May 052018

From then-Cardinal Ratzinger “On The Way To Jesus Christ

“Exodus, clearly pointed to Christ, the refusal to allow him to see and the restriction that he could only glimpse “the back of God” could not likewise be applied to Jesus. In the first instance, the figure of Moses accordingly represented both the mystery of Christ and the way of Jesus’ disciples; the second text, then, must point to them, that is, to all of us who believe in Christ. This is the basic thought in the patristic commentaries on Exodus 33; naturally their interpretations of this difficult text about seeing God’s back, about standing in the cleft of the rock beneath God’s hands, which cover our eyes, vary greatly as to the details. Personally, I always find particularly moving the commentary on this passage that Gregory of Nyssa gives. Being able to see God only from the back—what else does that mean, he says, but that we can only encounter God by walking after Jesus; that the only way we can see him is by following Jesus, which means walking behind him and thus going along behind God’s back.”

I copied a lot from this book into my quote journal.

Apr 242018

The phrase “No Bible, No Breakfast! No Bible, No Bed!” is one coined by Father Larry Richards. I thinks I heard him mention it a couple of time on his radio show, but didn’t think much about it. When I saw him at our Eucharistic Congress this year the phrase sunk in a little bit more for me.

At first my reaction was “Well this is a good idea for other people, after all I read the Liturgy of the Hours, listen to homiletic podcasts, and have read through the Bible a couple of times.” Surely that’s enough. The more I thought about this the more lame this excuse sounded to me. So I started to take up daily scripture reading again.

“…If you look at a thing nine hundred and ninety-nine times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it the thousandth time, you are in frightful danger of seeing it for the first time.” – The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Chesterton is exactly right (as usual) and it is amazing that when you think you know something you start to see it for the first time. What I thought familiar had nuances I realized I only glimpsed at the surface. Intellectually I knew to some extent how polyvalent scripture was. I just needed to relearn that lesson.

I remember sometimes thinking while watching the Journey Home show on EWTN, former Protestant pastors talking about not really noticing a passage before. I was thinking DOH!, but then having to double-DOH! myself.

Mar 302018

I so love this from St. John Chrysostom in today’s Office of Readings.

”If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish”, commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors”. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood”. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.”

Feb 222017

I heard about the following on Al Kresta’s show.

The St. Paul Center is offering limited-time access to its video Bible study series, The Bible and the Sacraments. Over the course of 11 lessons, beginning on March 1, this study presents the participant an opportunity for growth in knowledge of Scripture and the Sacraments.

As part of St. Paul Center’s mission, we want to share this study with as many people as possible. Please tell your friends and share this resource. You can also post comments to the page with your Facebook account, sharing your thoughts in a truly Catholic (universal) way.

Two new lessons will be posted each week and will be available for two weeks after the post date. Keep an eye out for a new email each week announcing that the new lessons are available.

You can sign up here.


March 1: Lessons 1–2 posted

March 8: Lessons 3–4 posted (Lessons 1–2 still available)

March 15: Lessons 5–6 posted (Lessons 3–4 still available)

March 22: Lessons 7–8 posted (Lessons 5–6 still available)

March 29: Lessons 9–10 posted (Lessons 7–8 still available)

April 5: Lesson 11 posted (Lessons 9–10 still available)

April 12: (Lesson 11 still available)

May 222016

You never know what kind of homily you will get on Trinity Sunday or as I call it Bad Analogy Sunday. Still this time around my pessimism was not rewarded and I was treated to a rather good homily. One that started “Thomas Aquinas says.” He used the Analogy of the Family to good effect, which is also the analogy the Catechism uses (CCC 2205).

Being in the Diocese of St. Augustine, not surprisingly over the years, I have often been treated to the story of St, Augustine, the boy, and the seashell. As a Middle Ages legend it serves it purposes as a reminder that the Trinity is a mystery, but not anything beyond that.

I would rather hear St. Augustine’s analogy of the Trinity he used in his book Confessions.”

I speak of these three: to be, to know, and to will. For I am, and I know, and I will: I am a knowing and a willing being, and I know that I am and that I will, and I will to be and to know. Therefore, in these three, let him who can do so perceive how inseparable a life there is, one life and one mind and one essence, and finally how inseparable a distinction there is, and yet there is a distinction. Surely a man stands face to face with himself. Let him take heed of himself, and look there, and tell me. But when he has discovered any of these and is ready to speak, let him not think that he has found that immutable being which is above all these, which is immutably, and knows immutably, and wills immutably.

Just as long as you remember all analogies limp, and they are downright crippled when it comes to The Most Holy Trinity.

Although I find Frank Sheed’s explanation providing the most light as laid out in Theology and Sanity and Theology for Beginners.

The Lutheran Satire bit on St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies is pretty funny as a vehicle to go over common bad analogies. Although there is no evidence that St. Patrick ever actually used the Shamrock as an analogy for the Trinity.

Nov 022015

The continuing dustup between the New York Times’ Ross Douthat and “Theologians” of American academia has resulted in some interesting articles.

First off this one by a student who had previously entered the PhD program in theology at Boston College.

Two Years Among the Liberal Theologians

The article described what I expected regarding the two faces of many American Catholic theologians. Who lean towards heterodoxy in the classroom, but project a different public face. Traipsing all around heresy, but will have a fainting spell if you use the “H” word.

Another good read from Catholic World Report is: Modern academic theology needs to rediscover God

Thinking about that list of academics condemning Ross Douthat, it is not surprising that all but one of the priestly signers were Jesuits. Too often instead of putting S.J. after their names, SJW would be more appropriate.

Apr 302015

Sometime I am reading a book and so enjoy the story that a sense of wonder comes over me. This can cause me to step back from the story itself and admire the skill of the author. How the world and characters created have developed a life of their own that you can become caught up in. There is wonder at the creative imagination that can pull this off. Despite the meta-nature of such analysis while reading a story it does cause you to depart from the story. Just come to appreciate it more at a deeper level. There is a sense of gratitudes for the skills of the author.

The last time I was caught up in such a feeling I stepped back further in my mind and reflected on a related subject. Why is it that I am so seldom caught up in the same sense of wonder regarding creation and grateful for all God has given us? Talk about world-building, God pretty much nailed that. Universe-building, creation-building, if you see something he made it. Contractors complain about substandard building materials and yet God used nothing to create everything.

I have been trying to develop a sense of wonder and gratitude towards God and his creation. Too much of my life has been like the man who walks into an art gallery admiring all the paintings and walks right past the artist who painted them, not even seeing him. Admiring creation, but not the creator. You can’t really artificially create this wonder and gratitude. You have to actually notice the world around you and contemplate the reality. To stop and smell the roses and notice the scent, the actuality of roses, the ground they are planted in, the medium of the air, the light we can see them by, and so on and so forth.

Whenever I read G.K. Chesterton I observe the sense of wonder and gratitude that I desire to emulate. That I see this truth I strive for lived out and expressed.

“When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?”

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace bef>ore the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

So I admire this in a intellectual sense. Actually living this sense out is another matter. Intellectualizing and not living out my faith is a constant struggle. Still I am thankful for the grace to see my many flaws and can have gratitudes towards even that.

Aug 062014

In the theological turmoil that followed the Second Vatican Council, the theory of the “fundamental option” is among the most pernicious developments. Fundamental option separates specific moral actions from a more general – fundamental – orientation of life. It holds, therefore, that specific sins do not bear on the status of one’s soul, or on the destination of one’s soul after death. All that matters for salvation, in this view, is that one “fundamentally” lives for God rather than evil.

One theological casualty of fundamental option theory is mortal sin, which has long been defined by the Church as a grave wrong committed with full knowledge of the attendant evil and deliberate consent of the will. Instead, the theory holds that mortal sin is not a specific action, but an orientation that lies at the deepest level of freedom within an individual who rejects God. But given the gravity of such a rejection, the theory holds that such an orientation is nearly impossible for those of sound mind. If an individual makes the fundamental option for God, then his actions, no matter how grave, cannot be mortal sins – or damnable offenses – because, at root, the person means well.

From a post by David G. Bonagura, Jr. at The Catholic Thing

Since I first read this post it has been rolling around in my mind along with some other thoughts. It seems to me that the fundamental option theory has really become the default view. While you hardly ever hear someone speak of it by its name, you often hear a view derived from it. It sounds so reasonable to suppose that since you are generally a good person that lapses really don’t affect your salvation. Many that would not hold to universalism do hold to a personalism when it comes to salvation. Fundamental option theory has become kind of a “once saved, always saved” for Catholics. The “Here I am Lord” centrality where God is lucky to have us.

So I can certainly identify this in the culture and among Catholics. Worse though is how often I find that I can identify this in myself. That I want to bargain with God as Abraham did.

“Lord I use to have all these serious sins. Can I be saved if I have whittled them down to five serious sins?”, “No, well how about four serious sins”, “Well then, how about three grave sins?”

It becomes quite easy to transmute the Call to Holiness to the call to be good enough. To dismiss Jesus’ call for us to be holy as the Father is holy as just hyperbole. To hear the Parable of the Tares and think “Well tough luck on those tares, being of the wheat myself.” To separate out the intention to be good from my actual actions. So easy to resign yourself to the purgative way without doing much purging, much less advancing in the states of perfection. To be satisfied with spiritual mediocrity on the way to joining the Laodicean and causing a gag reflex in Jesus.

It is quite annoying to start out writing a post about others holding the heretical fundamental optional theory and then realizing that you are not immune from it either. Like Saint John Henry Newman looking at his face in the mirror and realizing he was an Monophysite. At least for him it ended well.

The fundamental option theory also seems to be the hidden hand behind the majority of homilies I hear. Going to a number of Catholic parishes in my diocese I get a fair sampling even if not statically significant. The majority of homilies I have heard are of the “Dog that did not bark” variety. What is missing is significant. Now everybody has their hobby-horse sins that they want excoriated during the homily. Hobby-horse sins are almost always those sins we hold others to have and that we think ourselves free of. I want to go more general than that. What I find missing (except in the scriptural readings) is any mention of sin, repentance, growing in holiness, and salvation. Listening to a homily I am usually totally unscathed in regards to realizing I had something to repent of. Really I am a target-rich environment for being properly scathed.

There is such a generic country club feeling to so many homilies. That we are all part of the club. More thought seems to be given to what topical joke can be used to start or end the homily than any actual serious reflection on the readings. Much less any call for conversion. That we even showed up to Mass is suppose to be to our credit instead of seeing that “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

Now sometimes we hear that the homily is suppose to “To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I have even heard this phrase used in a homily. Much more comforting than afflicting going on. Interestingly the quote was first used in regards to journalism. Still I don’t want to put all the blame on the homily since it is rather silly to think that we are suppose to get all that the Church teaches condensed down to under ten minutes on Sunday.

The default theology of the fundamental option theory goes hand-in-hand with why their are lines to Communion and not to Confession (in most places and I love seeing the exceptions). If we are good enough with those good intentions not much need for the confessional. No need to repent if our sins are just not that important and besides God will understand.

Jul 152013

Part of the redefinition of terms in our vocabulary seems to be aimed at making sin more attractive and a life of virtue to be rather milquetoast. A compliment means something like “He lived life to the fullest” and “He lived a life of virtue” as a bit of a putdown for living a boring life. Event though to live life to the fullest is to indeed live a life of virtue.

I was thinking about this after reading this passage from “Meditations On Christian Dogma Volume 2” by Rev James Bellord D.D. regarding a treatise on “Virtue in General.”

III. Virtue according to its etymology signifies force. It does not consist in a lowered vitality, nor in exemption from temptation, nor in any deficiency in the lower elements of human nature, nor in a colourless tranquillity of life. It is the source of the positive energies of good, which must oppose and ultimately prevail over the negative energies of evil. A virtuous life is a life of continual activity and struggle; it must always be a matter of difficulty, and it requires great strength, courage, self-sacrifice and perseverance, beyond all the daring enterprises of natural energy. To lead an easy life without effort or conflict is always to lead an ignoble life, and generally a degraded one. “The life of man upon earth is a warfare” (Job vii. 1). Virtue that has not been tried by difficulties and temptations may be pleasant, but it is wanting in merit and in resemblance to the virtues of Jesus Christ. Remember that glory is not for sluggards: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Matt. xi. 12). Let your virtue be militant and patient.

I found this paragraph to really encapsulate what virtue means and a glimpse into the Christian life. I have always been attracted to some extent to the idea of living virtuously even as I have always been really bad at it. The term said more to me than I could understand at the time. My attractiveness to this term is why I am apt to refer to myself as a “Virtue voter” instead of a “Values voter.” Everybody has values, but those values often don’t lead to virtue. Virtue is a battle over self and you just can’t walk away from the battlefield. It is no surprise how often we choose to become pacifists in this battle. To raise the white flag and say “I’m just human” or “I’m no saint” when it does not even have the merit of being a humble acknowledgment of sin. Instead these declarations just provide an excuse not to join into battle.

Note: I am currently in the process of proofreading this book for format errors from and OCR conversion. The first volume is already available on my free ebooks page.