Friday, December 30, 2005

Scott Hahn's Conversion Story

I just finished reading Scott Hahn's story of his conversion from being an anti-Catholic Presbyterian to becoming one of Catholicisms best defenders and theologians! I highly recommend it to everyone. Read it here!
Creed of St. Patrick

There is no other God,
nor ever was, nor will be,
than God the Father unbegotten,
without beginning,
from whom is all beginning,
the Lord of the universe,
as we have been taught;

and His son Jesus Christ,
whom we declare to have always
been with the Father, spiritually and
ineffably begotten by the Father
before the beginning of the world,
before all beginning;

and by Him are made all things
visible and invisible.
He was made man, and,
having defeated death,
was received into heaven by the Father;

and He hath given Him all
power over all names in heaven,
on earth, and under the earth,
and every tongue shall confess
to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God,
in whom we believe, and whose advent
we expect soon to be
,judge of the living and of the dead,
who will render to every man
according to his deeds; and

He has poured forth upon us
abundantly the Holy Spirit,
the gift and pledge of immortality,
who makes those who believe
and obey sons of God and
joint heirs with Christ;
and Him do we confess and adore,
one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name.

-St. Patrick, from his Confession.
Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

-St. Patrick
Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Question 10: Are Your Beliefs Found In The Bible?

*All Catholic beliefs can be found in the Bible in some form, whether plainly or by an indirect indication. It is not necessary for everything to be absolutely clear in Scripture alone, because that is not a teaching of Scripture itself. Scripture also points to an authoritative Church and Tradition, as St. Paul says in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians: "Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess 2:15-See also 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 3:6; 2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2). When the first Christians had a significant disagreement, they didn't simply open their Bibles (which didn't even exist at that point) to decide who was right; they held a council, which made binding decrees (Acts 15:1-29). The very books of the Bible had to be determined by the Church, and that didn't happen until the late fourth century. Therefore, Sacred Tradition and authority were necessary for us to even have a Bible today.

*Answers by Dave Armstrong

Mary: The New Ark Of The Covenant

I've been listening to an audio-tape of Scott Hahn's lectures on The Revelation to John for a while now and tonight on my way home from work he was talking about chapters 11 and 12. He talked about how John saw the Ark of the Covenant in heaven and that the ark was Mary.

"Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple...A great sign appeared in the sky, a women clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth" (Rev 11:19-12:2).

He said that the original Ark of the Covenant held the Ten Commandments which were God's words. Likewise, Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant held inside her the Logos-the Eternal Word!

Mary was the vessel that carried God's new covenant. A covenant that was not only for Israel, but the whole world!

Hahn also mentioned parallels between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary in 2 Samuel and Luke.

For example in 2nd Samuel 6, David took a journey to the hill country of Judah with the Ark of the Covenant. Also, the same phrase is used to describe Mary's journey to the hill country. The same exact phrase is used. Both David and Mary, "arose and made the journey." In 2nd Samuel, 6:2 and Luke 1:39.

Then in 2 Samuel 6:9 David remarks "How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me?" Elizabeth also says in Luke 1:43 "Why should the Mother of the Lord come to me?"

The Ark of the Covenant stays with Obededom for three months in 2 Samuel. The exact amount of time that Mary stays with Elizabeth in Luke.

With all this in mind and also with the recent post of the "Top ten questions Catholics are asked": question 4, one can see why Mary is so revered. She is the Ark which bore the Word of God, Jesus Christ-God with us! She truly is the Ark of the New Covenant!

Blessed Mary, ever virgin, the Ark of the New Covenant, pray for us that we may take part in God's New Covenant with man; your son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and live our lives according to His will so that we all may enter into His heavenly kingdom where He reigns at the right-hand of God the Father. Amen!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Question 9: Why Do You Obey The Pope?

*Catholics believe that Jesus commissioned St. Peter as the first leader of the Church. Matthew's Gospel has the most direct biblical indication of the papacy: "And I tell you, you are Peter [meaning literally "Rock"], and on this rock I will build my church...I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 16:18-19). Based on this statement of Jesus himself, Peter is clearly portrayed in the New Testament as the leader of the disciples. A pope can make infallible, binding pronouncements under certain conditions. Infallibility doesn't mean that absolutely everything a pope says is free from error. All Christians believe that God protected Holy Scripture from error by means of inspiration, even though sinful, fallible men wrote it. We Catholics also believe that God the Holy Spirit protects His Church and its head from error (Jn 14:16) by means of infallibility, even though sinful, imperfect men are involved in it.

*Amswers by Dave Armstrong

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Question 8: Why Do You Call Your Priest "Father"?

*"And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Mt 23:9). In this passage, Jesus is teaching that God the Father alone is ultimately the source of all authority. But He is not speaking absolutely, because if so, that would eliminate even biological fathers, the title "Church Fathers," the founding fathers of a country or organization, and so on. Jesus himself uses the term "father" in Matthew (15:4-5; 19:5, 19; 21:31), John (8:56), and several other places. In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus actually presents Lazarus as using the address "Father Abraham" twice (Lk 16:24, 30- See also Acts 7:2; Rom 4:12; Jas 2:21). St. Paul also uses the term when he writes, "I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Cor 4:15- See also 1 Cor 4:14-16), and refers to "our forefather Isaac" (Rom 9:10).

*Answers by Dave Armstrong

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Question 7: Why Do You Pray For The Dead?

*The Bible clearly teaches the rightness of prayers for the dead in 2 Maccabees (12:40, 42, 44-45): "Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen...[A]nd they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out...For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead...[H]e made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." St. Paul teaches this in a similar way: "Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?" (1 Cor 15:29). This indicates prayer and fasting for the dead. The word baptism often symbolically refers to penances (Mk 10:38-39; Lk 3:16, 12:50). The apostle Paul also appears to be praying for a dead person, Onesiphorus, in 2 Timothy (1:16-18).

*Answers by Dave Armstrong
Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Question 6: Why Do You Pray To Idols (Statues)?

*No Catholic who knows anything about the Catholic faith has ever worshipped a statue (as in pagan idolatry). If we cherish the memory of mere political heroes with statues, and that of war heroes with monuments, then there can be no objection to honoring saints and righteous men and women: "Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emporer" (1 Pet 2:17- See also Rom 12:10; Heb 12:22-23). Statues are simply a visual reminder of great saints and heroes of the faith (Heb 11), who are more alive than we are (2 Cor 3:18), as is evident by their praying: "O Sovereign long before thou dwell upon earth?" (Rev 6:10-See also Ps 35:17). The saints in heaven were never intended by God to be cut off from the Body of Christ on earth. They are involved in intercession, just as the saints on earth are, and they are described as "so great a cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1).

*Answers by Dave Armstrong

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Question 5: Why Do You Confess Your Sins To A Priest?

*Jesus Christ gave His disciples-and by extension, priests-the power not only to "loose" sins (that is, forgive in God's name), but also to "bind" (that is, impose penances): "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 18:18-See also Mt 16:19). "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:23). The priest serves as the representative of God and of His mercy. Confession gives new courage, confidence, and a fresh start. One learns humility by this practice, receives additional grace in order to avoid sin, and attains a certainty of forgiveness that is superior to mere feelings. Confession is also indicated in Matthew (3:5-6), Acts (19:18), and 1 John (1:9).

*Answers by Dave Armstrong
Urbi Et Orbi

Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas message to the world:

Last night we heard once more the Angel’s message to the shepherds, and we experienced anew the atmosphere of that holy Night, Bethlehem Night, when the Son of God became man, was born in a lowly stable and dwelt among us. On this solemn day, the Angel’s proclamation rings out once again, inviting us, the men and women of the third millennium, to welcome the Saviour. May the people of today’s world not hesitate to let him enter their homes, their cities, their nations, everywhere on earth! In the millennium just past, and especially in the last centuries, immense progress was made in the areas of technology and science. Today we can dispose of vast material resources. But the men and women in our technological age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart. That is why it is so important for us to open our minds and hearts to the Birth of Christ, this event of salvation which can give new hope to the life of each human being.

"Wake up, O man! For your sake God became man" (Saint Augustine, Sermo, 185. Wake up, O men and women of the third millennium!

At Christmas, the Almighty becomes a child and asks for our help and protection. His way of showing that he is God challenges our way of being human. By knocking at our door, he challenges us and our freedom; he calls us to examine how we understand and live our lives. The modern age is often seen as an awakening of reason from its slumbers, humanity’s enlightenment after an age of darkness. Yet without the light of Christ, the light of reason is not sufficient to enlighten humanity and the world. For this reason, the words of the Christmas Gospel: "the true Light that enlightens every man was coming into this world" (Jn 1:9) resound now more than ever as a proclamation of salvation. "It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). The Church does not tire of repeating this message of hope reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which concluded forty years ago.

Men and women of today, humanity come of age yet often still so frail in mind and will, let the Child of Bethlehem take you by the hand! Do not fear; put your trust in him! The life-giving power of his light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships. May his love guide every people on earth and strengthen their common consciousness of being a "family" called to foster relationships of trust and mutual support. A united humanity will be able to confront the many troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet.

May the God who became man out of love for humanity strengthen all those in Africa who work for peace, integral development and the prevention of fratricidal conflicts, for the consolidation of the present, still fragile political transitions, and the protection of the most elementary rights of those experiencing tragic humanitarian crises, such as those in Darfur and in other regions of central Africa. May he lead the peoples of Latin America to live in peace and harmony. May he grant courage to people of good will in the Holy Land, in Iraq, in Lebanon, where signs of hope, which are not lacking, need to be confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom; may he favour the process of dialogue on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere in the countries of Asia, so that, by the settlement of dangerous disputes, consistent and peaceful conclusions can be reached in a spirit of friendship, conclusions which their peoples expectantly await.

At Christmas we contemplate God made man, divine glory hidden beneath the poverty of a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; the Creator of the Universe reduced to the helplessness of an infant. Once we accept this paradox, we discover the Truth that sets us free and the Love that transforms our lives. On Bethlehem Night, the Redeemer becomes one of us, our companion along the precarious paths of history. Let us take the hand which he stretches out to us: it is a hand which seeks to take nothing from us, but only to give.

With the shepherds let us enter the stable of Bethlehem beneath the loving gaze of Mary, the silent witness of his miraculous birth. May she help us to experience the happiness of Christmas, may she teach us how to treasure in our hearts the mystery of God who for our sake became man; and may she help us to bear witness in our world to his truth, his love and his peace.
Christmas Homily of St. Leo the Great

1. Our Saviour, dearly Beloved, was born this day. Let us rejoice. Sadness is not becoming upon the Birth Day of Life Itself, which, now that the fear of death is ended, fills us with gladness, because of our own promised immortality. No one is excluded from sharing in this cheerfulness, for the reason of our joy is common to all men. Our Lord, the Conqueror of sin and death, since there was no one free from servitude, came that He might bring deliverance to all.

Let him who is sanctified rejoice, for he draws nigh to the palm. Let the sinner rejoice, since he is invited to grace. Let the Gentiles exult, for they are called to life. For the Son of God, in the fullness of time, has taken upon Himself the nature of our humanity, as the unsearchable depths of the divine counsel hath decreed, in order that the inventor of death, the devil, by that very nature which he defeated, would be himself overcome.

And in this contest that was undertaken for us, the battle was waged in accordance with a great and wondrous law of justice. For the Omnipotent God engaged in combat with His most bitter enemy, not in the strength of His own Majesty, but in our human infirmity; confronting him with our very form and nature, and sharing likewise in our mortality; but free of all stain.

Unlike this Holy Nativity, is that of which we read of all men: No one is there free from sin, not even the infant whose life upon the earth is but a day.[Job 14:4] But of the concupiscence of the flesh, nothing has been transmitted in this unique generation; nothing of the law of sin has descended. A royal virgin of the house of David is chosen as the bearer of the Sacred Fruit, who had conceived her divine and human Offspring in her soul, before she conceived Him in her body.

And knowing not the divine purpose, and lest she be fearful at such unheard of tidings, she learns from the angelic colloquy of that which was to be wrought in her by the Holy Spirit; nor did she, who was about to become the Mother of God, believe that this betokened the loss of her virginity.

Why should she be fearful, to whom fruitfulness is promised through the power of the Most High? The faith of the believer is confirmed by the witness of the miracle that went before, when to Elizabeth was given unlooked for fruitfulness; that it might not be doubted, that He Who had given to the barren to conceive, would give it likewise to the Virgin.

2. The Word of God, therefore, God, the Son of God, Who in the beginning was with God, by Whom all things were made, and without Whom was made nothing that was made, became Man, that He might free man from eternal death; bending down to the taking of our lowliness, without diminution of His own Majesty, so that remaining what He was, and taking upon Himself what He was not, He might join the form of a true servant to that form in which He is equal to God the Father [Phil. 2:6]; and by such a bond so link both natures, that this exaltation might not swallow up the lesser, nor adoption lessen the Higher.

Preserving therefore, the substance of both natures, and uniting them in One Person, lowliness is assumed by Majesty; infirmity, by Power; mortality, by Immortality. And to pay the debt of our present state, an inviolable Nature is united to our suffering one; and true God and true man are welded into the unity of One Lord, so that, as was needed for our healing, one and the same Mediator of God and men, might, by the one, suffer death, and by the Other, rise again from the dead. Rightly then, did this Birth of our salvation bring no taint of corruption to the Virginal integrity; for the birth of Truth, was the defense of virginity.

Such a Birth, dearly Beloved, befitted Christ, the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God; whereby He would be both joined to our lowliness, yet remain far above us in His divinity. For unless He were true God, He could bring us no aid; and were He not true man, He could offer us no example. The exulting angels, therefore, sing to the new born Lord, Glory to God in the Highest, and they announce unto me, peace on earth to men of good will. For they see the heavenly Jerusalem made up from all peoples of the earth. With what joy may not the lowliness of mankind rejoice in this unspeakable work of the divine compassion, when the angels in their glory so greatly rejoice.

3. Let us, therefore, give thanks, dearly Beloved, to God the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit; Who, because of the exceeding great love, wherein He has loved us, has had compassion on us. And even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ [Eph. 2:5], that in Him we might be a new creature, and a new clay. Let us strip ourselves of the old man with his deeds; for being made partakers of the Birth of Christ, let us renounce the deeds of the flesh [Col. 3:9].

Acknowledge, O Christian, the dignity that is yours! Being made a partaker of the divine nature, do not by an unworthy manner of living fall back into your former abjectness of life. Be mindful of Whose Head, and of Whose Body, you are a member. Remember, that wrested from the powers of darkness, thou art now translated into the Light and the Kingdom of God. By the sacrament of baptism you have become the temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not, by evil deeds, drive out from you such a One dwelling with thee, and submit yourself again to the bondage of the devil. Because your price was the Blood of Christ; because in strictness He shall judge you Who in mercy has redeemed you, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.
Merry Christmas!

"And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for him in the inn."

-Lk 2:7

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Conner's Christmas Message:Listen!

Listen here!

Biretta tip to titusonenine.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!
"The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph...And he came to her and said, "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"

-Lk 1:26-28
Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Question 4: Why Do You Worship Mary?

* Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate her because she is the mother of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Veneration is completely different from the adoration of God. It is the honoring of a person, not the worship of Almighty God, our Creator. Catholics believe that Mary is the highest of God's creatures because of her exalted role. But of course, like any other human being, she had to be saved by the mercy of God. She herself said, "My spirit rejoices in God my savior" (Lk 1:47). We believe that God saved her by taking away all stain of original sin at the moment of her conception (the Immaculate Conception). The very fact that God took on flesh and became man (Jn 1:1, 14) indicates that He wished to involve human beings in His plan of salvation for mankind. Mary was a key person for this purpose, so this is why Catholics honor her so highly.

*Answers by Dave Armstrong

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Expansion Of Library And Christmas Music

I just returned home from Borders Bookstore where I have spent some of my Christmas money that I received earlier this week. I could spend so much money on books there, it's scary! I also end up spending hours at a time looking at the books, much to the frustration of my wife. While I was there they were playing Sara Botkin's c.d. An Angel's Christmas. She has the most amazing voice and I wanted a Christmas c.d. that had traditional Christmas hymns on it instead of songs about Santa and generic songs about a warm fuzzy feeling, so I have added it to my collection. I highly recommend it!

The books I purchased are as follows:

A Concise History of the Catholic Church by Thomas Bokenkotter

Origen: An Exhortation To Martyrdom, Prayer And Selected Works translated by Rowan A. Greer (with a preface by Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Called To Communion by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI)

On The Way To Jesus Christ by Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI)

Apologia Pro Vita Sua by John Henry Newman

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

Letters To Jesus (Answered) by Peter Kreeft

As you can see, I have quite a bit of reading ahead of me!
What Happens When You Water Down The Meaning Of Christmas?

This happens.

The worst part of the article is when they talk about celebrating around a 6 foot tall metal pole. Sounds like Baal worship of the Old Testament to me!

This article makes it all the more clear why parents shouldn't lie to their kids and tell them that Santa Claus brings them presents. They should teach them about the real St. Nicholas of Myra and more importantly about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Pope to Publish First Encyclical

The encyclical will be called "Deus, Caritas Est" and will be published next month!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Question 3: Why Do You Worship Wafers?

*A consecrated host or wafer at a Catholic Mass is the true Body and Blood of Christ, not merely bread; so Catholics are worshiping Jesus, not a wafer. In the Gospel of John (6:51-56), Jesus states repeatedly that "he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" (6:54). He is speaking literally, and He is so firm that many followers object and leave Him (6:52, 60, 66). St. Paul agrees with this interpretation and writes that those taking Communion "in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor 11:27-See also 1 Cor 10:16). We don't sin against someone's "body and blood" by destroying a photograph (which is a mere symbol) of the person. Moreover, in the Last Supper passages (Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Lk 22:19-20), nothing suggests a metaphorical or symbolic interpretation. The Last Supper was the Jewish feast of Passover. This involved a sacrificial lamb, and Jesus referred to His imminent suffering (Lk 22:15-16, 18, 21-22). John the Baptist had already called Him the "Lamb of God" (Jn 1:29).

*Answers by Dave Armstrong
Quote Of The Day

"Catholic orthodoxy consists of those teachings affirmed by the popes, and heterodoxy consists of contrary teachings. In our time, as in all times in the Church history, truly critical minds and truly effective apologists will recognize that evangelization, if it is to be successful, must be based on right belief, and right belief cannot be reduced to a matter of individual preference or to a lazy acceptance of whichever "doxy" happens to be popular at the moment. From right belief will flow right action. In the absence of right belief, no right action will be forthcoming. No response to the Fundamentalist challenge-or to any other challenge, whether from outside or inside the Church-will prove fruitful unless it is grounded first in Catholic truth. No apologetic, whether denominated "new" or "old," will win hearts and minds unless it is rooted in doctrinal fidelity, spiritual transparency, and evident charity."

-Karl Keating, from his lecture No Apology from the new apologists.

*As a side note, I would like to point out that this is my 100th post! I sure have learned alot about blogging in those 100 and I have still much more to learn. All prayers would be greatly accepted and appreciated!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Question 2: If You Died Tonight, Would You Go To Heaven?

*Catholics have an assurance of salvation if they are faithful and keep God's commandments (1 Jn 2:3). If they die in that state, they are assured of heaven. But to enter heaven, one must be perfectly holy, because "nothing unclean shall enter it" (Rev 21:27-See also Is 4:4; Mal 3:2-4). The cleansing and purifying of any remaining sin, which makes us fit for God's holy presence, is what Catholics call purgatory. This is clearly indicated in St. Paul's writings: "Each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done...If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor 3:13, 15, emphasis added). "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body" (2 Cor 5:10, emphasis added).

*Answers by Dave Armstrong

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yes, Virginia. There Are Actually Twelve Days Of Christmas!

The Twelve Days of Christmas start with Christmas Day and finish with the eve of Epiphany on the 5th of January.

Religious symbolism of The Twelve Days of Christmas (The 12 Days of Christmas)

1 True Love refers to God
2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

The popular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is usually seen as simply a nonsense song for children. However, it is a song of Christian instruction dating to the 16th century religious wars in England, with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith. It was a mnemonic device to teach the catechism to youngsters. The "true love" mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the "days" represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me A partridge in a pear tree.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Ten lords a-leaping, Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Eleven pipers piping, Ten lords a-leaping, Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Twelve drummers drumming, Eleven pipers piping, Ten lords a-leaping, Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves, And a partridge in a pear tree!

My New Nephew!

On Sunday, my brother and his fiance had their first child, Kyle Ryan Garland! Of course, he was born right as my flight was about to leave for Pittsburgh. So, I haven't actually seen him in person yet. Luckily, we live in an age of digital cameras and my brother has sent me a picture!

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Top Ten Questions Catholics Are Asked

Last week when I went to visit my family in Orlando for the first time since my decision to become Catholic, I encountered many questions and confusion from my father and grandmother as to why my wife and I have decided to leave the Episcopal Church (of which we had been members since our birth). Their main concerns were about confession and the use of statues in the church. After explaining to them that Catholics do not worship statues and that confession to a priest is necessary to receive forgiveness of sins and additional grace in order to avoid sins, I realized that many non-Catholics have the same false perceptions of the Catholic faith. So, today when I was at my local Catholic bookstore I saw a pamphlet that gave responses to the top ten questions Catholics are asked. I will be posting the questions and answers in a ten part series.

Question 1: Are You Saved?

*Catholics can be as sure as anyone else that they are in God's good graces. The apostle John states that "you may know that you have eternal life" (1 Jn 5:13- See also Jn 5:24). But this "assurance" has to be understood in light of John's other teachings in the same book: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (1 Jn 5:3, emphasis added- See also 1 Jn 2:3-6). "We know that any one born of God does not sin" (1 Jn 5:18). "He who loves God should love his brother also" (1 Jn 4:21, emphasis added). "He who commits sin is of the devil" (1 Jn 3:18, emphasis added- See also 1 Cor 6:9). Likewise, St. Paul does not regard salvation as a one-time event, but as a goal to be sought after, one that can be lost: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12- See also 1 Cor 9:27, 10:12; Gal 5:1, 4; Phil 3:11-14; 1 Tim 4:1, 5:15).

* Answers by Dave Armstrong
Vatican Nativity Scene

I have been searching endlessly to find a picture of the life size nativity scene in St. Peter's Square. Does anyone know where to find it?
The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano

I recently read the story of Lanciano, a young priest who doubted the Real Presence in the Eucharist. He didn't doubt for long! God works in many mysterious ways! Read here for the story.

Also, here are other eucharistic miracles.

I don't know how, but I managed to mess up my blog pretty good for a while. It's all fixed now so no need to worry. It's getting late so I must go to bed now. More posts to come tomorrow...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Out Of The Ruins

Newman is excruciatingly detailed in his account of his own thinking, but for my purposes, I can simply report his conclusion: he came to think that the basic rationale for Anglicanism lacked validity. Even more strongly, he came to think that Anglicanism was a midwife for a liberalism that led to atheism. I still do not think Newman correct in the way he sets up Anglicanism, liberalism, and atheism as falling dominos, but I have come to think that the Episcopal Church is disastrously disordered and disarrayed. Here my own reasons and analysis are of no more moment than Newman’s. What matters is the way one responds to the judgment that Anglicanism is in ruins.

In the end, my decision to leave the Episcopal Church did not happen because I had changed my mind about any particular point of theology or ecclesiology. Nor did it represent a sudden realization that the arguments for staying put are specious. What changed was the way in which I had come to hold my ideas and use my arguments. In order to escape the insanity of my slide into self-guidance, I put myself up for reception into the Catholic Church as one might put oneself up for adoption. A man can no more guide his spiritual life by his own ideas than a child can raise himself on the strength of his native potential.

Stories of conversion to the Catholic Church can be rather tediously joyous. One might wish for some variety in such stories, perhaps something along the lines of Winston Churchill’s observation that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” But such variety as there is in conversion stories would seem to rest on the different ways in which converts describe a newly found bounty. For me, the gain was fairly simple.

The Catholic Church did not deliver me from apostasy and false teaching. I teach at a Jesuit University, so I am not naïve about just how insouciant about orthodoxy priests can be. Nor did Catholicism provide me with a neat, efficient, and trouble-free church. I do read newspapers. What my reception into the Catholic Church provided was deliverance from the temptation to navigate by the compass of a theory. The Catholic Church has countless failures, but of this I am certain: Catholic Christianity does not need to be underwritten by an idea.

A Pentecostal friend came to the Mass of reception at the Jesuit Martyrs’ Chapel. He is a close friend and a man whose faith I admire. After the Mass we talked for a while. He asked me, “So, what did it feel like to become a Catholic?” I told him, “It felt like being submerged into the ocean.” He reacted with a look of thinly disguised horror. That look reminded me that, while I sometimes suffer from an attraction to Emersonian fantasies of self-reliance and disdain for hierarchy, I have never wanted to be alone with God. It has always seemed to me that such a desire too easily turns into a longing to be alone with one’s idea of God, and that is the same as being alone with oneself.

The ocean needs no justification. It needs no theory to support the movement of its tides. In the end, as an Episcopalian I needed a theory to stay put, and I came to realize that a theory is a thin thread easily broken. The Catholic Church needs no theories. She is the mother of theologies; she does not need to be propped up by theologies. As Newman put it in one of his Anglican essays, “the Church of Rome preoccupies the ground.” She is a given, a primary substance within the economy of denominationalism. One could rightly say that I became a Catholic by default, and that possibility is the simple gift I received from the Catholic Church. Mater ecclesia, she needed neither reasons, nor theories, nor ideas from me.

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Back Home!

I have returned back home from a week in Florida. The weather there was great. It only rained a couple of days with an average temp of 50 degrees. It is a great state to visit, but I am definitely glad that I am now living in Pittsburgh. When we landed we could see the ground covered in snow with light snow flurries falling. The temp here now is 30 degrees! It's wonderful! It's been a long, fun week and now it's time to catch up on some sleep. Don't worry, though. I've got much to blog about in the coming week....

Monday, December 12, 2005

Irish Saint Of The Day:FINNIAN Of Clonard

The “Teacher of the Irish Saints.” He was born in Myshall, in County Carlow, Ireland in the year 470. Trained by Sts. Cadoc and Gildas in Wales, Finnian returned to Ireland where he built schools, monasteries, and churches. Clonard at Meath was his most famous foundation, and under his direction it became a renowned scriptural school. He is listed as a bishop, but it is possible that he was not consecrated in the office. St. Columba was one of his students, as he trained the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland” at Clonard. He died there during a plague in 549.

For a great book about one of St. Finnian's pupils (also one of the twelve apostles of Ireland) read Brendan by Frederick Buechner. It also has some great depictions of St. Finnian as well.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Favorite Bible Verse?

What is your favorite verse in the Bible? As you might have guessed mine is from 1Peter 3:15: "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you." The apologist in me can't help but make that verse my favorite!

Another one of my favorites is "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Jesus says here to the Apostles and to all of mankind that he regards us not as slaves, but as his friends. Through him we see the Father. Christ chose us and revealed God's Word (Jesus Himself) to us and is willing to give freely his own life to redeem ours. Truly, there is no greater love!
God hasn't changed his mind!

When my former priest decided to leave the Episcopal Church and thereby leaving his post as chaplin to the Epsicopal University Center at Florida State University, the Bishop of Florida quickly replaced him with a revisionist priest who fit in with the bishops agenda. Staying behind to sort out a few things was the lay chaplin of the E.U.C. (Episcopal Univeristy Center).

A couple of days after the new priest arrived he got into a discussion with the lay chaplin about the state of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion and couldn't understand why the lay chaplin would not agree to same sex marriages and gay priests and bishops.

The priest asked him, "Do you think God has finished? He's unable to do new things?"

The lay chaplin, without hesitation, replied, "No, I think God hasn't changed his mind!"

Thinking about the Vatican's recent document prohibiting gay clergy from seminary and the mess that has become the Episcopal Church (as well as the Anglican Communion), I feel it needs to be restated that God has in fact, NOT changed his mind.

Over two thousand years of Christian teaching plus thousands of years of Judiasm's teachings have told us that homosexuality is outside of God's intention for human sexuality and that it is a sin. There is no way around it. God does not make mistakes!

I have heard revisionists say that God created the people who are homosexuals and since God doesn't make mistakes, being gay isn't a sin and it is blessed by God.

To that I say, it is not God who has made the mistake, it is man's rebellion against God where the mistake is made. Just because you call a sin not a sin, doesn't make it not a sin. Sin is sin no matter what you choose to call it. Whether it be same sex attraction, adultery, or whatever.

When man has become so selfish in his sin that he refuses to admit that something is a sin, then that is where his soul is in the greatest of danger!

"Surely I, the Lord, do not change" (Malachi 3:6).
What's The Rush?!

In the two months since my wife and I have decided to leave the Anglican Church for Catholicism, we have been to three different Catholic Churches. In these three churches I have seen the same thing happen. Something that, in my opinion, is cause for great concern. As the mass is nearing completion and the priest says the post-communion blessing, he then says that the mass has ended and to go in peace to love and serve the Lord. The people respond, "Thanks be to God!" And then we sing the closing hymn.

So far I have no problems.

My problem is, that before the hymn is even finished, people are rushing out the door in a hurry to leave church. Sometimes they leave as soon as the hymn starts playing!

Why the rush to get away from worshipping God? Will two minutes more of worshipping the Almighty God who created you really interfere with whatever you have to do on Sunday? Because if it does, then I suggest rethinking your priorities!

As messed up as the Anglican Church has become, at least they stay until the last hymn is completed. They aren't in a hurry to leave church as the Catholics I have seen are.

Are all Catholic Churches like this?

Why doesn't the priest put a stop to it?

Or better yet, why doesn't the priest say that the mass has ended after the hymn, when the mass has actually ended?!
Mustangs+Snow=No Go!

Thursday night here in Pittsburgh we had a big snow storm. I happened to be closing at work that night and leaving as the storm was at it's worst. I found out right away just how bad it is to drive a mustang with rear wheel drive in the snow! It took me two and a half hours to get home when it normally only takes 45 minutes....and I didn't even make it all the way home. I had to park my car over night at a police station and have my wife come pick me up, because my car couldn't make it up a hill that was five minutes away from my home.

The worst part of all this is that I have to trade in my mustang! I've always wanted one, but I see now that they aren't the best cars when living up north. If I was still in Florida I wouldn't have any problems, but alas....

I'm currently thinking about trading it in for either an Explorer, a Trailblazer, or a Jeep Cherokee. We'll see which one I get...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Cafeteria Is Closed!

"In an age that has come to think of the teaching of the Church as a cafeteria line where one picks and chooses what one wants to believe, the Catechism is a reminder that the whole meal is necessary for a well-balanced spiritual diet. The Catechism provides completeness."

-Bishop of Pittsburgh Donald Wuerl, from his book The Catholic Way.
Critics help beatification process, archbishop says

From Catholic Online.

KRAKOW, Poland (CNA) – Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, who for 27 years served as former personal secretary of Pope John Paul II, said that criticisms by dissident theologians only reinforces the beatification process of Karol Wojtyla.

In remarks made to the Polish news agency PAP, the archbishop, referring to a campaign launched by some theologians against the beatification of John Paul II, said that “this kind of manifestation only hastens the beatifications process.”

“Of the Holy Father,” the archbishop said, “we can only say that he always defended man before false ideologies and their preachers and history vindicated him.”

“I think it’s one more opportunity to acknowledge the sanctity of John Paul II,” he added.
He added that “there is no reason to fear for the beatification process, because nobody serious will consider these critics.”

The Rome Diocese vicariate, where the case for beatification has been opened, is seeking testimonies concerning the holiness of John Paul II, and has made available an to which witnesses can contribute.

Due to the significant number of testimonies and the limited staff involved in the beatification cause, they have only considered the serious testimonies, well detailed and supported by documents, preferably in Italian or English.
Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian

"As for theologians, by virtue of their own proper charisms, they have the responsibility of participating in the building up of Christ's Body in unity and truth. Their contribution is needed more than ever, for evangelization on a world scale requires the efforts of the whole People of God."

This paragraph comes from the Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1990. It is 14 pages long, but definitely worth reading.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Pope chooses Polish Dominican as theologian of papal household

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen a 54-year-old British-born Polish Dominican to serve as theologian of the papal household. The Vatican announced the appointment of Father Wojciech Giertych Dec. 1. He succeeds 83-year-old Swiss Cardinal Georges Cottier, a Dominican who held the position since 1989. The theologian of the papal household serves as a private theological consultant to the pope, living in an apartment in the Apostolic Palace. He also serves as a consultant to the congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for Saints' Causes and to the International Theological Commission. At the time of his nomination, Father Giertych was serving as assistant to the master general of the Dominicans with special responsibility for Dominican schools, universities and the intellectual life of the order's members. He is a member of the Dominican general council in Rome and a professor of moral theology at Dominican-run Angelicum University in Rome. Born in London Sept. 27, 1951, he made his profession as a Dominican in 1976. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1981 and is a member of the Dominicans' Polish province. He earned a master's degree in history and a doctorate in theology at Angelicum University. The theologian speaks Polish, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian, the Vatican said. According to the Vatican yearbook, the first theologian of the papal household may have been St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers. In 1217, he served as "master of the sacred palace," or papal theologian, under Pope Honorius III. The yearbook said that for a time the master of the sacred palace was in charge of a school of theology directly under the pope's authority. After the school closed, the master was given responsibility for choosing preachers for papal chapels, approving their sermons and examining theological questions. Pope Paul VI gave the job its current title in 1968.

From Britain and Ireland's best-selling Catholic newspaper, The Universe.
Which Action Hero Would You Be?

I scored as William Wallace.

The great Scottish warrior William Wallace led his people against their English oppressors in a campaign that won independence for Scotland and immortalized him in the hearts of his countrymen. With his warrior's heart, tactician's mind, and poet's soul, Wallace was a brilliant leader. He just wanted to live a simple life on his farm, but he gave it up to help his country in its time of need.

I think I scored as Wallace because I said that I hate the English. I don't really hate the English....only when they are oppressing the Irish!

Take the quiz yourself here.