Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Reason for the Season: Theosis

A repost of something I wrote a couple of years ago that can never be repeated enough. Why is the fullness of the incarnation of God becoming flesh important?

Eric Sammons has a fine post about deification ("theosis" in the East) as being the whole point of Christmas.  St. Peter asserts (2 Peter 1:4) that in Jesus Christ, God has enabled us to become "partakers in the divine nature".  That is why God assumed our humanity in Jesus Christ: so that we might come to share in His divinity.  Indeed, through grace via the sacramental life, God makes us sharers in His own divine life.  We receive divine sonship, becoming God's own sons and daughters.  The fullness of salvation will entail being completely united to Him.  Eric writes, quoting from the Catechism:
The Son of God shares in our human nature so that we can share in his divine nature. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from Scripture and the Catholic Tradition, emphasizes this connection between God becoming man and our being made like God:
The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4): “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” (St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939) “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” (St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B) “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4) (CCC 460)
Too often we look at Heaven as just a really great earth: we eat whatever we want, we hang out with whoever we want and we never get sick or hurt. But Heaven is less about what we do and more about what we become. When we enter into Heaven we are transformed into a new creation: while keeping our human nature we participate in the divine nature.
Well said.  As Eric has said, we must not read the wrong idea into this notion of deification. It is not a confusion of humanity and divinity, such as one might find in the Eastern non-Christian religions. It is also not as Mormons might suggest: We do not become beings with our own divine nature or ability. What we become is solely dependent upon the one true God, for the divine life in which we partake is His. I am reminded of one of the sermons of one of my favorite Dominican mystics, Johannes Tauler, who preached:
What God has in himself by nature, that he now imparts to the soul by grace, the divine being, unnamed and without form or manner of existence that we can express.  And now everything that is done in that soul God himself does, acting, knowing, loving, praising, enjoying, all of which the soul has and does as if it were a passive instrument of God's activity.  One can no more speak of this state clearly than he can speak clearly of the divine life itself.  To men and angels it is far too high for expression.
I wish you all a very blessed Christmas season!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Problem of Scientism

Fr. Robert Barron does a great job briefly explaining the proper (and good) role of science with respect to contingent realities as well as the existence of God. Science must be pursued because our ability to reason goes hand-in-hand with the intelligibility that imbues the natural world. However, science and the scientific method cannot be used to evaluate qualitatively different types of reality. This is the error of Scientism, and it baffles me that seemingly intelligent and reasonable people keep making this mistake.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Father of the Big Bang

The BBC has a story on Fr. Georges Lemaitre and his theory of the Big Bang.
Few theories could claim to have a more fundamental status than Big Bang Theory. This is now humanity's best attempt at explaining how we got here: A Theory of Everything. This much is widely known and Big Bang Theory is now one of the most recognisable scientific brands in the world. What's less well known is that the man who first proposed the theory was not only an accomplished physicist, he was also a Catholic priest. Father Georges Lemaitre wore his clerical collar while teaching physics, and not at Oxford, Cambridge or MIT but at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. It was this unassuming Catholic priest in an academic backwater who has changed the way we look at the origins of the universe. His story also challenges the assumption that science and religion are always in conflict. William Crawley introduces us to the "Father" of the Big Bang.
Listen to the actual story at BBC.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Highlight Reel

From the Deeps of Time blog:
SpaceX has released a “highlight reel” of its recent mission to the International Space Station. On May 25th, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule became the first private spacecraft to enter orbit and dock to the International Space Station, transferring cargo and proving the concept of commercial space operation in conjunction with the ISS platform in orbit. Now, the company has produced and released a video showing the key events of that mission.

Key events in the video include:

May 22: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon spacecraft into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
May 23: Dragon orbited Earth as it traveled toward the International Space Station.
May 24: Dragon’s sensors and flight systems were subjected to a series of tests to determine if the vehicle was ready to attach to the space station.
May 25: NASA gave Dragon the GO to attempt berthing with the station. Dragon approached. It was successfully captured by the station’s robotic arm.
May 26: US astronaut Don Pettit opened Dragon’s hatch and the astronauts entered.
May 31: After six days at the International Space Station, Dragon departed for its return to Earth, carrying a load of cargo for NASA. SpaceX completed its historic mission when Dragon splashed down safely in the Pacific.

Monday, July 30, 2012

NFP Week at St. Mark's

Last week, the pastor of my former university parish of St. Mark's (Santa Barbara, CA) posted a blog post encouraging parishioners to read and study Humanae Vitae:
This week, the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates NFP week, or Natural Family Panning Week. Lately, we have heard much about artificial contraception due to the federal government’s HHS new “contraceptive mandate.” This new mandate requires all employers to pay for contraceptive coverage, even abortifacient chemical contraceptives. Not all Catholic realize what is at stake regarding the HHS mandate and their religious freedom. Yes, religious liberty is indeed at stake. But, what is more alarming to me is that many within our Church do not even stop to consider why the Catholic Church has steadfastly maintained its position on human life and the immorality of artificial means of contraception. As we celebrate Natural Family Planning Awareness week, let’s take some time to explore and perhaps invite others to consider the why factor and the great YES of Church teaching on the protection of all human life and of the Sacrament of Marriage.

This Wednesday, we celebrate the 44th anniversary of the promulgation of Pope Paul VI’s seminal encyclical letter Humanae Vitae or “On Human Life.” I invite our parishioners to read or re-read this document as a starting point to reconsider the Church’s teaching on the beauty and sanctity of human life.
Hooray for St. Mark's! Today, St. Mark's offers regular confession, eucharistic adoration (which I tried and failed to establish when I was there), and they even have a Latin Schola Cantorum.

The Higgs Boson and Harmony in Nature

In an interview on Vatican Radio, Fr. Gabriele Gionti, a Jesuit theoretical physicist with the Vatican Observatory, comments on the discovery of the Higgs boson:
“The fact that we see this harmony in nature, like the harmony that is in the Higgs particle, the fact that we now have a mechanism and a particle that is able to explain how to give mass to other particles, is not against the fact hat there is a benevolent God who created the Universe”, says Theoretical Physicist and Italian Jesuit Fr. Gabriele Gionti of the Vatican Observatory.

Two CERN laboratories, working independently of each other to avoid bias, found the new particle in the mass region of around 125-126 Gigaelectronvolts (GeV). According to Fr. Gionti: “this discovery could mean the Standard Model is correct”. This is a theory that identifies the building blocks for matter and the particles that convey fundamental forces. The Higgs boson is believed to exist in an invisible, ubiquitous field created by the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago. When some particles encounter the Higgs, they slow down and acquire mass, according to the theory. Others, such as particles of light, encounter no obstacle.
Read/Listen to the interview.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Distributism in 10 minutes

In his college level speech class, Colin Kovarik gave a rather brilliant introduction to Distributist economics:

Naturally, Kovarik only scratches the surface, there is so much that can be gleaned from this. What I like about it is that this is a perfectly grass roots way to share and discuss Distributist ideas in an environment in which there can be and ought to be a free exchange of ideas.

Faith and Reason, Revisited

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 159:
Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.
All venerable disciplines of science are simply a recognition that the universe and the natural world are intelligible and rational.

A Lutheran Pastor Looks at Humanae Vitae

Rev. Russell E. Saltzman writes in First Things magazine a reflection on Pope Paul VI's extraordinary encyclical, Humanae Vitae:
Lutherans—before the dichotomous split between classicists and progressives—once had a rich pastoral and theological perspective on marriage. From a certain reading of the Lutheran confessions, marriage may be regarded as a sacrament, though not cited among the chief sacraments. It was viewed as a Christian vocation initiated in baptism, as calling and gift and obligation. The married couple sought to do in their home what the Church seeks to do in the world: Make the reality of redemption evident in the lives they touch and nurture. As I read Humanae Vitae, that’s not far from Paul VI.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Collect for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today, our pastor preached on the theology expressed by rich Collect for today's liturgy (13th Sunday in Ordinary Time). If you recall, the Collect was formerly referred to as the "Opening Prayer" in the former translation of the missal. This particular prayer is a beautiful reflection on Truth vs. Error and Light vs. Darkness; the light of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, which transforms us by grace, making us adopted sons and daughters of God versus the stifling darkness of error when we separate ourselves from that Truth:
O God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light, grant, we pray, that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.
Compare this new translation of the prayer with the older translation that we used to pray:
Father, you call your children to walk in the light of Christ. Free us from darkness and keep us in the radiance of your truth.
Certainly, the older translation is technically true, okay, but it reads like something that has been gutted of its theological profundity. And, of course, the omission of that striking word, error.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Creation and Humility

Great article from the Dominicana blog:
If you are like me and grew up attending religious education classes of some sort, you may have come across the line, “If God stopped thinking about you at any instant, you would immediately disappear; you would cease to exist.” What a terrifying thought to offer the inquisitive mind of a child! The suggestion seems to be that, on occasion, either through forgetfulness or malice, God annihilates some unfortunate person or persons. But this is not true; God doesn’t even annihilate demons or the damned, much less unsuspecting third graders.

Of course, the remark is well meant, and, properly understood, it is a vivid reminder of a profound metaphysical truth, namely, that we all depend on God for both our coming to be and our preservation in being. Indeed, meditating on this truth can help us to grow in wisdom and humility, whether we are third graders or thirty-somethings.

For some reason, it seems easy for people to accept the notion that they have their origin in God, but the fact that they are preserved in existence by God at every moment never crosses their minds. The key idea here is that God’s act of creation is not a one-time event, but rather extends through time. Since God is universal cause of all things, anything that exists not only has its origin in God, but also its conservation in being. God alone exists necessarily; God alone cannot not exist. All other beings exist contingently; they might not have existed, and they depend upon God, the Necessary Being, for their continuance in existence.
Continue reading...

Excommunication: A Restorative Measure

Over at the National Catholic Register, Dominican Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., discusses the history of excommunication and its effectiveness as a restorative measure in the life of the church today.
The Church takes this extreme measure only after all other efforts to correct a person have failed. It should not be treated lightly. Some have viewed it as a way to bring errant Catholics (including Catholic politicians) into line. Though its intent is always to restore the offenders to truth and communion, its extreme nature often makes it unlikely that such a thing may occur. Failing reconciliation, excommunication can serve as a clear statement to the faithful of the serious nature of our moral doctrine.
Read the whole article.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's Okay to Oppose Heresy

Fr. Robert Barron addresses a very sticky topic that is so very relevant today:

The fact is that we all have a right to act, debate, and indeed vote according to our conscience, which may be (and ought to be) informed by our religious beliefs. It's OK in the United States of America to stand for something with conviction, even if that conviction is religiously motivated. Those who suggest otherwise are simply being disingenuous. They may disagree with the ideas we express, but they can't disagree with the principle upon which we act. This is why we have a public square in which questions can be argued and debated.

Wicked Prayer Book For Sale

The blog of Loome Theological Booksellers reports that they have for sale an edition of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1638) known as the "Wicked Prayer Book". This is because of a typographical error in Psalm 37:29 which declares, “The righteous shall be punished”, as seen here:

Purchase the book for $1500.00 at Loome!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Yves Congar and Vatican II

I liked this article by Fr. Robert Barron about Cardinal Yves Congar's experience of the Second Vatican Council:
One of the most theologically fascinating and just plain entertaining books I've read in a long time is Yves Congar's My Journal of the Council.

Catholics of a certain age will recognize the name, but I'm afraid that most Catholics under the age of 50 might be entirely unaware of the massive contribution made by Congar, a Dominican priest and certainly one of the three or four most important Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. After a tumultuous intellectual career, during which he was, by turns, lionized, vilified, exiled and silenced, Congar found himself, at the age of 58, a peritus or theological expert at the Second Vatican Council...

During the entire course of the Council, from October 1962 to December 1965, Congar kept a meticulous journal of the proceedings, which includes not only detailed accounts of the interventions by various bishops and Cardinals, but also extremely perceptive commentaries on the key personalities and the main theological currents of the Council. Several times as I read through the journal, I laughed out loud at Congar's pointed assessments of some of the players: "a bore," "useless," "talks too much." But what most comes through is -- if I can risk employing an overused and ambiguous phrase -- "the spirit of the Council," by which I mean those seminal ideas and attitudes that found expression in the discussions, debates and texts of Vatican II.

In the pages of Congar's journal we hear of a church that should be more evangelical and open to the Word of God, of the dangers of clerical triumphalism, of the universal call to holiness, of a liturgy that awakens the active participation of the faithful, of the need for the church to engage the modern world, etc. Attending meeting after meeting and engaging in endless conversations with bishops and theologians, Congar was indefatigably propagating these ideas, which we now take to be commonplace and the permanent achievement of Vatican II.
Read the whole thing!

The Pope's Electric Car

A new car for "The Green Pope":

Hopefully an electric popemobile will be in the near future.

Also, for further reading for those interested in the pope's environmental concerns, check out this article from Dr. Jeff Mirus at CatholicCulture.org. The Green Pope's Dilemma:
... The right view of environmentalism both derives from and nourishes a proper vision of the human person. Pope Benedict made precisely this point in his great social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. In the most general terms, his argument is as follows:
The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes. In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God's creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation. If this vision is lost, we end up either considering nature an untouchable taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it. Neither attitude is consonant with the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of God's creation. (48)
Thus the Pope stresses that we must guard against two errors:

Nature is greater than man: The neo-pantheistic attitude which finds a kind of salvation in nature is misguided because the human person has a supernatural destiny which nature is destined to help him to achieve.

Nature is raw material to be manipulated: Nature “is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a ‘grammar’ which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation.” Without this understanding, we do violence to all of nature, including the nature of man himself.

But these two mistakes are culturally systemic. Therefore, the dilemma faced by Pope Benedict—who is commonly nicknamed the “green” pope for his interest in environmental stewardship—is how to communicate a constructive attitude toward both man and nature without having every environmental discussion co-opted either by the pantheists or the technocrats.
Read the whole article.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Discovery at the Mamertino Jail in Rome

Interesting brief video from Rome Reports on the Mamertino jail in Rome. The Mamertino jail is where, according to tradition, the apostles Peter and Paul were imprisoned while in Rome. Artwork and an underground water spring have been discovered there yielding some interesting clues to the history of the place:

The report suggests:
Given this discovery [of the water spring], there is greater probability that this was the place where St. Peter was imprisoned. According to Christian tradition, his jailors became disciples and he baptized them with water from a well that emerged after making the sign of the cross on the ground.

This same water helped create these caverns located more than 12 feet underground in a place difficult to bear..

The Real Vatican II Liturgical Reform

Great featurette from CNS Vatican Report featuring Benedictine Fr. Jeremy Driscoll clearly up a few of the myths regarding the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council:

It never ceases to amaze me how much confusion there is about the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council. I knew a Ph.D. student once who was convinced that Vatican II "hadn't been implemented" because churches still had kneelers! Clearly this student had never bothered to study what the Council actually taught with regard to the liturgy. Of course, all of the conciliar documents are online. Why don't people just read the Council's document on liturgical reform, Sacrosanctum Concilium? It is manifestly clear to me that Pope Benedict XVI is the one who is actually bringing about the full blossoming of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cyril on the Divine Nature

From a commentary on the gospel of John by Saint Cyril of Alexandria, bishop (d. 444 AD).
(Lib. 11, 11: PG 74, 559-562)
There is also another way of showing that we are made one by sharing in the Holy Spirit. If we have given up our worldly way of life and submitted once for all to the laws of the Spirit, it must surely be obvious to everyone that by repudiating, in a sense, our own life, and taking on the supernatural likeness of the Holy Spirit, who is united to us, our nature is transformed so that we are no longer merely men, but also sons of God, spiritual men, by reason of the share we have received in the divine nature. We are all one, therefore, in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are in mind and holiness, we are one through our communion in the sacred flesh of Christ, and through our sharing in the one Holy Spirit.

Corpus Christi in Rome

A brief video of the solemn procession for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in Rome with Pope Benedict XVI. This is quite a procession!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

As Venus Transits the Sun

As Venus transits the Sun, June 5th, 2012
Image credit NASA/JAXA/Lockheed-Martin
Sometimes it is as though the praise of God filled with world; as if it went out to and enfolded all creation, as for instance in the Psalms of creation or in the response which those songs have found in the hearts of God-enraptured people such as St. Francis of Assisi. … This is not a fairy-tale approach to nature in which the sun and the moon, the trees, and so forth are personalized and given voices with which to sing the praise of God; it is an inspired poetic rendering of the idea that the sun and the moon and all created things are a mirror of God’s glory because, as His creation, they reflect something of His nature. In so doing, they praise Him by their very existence. They themselves know nothing of it, but man does; he can think himself into their silent song of praise; he can voice it on their behalf, offer it up to God and thus act as the spokesman of creation.

- Romano Guardini, The Art of Praying

Courtesy of the Deeps of Time blog...

Mystical Poetry Contest

Pretty neat! From CNA. As I've affirmed before, mystical theology is best expressed through poetry and prayer. If you're so inclined!
A Madrid-based Catholic foundation has launched its 32nd annual contest for the Fernando Rielo Worldwide Prize for Mystical Poetry.

The theme of the poems “should express the spiritual values of man in their deepest religious significance,” said contest organizers.

Fernando Rielo, a Spaniard who lived from 1923-2004, was a mystical poet, philosopher, author, and metaphysician. He also founded religious congregation in 1959 known as the Idente Missionaries of Christ the Redeemer.

The rules of the contest, which are posted on the foundation’s website, allow the submission of unpublished poems in Spanish or English, or translated into one of the two languages. The winner of the contest will receive a cash award of seven thousand euros, approximately $8,800, and a special publication of his or her poem.

Submissions must include a cover including the title of the work, the name of the author, his or her address, email and telephone number. The jury may also select a group of submitted poems to be included in a collection published by the foundation.

The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2012. For more information, visit: www.rielo.com.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Un Corrido de Los Cristeros: El martes me fusilan

A ballad of the Cristeros, sung by Vincente Fernandez (in honor of those who died defending religious freedom in Mexico during the Mexican Cristero War and persecution of the Catholic Church by the Mexican revolutionary government in the 1920s.

English translation of the lyrics:
At six on Tuesday morning,
they will shoot me
for believing in the eternal God
and the great Lady of Guadalupe.

A holy card of Jesus
they found in my sombrero;
Thus, I was sentenced to die
because I am a Cristero.

And for this I will be shot,
at six on Tuesday morning.
My useless body, they will end
But never, never my soul will they bend.

I'd tell my tormentors
that I wanted to be crucified;
And once crucified
Ask them to use their rifles.

Goodbye sierras of Jalisco,
Michoacan and Guanajuato,
where the government fought
but always left running away.

They will grab me, kneeling,
while worshiping Jesus Christ.
They know that there will be no defense
In this blessed site.

I am a peasant by inheritance,
by birth, Jalisciense;
I have no other God than Christ
For He gave me my life.

By killing me, they will not kill
my belief in the eternal God;
Many die in the fight
but many others are born to fight.

That's why they'll shoot me
at six on Tuesday morning.
¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Rome's Marian Street Shrines

These simple Marian shrines are scattered throughout the city of Rome, some in the oddest of places. We walked past a few of them when we were in Rome a year and a half ago.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Stalin? Really?

Christopher Blosser observes that some in the Occupy movements sport T-shirts with famous Communist leaders, including mass murderer Joseph Stalin. When I was in college, there were a few people who self-identified as communists, but they were pretty easily brushed off. However, in 2012, there are more people in the country who self-identify as socialists and communists, and I find that prospect puzzling and frightening. It is certainly good that many more of us today are able to see the flaws and abuses of unrestricted capitalism, but far from countering these abuses, socialism is really the flip-side of the same oppressive coin. And communism, by far, is a great evil. I have no words to describe those who hail Joseph Stalin as their personal folk hero. Those who do not listen to history are indeed doomed to repeat it. Are there alternatives to capitalism and socialism? Yes. Among them, practical Distributism.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

X Files Spirituality?

The ever illustrious Mark Shea recently wrote a very good post criticizing the popular Catholic site Spirit Daily. Spirit Daily is so obsessed with esoteric spirituality, constantly seeking after alleged apparitions and secret apocalyptic prophecies, that the essentials of the Catholic faith fall by the wayside. This has become so bad that the website even recently featured a story with the following headline: "GRIPPING NEW BOOK DETAILS ALLEGED APPARITIONS AND PROPHECIES OF PAGAN BOY IN DEEP AFRICA". Shea writes (emphasis mine):
the Church discourages us from seeking out pagan prophets because they are, you know, pagan. (Not that God cannot reveal himself to a pagan, of course. But when he does so it is to refer the pagan to Jesus Christ in his Church–NOT TO SEND BELIEVERS IN JESUS CHRIST RUNNING AFTER PAGAN PROPHETS.) But, Spirit Daily being Spirit Daily, the emphasis is not so much on the common sense teaching of the magisterial Church as it is on a sort of indiscriminate hankering for the spooky, the signs and wonders of whatever dubious provenance, and the murky shadowy area of what I call “X Files spirituality”.
"X Files Spirituality" - I love that description. Shea goes on:
It’s not bad to acknowledge [Catholic mysticism], particularly in an age where both hyper-rationalists *and* some species of Catholic are deeply hostile to the mystical element of the faith. But there is a right and a wrong way to be open to the mystical and there is something unhealthy about cultivating a habit of running after this stuff as the central part of your spiritual diet while exercising what is often an astonishingly bad sense of discernment. God calls us to grow up into mature Christians who are formed by the ordinary common life, worship and teaching of Christ in his Church. When your *primary* diet of spiritual things comes not from the ordinary magisterial teaching of the Church, the liturgy, the virtues, and the works of mercy, but from the latest rumor about what some dodgy apparition like Medjugorje says (and Spirit Daily is *huge* on Medjugorje and other dodgy unapproved “apparitions”) or what some alleged apparition to some alleged “pagan prophet” in “deep Africa’ says, you are treading on very thin ice. What often happens in such cases is that the “seer” or the apparition or the “sign” winds up taking the place of the Church’s teaching, with typically pernicious results.
Shea is absolutely right. A few months ago, I wrote about our pilgrimage to Fatima (here and here) and how different the atmosphere in Fatima is from all of the hype about the mysterious Third Secret or ridiculous accusations on the part of some that Pope Benedict XVI, Bl. John Paul II, and others, lied to cover it up. These folks are always on the search for the latest in Catholic esoterica, running after the most ludicrous rumors, and willingly and knowingly tossing the beautiful and powerful teachings of our Catholic Faith into the trash-bin. This is not the sign of a mature faith in Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of history.

This is not to say that God does not work miracles or signs and wonders, but these things are done so that we might believe and develop a mature faith. John 20:24-29:
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Is Modernity Old Fashioned?

It's difficult to argue with Fr. Kramer's observations:

I attended a university parish for seven years that rejected this approach. For all its honest good in inviting young adults to take on roles of leadership and ownership in the church, it unfortunately fed an image of the church as being unsure of its own teaching and one in which the local community, while important, was insulated the experience of the wider, universal church and cut-off from (and often at odds with) the local archbishop.

The Second Vatican Council was a necessary council for a necessary reform, in my opinion. However, much of what has been done in the name of the Council in the succeeding fifty years has resulted in many bad things. However, things appear to be turning for the better. I was amazed at the vitality of the youth that I discovered when we came to South Eastern Texas. Young adults here weren't ashamed to boldly proclaim their Catholic faith. They devoured the writings of the popes, prayed the rosary, and arranged carpools with other friends to travel en masse to priestly ordinations, not just because they thought ordinations were cool, but because they knew many of the men being ordained and wanted to support them in their vocation and ministry. They were deeply involved in social justice work, including Habitat-for-Humanity and in founding 40 Days for Life. They embraced more traditional devotions and more traditional liturgy, not just the traditional latin mass (the Extraordinary form), but also the modern (Ordinary) form of the mass celebrated as the Second Vatican Council actually intended for it to be celebrated.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Written Step by Step

I have developed an extraordinary respect for Msgr. George Lemaître, a belgian priest and physicist better known today as being the first to propose what we now know as the theory of the Big Bang of the origin of the universe. His writing offers a wealth of information, not only in regard to his science, but also into his embrace of the necessary complementarity of faith and reason.
Our world is now understood to be a world where something really happens; the whole story of the world need not have been written down in the first quantum like a song on the disk of a phonograph. The whole matter of the world must have been present at the beginning, but the story it has to tell may be written step by step.

- from “The Beginning of the World from the Point of View of Quantum Theory” Nature 127, 706-706 (09 May 1931)
Lemaître was quite conscious of the fact that the universe is intelligible, that is, it is rational and capable of being understood by human beings insofar as human beings are gifted with reason and cognition.
Scientific progress is the discovery of a more and more comprehensive simplicity... The previous successes give us confidence in the future of science: we become more and more conscious of the fact that the universe is cognizable.

— from O. Godart and M. Heller (eds.), Cosmology of Lemaitre (1985), 162.
The human endeavor into the study of science is a challenge incumbent on us to pursue and embrace. In short, if truth is one, nothing we discover in the natural world scientifically that is true will contradict what has been revealed supernaturally by God. This relatively simple principle dwells at the heart of the Catholic Church's centuries-old engagement with science, physics, astronomy, and medicine. As Blessed John Paul II was fond of asserting, Be not afraid!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Who is man?

This is the fundamental question that must be asked: Who is man? Man is a being who bears within his heart a thirst for the infinite, a thirst for truth -- a truth which is not partial but capable of explaining life's meaning -- since he was created in the image and likeness of God. The grateful recognition that life is an inestimable gift, then, leads to the discovery of one's own profound dignity and the inviolability of every single person. Hence the first step in education is learning to recognize the Creator's image in man, and consequently learning to have a profound respect for every human being and helping others to live a life constant with this supreme dignity.
- Pope Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2012)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

More On Reconciliation

Brilliant video:

Once again: If it's been a long time since you last confessed, go now! Make it a regular part of your spiritual life and formation. God's outpouring of grace and mercy is abundant, but it is not forced on us. Too many people today do not believe in sin or do not think they are capable of committing sin. Yet, none of us is without sin! Why refuse God's free offer of forgiveness and reconciliation? Go!

Hat-tip to Fr. Andrew McAlpin, OP.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

NPR Interview on LCWR Doctrinal Assessment

Picking up from my previously blogged reaction to the recent doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I found this interview on NPR concerning the doctrinal assessment to be relatively balanced. It includes fair-minded NCReporter correspondent, John Allen, as well as Donna Bethell, chairman of the board of directors of Christendom College, and Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, which was referenced by the doctrinal assessment. Kudos to NPR for this. Have a listen or read the transcript.

Hat tip to Fr. Z.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The LCWR doctrinal assessment

People are buzzing about the recent announcement of the doctrinal assessment on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. Most of the reaction has only sought to distort the reason for the assessment, portraying it as a clichéd "Vatican War on Women". I find that reaction to be unfair, for the most part. For a more balanced, sober review, I would look to Elizabeth Scalia, Omar Gutierrez or even Mollie at GetReligion.org.

The doctrinal assessment is available online and should be read. The assessment is aimed at the LCWR itself, which is an association formed at the request of the Vatican in the 1950s. It is not so much aimed at individual religious congregations themselves. On the one hand, it is true that many sisters who do a great deal of good work around the nation and around the world do not often get a lot of respect. Let's not deny that. The assessment does not condemn their engagement in social justice and ministry with the poor. In fact, it praises it:
The Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years. Pope John Paul II expressed this gratitude well in his meeting with Religious from the United States in San Francisco on September 17, 1987, when he said:
I rejoice because of your deep love of the Church and your generous service to God’s people... The extensive Catholic educational and health care systems, the highly developed network of social services in the Church - none of this would exist today, were it not for your highly motivated dedication and the dedication of those who have gone before you. The spiritual vigor of so many Catholic people testifies to the efforts of generations of religious in this land. The history of the Church in this country is in large measure your history at the service of God’s people.
The renewal of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious which is the goal of this doctrinal Assessment is in support of this essential charism of Religious which has been so obvious in the life and growth of the Catholic Church in the United States.
However, if you've been following what has been coming out of the LCWR in recent years, it is clear that much of it is blatantly heretical. We're talking denial of core teaching, including denying the divinity of Christ and an embrace of a modalistic Trinitarian theology. Of particular interest was a keynote from the 2007 national conference of the LCWR in which Sr. Laurie Brink, O.P. (don't go there!), suggested that one possible future model for some sisters in a dying congregation would be to move beyond Jesus in religious life:
The dynamic option for Religious Life, which I am calling, Sojourning, is much more difficult to discuss, since it involves moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus. A sojourning congregation is no longer ecclesiastical. It has grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion. Its search for the Holy may have begun rooted in Jesus as the Christ, but deep reflection, study and prayer have opened it up to the spirit of the Holy in all of creation. Religious titles, institutional limitations, ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is Post-Christian.
Post-Christian nuns? Hello, McFly? Anybody home? Elsewhere she speaks of women who came to see the "divine within nature" and for whom the "Jesus narrative" was no longer relevant, though she does acknowledge that this would no longer be considered Catholic religious life. Note that this is not to say that it isn't important to be ecumenical or inter-religious in one's ministry and outreach or even to study and appreciate other religious traditions. I learned a great deal when I served as convener for the Interfaith Council at UC Santa Barbara. But being ecumenical must not mean being indifferent to the truth of who Jesus Christ is. Our mission, our apostolate, begins and ends with Christ. The model about which Sr. Laurie Brink speaks is a confusion of ecumenism and indifferentism, and to suggest that it is to the benefit of Catholic ministry to remove ministry from the context of the mission of the Catholic Church and, in particular, the sacramental life of the Church, is, in my opinion, horribly misguided. And that is putting it mildly. For an association that is supposed to represent most of the nation's women's religious orders, this is troubling, and the CDF is right to call for renewal and reform to help the LCWR return to its original mission and purpose. Even if the secular media is unable to see it, this reform is a good and necessary thing.

In discussing this issue over the years with a few of my friends, occasionally I hear it suggested that the teaching espoused by the sisters was not heretical but rather prophetic. Not surprisingly, the assessment addresses this suggestion:
Some speakers claim that dissent from the doctrine of the Church is justified as an exercise of the prophetic office. But this is based upon a mistaken understanding of the dynamic of prophecy in the Church: it justifies dissent by positing the possibility of divergence between the Church’s magisterium and a “legitimate” theological intuition of some of the faithful. “Prophecy,” as a methodological principle, is here directed at the Magisterium and the Church’s pastors, whereas true prophecy is a grace which accompanies the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and ministries within the Church, regulated and verified by the Church’s faith and teaching office. Some of the addresses at LCWR-sponsored events perpetuate a distorted ecclesiological vision, and have scant regard for the role of the Magisterium as the guarantor of the authentic interpretation of the Church’s faith.
The Magisterium as a teaching authority is an extraordinary gift to us, and true prophecy must call us back to our core principles and ultimately to the person of Jesus Christ.

I have known many religious sisters in my life as a Catholic, and I have worked with many of them in ministry. I think it is also important to realize that many of these sisters do a great deal of good and do not necessarily share the confused vision of the leadership of the LCWR. Nevertheless, I believe that this challenge to renewal and reform is sorely needed.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The bees!

If you attended the Easter Vigil mass last Saturday night, you probably heard something that hasn't been heard in years. Bees! I'm referring, of course, to the sung Easter Exsultet Paschal Proclamation according to the New English Translation where we find references to the contribution of bees (in bold below) now restored:
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.
The reference to the bees was omitted from the previous English translation. True, most candles today are not made from bees wax, but the image is important just the same. And thanks to Hugo for posting the recording:

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday in Sugar Land

Our parish community in Sugar Land, TX, always does the Triduum very well. Our liturgy for Holy Thursday last night was standing room only and went over two hours in duration. Tonight's mystery of the Lord's Passion promises to be even longer, with confession lines out the door. I wish you all a blessed Triduum!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Ancient Heresies and their Modern Forms

Online talk from the Dominican Province of St. Joseph:
On February 6th, Fr. Austin Litke, O.P. gave a Theology on Tap lecture in Alexandria, VA entitled “Ancient Heresies and Their Modern Forms.” In his talk, Fr. Austin examined the different ancient heresies of Gnosticism, Arianism, and Pelagianism. He then compared them to the modern world by examining the Church of Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the tendency of some modern American Catholics to live as if they have control of their own salvation. He explained the foundational principle that discussions of heresy are not simply about condemning others. Rather, they are for the purpose of healing those who have fallen into error. Given that, Fr. Litke concluded his talk with a proposed remedy for healing these modern problems.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On the Annunciation

The Solemnity of the Annunciation is significantly important in our reflection on Christ's Incarnation as Man. It looks forward nine months to our observance of Christ's Nativity. Our Lord took flesh in the womb of Mary, full of grace. The Blessed Virgin Mary guarantees Christ's humanity and, because He shared in our humanity, we can, by grace, come to share His divinity. This is why the Blessed Virgin, Theotokos, was central to the christological controversies of early Christianity.

From the Collect of the Mass for the Annunciation (New Translation):
O God, who willed that your Word should take on the reality of human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, that we, who confess our Redeemer to be God and man, may merit to become partakers even in his divine nature.
How cool is this? God is good!

Has Hollywood finally jumped the shark?

Evidence: Exhibit A.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

On Reconciliation

The most beautiful part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Confession) is hearing the awesome words:
God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you haven't been in months or even years, go! You won't regret it! Make it a regular part of your spiritual life.

Theology and Poetry

I find that it is quite true that mystical theology is best expressed through poetry. Consider the Dark Night of the Soul from St. John of the Cross. Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky agreed with regard to how we ought to treat such sublime mysteries as the Trinity:
Thus the Trinity is the initial mystery, the Holy of Holies of the divine reality, the very life of the hidden God, the living God. Only poetry can evoke it, precisely because it celebrates and does not pretend to explain. All existence and all knowledge are posterior to the Trinity, and find in It their base.
-From "Orthodox Theology: an Introduction", p. 46. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1989.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

John Allen: 3 myths about the church

Great article from fair-minded Catholic journalist John Allen of the liberal NCR. Three myths to give up for Lent:
1. Purple ecclesiology
"Purple ecclesiology" refers to the notion that the lead actors in the Catholic drama are the clergy, and in fact, the only activity that really counts as "Catholic" at all is that carried out by the church's clerical caste, especially its bishops. You can always spot purple ecclesiology at work when you hear someone say "the church" when what they really mean is "the hierarchy."

... Seeing the church through a purple filter is misleading, even if all we take into view is the visible, institutional dimension of Catholic life. Most Catholic schools, hospitals, social service centers, movements and associations, even chanceries and parish headquarters, are staffed overwhelmingly by laywomen and men. More deeply, however, the church doesn't exist for itself, but to change the world, which means that if its message is to penetrate the various realms of culture -- medicine, law, the academy, politics, the economy and so on -- it's either going to be carried there by laity, or not at all...

2. A church in decline
The popular take on Catholicism these days tends to be that it's a church in crisis. Rocked by sex scandals, bruising political fights and financial shortfalls, it seems to be hemorrhaging members -- a recent Pew Forum study found there are now 22 million ex-Catholics in America, which would be the country's second-largest religious body after what's left of the Catholic church itself -- as well as clustering parishes, closing institutions and struggling to hand on the faith to the next generation.

The overall perception is that this is an era of Catholic entropy -- decline, contraction, things getting smaller.

Seen from global perspective, however, that's just wildly wrong. The last half-century witnessed the greatest period of missionary expansion in the 2,000-year history of Catholicism, fueled by explosive growth in the southern hemisphere. Take sub-Saharan Africa as a case in point: The Catholic population at the dawn of the 20th century was 1.9 million, while by the end of the century it was more than 130 million, representing a staggering growth rate of 6,708 percent. Overall, the global Catholic footprint shot up from 266 million in 1900 to 1.1 billion in 2000, ahead of the overall rate of increase in world population, and is still rising today...

3. Christianity is the oppressor, not the oppressed
Of all the popular misconceptions about Catholicism, and about Christianity in general, this is arguably the most pernicious.

Stoked by historical images of the Crusades and the Inquisition, and even by current perceptions of the wealth and power of church leaders and institutions, it's tough for Western observers to wrap their minds around the fact that in a growing number of global hotspots, Christians today are the defenseless oppressed, not the arrogant oppressors.

Here's the stark reality of our times: In the early 21st century, we are witnessing the rise of a whole new generation of Christian martyrs...
Read the whole thing!

Why is there no peace?

We are not at peace with others
because we are not at peace with ourselves,
and we are not at peace with ourselves
because we are not at peace with God.

-Thomas Merton
Courtesy of Vivificat.

Monday, March 05, 2012

As God Loves...

Pope Paul VI has a message!

Courtesy of Byzantine Dominican.

St. Katharine Drexel vs. KKK

From Rocco. How St. Katharine Drexel beat the KKK.
Although Mother Drexel and the women of her order were dedicated to eliminating racial lines, the people they encountered in their work were not often on their side. One such group of people were the Ku Klux Klan who in 1922 "threatened to tar and feather... at one of Drexel’s schools and bomb his [sic] church" in Beaumont, Texas.

The nuns prayed and days later, a tornado came and destroyed the headquarters of the KKK, killing two of their members.

The Sisters were never threatened again.
There's more! Read the article.

Serenity Now!

Fill my heart with serenity, O Glory of the realms on high, with the serenity of the angels before Your throne. For serenity has no abode or resting place for anger.

Grant me the serenity of a son... Armor me with Your peace, which the anger of the children of anger will not be able to confound.
-Nikolai Velimirović

Sunday, March 04, 2012


More reasons from NPR to enjoy a cup now and again... :)

Popes on Film

Did you know that the first pope ever to be filmed and recorded was Pope Leo XIII? I am quickly becoming a fan of Leo, particularly after studying his famous encyclical, Rerum Novarum, in which he teaches so clearly on the rights of the working class and warned of the dangers of unrestricted capitalism and communism. This video was shot in 1896:

On Mockery

With contraception being in the news lately, naturally there is a great deal of mockery of Catholic teaching on artificial contraception and abortion and of those of us who take this teaching very seriously. Yeah, it feels pretty crappy to be the butt of everybody's jokes. There is also a profound ignorance about what the Church actually teaches and why, which is why we must speak up. If we comprise the Body of Christ, we must unite ourselves to Christ as our model, who was senselessly mocked as he was beaten and killed. Let this be our Lenten meditation.

Just a side note here: In my opinion, it is incredibly arrogant and stupid for the Obama Administration to provoke such an unnecessary fight. So incredibly stupid. To say nothing of other religious groups, it is a well known fact that the Catholic Church has been at the fore of the fight for quality and affordable health care since well before the United States was formed as a nation. Religious orders of nuns have been supporting hospitals, schools, and charities in America for generations. To see the Church portrayed as an enemy to health care is pretty ignorant and silly, and to risk some dioceses, religious orders, and individuals closing their hospitals, schools, and charities rather than be forced to participate in something unconscionable is disgusting. Furthermore, this being an election year, and in an effort to pick up anything to oppose the president, the Republican party has taken this up as one of their causes célèbres, which needlessly over-politicizes the whole thing, redrawing the issue along political lines. As Cardinal Dolan stated many times, the Church didn't go looking for this fight. It was the Administration that acted first. Stupid.

Back to mockery. Pope Paul VI prophetically pointed out in Humanae Vitae that the Catholic Church would always be a sign of contradiction with the dominant culture. In fact, when it ISN'T the subject of ridicule, you can be sure that something is wrong, as when some churches compromise themselves to the fads of culture. With regard to artificial contraception (for purposes of actual birth control), Pope Paul VI wrote:
It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men."
I actually think that it is paradoxically good for the Church and the culture to be at odds. Firstly, it helps the Church hone its teaching and articulate it in a clearer way. This is necessary in order to engage the culture in any meaningful way at all. We need to be challenged to do this. Secondly, since humanity is fallen (which obviously affects the Church because the Church would not exist without humans), it is only natural that one would expect difficult teachings to be difficult to embrace and live out, especially in a hedonistic, individualistic culture as we have today. As I have gotten older, I have seen more young adults, seeing something definitely wrong in the passing fads of the dominant culture, challenge themselves to embrace the Church's teaching precisely because it is a sign of contradiction and because it is difficult. Certainly, I have seen others go the other route and accommodate themselves to the ever-changing culture. Again, I am not so surprised. It was so from the beginning.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Best Little .... in Texas

In light of the recent news of the death of Edna Milton Chadwell, which apparently only FoxNews picked up, I offer this relevant YouTube clip of a highly relevant song from the infamous musical, which apparently won an Academy Award!

It's relevant not only to Texas politics but to politics in general.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Even unto shedding their blood...

Why do Cardinals wear red? There is an answer to this question in the address of Pope Benedict XVI given at the recent consistory in Rome for the creation of new cardinals:
In carrying out their particular service in support of the Petrine ministry, the new Cardinals will be called to consider and evaluate the events, the problems and the pastoral criteria which concern the mission of the entire Church. In this delicate task, the life and the death of [Peter] the Prince of the Apostles, who for love of Christ gave himself even unto the ultimate sacrifice, will be an example and a helpful witness of faith for the new Cardinals.

It is with this meaning that the placing of the red biretta is also to be understood. The new Cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary, as expressed in the words of placing the biretta and as indicated by the colour of their robes. Furthermore, they are asked to serve the Church with love and vigour, with the transparency and wisdom of teachers, with the energy and strength of shepherds, with the fidelity and courage of martyrs. They are to be eminent servants of the Church that finds in Peter the visible foundation of unity.
No, not every man has the courge to embrace martyrdom; let us see in this witness that every Christian ought to have the courage to embrace martyrdom should it ever come to that. Let us, in particular, pray for Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York who, as current president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, must stand up on behalf of the Catholic Church in America against [and hopefully work with] the Obama Administration in defense of rights of conscience and religious liberty.  Let us also pray for our president and those in the Administration.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

St. Theresa Catholic School

For those who are interested, here are a couple of neat promotional videos for our parish school. The school is one of a handful in the country that teach according to a classical education curriculum. The principal, Jonathan Beeson, is a good friend of ours and has done great things with the school. The school represents the best of the Catholic intellectual tradition and the essential complementarity of Faith and Reason.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Science and Humility

From Anthony Esolen at Crisis Magazine, “The Humility of Science and the Arrogance of Scientists“:
Mathematics, and the sciences that employ mathematical tools, bring us to a fine field of truth, and we should be grateful for that truth. Without it we could not live in the comfort that we have wrung from our domination of the natural world. We would be bound in our travels to the legs of horses, or the winds at sea. We could not fly. And yet – to quote that young philosopher Francis Marion Tarwater in Flannery O’Connor’s story, “Buzzards can fly.” A physicist can tell me how a winged object can stay in the air. But he cannot, insofar as he is a physicist alone or even a biologist alone and not also a man like all other men, tell me about the beauty or the nobility of the buzzard, much less about the beauty or nobility of Francis Marion Tarwater.
Hat tip to the Deeps of Time Science blog.

Women are Beautiful

Ms. Valerie Pokorny from the Archdiocese of San Antonio has written an article for CNN Opinion on why contraception denigrates her as a woman. She's responding to the argument being put out there that opposition to contraception (or moral opposition to paying for it) is somehow demeaning to women's equality and women's rights. While everyone has to make a moral decision about this, this argument does not reflect the view of those of us who have moral opposition to artificial contraception. Ms. Pokorny writes:
I tell [Catholic moms and their middle school or high school daughters] it’s no accident that they are women, that women are equal to men in personal dignity, and that men and women are different by design. Those differences are meant to work together for the benefit of each individual, but also for the benefit of the world around them. I tell them there’s such a thing as the genius of women - and that the world needs them to cherish this in themselves and strive to live it out to the fullest because it is good. The world would be impoverished without it.
This is fundamental and basic natural law. She continues:
The Obama administration’s primary talking point on this issue is that “Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health.”

I agree. 100 percent.

But from there, the defense sounds like slick advertising for the contraceptive industry: To be a healthy woman, you need contraception. All the successful women use it. You can’t live without it.

Should I so easily accept the implication that I need to alter a part of myself that’s working properly in order to be free or fulfilled? I find this premise tremendously offensive. To me, this exerts pressure tantamount to that felt by women who purge after eating to attain or maintain a particular body image. It encourages women to think that their value is somehow intrinsically tied to how sexually available and desirable they are...

My fertility is not a disease. It does not need to be repressed, manipulated, or rejected. It ought to be accepted and respected accordingly, by individuals and by society as a whole.
She expresses an opinion that is truly radical in today's culture. It would seem that more and more women are coming to this realization - even non-Catholics and those who are concerned about the pill's health and environmental side effects. Real Love Inc. also points out why those who argue that contraception is part of "gender equality" are crazy:
Pregnancy is how a woman’s body is supposed to work. It’s the way we’re made. Birth control works against that, by preventing or altering the body’s normal processes. In classifying contraception as “preventative”, the United States government has deemed the healthy functioning of women’s healthy bodies as defective, and in need of government-provided intervention to alter.

So now women’s healthy bodies are deemed defective. But what about men? Apparently their non-impregnable anatomies are fine just as they are, and in that respect represent the standard for which women should strive. CNN made this point when they said that “Liberal groups have pushed for an expansive contraception coverage requirement on grounds of gender equality in health care.”

So now “gender equality” apparently requires that women’s bodies function like men’s bodies.
That's the heart of it. Of course, even the Catholic Church has long recognized that hormonal birth control can be legitimately used when the intention is to treat a hormonal imbalance or condition (though it is rarely pointed out that, in many cases, this merely masks the root cause, and it is not without harmful side effects including its potential abortifacient properties), that is not what we are talking about here.

My wife and I fully embraced Catholic teaching on marriage and contraception. It just made so much sense to us. Yet, even in the conservative suburbs of Texas, we're still treated oddly by others. We are fortunate, though, to live in an area with a large population of Catholics who embrace Natural Family Planning (which is NOT the "rhythm method") and are open to life. Though my wife and I haven't yet been blessed with children, our friends are an inspiration to us; we have no illusions about how difficult it is to raise a family and hold down a career in these tough economic times. But, as Ms. Pokorny concludes in her article, "I’m all for the progress of woman. Let’s just make sure in promoting her progress, we don’t reject something that is inherently part of her in the first place."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Distributist Thinking of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

As a Distributist myself, I found this article at the Distributist Review about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's prominent criticism of Socialism and Capitalism to be very apropos and well written.  Indeed, distributist thinking, in which economics is subjected to human life (and not the other way around), has completely changed the way I view contemporary politics over the years.  As my wife recently put it, we are essentially caught in a war between two fatally flawed ideologies, seemingly powerless to overcome either of them.  Yet, there is a way out, and it must begin at home and in your local community.  Here is an intro from the article:
Through books like One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Gulag Archipelago, [Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn exposed the cold realities awaiting those willing to stare down the Soviet regime. And he did not fail to deliver. Solzhenitsyn described the human cost of Communism: detentions, murders, lies, and forced labor camps for the innocent and the brave, including the author himself. 
For Europeans and Americans, Solzhenitsyn was a hero. 
But when Solzhenitsyn committed the sin of criticizing the West in front of the 1978 Harvard graduating class, and dismissed Western social and economic policies as false alternatives for the world, those same European and American thinkers once cheering Solzhenitsyn as a champion for freedom consequently berated his scrutiny and ignored Solzhenitsyn’s social, political, and economic analysis, as well as any of his proposed reforms. 

Faith, Reason, and Natural Law

Attention Houston area Catholics, Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., will be visiting us this Thursday at St. Theresa's in Sugar Land, TX, to speak as part of our ongoing Faith and Reason lecture series. I began organizing this lecture series two years ago, and it has been very successful. As you know, Natural Law is a very important, foundational topic pertinent to the question of human reason -- especially relevant today as we debate questions of law, bioethics, marriage, and human life. 

"Faith, Reason, and the Natural Law"
Presented by Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P.

Thursday, January 19th, 7:30pm
St. Theresa Catholic School Library (upstairs)
705 St. Theresa Blvd., Sugar Land, Texas

Fr. Mullady is a well known professor and itinerant preacher of missions and retreats, and he has had several series on EWTN. He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome and was a professor there for six years. He has taught at several colleges and seminaries around the country and is an academician of the Catholic Academy of Science. The lecture is free and is open to the public.

Please spread the word!


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