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

Jul 192016
 

When it comes to Donald Trumps presidential campaign there are all kinds of theories involving it. One common one is that he was setting this up for Hillary as he previously supported her. Considering his ego, I don’t find that compelling.

What can explain such a badly run campaign on every level? It’s like he is doing everything he can to loose.

Some have conjectured that Trump was never really in it to win, but as a vanity run for self-promotion.

“good publicity is preferable to bad, but from a bottom-line perspective, bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all. Controversy, in short, sells.”
― Donald J. Trump, Trump: The Art of the Deal

I find this theory to fit the facts better, but doesn’t fully account for his ego.

If this explanation has any merit it dawned on me a movie plot that explained everything.

In the plot of Mel Brooks’s The Producers (1967) they hit upon a plot for creating a play sure to fail, while getting seed money from rich old ladies with each promised a substantial take of the profits. So they proceed to write a musical about Hitler while hiring the worst actors possible. Of course it becomes a big hit and their scheme fails in the worst way possible.

So if you wanted to run a failed GOP presidential campaign:

  • Write crazy stream-of-consciousness Twitter feed.
  • Make outrageous remarks during debates and speeches.
  • Praise Planned Parenthood.
  • Appeal to our worst nature and say things that would make Know-Nothings proud.
  • Offer to pay legal bills if fans beat up protesters.
  • Say that the father of a rival candidate helped killed Kennedy.
  • Make policy positions all over the map, that change constantly.
  • No understanding of foreign policy while not doing basic homework.
  • Spending little or no money for political advertisements.
  • This list can go on and on.

Guaranteed to ensure a failed run, except like in The Producers where “Springtime for Hitler” became a hit – so does The Donald. Writing a play so outrageous and in such bad taste was hilarious in The Producers. Not so funny when a equally deplorable script has become the election season.

You can’t make this stuff up.

What scares me is not that he can’t win against Hillary, but that he could. Pundits have been wrong pretty much about every projection regarding his run.

So those in the GOP who were screaming for a “Big Tent”, well we got one full of clowns. A convention turned into a circus. We have gone from “Character counts” to “Character Assassination Counts”. Great way to defeat the despicable morally corrupt Hillary Clinton, by countering at the same level.

Reality was better when you could discern it from satire.

Jul 182016
 

In my little over a decade and a half as a Catholic I have seen steady improvement regarding the liturgy within my diocese. Attending Mass at multiple parishes all over town I have watched this unfold.

I have definite Liturgy Police tendencies. Part of this is as a convert I became familiar with the GIRM and what the rubrics were. Plus having listened to so much Catholic radio I have heard a lot of questions and answers regarding the liturgy. So knowing what is suppose to happen reminds me of the verse in Ecclesiastes he who increases knowledge increases sorrow. So I have struggled with these Liturgy Police tendencies which could really take away from worshiping God at Mass. Rantings of angry traditionalists on this though has provided a warning sign to me to not go down this route. A route I could easily fall in to.

When I was a brand new Catholic I often found liturgical abuses across the range. At the time there was pretty much only one parish I could go to where I would not come across these abuses. Looking back I think I transferred most of my anger concerning this into various parodies on this blog over the years. Although my wife had to suffer through many of my rants about liturgical abuses. Thankfully I did not descend into constant angry letter writing. The only case where I did write a letter involved a very serious abuse and the parish pretty much ignored it.

So mostly I am coming to grips with now mostly minor liturgical abuses and of course banal music. I no longer come out of Mass angry. The fact that I less likely to experience serious liturgical abuses has been a good thing for me. I don’t want to turn into the Liturgical Hulk “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

There are some parishes now that have been transformed and mostly the reason for this is that the previous pastor retired. Reform of the reform via attrition has made a serious effect. Parishes that caused me to cringe now offer beautiful masses said reverently. A return of the Pipe Organ and some of the richness from the Church’s treasure of hymns. A return of a little bit of Latin. I’ve also seen a increased return to using a Paten. In these parishes the quality of homilies is also on the increase.

I was reminded of all of this at Mass yesterday at a parish where the music was once dreadful and the homilies contained information that was simply false. Instead now they seemed to have discovered that they had a Pipe Organ and that they could use it. The homily from a young priest was lyrical and moving. At times when he mentioned Jesus he would point to the Tabernacle. It instantly reminded me of the Pastor of the Church I came into, the late and beloved Fr. Leon, who had the same habit.

Sure some parishes time seems to have stood still trapped in the sixties, but even these parishes with so-called “vibrant” music are mostly free of liturgical abuses, with no serious abuses. Since I fortify myself with several homily podcasts, the totally forgettable homilies delivered in these parishes doesn’t bother me as much. Not that I don’t wish the homilies were better for everyone.

So while I am still hypercritical attending Mass, it is mostly as an observer and does not destroy my interior life (what there is of it). Knowing that I can easily turn to the dark side of angry liturgical traditionalism, it gives me some peace to turn away from it.

Jul 132016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 25 May 2016 to 10 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

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “This Jubilee of mercy is a time of reconciliation for everyone.” @Pontifex 30 June 2016
  • “In the world of work today it is essential to educate and follow the luminous and demanding path of honesty.” @Pontifex 1 July 2016
  • “True joy which is experienced in the family is not something random and fortuitous, but normal and ongoing.” @Pontifex 2 July 2016
  • “Loving and forgiving as God loves and forgives. This is a programme of life that can know no interruptions or exceptions.” @Pontifex 3 July 2016
  • “The summertime offers many people an occasion for rest. It’s also a favorable time to take care of our human relationships.” @Pontifex 4 July 2016
  • “Let’s join forces, at all levels, to ensure that peace in beloved Syria is possible! #peacepossible4Syria” @Pontifex 5 July 2016
  • “During this month my audiences are suspended, but I do not stop praying for you, while I ask that you please pray for me!” @Pontifex 7 July 2016
  • “Vacations offer a time to rest and to restore the spirit, especially through a more quiet reading of the Gospels.” @Pontifex 10 July 2016

Papal Instagram