Thursday, December 26, 2013

Human Work Shares in God's Work

Faithfulness to small, ordinary duties can sometimes move mountains and change the world. Grace, joined to our labor and love, renews all things; suffuses all things; holds the cosmos together. Let your life mediate love. Excerpts:
...Somehow I am mindful that the Lord also had “other duties as assigned.” One of the most touching and moving scenes in the Gospels is on a certain resurrection morning, at the lakeside in Galilee. Peter is eagerly swimming ashore to see the Risen Lord. And there is Jesus, the very Son of God and Lord of all, cooking breakfast for them (Jn 21:7). Yes, Jesus Christ, Eternal Son of the Father, Divine Logos, Universal King, Savior of the Nations, and breakfast chef….”Other duties as assigned.”...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pope Francis to the Americas

He's given us a mission. Will we live up to it? Excerpts:
...I would like to greet all my brothers and sisters on that continent, and I do so thinking of the Virgin of Tepeyac. When Our Lady appeared to Saint Juan Diego, her face was that of a woman of mixed blood, a mestiza, and her garments bore many symbols of the native culture. Like Jesus, Mary is close to all her sons and daughters; as a concerned mother, she accompanies them on their way through life. She shares all the joys and hopes, the sorrows and troubles of God's People, which is made up of men and women of every race and nation.

When the image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego, it was the prophecy of an embrace: Mary's embrace of all the peoples of the vast expanses of America — the peoples who already lived there, and those who were yet to come. Mary's embrace showed what America — North and South — is called to be: a land where different peoples come together; a land prepared to accept human life at every stage, from the mother's womb to old age; a land which welcomes immigrants, and the poor and the marginalized, in every age. A land of generosity. That is the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and it is also my message, the message of the Church. I ask all the people of the Americas to open wide their arms, like the Virgin, with love and tenderness."
See also:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Project: Sowing Seeds

For new blog posts, scroll down.  This one's staying up till the Feast of Christ the King, the end of the Year of Faith..

If we want to really succeed in the New Evangelization, we have to go where the people are.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"The Christian Life is A Battle"--Fought with Prayer

Moses, putting the warrior in prayer warrior. By the way, the Sacred Page blog is an excellent resource for Catholics wanting to learn more about Scripture, and for non-Catholics who want to know what Catholics teach about Scripture. Excerpts:
...Our First Reading is Exodus 17:8-13:
In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.
Moses, therefore, said to Joshua,
"Pick out certain men,
and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.
I will be standing on top of the hill
with the staff of God in my hand."
So Joshua did as Moses told him:
he engaged Amalek in battle
after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur.
As long as Moses kept his hands raised up,
Israel had the better of the fight,
but when he let his hands rest,
Amalek had the better of the fight.
Moses’ hands, however, grew tired;
so they put a rock in place for him to sit on.
Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands,
one on one side and one on the other,
so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people
with the edge of the sword.
We should recall the context here. After the Ten Plagues and the Passover, Israel has left Egypt a few weeks ago, crossed the Red Sea, and now entered into the Sinai Peninsula: a vast, rocky, mountainous desert. Amalek was a nation of nomads that controlled the northeastern part of the Sinai Peninsula and the southern part of the Negeb (the south Judean desert). The Amalekites were not happy to have the Israelites moving through the outskirts of the their territory, and they sent bands of scouts to trail them. According to Deut 25:18, the Amalekite raiders killed off the weakest of the Israelites who lagged behind the main camp—the ill, the elderly, poor families with many children, etc. The Amalekites were an ancient expression of the culture of death.

Now on their way to Mount Sinai, in Exodus 17 the Israelites are attacked outright by the bulk of the Amalekite forces, and they are forced to respond, despite the fact that they are not military men but former slaves, and have few if any proper weapons. It is a situation of great peril that could end with the complete annihilation of the Israelite people in the middle of a desert wasteland.

The young man Joshua goes out to lead those forces the Israelites could muster, while Moses goes to the mountaintop to beseech God in prayer. The moral sense of this text is a good example of the complementarity of prayer and action, of ora et labora. The people fight and pray: both are necessary, for the same reason that faith and works operate together.

How curious that Moses’ prayers are necessary! Why doesn’t God just send victory without them? Surely he could! Yet this is the mystery of God’s will: that he chooses to incorporate our participation in the fulfillment of his plans (See Aquinas, Summa 2, 2, Q. 83, art. 2). He ordains to grant victory to Israel through Moses’ intercession. Prayer is a cooperation with God’s will for us.

In the Old Testament, there were no “secular” wars. Every battle was both a physical and spiritual conflict, because the opposing armies always called on their respective gods. The conflict of nations was the conflict of their divinities, and the stronger divinities won. So in Exodus 17 as well: there is a spiritual battle going on here between the LORD God of Israel and the gods of the Amalakites, just as earlier in Exodus the LORD took on the gods of Egypt through the ten plagues, defeating the Nile god, the crop god, the livestock gods, the sun god, etc. In this spiritual conflict, prayer is vital—God chooses to use it as his means to victory. This calls to mind later spiritual conflicts in the ministry of Jesus, when the disciples cannot defeat and demon and the Lord tells them: “This kind comes out only by prayer.”

As a Church, we find ourselves very much in the position of the Israelites on their way to Sinai. We have left Egypt (=slavery to sin by crossing through the sea (=Baptism), but now that we are free people we find we have a fight on our hands.

People are surprised sometimes to discover that the Christian life is a battle. They supposed, perhaps, that things would be easier after baptism, or after conversion. But you see, slaves don’t have to fight. In Egypt, the Israelites weren’t in the army—they just slaved away in obedience to their Egyptian masters. That’s like the life of sin: its not really a struggle. You don’t fight temptation, you just obey it. It’s not slaves, but free men who have to fight, who have to serve in the army. So it is in the spiritual life. When we leave our addictions behind, having experienced conversion, we enter this life of freedom, but discover that freedom entails struggle, that freedom cannot be maintained without fighting.

What gives us the power for this fight? Prayer. That’s the true source of our victory. But it must be persevering prayer that continues until the final victory is won.

Benedict XVI points out that Moses, with both arms lifted up in prayer, strikes a pose on the mountaintop much like Christ on the cross. So we can see Moses here as a type of Christ, prefiguring the great prayer to the Father that was the Passion and Crucifixion, the great prayer which defeated the Enemy of God’s people definitively. We participate in that great Prayer of Christ on the cross at every Mass...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Happy Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church!

Pope Francis greets the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima in St. Peter's Square ahead of the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary tomorrow.

Here's a prayer by Pope Francis, prayed before the statue of Our Lady Aparecida in Brazil:
Mother Aparecida,
today I feel like you once did
before your God and mine,
who proposes for our lives a mission
whose contours and limits we ignore,
whose demands we only glimpse.
Yet in your faith that "nothing is impossible with God,"
O Mother,
you did not hesitate,
and so I cannot hesitate.

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Let it be done unto me according to your word!"

In this way, O Mother, like you,
I embrace my mission.
Into your hands I put my life
and we will
– you-mother and me-son –
we will walk together,
believe together,
fight together,
win together as your Son and you always walked together.

"Woman, behold your son! Son, behold your mother!"

Mother Aparecida,
You once took your Son to the Temple
to consecrate him to the Father,
that he might be fully available for the mission which awaited him.
Lift me up today to the same Father,
consecrate me to him,
all that I am and all that I have.

"Here I am! Send me!"

Mother Aparecida,
I put in your hands,
and so take to the Father, our and your youth, and World Youth Day:
so much strength, so much life,
so much dynamism sprouting and bursting,
which can be at service of life, of mankind.

"Father, welcome and sanctify your youth!"

Finally, O Mother, we ask you:
stay here,
always welcoming your son and daughter pilgrims,
but also come with us, be always by our side
and go along with us,
the great family of your devotees, in our own missions:
especially when the cross weighs heavy,
sustain our hope and our faith.

"Keep faithful, and I will give you the crown of life. Amen!"

Inconceivable! Hamas, Hezbollah Losing Legitimacy

Epochal, if true. Excerpts:
...Current discourse on Palestinian and Lebanese social networks indicates that a surprising trend has emerged over the past six months with potential momentous consequences for Israel’s security concept and the strategic challenges before it. The violent resistance (muqawama) against Israel by Hizbollah and Hamas has lost its legitimacy in Lebanese civil society and Palestinian society, respectively...

One of the most evident results of the “Arab Spring” has been the shift in focus by Arab civil societies from outside to inside – from foreign policy to domestic affairs. Civil society in the Arab world is demanding the redressing of injustices. Nationalism and Islamism have been replaced by a demand for democratization, rights, and freedom...
In related stuff, see Pope Benedict XVI's document on the Church in the Middle East.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pope Francis on Abortion, Gay Marriage

On abortion: In Italian, unfortunately.  But you can get the gist from other sources.

John Allen:
...Francis delivered an address to a group of Catholic gynecologists in which he strongly affirmed the right to life as a “primary value and primordial right of every human person.”

In that address, the pope also called on Catholics to defend a “culture of life” that begins “from the first instant of conception...”
“Every unborn child, though unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of the Lord, who even before his birth, and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world,” he said.

Pope Francis condemned the “throwaway culture” abortion promotes, saying, “Our response to this mentality is a ‘yes’ to life, decisive and without hesitation. ‘The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are precious, but this one is fundamental –- the condition for all the others’”.

The leader of the Catholic Church described a contradiction whereby scientists pursue cures for diseases but snuff out human life in abortion.

“On the one hand we see progress in the field of medicine, thanks to the work of scientists who passionately and unreservedly dedicate themselves to the search for new cures,” he said. “On the other hand, however, we also encounter the risk that doctors lose sight of their identity in the service of life.”

“While new rights are attributed to or indeed almost presumed by the individual, life is not always protected as the primary value and the primordial right of every human being,” he continued. “The ultimate aim of medicine remains the defense and promotion of life...”
Related: on Rachel's Vineyard.

On gay marriage: the Telegraph:
Dissident priest Greg Reynolds has bee
n both defrocked and excommunicated over his support for women priests and gays - the first person ever excommunicated in Melbourne, he believes.

''...I've come to this position because I've followed my conscience on women's ordination and gay marriage.''

According to church teaching, excommunication is the strongest sanction and means one can not hold any office or receive any sacraments. Being laicised means one is no longer a priest.

Fairfax Media understands that the only other Melbourne priests laicised against their will have been notorious paedophiles...
Edward Pentin on Francis and gay marriage:
According to an article in tomorrow’s L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and Primate of Argentina, has said that if a proposed bill giving same-sex couples the opportunity to marry and adopt children should be approved, it will “seriously damage the family.”

He made the statement in a letter addressed to each of the four monasteries in Argentina, asking the contemplatives to pray “fervently” that legislators be strengthened to do the right thing.

He wrote: “In the coming weeks, the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family…At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

Cardinal Bergoglio continued: “Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
The cardinal also noted that “today the country, in this particular situation, needs the special assistance of the Holy Spirit to bring the light of truth on to the darkness of error, it need this advocate to defend us from being enchanted by many fallacies that are tried at all costs to justify this bill and to confuse and deceive the people of good will.”

The cardinal explained why he has called on the nation’s Carmelites for “their prayers and sacrifice, the two invincible weapons of Santa Teresa.”
“I invoke the Lord to send his Spirit on senators who will be voting, that they do not act in error or out of expediency, but according to what the natural law and the law of God shows them,” he said. Addressing the contemplatives, he called on them to pray for the legislators and their families, “that the Lord visit, strengthen and console them. Pray for the senators to do good for their country.”

Cardinal Bergoglio said the bill will be discussed in the Senate after July 13. “We look to Saint Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus and ask that they fervently defend the family in Argentina at this particular time,” he said. “We remember what God said to his people in a moment of great anguish: ‘This war is not yours, but God’s’: defend us, then, in this war of God.”
Jimmy Akin has quotes on both issues:
The moral problem of abortion is pre-religious in nature because the genetic code of the person happens in the moment of conception.

A human being is already there. I separate the topic of abortion from any religious concept. It is a scientific problem.

To not let the development continue of a being who already has all the genetic code of a human being is not ethical.

The right to life is the first of human rights.

To abort is to kill someone who cannot defend himself [On Heaven and Earth]....
And, of course, the papal interview on the plane coming back from World Youth Day in Brazil:
...Patricia Zorzan:

Speaking on behalf of the Brazilians: society has changed, young people have changed, and in Brazil we have seen a great many young people. You did not speak about abortion, about same-sex marriage. In Brazil a law has been approved which widens the right to abortion and permits marriage between people of the same sex. Why did you not speak about this?

Pope Francis:

The Church has already spoken quite clearly on this. It was unnecessary to return to it, just as I didn’t speak about cheating, lying, or other matters on which the Church has a clear teaching!

Patricia Zorzan:

But the young are interested in this ...

Pope Francis:

Yes, though it wasn’t necessary to speak of it, but rather of the positive things that open up the path to young people. Isn’t that right! Besides, young people know perfectly well what the Church’s position is.

Patricia Zorzan:

What is Your Holiness’ position, if we may ask?

Pope Francis:

The position of the Church. I am a son of the Church...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"What's the budget for the entire Catholic Church?"

Here are several answers to that question, all equally true:
  • I don't know, and I doubt anyone could actually answer that question.
  • Since the Church preexists creation (it has its roots in the Trinity) and is the Mystical Body of Christ, the family of the Son of the Living God, then by rights it has a claim to all things. Therefore, the created order--that's the budget of the Church.
  • Since "the Church" means all of its members, the budget of the Catholic Church is equivalent to the amount of money passing into and out of the hands of all of its members at all times anywhere in the world.
  • Speaking in worldly terms, I'm not sure anybody knows the amount of money passing into and out of the Church in a year for the very simple reason that we aren't Coca-Cola. There's no general headquarters with accountants tracking all the doings of all the branch offices and franchises and everything. The Pope never sees most of the money going into the collection basket every Sunday. That's simply not how it's done. It's sort of like trying to figure out what the actual budget for the "government of the United States" is for a given year, if by government we mean every single bit of those bodies which govern the United States (federal, state, county, local). Does anyone ever try to figure out that number?
For more of a sense of the way the thing works, see:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pope Francis, Proselytization, and Good and Evil

The new interview.

I think the good/evil thing was basically another (apparently ill-translated) way of saying you can't ask of someone what they haven't got. You cannot expect an infant to have the knowledge and experience of an adult. You cannot give meat before milk. People must follow the good insofar as they are aware of it, insofar as they can find it, even if their consciences are not well formed or misdirected. It's the antidote to the great Catholic error of the past, namely, coercing others to give lip-service to the faith (see: Inquisition, Heretics, etc.) even though they don't get it, don't agree with it, and see no reason to accept it as true. We can expel people from the Church, and we can admit them, but it's not right to put a sword to their throat or a gun to their head and demand of them a knowledge and acceptance of the good and the true which they're not in a place to honestly give.

Father Z. is doing some good work in translating Francis for people these days. Remember that Pope Francis is the same man who, before the election, was calling on the cardinals to elect someone who will help the Church to the sweet joy of evangelizing. Here's Jimmy Akin explicating the proselytization thing.

Deacon Greg quotes popes past on proselytization to good effect.
“The Church respects the freedom of individuals to seek the truth and to embrace it according to the dictates of conscience, and in this light she firmly rejects proselytism and the use of unethical means to gain conversions.” – Blessed John Paul II, in Sri Lanka, 1995

“ The word ‘proselytism’ has a negative meaning when it indicates a way of winning followers which does not respect the freedom of those to whom a specific kind of religious propaganda is directed. The Catholic Church in America is critical of proselytism by the sects and, for this reason, rejects methods of this kind in her own evangelizing work. Presenting the Gospel of Christ in its entirety, the work of evangelization must respect the inner sanctuary of every individual’s conscience, where the decisive and absolutely personal dialogue between grace and human freedom unfolds.” — Blessed John Paul, Ecclesia in America, 1999.

“We impose our faith on no one. Such proselytism is contrary to Christianity. Faith can develop only in freedom. But we do appeal to the freedom of men and women to open their hearts to God, to seek him, to hear his voice. ” — Pope Benedict, Munich, 2006.
You want to know what this pope is about? Read what he's said, not what he's reported to have said. For more, see:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mary's Meals: Spare the Food, Spoil the Child

Awesome idea, awesome ministry.  Excerpts:
...In 2002, SIR was operating a simple famine relief project in Malawi when Magnus met a family that led to a whole new area of work. The mother was dying of AIDS and lying on the floor of her hut surrounded by her six young children. She said that all that was left for her was to pray for her children, that someone might look after them after she had died.

When Magnus asked her oldest son what he hoped for in life, his stark reply, “To have enough food to eat and to go to school one day,” was not easily forgotten.

This was a key part of the inspiration that led to the Mary’s Meals campaign, which aims to provide chronically hungry children with one meal every school day. In this way the children are encouraged to gain the education that can lift them out of poverty in later life.

This simple but effective idea has gathered momentum and today provides meals to impoverished children in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and South America.

In 2012, Scottish International Relief officially changed its registered charity name to Mary’s Meals...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Choose This Day"--Whom Do You Serve?

Elizabeth Scalia is awesome.  Excerpts:
...Pope Francis said: “Everyone must make his choice.”

Chesterton said: “When you chose one thing, you reject everything else.”

That’s quite a challenge these two men are bringing us, isn’t it? Everyone must choose; everyone must, having chosen, understand that their choice means a rejection of everything else.

We know the one thing Francis has chosen: the life in Christ. And for that, he has rejected everything else, going so far as to leave behind mother, father, sister, brother, wife, children, excessive creature comforts.

Jesus, in one of those phrases that makes us squirm, said:

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)

We none of us are “worthy”, of course, and it all sounds harsh, and certainly absolute, but I think what he is saying is that our lives are our own — that we alone make our own choice for him, or for something else. That if we are not choosing him, then we are neglecting him for something that we are willing to erect as a barrier between him and us. In which case, yeah, we’re not behaving in a worthy manner; we’re making him harder to see — making ourselves vulnerable to something other than him, and increasing our chances of getting lost...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Suffering is Suffering"

An interesting point. Excerpts:
...suffering is suffering. Recently, a first world friend complained of a truly difficult week (dealing with car problems, home repair, doctors, teachers, and so on) and then appended the ubiquitous, "I know, first world problems," implying that she wasn't really suffering at all. And my sister Abby Tardiff, who has the ability to cut through B.S. without breaking a sweat, answered,

'By that logic, only one person on earth would be allowed to claim he was actually suffering. We can always find someone who is worse off than us. That doesn't necessarily prove that we're not suffering, just because we're suffering less than someone else.'

But still, didn't Pope Francis recently tell us to quit complaining?

'A] Christian who constantly complains, fails to be a good Christian: they become Mr. or Mrs. Whiner, no? Because they always complain about everything, right? Silence in endurance, silence in patience.'

Of course he's perfectly right. Constant complaining drains the life out of everything that is good. It lets the darkness seep into everything that is good, until you have nothing left but darkness.

But does that mean we need to go around with a cheerful grin pasted on our mugs all day long, no matter what? I don't know about you, but that would not help me in the slightest (and yes, I have tried!). If we find ourselves in a situation that tries our patience, exhausts us, makes us angry or helpless, it really doesn't help to say, "Yes, but at least I'm not starving in a lice infested mud hut!" All I get from that is deeper in my funk: not only am I better off than 90% of the women in the world, I'm an ungrateful, whiny brat! Somehow, this thought does not catapult me into good cheer.

Here's the key: there's a big difference between admitting we're suffering, and constantly complaining about it...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Our Hearts Become Heaven

One of the most awesome and underappreciated elements in Catholic theology. Excerpts:
...The crowning point of justification is found in the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is the perfection and the supreme adornment of the justified soul. Adequately considered, the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit consists of a twofold grace, the created accidental grace (gratia creata accidentalis) and the uncreated substantial grace (gratia increata substantialis). The former is the basis and the indispensable assumption for the latter; for where God Himself erects His throne, there must be found a fitting and becoming adornment. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the soul must not be confounded with God's presence in all created things, by virtue of the Divine attribute of Omnipresence. The personal indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul rests so securely upon the teaching of Holy Writ and of the Fathers that to deny it would constitute a grave error. In fact, St. Paul (Romans 5:5) says: "The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us". In this passage the Apostle distinguishes clearly between the accidental grace of theological charity and the Person of the Giver. From this it follows that the Holy Spirit has been given to us, and dwells within us (Romans 8:11), so that we really become temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:16 sq.; 6:19). Among all the Fathers of the Church (excepting, perhaps, St. Augustine) it is the Greeks who are more especially noteworthy for their rapturous utterances touching the infusion of the Holy Ghost. Note the expressions: "The replenishing of the soul with balsamic odours", "a glow permeating the soul", "a gilding and refining of the soul". Against the Pneumatomachians they strive to prove the real Divinity of the Holy Spirit from His indwelling, maintaining that only God can establish Himself in the soul; surely no creature can inhabit any other creatures. But clear and undeniable as the fact of the indwelling is, equally difficult and perplexing is it in degree to explain the method and manner (modus) of this indwelling...
Again. Excerpts:
...The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: "If a man loves me", says the Lord, "he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him":

'O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action...'--CCC 260
Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity (the author of the prayer excerpted in the Catechism) sounds like an awesome spiritual writer.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Scalia on Pope Francis and Prayer

Elizabeth Scalia, that is.  Excerpts:
The Holy Father continues to speak with a sharp sense of urgency:

“Yes, you have to come to know Jesus in the Catechism – but it is not enough to know Him with the mind: it is a step. However, it is necessary to get to know Jesus in dialogue with Him, talking with Him in prayer, kneeling. If you do not pray, if you do not talk with Jesus, you do not know Him. You know things about Jesus, but you do not go with that knowledge, which He gives your heart in prayer. Know Jesus with the mind – the study of the Catechism: know Jesus with the heart – in prayer, in dialogue with Him. This helps us a good bit, but it is not enough. There is a third way to know Jesus: it is by following Him. Go with Him, walk with Him.”

It is necessary, “to go, to walk along the streets, journeying.” It is necessary, said Pope Francis, “to know Jesus in the language of action.” Here, then, is how you can really know Jesus: with these “three languages - of the mind, heart and action.” If, then, “I know Jesus in these ways,” he said in conclusion, “I involve myself with Him”:

“One cannot know Jesus without getting oneself involved with Him, without betting your life [on] Him. When so many people – including us – pose this question: ‘But, who is He?’, The Word of God responds, ‘You want to know who He is? Read what the Church tells you about Him, talk to Him in prayer and walk the street with him. Thus, will you know who this man is.’ This is the way! Everyone must make his choice.”

...The prayer is the key. Without it, we can know the Catechism back and forth, and we can seek to serve others and look for Christ in each other, but the root of all of that — the root that feeds our understanding of the books and helps us to see Christ in others, and to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit — is prayer. Daily prayer is what nourishes all of the rest: feeds it, supports it, connects it, grounds it, as Mary grounded Martha...
And if I may, here are some books to get you started (scroll down). Or if that's too much, just say, "Jesus, my Lord and my God! Help! Thanks! Love you!" Rinse, repeat...

Or "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner."

Or the Our Father. Or the Sign of the Cross. It's not hard to get started. Make it a habit. Do it as needed, and do it daily even when you don't think you need to.

Other great prayers:
A few excellent basic guides to prayer:
For an overview of the life of prayer/interior life/spiritual life/life in the Spirit:
For in-depth explorations of Christian prayer:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mother, Daughter, Housewife, Spy: A Hero of Israel

Utterly awesome. Excerpts:
Reading of each fresh atrocity in Syria conjures unique memories and emotions for Judy Feld Carr, a Toronto woman who worked for 28 years as a hidden spy master, a civilian orchestrating the escape of 3,228 Jews from the anti-Semitic regime that had locked the unwanted minority inside its borders.

...“Hearing of the hell that is going on in Syria today substantiates everything that I had done for 28 years because I so closely watched the hell that was going on there before,” she said this week from her Toronto home.

“I had to live a double life. I was a mommy and a wife and a daughter… and then had to sneak away and do all of my secret stuff.”...
She actually read John le CarrĂ© to learn spycraft.  God bless her, and may there be 10,000 more like her.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Paulo Freire, Author of Banned Books

According to this Banned Books Week poster.
What's ironic is, firstly, they misspelled Chewie.

Secondly, the book they're featuring on that image is a rather significant entry in the literature of liberation theology. There are a number of footnotes citing Marx and Engels. Communists haven't been known as the greatest defenders of intellectual freedom in the world. Just ask George Orwell, or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, or Blessed Pope John Paul II.

But I do urge you to read Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  And find out who's taking it seriously.  Then ask yourself why people might find it problematic.  I don't support banning books.  I don't support destroying books.  I do support intellectually dismantling certain systems of thought.

For a very interesting reading experience, try Freire at the same time as Fr. Richard Gilsdorf's Signs of the Times: Understanding the Church Since Vatican II.  It was an eyeopening experience for me.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coren on Pope Francis: "This, remember, is the Pope."

An explication.  Excerpts:
...This, remember, is the Pope. As Catholics, we believe that he is the direct successor to St. Peter, given the keys to the kingdom by Jesus Christ while He was here, physically, on Earth amongst us. He’s not infallible when he gives opinions, or interviews — that only occurs on those rare occasions that he speaks on matters of faith and morals ex cathedra or “from the throne” — but his views are still profoundly significant for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

So what are we to say, what to conclude? The Pope is, he reminds us in the interview, a loving, faithful son of the Church. As such, he will not and cannot change fundamental teachings on life, sexuality and morality. What he can do, and has done, is to remind us that the Church is primarily about Jesus, love, understanding, grace and forgiveness. Forgiveness cannot be given unless it’s requested; it takes, as it were, two to play the game.

What Francis has urged, though, is a new painting. Black and white is vital, but the true picture can only be understood through a whole variety of colors. So this is a Pope of nuance and backstory, of delicacy and empathy of delivery. Truth needs to be sung rather than shouted, and he is telling the world — and particularly those who have left the Church and those who hide behind its rules instead of being liberated by them — that while we cannot compromise on truth, we must not compromise on love.

On the gay issue, for example, we are all so much more than our sexuality, and are all supremely and superbly loved by God who is our creator. Marriage is absolute, but to dislike or even hate someone because they are gay is not only wrong, it is anti-Catholic.

Francis is clearly explaining that no gay person will give any attention to a Church that appears to close doors rather than greet newcomers. They may reject the message, but at least encourage them to hear it.

That is the papal message, and while the details are indeed difficult, the overall plot is simple and clear...

Francis sees the human within the theological, the person within the religious, the living, breathing, confused, confusing man or woman within the moral law.

This will be a more inclusive papacy leading to a more inclusive Church, and the larger the party the more challenging it is to get along with and agree with everyone. But the largest parties are the most fun, and also make the most noise.
On a light note, someone got video of what happened in the immediate aftermath of the release of Pope Francis's interview:
Yes, I'm a Holmes fan. Look! Coren's written a biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pope Francis Said What?

Don't read the news people telling you what Pope Francis said in the interview with America magazine. Read the actual interview.

Aleteia has a selection of key quotes.

Money quote:
"We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity."
And so totally this: 
“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up."

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.

“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.

“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
And this:
“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

“I say this also thinking about the preaching and content of our preaching. A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis. Then you can draw even a moral consequence. But the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives. Today sometimes it seems that the opposite order is prevailing. The homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for God is lively and ardent. The message of the Gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant, on their own do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”
Of course, as we all know, Pope Francis's comments are such a huge departure from everything Benedict ever said ohwait... Excerpts.
"...Some said Benedict was a "conservative" and that he wasn't open-minded, caring, loving, or other accusations. These are not accurate descriptions and he doesn't deserve to be accused of such things. Rather, he (like Francis) is CATHOLIC. That means he doesn't fit into the neat political framework of being either liberal, conservative, progressive, traditionalist, moderate, etc.

Take these quotes from BXVI for example - most would call them "liberal":

**"It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs."

**“It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity. Through Mary, and the other holy women, the feminine element stands at the heart of the Christian religion.”

**"the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated capitalism"

**"If we refuse to share what we have with the hungry and the poor, we make of our possessions a false god. How many voices in our materialist society tell us that happiness is to be found by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can! But this is to make possessions into a false god."

So, what label should we put on Benedict? How about Catholic. Just as Benedict shouldn't be reduced to political labels, neither should Francis. It isn't fair to either of them..."
Read what they've written and what they've said. Study the men themselves, not what other people have said about them, and then you'll be able to spot the books and authors who reliably represent who Benedict and Francis really are. I'd recommend the following:

To understand Pope Benedict:
To understand Pope Francis:
UPDATE: Fr. Z has some very interesting comments on Pope Francis's interview here and here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Philosophers With Pistols

He just Kant stand it!
But the key question, Gonzaga grads, is this: Was Wayne Pomerleau at the scene of the crime?
...A police spokeswoman in Rostov-on Don, Viktoria Safarova, said two men in their 20s were discussing Kant as they stood in line to buy beer at a small store on Sunday. The discussion deteriorated into a fistfight and one participant pulled out a small nonlethal pistol and fired repeatedly.

The victim was hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening. Neither person was identified.

It was not clear which of Kant's ideas may have triggered the violence.
This all begs for a Chesterton quote or three.
“We have had no good comic operas of late, because the real world has been more comic than any possible opera.” – The Quotable Chesterton

“When learned men begin to use their reason, then I generally discover that they haven’t got any.” – ILN, 11-7-08

“Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of ‘touching’ a man’s heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.” – Charles II, Twelve Types

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pope Francis, Argentina's Dirty War, and Heroics

If this is accurate, then the man's a hero. Excerpts:
...While a military-backed dictatorship in Argentina was conducting a clandestine war on suspected dissidents, then-Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future pope, masterminded a secret strategy to save those being targeted, according to a new book.

Titled "Bergoglio's List: Those Saved by Pope Francis; Stories Never Told," also includes the transcript of the then-cardinal's testimony during a nearly four-hour court interrogation in 2010. A panel of judges was investigating suspected human rights violations committed during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

The future pope was head of the Jesuit province in the country from 1973 to 1979, the height of the clandestine war, which saw as many as 30,000 Argentines kidnapped, tortured, murdered or disappeared, never to be seen again.

The book, currently only in Italian, was to be released Oct. 1, while excerpts were published in the Italian Catholic daily, Avvenire, Sept. 6.

According to the various testimonies gathered together in the volume, the future pope made sure no one knew who was part of a clandestine network that sheltered or shuttled to safety dissidents, unionists, priests, students, intellectuals, Catholics and others.

"Each person would do one particular favor for (Father Bergoglio) the head of the Jesuits in Argentina: one who would let someone sleep over for one night, another who would give someone a ride, one would put in a good word to a European consulate worker" in getting someone out of the country, said the Vatican paper, L'Osservatore Romano, Sept. 7.

By never letting anyone know he was part of a larger, coordinated effort, then-Father Bergoglio could keep "the risk minimal and let information circulate as little as possible," the paper said.

In the book, Argentine Jesuit Father Juan Manuel Scannone said the future pope never let on to anyone what he was doing, and no one even realized what they had been part of until years later...
Rather like the underground work undertaken by Pope John XXIII and Paul VI at the behest of Pius XII. For more, see:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The God Who Wasn't There...Until He Was

So I've been asked to watch the following films and comment.  Having intermittent internet access, I'm going to post them here to keep track of them:
And then:
So comments to follow.  Feel free to respond to them in the comments below. 

It's worth noting that one of the people involved in it later came to a rather different place. Completely opposite, in fact. Excerpts:
...Despite this evidence I maintained a lingering intellectual attachment to atheism. In late 2004 I organized a blog interview with the bestselling atheist author Sam Harris (The End of Faith). Assisting in the questioning was filmmaker Brian Flemming. This association led both me and Harris to appear the next year in Flemming's anti-Christian documentary, The God Who Wasn't There.

I attended the documentary's New York premiere. At the end of a subsequent summertime showing in the city, however, I found my atheistic enthusiasm waning. The appearance of my pseudonym in the credits inspired less pride than I had expected. As the lights turned on, I felt alienated from the audience and its contemptuous, antireligious laughter.

I briefly considered joining a small group that had formed to discuss the film over dinner. In fact I followed them for several blocks while debating whether to invite myself. But halfway across a darkened midtown street, I walked away...

In time I found it impossible to believe that the universe was created out of nothing. There was order, direction, and love. Those things all pointed to some larger, unfathomable consciousness. I realized I could not believe that human hearts and minds came into being randomly.

My eyes were also opened to the core truth of Christianity. Whereas I had formerly concurred with Nietzsche's appraisal of the faith as a "slave's philosophy," a cruel celebration of senseless suffering, I saw that his experiences had brought even him to appreciate the nobility of sacrifices made for the sake of life...
It's worth noting that the man isn't precise in his writing--he says, "In time I found it impossible to believe that the universe was created out of nothing." Yet that's the Christian belief. I think what he meant was "In time I found it impossible to believe that the universe came into being out of nothing without some creating agent, some independent being--without God."

For more on the evidence for the existence of Jesus and of God:


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