Saturday, April 30, 2011

First Comes Knowledge, Then Comes Love

“Knowledge must ever precede the exercise of the affections. We feel gratitude and love, we feel indignation and dislike, when we have informations actually put before us which are to kindle those several emotions. We love our parents, as our parents, when we know them to be our parents; we must know concerning God, before we can feel love, fear, hope, or trust towards Him. …The formula, which embodies a dogma for the theologian, readily suggests an object for the worshipper. It seems a truism to say, yet it is all that I have been saying, that in religion the imagination and affections should always be under the control or reason. Theology may stand as a substantive science, though it be without the life of religion; but religion cannot maintain its ground at all without theology.”

Basically what Newman is saying here is that knowledge is ordered to love. You cannot love what you do not know! If you claim to love someone, you want to know as much as possible about them. It is for this reason that every Christian, in some sense, should be a theologian! We should desire to know as much as possible about God, so that our love for Him grows more and more. Faith and reason are not opposites. To know is to love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Truth About Opus Dei

...will not be found in a Dan Brown novel or a movie based on his novels.

However, there is a new movie coming out where you can find the truth about the origins of Opus Dei and its founder, St. Josemaria Escriva. That movie is There Be Dragons, opening at select theaters on May 6. Here are some of the reactions to preview screenings (these were written to the producers of the movie):

Two Goths (who wear black, carry chains and like morbid things) were at a multiplex movie theater on Friday. Reading the list of movies they discovered There Be Dragons, and thinking that it was a movie about Merlin and swords and so on, they bought tickets. When the film ended and the theater emptied out, I saw that they were not moving from their seats. I asked them how they had liked the movie. "Too much," replied one. "We never imagined that priests were such good people."
Sean, April 13, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Χρίστος ἀνέστι!

        Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Happy Easter to all!

I encourage everyone to read Pope Benedict XVI's Easter Vigil Homily. It is splendid! 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fifth Anniversary

Five years ago today, on the Easter Vigil, I entered into communion with the Church that Christ founded upon Peter and the Apostles. One of the points of reflection that led me to Holy Mother Church was the words I said every Sunday as an Anglican in reciting the Nicene Creed: We believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. By that Vigil five years ago, I was convinced that these four marks could only have their locus in one place. Today, I am more certain about that than ever!


Jesus Christ founded only one Church. In his high priestly prayer in the Gospel of John, he prayed for that Church’s unity. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we see the institution of the source for preserving that unity: St. Peter. Christ in his wisdom knew that if his Kingdom was to survive “to the close of the age” there had to be an authoritative principle of unity. Otherwise, chaos would ensue. We see this in the splintering of Protestantism into thousands of different sects, each claiming that the individual is his own source of authority. I saw it five years ago in the Anglican Church when the Archbishop of Canterbury was powerless to discipline Anglican provinces that were sliding into moral decay because he was no more than a figurehead who could only “recommend” that they adhere to traditional Christianity. Yet, Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven only to Peter (these keys are passed down to his successors. Cf. the OT background to Christ’s actions in Isaiah 22:15-25).

“Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia” –St. Ambrose, Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David.


The Church is made up of sinners, yes. But the Church herself, as the Bride of Christ, is pure and spotless. She is guided by the Holy Spirit into all truth. One of the most compelling arguments for the truth of the Catholic Church for me is the holiness of her saints: sinners who have perfected themselves in this life so as to conform themselves through meritorious suffering into the likeness of our Lord. No institution would produce the caliber of holy men and women that the Catholic Church has if it were not guided by God. Take a look, for example, at Sts. Ignatius, Polycarp, Augustine, Monica, Francis, Dominic, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thomas Aquinas, Therese of Lisieux, Bl. John Paul the Great, etc. The lowest saint of the Catholic Church far surpasses the holiness found outside of her.


“Catholic” in Latin means “universal.” That is what the Church truly is. In every corner of the world you will find the Catholic Church. The first person to describe Christ’s Church as “Catholic” was Ignatius of Antioch in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans

“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” 

As an Anglican, it would often be quickly noted that the “C” of “Catholic” in the Creed is a small-C. However, that is absurd, since when Ignatius first used the word, he did not make a distinction. He didn’t have to. There was only One Church around and that was the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Where did Ignatius say we could find this Catholic Church? Wherever the bishop was, that was where the Church was. But who was a true bishop? One who was in union with the Pontiff of Rome, the Pope.


The Church is Apostolic because it is founded by Christ on Peter and the Apostles. No other contender to the title of Christ’s “Church” can make this claim. All other bodies were founded by men, not on Apostles, and far removed from Apostolic times. Another aspect of the Church being Apostolic is that it has Apostolic Succession, which is the passing down of the laying on of hands in an unbroken line from the Apostles to the Bishops and priests of today. No other body has Apostolic Succession, which is necessary for the valid celebration of the sacraments (the only exception, of course, is the Eastern Orthodox Churches due to their preservation of the sacrament of holy orders when they entered into schism). In a sense it is like a spiritual family tree. If a priest or bishop wanted to, he could trace his laying on of hands all the way back to one of the Apostles and back to Christ, Himself!

As a high-church Anglican who considered the Anglican priesthood, I was unaware that the Anglican Church did not possess valid sacraments because it did not have Apostolic Succession, and therefore did not have a valid priesthood. This can be a particularly hard teaching for Anglicans (especially those who are Anglican priests) to accept. I would encourage all Anglicans to read both Sir Joseph Pope’s Why I Became A Catholic and Leo XIII’s Apostolicae Curae.

However, it wasn’t solely my reflection on the words of the Nicene Creed that caused me to see that the Catholic Church was the one Church founded by Christ. It was also due to my reading of the Church Fathers. I echo the words of Bl. John Henry Newman, fellow convert from Anglicanism:

"I...take my stand upon the Fathers, and do not mean to budge. The history of their times is not yet an old almanac to me...The Fathers made me a Catholic."

The Lord's Vigil

"Every vigil celebrated in the Lord's honor is pleasing to God and acceptable to him, but this particular vigil more than all the rest. That is why this night in particular holds the title The Lord's Vigil. Indeed, what we read is: 'All the Israelites must keep a vigil for the Lord' (Ex 12,42). And this night well merits the title since the Lord awoke in life that we might not remain asleep in death. For he suffered death's sleep for our sakes in the mystery of his Passion, yet this sleep of the Lord has become the vigil of the whole world because the death of Christ has removed the sleep of eternal death from us. He himself says it through the prophet: 'I lie down in sleep, I wake again, and my sleep was sweet to me' (Ps 3,6; Jer 31,26). This sleep of Christ's that we have called to mind, from the bitterness of death to the sweetness of life, cannot be anything but sweet.

Solomon wrote: 'I sleep but my heart is awake' (Sg 5,2). These words seemingly show the mystery of the divinity and flesh of the Lord. He slept according to the flesh but his divinity kept watch since the divinity cannot sleep...: 'He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the guardian of Israel' (Ps 121[120],4)... He slept according to the flesh but his divinity visited hell in order to draw out the man whom it had held captive. Our Lord and Savior desired to enter into every place to have mercy on everyone. He came down from heaven to the earth to visit the world, and again he descended from earth to hell to carry light to those held captive there, as spoken by the prophet: 'Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone' (Is 9,1).

Hence angels in heaven, men on earth and the souls of the faithful in the dwelling place of the dead celebrate this vigil of the Lord... If one sinner's repentance, as the Gospel says, gives joy to the angels in heaven (Lk 15,7.10), how much more the redemption of the whole world?... And so, this vigil is not just a feast for men and angels but also for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, because the world's salvation is the Trinity's happiness."

-Saint Chromatius of Aquileia, 1st  Sermon for the Paschal Vigil

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Causes Of Justification

Final Cause:
The glory of God and of Christ, and eternal life

Efficient Cause:
The God of mercy who, of his own free will, washes[1] and sanctifies, placing his seal and anointing[2] with the promised holy spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance[3].

Meritorious Cause:
His most beloved and only-begotten Son, our lord Jesus Christ who, when we were at enmity with him[4], out of the great love with which he loved us[5], merited justification for us by his most holy passion on the wood of the cross, and made satisfaction to God the Father on our behalf.

Instrumental Cause:
The sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith[6], without which justification comes to no one.

Formal Cause:
The justness of God: not that by which he himself is just, but that by which he makes us just and endowed with which we are renewed in the spirit of our mind[7], and are not merely considered to be just but we are truly named and are just[8], each one of us receiving individually his own justness according to the measure which the holy Spirit apportions to each one as he wills[9], and in view of each one’s dispositions and co-operation. For though no one can be just unless the merits of the passion of our lord Jesus Christ are communicated to him; nevertheless, in the justification of a sinner this in fact takes place when, by the merit of the same most holy passion, the love of God is poured out by the agency of the holy Spirit in the hearts[10] of those who are being justified, and abides in them. Consequently, in the process of justification, together with the forgiveness of sins a person receives, through Jesus Christ into whom he is grafted, all these infused at the same time: faith, hope and charity. For faith, unless hope is added to it and charity too, neither unites him perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of his body. Hence it is very truly said that faith without works is dead and barren[11], and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision is of any avail nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love[12]. From apostolic tradition, catechumens seek this faith from the church before the sacrament of baptism when they ask for the faith that gives eternal life; and this, without hope and charity, faith cannot give. Consequently, they immediately hear the word of Christ: If you would enter life, keep the commandments[13]. Thus, receiving true and Christian justness in exchange for that which Adam, by his disobedience, lost for himself and for us, the reborn are immediately ordered to preserve the justice freely granted to them through Jesus Christ in a pure and spotless state like a best robe[14], so that they may carry it before the tribunal of our lord Jesus Christ and possess eternal life[15].

-Council of Trent, Session 6

[1] See 1 Cor 6:11
[2] See 2 Cor 1:21-22
[3] Eph 1:13-14
[4] See Rm 5:10
[5] Eph 2:4
[6] See Augustine, Ep. 98 ad Bonifatium (Letter 98 to Boniface) 9
[7] See Eph 4:23
[8] See 1 Jn 3:1
[9] See 1 Cor 12:11
[10] See Rm 5:5
[11] See Jas 2:17, 20
[12] Gal 5:6
[13] Mt 19:17
[14] See Lk 15:22; Augustine, De genesi ad litt. (On the words of Genesis) VI 27
[15] See Rituale Romanum (Roman Ritual), administration of baptism