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.


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