Friday, May 18, 2007

My friend, Bill Cork

Bill Cork wonders whether honest friendships can endure religious conversions. He asks this in the context of his recent reversion to Seventh-day Adventism. Before I say anything, I want to say that my wife and I count Bill and his family among our good, close friends -- even prior to our move to Houston. I've known Bill for going on 11 years and respect him as one of the most intelligent, faithful, and loyal people I've ever met. He has been a teacher, guide, and friend to me during these many years, and is always willing to lend a helping hand, or offer some otherwise useful piece of knowledge about a great many things. He's worked tirelessly for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, with great results, in spite of great and understandable frustration. I still hold him in great esteem, and I trust that our friendship will continue. Though it still requires effort, it is, of course, well worth it.

It would be an understatement to say that we were shocked at his re-embrace of Seventh-day Adventism, yet I still rejoice that I can still consider him to be a brother in Christ, in spite of our communal differences. Broken communion is still a scandal no matter how one looks at it, but it doesn't have to be insurmountable. It's the reality we have to work with in our present world, unfortunately. I know this in my own family and Protestant background.

I had avoided bringing this up on my own blog because I know the way in which controversy like this attracts all sorts of conjecture. I had desired to simply let Bill make his decision and express his reasons why, and let it be at that. Lately, however, I have seen much in his writing that merits highly critical examination, particularly in those cases where it seems he knowingly or unknowingly distorts or misrepresents the teachings of the Catholic Faith -- in particular because I know he knows better than to do this. That is my own personal observation. The difficulty for everyone concerns how to balance our pastoral sensitivity, for lack of a better term, with what is obviously for him not easy, while at the same time maintaining our commitment to what we believe is true. I do have to say that I haven't been too impressed with the way he has sought to intimidate or brush aside those who sincerely offer opposing points of view, but it's his blog, and he has full authority there -- he only wants to lay out his reasons without debate in his own space. I also know that for every good comment he gets, he gets 1000 nutty ones. Yet out of my own concern for some of the confusion his writings have been causing for some folks, I have offered whatever resources I can. In light of what Bill has been teaching with regard to his criticisms of the Catholic faith and his articulations of some of what Adventists believe, certainly he can appreciate a well rounded critique.

My congratulations to Bill in his new position as associate pastor of a Seventh-day Adventist church here in Houston. I can easily understand that Bill and his family are very happy that they are no longer divided. I would like to ask that he and his family continue to hold my family in prayer, and if he still appreciates a good beer now and again, I hope he knows there is more available!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

On Divine Filiation
Low Sunday brings to my memory a pious tradition of my own country. On this day, in which the liturgy invites us to hunger for spiritual food — rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite, to desire the spiritual milk, that is free from guile — it was customary to take Holy Communion to the sick (they did not have to be seriously ill) so that they could fulfill their Easter duties.

In some large cities, each parish would organise its own eucharistic procession. From my days as a university student in Saragossa, I remember frequently seeing thousands of people crossing the Coso in three separate contingents made up entirely of men, thousands of men!, carrying huge burning candles. Strong and robust men they were, accompanying Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, with a faith that was greater than those candles that weighed so much.

Last night when I found myself awake several times I repeated, as an aspiration, the words, quasi modo geniti infantes, as new-born babes. It occurred to me that the Church's invitation today is very well suited to all of us who feel the reality of our divine filiation. It is certainly right that we be very strong, very solid, men of mettle who can influence our environment; and yet, before God, how good it is to see ourselves as little children!

Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite: like children just born into the world, cry out for the clean and pure milk of the spirit. How marvelous this verse from St Peter is and how appropriate that the liturgy should then add: exsultate Deo adiutori nostro: iubilate Deo Iacob: leap with joy in honour of God; acclaim the God of Jacob, who is also Our Lord and Father. But today I would like us, you and I, to meditate not so much on the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, which draws from our hearts the greatest possible praise for Jesus, but on the certainty of our divine filiation and on some of the consequences deriving from it for all who want to live their Christian faith nobly and earnestly.
-St. Josemaría Escrivá, from his homily, Getting to know God.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dies Domini & Adventism

DIES DOMINI, A Theological Resource for Catholic-Adventist Dialogue.

The site is an interesting starting point for those of us who know next to nothing about Seventh-day Adventism and are confronted with some of its more bizarre and peculiar doctrines. It also reveals some interesting information concerning the various debates on biblical interpretation -- from either point of view. Of particular interest is the collection of essays regarding the "Intermediate Condition" of the soul (scroll down). The reference is to thnetopsychism and psychopannychism, the assertion that the soul is not immortal and dies with the body only to be resurrected with the body, and the insistence that the soul lies unconscious between bodily death and the bodily resurrection -- the "intermediate condition", sometimes referred to as "soul sleep". Some of these articles are from the folks at the sda2rc blog.

Yes, there has certainly been debate about some of these issues, but does Scripture really provide a clear and consistent witness to them? Don't be fooled. Let us not be, as St. Paul warns, "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles."

Laudetur Iesus Christus

Monday, May 14, 2007

What do you see?

Recently I was reflecting upon the following statement made by the Holy Father when he opened the Synod on the Eucharist during the Fall of 2005:
The Eucharist might also be considered as a 'lens' with which to constantly examine the face and path of the Church, which Christ founded so that all may know the love of God and find in him the fullness of life... The Eucharist, in fact, is the motor of the whole of the Church's evangelizing action, as the heart is in the human body. Christian communities -- without the Eucharistic celebration, where they are nourished at the dual table of the Word and body of Christ -- would lose their authentic nature: Only in the measure that they are "Eucharistic" can they transmit Christ, and not just ideas or values regardless of how noble or important they are.
When I entered the Church in 1997, I really believed that I had stumbled upon something quite out of the ordinary. I plunged into mysterious depths, deep into the very soul of Christ, the God-man who offers Himself for us, who is made present for us in the holy Eucharist in a true and abiding presence. Yet I was frustrated that my Protestant friends couldn't see what I saw, and I was unable to explain it to them. My Protestant worship, while sincere, seemed blurred by comparison. What I had now encountered was something more clear, something that truly brought everything in my life, and indeed in all of life, into focus -- a real lens. Oddly, as I reflect on it now, I think of that line from Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, in which Louis is asked what he saw after becoming a vampire:
What did you see? No words can describe it. Might as well ask Heaven what it sees. No human can know. The statue seemed to move, but didn't. The world had changed, yet stayed the same.
Yet how easy it is for us to take this for granted! Two years ago, a Dominican priest visited my parish in Santa Barbara and offered Sunday mass. He preached a homily about the importance of not just seeing something, but actually looking at it. And not just looking at it, but looking with it, as a frame for seeing everything around it. He would ask the question, What do you see? Again: What do you see? Again: What do you see?

Well, the point seemed a bit hokey to me at the time, so I brushed it off as he continued on with the mass. Only a few minutes would pass before I truly realized what he was asking us to do. As he held aloft the Precious Body of Our Lord and the Chalice filled with His Blood, before exclaiming, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, he interjected the true and absolute question, What do you see?

Yes, yes, perhaps he should not have improvised at that point during the liturgy, but it seemed so poignant. We are given this extraordinary gift, which is Christ Himself, a gift of inestimable value, which is near impossible to articulate with words. And as Benedict also says, the Eucharist is the heart of the Church and the heart of any Eucharistic community. As such, as it is living, it is also life-giving. It is, as Benedict says, the motor of the whole of the Church's evangelizing action. It is the Eucharist that stands out. It is the Eucharist that makes things clear. Master, to whom shall we go?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fullness Of Truth Houston Conference: June 23/24

Theme: Reasons to Believe!

Weekend Conference with Archbishop DiNardo, Dr. Scott Hahn, Eucharistic Adoration + Benediction, Mass, Confessions, Musical concerts, more. Check it out!

Tickets @ 800-731-4500, details at


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