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 Carré 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:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Syria, Peace, and Prayer

Elizabeth Scalia, as always, is awesome.  Excerpts:
...When I read that we weren’t even looking at accurate images coming from Syria, I must admit to getting chills. We don’t know what’s real, anymore, and if the Secretary of State is using bad images, that’s bad enough; if he doesn’t even know he’s using them, that’s even worse, because it suggests a level of systemic incompetence that is terrifying to contemplate. It feels like no one actually has a good handle on any of our steering mechanisms, anywhere — like gyres are widening and centers are not holding. And what rough beast is slouching forward while our wheels are spinning?

But back to my original question: is the president being publicly goaded into attacking, by Assad? And if so, to what purpose? If “precise” US bombs are flying in Syria, does it give cover to Assad and “justify” a destructive responsive action? How big is this damned thing going to get? If we learned nothing from Iraq, we should have learned that strategies and tactics in the twenty-first century are not what they were in the twentieth; predictability has diminished, particularly in that region, and I’m not sure how many war historians and tacticians even get a full and thoughtful hearing in Obama’s very protective, very insulated, very politicized White House...
She ends with a call to prayer, reiterated by other sources.
...Feel helpless in the face of so much violence and hatred around the world? Don't know how to respond to such information? There's no time for that! Those who love Mary have been given a special role to play in bringing peace to the world.

"At Fatima, Our Lady didn't ask us to go to Mass daily," said Fr. Dan. "She didn't ask us to make pilgrimages. She didn't ask us to read a lot of books. She asked us to do something that was easy and accessible to everyone — to children; to the educated; to the uneducated; each of us in our own way: to pray the Rosary for peace in the world."

Our Lady said to the three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, on July 13, 1917, "Continue to say the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, to obtain the peace of the world and the end of the war, because only she can obtain it."

She reiterated that call throughout her apparitions there, saying in May 1917, "Say the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war [World War I]," and in September, "Continue the Rosary, my children. Say it every day that the war may end."...In these days when people are using chemical weapons against each other, Christians across the world are being savagely persecuted, and wars and rumors of wars abound every day, let all Marian Helpers live up to their name — help Mary bring peace to the world! Pray the rosary for peace in the world and spread devotion to Mary's Immaculate Heart...
And the Pope has spoken. Excerpts:
...Speaking ahead of the traditional Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square this Sunday, Pope Francis said, “On [Saturday] the 7th of September, here [in St Peter’s Square], from 7 PM until midnight, we will gather together in prayer, in a spirit of penitence, to ask from God this great gift [of peace] for the beloved Syrian nation and for all the situations of conflict and violence in the world.” The Holy Father also invited non-Catholic Christians and non-Christian believers to participate in ways they feel are appropriate. “Never again war!” said Pope Francis. “We want a peaceful world,” he said, “we want to be men and women of peace...."


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