Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Caveat Lector (Let the Reader Beware)

I have noticed a trend lately of people running their blogs through a blog rating system. Curious, I decided to run this blog (http://catholictrenches.blogspot.com/) through to see just how we we were rated.

So here are the results, drum-roll please, .......... :

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
  • abortion (17x)
  • death (11x)
  • dead (7x)
  • hell (5x)
  • rape (3x)
  • hurt (2x)
  • pain (1x)

  • Strange that while you don't have to 18 to have an abortion, no one under 18 should read about it. Hmmmmm.....

    Monday, June 25, 2007

    Catholic Predestination?

    “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30

    Many Catholics today are surprised when they find out that the Church teaches the doctrine of predestination. I’m guessing it has a lot to do with so many people connecting the term “predestination” with the teachings of John Calvin.

    The Catholic and Calvinist view of predestination share a lot in common, but differ in some very important ways. I don’t want to go into great detail on the different Catholic theological schools of thought on the subject (I’ll include some links at the end), but I would like to point out what we are required as Catholics to believe and how it differs with the Calvinist view.

    John Calvin said,

    “We call predestination God's eternal decree, by which he determined with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others. Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or death.”
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church has something a little different to say about predestination:

    “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination," he includes in it each person's free response to his grace: "In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.” (CCC 600)
    In the two paragraphs above, we see the biggest difference between the Catholic and Calvinist understanding.

    Calvin believed that God decided who would receive salvation (the elect) and who would receive damnation (the reprobate) without reference to the individual’s cooperation with grace. The Catholic teaching however does include the individual’s free response to grace.

    Another difference would be God’s desire for all mankind. The Calvinist view would hold that God desires the salvation of the elect, and damnation for the rest. The Catholic teaching would hold that God desires that all be saved, but He allows each to respond to His grace freely. Along this line the Calvinist would say that Jesus’s death was only for the elect and not the reprobate (those destined for hell). The Catholic Church teaches that Christ died for all.

    The idea that God predestines individuals (the “elect”) to heaven is agreed upon by Calvinists and Catholics alike. But, the idea that God wills that individuals be damned to hell is an idea that is not acceptable for any Catholic to hold. It may seem a little like splitting hairs, but no one is destined for hell without the ability to repent and accept the grace God give freely to all.

    “… As I live, says the Lord GOD, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man's conversion, that he may live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! …” (Ezekiel 33:11)
    The “perseverance of the saints” is a term used by some Calvinists and has the same meaning as “once saved, always saved”. It’s the idea that if a person is predestined for heaven or hell, then his actions will reflect it. It’s not so much that the person’s free will is unable to fight the urge to act righteously or sinfully, it’s that God has predestined them and therefore “wired” them that way.

    The Council of Trent teaches something very different:

    “805 No one moreover, so long as he lives in this mortal state, ought so far to presume concerning the secret mystery of divine predestination, as to decide for certain that he is assuredly in the number of the predestined [can. 15], as if it were true that he who is justified either cannot sin any more [can. 23], or if he shall have sinned, that he ought to promise himself an assured reformation. For except by special revelation, it cannot be known whom God has chosen for Himself [can. 16].” Ecumenical XIX (Contra Novatores 16 cent.) SESSION III (Feb.4, 1546)
    The Church teaches that we must cooperate freely with His grace until the end of this life in order to enjoy the next with Him. When we mess up and fall into a state of mortal sin, we have been given the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to enter back into a right relation with Him.

    Here are all the Dogmatic teachings of the Church (Must be believed) that deal with the Catholic idea of Predestination:
    -God is not the author of evil
    -It is within man’s power to do evil
    -God does not predestine man to eternal damnation
    -Good works have merit

    Well I promised a few links that go into a greater detail involving the Catholic Theological schools of predestination. These are not all of the differing (and acceptable) views on the subject from within the Church, but I think they are the most important.

    Thomism (Most like Calvinism)
    -Not based on merit
    -Proof: Rom 8:29
    -Problem: 1 Tim 2:4

    Molinism
    -Based on foresight of merits
    -Proof: Rom 2:5-10
    -Problem: 1 cor 4:7

    Interesting fact: In 1597 the Pope at the time, Clement VIII, called the Molonists and Thomists together to hash out and debate their differences. The Pope consulted with St. Frances DeSalles who recommended that neither school of thought be condemned, and that neither be approved. In 1950, Fr. William Most put forth his theory:

    Fr. William Most’s view (my personal favorite)
    -God wills all men be saved
    -God looks to see who resists His grace gravely and persistently
    -All others not discarded in step two are positively predestined to eternal life.

    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Saint John the Baptist & Camp Lebanon

    I was asked to give a reflection on the Gospel reading for this Sunday during our Parish family weekend at Camp Lebanon. I was also given this opportunity last year on the same occasion. This year, for the sake of the attendees, my family, and myself, I have decided to write it out and read it instead of relying on my non-existant public speaking abilities. Kind of a tough spot to be in since Fr. B will be saying Mass the night before on the same Gospel.

    I wanted to post what I plan on reading this weekend now since last year I was accused of lifting material from Fr. B's homily - eventhough I gave my reflection before He gave his homily. To those who spread these vicious and vile rumors let it be known: I know who you are. Yet I choose not to settle the score here, now, in cyberspace; I choose to regain my honor on the battle field (no hiding behind the Collar) of the great Camp Lebanon Floor Hockey Smackdown - 2007 .

    There's trouble coming to Upsula this weekend, oh yes there is ... and it's traveling in a 12 passanger van.




    Gospel Reading: Luke 1:57-66, 80
    Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said, "Not so; he shall be called John." And they said to her, "None of your kindred is called by this name." And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, "His name is John." And they all marveled. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, "What then will this child be?" For the hand of the Lord was with him. And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

    "The Church observes the day of John [the Baptist's] birth as a holy day: none of the fathers is thus solemnly commemorated. We celebrate John's birth as we celebrate Christ's. I cannot let this feast pass in silence without a sermon..." (St Augustine, Sermon 293).

    Of all the feast days the Church has, only three of them celebrate the birthdates of a saint; Christmas, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the birth of John the Baptist. Today, as the Gospel makes clear, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. While it may not seem like it, this feast day is one of the oldest and most important feasts of the year. Though not an official teaching of the Church, a pious and probable belief among Catholics is that John the Baptist was born without original sin (though conceived with it). Jesus said of John, “No man born of woman is greater than John”. Now, this is quite an endorsement. So, why was John’s birth so important?

    Lets look at the setting in which today’s Gospel takes place. Around 450 years before John’s birth, the minor Prophet Malachi was sent by God to speak to the Israelites. At that time, the priests of the temple had become corrupt and begun to loose their faith. The worship they provided for the people had become sterile. But Malachi didn’t only bring a message of conviction; he also brought a promise of hope. He told the people that one day God Himself would come to the temple, and that before that day he would send a messenger to prepare for His arrival.

    After Malachi, God’s voice was not heard by Israel. No prophets were sent to speak by God in His name; a silence fell over Israel. Then one day, a priest by the name of Zechariah was performing his priestly duty at the temple when an angel appeared. The angel told Zechariah that he and his wife, who was getting up in years, would have a son who would be a great prophet and that he would “go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

    With John’s birth God broke the silence and made His voice heard again in Israel. But the message it brought was different. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” John cried out. The ageless call of repentance was now combined in the same breath with an imminent reason for hope.

    John in many ways held a position that was a bridge from the old covenant to the new. Though he was circumcised into the old covenant, he prepared the people for a new covenant with God by his call for repentance and baptism. He foreshadowed the sacrament of baptism which Paul tells us in Colossians now has replace circumcision. It was also John who pointed the Jewish people of the old covenant toward the Messiah of the new.

    Now in the Gospel for yesterday and today, we have a story within a story. An angel appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist and a priest of Israel. When the angel announces to him that he and his wife would have a son, he wasn’t able to believe. His problem was that he lacked faith, and his wife was barren, just as the people of Israel were during the time of Malachi.

    As punishment, Zechariah would be unable to speak; he would be silent. And not until the child was born and Zechariah followed the will of God by giving him a name that was unknown to his family, a name meaning “God is merciful”, was he able to once again speak. Like Zechariah once again being heard by his neighbors, through this child named John, God would once again be heard by Israel and her neighbors. As others marveled at how God showed mercy and blessed Zechariah and Elizabeth with a son, the whole world would soon marvel at how God would bless it and show mercy on it with His son.

    It can be said that John the Baptist was not only the last Old Testament prophet, but also the first Christian martyr. He was willing to look evil in the eye and call it by name, and eventually this would cost him his head. He would pick up his cross and carry it before he ever knew there would be a cross carried. He gave his life preparing the way for Christ, he was the voice crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord”.

    There are two reasons the Church, in Her wisdom, marks today as the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. First, because from scripture we know that John was born 6 months before Jesus. So, since we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, celebrating John’s birth on June 24th makes sense. But there is another reason. John, when asked by his disciples about Jesus, said to them, “He must increase; I must decrease.” Last Thursday, June 21st, a special event occurred – the summer solstice. The summer solstice is the day of the year that the day is the longest. From now on, the days will get shorter and shorter, the amount of light less and less. But once we reach Christmas, this will reverse itself.

    Like John the Baptist, we all need to take the time to examine our lives and find the places where we need to decrease and allow Christ to increase regardless of how painful and difficult it may be.

    Thursday, June 21, 2007

    The Catholic Mass

    In response to Praise Him, I felt compelled to talk a bit about the Mass. As Catholics our greatest gift is that we do not need to rely on a Preacher or Homilist. We can have a horrible homily and the Mass does not change one bit. The summit and focus of every Mass is the reenactment of the Last Supper. Christ did not say, "preach this in remembrance of me". He said, "Do this in remembrance of me".
    I love our Protestant brothers but the bottom line is that without a good preacher the church will not be successful. Even with a good preacher attendance ebbs and flows and the church must constantly try to come up with new ideas and concepts. This alone should illustrate the fact that humans are unable to spread the Gospel with their own words and deeds. Christ instituted the Last Supper for our spiritual food and strength. Without the Eucharist, we all sure to falter.
    I can relate that at times Mass does seem distant. I find my own mind wandering and not always concentrating on the consecration. Despite this, I have willed myself to focus on the sacrament and ask for the graces. Believe me, the graces come through this miraculous sacrament.
    If "Praise Him" is serious and looking to find deeper meaning in the Eucharist we can all recommend some good resources. I hope this blog remains a honest and true testament to our faith in Christ.
    Finally, you see the numbers from Servium that many Catholics have become lax in their beliefs. On the other hand, one merely needs to visit St. Michael to see the bright future of our church. Throughout the 2000 years of existence, we have witnessed highs and lows. This will never change because we are human. The one constant that has never changed is the Eucharist. From the apostles to the adorers adoring Christ right this minute, the Eucharist is the summit and it will remain that way until Christ comes again. We don't get rid of stop signs because some people ignore them. We will never replace the consecration with preaching. We all have some work to do to spread the wonders of the Eucharist. As the great Leonidas once said before the millions of bloodthirsty and pagan Persians, "This is where we stand, This is where we fight", we must now also make a stand and make known the miracle of the Eucharist!

    A Threat From Within?

    A few years ago I told my wife that when the kids were old enough to attend CCD classes, that I would teach them myself at home. Being a product of some less-than stellar catechesis myself, I decided to take the Church’s teaching to heart to be the primary educator of my children in this area.

    I dread the yearly Sunday Mass when the DRE must announce that they are in desperate need of CCD instructors, and deliver an emphatic plea for help. It seems the plea always includes some comment to the effect, “Don't worry, you know more than you think”, or worse, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to really know anything to be a teacher.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but sympathy for the people in charge of these programs. They are in no position to be choosy; after all it’s a major feat just to fill out the positions.

    I found the following disturbing statistics posted over at Simon-Peter Says :

    Beliefs of Catholic Elementary School Religion Teachers.
    Percentage of lay religion teachers in Catholic elementary schools who identify the Church's position on the following issues with their own.

    God's existence..............................................98%
    Divinity of Jesus..............................................91%
    Resurrection...................................................87%
    Afterlife..........................................................74%
    Existence of Devil...........................................74%
    Real Presence.................................................63%
    Indissolubility of marriage................................54%
    Establishment of Church hierarchy...................41%
    Male Priesthood.............................................33%
    Euthanasia......................................................31%
    Church moral teaching....................................28%
    Infallibility of the Pope....................................27%
    Elective Abortion...........................................26%
    Human & Divine Authorship of Bible..............19%
    Artificial birth control.....................................10%

    In a previous post, the concern for people leaving the Church was brought up. I think that it is much more of a problem than most overly optimistic people I hear talking about it seem to think it is. If all the converts I read and hear about were added up, it would still only amount to a fraction of the people I know who have left the Church. I read about a high profile convert here and another there, but in an age where only 1 out of 3 Catholics go to Mass each Sunday I can't help but be tempered in my enthusiasm.

    Hear me out, making converts is great and we should be doing more of it. But let's not forget that the ones whose care we have been directly charged with, our children. They are in huge need of formation and conversion with our help. And in order to do this we must be formed and converted ourselves.

    If you can run down the list above and answer each point in the affirmative, please consider volunteering to teach CCD this year, those who have a legitimate need to send their children to CCD have the right to expect teachers who are faithful to ALL the Church's teachings. But if you can’t agree to each of the Church's positions ... DON’T TEACH! (The thud you just heard was sound of a DRE hitting the floor) Let me instead suggest that you look into attending Jeff Cavin’s Catholicism 101 this year at the Parish and sign up to teach next year.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    God & Gender Part 3: "Man Up, Men!"

    In Parts 1 & 2, I've proposed a cautionary note on NOT feminizing God the Father, but I haven't necessary enumerated the actual dangers in doing so, other than an implicit danger of displeasing Him through mischaracterization. Indeed, a reply to Part 2 suggests that the Holy See doesn't mind the title of "Mother" for God.

    The foremost reason that comes to my mind is the dilution of what "Father" really means, not to God Himself of course, but rather to us humans as we look to God for guidance. Without the explicit Holy example of "Father" as creator, provided, protector, and compassionate forgiver, we human men are subtly (or not so subtly) coaxed into giving up those roles in our daily lives. It's sad but apparently true that without constant focus on our "manly" responsibilities, we face the real prospect of leaving our manhood at the proverbial door, or more properly at the boat dock, or the couch, or the stadium, or the internet porn site.

    We see and live this every day, the temptation to ignore our "manly" duties and thus leave a void in support, instruction and ultimately love for our families. Worse yet, the void in many cases is filled by women. This fear isn't misogynistic, it's social justice. Our families, particularly our wives, deserve to have men do their part. Take it from my personal witness: the disappointment and disarray when I wasn't attending Mass with my wife and children, and by contrast the visible relief and satisfaction in the whole family, not to mention the improved attitude and behavior of the kids, when I started attending Mass as a Catholic father should. Women will step up and cover our consciously-chosen deficiencies, but why should they have to? Why would they want to?

    Man up, men!

    Hello!!!

    I’m so excited to be part of this blog!!!!!

    I spent all weekend thinking about what to post on, and during church on Sunday an idea came to me.

    Our Protestant brothers and sisters are so blessed to be able to sit through such amazing preaching on Sundays; wouldn’t it help to draw them into the church if we offered more great preaching ourselves?

    Then it dawned on me that if we had the priest consecrate the bread during the week we wouldn’t have to sit/stand/kneel through it on the weekend. Of course we would all go to communion like we do now and receive the bread that was consecrated during the week (so it's not like we aren't getting communion), but that way the priest could spend more time preaching and we would have more time for praise and worship during the service!

    Can you imagine how the Holy Spirit could work through this and draw us all together as one church?

    One thing the catholic church today is lacking is the ability to be relevant in a non-catholic culture.

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    Evangelist Yes, Debater No!

    I had a chance to listen to the debate last Thursday on the Drew Mariani Show between Tim Staples and Mike Gendron. I thought it was actually pretty interesting.

    From the start, Tim Staples dominated Mike Gendron. Apart from a brief moment near the middle of the debate, Mr. Gendron was never really able to string together a convincing argument to any points raised. And at times what he said didn’t seem to have much at all to do with what Tim Staples was even talking about. It was apparent very early on that the debate was between an apologist/debater and an evangelist. In fact, at times, Mike Gendron seemed to be reading material directly off his own website!

    That’s when it dawned on me that while Tim Staples was actually debating, Mr. Gendron, knowing that he had little chance of outdebating Mr. Staples, decided to use the time he had to “preach the Gospel” to thousands and thousands of “deceived” Catholics. He would begin by acknowledging what Tim Staples had said, put up a quick and weak argument, and move on to something that had little to do with the topic at hand.

    So in the end what are we left with?

    We’re left with convincing evidence that the Bible needs an authoritative interpreter. The more Mr. Staples and Mr. Gendron’s arguments differ, the more proof we have. The inescapable fact is that the Bible can be twisted and contorted to support most any position, and the best a debate of this kind can do is bring this point out and hopefully lead protestants to recognize that there must exist an absent source of authority.

    We can only hope and pray.

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    Just a head scratcher

    The Ghost is awful easy to confuse, like just yesterday he read a front page story in the paper where this guy's saying kids don't need religion to be good. The Ghost don't want to debate that, but you most likely know where he stands on that topic.

    The real confusing part was that the guy who is saying this is "Dale McGowan, a writer and former professor at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul." The Ghost looked up the college on the internet, and on the home page it says: "Vision: to be the world's pre-eminent Catholic college educating women to lead and influence" Hmm. "Pre-eminent" makes it sounds like maybe they should be in Rome, not Saint Paul.

    The home page also has "St. Kate's" in rainbow letters down at the bottom. It was a nice touch but The Ghost still didn't feel real good about the whole thing.

    The Ghost don't mind a college that wants to be "pre-eminent" but he's got to ask why a "pre-eminent Catholic" college would teach students this sort of antiCatholic junk? He knows that this isn't the first time the question has came up in the world of high education, and it's not the worst example either.

    Maybe The Ghost just wants his readers to get the message that you can't be too careful out there, especially when you're about to send your daughters off to be educated on being "pre-eminent" Catholic leaders and influencers. The Ghost has had enough of that kind of leadership.

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Debate: *Update*

    Just found out who the Catholic Apologist involved in the debate on the Drew Mariani show is.

    It's Tim Staples. And yes, Tim is on staff at Catholic Answers Live.

    I do feel a little better now, but I still don't think it's a great idea.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Drew's Drive-Time Debate

    Rumor has it that Drew Mariani from Relevant Radio will be hosting some sort of debate featuring Baptist “Evangelist” Mike Gendron from Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries, and a Catholic Apologist tomorrow on the Drew Mariani Show.

    Oh, and here’s a wonderful little blurb from Mr. Gendron’s website:

    As a Roman Catholic for over 30 years, I was taught from the Catechism that salvation was by faith plus baptism, the sacraments, good works, law keeping, the sacrifice of the Mass, indulgences, purgatory and penance. According to God's word this is another gospel that leaves Catholics with a false hope. Only when Catholics trust the Lord Jesus Christ as their all-sufficient savior will they know they are saved completely and forever!

    The Purpose Of Proclaiming The Gospel Ministries
    1. To urge Roman Catholics to renounce their faith in anything that opposes or nullifies the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    2. To persuade Roman Catholics to personally place their complete trust in Jesus Christ, His word, His grace, His redemption, His perfect sacrifice, His substitutionary atonement, and His finished work, so they can be saved from the power and penalty of sin and become children of God.
    3. To expose the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church that oppose or nullify the true Gospel, so people can know truth from error and not be deceived.
    4. To awaken Christians and evangelical churches to the reality that Catholics who adhere to the official dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church need to hear the gospel and repent from their dead works. (Hebrews 6:1)

    Thanks Mike, wonderful work you're doing. Please, don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel about the Catholic Church. How does the line go, “5 minutes before leaving the Church they knew nothing about Her teaching, 5 minutes after they’re an expert.”

    So, does anyone know who the “Catholic Apologist” is? Not sure if it’s been mentioned on the radio show (I don’t listen to it), but I can’t seem to find it online anywhere.

    Here are the agreed upon terms of the debate (from Mr. Gendron’s camp):
    1. “What must I do to be saved?” is the only topic.
    2. Only the Bible will be used as a source for truth.
    3. The debate will be in a Catholic medium or a neutral place. (Mike will not perpetuate their false doctrine in evangelical churches)

    This is such a bad idea. Why would Relevant Radio give this guy a platform? What’s the point? The way I see it you have three possible outcomes of such a debate:

    1. They both duke it out to a perceived draw. In this case, each side (protestant and Catholic) walk away feeling that their gladiator did a good job.

    2. The Catholic apologist does a better job than the protestant. All of the Catholic listeners (98% of those listening that day) will feel better about what they already believe. Come on, it's a Catholic radio station after all! Humbleness still being a virtue in the Church, the debate become a fond memory. The 2% of the protestant listeners will feel as though their warrior was stymied by the Catholic host.

    3. The protestant “evangelist” Mike “I was a Roman Catholic for over 30 years” Gendron does a better job than the mystery Catholic apologist. Catholics in the listening crowd feel uncomfortable, and a small few may even have their faith shook. The 2% of protestant listeners are pumped. Humbleness, no longer part of Mr. Gendron’s belief system (hey, just check out his website), the audio recording and broadcast it over the Internet like the spoils of war.

    Being a little facetious here, but I have to question if the risk is worth the possible gain.

    Not to sure how many in the Catholic world were aware of the big “Atheist Debate” that went on about a month ago. It featured Christians (from the Way of the Master) Kirk Cameron (remember Growing pains?) and Ray Comfort (another evangelist) facing off against atheists (from the Rational Response Squad) Kelly (never gave her last name) and Brian Sapien (creator of the despicable Blasphemy Challenge website) to debate the existence of God. The debate was hosted by ABC news. Yout can still watch the debate here if you're interested.

    So, what happened when the self appointed defenders of Theism and Atheism clashed? It was at best a draw. The atheists’ arguments were old, tired, and weak. They conducted themselves in an immature almost “oh yeah, …, well you’re stupid” manner. The Christians on the other hand were unable to really answer the arguments the atheists put forth, or to deal with the predictable rebuttals from the atheists. The Christians seemed unable to sustain any solid argument and came across as just, well, unprepared.

    The result was a boost to the atheist crowd's moral, and a lot of head shaking and disappointment from the Christian realm. The number of people visiting the Blasphemy Challenge website went through the roof. After a couple of millennia of feeling the ideals of atheism could not be defended in the light of Christian logic, they now had a confidence to be bold - and obnoxious.

    People put way too much weight behind debates. The argument can easily turn from what concept is correct, to who is the better debater. The truth found in a concept is in no way dependant on a person’s ability to defend it, or even their ability to persuade others to hold it. Truth is truth by the very virtue of what it is. The whole world could believe it false, and it would still be true.

    So I do hope that the debate goes well tomorrow. I hope that the unknown Catholic apologist (I hope they’re from the Catholic Answers world) makes quick work of Mr. Gendron, and the show moves on to something a little more “relevant”.

    "GAY-PRONE" PARISHES?

    Wow. The Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis took a beating by Michael Brown over at Sprit Daily. If (and I do mean IF) all or even some of what he says is true, it is a little disturbing.

    But, CATHY_OF_ALEX has a few things to say about what she thinks of Mr. Brown's article at her blog The Recovering Dissident Catholic. She raises a lot of very interesting points and sets the record straight (no pun intended) on many of the issues reported in the Spirit Daily article.

    I do know this, criticism of priests and Bishops (especially in such a public way) is not something to be taken as lightly and done as flippantly as many do today, orthodox or progressive or whatever. Whether to the left or to the right, dissent is dissent, and therefore a serious matter. People have a right, and in some cases a duty, to bring concerns they have to the Archdiocese. But this must be done in respect, charity, and with the understanding that the Archbishop has the final authority.

    Believe me, if anyone is prone to have an opinion on the current state of the Church – it’s me! But God didn’t make me, or Mr. Brown for that matter, Archbishop of the Archdiocese, He entrusted that to Archbishop Harry Flynn. And you know what, the Archdiocese is a much better place for that. May we all shy away from becoming an armchair-archbishop!

    I think Mr. Brown owes the good Archbishop an apology.

    Archbishop Flynn, May God bless and keep you . Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt, may God strengthen and guide you.

    Men’s Groups

    Well, this month closes out the Men’s groups at our Parish for the summer. It was a good year, a few new faces appeared and a few old ones vanished. We will start meeting again in September, but I think a few questions really need to be honestly discussed:

    1. What is a Men’s Group? What should one consist of? Bible study, theology, personal struggles, fun “manly” activities, none of these, all of these?
    2. Ultimately what is their desired outcome (in non-abstract language please)?
    3. How should the groups be put together? By age, life situation, meeting time convenience, focus of the group, randomly, or something else?
    4. How often should they meet?
    5. Everyone talks about the groups going “deep”, but what does that mean?
    6. Should the groups be shuffled (how often?) or should they be kept static?
    7. How do we attract new men? How do we keep old ones?
    8. Should the groups be allowed to decide for themselves what direction to go (what book to be reading for instance), or should all groups be moving informally in the same direction?
    9. Should the different groups meet as a whole, and if so how often? With Father?

    I’m not sure the zeal that once surrounded the men’s groups is there right now. It may be the time of year, it may be changing situation for the guys, or it may just be a natural lull in the cyclical nature of some Men’s Group dynamic (not even sure what I just said there).

    I would also love to see anyone out there who is involved in a Men’s or even Women’s group other than one from the St. Michael parish share any ideas (in the combox) of what has worked or is working for them.

    But this time off will give us all a chance to think the questions above over and see if there are any areas that could be looked at and possibly changed.

    Have a great Summer fellas!

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    A Sinful Woman, and a Saving Faith

    Had a chance to look over the reading for this Sunday last night. I just have a couple quick thoughts. The reading is Lk 7:36—8:3, but what caught my attention were verses 44-50:

    Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,“Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,but she has bathed them with her tearsand wiped them with her hair.You did not give me a kiss,but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.You did not anoint my head with oil,but she anointed my feet with ointment.So I tell you, her many sins have been forgivenbecause she has shown great love.But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”The others at table said to themselves,“Who is this who even forgives sins?”But he said to the woman,“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
    In the last line Jesus tells the woman, “Your faith has saved you”. This woman was saved, but there was no alter call, no sinner’s prayer, not even any emotionally moving background music! While there may be nothing inherently wrong with any of these things, they are only the possible beginnings of faith and not an end in themselves. This woman’s faith that "saved her" was demonstrated without her speaking a single word.

    What we do see is a woman who, knowing she is a sinner, seeks out the Savior. She had a sincere sorrow of heart prompted by God's grace obvious through her humble actions and obvious sorrow. The woman washes, kisses, and annoints Jesus’ feet, not out of payment or debt owed, but out of “great love”.

    The woman in the story displays her faith firstly by trusting in who Jesus was. At the risk of ridicule and scorn, she sought Him out, even having the courage to enter the house of a Pharisee. She begins the story with humility.

    The woman then displays her faith through her sorrow for her past sins and her desire to serve Jesus. Both of these actions are born from the love that she has for Jesus. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1814 says:
    Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God." For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work[s] through charity."
    How can we imitate the actions of this woman?

    In our lives, we trust who Jesus is by seeking Him out in humility. Living a life of prayer and devotion, and educating ourselves and others (remember the kids!) in the areas of the faith where we are able. And always (as painful as it is for myself) in HUMILITY!

    We wash Jesus’ feet with our tears and receive forgiveness of our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This Sacrament shows our desire to reconcile with God what we have lost through sin, and to be absolved from those sins.

    But how are we to anoint and kiss the feet of Christ? In Matthew 25:31-40 we find out:

    When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
    for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
    We serve Christ through our acts of charity towards those He loves. Sometimes this can be a little difficult, but it’s never impossible.

    We are called to show our love for Jesus through sorrow for our sins, trust in who He is, and in service to Him through acts of loving service toward the “least of our brothers”.

    After all, a living faith works through charity.

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

    "Does not this one devotion contain a summary of all our religion, and a guide to a more perfect life? Indeed, it more easily leads our minds to know Christ the Lord intimately, and it more effectively turns our hearts to love Him more ardently and to imitate Him more perfectly."
    - Pope Pius XI (Miserentissimus Redemptor)

    This Friday is the Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus . There is a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but many today sadly have no idea what it is.

    The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion found in one sense stretching back to the 11th or 12th century, and in another sense to the apostles John and Paul. It’s a devotion that once was so popular schools, parishes, hospitals, nursing homes and the like were named after it. The most popular image linked to the devotion was so widespread that even today it would be hard to find a Catholic who would not recognize it.

    But today, these things are only an echo of what once was. The symbols of the devotion remain, but ones not understood by recent generations. I would like to explain in this post exactly why this devotion has seen such a drop in the last 40 years or so, but to be honest I can’t. I can’t, because I don’t know why. But what I can do is to try explaining why it shouldn’t have.

    So, what is the object of this devotion? By object I mean the “what” we showing devotion to. Is it Jesus’ physical, human heart? If so, you may ask (and rightfully so) why not His ear? Or how about his spleen, I bet Jesus had a fabulous spleen.

    While the “what” we are showing our devotion to is directed toward the human heart of Christ, it is only a symbol of the true object of the devotion which is the love that Christ has for us. Here is what is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 478):

    Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: "The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me." He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, "is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings" without exception.

    This point is so important for people to keep in mind. This is a devotion is above all a devotion to love which Christ has for the Father and for us. And through this devotion to the love of Christ, we show Christ the love we have for Him. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) It is a devotion of action, requiring us to show our love for Christ in every part of our lives. It does not allow us to hide behind a faith dead and lacking works (James 2:14), but demands a living faith permeating every aspect of our lives.

    Many assume that this devotion is a result of the visions of Jesus St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received in the 17th century. No doubt this event helped increase the devotion’s popularity, but the Church did not base Her decision to approve this devotion based on her visions but only recognized that the content of them in no way contradicted what was already present in the deposit of faith. So the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus exists outside the realm of personal revelation.

    Though the devotion in its present form (devotion to Christ’s love for us symbolically through His physical heart) can be traced back to the 11th or 12th century, the devotion to the love of Christ reaches much further back.

    We can even feel Paul’s devotion when he writes (Gal 2:19-20):

    “For through the law I died to the law, that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”

    This type of devotion is what the world desperately needs now. A devotion that calls man to respond to Christ's love as less of a sponge, soaking up love and not spilling a drop, and more of a mirror, taking what has been shown to him and reflecting it out to the world.


    Prayer to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus:
    O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we beseech Thee to pour fourth Thy blessing upon Thy Holy Church, upon the Pope, and upon all the clergy. Grant the just perseverance, convert sinners, illuminate unbelievers, bless those close to us, our friends and benefactors, assist the dying, free the souls spending time in purgatory, and sweetly extended the power of Thy love over all hearts.
    Amen.

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    We've got a Race Here Folks!

    And it looks like it's neck and neck!

    The Muto Proprio or Joshua 24:15's promised part 3 in his "God & Gender" series ... which will come first?

    Guess time will tell.

    Friday, June 8, 2007

    Two Small Coins, and a Whole Lot of Faith


    In today's Gospel reading, Mark 12:38-44, we find the story of the poor widow woman giving two small coins (leptons or Widow's Mites), her "whole livelihood".

    38 In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces,

    39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.

    40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”

    41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.

    42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.

    43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.

    44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”


    In the temple, in the Court of Women, there were 13 trumpet-shaped "boxes" used to collect the charitable giving from the Jews in town for the Passover. Even though these were in the Court of Women, women and men were allowed. It is here that Jesus and His disciples watched as the poor woman gave everything she had.


    The coins that the women placed in the box were Jewish coins called lepton. A lepton was the coin of the least value and worth only about 1/64 of a normal days wage. Obviously, this was a poor woman indeed.


    How easy it would have been for the woman to not give anything. Would it not be understandable for a widow, who really had no way to support herself in those days remember, to use what little she had to live off? And even if she wanted to give something, how easy it would have been to give one coin to God, and keep one coin for herself. That surely would have been generous beyond expectation.


    But Jesus uses this situation to teach His disciples (us included) a lesson as relevant then as it is today: God wants us to give freely to Him ALL of our lives!


    He doesn't want to be part of our lives, He wants our lives to be part of His. Committed to serving and loving him and others in every area of our lives. To avoid compartmentalizing our faith, allotting God a part of ourselves, but not the whole. To give our lives and all we have to Him in complete faith.


    But what can God do with my seemingly small and unimportant life? Wait until this Sunday to find out what He did with five loaves, two fish, and a whole lot of hungry people...

    Master of My Drive-Time Universe

    I spend about one-and-a-half hours in my car each day commuting to and from work. And while for the most part I like the local Catholic radio station, the afternoon show topics don't always grab me, and the host tends to grind on my nerves.

    A week or two ago, a friend of mine won an iPod in a raffle where he works. Being that he already had an iPod, he found it in the kindness of his heart to give the new iPod to me! A very generous, and appreciated act without a doubt! Yee-haw!

    I have grown to love my iPod. I now can download podcasts and other audio files from the Internet onto this little modern marvel and listen to them during my commute. I am amazed at the amount to great Catholic material out there to be had for free.

    Now you don’t need an iPod to do this, any capable mp3 device works just fine (they're just not as cool as an iPod). Below is a short list of podcasts I have found that others may be interested in.

    EWTN Podcasts
    Catholic Answers Live!
    USCCB Daily Readings
    One True Faith
    A list of others


    Recently, I’ve run across another great resource. There are a few sites that offer free audio books for download. Currently I am listening to G.K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man (highly recommended by the way!). There are two types of audio books. The first is a synthesized voice recording (sounds a little robotic and a little like Stephen Hawking). These are OK, but the quality of the voice can get distracting. The second type is human read books. As a rule, this second type is better but does depend, for obvious reasons, on the human reading it. Below are a couple links to sites with a lot of great books:

    Catholic Audio Book Classics
    Maria Lactrix

    I began reading Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical letter, “Deus Caritas Est” again last night. I thought it would be interesting to read it aloud and record myself, allowing me to listen to it in the future. Aside from my horrible sounding voice and occasional "creative pronunciation", it turned out listenable. I finished the introduction and Part 1, and am considering posting the mp3 file(s) when complete.

    But, if you have time during your commute and are not thrilled with your current listening options, give the links above a shot.

    Thursday, June 7, 2007

    The Feast of Corpus Christi


    Today, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, was originally celebrated as the Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ). This Feast is a day to celebrate the gift of the Holy Eucharist. In 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull "Transiturus" in which Corpus Christi was made a feast day.


    It was placed on this day to mirror Holy Thursday, the day the Eucharist was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper. But, since Good Friday follows Holy Thursday, it's not the most appropriate day to celebrate and so we are given another day to express our joy.


    As most know, the celebration of this feast is usually accompanied by a Eucharistic procession, stating in a public and beautiful way our belief and adoration of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.


    So, why do we celebrate this feast this Sunday and not today? In the US, the Feast of Corpus Christi is a movable feast. This means that the date of its observance is not tied to a calendar date, but a number of days from Easter. So we celebrate the feast 63 days after Easter, or the Sunday after Trinity Sunday (last Sunday).


    Our parish will be having a Eucharistic Procession after the 10:30 am Mass this weekend, and I hope you can all be there for it. What a statement it would be to our community, Parish, and children!


    One small note: A week from this Friday is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (More on this Feast next week). That means that if you start a novena to the Sacred Heart today, it would end on the feast day. Why not do something wild and crazy and start a novena tonight with your family after dinner? Oh, come on! Just pray the following prayer as a family each day starting today and ending next Friday:


    NOVENA TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

    O most holy Heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore You, I loved You, and with a lively sorrow for sins, I offer You this poor heart of mine. Make the humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to Your will. Grant, good Jesus, that I may live in You and for You. Protect me in the midst of danger; comfort me in my afflictions; give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, Your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007

    At what point does the well run dry?

    Last week we were notified that our parish ended the fiscal year in the red. This has not happened for some time and I know many parishioners find the news alarming. Currently, we are raising money for a newly proposed makeshift middle school, 6 million in debt reduction on new church, a new social hall, a $60,000 Net youth team, 30-40 thousand dollars for upkeep of our historic church, and a new k-8 catholic grade school building. I humbly throw out the question: Our we a bit overextended?
    The good Lord has blessed our parish with an incredible Pastor and wonderful gifts. We have so many Christ filled parishioners doing so many wonderful things. We have raised many thousands of dollars and built what many consider the most beautiful modern church in the area. Have we reached a point where we might need to listen and pray and make sure all our endeavours are what Christ truly has planned for us? We are having trouble raising new money and collections have not grown despite a steady infusion of new families.
    Is the money out there? I wish it was in my checkbook but I seem to be missing a few zero's in my balance. Let's all pray and fast for our leaders so they will be able to make the best decisions during this apparent dry fiscal time. Curious to see how others feel about this important topic.

    Remember When Europe was Christian?

    Muhammad now ranks number 2 in U.K. boy's names, and should rank number 1 by next year.

    Where are all the Christian babies? You'll find them in the post below.

    Abortion doesn't make you Un-Pregnant ...

    I saw a bumper sticker last night at my son’s baseball game:
    “Abortion doesn’t make you Un-Pregnant, it makes you the mother of a Dead Baby!”
    Wow. It kind of rocked me back on my heels. Very to-the-point, very blunt, very true. I wish I would have been able to tell her how much I liked it, but she drove off before I got the chance.

    I doubt anyone reading this blog needs to be reminded of the clear and pure evil of abortion, but then again, it never hurts.

    Aside from the infanticidal, it’s-only-tissue-pshycho-feminist, the kind of person who makes me the most ill to deal with is the I-don’t-agree-with-it-but-I-don’t-think-it-should-be-illegal mental and moral wimp.

    The two arguments most often heard from the latter group are that we don’t have the right to force our moral views on someone else, and that abortion is needed in cases of (come on, I’m sure you can name them) rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is at risk. Some also tack on the end something to the effect that they would never support abortion being used as a form of birth control. Every time I hear this, my eyes roll back in my head so fast and so hard I almost fall over backwards.

    The first argument of course is so ridiculous and stupid that I’m not going to give much time to it. Every law passed in our country is an attempt to “force moral views” on us. Somehow the pro-abortion crowd has been successful at getting the mindless and spineless masses to repeat this mantra. Just watch how people enter a trance-like state and nod their heads agreeingly when politicians like Rudi Giuliani repeat it.

    But I want to look a little more closely at the second argument: that abortion is needed in cases of rape, incest, and if the life of the mother is at risk. What percentage of abortions fall into this category? Mind you, the people who make this argument are the same ones who would never support abortion as, “a form of birth control”. Well, let’s take a look.

    The Guttmacher Institute is an organization, which is in charge of gathering and compiling data for Planned Parenthood. Their stated goal is to advance, “sexual and reproductive health worldwide through an interrelated program of social science research, public education and policy analysis.” Translation: to support the increase of sexual immorality, contraception and abortion throughout the world.

    In 2004 The Guttmacher Institute completed and published a report looking at the reasons U.S. women have abortions. Below is an image with some data from the report:

    - Not ready for a(nother) child/timing is wrong
    - Can’t afford a baby now
    - Have completed my childbearing/have other people depending on me/children have grown
    - Don’t want to be a single mother/am having relationship problems
    - Don’t feel mature enough to raise a(nother) child/feel too young
    - Would interfere with education or career plans

    = 86% of abortions!!!

    Physical problem with my help (problem mind you – not necessarily life threatening)
    Was a victim of rape

    = 4.5% of abortions!!!

    Remember, this data is not from the Pro-Life crowd, it’s from Planned Parenthood. It’s impossible not to see how abortion is used as a contraceptive to deal with children who have become an unwanted burden. Maybe this is a result of children having the amazing ability to draw our love and attention from ourselves, and direct it outward to another - a very unpleasant concept to the modern, self-absorbed crowd.

    Just look at what then asked about what the hugly popular supermodel Gisele Bundchen had to say when asked about what she thought about abortion:

    “If she thinks she doesn't have the money or the emotional condition to raise a child, why should she give birth?”

    In her defense, Ms. Bundchen isn't exactly known around the world for her mind ... if you get what I'm saying.

    Another couple of statistics that I found tremendously disturbing:
    - 1 out of every 4 pregnancies in the US end in abortion (50% in Russia)
    - 90% of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis have chosen to have an abortion.


    This prayer was written by Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director Priests for Life:

    Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life, And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters. I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion, Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death by the Resurrection of Your Son. I am ready to do my part in ending abortion. Today I commit myself Never to be silent, Never to be passive, Never to be forgetful of the unborn. I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement, And never to stop defending life Until all my brothers and sisters are protected, And our nation once again becomes A nation with liberty and justice Not just for some, but for all, Through Christ our Lord. Amen!

    “Abortion doesn’t make you Un-Pregnant, it makes you the mother of a Dead baby!”

    Man Tries to Jump into Popemobile!


    Breaking news ....

    "A man tried to jump into Pope Benedict XVI's uncovered popemobile as the pontiff began his general audience Wednesday in St. Peter's Square and was wrestled to the ground by security officers."
    The Holy Father is Ok, thank God.

    Tuesday, June 5, 2007

    Tough Night for Tobit.

    Anyone make it to Mass today? Were you listening to the first reading (Tobit 2:9-14)? Wow. I'd love to hear anyone's exegesis on this baby:

    "On the night of Pentecost, after I had buried the dead,I, Tobit, went into my courtyard to sleep next to the courtyard wall. My face was uncovered because of the heat. I did not know there were birds perched on the wall above me, till their warm droppings settled in my eyes, causing cataracts."
    Hmmm. Was there really a need to include the "warm" part?

    The Blood of the Martyrs ...

    Ran across this story today:

    "In two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, and of these, 45.5 million -- fully 65% -- were in the last century"

    So many willing to give their lives for the faith, while I find it hard to share mine.

    "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. "
    Tertullian

    Monday, June 4, 2007

    How Do Martyrs of the Living God Die?

    With their boots on, making Christ known in dangerous places. How I wish I had a faith so alive I'd be willing to die for it. This kind of faith does exist:

    An armed group gunned down and killed Fr Ragheed Ganni and three of his aides [deacons]. The murder took place right after Sunday mass in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul where Father Ragheed was parish priest.
    ...
    Father Ragheed himself had been targeted several times in previous attacks. The Church of the Holy Spirit has also been repeatedly attacked and bombed in the last few years, the last time occurred but a few months ago.

    How happy they must be now.

    Eternal rest grant unto them, 0 Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

    May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

    Sunday, June 3, 2007

    Discerning God's Will by Rolling Dice?

    To what extent can we use chance to discern the will of God? At first blush, the idea of it sounds very, well, superstitious. Can we say that since God is in control of everything, and everything that occurs happens according to His will, that His will can be found even in randomness? Take for instance the Apostles choosing a replacement for Judas:

    So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place." Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.

    Acts 1:23-26

    Hmmm. I looked up a few things this weekend, and I was surprised to find how often this idea is found in the Bible. I found that the Old Testament uses the Hebrew word for lot, “gowral”, 77 times. And the New Testament uses the Greek word, “kleros”, 13 times. Not all the verses are positive, some are neutral and others negative, but the idea that casting lots to determine God’s will was found in about half of the verses.

    Look at Proverbs 16:33 for example:
    The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the Lord’s alone.
    For the skeptics, here are a few passages you can look up: Lev 16:8, Jos 18:6-10, 1 Sam 14:42, 1Ch 24:31, and 1Ch 26:13-14.

    Interesting stuff, but I don't think I'll be using a coin or dice to make any life guiding decisions in the near future.

    Saturday, June 2, 2007

    God & Gender Part 2: Yes, "He"!

    But, you may say, God was here forever, and all Creation came from God, so is God not also "Mother" and thus "She" as well? No! This logic is to once again limit God to our human example and to make indistinguishable that which must be distinguished: the nature of the "Father" is not the same as human male gender, we we discussed in Part 1. To take this point indelicately further, I do not believe God the Father has a penis, in that He doesn't need that or any other physical human body part, male or female, to be Who He is. Creation, of course, did not happen through any sort of human-like conception, but rather through the exercise of God's Divine Will. His fatherly nature prevails without the unnecessary constraint of human maleness. The fatherly traits are inherent to Him, and He doesn't need feminine traits to have created women and given them their natures.

    Now let's consider the Son and the value of His example to the premise. Jesus Christ is a different Person than the Father, and Who clearly in His human form was a male. It would be silly to call Jesus Christ "the Daughter of God," wouldn't it? Yet there are those who would follow this path for God the Father, with the equally illegitimate moniker "Mother" or the pronoun "She." It seems that for we weak minded humans to get it right and not somehow confuse "Son" with a girl, we should be effectively hit over the head with a solid male body to realize the nature of Jesus: that He was of the Son of God.

    So, getting Jesus' gender right was relatively easy because we had His physical body, and it may take a little more effort on our part to settle on God the Father as a true "father" and with the associated "He," but nonetheless let's not be fooled or cowed into allowing our Father to be artificially (and wrongly) feminized.

    In Part 3, I will discuss that, having rejected the feminizing of the Father, and with the clear example of Jesus as the Son, we human men should similarly reject the various attempts to diminish our own masculinity, and some of the grave dangers inherent in doing so.