Saturday, August 08, 2009

Solemnity of St. Dominic

We celebrated the Solemnity of St. Dominic with mass with the Dominicans down at Holy Rosary parish in Houston. Afterward, we met the new pastor, who recognized my name from my blog! It was good to meet you, Fr. Ian.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

In Houston: VIANNEY

The one-man drama, VIANNEY, with actor Leonardo Defilippis as the holy priest of Ars in France, St. Jean-Marie Vianney, is currently in Houston. More information:

Here is a list of locations.

It will be at my parish this Sunday evening at 7pm:
Sunday, August 9, 2009 @ 7:00 p.m.
Youth and Family Life Center of St. Theresa Church
115 7th St., Sugar Land, TX 77498
Admission: FREE
All Priests, Religious & Seminarians Welcome as Our Special Guests!
Information, contact the Parish Office at 281-494-1156
I plan to be there. Come on down!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

D&C 129: Ask him to shake hands with you

Interesting selection from the Doctrine and Covenants, a work believed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be a part of the scriptural canon. I wasn't aware that you could discern good from evil personages using a handshake:
Instructions given by Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Nauvoo, Illinois, February 9, 1843, making known three grand keys by which the correct nature of ministering angels and spirits may be distinguished.

1 There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones

2 For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

3 Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.

4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.

5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.

6 If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear

7 Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.

8 If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.

9 These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God.
I know that Mormons will defend this by asserting their belief in ongoing public revelation, which historic Christianity rejects. Nevertheless, I post this as a contrast. This teaching's assertions are widely different from our belief in the incorporeal nature of angelic beings and the inability of human beings to become angels after reaching some level of spiritual and resurrected exaltation (the theology of the old favorite "It's a Wonderful Life" aside!). The notion appears to have a number of things confused.

JPII and Conscience

"Conscience itself does not create norms but discovers them in the objective order of morality."

So writes Richard Spinello in an HPR article about Pope John Paul II's thought on conscience. Conscience formation is a serious duty, overlooked, I have found, by many in the Church today. I think Spinello captures things well:
The Pope recognized the need for a proper understanding of conscience, and he was concerned with those who sought to undermine the orthodox doctrine of conscience with more subjectivist notions. Not only has this doctrine been distorted by some revisionist theologians, who diminish the moral law’s decisive role in human development, it has also been corrupted in modern culture. In recent centuries the notion of authenticity has displaced the traditional conception of conscience. The person is supposedly guided by an “inner voice” to make authentic moral choices that are consistent with his or her particular value system. Conscience is also equated with a Freudian superego, which makes us aware of superficial and conventional social standards. The pre-cursor of this idea was Nietzsche, who reduced conscience to the sublimation of instinct.
And he's correct, of course. Spinello goes into greater depth in this discussion, and so I would encourage you to read the whole article.

And what is conscience, really? The catechism defines it in a few ways (1778):
Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law.
It is also a place deep within our core in which God speaks. Quoting Newman, the catechism later states that conscience is the "aboriginal Vicar of Christ. (1778)". We are duty bound to obey our conscience.

Yet, what many overlook is that all of this presumes a conscience that has been (and is in the process of being) rightfully formed according to the teachings of the Gospel as handed on to us by Christ and his Church. In other words, conscience is not merely relative to subjective whim or preference or a mere value system we personally hold. Rather, conscience must be guided and formed against an objective standard or measure of truth that is given to us. And we are responsible for this formation -- indeed it is a lifelong task. A few paragraphs later, the Catechism goes into great length about this (1783-1785):
Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

The education of the conscience is a lifelong task... In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path; we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.
Of course, being flawed people, none of this absolutely guarantees that all of our judgments of conscience are correct. But if we are truly serious about following Christ, and we are serious about educating ourselves, as the Catechism says, in studying the Word of God (in Jesus Christ), assimilating it in faith and prayer and putting it into practice with the assistance of grace, then presumably it will become easier to form correct judgments. I can say in my own development as a Catholic that when I entered the church, my conscience was much more loose and confused in its soundness than it is today. I got started rather late.

St. Thomas More

pray for us!


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