30 December 2008

Don't Fudge on the Truth

A common temptation when trying to reach out to lukewarm or fallen away Catholics is to water down the faith in an attempt to make it more appealing to these various groups. Recently Bishop Conry in England stated that
"you can't talk to young people about salvation, they want to hear how you will save the planet in your homily."
Never mind for a minute that proper stewardship of the Earth and it's resources is a part of Catholic teaching and could certainly be incorporated into larger Catholic teaching, it is obvious that both among Protestants and Catholics growth is most evident where the traditional/orthodox teaching of the faith is expounded.

As I wrote in a previous post about the book The Soul of the Apostolate, Dom Chautard clearly refutes this muddled thinking which ultimately has little effect on effecting a change in those people it intends to reach. In contrast to Bishop Conry, the Dominican Father Augustine DiNoia, undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently wrote,

If the church wants to reach young people today, it must avoid the temptation to "fudge" on core Catholic beliefs in an effort to make them more agreeable to contemporary tastes. Instead, it should confront with courage the major barriers in modern evangelization, including cultural resistance to the proclamation of Christ as the unique savior.

"No one in his or her right mind will be interested in a faith about which its exponents seem too embarrassed to communicate forthrightly," Father DiNoia said.

"We have to be convinced that the fullness of the truth and beauty of the message about Jesus Christ is powerfully attractive when it is communicated without apologies or compromise,"

"This so-called 'accommodationist' approach generally fails, and it fails doubly with young people. There is a risk in this approach that the Christian message becomes indistinguishable from everything else on offer in the market stalls of secularized religious faith," he said.

You can read his full comments at CNS - Catholic News Service.

27 December 2008

The Man Who Was Thursday

The following is taken from Chesterton's masterpiece, The Man Who Was Thursday.
"Talk sense, said Syme shortly." "Into what sort of devils' parliament have you entrapped me, if it comes to that? You made me swear before I made you [swear.] Perhaps we are both doing what we think is right. But what we think is right is so damned different that there can be nothing between us in the way of concession. There is nothing possible between us but honor and death," and he pulled the great cloak about his shoulders and picked up the flask from the table.

Something to remember the next time someone asks you to 'dialogue' over their dissent.

21 December 2008

The Failed Attempt to Assassinate Hitler

The new Tom Cruise movie, Valkyrie, is set to hit theaters in a few days and preliminary reviews indicate it will be worth seeing. Whether or not the movie is a success there is no doubt that the story behind the film is amazing. Although the film is mainly about Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who carried the bomb, there were a number of co-conspirators. One of them, Philipp von Boeselager, was only discovered after the war ended and later given highest honors by the governments of Germany and France. He died this past May and was the last surviving conspirator. In 1946 he became a Knight of Malta and was responsible for co-founding the medical operations of the Order and bringing German pilgrims to Lourdes among many accomplishments.

The Telegraph in the U.K. wrote an account of his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler and it is an exciting story that can be read here.

In 1942, as a 24-year-old field lieutenant in the 41st Cavalry, Boeselager turned against the Nazi government after hearing how five Romany gypsies had been shot in cold blood purely on the ground of their ethnicity.

With his commanding officer, Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge, Boeselager joined a plot to assassinate the Führer. The first attempt was in March 1943, when both Hitler and Heinrich Himmler were expected at the Eastern Front for a strategy meeting with Kluge.

Once Hitler was dead, Boeselager was to order his troops (who were ignorant of the plot) to commandeer horses and return to Berlin to seize key parts of the city and to round up senior Nazis in a full-scale coup d'état. Their specific target was the SS Reichssicherheitshauptamt RSHA, the central headquarters of the SS.

Boeselager was issued with a Walther PP pistol, with which he was to shoot both Hitler and Himmler during dinner at the officers' mess. But the plan was aborted at the last minute when Himmler left early, opening up the possibility that he would have succeeded Hitler as leader.

In the spring of 1944 the conspirators planned a second attempt on Hitler's life, Boeselager helping to supply Stauffenberg with explosives; a job with an explosives research team provided von Boeselager with cover. When ordered to deliver his cargo of British-made charges (his team considered the fuses easy to set), Boeselager found the recipient was in a meeting, so he carried his payload in a suitcase to the cinema to avoid drawing attention to himself.

"They were showing a comedy," he recalled. "But I didn't see much. I had to be careful that people didn't trip on the suitcase." When at last he met his contact,Boeselager said: "I'm supposed to give you a suitcase. "He said 'Thank you', and that was all."

The bomb was planted under a table at Hitler's Eastern Front headquarters where he was holding a meeting. Although Hitler survived, Boeselager had already set in train his return to Berlin to help install a new government. He would later recall an "unbelievable" ride covering 120 miles in 36 hours, with 1,000 cavalrymen under his command, to reach an airport in western Russia from where they had planned to fly back to the German capital.

But on receiving from his brother Georg the coded message "All back into the old holes", Boeselager knew that the plot had failed, and that he must return to the front at once. Although he was able to reverse his cavalry retreat in time and get his troops back to their positions before arousing suspicion, it was a close call. One of his comrades was killed as he rode over a mine, and he had to retrieve a strategic map of Berlin from the dead man's pocket which, if found, would have exposed his links to the plot and the planned takeover of key buildings in Berlin.

While most of the other conspirators were executed by firing squad, Boeselager's part in the plot remained undetected, as was that of his brother Georg –who was later killed in action on the Eastern Front.

It was only after the war that Boeselager's role in the failed assassination attempts was revealed. He was hailed as a hero in both Germany and France, and awarded the highest military honours both countries could bestow.

19 December 2008

The Welfare State = The All Powerful State

Bishop John Wright of the Diocese of Worchester, MA gave an address to 200 presidents and other officers of almost 40 State medical association on June 14, 1951. He warned them against "enslavement by absorption" into a state bureaucracy. As we approach the inauguration of a new President and Congress in the next few weeks who are committed to expanding Governemental intrusion into our lives may these words of the wise Bishop serve as a warning and a reminder to remain firm in our Catholic beliefs. He went on to say,
"You doctors should be the first to insist on morality, for once the moral law goes into eclipse, your profession is doomed to return to the slavery which was the condition of physicians and teachers in the pre-Christian days of amoral pagan totalitarianism."

Let us also pray for wisdom from our Church leaders as they address the problems in our current healtcare system that they not be blinded by the overly simplistic solution of "universal healthcare" offered by those politicians who will ensure that the systems provide numerous immoral practices in open conflict with the teachings of the Church and the consciences of our Catholic healthcare workers.

The Good and Bad of Secularization

The following is taken from the 3rd installment in a series on Secularism and Secularity by Fr. Alfonso Aguilar, LC in the National Catholic Register (not to be confused with it's dissident cousin the 'National Catholic Reporter')

Like its counterpart, secularism is intrinsically intolerant.

“It presents itself as neutral, impartial and inclusive of everyone,” Benedict XVI noted in the same address. “But in reality, like every ideology, secularism imposes a worldview. If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image. When God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose, and the ‘good’ begins to wane. What was ostensibly promoted as human ingenuity soon manifests itself as folly, greed and selfish exploitation.”

As the Pope put it in his 2006 speech to Catholic jurists, secularism is characterized by its “hostility to every important political and cultural form of religion, and especially to the presence of any religious symbol in public institutions.”

Logically, it refuses “the Christian community and its legitimate representatives the right to speak on the moral problems that challenge all human consciences today, and especially those of legislators and jurists.”

Secularism is a social-engineering process to create a civilization where man and the state, taking God’s place, will be the only source of rights and arbiter of what is right and what is wrong. We may compare it to Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, who was so caught up in his own research that he arrogantly tried to create new life and a new man.

What is secularism’s enemy No. 1? You guessed it: Christianity.

The story of the Roman Empire is again relived in the 21st century under different circumstances. The Roman Empire was tolerant toward all religions and allowed peoples to worship their own gods and goddesses … as long as those deities would not clash with the absolute primacy of the state. Christians refused to worship the Roman gods and emperor. They thought the state to be relative and the Trinitarian God to be the Absolute. Even the emperor was morally obliged to follow God’s moral law.

The Catholic Church is constantly attacked by secularist laws, judicial resolutions, media reports and the entertainment industry. The persecution will stop the day the Church starts worshipping man and the state in submission to the secularist project.

But history will repeat itself. Thanks to her heroes and martyrs, the Church will rise victorious from the ashes of secularism for the glory of God and the temporal and eternal good of mankind.

12 December 2008

Duke of Luxembourg Refuses to Sign Pro-Euthanasia Bill

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg stood firm on his Catholic principles and refused to sign legislation that would have made euthanasia legal in Luxembourg. Historically the monarchs have remained politically neutral and simply signed the bills presented before them. The Duke though in conscience could not sign something opposed to Catholic teaching and informed the Prime Minister of his decision which prompted the government to re-write the constitution. "The 60-member legislature voted 56-0, with one abstention, to amend the constitution so that in the future Henri will no longer have to "approve" laws adopted by parliament."

More of the story can be read here.

Duke Henri is a member of the Order of Malta and was received into the Order in February 2008.

11 December 2008

New Catholic Congressman for New Orleans

The blog Fathers for Good has a good post about a new Catholic Congressman, Anh Joseph Cao, for the district of New Orleans.

As a surprise victor in the congressional district that includes New Orleans, Anh Joseph Cao is the “man of the hour” in the current news cycle. Yet with his strong family values and Catholic faith, which he learned before escaping as a boy from war-torn Vietnam, he could also be a candidate for “father of the year.”

After all, he knows that his role as father will last long after the media glare fades and he settles with his family in the nation’s capital as a first-term congressman from Louisiana in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Read the rest of his story and other newsworthy fathers here.

Miles Christi Fundraising Raffle

The religious community of Miles Christi is doing great work and worthy of support. Here is their recent letter for the major fundraiser of the year.

Dear friend of Miles Christi,

We hope you are having a very profitable Advent season, preparing your soul for the coming of the Christ Child.

As you know, on December 29th we will have our Christmas Dinner to celebrate the Birth of our Lord with all of our friends. Please visit our website if you would like to sign up for the dinner.

During the Christmas Dinner the drawing of our 2008 Car Raffle will take place. Please help us reach the goal that will benefit our future Religious & Family Center. We really need your help. We depend 100% on donations. If you have already been able to support us in this endeavor, we truly thank you and invite you to please forward this email to your friends, inviting them to purchase tickets. You can also purchase raffle tickets online by clicking here.

Thank you so much for your support for the future of the Catholic Church in America

Have a blessed Advent Season,

The Priests and Brothers of Miles Christi

The drawing will be held on Dec. 29th, 8:30pm, at our Christmas Dinner at the
Inn at St. John�s, Plymouth, MI.

Hospital of St. John's and St. Elizabeth London

Is the tragic situation which has taken place at the Catholic hospital of St. John's and St. Elizabeth in London a preview of what we can expect in this country if FOCA or similar legislation ever passes here? It should be noted that several members of the previous Board were members of the Order of Malta's British Association who fought vigourously to maintain a Catholic ethic with the Hospital but were nevertheless removed by the Cardinal when he dissolved that Board last year.

A little background on this story courtesy of Fr. Finegan (who has a great blog BTW, The Hermeneutic of Continuity).

The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in St John's Wood is a Catholic hospital, founded in 1856. In 2003, the Hospital invited the St John's Wood Medical Practice to become a part of the hospital. At the time, Catholics familiar with the present workings of the National Health Service warned that such an invitation would present problems for a Catholic hospital since an NHS medical practice is bound to offer "sexual health services" which conflict with Catholic moral teaching.

Last week, the Hospital Board approved a new Code of Ethics which, on the surface, looks good. It specifies that such things as euthanasia, sex-change operations, the fitting of intra-uterine devices, and IVF are forbidden. However, the Code does not mention abortion referrals or the prescription of the (abortifacient) Morning After Pill.

Today, there are two articles in the National Press which highlight the Linacre Centre's criticism of the Code of Ethics: in the Daily Telegraph Celebrity hospital in abortion row and in the Daily Mail Cardinal caught up in Catholic row... Abortion referral is a "hot button" issue for Catholics in Britain today. Catholic doctors and others who will not kill unborn children cannot in conscience refer patients to other doctors who will. Many secularists would like to try and force them to do so or leave the profession.

It cannot be acceptable for a Catholic hospital to allow such referrals, nor can these referrals in any way be "approved by the Catholic Church."

Fr. Finegan received the following letter from Mr. Luke Gormally, Honorary Fellow of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics

Dear Fr Tim,

The situation at John&Lizzies is one of grave scandal. The Cardinal has the authority in the constitution of the Hospital to determine the ethical norms that should govern clinical practice there. When objections where referred to the Cardinal in 2004 to admission of the St John's Wood Medical Practice, which is contractually committed to providing the full range of 'family planning services', including referrals for abortion, he in turn referred the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) - though in truth the issue was clear cut.

The Hospital Management (which has long been non-Catholic) argued that there was no clear prohibition in the existing Code of referrals for abortion. The case was presented in somewhat unsatisfactory terms to the CDF who asked the Cardinal to establish a Committee to enquire into practice at the Hospital and what might be required to render the existing Ethics Code unambiguous in its directives. The Cardinal after some delay established the Brennan Committee (under Lord Brennan), a Committee which included Professor John Finnis in its membership.

This Committee eventually reported to the Cardinal in early 2006 and on 6 March that year following the advice of the Committee the Cardinal wrote to the then Chairman of the Hospital Board, Lord Bridgeman, requiring specific additions to the Code which made it unambiguously clear that no doctor practising at the Hospital was to refer for procedures, including abortion, which were contrary to moral truth as identified in the teaching of the Church. He asked that the Code be revised along these lines by the end of 2006, and that the following year the Hospital should set up a system of ethical governance to ensure that the Code was being observed. Lord Bridgeman disbanded the previous Ethics Committee, three of whose members,including Dr Helen Watt, had been at the forefront of complaining about unethical practices at the Hospital (it had, among other things, become the major centre in the UK for female to male transgender surgery), and established a new Ethics Committee.

This first met in September 2006 and I was, somewhat to my surprise, recruited to the Committee in October 2006. Lord Bridgeman's chosen Chairman of the Ethics Committee was extremely reluctant to proceed to the revision of the Code as required in the Cardinal's letter to Lord Bridgeman, but some of us managed to produce a revision of the Code in early 2007 precisely along the lines specified in the letter of 6 March 2006. This revised Code was then formally agreed by the Ethics Committee. Before it was presented to the Hospital Board however it was presented at the insistence of Management and Lord Bridgeman to the Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) of the Hospital. This is composed of a group of doctors not one of whom is a Catholic. They rejected the Code.

It subsequently emerged at a meeting with this Committee that they regarded the Code as having no authority over them and indeed viewed the Hospital as already a secularised institution. The view of the MAC was then invoked as a reason for non-acceptance of the Code by the majority of those on the Board with a secularising agenda for the Hospital. However, in the later part of 2007 there were a number of resignations from this group and towards the end of the year those members of the Board who had been faithful to the terms of the Hospital's Trust Deed and had sought to retain its catholicity found themselves in a sufficient majority to approve the Code.

At this point the Cardinal intervened and demanded the resignation of those faithful few. Though he had no legal authority to do so, his wishes were complied with by a number who felt obliged to defer to his moral authority. Lord Guthrie was then installed as the new Chairman of the Board and he accepted this position on condition that he would be able to re-populate the Board with his own nominees. One of these is Sir Mark Allen who from a career as a spy master has now assumed Chairmanship of the Hospital's Ethics Committee. He has produced a Code which to anyone who knows about the controversy over the past 4 years about the ethical norms which should govern clinical practice at the Hospital is manifestly a complete capitulation to the demands of the MAC that certain key demands of Catholic moral teaching should have no authority over what they decide and do with their patients in consulting rooms in the Hospital. What happens in the operating theatres may be more restricted than hitherto, but the most striking thing about the new Code is the complete absence of any prohibition of referrals for abortion. I began by saying that the situation is one of grave scandal. It is so because the Cardinal has given his approval to this new Code. The Church's teaching about the grave wrongness of abortion and cooperation in abortion has been sacrificed for essentially financial interests. How can the Church in this country effectively defend the sanctity of life when its Chief Shepherd is prepared to approve a Code which effectively accommodates referrals for abortion? A spokeswoman for the Brook Advisory Centres is reported as welcoming the liberalization of the Hospital's Code. That tells us pretty cleary where the Cardinal has got us to. Urgent prayers, and action by some, are needed to reverse this situation.

Luke Gormally

Today I received a newsletter published by the Restituta Group, which is campaigning to restore the Hospital to Catholicity, recapping further developments between October and December. I will post on that as soon as I can condense it down.

One item that is conspicuously missing from the 2008 Code of Ethics is the preamble from the 2007 Code,
“The following are therefore not permitted in any facility within the Hospital, its precincts or its ownership and may not in any such facility be the subject of referrals with a view to obtaining them elsewhere”.

30 November 2008

Secularity and Secularism

As I saw the first banners announcing Season's Greetings and Happy Holiday's I thought of an idea for a post about the secularization of society. It seem's that I was not alone as there appeared a very good column in the National Catholic Register this week by Father Alfonso Aguilar, LC. Here a couple highlights and I encourage you to read the rest.

“Silencing or abandoning God or confining him to the private sphere is undoubtedly the defining theme of our bleak times in the West. There is no other movement to be compared with it, not even the loss of the moral sense.”

Pope Benedict seems to agree. Secularization is a constant theme in his speeches and writings. “Secularization, which presents itself in cultures by imposing a world and humanity without reference to transcendence, is invading every aspect of daily life and developing a mentality in which God is effectively absent, wholly or partially, from human life and awareness,” the Holy Father said to the members of the Pontifical Council for Culture on March 8, 2008.

“This secularization is not only an external threat to believers, but has been manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself. It profoundly distorts the Christian faith from within, and consequently, the lifestyle and daily behavior of believers.”

Secularism, instead, is intrinsically wrong — it intends to achieve an absolute independence of temporal affairs from God and his moral law. It pretends to replace God’s role with man’s. Secularity affirms the autonomy of the earthly spheres from religion but not in opposition to it. Secularism intolerantly seeks the annihilation of religion.

The most appalling expression of secularism might be found in the silent distancing of entire populations from religious practice and even from any reference to the faith. The Church today is confronted more by indifference and practical unbelief than by atheism.

26 November 2008

Christian Faith and the Necessity of the Sacred

Some further thoughts from Pope Benedict XVI on Sacred Music.

The Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time. “Always” can only come from “once for all”. The Church does not pray in some kind of mythical omnitemporality. She cannot forsake her roots. She recognizes the true utterance of God precisely in the concreteness of its history, in time and place: to these God ties us, and by these we are all tied together. The diachronic aspect, praying with the Fathers and the apostles, is part of what we mean by rite, but it also in­cludes a local aspect, extending from Jerusalem to Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Rites are not, therefore, just the products of inculturation, how­ever much they may have incorporated elements from different cultures. They are forms of the apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition. [The Spirit of the Liturgy SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000),p. 164]

I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council. Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (SF, CA: Ignatius), p. 149.

Modernist Heresy - Alive and Well

St. Pope Pius X spoke of the heresy of Modernism as the "synthesis of all heresies." He wrote the encyclical letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis condemning its errors and "in order to expose before the whole Church, in their true colors, those men who have assumed this bad disguise."
While it did great damage to the movement it was not fully destroyed but driven underground where it has reappeared in recent times, most recently in that period following Vatican II, by those invoking the "spirit of Vatican II." Evidence of this is found in many place and frequently the articles and comments made by readers of the National Catholic Reporter. While not imputing or suggesting any of these people is guilty of heresy it nonetheless true that their statements resemble those that were previously condemned.

In an effort to make the encyclical more understandable to the average layman, the Rev. J. B. Lemius O.M.I. prepared "A Catechism of Modernism" in the question and answer format common to the catechetical method of instruction. This small treatise was warmly received by Pope Pius X and he gave his hopes of it being widely distributed. It was originally published in 1908 for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith in NY.

Q. Is it not, then, the duty of the Church to shape herself to democratic forms?
A. We are living in an age when the sense of liberty has reached its fullest development, and when the public conscience in the civil order introduced popular government. Now there are not two consciences in man, any more than there are two lives. It is for the ecclesiastical authority, therefore, to shape itself to democratic forms, unless it wishes to provoke and foment in intestine conflict in the consciences of mankind.

Q. What finally is the great anxiety of the Modernists?
A. Their one great anxiety is, in consequence, to find a way of conciliation between the authority of the Church and the liberty of believers.

Now let us look at the, CHARTER OF THE RIGHTS OF CATHOLICS IN THE CHURCH, which belong to an organization called Association for Rights of Catholics in the Church. It's members are a venerable who's who of dissident Catholic groups: CCC (Coalition of Concerned Canadian Catholics) CITI (Celibacy is the Issue) CORPUS (a national association for a married priesthood) CORPUS-Baltimore CTA (Call to Action) Dignity/USA FCM (Federation of Christian Ministries) New Ways Ministry Pax Christi-Maine Quixote Center Renewal Coordinating Committee WOC (Women's Ordination Conference) Christenrechte in der Kirche (Germany) Droits et Libertes dans les Eglises (France) European Conference for Human Rights in the Church (federation of eight national organizations)

Here are a few of their demands:


The Church as a People of God, and not individual Christians only, is called to give witness to the love commandment. This responsibility entails, especially, the renewal of the Church's own structural organization where it is seen to foster injustice and to deny to some Catholics the rights of persons and the freedom of Christians.2 "Justice is love's absolute minimum" (Paul VI). The institutional Church, as a human society, can therefore no longer justify an authoritarian and patriarchal order appropriate to earlier stages of human development.

No. 28. All married Catholics have the right to determine in conscience the size of their families and the appropriate methods of family planning.
No. 29. All Catholic parents have the right to see to the education of their children in all areas of life. (C. 226:2)
No. 30. All married Catholics have the right to withdraw from a marriage which has irretrievably broken down. All such Catholics retain the radical right to remarry.
No. 31. All Catholics who are divorced and remarried and who are in conscience reconciled to the Church have the right to the same ministries, including all sacraments, as do other Catholics.

Beauty and the Search for Truth and Goodness

Throughout his pontificate Pope Benedict has emphasised the relationship of beauty to culture. Yesterday he sent a Message to Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, to mark the annual public session of the Pontifical Academies. The Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts and Literature "dei Virtuosi al Pantheon", which is organising the event this year, has chosen the theme: "The universality of beauty: a comparison between aesthetics and ethics".

"We are reminded of the urgent need for a renewed dialogue between aesthetics and ethics, between beauty, truth and goodness", the Pope writes, "not only by contemporary cultural and artistic debate, but also by daily reality. In fact, at various levels, there is a dramatically-evident split ... between the two dimensions: that of the search for beauty - understood however in reductive terms as exterior form, as an appearance to be pursued at all costs - and that of the truth and goodness of actions undertaken to achieve certain ends.

"Indeed", he adds, "searching for a beauty that is foreign to or separate from the human search for truth and goodness would become (as unfortunately happens) mere asceticism and, especially for the very young, a path leading to ephemeral values and to banal and superficial appearances, even a flight into an artificial paradise that masks inner emptiness".

The Holy Father goes on to recall how he has on various occasions underlined the need "for a broadening of the horizons of reason" in order "to regain an understanding of the intimate link binding the search for beauty to the search for truth and goodness. ... And it such a commitment applies to everyone, it applies even more to believers, to the disciples of Christ, who are called by the Lord to 'give reasons' for all the beauty and truth of their faith".

The beauty of the works undertaken by believers "to render glory unto the Father", in accordance with Christ's mandate, "demonstrates and expresses ... the goodness and profound truth of such gestures, as it does the coherence and the sanctity of those who accomplish them. ... Our witness must, then, draw nourishment from this beauty, ... and to this end we must know how to communicate with the language of images and symbols ... in order effectively to reach our contemporaries".

Benedict XVI also mentions the recent Synod, during which bishops "emphasised the perennial importance 'beautiful witness' has for the announcement of the Gospel, and underlined how important it is to know how to read and scrutinise the beauty of works of art inspired by the faith ... in order to discover a unique path that brings us close to God and His Word".

Finally, the Holy Father mentions John Paul II's Letter to Artists, "which invites us", writes Pope Benedict "to reflect upon ... the fruitful dialogue between Holy Scripture and various forms of art, whence countless masterpieces have emerged". Finally, the Pope launches an appeal to academics and artists, reminding them that their mission is "to arouse wonder at and desire for beauty, to form people's sensitivity and to nourish a passion for everything that is a genuine expression of human genius and a reflection of divine beauty".

24 November 2008

How to Engage Culture When There Is No Culture to Engage

Prof. Anthony Esolen of Providence College wrote an insightful essay "The Last Embers of the Fire" which can be found over at Inside Catholic. It deals with the struggle to "engage culture" when culture as properly understand does not exist.

We Catholics are commonly urged to "engage the culture"; not to flee for monasteries of our own making, but to work within the institutions of mass media, mass education, mass marketing, and mass entertainment to advance the banners of Christ, our King.

I do not wish to criticize those who toil at that thankless task. Nor will I suggest that their work will be futile; no true service of the Lord can be without fruit. But I do believe we have mistaken the signs of the times. We seek to engage a culture, when there is no culture to engage. Our task is rather to revive the memory of what a culture is.

One of my goals with this blog is renewing the ideal of authentic Christian chivalry which likewise depends on a renewal of the Christian culture which gave birth to it during the Middle Ages. As challenging as this is we can and must look to the Catholic Church to reform our culture and society. Pope Benedict understands this and has begun a process of reform in the Church that will allow it to transform culture rather than be transformed by it as has happened over the past 40 years.

A wonderful book on the topic of culture is the Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. In our fast paced world we have forgotten how to relax, to find leisure where we can reflect and contemplate God's goodness.

23 November 2008

Musical Tribute for Christ the King

The following clip is for the Feast of Christ the King at Gloria.tv

Feast of Christ the King

Today is the Feast of Christ the King under the new calendar. I posted previously under the old calendar but wanted to show some different pics of Christ as King. This icon is from the Church of the Holy Archangels, an old Orthodox Church in Sarajevo.

22 November 2008

Dissenting Catholics Play Conscience Card

Fr. Z at his excellent blog, WDTPRS, dissects the letter to the editor (NY Times) from Jon O'Brien, Pres. Catholics for a Free Choice. According to Jon O'Brien,who is upset with Pres. Bush and his rule to protect the conscience of healthcare providers who oppose abortion/birth control etc., his definition of a well-formed conscience trumps all including the clear teaching of the Catholic Church. In the twisted logic so representative of so many people today Mr. O'Brien makes the statement,
Catholic teaching also requires respect for others’ consciences. Doctors and pharmacists cannot dismiss the conscience of the person seeking a medication or a procedure to which they themselves may object. For example, they may not ignore the needs of patients who may not be Catholic, or who have made conscience-based decisions to use contraception.

What utter insanity. So often we hear that the problems we face in "our times" are not unlike those of prior generations and we shouldn't be overly concerned. But as dark as those times were I can't imagine that they were so devoid of rational thought as we are currently. How can a person honestly say that conscience trumps all but we must respect the conscience of others who might disagree with us, so long as that they respect me while I don't have to respect them. Seriously what is wrong with saying "I believe in birth control (I don't) but you don't so I will respect your decision and buy my poison someplace else." Obviously for Mr. O'Brien and his chorus of dissenters we can't have that. Check out Fr. Z for a complete analysis and the proper instruction of what the Catechism truly teaches about a well-formed conscience.

Here are a couple relevant extracts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition, regarding man's freedom.

1747 The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do anything.

1776 "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths." Gaudium et Spes 16.

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment englightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments acording to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

19 November 2008

The Glorious Liberties

The recent elections have brought us cries of protest from those who disliked hearing the Church offer moral guidance on the issues of primary importance. They felt it was an imposition on their free will. But as Chesterton said, "We do not want a religion that is right when we are right. What we want is a religion that is right when we are wrong." Archbishop Sheen wrote a short commentary on the true meaning of freedom, The Glorious Liberties.
The laws of the Church are not limitations imposed upon us, but rather the gateways to freedom. The Church does not dam up the river of thought; she builds dams to prevent it from overflowing and ruining the countryside of sanity. She does not build great walls around rocky islands in the sea to prevent her children from playing; she builds them to prevent her children from falling into the sea and thus making all play impossible. . . We are enslaved if you will, but only at one point. We are slave to the Kingship of Christ. But that one point is like the fixed piont of a pendulum and from it we swing in beautiful rhythm with the freedom of Him Who can do all things. The root of all the liberties of the Church is the most glorious liberty of all --- the freedom to become a saint. Fulton J. Sheen

09 November 2008

The State and the Kingship of Christ

For the first time in years a signifcant number of our Bishops have stood together and publicly proclaimed the moral teaching of the Church and its relevance in the recent elections. Although ignored by many Catholics who preferred the unjust moral equivalence of several law and other professors to the teaching authority of the Church's Bishops it was encouraging for many us to see them acting as true shephards. Many were criticized for becoming too involved in politics and violating a fictitious idea of the separation of Church and State. While certainly each operates in a distinct role it is wrong to deny the Church its legitmate place in preserving right order in society through its mission to preach the Gospel.

Thomas Storck wrote an article in The Catholic Faith originally published in 1996 and now available at The ChesterBelloc Mandate. Below is an excerpt of that article. It is a common error particularly among our Catholic politicians to deny the Kingship of Christ while elevating "The State" to His place.

This is the encyclical Quas Primas, on the Kingship of Christ, issued on December 11, 1925. To try to understand Catholic social teaching apart from the Kingship of Jesus Christ is to have only a partial and one-sided view of the matter. For "all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ." Moreover, "It would be a grave error...to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures commited to Him by the Father, all things are in His power."9 If we develop these points we can see that, looked at as part of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, nothing that mankind does, either individually or corporately, can be alien to Christ's law and his kingly rule.

Therefore the Church, as the mystical extension of the Incarnation, is not doing anything foreign to her mission when she provides guidance for bringing about the realization of Christ's Kingdom in the affairs of men. We are all Christ's subjects, and as such we are bound to make our institutions and our customs reflect him. Catholics should not dare to have a conception of business or economic life that is based either on practical atheism or on a deism that sees God as simply a distant Creator, who left a kind of clockwork universe that runs by itself, as in Adam Smith's "invisible hand." Just as we would not allow the sexual appetite to rule itself, on the grounds that since it was created by God somehow it would ultimately work everything out for the good, so we cannot allow the appetite for economic gain to have free rein.

For as Pius XI taught, "Just as the unity of human society cannot be built upon 'class' conflict, so the proper ordering of economic affairs cannot be left to the free play of rugged competition."10 For to do so would be to think and act as if, whenever men gathered into societies or groups, including nations, somehow they could forget the kingly law of Jesus Christ. If it is wrong to hurt the person living in the next house, it is likewise wrong to hurt my employee or even my competitor, for are we not brothers and are we not all subjects of our common King? And if we cannot see how it is possible not to hurt them in order for myself to survive in the business world, then we need to rethink our approach to economic life and change the demands that our economic system makes upon each of us. For more basic and more demanding than any of its strictures are the moral law and the fundamental principles of justice and charity.

The laws of physics describe how particles of matter move and react under certain conditions. Because these particles do not have free will, they have no choice about their behavior and they cannot be blamed for what they do. The so-called laws of economics, however, are about the actions of free human persons.11 Because of this freedom they can yield or refuse to yield to their various concupiscible appetites. The laws of economics are descriptions of what human beings will generally do if they yield themselves fully to their concupiscible appetite for gain. But whenever this appetite for gain runs counter to the law of Christ, it is entitled to no more respect than when the sexual appetite similarly runs out of bounds. And just as with the sexual appetite, we must curb our appetite for gain if our activity is likely to bring harm or disruption to a social order that supports a civilization of love.

If the Kingship of Christ Jesus over all men and over every aspect of human affairs is a fact, not merely a fancy which we use to decorate our piety at appropriate times, then this fact requires our utmost attention, and all the other activities and institutions of human existence must be shaped to recognize that Kingship. Thus we see that far from being something extra added onto Catholic dogma, the social teachings are integral parts of the realization of the Lordship of Jesus Christ the King. Every year we celebrate the feast of the Kingship of Christ and thus every year we have a new opportunity publicly to reaffirm these truths. But every single day we have the opportunity not just to reaffirm them, but to try to see how they can be put into practice. Otherwise, how can we avoid the condemnation of that Supreme Pontiff, who said of social modernism, "We condemn it as strongly as We do dogmatic Modernism?"

08 November 2008

Aquinas' View of the Christian Image of Man

St. Thomas gives us this summary of the Christian image of man through seven virtues. These seven virtues remind us that the ethics of classical theology is an ethics of the image of God in us, with explicit reference to Jesus' words on the perfection of the Christian: "Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) - Fr. Constantino Gilardi O.P

The Christian is a human creature who - in faith - becomes aware of the reality of God.

The Christian aims - in hope - for the conclusion of his existence in eternal life.

The Christian turns - in the theological virtue of charity - towards God and towards his neighbor in a manner that surpasses his natural capacity for love.

The Christian is prudent, that is, he does not permit the yes or no of his will to cloud his vision of reality, but makes the yes or no of his will depend on the truth of things.

The Christian is just, that is he aims to live in truth "with others;" he realizes that he is only one of the members of the Church, of the civil community, of every community.

The Christian is strong, that is ready to support difficulties or even wounds for justice to be achieved.

The Christian is temperate, and that it does not permit his wish to possess and enjoy to go against what he must really be.

07 November 2008

Bishop Finn Nails It

Most fraudulent are those Catholic leaders, or alliances of Catholics, that insist that the radically evil injustice of abortion need not be directly opposed, but rather, that somehow solving the dilemma of the poor in a sweeping act of charity will cause the foundation of this monstrous crime to crumble.

Why is this so terribly amiss? Because the foundation and cause of abortion is not poverty but a blind disregard for personal responsibility, a heinous denial and disrespect for human life, and an idolatrous worship of personal convenience. This is why even in the wealthy countries of Scandinavia the highest rates of abortions are followed by rampant euthanasia.

Friends, the poor do not hate their children any more or less than the rich. The poison of which abortion is the most dreadful manifestation is the sinful suffocation of selfishness, and it can and does affect all strata of society. Woe to those, particularly Catholics, who dare to try to convince us that their “choice” of a radically pro-abortion leader is within the parameters of conscience. God have mercy on those who exude freely this salve for their partisan cooperators. I fear that they will bear a greater responsibility than most. Against them will come not only the cry of millions of human lives savagely destroyed, but the souls of those they have sucked down with themselves. This is the very definition of scandal, and the reason that so many have spoken out with such urgency to announce the authentic teaching of the Church.

Catholic College Students and Moral Values

The Cardinal Newman Society just released findings from a survery of students on Catholic campuses regarding their attitudes on moral issues of the faith. The results shouldn't come as any surprise. Any guess what percentage of this group also voted for Obama.

Study Finds Catholic Colleges Have Little Positive Impact on Faith, Values

A groundbreaking survey of Catholic college students published by The Cardinal Newman Society’s (CNS) Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education finds that most students on Catholic campuses reject key Catholic moral values and tenets of the faith, and significant numbers engage in pre-marital sexuality activity and the viewing of pornography.

The study was released in the wake of Tuesday’s presidential election, just as many commentators are looking for reasons why the Catholic vote broke the way it did in such large numbers for a pro-abortion candidate.

It is the only known nationally representative survey of students at Catholic colleges and universities. CNS released a report five years ago, drawing on data from 38 Catholic colleges collected by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. That study found that students’ support for Catholic teaching on abortion, gay marriage and other issues declined over four years at a Catholic institution.

For the current study, CNS commissioned QEV Analytics, which conducted an analysis of the Catholic vote for Crisis magazine prior to the 2000 presidential election, to conduct the random survey of current and recent students at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, all between the ages of 18 and 29. QEV President Steven Wagner, a former researcher for the U.S. Information Agency, has conducted studies for several federal agencies and the National Center on Additional and Substance Abuse (CASA).

“Most respondents say that the experience of attending a Catholic institution made no difference in their support for the Catholic Church or its teaching or their participation in Catholic Sacraments,” Wagner writes in his report.

Key findings clearly demonstrate that large numbers of students at Catholic colleges and universities are in clear conflict with the Catholic Church:

Nearly 1 in 5 knew another student who had or paid for an abortion.

46% of current and recent students—and 50% of females—said they engaged in sex outside of marriage.

84% said they had friends who engaged in premarital sex.

60% agreed strongly or somewhat that abortion should be legal.

60% agreed strongly or somewhat that premarital sex is not a sin.

78% disagreed strongly or somewhat that using a condom to prevent pregnancy was a serious sin.

57% agreed strongly or somewhat that same-sex “marriage” should be legal.

57% said the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their participation in Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation.

54% of respondents said that their experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their support for the teachings of the Catholic Church.

56% said their experience had no effect on their respect for the Pope and bishops.

In April 2008 Pope Benedict XVI, recognizing the reality on many Catholic campuses, told Catholic college presidents gathered at The Catholic University of America that the Catholic faith must permeate all aspects of Catholic campus life.

“Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools?” the Holy Father asked the college presidents. “Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold. From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary ‘crisis of truth’ is rooted in a ‘crisis of faith’.”

The entire CNS study, “Behaviors and Beliefs of Current and Recent Students at U.S. Catholic Colleges,” is available online at http://www.catholichighered.org/. CNS commissioned the study as part of its Love & Responsibility program to encourage Catholic values on life, love and marriage on Catholic campuses.

05 November 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along Now?

As usual the post-election rhetoric was in full swing today with calls for us to set aside our differences and to come together as American's. But throughout the campaign President Elect Obama made it very clear he was not interested in listening to my point of view as an American regarding abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and other important issues of Catholic social teaching. He made it understood his allegiance is to NARAL and Planned Parenthood.

In "The Great Heresies", one of the greatest minds of the last century, Hilaire Belloc, wrote:
The quarrel is between the Church and the anti-Church—the Church of God and anti-God, the Church of Christ and anti-Christ...“The Modern Attack” or “anti- Christ” it is all one; there is a clear issue now joined between the retention of Catholic morals, tradition, and authority on the one side, and the active effort to destroy them on the other. The modern attack will not tolerate us. It will attempt to destroy us. Nor can we tolerate it. We must attempt to destroy it as being the fully equipped and ardent enemy of the Truth by which men live. The duel is to the death.

03 November 2008

Cardinal Bernardins Seamless Garment

Many pro-Obama Catholics use the late Cardinal Bernardin's seamless garment theory to justify voting for pro-abortion candidates. However even Cardinal Bernardin admitted that not all issues carry the same moral weight. Below is an extract from a talk he gave at St. Louis U. in 1984. You can read the whole lecture here.

The range of application is all too evident: nuclear war threatens life on a previously unimaginable scale; abortion takes life daily on a horrendous scale; public executions are fast becoming weekly events in the most advanced technological society in history; and euthanasia is now openly discussed and even advocated. Each of these assaults on life has its own meaning and morality; they cannot be collapsed into one problem, but they must be confronted as pieces of a larger pattern.

The reason I have placed such stress on the idea of a consistent ethic of life from the beginning of my term as chairman of the Pro-Life Committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops is twofold: I am persuaded by the interrelatedness of these diverse problems, and I am convinced that the Catholic moral vision has the scope, the strength and the subtlety to address this wide range of issues in an effective fashion. It is precisely the potential of our moral vision that is often not recognized even within the community of the Church. The case for a consistent ethic of life—one which stands for the protection of the right to life and the promotion of the rights which enhance life from womb to tomb—manifests the positive potential of the Catholic moral and social tradition.

It is both a complex and a demanding tradition; it joins the humanity of the unborn infant and the humanity of the hungry; it calls for positive legal action to prevent the killing of the unborn (contrary to the position taken by Prof. Kmiec who believes that the legal avenue to prevent abortion is a dead end.) or the aged and positive societal action to provide shelter for the homeless and education for the illiterate. The potential of the moral and social vision is appreciated in a new way when the systemic vision of Catholic ethics is seen as the background for the specific positions we take on a range of issues.

In response to those who fear otherwise, I contend that the systemic vision of a consistent ethic of life will not erode our crucial public opposition to the direction of the arms race; neither will it smother our persistent and necessary public opposition to abortion. The systemic vision is rooted in the conviction that our opposition to these distinct problems has a common foundation and that both Church and society are served by making it evident.

A consistent ethic of life does not equate the problem of taking life (e.g., through abortion and in war) with the problem of promoting human dignity (through humane programs of nutrition, health care, and housing). But a consistent ethic identifies both the protection of life and its promotion as moral questions. It argues for a continuum of life which must be sustained in the face of diverse and distinct threats.

A consistent ethic does not say everyone in the Church must do all things, but it does say that as individuals and groups pursue one issue, whether it is opposing abortion or capital punishment, the way we oppose one threat should be related to support for a systemic vision of life. It is not necessary or possible for every person to engage in each issue, but it is both possible and necessary for the Church as a whole to cultivate a conscious explicit connection among the several issues. And it is very necessary for
preserving a systemic vision that individuals and groups who seek to witness to life at one point of the spectrum of life not be seen as insensitive to or even opposed to other moral claims on the overall spectrum of life. Consistency does rule out contradictory moral positions about the unique value of human life. No one is called to do everything, but each of us can do something. And we can strive not to stand against each other when the protection and the promotion of life are at stake.

Here are a couple additional quotes from Cardinal Bernardin.

Notice that the Cardinal stated that not all issues are qualitatively equal from a moral perspective. A consistent ethic recognizes that there is justification for placing priority emphasis on certain issues at certain times. Cardinal Bernardin pointed out that there is a hierarchy among the issues.
"The fundamental human right is to life—from the moment of conception until death. It is the source of all other rights, including the right to health care"
(The Consistent Ethic of Life and Health Care Systems, Foster McGaw Triennial
Conference, Loyola University of Chicago, May 8, 1985).

To ignore the priority attention that the problems of abortion and euthanasia demand is to misunderstand both the consistent ethic and the nature of the threats that these evils pose. On Respect Life Sunday, 1 October 1989, Cardinal Bernardin issued a statement entitled "Deciding for Life," in which he said,

"Not all values, however, are of equal weight. Some are more fundamental than others. On this Respect Life Sunday, I wish to emphasize that no earthly value is more fundamental than human life itself. Human life is the condition for enjoying freedom and all other values. Consequently, if one must choose between protecting or serving lesser human values that depend upon life for their existence and life itself, human life must take precedence."

02 November 2008

Bishop Finn - The Identity of the Church Militant

From the upcoming issue of The Catholic Key, the diocesan paper of Kansas City, KA, comes an excellent article from Bishop Finn,

Warriors with Our Eyes Fixed on Heaven

Last Saturday I had the privilege of consecrating the restored church of Old St. Patrick. This is the oldest existing Catholic church in Kansas City. It will serve as the Oratory for the Latin Mass community which first began here under Bishop John Sullivan, and for many years has shared the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows.

One of the beauties of the Traditional Latin High Mass that I celebrated is that it highlights a most profound aspect of the Mass, namely our participation with the Communion of Saints. The high altar, multiple candles, incense and Gregorian chant, collectively give us a striking image of the Heavenly Jerusalem which is our ultimate home. Every Mass celebrates this reality, but I must admit that the traditional Mass captured this magnificent expression of the ultimate hope and goal of Christians in a powerful way. We should reflect on this often, because the ultimate goal of everything we do is to get ourselves to heaven and bring with us as many as we can.

The month of November begins with the two great celebrations: All Saints day (November 1) and the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2). These feasts celebrate our communion with the "Church triumphant" in heaven, and the "Church suffering" in purgatory. Today I would like to share a few brief comments about what we have sometimes called the "Church militant," the Church here on earth.

We, the Church on earth, have a very special challenge as participants in the grace and life of Jesus Christ to "fight" against the enemies of Christ's justice and truth and light and life. We must be attentive to the demands of this daily "battle" in a peaceable but serious manner.

I am sometimes amazed at the casual manner with which Christians, Catholics included, take up our life within what Pope John Paul II rightly called the "culture of death." The Church, by comparison, reminds us that we are engaged - by reason of our Baptism and Confirmation - in a battle, "not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities and powers, with the rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in heaven." (Eph 6:12) Jesus Christ has won the ultimate battle, but we, in the course of our human life must make our choice, determining on whose side we will live and die. Whose side will you choose?!

What is at stake in this battle is our immortal soul, our salvation. My responsibility as bishop is with the eternal destiny of those entrusted to my care. My total energies must be directed to the well being of those who otherwise may come under the spell of a radically flawed and fundamentally distorted moral sense, at odds with what our Mother the Church teaches. There are objective and transcendent truths. There is such a thing as right and wrong. There is a legitimate hierarchy of moral evils, and the direct willful destruction of human life can never be justified; it can never be supported. Do you believe this firm teaching of the Church?

Did you know that in Canada priests and Christian ministers have already been brought before tribunals for preaching and teaching in support of marriage? They are charged with "hate speech" against homosexuality. In light of the tyranny of choice growing each day in our own beloved country, we ought to be ready for similar attacks on religious freedom. We must not fail to preach the Gospel. We can not withhold the truth of our faith. That is why I will never be silent about human life. It is why I am proud of so many others - bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity - who are not afraid to speak out about the values that matter most. What about you?!

Our Lord told His apostles that they would be hated by the world, just as He was. Nearly all of them died a martyr's death. As warriors in the Church militant, we must never resort to violence. But we must stand up fearlessly against the agents of death, the enemies of human life. Human beings are not Satan, but we know too well that they can come under his spell. They can become willing agents of death, numbed and poisoned in this culture of death. What about you?!

As we begin this month of November, the month of the Church, let us call upon the Saints to inspire us, befriend us, and pray for us. Let us offer many prayers and sacrifices for the poor souls who have gone before us. They need our meritorious suffrages to help them reach heaven.

And let us resolve to be warriors of the Church militant; warriors with our eyes fixed on heaven. Let us ask God's mercy and strength to persevere in our call - individual and collective - to holiness. Mary, Mother of the Church, Pray for us!

29 October 2008

Spiritual Sloth

Like many people I will be very glad when the campaign season is over and the constant saturation of our lives with political messages and debate has ceased. It has been a constant challenge particularly in what will likely be the most important election for several generations to maintain proper focus on our spiritual lives. I came across the following in the book "The Light of the World" by Benedict Baur O.S.B. which is a book of meditations for Sundays and weekdays of the liturgical year. It deals with Spiritual Sloth and the danger it poses in growing in virtue.

"Brethren: See how you walk circumspectly, not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." The times are indeed evil, filled with temptations, allurements, and dangers for our unstable supernatural aspirations and efforts. The chief danger and difficulty lie in our natural inclination toward spiritual sloth, which hinders us in our attempts to make use of our time for God and for the cultivation of a deep spirituality. the three chief forms of spiritual sloth are distraction, melancholy or depression of spirit, and occupation with unnecessary things.

Distraction is a state in which we are occupied with things which should not occupy us at the time. It is a "sin without a body." Distractions work in silence and call no attention to themselves. In fact, one of the most dangerous aspects of distractions is the fact that we scarcely notice that we are distracted. They are like a cancerous growth on our spiritual life, which gives birth to many unwholesome conditions, such as dissatisfaction with ourselves, a critical attitude toward others, a restless desire to justify ourselves, and an unhealthy tendency to criticize others. it destroys our recollection in prayer, makes us listless after our Holy Communion, causes us to fulfill our dties without zeal, and fills us with an verpowering distate for mortification. This condition causes us to postpone until later deeds which we should do this very day and moment. We fall into a state of unrest and spiritual sloth, we no longer see God in our duties, but only an intolerable burden. distraction causes us to overburden ourselves with too many oral prayers and too many outward practices of piety.

Spiritual melancholy - No other condition in the spiritual life can lead to so many grievous sins as melancholy. It is opposed to humility, since it makes us quarrelsome and contentious rather than patient. We have lost the courage necessary to break with our faults and imperfections. We inwardly turn to creatures and seek consolation from them. We want to be noticed and recognized, and we think that others ought to know how we feel and how we travail and suffer. It gives the devil power over our soul. It weakens and impedes the effetiveness of the sacraments. it makes sweet things bitter, and causes the salutary instruments of the spiritual life to act like poison. We can no longer find God, and this very difficulty plunges us into a deeper melancholy. (What he is describing here should not be confused with spiritual dryness or the "dark night of the soul" as described by St. John of the Cross.) The chief source of such deep melancholy is the tendency to be less concerned with God and His honor and will than with our own will and what is pleasing to us. [The goal of our spiritual effort should be God's honor and glory, not our own spiritual progress.]

Preoccupation with unnecessary things. There perhaps never was a time when men were so prone to become absorbed in unnecessary things as now. They are tempted on all sides to waste their precious time in an inordinate and excessive preoccupation with lectures, newspapers, radio, movies, sports, etc. In our own age we could add even many more distractions. (It is important to note his qualifier here of inordinate and excessive preoccupation with . . .) This preoccupation impairs our spirit of prayer and recollection, and prevents us from giving ourselves entirely to God.

27 October 2008

Our Lady of Victory Novena

The novena prayer to Our Lady of Victory whose intercession led to the defeat of the Turkish Navy at the Battle of Lepanto can be prayed between now and the election for the defeat of the 'culture of death.'

Let us pray:

Our Lady of Victory, we have unshaken confidence in your influence with your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Humbly we ask your intercession for all of us associated under your title, Our Lady of Victory.We beg your powerful assistance also for our own personal needs. (Please mention here your special intention in you own words.) In your maternal kindness please ask Jesus to forgive all our sins and failings, and to secure His blessings for us and for all the works of charity dedicated to your name. We implore you to obtain for us the grace of sharing Christ’s victory and yours forever in the life that knows no ending. May we join you then to praise forever the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, one God, for all the ages to come. Amen.

22 October 2008

Where are the Poor?

There is a re-print of an article by Dorothy Day titled, "Where are the Poor?" which can be read at the ChesterBelloc website. In it she quotes from the 1952 Christmas letter of Pope Pius XII which bears repeating here.

If we were convinced of the need, if our consciences were aroused, how much could we not do, even those of most modest income, in the way of helping the poor. We must reprint, and read again and again the words of Pope Pius XII, who cried out two years ago in a most noble encyclical, Christmas 1952.

"While our thoughts dwell on these scenes of poverty and utter destitution," he writes, "Our heart fills with anxiety and is overwhelmed, we can say, by a sadness unto death. We are thinking of the consequences of poverty,still more of the consequences of utter destitution. For some families there is a dying daily, a dying hourly: a dying multiplied, especially for parents, by the number of dear ones they behold suffering and wasting away. Meanwhile sickness becomes more serious, because not properly treated; it strikes little ones in particular, because preventive measures are lacking. Then there is the weakening and consequent physical deterioration of whole generations.

We cannot conclude without mentioning that the very best charitable organization would not suffice of itself alone to assist those in need. Personal action must intervene, full of solicitude, anxious to overcome the distance between helper and helped, drawing near to the poor because he is Christ's brother and our own.

"The great temptation in an age which calls itself social--when besides the Church, the state, the municipality and other public bodies devote themselves so much to social problems--is that when the poor man knocks on the door, people, even believers will just send him away to an agency or social center, to an organization, thinking that their personal obligation has been sufficiently fulfilled by their contributions in taxes or voluntary gifts to those institutions.

"Undoubtedly the poor man will receive your help that way but often he counts also on yourselves, at least on your words of kindness and comfort. Your charity ought to resemble God's, Who came in person to bring His help.

"These considerations encourage us to call on your personal collaboration. The poor, those whom life has rudely reduced to straightened circumstances, the unfortunate of every kind, await it. In so far as it depends on you, strive that none shall say any more, as once did the man in the Gospel who had been infirm for 38 years: 'Lord, I have no one.'"

21 October 2008

Feast of Bl. Charles of Austria

Lt. Colonel James Bogle, a Knight of Malta in Great Britain, together with his wife Joanna wrote a wonderful book on the life of Blessed Charles and his wife, Empress Zita. He gave a condensed version along with his first hand description of the Beatification Mass in 2004 which was published in the The Remnant newspaper in 2005. You can read the whole story here and below are a few excerpts. I also posted on him last year which you can read by following the label for this post below.

Successor of the Roman Emperors of that Roman Empire of the christened Constantine I, of the Catholic Byzantium of Justinian and, lastly, of Charlemagne, the progenitor of that empire that truly did last for 1,000 years from Christmas Day 800 AD until its dissolution under the attacks of the Bonapartist Republicans in 1806,the Blessed Emperor Charles is indeed a most fitting exemplar of Christian chivalry.

I shall recount a little of the events of these days but I first invite you to consider the time in which Divine Providence chose to unfold His revelation of the beatitude of His servant and chevalier.

The Feast Day of the Blessed Emperor Charles had been chosen by the Holy Father, at the behest of the Habsburg family, to be 21 October, being not the day of his death but rather the day of his wedding to Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma. Empress Zita herself had two sisters who were cloistered nuns in the convent of St. Cecilia at Ryde on the Isle of Wight – a Benedictine convent still much blessed by God and most worthy of a visit.

It comes therefore but 10 days before the Feast of Christ the King in the old calendar and 1 month before the same feast in the new calendar. Friday 8 October 2004is the Feast of St. Birgitta (Bridget) of Sweden, Princess of Nericia of the House of Persson, Bengtsdotter and Gudmarsson. Our Lord in vision appeared to her and
gave her the most harrowing descriptions of his Passion and of the Passion of the Blessed Virgin – harrowing but imbued with the deepest mystical significance. Our Lord was at pains to extol to her the spirit of chivalry as the safest path leading to sainthood, the spirit of disinterested and self-denying service for the common good. He said to her, in a vision: “A knight who keeps the laws of his order is exceedingly dear to me. For if it is hard for a monk to wear his heavy habit, it is harder still for a knight to wear his heavy armour.” The Blessed Emperor Charles exemplified that chivalric spirit.

This spirit is meant to signify an interior attitude of the soul to accomplish God’s will whatever the cost, a disposition of mind whereby in the revelations of St. Birgitta the faithful knight and the self-denying, cloistered and most hidden nun or monk are at one. She explains that the Christian cavalier (or lady) gives his or her life to Christ and “orders his (or her) life according to the commandments of Christ, he represses the wicked and aids the humble in the community to obtain their rights. He shall therefore enter into everlasting joy; Christ Himself is the Head of the Christian knights’ army, the Holy Cross his royal banner and Christ’s passion is the fight against the enemy of mankind and his temptations.”

16 October 2008

Hierarchical Organization of Society

Bishop George Speltz, former bishop of St. Cloud Minnesota wrote his doctoral thesis on the importance of rural life based on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. He brings to bear these philosophical principles on the socio-economic problems of today.

According to St. Thomas this cooperation of men as social beings is not carried on in strict equality, i.e., men do not cooperate on one horizontal plane to achieve a common good. His teaching on this question is clear. Nature doe not incline men to cooperate on one horizontal level; rather it incline them to cooperate on many diverse functional levels to form an ordered hierarchy. Men are not equal in all things, though they do possess in common a rational nature a common origin, and destiny. They differ accidentally in power of intellect, will, and of body. Consequently, they differ in their contribution to and participation in the benefits of the common good. These differences among men, St. Thomas regards as one of the necessary conditions of true order within any social or economic group having autonomous existence within the state. Thus the functional and hierarchical organization of the manor is according to man's nature. It provided for the opportunity of socio-economic cooperation on a local basis, and it provided for individual differences. As a consequence of this fact of individual differences in men, there will classes in society. But it need not be that the membership within these classes should be static. Thomistic philosophy with much reason insists that the classes which naturally form in society be subordinated one to another, is a true inner unity within a hierarchy. The absence of this ordering is a cause of many contemporary socio-economic evils.

15 October 2008

The Bailout of Finance Capitalism

On the Remnant Newspaper website there is an online column dealing with the recent financial crisis and how to resolve the crisis according to Catholic social teaching. It is a good article to explain and understand why the violation of Catholic principles is responsible for this mess and how by properly ordering our lives on these principles we can began to restore our economy and society at large. As neither political party is willing or able to understand the nature of the problem we are justifibly pessimistic that conditions will improve anytime soon and that a greater danger lies ahead if people start to believe that solutions are to be found along socialist lines. One interesting item he mentions is the concept of "just price." We constantly hear about a "just wage" for employees but rarely the equally important concept of "just price."

The Catholic doctrine of the just price is another moral lens through which to view these transactions. In summary, it is a violation of justice to sell something for more than (or buy something for less than) its just price. For our purposes the definition of just price can be summarized as the general estimation of the value of human needs satisfied by the thing sold. Although in a particular case this may be difficult to calculate, it is an objective standard not based on the particular needs of a transaction participant. Just because I am very hungry, does not mean you can charge more than the common estimation of the price of a sandwich merely because I am in greater need of it. Let us apply the just price theory to the housing market.

Although Americans have been indoctrinated to think that they own their homes, such a belief is a mere delusion. A simple definition of ownership encompasses the ability to retain the possession and use of a thing. All one needs to do is fail to make a mortgage payment and he will learn that he does not own the house where he lives, as millions of Americans have been realizing daily.

It takes only a modicum of common sense to realize that if I do not pay for something I do not own it (unless it has been given to me as a gift). When a bank has paid 85%, 90% or even over 100% of the purchase price (as in negative equity mortgages) of a house how can we with a straight face claim that the consumer “owns’ that house? In substance the bank has bought the house at one price (the purchase price paid to the seller) and is reselling it over time to the borrower at a higher price.

Given the staggering amounts of money repaid over a loan’s life as seen in the chart above, can we really claim that the bank is reselling the house at its just price? This is especially true when we compare the rates of residential home appreciation over long periods of time (excluding the recent artificial bubble of value growth which has popped).

Unless the Lord Build the House

Many people are panicked and stressed by the current state of the economy. The politicians, economists, media, everyone has an opinion on, who's to blame, who can fix, how we can fix etc. But very few people (and nobody in the above groups) realize that our first step toward fixing these problems, and even those in our personal lives, can be found in Psalm 127:

Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.

Unless the Lord watch over the city, in vain does the guard keep vigil.

It is vain for you to rise early and put off your rest at night,

You who toil for the bread you eat, when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber.

Children too are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children born in one's youth.

Blessed are they whose quivers are full, they will never be shamed contending with their foes at the gate.

12 Week Old Preborn Baby Picture

I showed my 2 year old this image on a card this morning and asked him if he knew what it was. After looking closely at if for a few seconds (it was a small picture) he replied "Baby." If a small child can easily recognize that, why is it so difficult for adults?

13 October 2008

What Are We Defending?

The duty of a knight is to defend the sick and the poor. This picture needs no commentary only prayers for the people who seek to destroy the innocent child.

11 October 2008

Bl. Pope John XXIII - Bailiff Order of Malta

Today is the memorial for the newest member of The Order of Malta to be beatified, Blessed Pope John XXIII. After Napolean forced the Order out of Malta there was a period of uncertainty regarding the future of the Order. They relocated to Rome in 1834, later in 1879 Pope Leo XIII restored the grand mastership of the Order and then in June of 1961 after nearly 10 years of deliberation Pope John XXIII approved the new Constitutional Charter of the Order.

By this time, an important new development had been underway since the 1920s: the appointment of Knights and Dames of Magistral Grace which is to say, knights and dames, mostly outside of Europe, who were not of noble descent but by the grace and favor of the Grand Master were admitted to what had previously been a category restricted to nobility.

He also contributed to the development of the 2nd class members of the Order, those In Obedience.

When he met with the Knights in Obedience in 1961, Blessed John XXIII provided them with his own motto: Obedientia et Pax. Angelo Roncalli had adopted this moto when he was ordained a bishop, and it became the guiding principle of his life. John XXIII took these words from Cesare Baronius, who used to say them every time he kissed the foot of the statue of St. Peter.

Baronius was the most eminent historian of his day, and also a close friend of St. Philip Neri. St. Philip knew that someone with Cesare’s abilities would receive adulation (he was named a cardinal), and in many ways great and small he called his friend to a deep spirit of humility. For example, in spite of Baronius’s erudition St. Philip assigned him to work in the kitchen, so much so that Baronius wrote his name on the wall, followed by the words: “perpetual cook.”
From the example of Cardinal Baronius, Angelo Roncalli drew the lesson that obedience meant a willingness to let go of one’s own preferences, to accept whatever duties needed to be done, and not to take one’s position too seriously. In this way, obedience leads to peace. John XXIII confided at the end of his life that this was the secret of his serenity.

To enter into the Second Class of our Order should thus be understood, not as a step up, but as a step down. Pre-eminence in a Christian context is tied to deeper humility and greater generosity

09 October 2008

Vote for Pedro

Here's a light-hearted look at campaigns.

The Poor You Will Have With You Always

Recent comments from prominent Catholic voices have argued that it is better to vote for Sen. Obama despite his rabid anti-life views and his support of other evils that the Catholic Church considers intrinisically evil; embryonic stem cell research, contraception (how else do you think he plans to reduce the number of abortions?) refusal to define marriage as between man and woman. They justify this by suggesting that the abortion issue is lost, Roe v. Wade won't be overturned and besides Obama will do more to reduce abortion through his economic policies (again read massive funding for contraception and Planned Parenthood) and that by eliminating poverty we will ultimately end abortion.

Now forget for a moment that the Church has stated that there is a hierarchy of values to consider and She says that voting for a pro-death candidates even though they want universal healthcare, or oppose the war in Iraq, simply is not justified. There is something more to consider if we carefully look at their argument that abortion/Roe v. Wade are lost causes as currently fought and we must look at alternatives to ending aboriton, i.e., getting rid of poverty.

But Jesus told us that the poor you will have with you always,

And the disciples seeing it had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste? For this might have been sold for much and given to the poor. And Jesus knowing it, said to them: Why do you trouble this woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me. For the poor you have always with you: but Me you have not always.
Now clearly this does not mean we ignore the poor or that we don't try and work to alleviate the conditions and causes of poverty which we certainly must do. But it would seem that from this that our ultimate success in eliminating poverty is that that it won't happen. So what expectation can we have of ending abortion by economic means if Jesus told us "the poor you have always with you?" It would seem very slim. And as I noted a couple other times the Obama plan to solve abortion is to make contraception freely available which is contrary to Church teaching. You cannot use unjust means to solve a problem no matter how important that problem is.

In this passage we see also a hierarchy of values. Certainly the money spent on the perfume would have helped a few of "the poor" but it is more important to honor God first. As St. Thomas More said, "I am the King's good servant, but God's first." While we have an obligation to help the poor we cannot abandon the innocent to be slaughtered. We must continue to fight abortion and not despair that the cause is lost. There is no cause that is lost except for the one we quit.

08 October 2008

The Door of God's Love Poured Out to the World

The Sacred Heart of Jesus, "the door through which the eternal love of the Father is poured out on the world" (Pope John Paul II, Homily, Solemn Eucharistic Celebration, America's Center, St. Louis, Jan. 27, 1999, n. 1c).
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been known since the earliest ages of the Church though our understanding of this devotion has grown and developed since then. In his encyclical on devotion to the Sacred Heart Pope Pius XII commented on this development.

"We are convinced, then, that the devotion which we are fostering to the love of God and Jesus Christ for the human race by means of the revered symbol of the Pierced Heart of the crucified Redeemer has never been altogether unknown to the piety of the faithful, although it has become more clearly known and has spread in a remarkable manner throughout the Church in quite recent times. ...

"But if men have always been deeply moved by the Pierced Heart of the Savior to a worship of that infinite love with which He embraces mankind ... it must yet be admitted that it was only by a very gradual advance that the honors of a special devotion were offered to that Heart as depicting the love, human and divine, which exists in the Incarnate Word" (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Haurietas Aquas [May 25, 1956], nn. 90 and 93).

Devotion to the Sacred Heart becomes increasingly necessary in those times like our own when we see love of God growing cold and indifferent, if not openly hostile, as evidenced by numerous recent acts of desecration of the Blessed Eucharist to which this devotion is intimately united.

When Garcia Moreno of Ecuador became president he sought to save his country by consecrating it to the Sacred Heart and what blessings from Heaven were showered upon that little country. During this election year we see our country divided more than ever in so many ways. And the cause of this division is primarily a result of the moral breakdown that has been building for generations. Pray that more of our Catholic politicians follow the examples of St. Thomas More, Blessed Charles of Austria, and Garcia Moreno rather than compromising and equivocating with the world.

As the family is the basic unit of society and consequently the focus of the attack by our enemies it is necessary then that the renewal of our social life begin with the the family. We need a renewed devotion to the Sacred Heart which we can begin by enthroning the Sacred Heart in our homes. Father Mateo Crawley, the Apostle of the Sacred Heart, wrote and preached endlessly on this devotion and gave us the practical means to accomplish it. There is much wonderful information on this devotion and for an introduction I would suggest reading Archbishop Burke's four articles that were published in the diocesan newspaper of St. Louis and can be found posted at the Women for Faith and Family website.

Fr. Mateo was a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart and they continue to be responsible for spreading this devotion and providing materials for the Enthronement and Night Adoration in the Home. You can find more information here.

I can provide no further incentive for this devotion than the words of Fr. Mateo himself,

“As the family is the necessary foundation and the original source of Christian and social vitality, I am convinced that there is no apostolate which can bring about more effectively the reign of the Lord over individuals and collectivity's than that which enthrones Him precisely as King of the Family.”


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