manliness. All of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs have beards, just like the Lord and the apostles did.

Look at this beard! You Orthodox know who really runs the show in the East.

Even Vladimir Putin was no match for the Patriarch of Russia and his beard.

My beard must break you.

Think about it…this is a vital ecumenical issue! How can the East take us Roman Catholics seriously when our faces are as soft as a parthenos after exfoliating with Aegean sea salt?

And by “us” I mean you!

No sea salts for this face.

Just think of how quickly the schism of 1054 would be healed if Pope Francis grew a beard!

Okay, so I suck at photoshop.
or this:

My one loyal reader has better photoshop skills than me.

...maybe that will take a while.

In the meantime, we as Catholic lay and clergy (provided your bishop and/or rules of your order allow it) can throw away our razors and grow out our beards in solidarity with our Eastern brethren (both Eastern Orthodox and Eastern-Catholic). So let it grow! And when someone asks why you are doing it, tell them it’s for Christian unity.

Cardinal Cleemis has already started.

Show off.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Lumen Fidei, In Brief

Lumen Fidei, the encyclical drafted by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and promulgated by Pope Francis, is a worthy successor to Benedict’s Deus Caritas Est and Spe Salvi full of material worthy of deeper meditation. There are many sections that one could surmise come from the hand of either author, but in the end it is pointless to do so. Whether a passage is more Benedictine or more Franciscan is irrelevant as there is, contra what those on the left and on the far right would have you think, complete continuity between these two successors of Peter.  I encourage everyone to read the encyclical in full, but for those who are pressed on time and cannot devote the whole day to reading it (as I have), here is the ‘Cliff Notes’ version, if you will, of the encyclical in 11 quotes which are some of my favorites.

Faith is thus linked to God’s fatherhood, which gives rise to all creation; the God who calls Abraham is the Creator, the one who 'calls into existence the things that do not exist' (Rom 4:17), the one who 'chose us before the foundation of the world... and destined us for adoption as his children' (Eph 1:4-5).
-Lumen Fidei 11.

Christians are “one” (cf. Gal 3:28), yet in a way which does not make them lose their individuality; in service to others, they come into their own in the highest degree. This explains why, apart from this body, outside this unity of the Church in Christ, outside this Church which — in the words of Romano Guardini — “is the bearer within history of the plenary gaze of Christ on the world” —faith loses its “measure”; it no longer finds its equilibrium, the space needed to sustain itself. Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers. It is against this ecclesial backdrop that faith opens the individual Christian towards all others.
-Lumen Fidei 22.

Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves. Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life.
-Lumen Fidei 24.

Most people nowadays would not consider love as related in any way to truth. Love is seen as an experience associated with the world of fleeting emotions, no longer with truth. But is this an adequate description of love? Love cannot be reduced to an ephemeral emotion. True, it engages our affectivity, but in order to open it to the beloved and thus to blaze a trail leading away from self-centredness and towards another person, in order to build a lasting relationship; love aims at union with the beloved. Here we begin to see how love requires truth. Only to the extent that love is grounded in truth can it endure over time, can it transcend the passing moment and be sufficiently solid to sustain a shared journey. If love is not tied to truth, it falls prey to fickle emotions and cannot stand the test of time. True love, on the other hand, unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light pointing the way to a great and fulfilled life. Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit.
-Lumen Fidei 27.

If love needs truth, truth also needs love. Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives. The truth we seek, the truth that gives meaning to our journey through life, enlightens us whenever we are touched by love. One who loves realizes that love is an experience of truth, that it opens our eyes to see reality in a new way, in union with the beloved. In this sense, Saint Gregory the Great could write that “amor ipse notitia est”, love is itself a kind of knowledge possessed of its own logic. It is a relational way of viewing the world, which then becomes a form of shared knowledge, vision through the eyes of another and a shared vision of all that exists. William of Saint-Thierry, in the Middle Ages, follows this tradition when he comments on the verse of the Song of Songs where the lover says to the beloved, “Your eyes are doves” (Song 1:15). The two eyes, says William, are faith-filled reason and love, which then become one in rising to the contemplation of God, when our understanding becomes “an understanding of enlightened love”.
-Lumen Fidei 27.

Since faith is a light, it draws us into itself, inviting us to explore ever more fully the horizon which it illumines, all the better to know the object of our love. Christian theology is born of this desire. Clearly, theology is impossible without faith; it is part of the very process of faith, which seeks an ever deeper understanding of God’s self-disclosure culminating in Christ. It follows that theology is more than simply an effort of human reason to analyze and understand, along the lines of the experimental sciences. God cannot be reduced to an object. He is a subject who makes himself known and perceived in an interpersonal relationship. Right faith orients reason to open itself to the light which comes from God, so that reason, guided by love of the truth, can come to a deeper knowledge of God. The great medieval theologians and teachers rightly held that theology, as a science of faith, is a participation in God’s own knowledge of himself. It is not just our discourse about God, but first and foremost the acceptance and the pursuit of a deeper understanding of the word which God speaks to us, the word which God speaks about himself, for he is an eternal dialogue of communion, and he allows us to enter into this dialogue. Theology thus demands the humility to be "touched" by God, admitting its own limitations before the mystery, while striving to investigate, with the discipline proper to reason, the inexhaustible riches of this mystery.
-Lumen Fidei 36.

Theology also shares in the ecclesial form of faith; its light is the light of the believing subject which is the Church. This implies, on the one hand, that theology must be at the service of the faith of Christians, that it must work humbly to protect and deepen the faith of everyone, especially ordinary believers. On the other hand, because it draws its life from faith, theology cannot consider the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him as something extrinsic, a limitation of its freedom, but rather as one of its internal, constitutive dimensions, for the magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity.
-Lumen Fidei 36.

It is impossible to believe on our own. Faith is not simply an individual decision which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart, nor a completely private relationship between the "I" of the believer and the divine "Thou", between an autonomous subject and God. By its very nature, faith is open to the "We" of the Church; it always takes place within her communion.
-Lumen Fidei 39.

Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity. Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole.
-Lumen Fidei 48.

The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. So it was that Sarah, by faith, became a mother, for she trusted in God’s fidelity to his promise (cf. Heb 11:11).
-Lumen Fidei 52.

Modernity sought to build a universal brotherhood based on equality, yet we gradually came to realize that this brotherhood, lacking a reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation, cannot endure.
-Lumen Fidei 54.

Because of her close bond with Jesus, Mary is strictly connected to what we believe. As Virgin and Mother, Mary offers us a clear sign of Christ’s divine sonship. The eternal origin of Christ is in the Father. He is the Son in a total and unique sense, and so he is born in time without the intervention of a man. As the Son, Jesus brings to the world a new beginning and a new light, the fullness of God’s faithful love bestowed on humanity. But Mary’s true motherhood also ensures for the Son of God an authentic human history, true flesh in which he would die on the cross and rise from the dead.
-Lumen Fidei 59.