Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Present To You, Patrick Brendan Marcellinus Garland

Patrick was born on Sunday, April 26th, 2009 at 8:28am and weighed 8 pounds 10 ounces!

For those wondering about his name, here's the breakdown:

Patrick- The great Irish saint (also my favorite Irish saint)

Brendan- Also a great Irish saint, also known as "Brendan the Voyager." He traveled as far as America way before Columbus and founded several monasteries. (My second favorite Irish saint)

Marcellinus- The 29th Pope. He was martyred under the Emperor Diocletian. His Feast day is April 26th.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Religious Freedom Doesn’t Mean Religious Silence

"The rights of conscience, Pope John Paul II once wrote, are the "primary foundation of every authentically free political order." If that is so, then we better redouble our vigilance. Here in the United States, where we fancy ourselves religiously tolerant, recent high-profile cases suggest that First Amendment rights are widely misunderstood.

In an ongoing imbroglio, Catholics around the country have lodged objections to the University of Notre Dame's decision to grant an honorary degree to President Barack Obama. They are upset that the university's honor comes in the wake of a series of decisions that flout Catholic teaching on abortion and they judge that Notre Dame's action contradicts a directive issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2004. Some of these objecting Catholics happen to be bishops, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago among them. In response, William M. Daley, in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, reacted with dismay. The former co-chairman of Obama's presidential campaign called the cardinal's remarks part of "a worrisome pattern in which the Catholic hierarchy in America is mixing religion with politics." Faith, he implied, is a private matter, and religious figures violate the separation of church and state by offering their opinions in a way that might affect the public discourse.

Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court struck down a state law prohibiting homosexual men and women from marrying same-sex partners. The decision depended on the court's finding that there was no "rational basis" for Iowa's statute. More specifically, the Court determined that opposition to same-sex marriage was all (or mostly) motivated by "religion." By endorsing the law, the Court concluded, it would be endorsing religion, which is forbidden by the First Amendment.

Legal scholar Matthew Franck summarizes the implication of the court's argument well: "if a moral argument finds support in any religious commitment, then the promulgation of that argument in law is a violation of the principle of religious disestablishment." More to the point, Franck observes, this approach to First Amendment jurisprudence is "logically fallacious, historically illiterate, and politically brutish."

It is politically brutish because it, like the approach taken by Daley, tries to shove religious people from the public square by disallowing their views any influence in the formation of law or public policy. As George Weigel pointed out in a commentary on the Tribune column, it is ironic that Daley, the son of the Chicago mayor who helped John F. Kennedy win the presidency, would try to vitiate the authority of Church leadership by invoking a hoary anti-Catholic myth about bishops scheming for political power.

The problem should concern everyone, believer or not. As the Iowa case demonstrates, any religious view will be suspect, so long as it grates the sensibilities of whomever the political elite happen to be at the time. Even the views of non-religious people can be ostracized in this way. In Iowa, if an atheist favors a traditional definition of marriage, that position is nonetheless deemed unconstitutional because it happens to fall in line with the policy views held by some evangelical Christians, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, or any other religious group.

It should be obvious that this is no way of building a pluralistic society that is free and peaceful. The American Founders knew better when they fashioned an amendment forbidding the national government from establishing a church, guaranteeing all people the right to practice their faith, and leaving the rest to local custom and personal freedom.

Recognizing the influence of religion, tyrants have always begun their quest for absolute power by coopting religious leaders. Where they have failed in that enterprise, would-be despots have neutralized them by undermining their authority or doing away with troublesome ministers altogether. History's tyrants recognized the progression that some of us have forgotten: Where people are free to act according their conscience, they will demand the right to determine their political destiny. Where they choose their political leaders, they will seek the space to exercise economic freedom as well. The many dimensions of freedom tend to rise--and to fall--together.

These are the connections that John Paul II, a churchman under Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, understood and articulated. Those who love freedom, be they of devout religious faith or none at all, should resist attempts to silence believers under the auspices of a perverted notion of separation of church and state."

- Kevin E. Schmiesing Ph.D.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Be Prepared!

Today I received a great blessing….I had a chance to defend and explain the Catholic Faith. And yes, that is a blessing.

Even though I teach theology every week day to unwilling youth forced to bear my class on pain of not graduating, who provide ample opportunity to defend the Faith, today was different.

I also answer many questions emailed to me from this blog, yet today’s defense was new.

It happened outside of the classroom and out of the bounds of email. It happened at Starbucks.

On my way home from school, I stopped off to get a cup of coffee and I patiently awaited my turn in line. When the man at the register received his beverage, he turned around and saw the hat I was wearing and asked were I got it. I told him and he confessed that he was looking all over for a hat to wear with a suit. The conversation then moved onto my profession. I told him that I taught theology at a Catholic High School. It then came out that he was an ex-Catholic. I asked why he left.

Immediately, I could sense the Holy Spirit at work. I’ve never had a situation like this occur before. Here I am minding my own business, seeking nothing but a cup of good coffee for the drive home and I end up engaged in a twenty minute conversation about the Catholic Church. We explored all aspects of the Faith; Mary, the Saints, the Structure of the Church, the Papacy/Authority, Salvation Outside of the Church, Purgatory, excommunication, etc. He kept jumping around as I answered each objection he brought forth. I didn’t mind, I expected it (this is the way most Protestants debate against a Catholic). Then we came to the real reason why he is an “ex” Catholic. He left when he was in college after seeing so many Catholics around him not living the whole Faith, but rather picking and choosing what they want to believe.

The scandal of “Catholics” who go against the teaching of the Church is great, as evidenced by Joe Biden and Notre Dame. Yet, I appeal to all non-Catholics out there, do not judge the Church by those who claim to be members, yet refuse to obey its teachings. You would not judge any Protestant denomination by that standard, so why the Catholic Church? Rather, look to what the Church believes and teaches and look to the faithful who do indeed strive to live out their faith. For every cafeteria Catholic that is produced, a Catholic who adheres to the Church’s teaching can also be found. Look not upon the sins of the people, but the Faith of the Church!

I left him with my number in case he wanted to dialogue more and also a recommendation to read Scott Hahn’s book “Reasons to Believe.” We will see what comes of it. I believe that with the Holy Spirit’s help a few seeds were planted and he will again begin to think about the teachings of the Catholic Church. Hopefully he will realize that the Bible does not contradict the teachings of the Church and the Church does not contradict the Bible.

The point of this post is to be prepared! You don’t need a Masters Degree in Theology to be able to defend the Faith. All you need is to be committed to the study of the Bible (read it daily), the Catechism (read it with the Bible), read books on how to defend the faith (from authors such as Hahn, Madrid, Kreeft, Aquilina, Armstrong, etc.), and pray that the Holy Spirit will grant you the wisdom to know how to answer any questions that may come your way. Always be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is within you….even at your local coffee shop.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Christus Resurrexit! Vere Resurrexit! Alleluia, Alleluia!

"'This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it' (Ps 117[118],24). It is not by chance, brethren, that today we read the Psalm in which the prophet invites us to rejoice and be glad and in which holy David invites all creation to celebrate this day. For today Christ's resurrection has opened the resting-place of the dead; the Church's newly baptised members have rejuvenated the earth; the Holy Spirit has shown us heaven. Hell, now opened, gives up its dead; its youth renewed, the earth buds forth those who are risen; and heaven opens wide to welcome those who mount up towards it.

The thief has gone up to paradise (Lk 23,43); the bodies of the saints enter the holy city (Mt 27,53)... At the resurrection of Christ all the elements, moved by a kind of momentum, are raised towards the heights. Hell hands over to the angels all those whom it was holding captive; heaven presents to the Lord all those it has received... Christ's resurrection is life for the dead, pardon for sinners, glory for the saints. Thus great David calls all creation to celebrate Christ's resurrection and encourages it to leap for joy and gladness in this day the Lord has made.

Yet you will ask..., heaven and hell have not been set within the daylight of this world's, so can we expect these elements to celebrate a day that completely misses them? But the day the Lord has made penetrates all things, contains all things and encompasses at one and the same time heaven, earth and hell! Christ's light is not blocked by walls nor broken by the elements nor darkened by shadows. The light of Christ is truly a day without night, a day without end. It shines forth everywhere, radiates everywhere, remains everywhere."

-Saint Maximus of Turin, Sermon 53 on Psalm 117

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday

“On Good Friday our gaze remains fixed on the crucified Christ, but Holy Saturday is the day of the ‘death of God,’ the day that expresses the unparalleled experience of our age, anticipating the fact that God is simply absent, that the grave hides him, that he no longer awakes, no longer speaks, so that one no longer needs to gainsay him but can simply overlook him. ‘God is dead and we have killed him.’ This saying of Nietzsches’s belongs linguistically to the tradition of Christian Passiontide piety; it expresses the content of Holy Saturday, ‘descended into hell.’

This article of the Creed always reminds me of two scenes in the Bible. The first is that cruel story in the Old Testament in which Elijah challenges the priests of Baal to implore their God to give them fire for their sacrifice. They do so, and naturally nothing happens. He ridicules them, just as the ‘enlightened rationalist’ ridicules the pious person and finds him laughable when nothing happens in response to his prayers. Elijah calls out to the priests that perhaps they had not prayed loud enough: ‘Cry aloud, for he [Baal] is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened’ (1 Kings 18:27). When one reads today this mockery of the devotees of Baal, one can begin to feel uncomfortable; one can get the feeling that we have now arrived in that situation and that mockery must now fall on us. No calling seems to be able to awaken God. The rationalist seems entitled to say to us, ‘Pray louder, perhaps your God will then wake up.’ ‘Descended into hell’; how true this is of our time, the descent of God into muteness, into the dark silence of the absent.

But alongside the story of Elijah and its New Testament analogue, the story of the Lord sleeping in the midst of the storm on the lake (Mk 4:35-41), we must put the Emmaus story (Lk 24:13-35). The disturbed disciples are talking of the death of their hope. To them, something like the death of God has happened: the point at which God finally seemed to have spoken has disappeared. The One sent by God is dead, and so there is a complete void. Nothing replies any more. But while they are there speaking of the death of their hope and can no longer see God, they do not notice that this very hope stands alive in their midst; that ‘God’, or rather the image they had formed of his promise, had to die so that he could live on a larger scale. The image they had formed of God, and into which they sought to compress him, had to be destroyed, so that over the ruins of the demolished house, as it were, they could see the sky again and him who remains the infinitely greater.

….The article about the Lord’s descent into hell reminds us that not only God’s speech but also his silence is part of the Christian revelation. God is not only the comprehensible word that comes to us; he is also the silent, inaccessible, uncomprehended, and incomprehensible ground that eludes us. To be sure, in Christianity there is a primacy of the logos, of the word, over silence; God has spoken. God is word. But this does not entitle us to forget the truth of God’s abiding concealment. Only when we have experienced him as silence may we hope to hear his speech, too, which proceeds in silence. Christology reaches out beyond the Cross, the moment when the divine love is tangible, into the death, the silence and the eclipse of God. Can we wonder that the Church and the life of the individual are led again and again into this hour of silence, into the forgotten and almost discarded article, ‘Descended into hell’?

…If there were such a thing as a loneliness, that could no longer be penetrated and transformed by the word of another; if a state of abandonment were to arise that was so deep that no ‘You’ could reach into it any more, then we should have real, total loneliness and dreadfulness, what theology calls ‘hell.’ We can now define exactly what this word means: it denotes a loneliness that the word love can no longer penetrate and that therefore indicates the expose nature of existence in itself. In this connection who can fail to remember that writers and philosophers of our time take the view that basically all encounters between human beings remain superficial, that no man has access to the real depths of another? According to this view, no one can really penetrate into the innermost being of someone else; every encounter, beautiful as it may seem, basically only dulls the incurable wound of loneliness. This hell, despair, would dwell at the very bottom of our existence, in the shape of that loneliness which is as inescapable as it is dreadful.

…In truth—one thing is certain: there exists a night into whose solitude no voice reaches; there is a door through which we can only walk alone—the door of death. In the last analysis all the fear in the world is fear of this loneliness. From this point of view, it is possible to understand why the Old Testament has only one word for hell and death, the word sheol; it regards them as ultimately identical. Death is absolute loneliness. But the loneliness into which love can no longer advance is—hell.

This brings us back to our starting point, the article of the Creed that speaks of the descent into hell. This article thus asserts that Christ strode through the gate of our final loneliness, that I his Passion he went down into the abyss of our abandonment. Where no voice can reach us any longer, there he is. Hell is thereby overcome, or, to be more accurate, death, which was previously hell, is hell no longer. Neither is the same any longer because there is life in the midst of death, because love dwells in it. Now only deliberate self-enclosure is hell or, as the Bile calls it, the second death (Rev 20:14, for example). But death is no longer the path into icy solitude; the gates of sheol have been opened. From this angle, I think, one can understand the images—which at first sight looks so mythological—of the Fathers, who speak of fetching up the dead, of the opening of the gates. The apparently mythical passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel becomes comprehensible, too, the passage that says that at the death of Jesus tombs opened and the bodies of the saints were raised (Mt 27:52). The door of death stands open since life—love—has dwelt in death.”

-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Christ, Our Pascha

"Pascha (passover) is not, as some think, a Greek noun, but a Hebrew: and yet there occurs in this noun a very suitable kind of accordance in the two languages. For inasmuch as the Greek word paschein means to suffer, therefore pascha has been supposed to mean suffering, as if the noun derived its name from His passion: but in its own language, that is, in Hebrew, pascha means passover; because the pascha was then celebrated for the first time by God's people, when, in their flight from Egypt, they passed over the Red Sea. And now that prophetic emblem is fulfilled in truth, when Christ is led as a sheep to the slaughter, that by His blood sprinkled on our doorposts, that is, by the sign of His cross marked on our foreheads, we may be delivered from the perdition awaiting this world, as Israel from the bondage and destruction of the Egyptians; and a most salutary transit we make when we pass over from the devil to Christ, and from this unstable world to His well-established kingdom. And therefore surely do we pass over to the ever-abiding God, that we may not pass away with this passing world. The apostle, in extolling God for such grace bestowed upon us, says: "Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love." This name, then, of pascha, which, as I have said, is in Latin called transitus (pass over), is interpreted, as it were, for us by the blessed evangelist, when he says, "Before the feast of pascha, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should pass out of this world to the Father." Here you see we have both pascha and pass-over. Whence, and whither does He pass? Namely, "out of this world to the Father." The hope was thus given to the members in their Head, that they doubtless would yet follow Him who was "passing" before. And what, then, of unbelievers, who stand altogether apart from this Head and His members? Do not they also pass away, seeing that they abide not here always? They also do plainly pass away: but it is one thing to pass from the world, and another to pass away with it; one thing to pass to the Father, another to pass to the enemy. For the Egyptians also passed over [the sea]; but they did not pass through the sea to the kingdom, but in the sea to destruction. "When Jesus knew," then, "that His hour was come that He should pass out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end." In order, doubtless, that they also, through that love of His, might pass from this world where they now were, to their Head who had passed hence before them. For what mean these words, "to the end," but just to Christ? "For Christ is the end of the law," says the apostle, "for righteousness to every one that believes." The end that consummates, not that consumes; the end whereto we attain, not wherein we perish. Exactly thus are we to understand the passage, "Christ our passover is sacrificed." He is our end; into Him do we pass. For I see that these gospel words may also be taken in a kind of human sense, that Christ loved His own even unto death, so that this may be the meaning of "He loved them unto the end." This meaning is human, not divine: for it was not merely up to this point that we were loved by Him, who loves us always and endlessly. God forbid that He, whose death could not end, should have ended His love at death. Even after death that proud and ungodly rich man loved his five brethren; and is Christ to be thought of as loving us only till death? God forbid, beloved. He would have come in vain with a love for us that lasted till death, if that love had ended there. But perhaps the words, "He loved them unto the end," may have to be understood in this way, That He so loved them as to die for them. For this He testified when He said, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." We have certainly no objection that "He loved them unto the end" should be so understood, that is, it was His very love that carried Him on to death."

-St. Augustine, Tractate 55 on the Gospel of John

The High Importance Of The Office Of the Priesthood

“What advantage, pray, could be greater than to be seen doing those things which Christ with his own lips declared to be proofs of love to Himself? For addressing the leader of the apostles He said, “Peter, lovest thou me?” and when he confessed that he did, the Lord added, “if thou lovest me tend my sheep.” The Master asked the disciple if He was loved by him, not in order to get information (how should He who penetrates the hearts of all men?), but in order to teach us how great an interest He takes in the superintendence of these sheep. This being plain, it will likewise be manifest that a great and unspeakable reward will be reserved for him whose labors are concerned with these sheep, upon which Christ places such a high value. For when we see any one bestowing care upon members of our household, or upon our flocks, we count his zeal for them as a sign of love towards ourselves: yet all these things are to be bought for money: -with how great a gift then will He requite those who tend the flock which He purchased, not with money, nor anything of that kind, but by His own death, giving his own blood as the price of the herd. Wherefore when the disciple said, “Thou knowest Lord that I love Thee,” and invoked the beloved one Himself as a witness of his love, the Savior did not stop there, but added that which was the token of love. For He did not at that time wish to show how much Peter loved Him, but how much He Himself loved His own Church, and he desired to teach Peter and all of us that we also should bestow much zeal upon the same. For why did God not spare His only-begotten Son, but delivered Him up, although the only one He had? It was that He might reconcile to Himself those who were disposed towards Him as enemies, and make them His peculiar people. For what purpose did He shed His blood? It was that He might win these sheep which He entrusted to Peter and his successors. Naturally then did Christ say, “Who then is t he faithful and wise servant, whom his lord shall make ruler over His household.” Again, the words are those of one who is in doubt, yet the speaker did not utter them in doubt, but just as He asked Peter whether he love Him, not from any need to learn the affection of the disciple, but from a desire to show the exceeding depth of his own love: so now also when He says, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant?” he speaks not as being ignorant who is faithful and wise, but as desiring to set forth the rarity of such a character, and the greatness of this office. Observe at any rate how great the reward is—“He will appoint him, “he says, ‘ruler over all his goods.’”…..For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious? These verily are they who are entrusted with the pangs of spiritual travail and the birth which comes through baptism: by their means we put on Christ, and are buried with the Son of God, and become members of that blessed Head, Wherefore they might not only be more justly feared by us than rulers and kings, but also be more honored than parents; since these begat us of blood and the will of the flesh, but the others are the authors of our birth from God, even that blessed regeneration which is the true freedom and the sonship according to grace. The Jewish priests had authority to release the body from leprosy, or, rather, not to release it but only to examine those who were already released, and you know how much the office of priest was contended for at that time. But our priests have received authority to deal, not with bodily leprosy, but spiritual uncleanness—not to pronounce it removed after examination, but actually and absolutely to take it away.”

St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood

Monday, April 06, 2009

Monday Of Holy Week

"During his entry into Jerusalem, the people paid homage to Jesus as the Son of David with the words of the pilgrims of Psalm 118[117]: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" (Mt 21: 9). He then arrived at the temple. There, however, in the place that should have been taken up by the encounter between God and man, he found livestock merchants and money-changers who occupied this place of prayer with their commerce. Certainly, the animals on sale were destined to be burned as sacrifices in the temple, and since in the temple it was impossible to use coins that bore the likeness of the Roman emperors, who were in opposition to the true God, they had to be exchanged for coins that did not show the idolatrous image. All this, however, could have taken place elsewhere: the place where this was now occurring should have been, in accordance with its destined purpose, the atrium of pagans. Indeed, the God of Israel was precisely the one God of all peoples. And although pagans did not enter, so to speak, into the Revelation, they could however, in the atrium of faith, join in the prayer to the one God. The God of Israel, the God of all people, had always been awaiting their prayers too, their seeking, their invocations. Instead, commerce was prevailing - dealings legalized by the competent authority which, in its turn, profited from the merchants' earnings. The merchants acted correctly, complying with the law in force, but the law itself was corrupt. "Covetousness... is idolatry", the Letter to the Colossians says (3: 5). This was the idolatry Jesus came up against in the face of which he cites Isaiah: "My house shall be called a house of prayer" (Mt 21: 13; cf. Is 56: 7), and Jeremiah: "But you make it a den of robbers" (Mt 21: 13; cf. Jer 7: 11). Against the wrongly interpreted order, Jesus with his prophetic gesture defends the true order which is found in the Law and the Prophets.

Today, all this must give us, as Christians, food for thought. Is our faith sufficiently pure and open so that starting from it "pagans", the people today who are seeking and who have their questions, can intuit the light of the one God, associate themselves in the atriums of faith with our prayers and, with their questions, perhaps also become worshippers? Does the awareness that greed is idolatry enter our heart too and the praxis of our life? Do we not perhaps in various ways let idols enter even the world of our faith? Are we disposed to let ourselves be ceaselessly purified by the Lord, letting him expel from us and the Church all that is contrary to him?

In the temple's purification, however, it was a matter of more than fighting abuses. A new time in history was foretold. What Jesus had announced to the Samaritan woman concerning her question about true worship is now beginning: "The hour is coming, and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him" (Jn 4: 23). The time when animals were sacrificed to God was over. Animal sacrifices were only a substitute, a nostalgic gesture for the true way to worship God. The Letter to the Hebrews on the life and work of Jesus uses a sentence from Psalm 40[39]: "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me" (Heb 10: 5). Christ's body, Christ himself, enters to take the place of bloody sacrifices and food offerings. Only "love to the end", only love for human beings given totally to God is true worship, true sacrifice. Worshipping in spirit and truth means adoring in communion with the One who is Truth; adoring in communion with his Body, in which the Holy Spirit reunites us."

-Pope Benedict XVI

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Palm Sunday

“Is this the crowd who would applaud his crucifixion? How was their hatred earned from his grace? Even the words of their commendation pointed to the power of redemption. ‘Hosanna’ in Hebrew signifies the redemption of the house of David. They are calling upon the Son of David. They are celebrating the inheritance of the eternal kingdom. They are proclaiming blessing in the name of the Lord. Soon their shouting of ‘Crucify him!’ would be blasphemy. But at present, the deeds he was doing were exhibiting the form of the future. It is granted that the crowd was doing these things with very confused emotions. The thing that would follow would be different. Nevertheless they were, inadvertently and without willing it, pointing to heavenly things unfolding. In this way the whole city of Jerusalem was stirred.”

-St. Hilary of Poitiers, On Matthew 21.3