Thursday, July 30, 2009
Here is one concrete example to illustrate the above point about liturgy and devotion. [Fr. Rosica had just finished saying that there should be no dichotomy between liturgy and devotion, charity and justice.] Many of my generation have responded very negatively to the younger generation's rediscovery of Eucharistic adoration and devotion.
Benedict XVI has put a great emphasis on Eucharistic adoration and devotion in Catholic life. Many of us have failed to see that our public worship is intimately related to adoration, so much so that that they could be considered as one. Piety and devotion can be springboards to mature faith. Each time we gather together to celebrate the Eucharist as the Christian community, we profess, together with the whole Church, our faith in Christ the Eucharist, in Christ -- the living bread and the bread of life.
"...they could be considered as one." That idea is expressed in the Sacred Congregation of Rites' Eucharisticum Mysterium:
The mystery of the Eucharist should therefore be considered in all its fullness, not only in the celebration of Mass but also in devotion to the sacred species which remain after Mass and are reserved to extend the grace of the sacrifice. (Section 3g)
Pope Paul VI called attention to the importance of Eucharistic adoration in Mysterium Fidei:
And they [the faithful] should not forget about paying a visit during the day to the Most Blessed Sacrament in the very special place of honor where it is reserved in churches in keeping with the liturgical laws, since this is a proof of gratitude and a pledge of love and a display of the adoration that is owed to Christ the Lord who is present there. (Section 66; this passage is also quoted in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments' Redemptionis Sacramentum, section 135)
If we see Eucharistic adoration as "a proof of gratitude and a pledge of love," then we see how important it is, and how it is a way to stay close to Christ between sacramental receptions of the Eucharist.
Father Rosica also refers to Philippino Bishop Louis Antonio Tagle's address to the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City. Father Rosica quotes a wonderful passage from Bishop Tagle's address:
In the Eucharist, the Church joins Jesus in adoring the God of life. But the practice of Eucharistic adoration enlivens some features of worship. We believe that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist continues beyond the liturgy. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament connotes being present, resting, and beholding. In adoration, we are present to Jesus whose sacrifice is ever present to us. Abiding in him, we are assimilated more deeply into his self-giving. Beholding Jesus, we receive and are transformed by the mystery we adore.
I love the idea of "being present, resting, and beholding" as the disposition for fruitful adoration. Such simple words. Such challenging actions.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Abortion is first of all a human rights violation. However, the pro-abortion agenda also includes a concerted effort to restrict how parents are allowed to parent their children.
I was thinking about the things that our children cannot do without written parental permission, even though our daughters can get an abortion without our permission. In Ohio, the law requires that one parent be notified of the intended abortion, unless the minor gets approval from a judge (through "judicial bypass"). Judges could approve the abortion without the consent of a parent if the judge deems that a) the minor is mature enough to make the decision on her own, b) the minor has been the victim by one of the parents of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or c) it is not in the best interests of the minor to notify the parents. See the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Ohio v. Akron Center. Even with the parental notification, a parent only needs to be notified; a parent's consent is not required. Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood referred to even this inadequate accommodation of parental rights as one of "two major blows against abortion rights." The extremism of Planned Parenthood's position is clear in this statement.
According to a Lifenews.com article in 2003, the Akron Beacon Journal conducted a study which showed that Ohio judges approved judicial bypass requests 86% of the time.
It is worth considering what minors can and cannot do without parental permission:
- Written permission from a parent is required for a minor to go on a field trip, but a minor girl can kill her unborn child without parental consent.
- In Ohio, parental consent is required for a minor to marry, but a minor girl can kill her unborn child without parental consent.
- Written parental consent is required for a minor to enlist in the military, but a minor girl can kill her unborn child without parental consent.
- In Ohio, parental consent is required for a minor to get a tattoo, body piercing, or ear piercing, but a minor girl can kill her unborn child without parental consent.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
How we think of sin will determine how we act and the nature of our faith (or lack of it). We often take one of two approaches. The first approach is that we see the sins of others in great detail and are utterly oblivious to our own sins. Jesus warned us about this attitude: "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). Or again when Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector:
"The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:11-14)
The second approach is that there is no sin. Pope Pius XII famously said in 1946, "The sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin." Instead we talk about "bad choices" or psychological disorders or the idea that "what is a sin for you may not be a sin for me and vice versa." Now, certainly Catholic moral theology takes into account degree of culpability based on knowledge that a particular action is a sin and on the degree of free consent of the will to commit the sin. But if we completely relativize sin, then we are actually saying that sin does not exist.
As Michael Dubriel rightly points out, "Remove sin and you are essentially removing God from the picture--because you are admitting that it really doesn't matter if you are offending God or not" (How to Get the Most out of the Eucharist, p. 53). No wonder faith in Western culture is on the ropes; without a sense of sin, Westerners do not feel a need for God. However, Dubriel reminds us that not only do we need God, not only do we need to be aware of our sins and turn to Him, but we need to do so constantly: "... in truth, we also need to be reconciled to him [Christ] at every moment of the day" (p. 57). We can not only receive the graces of frequent Spiritual Communion, but we can benefit as well from frequent reconciliation. The Ignatian practice of the examen is based on every day, several times each day, reviewing where we have sinned and seeking God's forgiveness and strength to love God better in the future.
Certainly it is possible to be overly scrupulous about sin. But that does not seem to be the problem with the present age. Sin can actually bring us closer to God because it makes us aware of how much we need Him. So let us take our sins to our God, whose limitless mercy and grace can restore our relationship with Him.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I am thinking about holiness and sin these days. In the above passage, Lumen Gentium links holiness and sin, church and faithful. As we know from the Nicene creed we recite at mass, the Church is "one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic." We also know that everyone who is a member of Holy Mother Church is a sinner. Though we are sinners, we are called, we are urged, we are begged, to become saints. Lumen Gentium tells us of "The Universal Call to Holiness" (Chapter 5, sections 39-42). There we read:
Therefore all the faithful are invited and obliged to try to achieve holiness and the perfection of their own state of life. (Section 42)
How do we become saints? By being aware of our sinfulness before the God who is goodness itself. By using that awareness to seek God's love and mercy. By going to the Sacraments frequently and humbly to strengthen us in the struggle to be holy, to love as God loves.
As such, I am realizing that I need to go to Confession much more frequently than every month or two--or longer. I am realizing that I need to go to mass and adoration more frequently than weekly.
I like the first quotation from Lumen Gentium because it causes me to reflect that the Church models for us penance and renewal. In addition, the Church, which is a holy institution, is made up of sinners who are touched by the holiness of the Church and who stain the Church with our sin, even while the Church maintains its holiness. How does this interplay of holiness and sin work? It's a mystery.
However, what we do know is that we must follow the Church's model of constant penance and renewal. Now comes the hard part: living that penance, that renewal.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Of course, it is not God's love for us that grows cold, but our love for God. Or, it is our awareness of God's love for us that grows dim.
As Vinny Flynn points out in his CD on the Eucharist, spiritual communion is not a consolation prize when we can't receive Jesus sacramentally. Rather, spiritual communion is a way to keep sacramental communion a vital part of our daily lives.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth. (Section 900; based on the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium [Dogmatic Constitution on the Church], section 33)
It is important to note that the Catechism tells us that evangelization is a right and a duty, and we should remain aware of both aspects. How do we cope with the fear that we have of evangelization? Lumen Gentium tells us about one of the most important ways:
Moreover, by the sacraments, and especially by the sacred Eucharist, that love of God and humanity which is the soul of the entire apostolate is communicated and nourished. (Section 33)
So what are some ideas for evangelizing in non-threatening ways, especially starting out? Since this is the season of summer vacations, and since many people travel for business, here are a few ideas that I have either used or am planning on using when traveling and staying in a hotel.
Once while traveling for business, I rented a car. In the glove box was a rosary. (It was bright-deer-hunting-season orange; simply hideous as far as aesthetics.) That started me thinking that I should say the Rosary while on my trip, which I did. I left the rosary on the desk in the room. After the maid had come in to clean up the room, she had very reverently hung the rosary over the center of the headboard of the bed. I was (and still am) very touched by that simple yet powerful gesture of faith. When I returned the rental car, I put the rosary back in the glove box for the next person.
So I would suggest two approaches. First, inexpensive rosaries are very easy to come by. Leave one in a rental car or leave one in a drawer in a hotel room. You never know how the rosary may speak to the next guest in the room. Second, while you are staying, leave the rosary out for the maids to see. Many maids are Hispanic and may currently be or may have once been Catholic, so such a religious object may have great meaning for them, or call them to a renewed use of the Rosary. Even if the maid is not and has never been Catholic, simply seeing the rosary may be some consolation to her in what is a difficult day's work.
Putting Money in Perspective
I once heard something about someone (possibly an urban legend) putting a large denomination bill in a hotel Bible. I thought, that's an interesting way to get people to at least open a Bible. And as we know from his Confessions, simply opening a Bible had a significant impact on St. Augustine:
So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, "Take up and read; Take up and read. " Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away. (8.12.29)
I don't put large bills in the hotel room Bibles, just one dollar bill. But I always put it in the same spot: Matthew 18. That is the part where Peter asks Jesus how often he has to forgive his brother if he sins against him. "As many as seven times?" (Matthew 18:21). Peter reminds me very much of myself in these moments, which is why he makes such a good patron saint for me. Of course, Jesus replies, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22). Then Jesus tells the parable of the servant who owed his king an insurmountable debt. The servant pleads with the king, who forgives the entire debt. Then, the ungrateful servant goes out and threatens to put a man into prison if he does not pay him the much smaller sum owed to him. When the king finds out about this encounter, he throws the ungrateful servant into prison "till he should pay all his debt." The parable concludes, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:23-35). This is what Jesus was talking about earlier in Matthew when he prayed "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). I like the irony of leaving money in a Bible passage that commands us to be charitable both as regards money and also as regards love.
I have not done this yet, but another item we can leave in hotel rooms is a prayer card. Whether they be cards for particular saints, cards with the Our Father or the Hail Mary on them, or some other religious card, these can be very meaningful to others. I think of Fr. John Corapi's conversion story in this regard. Although raised a Catholic, he had left his faith, pursued a life of complete materialism, and through drug addiction ended up homeless. At that point he began re-learning the Hail Mary from a prayer card that his mother had sent him. That child-like beginning started him along a path that led him back to the Church, into the priesthood, and into a powerful apostolate. Think of prayer cards as signposts left to mark the trail for other fellow travelers.
I'm sure others have more ideas. These are unobtrusive ways of spreading the faith that get us started on the path to more overt apostolates. When it comes to evangelization, let us all pray:
...grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness. (Acts 4:29)
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Those who practice devotion, who go often to Confession and Communion, and fail to do works of faith and charity, are like trees in blossom. You think there will be as much fruit as flower; but there is a great difference.... (Thoughts of the Curé D'Ars, p. 27).
Timely words in light of Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. We must not be faith and morals Catholics at the expense of social justice, and we must not be social justice Catholics at the expense of faith and morals. We must be Catholics, and Catholics are people who try to live both faith and morals, and social justice. To do otherwise is to be a cafeteria Catholic.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It is clear that the Democratic Party is actively courting Catholics. There is nothing wrong with that. That is what political parties do: they solicit voting blocs, and as many as they can get. The Republican Party has certainly been doing the same, especially with evangelical Christians, but also with Catholics. My objection with the current approach by the Democrats is that their strategy appears to be a focused one of disinformation from within the Church. They have been using very high profile Catholics who prey on the ignorance of most American Catholics regarding Church teaching and history. Nancy Pelosi was certainly the most vocal and appalling in her grossly erroneous "lesson" on abortion and the history of the Catholic Church in her interview with Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press. Joe Biden's interview with Brokaw was somewhat less egregious, but his privatization of faith, moral relativism, and total inability to see abortion in terms of science and human rights in addition to faith was not much better.
In an article in the The American Spectator on former Kansas governor and current Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, writer Matt Bowman makes the argument that the Democrats are trying to marginalize Catholic opposition from within:
But the most intriguing component of Sebelius's nomination is her Catholicism. Not that Catholic abortion supporters are rare -- see Obama's failed nominee to HHS, Tom Daschle. But Sebelius is significant as an attempt by Obama to foment a civil war within Catholicism to neutralize its pro-life efforts.
Like a shrewd general, Obama is using Catholics themselves as his ground troops. Two dozen prominent Obama supporters quickly launched a letter supporting Sebelius, and claiming that they are Catholic and pro-life. The letter's signers are the same liberal Obama Pro-Lifers from his presidential campaign, led by Professor Doug Kmiec and the Soros-funded group "Catholics United."
What is different about this new strain of cafeteria Catholics is not their support for abortion politicians, but their claim that they are the true abortion opponents within Catholicism. They reveled in Obama's season of audacity, and simply claimed that the most extreme pro-abortion candidate in history was really a pro-lifer. It worked. In an election about economics, they gave Catholics the rationalization they needed to vote for political celebrity but against the unborn.
Bowman's thesis seems to be supported by the recent article in Newsweek by former lieutenant governor of Maryland, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. In a clearly concerted effort to exploit the ignorance of American Catholics of the faith they profess to believe, Townsend trumps faith with crass party and ideological politics.
The title of her article is, "Without a Doubt: Obama Represents American Catholics Better than the Pope Does." As others have pointed out, the Pope does not represent only American Catholics, but the worldwide Church. The Church is catholic, meaning universal, precisely so that the interests of one nation, region, or ethnic group do not overshadow those of everyone else. Furthermore, the Pope does not "represent" Catholics in the way that Townsend represented the people of Maryland as lieutenant governor. The Pope pastors them. He teaches them. He encourages them. He loves them enough to tell them what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear.
Apparently, Townsend is looking to promote Obama from president to pope. She notes where President Obama and Pope Benedict XVI agree, and then notes where they disagree, indicating that the Pope should fall in line with the President's views. She accuses the Pope of hypocrisy, saying: "While the pope preaches love, listening to the other has been a particular stumbling block for the Catholic hierarchy (as it is for many in power)." She refers to Humanae Vitae as a "heinous decision." She criticizes Pope Paul VI for upholding Church teaching on abortion and contraception because he went against an advisory panel on the subject which had voted "69 to 10." Again, Townsend seems to be confusing majority rule with issues of truth and falsity.
She does not seek to understand the Church's teaching on any subject with which she does not agree, including the ordination of women or homosexuality, and in so doing mischaracterizes the Church's views on these issues. She says that a 1979 meeting at the Vatican on the role of women in the Church was "greeted with revulsion," and that "Despite the rhetoric of love and truth, the Vatican shows disdain (if not disgust) toward gays." Townsend is silent on the President's opposition to same-sex marriage. Townsend herself does not show much interest in either love or truth.
Townsend asserts: "For Obama, respectful disagreement and a willingness to recognize differences was the animating spirit of the presidential campaign, and it was central to his Notre Dame speech." The President may respectfully disagree with others on such matters as abortion and embryonic stem cell research, but the result is not simply one of disagreement. Rather, the result is setting in place policies that promote his positions on these matters. Townsend's contention that the President's path is more compassionate than the Pope's is simply naive at best, disingenuous at worst.
After her litany of polls, Townsend ends her article: "The pope has a lot to learn about Catholic politics in America. Barack Obama can teach him." What she does not seem to grasp is that the Pope is not in the business of American politics, but of shepherding souls. Fortunately, the Holy Father quite clearly discerns that distinction.
Such attempts to use American Catholics as political pawns will not end any time soon. We should take this opportunity to commit ourselves to bolstering the efforts of recent years to catechize Catholics better, from the pulpit and from the pew. The better we know our faith, the better we will be able to see through such pandering, and then we can get on to meaningful political discussion of how to address the issues of ethics and social justice that challenge our nation.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Catholic Culture has a good article on this with some excellent links on the topic. The links include:
The Chaplet of the Most Precious Blood - I had not come across this chaplet before, but I think that this would be a very good devotion that I would like to take up. We have such wonderful devotions in the Church (such as the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, and the Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross) which allow us to contemplate significant moments in the life of Christ and how we can enter into those moments.
Litany of the Blood of Christ - In the past I did not much care for litanies; they seemed monotonous and mindless. It was not until I really began praying the Rosary in earnest, in understanding how sound and rhythm can initiate and enhance contemplation, did I begin to see the value of litanies. We used this litany at our parish's Corpus Christi procession.
Pope John XXIII's Document Promoting Devotion to the Precious Blood - There the Holy Father notes how when he was growing up, his family would recite the Litany of the Precious Blood every day in July. He makes a moving exhortation on the role of devotions in our faith life:
"Now among the cares of our pastoral office, venerable brethren, we are convinced that, second only to vigilance over sound doctrine, preference belongs to the proper surveillance and development of piety, in both its liturgical and private expressions."
That is a sobering and hopeful contrast to the World's usually contemptuous use of such terms as "pious devotion," intended to indicate either hypocrisy or naivete.
Pope John Paul II's Message to Those Devoted to the Precious Blood - There the Holy Father said: "How could we ever fail to recognize the value of every human being, when Christ shed his blood for each one without distinction?" This is an important reminder, in light of Pope Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate, that Christ's Precious Blood makes all human life precious, which speaks to how Catholics and all people should act as regards life issues such as abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem cell research, as well as social justice issues such as hunger, economic opportunity, human labor, and poverty.
Here are some other interesting related entries at various sites:
Saint Louis Catholic (Latin version of the Litany of the Precious Blood)
Vultus Christi (Pope Benedict's comments on the Feast of the Precious Blood)
Vultus Christi (A beautiful prayer based on the Feast of the Precious Blood by Father Mark)
Maria Stein Center and Shrine of the Holy Relics (The Sisters of the Precious Blood have a retreat center and shrine with many relics in western Ohio)
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Benofy does a very good job of addressing concerns that the Rosary is not an appropriate devotion done before the Blessed Sacrament. Benofy shows how the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) and various popes have explained what the Rosary is and how that is thoroughly compatible with Eucharistic adoration, given the proper disposition of the faithful. This was, apparently, a bit of a reversal of position by the CDW from a 1968 statement which concluded that the Rosary was a prayer addressed to Mary and therefore not appropriate for Eucharistic adoration.
However, in a 1999 document, the CDW cites Paul VI's Marialis Cultus , which affirms the Rosary as Christ-centered:
As a Gospel prayer, centered on the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, the Rosary is therefore a prayer with a clearly Christological orientation. Its most characteristic element, in fact, the litany-like succession of Hail Mary's, becomes in itself an unceasing praise of Christ, who is the ultimate object both of the angel's announcement and of the greeting of the mother of John the Baptist: "Blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lk. 1:42). (section 46)
In his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, John Paul II writes:
The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer.... With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. (section 1)
Brant Pitre discusses the Jewish roots of the Eucharist, and in doing so highlights the bread of the presence in the temple as a type of the Eucharist. The word for "presence" in that phrase can also be translated "face." Both John Paul II and Pitre show us that the Rosary and the Eucharist are complementary ways of encountering the face of Christ.
John Paul II goes into great depth connecting Mary and the Eucharist in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, where he speaks of "Mary, Woman of the Eucharist" (Chapter 6). Of course, his addition of the Luminous Mysteries includes the Institution of the Eucharist, which makes the Rosary even more obviously Eucharistic. However, even in the original mysteries, he sees profoundly Eucharistic connections:
In a certain sense Mary lived her Eucharistic faith even before the institution of the Eucharist, by the very fact that she offered her virginal womb for the Incarnation of God's Word. The Eucharist, while commemorating the passion and resurrection, is also in continuity with the incarnation. At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of his body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord's body and blood.
As a result, there is a profound analogy between the Fiat which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the Amen which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord. Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived “through the Holy Spirit” was “the Son of God” (Lk 1:30-35). In continuity with the Virgin's faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, becomes present in his full humanity and divinity under the signs of bread and wine.
“Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). Mary also anticipated, in the mystery of the incarnation, the Church's Eucharistic faith. When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a “tabernacle” – the first “tabernacle” in history – in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary. And is not the enraptured gaze of Mary as she contemplated the face of the newborn Christ and cradled him in her arms that unparalleled model of love which should inspire us every time we receive Eucharistic communion? (section 55)
Finally, there is a good address by Cardinal Archbishop Sean O'Malley of Boston on "Mary and the Eucharist." He gave this at a Eucharistic congress, and it is specifically on the the Sixth Chapter of Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Cardinal O'Malley is clearly comfortable combining the Rosary with Eucharistic adoration:
Allow me to share with you some of my personal meditations on the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. These are the mysteries I like to use when I am praying the rosary during a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament.
It is important that we think about what we are doing and saying when praying the Rosary in Eucharistic adoration. Such clarifications are important, given the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi (literally "the law of praying, the law of believing," meaning that how we pray forms what we believe). We can be thankful for the clarifications given by these people and others, which help us to draw closer to our Savior in the Blessed Sacrament.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
George Weigel in National Review
Amy Wellborn in Via Media
S. Schneck in Catholics in Alliance
Sameul Gregg in Acton Institute
John Allen in National Catholic Reporter (shortly before the release of the encyclical)
There is even a Facebook group for the encyclical (something good to see).
Monday, July 6, 2009
A few days ago I was at Eucharistic adoration with my daughter and son. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed in front of us, but my son wanted to go back to the tabernacle as we usually do. I tried to explain to him that Jesus was right in front of us in the monstrance, so we did not need to go to the tabernacle, although he was in both places. He found that concept confusing.
Leave it to children to lead us to the core of Mystery, and to remind us that while there is much God has revealed to us and much that reason can make out, in the end God cannot be comprehended by our limited minds, no matter how much we may think we have the idea of of God under control.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
It is also a good time to reflect on the nature of freedom. False notions of freedom are potentially as dangerous as the deprivation of true freedom.
Civil law that is not rooted in natural law has power, rather than justice, as its foundational principle. Laws rooted in fear, expedience, or a distorted conception of the individual undermine democracy. Abortion is a prime example of this problem.
True freedom has boundaries. I have heard it said that a fire within the confines of a hearth heats the home, but outside the hearth, the fire burns down the home. We must rid ourselves of the idea that restrictions by definition mean the limiting of freedom.
St. James reminds us that law in its restrictions gives us liberty:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)
The law of liberty gives us not only rights, but obligations as well. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of this fact regarding the Ten Commandments:
They shed light on the essential duties, and so indirectly on the fundamental rights, inherent in the nature of the human person. The Decalogue contains a privileged expression of the natural law.... (CCC, 2070)
I am currently reading Pope John Paul II's encyclical letter, Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), which elaborates the connection between human freedom and truth. There he quotes the above passage from the Catechism. I hope to comment on Veritatis Splendor more after finishing it.
The Christian tradition emphasizes that freedom is necessary for love, for without free will there cannot be love, since love is an act that cannot be compelled. As a result, the Christian experience is filled with people who freely chose to endure tremendous restrictions on their own will to do God's. In the Agony of the Garden, Jesus submits his human will to the Father's to endure torture and execution. "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39). In the Annunciation, Mary submits to God's will to bear the Messiah, although it will cause her great sorrow. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). In fact, the Greek word translated here as handmaid is doule, which is a female slave. A slave has no freedom in the legal sense. St. Peter would follow Jesus to the end (with some detours), himself facing crucifixion. After telling Jesus three times that he loves Him (a kind of reparation for his three denials of Jesus at the time of His Passion), Jesus tells Peter:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me." (John 21:18-19)
Human beings often do not do what they should do or what is best for them because these things do not correspond with our desires. But freedom is not doing whatever we want whenever we want it. Freedom is choosing the good for the sake of God, and the benefit to others and oneself.
Hugo Munsterberg made this comment on the state of American education 100 years ago in 1909:
We began to feel that those who had never learned to obey never really became their own masters.... (The Atlantic, October, 1909).
It seems paradoxical that obedience can lead to mastery, but it is true. I have heard it asked, who is more free: the musician who through discipline and self-denial has learned through many years of practice how to play a piano beautifully, or the untaught person who simply bangs on the keys?
We are very fortunate to live in the United States and have all the freedoms we enjoy. To be sure, we have not always lived up to our ideals (slavery and the genocide of Native Americans being two of the most notable instances). However, given our fallen human nature, we should not be surprised by this fact. We should not settle for it, but we should not be surprised.
We should remember on this day those who, like Jesus, chose to be "obedient unto death" (Philippians 2:8), sacrificing their lives for us. They knew a kind of freedom of which the rest of us have but a dim vision.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Thomas. The reading for mass today is taken from the account of Thomas not believing the testimony of the other disciples about the Resurrected Christ:
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Now a week later the 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." (John 20:24-29)
Above is Caravaggio's painting, The Incredulity of St. Thomas. Caravaggio is very graphic in this painting. Thomas does not simply lay his finger or hand on the wound in Jesus' side, but he puts his finger into the wound, probing it as if he wants to be absolutely certain that this is not a deception. The viewer is almost repulsed by this. Jesus' face is nearly in darkness, with the wound becoming the focus of the light. I think of the line from the Anima Christi: "Within your wounds, hide me."
Faith is hard work. Think of when Jesus talked to His followers about the need to eat His flesh and drink His blood. The response of many of His followers that day was: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" (John 6:60). When Jesus asks the Twelve if they too will leave Him, Peter responds: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69).
St. Paul reminds us that "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). However, like Thomas, we tend to like "proof" in the form of the senses. Jesus tells a crowd, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah" (Luke 11:29). In fact, later in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus indicates that for those who do not believe, they would even discount the evidence of their senses. In the story of Lazarus, and the rich man, Lazarus begs at the rich man's door, and the rich man sends him away empty-handed. After Lazarus dies he is "carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham," but when the rich man dies, he is "in Hades, and in torment" (Luke 16:22-23). The rich man asks for relief but is reminded that on earth Lazarus suffered and in death finds comfort, while the rich man lived well without any care for the poor, and now he is in torment. The rich man then asks Abraham to send Lazarus to the rich man's five brothers to warn them to lead holy lives. "But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead'" (Luke 16:29-31). Both of the passages from Luke relate to resurrection. The story of Jonah in the belly of the whale for three days represents the death and resurrection of Jesus. The story of the rich man involves a request for Lazarus to "rise from the dead" to set his brothers on the right path. Thomas is convinced by One who rises from the dead, but St. Paul reminds us that the rest of us won't get such a showing, and Jesus tells us that we are better off for it.
Faith is hard work. How often does Jesus say to someone, "Oh ye of little faith"? How little faith do we have? Jesus says, "For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move hence to yonder place,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you'" (Matthew 17:20). We have so little faith that we would only need enough comparable to mustard seed to do fantastic things, but we are so far away from that as to have a tiny fraction of a tiny seed worth of faith. This is a fairly intimidating concept!
Faith is hard work, but we can't do it by ourselves. And the Good News is that we don't have to do it by ourselves. A man whose son is possessed by an unclean spirit asks Jesus to help him. Jesus tells him, "All things are possible to him who believes." Then the father cries out to Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:23-24). Then Jesus heals the boy.
Like Thomas and many others, we struggle with belief at times. For some, it may be much of the time. But Jesus is willing to let us share our doubts and struggles with Him. In response, we need to open ourselves to Him and trust Him. Original sin came through human beings succumbing to the doubt sown by Satan, doubt that God was truthful and trustworthy. We are still learning that lesson even now. But if we come to Jesus with what little faith we have, He will increase it. Therefore, let us join St. Thomas every time we see the priest lift up the Body and Blood of Jesus during the consecration at the mass and say, "My Lord and my God!"
Thursday, July 2, 2009
This beautiful stained glass window is a recent addition to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Centerville, Ohio. The window shown here includes the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. I have come to love these recent additions to the Rosary, which include the Baptism of Jesus, the Miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist.
One can view all of the Luminous Mysteries as having Eucharistic implications.
The baptism of Jesus shows the cleansing from Original and personal sin through the waters of Baptism. The Eucharist cleanses us from venial sin. In addition, water is mixed with the wine prior to the Consecration, representing the pouring of water and blood from Jesus' heart after being pierced by the lance. See Tiber Jumper's post at his blog, Crossed the Tiber, where he quotes St. John Chrysostom on the connection between baptism and Eucharist.
The miracle of the wedding feast at Cana shows the transubstantiation of water into wine, prefiguring the transubstantiation of wine into blood and bread into flesh of the Eucharist.
The proclamation of the Kingdom indicates both the word of God in the Scriptures and the Word of God in the Second Person of the Trinity. As Fr. John Corapi often says, the Good News is not some thing; the Good News is some One.
The Transfiguration is about Jesus appearing in His glory, revealing His divinity which was veiled in His humanity. In a similar way, Jesus' body and blood is veiled in the appearance of bread and wine in the Eucharist.
The institution of the Eucharist is Jesus' great gift to us so that He could be with us "until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
Pope John Paul II set out the new Luminous Mysteries in his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (2002). See especially sections 19 and 21.
The Rosary is such a wonderful prayer, and it can deepen our love for Jesus in the Eucharist. It is a fitting prayer during Eucharistic adoration, since it is a contemplation of Jesus' life. In the future I will also look at a set of prayers for the Rosary with a Eucharistic focus which I have come across.