Aug 252016
 

From St. Augustine’s City of God.

So we must not grumble, my brothers, for as the Apostle says: Some of them murmured and were destroyed by serpents. Is there any affliction now endured by mankind that was not endured by our fathers before us? What sufferings of ours even bear comparison with what we know of their sufferings? And yet you hear people complaining about this present day and age because things were so much better in former times. I wonder what would happen if they could be taken back to the days of their ancestors–would we not still hear them complaining? You may think past ages were good, but it is only because you are not living in them.

It amazes me that you who have now been freed from the curse, who have believed in the son of God, who have been instructed in the holy Scriptures–that you can think the days of Adam were good. And your ancestors bore the curse of Adam, of that Adam to whom the words were addressed: With sweat on your brow you shall eat your bread; you shall till the earth from which you were taken, and it will yield you thorns and thistles. This is what he deserved and what he had to suffer; this is the punishment meted out to him by the just judgment of God. How then can you think that past ages were better than your own? From the time of that first Adam to the time of his descendants today, man’s lot has been labor and sweat, thorns and thistles. Have we forgotten the flood and the calamitous times of famine and war whose history has been recorded precisely in order to keep us from complaining to God on account of our own times? Just think what those past ages were like! Is there one of us who does not shudder to hear or read of them? Far from justifying complaints about our own time, they teach us how much we have to be thankful for.

There is much just critique of the cult of progress where history is seen as a line sloping up. Progress measured by an ever changing metric.

“Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision.” G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)

At the same time there is a view taking the opposite direction of regression and decline. A nostalgic take for a world that never existed.

Both view things that we are in a point of history that intersects either a line going upward or downward. As a pessimistic/optimist I am at times drawn to both viewpoints. Still I think Dicken’s famous introduction regarding it being the best of times and the worst of times is the correct view that straddles all points of the timeline. The present is always a mixture of various rise and falls.

“I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ – though it contains some samples or glimpses of final victory.” J.R.R. Tolkien

With a clear-headedness we can see all that we have to be thankful for even in the most tumultuous of times. There has never been a time when someone could not be a saint. If anything society’s brokenness can shine a light on our own brokenness.

“At times of course it is hard to understand this profound reality, because evil is noisier than goodness; an atrocious murder, widespread violence, grave forms of injustice hit the headlines; whereas acts of love and service, the daily effort sustained with fidelity and patience are often left in the dark, they pass unnoticed” (Te Deum and First Vespers: Homily of Benedict XVI, 31 December 2012)

So easy to put a lot of effort in what’s wrong with the world and others, and little effort with the same in ourselves. I would rather rant than pray. Long for holiness while not wanting to put much effort into that desire. Knowing I suck, while seriously trying to not block the grace to reduce my suckitude.

The saints are oases around which life sprouts up and and something of the lost paradise returns. (Pope Benedict XVI Jesus of Nazareth P. 248)

Aug 182016
 

Earlier today on various social media platforms I quipped:

  • Catholic Extrovert: Catholic parishes are unwelcoming and need to change.
  • Me a Catholic Introvert: Catholic parishes are awesome, never change.

As someone with introvert tendencies I like it fine not to be bothered at Mass. Still I also realize the seeming coldness at Catholic parishes I have experienced is not something we can brag about. So my quip was definitely tongue-in-cheek.

Having listened to so much Catholic radio I realize how many out there are totally turned off by this as if they are totally unconnected to their parish. People who have left the Church have mentioned this as one reason why since they found fellowship in Protestant churches. There are many cultural shifts responsible for this.

I have been in some parishes where there is an attempt to be more welcoming, but aspects of these attempts fall flat for me. Friendly ushers that welcome you should be pretty much default. Still I find attempts at faux-community such as the request at the start of Mass to introduce yourself to your pew-neighbor, extended Kiss of Peace, and a litany of birthdays, anniversaries, “our choir is great” (usually not), and asking visitors to acknowledge themselves. All connected with rounds of clapping.

Seems to me if the central axis of a welcoming effort is the Mass, you are doing it wrong. It is understandable since the parish is no longer a rallying place for Catholic community, but a place where you go to Mass once a week. Punch that Sunday ticket and move on. Or the idea that a vibrant parish is one with amplified music lifted from the sixties.

One parish I sometimes attend seems to understand this. There seems to be a real network of parish involvement as they provide a wealth of activities and access to continuing education in the faith. They had to build a larger parish hall since they had been successful at this. A nice balance of things like movie nights to more substantial dives into learning the faith. Along with the importance of apostolates and serving the poor.

Getting people involved must be a continuing difficulty for most parishes since the volunteers are often the same small core of people. Still I imagine this can grow when paths to involvements are offered. I have no experience with CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) and similar programs. No doubt it is a step in the right direction (depending on who is facilitating the program). There are also programs like rebuilt parish which I also don’t have experience with. Still it seems to me we should be following the models of diocese who have increased Mass attendance, adherence to the faith, and vocations without gimmicks – for example the Diocese of Lincoln and Archdiocese of Denver.

The fact seems to be from anecdotal evidence that most parishes are the anti-Cheers “Nobody knows your name.” That is not a good thing.

Still as an introvert I especially like Eucharistic Adoration for reasons other than just being able to worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Yet I also long to be in community with other Catholics.

Aug 172016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from
26 July 2016 to 17 August 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

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “In Confession we encounter the merciful embrace of the Father. His love always forgives.” @Pontifex 12 August 2016
  • “May people see the Gospel in our lives: in our generous and faithful love for Christ and our brothers and sisters.” @Pontifex 13 August 2016
  • “We ask Mary, our Mother, to help us to pray with a humble heart.” @Pontifex 14 August 2016
  • “I entrust you to the maternal care of our Mother who lives in the glory of God and is always by our side on our life’s journey.” @Pontifex 15 August 2016
  • “Through the cross we can touch God’s mercy and be touched by that mercy!” @Pontifex 17 August 2016

Papal Instagram

Aug 152016
 

I created this meme as a nod to G.K. Chesterton’s “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” Where All Roads Lead – 1930

We only have existence from the one who is pure act and his essence is existence.

Still when an atheist says that he can be good without God, we can agree that they can indeed be good without a belief in God. No doubt there are many examples of atheists who are indeed morally superior than some with faith in God. Besides the natural law and our conscience is not just something doled out to believers.

Although a problem quick comes about in defining what is good without lapsing into moral relativism. Trying to define an intrinsic meaning to what is good without citing cultural norms or avenues of group dynamics to reduce tensions is not possible. They all come down to some form of enlightened self-interest. Some of these methods do lead to what is good, but don’t ultimately answer what is good.

When Jesus was trying to elicit an act of faith from The Rich Young Man he asked him “Why do you call me good?” (Mk 10:18). When it comes to atheists we can ask “What is good?”

When I was an atheist I knew I wanted to be good. Even if my understanding of what is good was nebulous. What I did know was that mostly I wasn’t good.

This failure to be good was partly since I could not define what was good. Often something I later understood to be an evil (a privation of the good) I understood as something good or at least neutral. Cultural cues affirmed me in this understanding. It is difficult to repent of moral fault that the culture affirms, especially as you feel a guilt over it. Being raised in a totally non-religious atmosphere, probably an anti-religious one, I could not understand where this guilt came from. Certainly not the idea that I might have a working conscience. As an atheist I could not possibly sin, but yet my sins were convicting me. I think of Chesterton’s quip in his autobiography in why he became Catholic “To get rid of my sins”.

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” – C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

Still it is not like coming to faith surmounts all these problems. The diagnosis is not the same thing as the cure. The tension is that as an atheist I felt mostly good while not really being good, while as a Catholic I more clearly see my myriad faults and feel gratitude over that. Yet at the same time can appreciate those atheists striving for the good, even if the good they seek is not properly apprehended. We are all on a journey of grace.

Aug 142016
 

Apparently when you have Poltergeist activity it is not the Ghostbusters, but the Catholic Church.

Police contact Catholic Church after baffling ‘poltergeist’ report

Police officers in Scotland have called in representatives from the Catholic Church after investigating reports of “disturbing incidents” of a “poltergeist” at a family home.

A mother and her teenage son were said to be “extremely distressed” after experiencing what the Daily Record describes as “violent and unexplained circumstances”.

The family, who live in South Lanarkshire, called police on Monday and Tuesday.

“The officers attended expecting it to be a mental health issue but they witnessed the lights going off, clothes flying across the room and the dog [the family’s pet Chihuahua] sitting on top of a hedge,” a police source said.

“The officers called their superiors, who also attended, thinking the cops were perhaps being a bit silly. But it’s being taken very seriously.”

A priest is understood to have blessed the house in Rutherglen after officers got in touch with the Catholic Church.

The mother and son have left their home and are now staying with relatives.

“One problem we’ve got is where we go from here, as no crime has been established, so what else can we do but deal with any reports of disturbances,” the police source said.

No doubt one the Church’s tests for the preternatural is a Chihuahua sitting on top of a hedge.

Still it does remind me of other cases where the Church was brought in over something explicable. Such as in the case the book the Exorcist was based on where the family’s Lutheran priest recommended they go to the Catholic Church for help.

Aug 112016
 

There is certainly a wealth of book regarding apologetical arguments to use with Protestants. Some that help you get across these arguments at the personal level. Devin Rose’s new book Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith combines both of these aspects.

I really enjoyed how this book was laid out. The first chapter addresses the fact that Protestantism in not monolithic in any way. So it is important to have at least a general idea of the beliefs of the major branches of Protestantism. One branch of Protestant theology might be at odds with a specific aspect of Catholicism while will either practice or be close to the same belief. So when talking to someone you have to have some idea where they are coming from and what their specific nuances are.

Most importantly one of the underpinnings of this book is being in relationship with people. He describes several of his experiences with co-workers in getting to know them. It was only in getting to know people that he was able to decide when to broach subjects regarding religion or whether to broach the subject at all. While reading this I was thinking of the phrase used in apologetics “Win an argument, lose a soul.” This book is very aware of that pitfall and he references conversations he had over a period of time. There is always the pratfall of Biblical ping-pong slinging verses back and forth and point-scoring. So there is also prudence involved in knowing a conversation just is not going to be fruitful for either party.

Along the way the book builds on fruitful avenues when working with Protestants and some of the typical blindspots. Lots of solid apologetic material. Again though the strength of this book is relationships and how to have conversations on these subjects that actually brings light instead of heat.

Aug 102016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 July 2016 to 10 August 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.

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “God’s forgiveness knows no limits…God looks at the heart that seeks forgiveness. #Assisi #Porziuncola” @Pontifex 4 August 2016
  • “Good luck to the athletes at #Rio2016! May you always be messengers of goodwill and true sporting spirit.” @Pontifex 5 August 2016
  • “We oppose hatred and destruction with goodness. We live in societies of different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and sisters.” @Pontifex 7 August 2016
  • “When there is dialogue in the family, tensions are easily resolved.” @Pontifex 8 August 2016
  • “We ask for respect for indigenous peoples whose very identity and existence are threatened.” @Pontifex 9 August 2016
  • “A society made up of different cultures must seek unity in respect.” @Pontifex 10 August 2016

Papal Instagram

Aug 082016
 

Whenever Trent Horn of Catholic Answers releases a new book I am always eager to read it. This time around he writes about Bible difficulties taking a systematic approach to approaching these difficulties and hard sayings.

Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties

I have read some books in this area, but as Trent Horn notes there is generally little by Catholic on the subject in recent times. I read and enjoyed Free from All Error: Authorship Inerrancy Historicity of Scripture, Church Teaching, and Modern Scripture Scholars from the late Fr. Most. Still this is an area that continuously needs to be addressed especially as the new atheism takes a fundamentalist jab at scriptural passages.

What I most like about this book is that it builds up a series of rules to use in interpretation and then recaps these 16 rules at the end. This book does not start out at the gate at looking at “campaigns of genocide”, but starts out looking a the Catholic view of scriptural interpretation. This is a necessary start which flows to the rest of the book. Understanding the canon of scripture and how it developed along with the various genres scripture uses.

This book does not attempt to go through every supposed difficulties but develops the rules using many well-known difficulties and the paths to resolve them. As is often the case there often multiple paths in understanding scripture and ways to resolve what at first seem to be stumbling blocks. Using these rules you are provide a template in resolving apparent contradictions. This does not mean that you might personally come up with a solution to such passages that you will perfectly satisfying. But it does help to see more in such paths to understanding.

So I found this book excellent by providing a rule based methodology to understanding Scripture from a Catholic perspective which can aid you into going deeper and building on this with the traditional understanding of the four senses of scripture.

Aug 032016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 17 July 2016 to 2 August 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

Homilies

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Dear young people, I bless your journey towards Krakow: may it be a pilgrimage of faith and fraternity.
    #Krakow2016” @Pontifex 25 July 2016
  • “Dear young people, let us offer the world a mosaic of many races, cultures and peoples united in the name of Jesus!
    #Krakow2016” @Pontifex 25 July 2016
  • “Dear young people, stay united in prayer so that this WYD may be rich with spiritual fruits. See you tomorrow!
    #Krakow2016” @Pontifex 26 July 2016
  • “Let’s live WYD in Krakow together!
    #Krakow2016
    https://www.instagram.com/franciscus@Pontifex 27 July 2016
  • “The Lord is amongst us and takes care of us, without deciding for us.” @Pontifex 28 July 2016
  • “The Lord loves to participate in the events of our daily lives and to walk with us.” @Pontifex 28 July 2016
  • “A merciful heart has the courage to leave comforts behind and to encounter others, embracing everyone.” @Pontifex 28 July 2016
  • “Jesus Christ encourages us to lift up our eyes and to dream lofty dreams. During these days of the WYD, Jesus wants to enter our homes.” @Pontifex 28 July 2016
  • “How I wish that we, as Christians, could be close to the sick the same way Jesus was: in silence, with a caress and in prayer.” @Pontifex 29 July 2016
  • “Anyone who performs works of mercy is not afraid of death.” @Pontifex 29 July 2016
  • “Let us embrace the Cross. Jesus embraces the nakedness, hunger, thirst, loneliness, suffering and death of all men and women of all time.” @Pontifex 29 July 2016
  • “Dear young people, this evening the Lord renews His invitation to take the lead in serving others.” @Pontifex 29 July 2016
  • “”I desire mercy, not sacrifice”.
    Francis. 30/7/2016.
    Sanctuary of Divine Mercy.“ @Pontifex 30 July 2016
  • “Jesus wants truly consecrated hearts that live by His forgiveness and share it compassionately with their brothers and sisters.” @Pontifex 30 July 2016
  • “Jesus seeks hearts that are open and tender toward the weak; hearts that are not hard, but docile and transparent.” @Pontifex 30 July 2016
  • “We have come into the world in order to leave a mark.” @Pontifex 30 July 2016
  • “God is inviting you to dream: He wants to show you that you can make the world a different place.” @Pontifex 30 July 2016
  • “Jesus is calling you to leave your mark on life: one that transforms your own life and the lives of others.” @Pontifex 30 July 2016
  • “God love us as we are: no sin, fault or mistake can make Him change His mind.” @Pontifex 31 July 2016
  • “God counts on you for who you are, not for what you have. You are valuable in His eyes and your value is priceless.” @Pontifex 31 July 2016
  • “Jesus speaks to you every day. Let His Gospel become yours and let Him be your “navigator” on life’s journey!” @Pontifex 31 July 2016
  • “A huge “thank you”, dear young people! St John Paul II rejoiced in Heaven, and will help you bring the joy of the Gospel wherever you go.” @Pontifex 31 July 2016
  • “The secret to joy: never suppress positive curiosity; get involved, because life is meant to be lived.” @Pontifex 2 August 2016

Papal Instagram

Jul 202016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 18 June 2016 to 19 July 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

Letters

Messages

Motu Proprio

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “I pray for the victims of the attack in Nice and their families. I ask God to convert the hearts of the violent blinded by hate.” @Pontifex 15 July 2016
  • “Let us remember the elderly and the sick who in the summer months are often more alone and can be in difficulty.” @Pontifex 17 July 2016

Papal Instagram