May 102016
 

animal-wilderness-zoo-camel

““You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew 23:24)

It has always been the case that people will support somebody who personally violates or goes against one of their deeply held beliefs as long as they support another one. That they will go to great extent to suppress that there is any tension at all in their support.

With ex-President Bill Clinton back in the news cycle it is easy to remember his scandalous personal activity as President and before that. Also easy to remember that it was an extremely rare feminist who called him out on his behavior. This certainly did not happen with national feminist groups. Patricia Ireland, then President of NOW, had much harsher words to say about the impeachment proceedings than about Bill Clinton’s scummy actions. Rape victims must be believed unless they are Juanita Broadwick.

If Bill Clinton had ever wavered on abortion, it would have been a totally different story.

I point this history out not as something unique, but as an obvious example of how the support of the “ONE THING” excuses everything else.

Self-deception is also nothing new and anybody who has done any examination-of-self will find obvious examples in our own lives. I don’t have to search far myself to wonder “What the hell was I thinking” and why was I so willing to suppress the obvious (“Shut up conscience”).

The pro-life community is also often capable of this “ONE THING” thinking. Voting for people not because we think they are actually pro-life, but that they promise they will vote pro-life. We believe the panderer when we want to believe the panderer. Being a Floridian Charlie Crist comes to mind.

We also often get “ONE THING” thinking where Supreme Court vacancies become among reason to suck it up and vote for the awful candidate. Not that this aspect isn’t a valid consideration. Voting for the greater good when there are two bad candidates and it is possible to discern this, is perfectly valid. But let us not minimize for a second the evil there is. Maintain your caveats and don’t gloss over them. Advance the greater good by doing good yourself and work to not ever explain away or trivialize evil.

In the spiritual life it is important to do a daily examination of conscience to be able to grow in holiness. Our political lives should certainly be a part of this examination especially as it is one area especially prone to Self-deception. At least I find this true for myself.

This election cycle I have found this more so. There are so many people who will excuse anything for the “ONE THING”. Trump supporters see him achieving for them the “ONE THING” whatever that might be. No facts of his past actions or his constantly changing opinions will put a dent into their support. Trump support is a projection of what they think he will successfully achieve. It just isn’t falsifiable since it was never based on evidence – really despite all evidence to the contrary.

Although I could have written the last paragraph using Hillary’s name instead of Trump and it would have been just a true. They share much in common. Really this election is like an old episode of Mission Impossible. At the end Hillary rips off her mask and it’s Trump, and Trump rips off his mask and he’s Hillary. The major difference is that Hillary in public has more self-control. Hillary is much more coldly calculating.

So this election I will be going full Cervantes and tilting at the voting booth with a write in. I think I dislike Trump all the more since I have to take arguments seriously that Hillary would do more for the common good than Trump. In conscience I can not vote for either of them – ever.

I deeply relate with Mrs Darwin.

… But thanks to Trump virtually clinching the nomination by winning Indiana, I’m freed from the tyranny of the party. I don’t have to identify as a Republican anymore. When someone asks me if I’m a Democrat or a Republican, I can say neither! And for the first time, I can vote for someone I like for president. Who gets my write-in vote? Which person do I actually think would be best suited to run the country? It’s almost overwhelming.

Free, free, I’m free at last.

Picture licensed under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

May 082016
 

An entry from Paul Thigpen’s A Year With the Saints: Daily Meditations with the Holy Ones of God.

We must understand that even though God does not always give us what we want, he gives us what we need for our salvation. Suppose you ask your physician for something that would be harmful, and he knows it would be harmful. What should he do?

Let’s say that you ask for a cup of cold water. If it would do you good, and he gives it to you right away, then surely you can’t say that he hasn’t heard you. On the other hand, if it would do you harm, and so he doesn’t give it to you, you still can’t say that he hasn’t heard you, just because he contradicted your will. Instead, he’s heard you according to what your health requires.

So learn to pray to God in such a way that you’re trusting him as your Physician to do what he knows is best. Confess to him the disease, and let him choose the remedy. Then hold tight to love, for what he does will cut and sting you.

You may cry out, and your cries may not stop the cutting, the burning, and the pain. Yet he knows how deep the festering flesh lies. While you want him to take his hands off you, in his treatment he must consider not your cries, but the extent of the infection. He knows how far he must go. He’s not listening to you according to what you want, but according to what will heal you.

— St. Augustine, Sixth Homily on 1 John, 8

Reading this I realized how much I am like that person who goes to WebMD before going to the Doctor’s office. Ready to tell the doctor what the problem is and what to proscribe to me. Not a lot of listening to the Divine Physician is involved.

May 052016
 

Medical book and a skull model for studying medicine
Not surprised, but still horrified to see this story today For first time, scientists grow two-week-old human embryos in lab.

Scientists have for the first time grown human embryos outside of the mother for almost two full weeks into development, giving unique insight into what they say is the most mysterious stage of early human life.

Scientists had previously only been able to study human embryos as a culture in a lab dish until the seventh day of development when they had to implant them into the mother’s uterus to survive and develop further.

But using a culture method previously tested to grow mouse embryos outside of a mother, the teams were able to conduct almost hour by hour observations of human embryo development to see how they develop and organize themselves up to day 13.

“This it the most enigmatic and mysterious stage of human development,” said Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz, a University of Cambridge professor who co-led the work. “It is a time when the basic body shape is determined.”

The following would have pleased Doctor Josef Mengele.

But the research also raises the issue of an international law banning scientists from developing human embryos beyond 14 days, and suggests this limit may have to be reviewed.

Zernicka-Goetz, who spoke to reporters in London, said a wealth of new information could be discovered if human embryos could be grown in a lab dish for just a few days more.

What can we discover is the imperative to such research. The Culture of Death has it claws into everything. From corrupting motherhood to corrupting science. Dr. Frankenstein at least had the decency to make a dead thing alive not make a live person dead.

Not surprising this Reuters article does not question at all the evil involved. That this is the direct murder of a human person. They throw a sop to “ethics”

Sarah Norcross, director of the Progress Educational Trust, a charity which campaigns for people affected by infertility and genetic conditions, agreed that the research raised questions around the 14-day limit and said the international scientific community should “decide whether it is necessary and desirable” to extend it, and if so, by how much.

“A public discussion of the rights and wrongs of this would need to follow before any change in law could be contemplated,” she told Reuters.

Worse is that this story will not even make a bump in the Culture of Death. It will be totally lost in the wave of non-substantial news stories that matter not in the least. Scientist creating human persons and bragging about how long they live until they kill them will pass almost unnoticed.

May 032016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 19 March 2016 to 1 May 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

Homilies

Letters

Messages

Regina Cæli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Climate change represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity today, and the response requires the solidarity of all.” @Pontifex 21 April 2016
  • “A true ecological approach knows how to safeguard the environment and justice, hearing the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” @Pontifex 22 April 2016
  • “Dear Young Friends, your names are written in heaven in the merciful heart of the Father. Be brave and go against the tide!” @Pontifex 23 April 2016
  • “Dear Young People, with the grace of God you can become authentic and courageous Christians, witnesses to love and peace.” @Pontifex 24 April 2016
  • “All are called to love and cherish family life, for families are not a problem; they are first
    and foremost an opportunity.” @Pontifex 25 April 2016
  • “Let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord – each of us knows what they are – so that he may enter and grant us life.” @Pontifex 26 April 2016
  • “Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him.” @Pontifex 27 April 2016
  • “Before the spiritual and moral abysses of mankind, only God’s infinite mercy can bring us salvation.” @Pontifex 28 April 2016
  • “Jesus conquered evil at the root: he is the Door of Salvation, open wide so that each person may find mercy.” @Pontifex 29 April 2016
  • “Work is proper to the human person and expresses the dignity of being created in the image of God.” @Pontifex 30 April 2016
  • “I address a cordial greeting to the faithful of the Eastern Churches who are celebrating Holy Pascha today. Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!” @Pontifex 1 May 2016
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.