Apr 252016
 

There has been a lot of virtual ink spilt over this one footnote in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”

This little footnote has become like a Rorschach test for Catholics who see what they want to see in it.

Still while the concept of the Eucharist as medicine is nothing new, it did get me thinking about all those medicine commercials with a list of side effects half the length of the commercial. So I came up with this:

Previously posted by Ed Peters.

Some seem upset that I agreed with Pope Francis that the Eucharist is “powerful medicine” for sinners, a figure of speech the pope used in Amoris laetitiae fn. 351 (see also his Evangelii gaudium 47). May I suggest that those objecting to the pope’s phrasing, and my agreement with it, need to familiarize themselves better with the Church’s rich understanding of the Eucharist. Doing so will, I think, enable them not only to see what is profoundly right about the pope’s choice of words, but help them to articulate what is profoundly missing from it.

The bounteous effects of the Eucharist, specifically in regard to forgiveness of and preservation from sin, are laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1393-1395, 1436, and 1846. These passages amply support the pope’s phrasing in fn 351. But missing from the pope’s commentary here is an acknowledgement that, as is true of a “powerful medicine”, taking the Eucharist improperly can be harmful, even spiritually deadly, to the recipient.

I don’t expect a footnote to contain every nuance of Church teaching or else a footnote would become another document with it’s own footnotes and on and one. So my prescription is to drink a glass of water and just read Church documents with the mind of the Church.

Apr 202016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 7 April 2016 to 20 April 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Regina Cæli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Love is the only light which can constantly illuminate a world grown dim.” @Pontifex 14 April 2016
  • “In the darkest hours of a family’s life, union with Jesus can help avoid a breakup.” @Pontifex 15 April 2016
  • “Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such.” @Pontifex 15 April 2016
  • “Today is Benedict XVI’s birthday. Let us remember him in our prayers and thank God for giving him to the Church and the world.” @Pontifex 16 April 2016
  • “Each vocation in the Church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus, who forgives us and calls us to follow Him.” @Pontifex 17 April 2016
  • “We pray for the earthquake victims in Ecuador and Japan. May God and all our brothers and sisters give them help and support.” @Pontifex 18 April 2016
  • “The royal road to peace is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be embraced.” @Pontifex 19 April 2016
  • “To form a family is to be a part of God’s dream, to join him in building a world where no one will feel alone.” @Pontifex 20 April 2016
Apr 182016
 

Jeff Cavins latest book When You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and Understanding is aptly titled. Added to the well known “Death and Taxes” should be added “suffering” as something guaranteed for us. Jesus did not say “If you happen to have a cross, pick it up.” It is how we handle suffering that is the crux of the matter (use pun intended as always).

So how do we handle suffering without losing hope? The whole modern world seems to be aimed at eliminating suffering, but not dealing with suffering we can’t avoid. Often to eliminate the suffering they would eliminate the sufferer. Still in a Christian context there is much more to suffering than mere endurance.

For Catholics we will often hear “offer it up” and we might even have some grasp of what that means. Some of us might even be able to point to 1st Colossians 1:24.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking* in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God …

That somehow we can unite our sufferings with the redemptive suffering of Christ. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen use to speak about the tragedy of “wasted suffering” in hospitals. Yet even knowing some of this it is easy to have a trite understanding of this. Which is why I found Jeff Cavins new book to be very useful in explaining this and making the proper distinctions.

This review of the book puts this succinctly:

Cavins separates suffering into two categories: physical and moral. Physical is temporal, of this earth. It is temporary. Moral, on the other hand, can have eternal consequences and lead to the loss of eternal life. He also states that there are different purposes for suffering. Punitive is suffering as the result of sin. In a statement that many people today would be uncomfortable with, he maintains that God does punish us, but He does it for our good. However, not all suffering is punishment for sin. Some suffering is probative, or a testing of our faith. Other suffering is disciplinary, in which God is trying to educate us, once again for our benefit.

The impetus for this book was a period of serious physical pain that Jeff Cavins went through. No doubt he had a fairly good grasp of redemptive suffering before-hand, but the concrete often challenges our intellectual understandings. As a result his winsome writing on the subject delves into the intellectual understanding of the subject and the practical day-to-day aspects of living through suffering.

But if we can attach meaning to our suffering, if there is some value in what we are experiencing, we can endure anything.

There is a good deal I am tempted to quote from the book, but more to the point I think this book is a very useful guide to the subject. A book I will be keeping at hand myself.

Apr 132016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 17 March 2016 to 13 April 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

Apostolic Exhortation

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The phenomenon of migration raises a serious cultural issue which necessarily demands a response.” @Pontifex 31 March 2016
  • “Passing through the Holy Door, let us put our trust in God’s grace, which can change our lives.” @Pontifex 1 April 2016
  • “To be merciful means to grow in a love which is courageous, generous and real.” @Pontifex 2 April 2016
  • “Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” @Pontifex 3 April 2016
  • “Christian faith is a gift which we receive in Baptism and which allows us to encounter God.” @Pontifex 4 April 2016
  • “The Lord asks us to be men and women who radiate the truth, beauty and the life-changing power of the Gospel.” @Pontifex 5 April 2016
  • “The Jubilee is a year-long celebration, in which every moment becomes a chance for us to grow in holiness.” @Pontifex 6 April 2016
  • “I encourage you to bear witness to Christ in your personal life and families: a witness of gratuitousness, solidarity, spirit of service.” @Pontifex 7 April 2016
  • “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The family is the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The word of God is a source of comfort for every family that experiences difficulty or suffering.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The family is a good which society cannot do without, and it ought to be protected.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “People with disabilities are a gift for the family and an opportunity to grow in love, mutual aid and unity.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “No one can think that the weakening of the family will prove beneficial to society as a whole.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “The strength of the family lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “Our teaching on marriage and the family cannot fail to be inspired by the message of love and tenderness.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “Every family, despite its weaknesses, can become a light in the darkness of the world.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “In our families, we must learn to imitate Jesus’ own gentleness.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “Love opens our eyes and enables us to see the great worth of a human being.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “Each new life allows us to appreciate the utterly gratuitous dimension of love.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “It is important for a child to feel wanted. He or she is not an accessory or a solution to some personal need.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “Open and caring families find a place for the poor.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “The divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. They are not excommunicated.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “To know how to forgive and feel forgiven is a basic experience in family life.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “Fidelity has to do with patience. Its joys and sacrifices bear fruit as the years go by.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “Children are a wonderful gift from God and a joy for parents.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “The family is where we first learn to listen and share, to be patient and show respect, to help one another.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “The home is the place where we learn to appreciate the beauty of the faith, to pray and serve our neighbor.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “It is essential that children see that prayer is something truly important for their parents.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “To understand, forgive, accompany and integrate. That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “The Church must pattern her behavior after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever, it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “The Lord’s presence dwells in families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.” @Pontifex 13 April 2016

Papal Instagram

Apr 112016
 

Handed Down: The Catholic Faith of the Early Christians by Jim Papandrea. Published by Catholic Answers Press.

There are plenty of Catholic apologetic books showing the falseness of the idea of Sola Scriptura. As a part of this the subject of Apostolic Tradition is often covered in part. This book goes more in-depth regarding Apostolic Tradition and charts some of the development of doctrine as these traditions handed down become concrete in Church teaching. This charting is done via the Early Church Fathers.

Each Chapter of the book addresses a specific topic and uses a “Featured Father” to illustrate what the Church teaches via that Father’s writings. A brief biography of that Father is given along with sections of their writings. Beyond this each chapter incorporated this aspect with a fuller explanation of the doctrine and the historical context fleshed out.

This is written in such a way to not just be citations from the Fathers, but a coherent look at how a Catholic doctrine was taught early on. Plus this is written in such a ways as to not be just a dry account, but more as a story. I enjoy this format as I have from other authors writing on the Church Fathers in recent years.

A worthwhile read and once again Catholic Answers Press delivers the goods.

I would also point you to this review of the book which provides a far better summary of the book.

Saints Who Battled Satan: Seventeen Holy Warriors Who Can Teach You How to Fight the Good Fight and Vanquish Your Ancient Enemy by Paul Thigpen. Published by TAN Books.

Really all you need to now is that this is a new book from Paul Thigpen and for me that is enough to want to read it. A couple of his daily mediation books like A Year with Mary: Daily Meditations on the Mother of God and A Year With the Saints: Daily Meditations with the Holy Ones of God are daily companions. His book Manual for Spiritual Warfare published in 2014 is outstanding and it right drew applause. In some ways his new book is a followup to his book on spiritual warfare. I would guess his extensive research on the subject was an impetus to it.

This book takes the lessons of spiritual warfare and shows how it was concrete in the lives of the saints. Interestingly he starts with the story of Adam and Eve. A case in point that not all spiritual warfare is successful. Where pride rules, the battle is lost. Still it made perfect sense that the first saint he covers is Mary, the New Eve. As she is our solitary boast it is she of whom we should imitate and intercede to for protection. Next up is St. Joseph who has been called the Terror of Demons.

As we move into the life of St. Paul we start to see more solid examples regarding the spiritual life and concrete examples of spiritual warfare. Apt since St. Paul put into military terms this spiritual warfare. St. Paul gives us so many examples of the cross were are to embrace when we try to grow in holiness. Much to learn here in this chapter.

The book then starts to move on to the early martyrs, early church fathers, and other saints up to the present day. When I started reading this book I mentally made a list of the saints who would illustrate this the best. While the ones I really expected were referenced, I was surprised by other saints that I had not thought about in this connection. I also believed I was well-aware of stories regarding St. Teresa of Avila and was interested for find more.

One thing I found reading these stories is that it was easy to fall into a skeptical view regarding this as exuberant hagiographies. That was what I was thinking about such stories long in the past, then it dawned on me that I was not skeptical regarding very similar stories of saints in more modern times such as St. Pio or St. John Vianney. Stories regarding them are rather well-attested. So I realized my skeptical dividing line was rather arbitrary.

A fascinating read with lots of wisdom from the saints.

Messy & Foolish: How to Make a Mess, Be a Fool, And Evangelize the World by Matthew Warner.

This is a short but very annoying book on evangelization. I thought I had sufficiently immunized myself against personal evangelization efforts and this punched through my excuses. So if you had built up excuses why you don’t have to personally do this, then avoid this book. An enticing short read only makes it more dangerous.

Seriously though, I really like how he has taken Pope Francis’s “Make a mess” and provides a framework around it. While I understood what the Pope was getting at by this phrase, it was not a phrase I was particularly warm towards. I really liked how Matthew Warner has put this into context and provided good real world examples of when you have to make a mess before you can put something in order.

I was more open at the start to being a fool as St. Paul laid the groundwork towards being a fool for Christ (1 Cor 4:10) and saints such as St. Francis elaborated just what this means.

I totally enjoyed how this book could be both light-hearted, but not light on actual content. Really I wished parishes would buy this book in bulk to be given out.

Mar 302016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 24 March 2016 to 30 March 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Annointed with the oil of gladness to pass on the joy of the Gospel.” @Pontifex 24 March 2016
  • “Jesus loved us. Jesus loves us. Without limit, always, to the end.” @Pontifex 24 March 2016
  • “Impress, Lord, in our hearts the sentiments of faith, hope, love and sorrow for our sins.” @Pontifex 25 March 2016
  • “The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world.” @Pontifex 25 March 2016
  • “To live Easter means to enter into the mystery of Jesus who died and rose for us.” @Pontifex 26 March 2016
  • “Jesus Christ is risen! Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!” @Pontifex 26 March 2016
  • “Every Christian is a “Christopher”, that is, a bearer of Christ!” @Pontifex 27 March 2016
  • “Jesus shows us the real face of God, for whom power does not mean destruction but love, and for whom justice is not vengeance but mercy.” @Pontifex 28 March 2016
  • “If we open ourselves up to welcome God’s mercy for ourselves, in turn we become capable of forgiveness.” @Pontifex 30 March 2016

Papal Instagram

Mar 302016
 

At the end of his weekly general audience today, Pope Francis pointed to the sky and said Mother Angelica “is in heaven”.

The Holy Father gave his blessing and made the remark to members of EWTN’s Rome bureau as he greeted the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.

The staff had brought with them an image of EWTN’s founder as a sign of affection and remembrance for Mother Angelica after she passed away on Easter Sunday at the age of 92. National Catholic Register.

In response to the Pope’s action todays several noted theologians are divided on the theological significance of the Pope’s index finger point to Heaven with a statement referring to Mother Angelica.

Fr. Cyrus Winfield questioned the idea of whether the Pope’s digitus secundus pointing up exercised an infallible act. He noted the missing of words such as “formally declare or define” and the context regarding speaking to a group of faithful and not to the whole Church. He said “While this is certainly in the area of faith it is uncertain as to whether this must be held by the whole Church or locally such as in regards to beautifications.”

Lay theologian Irvin Brock, who entered the Church last year, had more definite ideas about this. “If the Pope had simply said she “is in Heaven” than this would be a simple case of him speaking off-the-cuff and would in no way have have invoked the charism of infallibility.“ He went on to say “Still that combined with the finger pointing in the traditional direction of Heaven makes this a totally different act. This could be papal sign language for “I define” we will just have to wait and see.

In the meantime Fr. Lombardi has not yet issued a statement regarding this.

Mar 292016
 

pablo_berlin_2016-Mar-27

When I had first read on Twitter that Mother Angelica had died I was surprised to find myself tearing up. This was not unexpected news as reports from EWTN had mentioned here physical decline. This hit me anyway. This these were tears of joyful sadness. A mix of emotions from my own sense of gratitude towards her and her work.

It is etched in my mind when I first came across Mother Angelica. I was in my limbo between atheism and theism moving towards Christianity where I was devouring the shelves of the library and searching on the internet. It was early 1997 when I came across the home page of EWTN which had a prominent picture of her. I remember just how much I was struck by her photo. “What they still have nuns who look like this?” Still I found their discussions forums and bookmarked the site. The internet archive first shows EWTN having a web presence in late 1996 with a very barebones page. I had no idea who Mother Angelica was and had never even heard of her.

When I retired from the Navy and moved from Virginia to Florida I had my next run in with Mother Angelica. Flipping channels I ran across EWTN and her program and was instantly hooked. I was quite disappointed to find out that EWTN at the time was only available for 3 hours a day by my cable provider. Still the channel soon to become a mainstay for me. I even remember the first episode of Mother Angelica Live that I watched where she had Fr. Groeschel on as a guest talking about his book “In the Presence of Our Lord”. Now if Mother Angelica’s appearance caught me by surprised originally, the same could be said for Fr. Benedict Groeschel. In this day and age? The banter between them quite amused me. Wow these odd looking Catholics can be pretty funny. His book was the first Catholic book I purchased.

I soon found that we had a local Catholic radio station Queen of Peace WQOP. I later found out it was only one of three Catholic radio stations in the country. I remember devouring content from the radio. I even recorded hours of the show on cassette to listen to later at work. I remember it driving me crazy that I could not get their signal within the walls at work. Catholic Answers Live soon became another addiction back when it was available for one hour during weekdays.

I owe such a massive debt to Mother Angelica and the media network she created. The content she freely provided enabled local efforts to startup Catholic radio stations. Having freely available content is the main factor in why there are over 300 Catholic radio stations in the U.S. now and the growing number outside of the country.

Before EWTN my reading was quite scattershot. I was basically just checking out a whole section of the library regarding Christianity. I had no idea what was worthwhile or not. My reading became much more directed by what I was hearing as I was becoming more and more convicted that not only was their a God, but that the Catholic Church was what Jesus founded. As important as all the book knowledge became for me, Catholic radio provided another important factor. The call in shows showed me an aspect of the Church I was not going to easily experience myself. As an introvert getting out and meeting other Catholics is an uphill battle. From the shows I learned the reality of the faith lived out. The struggles people have and the myriad difficulties within the Church. This helped me to not have an idealized picture of the Church. I found out that things are messy in the Church, but more importantly that things have always been messy in the Church. Catholic radio helped give me a dimension that my introvert tendencies was not going to easily fill out through experience.

The time period between when I first started watching Mother Angelica Live and her having a stroke was unfortunately way too short. Still I can remember so much from those episodes. I especially remember the time when she walked out on the set of her show not wearing braces on St. Thomas Aquinas’ feast day. I remember being stunned by this image and the story she told of the healing. I remember so many of the guests which sent me buying more books. I also remember the show where she had Marcus Grodi on which led to The Journey Home, a show I have seen almost every episode of. Plus who could forget her rant on a letter Cardinal Mahoney wrote on the Eucharist. Her grudging apology later was not her finest moment, but she made the effort in obedience. Most of all I remember laughing over and over at what she had to say. She had a way to make the Gospel stories so alive. She could make them alive since she knew people so well and could project attitudes in people’s reaction to Jesus. On Monday I happened to listen to a rerun of her show via podcast and was struck again at her wisdom and common sense.

In the years since being introduced to EWTN I have listened to thousands of hours of audio, now mostly via podcast. People complain about EWTN’s sets, but listening to most shows via audio this has not been important for me. Pretty much most EWTN show works just as well as audio since the content is more important than the video.

When I think about Mother Angelica what I think about is that she was the greatest evangelist in the United States since Venerable Fulton J. Sheen and that she has had even more impact. I could hardly measure all the conversions stories I have heard or read that involved people running across EWTN on TV or radio. She had a treasury of very funny conversion stories from people who wrote to her after coming across her show. The same goes for Catholic radio where on a variety of shows I hear how they impacted somebodies life. Most recently Ramona Treviño book Redeemed by Grace where she describe how helpful Catholic radio was in bring her out of Planned Parenthood.

I saw one article that described Mother Angelica network as a “media empire” and that phrase struck me as being wrong, but still being right. She enabled a whole media framework that inspired others to add on to it. There is much to complain about the state of the Church in the United States. Still there are plenty of hopeful signs and the media seeds she planted are growing. There are so many ironies regarding how a cloistered nun achieved all of this and how it was her partnership with the laity that have made her efforts something that does not pass with her. She was willing to take a back seat in her media empire since she always let the Holy Spirit drive anyway.

Her faithfulness to the Church was quite inspiring. There were plenty who wanted to pull her down or take over. She was a thorn in the side to those who wanted to water down the faith. In the biography of her life by Raymond Arroyo there are plenty of interesting stories about run ins over her network with the hierarchy. That the U.S. Bishop’s once had their own cable channel might seem surprising now, that it was less than orthodox at times is not as surprising. Her rapport with the audience was part of EWTN’s relative success. Still it was the faith presented winsomely and faithfully that had the most impact. The hard sayings go down better when your laughing hard. I recently heard Paul Darrow, who is same-sex attracted and a former international model, talk about first seeing a “Pirate nun” on TV. He relates this episode today in How the ‘Pirate Nun’ Changed a Gay Man’s Life.

There is so much talk about the Catholic Church holding women down since they see the priesthood in terms of power instead of in terms of service. Yet the greatest evangelist for the faith in recent time in the United States is neither a bishop or a priest, but a contemplative nun who built a network on total trust in the Lord. Her resume and life experience was totally at odds with what she achieved, but totally in keeping in what God can do with us when that still small voice is not drowned out.

This is one of those cathartic blog posts whose main point it to let loose what is inside and to try to show some gratitude for Mother Angelica in what she did and enabled. The great thing about the Body of Christ is that I finally get to talk to Mother Angelica and that she will pray for us as we pray for her. Her friend Phil Lawler who use to appear with her wrote about how much she would be amused to have her funeral on April Fools Day. It was fitting for her to die on Easter and fitting that her funeral is to be held on this date. Like St. Francis she was a Fool for Christ and was foolish enough to achieve what she was not qualified to do according to the world.

Requiescat in Pace

Mar 262016
 

So I noticed this series of headlines:

Basically the same basic story appeared in British news sources:

An insider on the tour added: “The band’s team were flabbergasted when the Vatican got in touch via letter and couldn’t believe their eyes.

“As much as they didn’t want to upset the Pope, they had a contract in place to play on the Friday – and in their mind they were going to honour it. They have made a promise to the Cuban people and won’t let them down.”

My spidey-senses are tingling and my first instinct is to call BS on this story (my second and third instincts as well). First off the story is being shaped as “Pope bans”, when at most it might have been someone in the Vatican. Even that seems rather fishy. Where is this letter they received? Seems to me that if The Rolling Stones management ever actually received such a letter it they would make the most of it by posting it online. It makes great publicity.

I really don’t think the Vatican is going to get involved in rock band tour dates.

Although I remember when the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper L’ Osservatore Romano decided to get into music journalism and released a list of the top ten rock and pop albums of all time.

At the time I envisioned their new direction which thankfully didn’t bear out.