Monday, October 22, 2007

Has Apologetics Lead to "Biblicism"

Considering the current climate in the Church and the following exceprt from JPII's encyclical FIDES ET RATIO (Faith and Reason):

There are also signs of a resurgence of fideism, which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God. One currently widespread symptom of this fideistic tendency is a "biblicism" which tends to make the reading and exegesis of Sacred Scripture the sole criterion of truth. In consequence, the word of God is identified with Sacred Scripture alone, thus eliminating the doctrine of the Church which the Second Vatican Council stressed quite specifically. Having recalled that the word of God is present in both Scripture and Tradition,(73) the Constitution Dei Verbum continues emphatically:

"Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture comprise a single sacred deposit of the word of God entrusted to the Church. Embracing this deposit and united with their pastors, the People of God remain always faithful to the teaching of the Apostles".

Scripture, therefore, is not the Church's sole point of reference. The "supreme rule of her faith" (75) derives from the unity which the Spirit has created between Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church in a reciprocity which means that none of the three can survive without the others.(76)

Moreover, one should not underestimate the danger inherent in seeking to derive the truth of Sacred Scripture from the use of one method alone, ignoring the need for a more comprehensive exegesis which enables the exegete, together with the whole Church, to arrive at the full sense of the texts. Those who devote themselves to the study of Sacred Scripture should always remember that the various hermeneutical approaches have their own philosophical underpinnings, which need to be carefully evaluated before they are applied to the sacred texts.

Have we seen the balance between Tradition and Sacred Scripture upset? Excitement over biblical study is wonderful, but has it been accompanied by an equal study of Sacred Tradition? Does it matter?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Green martyrdom?

Front Royal, Va, Oct 12, 2007 / 04:35 pm (CNA).- Father Thomas J. Euteneur, president of Human Life International, said Christian martyrdom will take on different forms in the future. Writing in a letter titled "Green Martyrdom," he suggested that Christian witness will not be a "red martyrdom" of blood but rather a "green martyrdom" of monetary sacrifice required by principled living.
He explained the subtle economic forces that can compromise the faithful: "even though many Catholics would undoubtedly give up their lives for Christ, people find it much harder to give up their jobs for Christ."

My initial response to this only in America do we need to make up a new type of martyrdom fitting to our safe and secure civil and social environment.

But then I read;
“In the book How the Irish Saved Civilization (Doubleday), Thomas Cahill talks about [green] martyrdom. According to Cahill, Ireland was unique in that Christianity was introduced there without bloodshed (red martyrdom). No Irish martyrs emerged until the time of Elizabeth I. Cahill states that this lack of martyrdom disturbed the Irish, so they conceived first of a green martyrdom.
Green martyrs left behind the comforts and pleasures of ordinary human society to live hermits' lives on mountaintops or lonely islands. As Cahill puts it, they went "to one of the green noman's lands outside tribal jurisdiction." There they studied Scripture and communed with God after the example of the anchorites in the Egyptian desert. Ireland could not duplicate the barren terrain of the Egyptian desert; thus, this green martyrdom gave way to the more social life of monasticism.”

So now I amend my comment to only in Ireland. But upon further reflection I wonder if this is indeed our cross. By “our” I mean American’s. We really have nothing to worry about and no real suffering occurs in our lives other than that which is common to all. We are not oppressed or persecuted and there is no real danger of that happening.
Yet, still we complain about the new liturgy or music or vernacular. Certainly things about which we should pray.
In light of that I offer the following.
1. Ought we not be the most loving joyful generous dare I say happy Christian’s in the world?
2. If not why not?
3. If so why are we not and what must we do to become what we ought to be?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Evangelization: Rational or Seductive?

Seductive evangelization, now there's a phrase you don't hear thrown around much. So let me begin by defining the words “Evangelization “, “Rational”, and “Seductive” as I'll be using them:

Evangelization: To make the Gospel known
Rational: Consistent with reason and intellect.
Seduction: Something that attracts, especially with the promise of reward.

I see currently two trends amoung people in the Church to make the Gospel known (evangelization).

The first is through biblically and theologically based apologetics. The popularity of organizations such as Catholic Answers or authors such as Akin, Ray, Hahn, and many others testify to this fact. This method is based on convincing a person of the truth of the faith using reason and intellect.

The second is through a more relational and expressive manner. A rise in the popularity of small groups, Contemporary Christian Music, CRHP, etc. confirm this trend. Here the objective is to make known the attractiveness of the faith life. Its aim is not so much to satisfy the reason and intellect, but to offer a way for a person to experience the faith in a personally meaningful, deeply emotional way.

The first method aims for the “head”, the second for the “heart”. That's not to say that the first doesn't address the "heart" and that the second pays no attention to the "head" they do, but to a lesser extent. From the outside, each seems to paint a very different picture of the Church. One immovable truth, the other irresistible grace. In a Church that has produced Saints as different as Thomas Aquinas and John of the Cross, maybe an argument can be made that there’s a need for the existence of both groups.

But there is a theoretical third group – not so much found between the two but a combination of both. A group arguing that you can’t really know the truth without to some extant experiencing it, and that you can’t really experience it without to some extant knowing it. I say theoretical because I’m not so sure it really exists. The first and second group will each claim that they really fit in this “third” category, but only at the protest of the other. Each has a tendency to over emphasize one aspect of the faith at the expense of the other. It’s this “third” category that the Church badly needs to form.

We are all called to evangelize by virtue of our baptism. But how should we evangelize? Is there a right and a wrong way? And how do we decide which is “right” and which is “wrong”? Do numbers count? Does it change over time? Does it depend on the individual? Does this third category exist? Is there a need for it? Have I asked enough questions?

[How many Saints can you see in the picture above? How many can you name?]

Monday, October 15, 2007

Weekly Giving

A few weekends ago we were given the “State of the Parish” report. (You can find the Report here and the Presentation here).

What struck me was the difference in weekly giving expected between the church we used to attend (non-Catholic) and here. I'm NOT saying the people of St. Michael should or shouldn't be matching this rate of giving, just thought some may be interested in looking at the numbers.

To show you what I’m talking about, here is a little table comparing the current giving and target WEEKLY giving for the two:

Current ParishFormer church





Per Week$ 19,000$ 23,777$ 300,000$ 400,000
# of Families2155215522002200
Avg / Week$ 8.82$ 11.03$ 136.36$ 181.82
Avg / Month $ 35.27$ 44.13$ 545.45$ 727.27
Avg / Year$ 458.47$ 573.74$ 7,090.91$ 9,454.55

The numbers still amaze me.

A Changing Environment

The last 10 to 15 years has seen an increase in the desire of the laity to know what we believe about our faith. In the past, Catholics really relied on the Priests to answer questions that involved anything other than the minimal understanding of the faith. It’s true that much of this still occurs, but a lot of progress has been made in this area. Stuff you all know I’m sure.

Items are in many ways “shaped” by the environment they exist in. Whether a tree, a duck, a rock, or an idea; outside conditions in some ways effect the characteristics which become more fully developed. A sapling that is planted next to a mature tree will not grow straight, but will bend in a direction away from the larger tree and toward the available sunlight. The tree will not invest as much energy in developing the side of it that sits in the shadow of the larger tree, but will put all the more energy into the side that is hit by the sun. Based on its environment, a part of itself has been given less attention while another has been given more.

In the last 500 years, the greatest environmental challenge the Catholic Church has faced has been from Protestants. We are now pretty familiar with their arguments and have a good idea of where to find most of the answers. Questions on items such as the Pope, Mary, the Eucharist, Purgatory, etc. which would have had us scrambling for cover are now much less frightening. But these questions are only “big” questions in a Christian environment. In an environment that assumes God exists, Jesus is his Son, and by his death salvation has been made possible. But is our environment changing?

As atheism, agnosticism, and Islam gain momentum in the world, the questions and challenges faced by the Church will change. Aspects of our faith we have taken for granted will now be challenged by a world that refuses to. Having answers to questions on matters where Catholicism and Protestantism is and will continue to be important, but so will be questions like how do we know God exists, how can three persons be one God, and how could Jesus be both fully man and fully God. A world where we cannot assume that Jesus is God, or even that God exists is a very different world than most of us are used to.

There’s a difference between knowing facts, like where a certain Catholic teaching can be found in the Bible, and understanding concepts behind those teachings. The Catholic Church has been blessed with a history full of intellectual and spiritual giants that many of us today are never exposed to. Let’s face it, for many reading page after page on the two natures of Jesus may not be appealing unless they feel the need to move beyond just belief. As the world around us changes, the need to move beyond belief does too.

So while the environment in which Christianity exists changes, it isn't uncharted territory. We can be encouraged that our faith in the first century was planted in a completely non-Christian environment and even against all odds thrived. And we can also be confident in the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the wisdom of our leaders. After all, the Pope's first encyclical and book were not aimed at issues that separate Protestant and Catholic (for example the nature of Baptism or man's justification), but at the very nature of God the Father (God is Love) and God the Son (Jesus of Nazareth).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bending (and Breaking?)

I recently encountered a situation at my work place that has me wondering whether to speak up or not. I was part of a group that was given a quick primer on "sustainability" which, if you haven't had the pleasure, means reducing waste & impact on the environment. This has become a particular focus of many big companies recently, since "green" and "global warming" etc has been in the news and is thus elevated. So far, so good-- I certainly believe we are called to be good stewards of all of God's gifts, including the earth and nature.

Then, I heard the discussion broaden to "social responsibility" such as helping the hungry and under-developed. Still not alarming on the face of it, as we do see companies really starting to become more aware of and involved in such topics-- I have twice led volunteer groups here at work, to pack out meals for Feed My Starving Children, and in fact my company has recently completed a big effort to pack 1,000,000 meals for FMSC using our facilities and volunteers. Really cool stuff and I feel very fortunate to work for a company that does indeed put a lot of resources into helping others. My company even matches any school (including our Catholic School) donation up to $15,000 a year, no questions asked.

But, as I dug into some of the material that was connected to our company's efforts for sustainable development and social responsibility, I saw the names of several non-profits and by extension a few United Nations groups.

(Confession: I have a pretty low opinion of the UN and most of its activities-- and I worry about the Church/Vatican's agreement & alignment with some of the UN goals. That's probably another post for another time...)

One of the organizations I got linked to was the UN Population Fund, which explicitly indicates that the best way to help the Third World prosper is to institute "fertility controls," which means extensive use of contraceptives and something they euphemistically call "reproductive health." I was born, but not yesterday, so I knew at some point this meant abortion was on the agenda. I will give the UN credit, you really have to dig to get the whole truth-- bottom line, abortion is OK when push comes to shove.

So here is my dilemma: how to navigate the complexities of the many whacky non-profits out there when the end seems to suit your purpose, like jumping to sustainability when it helps feed people but then realizing some of your new friends also believe in "fertility control" and dubious "reproductive health." How far should and can one bend before they are broke?

"One may never do evil so that good may result from it." CCC 1789

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Anabaptist Kingdom of Muenster

If you travel to Muenster, Germany and visit St. Lambert’s Church, you will notice three cages hanging from its steeple. Why would three cages be hung from a Church steeple? I’m glad you asked.

It was 1530 and a former follower of Martin Luther, who had left after forming his own unique beliefs, was stirring the people of Strasberg up with his preaching. His name was Melchior Hoffman, and he proclaimed that the end of the world would come in 1533, the righteous leaders of Strasberg would exterminate the godless in the city, and that Strasberg would become the “New Jerusalem”. As you can imagine, the leaders of the city were not overly happy with his message and banished poor Melchior from the city.

Melchior Hoffman was a member of the group known as the Anabaptists. Most people think of there being two groups: the Catholics and the Protestants during the early 16th century, but that’s not entirely true. There was a third group, the Anabaptists, whose distinguishing belief (trying to keep it simple here) dealt with the nature of baptism. While the Protestants (think Luther and Zwingli) held to the belief that the Bible is the sole authority (Sola Scriptura), the Anabaptists believed that they just held to it a tad tighter. And where the Protestants wanted to "reform" what they saw as corruption in the Church, the Anabaptists in general didn't recognize that there was Church at all, let alone one to reform. They believed that they were reaching back, uncovering "true" Christianity and that not only were the Catholics way off, but the Protestants were as well.

A quick bit of background on Anabaptist understanding of baptism. The Anabaptists believed that only adult baptism was valid, and believe that it was completely symbolic. Their argument was that if we are saved by faith alone, and infants did not have the ability to have faith, what sense did infant baptism make? Baptism should be a sign of someone making a faith commitment. Because of this belief, they interpreted New Testament Baptism passages in a very different way than Catholics or Reformers. The Anabaptists argued that while parallels could be drawn between circumcision and baptism, there was no mandate in scripture for it.

If you didn’t get that distinction don’t worry, it’s not that important (maybe another post?). All you need to know is that the three groups: Catholics, Protestants, and Anabaptists did not share the same beliefs or much love.

OK, back to the story. As Melchior Hoffman began to baptize adults, who began to baptize adults, who began to … the group began to be seen as a treat by the authorities. In 1531, a number of Anabaptists were executed as heretics, and as a result Melchior Hoffman called for all adult Baptisms to cease for a period of 2 years.

Hoffman was also arrested at this time and spent the remaining 10 years of his life in prison. The story may have ended there, but one of the people Hoffman had baptized earlier was a charismatic young man named Jan Matthys.

With the end of the world quickly approaching (remember Hoffman’s 1533 prediction), Jan Matthys called for baptisms to resume seeing no other way to reach the 144,000 believers called for in the Book of Revelation.

But 1533 came and the end of the world had not come as Hoffman predicted. Jan Matthys told his followers that it wasn’t because Hoffman was wrong about the end, it was because he was wrong about taking a passive stance rather than an active role. According to Matthys, it wasn’t the government leaders’ job to wipeout the godless; it was their duty. While Hoffman was a pacifist, willing to lend support to the extermination but not take part in it, Jan Matthys was more than willing to role up his sleeves and lend a helping hand.

Jan Matthys, now setting up shop in Muenster, declared that the city of Muenster and not Strasberg was now God’s new choice to be the “New Jerusalem”. And to add a little excitement to it all, he declared that God would pass judgment on the godless at Muenster in Easter of 1534.

And so with the stability of the city beginning to fade, and the preaching that soon God would pass judgment on the “godless”, people who were not entirely sure they would fall in to the category of “godly” (Catholics and Protestants) decided to pack up and move from the city. Most of those who decided to leave for a while until the craziness passed were the men of the city. Their wives stayed behind since the laws at that time made it impossible to take land from women.

So in 1534, with most non-Anabaptist men leaving and large number of Anabaptists immigrating into the city to be part of the upcoming “big show”, the city council (to this point solidly Lutheran) was taken over legally by the Anabaptists, and the ruling Bishop of the city was driven out of the town. But the Bishop and his soldiers (they had such things then) did not go far. Unhappy with the treatment they received, they laid siege to the city and blocked any supplies from entering and leaving the city.

With everything falling into place, the people of the city began to refer to themselves as “Israelites” and the city as “New Jerusalem”. Jan Matthys now introduced the idea of a community of goods and all property of all citizens who left (sorry ladies, there’s a new sheriff in town) was confiscated and all food was made public. People could keep what they had, but they were required to leave their houses unlocked at all times. The use of money was eliminated, and all resourced were now pooled for the common good. No longer was there any idea of private property, everything was owned by the public.

One day, convinced and prophesying that God would protect him, Matthys rode out to meet some of the Bishops troops who were laying siege to the city. Charging right into a group of opposing soldiers, Jan Matthys proved a poor prophet and was made quick work of by the soldiers. The soldiers placed his head on a pole for the entire town to see, and did other really, really bad things to his body.

And the story may have ended there (sound familiar), but on of the people Matthys had baptized earlier was a charismatic young man named Jan van Leyden. The story goes that after Matthys’ death, van Leyden is said to have run through the streets naked, foaming at the mouth, and speaking incoherently before collapsing and remaining unresponsive for 3 days. Van Leyden claimed that God revealed many things to him during these three days, and things in Strasberg were going to change. Oh were they ever.

After a few victories over the bishop’s armies, van Leyden had himself anointed “King of Righteousness” and the “King of Zion” – the absolute prophet and ruler of the city whose word was equivalent to God’s. Any resistance to his rule was ruthlessly suppressed.

Van Leyden then instituted polygamy in the city. He used the Old Testament to justify it (like all great nut jobs), but it was well known that van Leyden had a desire for Matthys’ young widow. But aside from lust (van Leyden had 16 wives!!!), polygamy did serve a practical purpose in the city. It helped deal with a the ratio of women to men in the city being about 3 to 1, and also was seen as a way to increase the population of the city to 144,000 (required for the beginning of the end).

At this point, a few people became a little unhappy with the “direction” the city is moving. Van Leyden, a master of persuasion, had all resisters are executed (men) or imprisoned (women). One of these “unhappy” people was one of van Leyden’s 16 wives. In a “women belong it the kitchen” moment, van Leyden publicly beheaded her himself and trampled on her body.

And so 1534 fades into 1535, the city’s food supply is fading, and still no end of the world. The population begins to grow disillusioned with the whole “New Jerusalem” thing, and the Bishop’s forces march in and take back the town. The Kingdom of Muenster had rose and fell in 18 months.

Jan van Leyden and his merry men were tortured and killed (you didn’t expect anything else). Their bodies were placed in three iron cages (you didn’t forget how this looooong post started did you?) and hung from the steeple of St. Lambert’s Church.

Reminding everyone that 1 wife is enough; 16 will get you killed and hung in an iron cage.
Have a great weekend!

I've Been Nominated!!!

I can't believe it!

Thanks Mom.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fishers of Men

"This is a video made by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Vocations and Priestly Formation in order to give all people a look in on the life of a Roman Catholic Priest and invite young men to open their hearts to the call."

While no one can cause as much scandal in the Church as Her priests, no one can heal and inspire Her as much either. As the priests go, so go the laity.

"The priesthood is tough. And it's for real men. You have to be a real man if you want to be a priest."

Hey USCCB ... nice job.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Our Father"

“whatever else we say when we pray, if we pray as we should, we are only saying what is already contained in the Lord's Prayer.”
- St. Augustine

Last night I was working with my daughter on her homework for the Catholicism 101 class she’s taking. The topic of the week was prayer, and the lesson fittingly touched on the Our Father prayer. The Gospel reading for Mass today contained Luke’s version of the prayer (the shorter, less popular version).

After the apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, two words came out of his mouth that in one sense changed everything, and summed up the whole story at once: “Our Father”.

The Jewish people at the time of Jesus had great respect for the name of God. In fact, there were only a few times a year that God’s name could be pronounced, and then only by the high priest. Even today, many Jewish authors will not even type the word God, but instead type G-d out of respect. You also hear many Jews refer to God as “Hashem”, which means “The Name” in Hebrew.

When Jesus used the word “Father” he revealed both who he was (the Son of God), but also who God was (a Father). It was revealed to the apostles that G-d did indeed did deserve the utmost respect, but not as a distant unknowable deity, but as a father. The Jewish practice of referring to God with a formal third-person title could now be replaced with a personal second-person pronoun.

It was not terribly uncommon for people in the 1st century to adopt adults. When an adult was adopted, two important things occurred. First, the person was given every benefit of being part of that family that any natural children were. So that means that any inheritance, legal status, etc. was granted to them at that point. And secondly, the person was forgiven of any debt or liability that would have pertained to them as a member of their formal family.

With the word “Our”, Jesus informed us of our chance at adoption. Our chance to exchange an inheritance of sin, death, and darkness for an opportunity to enter into a new family whose inheritance included truth, life, and love. To stake claim to our inheritance as brothers and sisters Jesus, and as children of God. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” and that light was sitting before them.

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Archbishop Nienstedt's Column

If you have a chance, I would suggest reading our new Archbishop’s column this week in the Catholic Spirit. Mother Teresa has long been a hero to me and her words and actions have blessed me and considerably deepened my faith. Like many of you, I was shocked by the reporting that followed the release of her private letters and thoughts. At first, I was angered by the release and worried about the effect of the letters to Christians and Non Christians alike. I have since had the time to read some of the letters and commentary. I came to a conclusion much like that of our new Archbishop.

Archbishop Nienstedt states “First, I believe that we must get rid of the notion that being good and growing in holiness will guarantee us a more comfortable, tranquil life. In fact, just the opposite should be expected. If we are growing closer to Jesus, we will be called to share more fully in his sufferings and experience "the loss of all things" (Philippians 3:8) in order to be found in him.”
This message is not one that is popular in our country and many European countries. We live in culture of death and a culture that is embracing a “Gospel of Prosperity”. “Christian” churches continually pop up that embrace and promise “prosperity”. It does not take a biblical scholar to find multiple verses in the Bible that talk of prosperity and success when one lives a “Christian” life. One can take scripture and twist it to rationalize almost any action.

Unlike my grandparents, I have had an easy life. I cannot comprehend the depression or the sacrifices made during the World Wars. It is no wonder that Church participation continually drops to record lows. My generation has been lulled to a spiritual coma that comes along with good fortune and a very limited need for prayer or even faith. Prosperity does not always equate with a true relationship with the blessed trinity.

Mother Teresa could have had it easy. She taught in a wealthy Catholic School and had all she ever needed. Instead, she followed the voice of Christ and entered a thirty year stage of her life that would constantly witness suffering and death. Her actions pointed millions of hearts toward God. We have found out that the more she did the more she suffered. Her physical sufferings were many but now we know her spiritual ones were even greater. Mother Teresa knew she was doing what Christ asked but so longed to hear his voice say just once, “well done, my faithful servant”. I truly believe Mother Teresa has finally heard these words. I only hope and pray that I will also hear the same.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Laura's Curtain Call

I can't do this anymore. I feel like I don't deserve to be among you nice people who are so holy and good, smart and sweet, funny and forgiving.

I have a crummy attitude and don't think I should be forgiven for some things that I have done or have failed to do. Confession won't do any good because I would leave it feeling like I wasn't forgiven, which would be sinful and that would add on to my already heavy burden of sin that I'm carrying around here.

Keep on posting and living your faith. I don't know what I'm going to do or where I'm going to go.

I love you all and thank you for the opportunity to vent my BS and try to share my life and opinion with you!

Love and hugs,

Shoved to Them: A Pro-Lifer's Experience With RU-486

Shoved to Them: A Pro-Lifer's Experience With RU-486

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Filipino Crucifixion: what do you think??

Okay, I came across this last night on a show called "Taboo" on National Geographic TV. Apparently it's a well known Easter tradition that many Filipinos engage in extreme mortification during Lent and Easter, even to the point of getting nailed to a cross to emulate Christ and the thieves as their Passion play. They are not actually crucified, but they do get real nails through their palms and feet, and are stood up on a cross (equipped with a platform to stand on) for a few hours. Others open cuts on their backs and then walk the streets flogging themselves.

I didn't do any further research, but as I understood the narrator the Church has disallowed these practices, but they continue.

Just looking for thoughts on this. Aside from the Church's ruling, is this too extreme? Or do you consider it to be a legitimate point on the continuum of mortification?

The Catholic and Orthodox Churches

Since the East-West Schism of 1054, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church(s) have been separated. Of all the divisions in Christianity, this one seems to many to be the most painful. Even our Church has been built with the idea of healing the split between the East and West, or the "two lungs within the same Body" as Pope John Paul II spoke of them. The east side of the building echoing the Saints of the east, and the west the Saints of the west, meeting together in the center at the altar where the Eucharistic is celebrated, with the icon of Our Lady of the Sign looking on.

But how hard would it be for the two to settle their differences and enter into full communion? Aren’t the Orthodox just Pre-Vatican II Catholics who don't recognize the Pope? Well, not exactly. While we do share a lot in common, there are some real differences. Much of this difference can be traced back to the Orthodox Church not recognizing the authority of any council held after the split, environments and cultures the two Churches developed in, and the challenges the two faced from others to the faith.

Below is a list of a few differences between the two Churches. This list is in no way exhaustive, and each point has only enough detail to try and highlight the difference. Since the term "Orthodox" covers more than one Church (Greek and Russian for example), the summary of the Orthodox position below may vary slightly from group to group within the Orthodox Church.

The Trinity

The most well known, and possibly most significant disagreement between the Catholic and Orthodox (at least historically) is over the filioque. Filioque is a Latin phrase meaning "and from the Son" that is usually credited with bringing about the East-West Schism.

The First Council of Nicea in 325 AD put together the first version of the Nicene Creed we say each Sunday:

"We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets."

It's the [and the Son] that broke the East and West apart. A local council in Spain added the phrase to the creed in an attempt to battle the Arian heresy (which claimed Jesus was not fully God). At the a Council at Constantinople in 879, it was declared that the version of the creed without the filioque would be accepted and that no further changes to the Creed would be allowed. But in the west the use of the phrase continued unofficially, scandalizing the Orthodox.

The Catholic Church addresses the issue in the Catechism in paragraph 248:

"At the outset the Eastern tradition expresses the Father's character as first origin of the Spirit. By confessing the Spirit as he "who proceeds from the Father", it affirms that he comes from the Father through the Son. The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque ). It says this, "legitimately and with good reason", for the eternal order of the divine persons in their consubstantial communion implies that the Father, as "the principle without principle", is the first origin of the Spirit, but also that as Father of the only Son, he is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds. This legitimate complementarity, provided it does not become rigid, does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed."

So while the Orthodox see use of the filioque by the Catholic Church as heresy, the Catholic Church sees the two positions as really a distinction without difference.

The Papacy

If the number one disagreement between the Churches is the filioque, then the argument over the Papacy is a very close number two. The Catholic Church sees the Pope (the bishop of Rome) as the visible head of the Universal Church; the successor to Peter and Vicar of Christ. And when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, he speaks with the assurance that the Holy Spirit will not allow him to teach error.

The Orthodox, as you can guess, have a bit of a problem with this. They believe that the Pope does have authority; not as the Vicar of Christ but as a Bishop of Rome. Some do recognize that the Bishop of Rome has a special role in the Church, but only one of honor and not of authority. They see the present-day office of Pope as a man-made institution with no basis in the Bible or Tradition.

Use of Reason in Truths of the Faith

The two Churches have a very different understanding when it comes to the role philosophy and reason play in the defining and explaining the Truths of the Faith.

The Catholic Church has seen philosophy as the "handmaid of theology", and has used it often to explore and explain many aspects of the faith. Often it is said that the truth, though in a rough form, can be found outside the Church, but only She can bring it together, purify it, and give it meaning.

The Orthodox Church is not as concerned with reason or philosophy as it pertains to faith. They will use reason or philosophy to help defend or explain a truth if possible, but they will not build on either or use either to explore more deeply any truth. In the Orthodox Church, because faith and reason do not need to be reconciled, no effort is made to. The Orthodox would say that they "believe so as to understand, and not understand so as to believe."

Marian Dogmas

The Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are considered by the Catholic Church as Church dogmas. The Orthodox, who only accept dogma defined at Ecumenical Councils, reject these two but that doesn't mean they don't believe them.

The Orthodox celebrate the Dormition of the Theotokos; the death, resurrection, and glorification of Mary. This feast is very close to the Catholic celebration and understanding of Mary's Assumption. And they also refer to Mary as "Most Immaculate" and "Ever-Immaculate" in their Liturgy, but the idea is slightly different since the two Churches do not understand original sin in the same way (more on this below). Since the Orthodox liturgy gives these titles to Our Lady, they see no need for an Ecumenical Council to proclaim it. And since they don't recognize the authority of the Pope (see above), they do not recognize either as being dogma.


The belief in Purgatory that is held by the Catholic Church is not held by the Orthodox Church. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1030, we find the Church's understanding of Purgatory:

"All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven."

In paragraph 1031 we are told where this doctrine was defined:

"The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire..."

Again, since the Orthodox do not recognize either of these councils as Ecumenical Councils (though they were present at Florence), they do not see either as authoritative. Instead, the Orthodox believe that after a person dies the soul separates from the body and travels to the "abode of the dead". At the end of time, the soul and body are rejoined and Christ will judge them. Those with God's life in them will enter into the bliss of heaven, those without into the eternal torment of hell.

Original Sin

The Orthodox and Catholic Churches both believe that the fall of Adam and Eve brought with it the consequences of a tendency towards sin (concupiscence) and death. But, where the Catholic Church teaches that we also bear the sin of the fall, or Original sin, the Orthodox do not.

To the Orthodox the "original" part of the sin only speaks of it being the "first" sin committed, and while we share in the consequences, the guilt of that first sin falls with Adam and Eve alone and not passed on to all humans.

The Catholic Catechism in paragraph 404 states:

"How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man". By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act."

So as the CCC states, though we have not committed the sin, because our human nature has been transmitted to us from Adam and Eve we have contracted the sin. So just as we share in Christ's redemption and life, we also share in Adam's sin and death.

Icons and Statues

To most of us Catholics Icons and statues can be grouped together into a generic “religious art” category. But for the Orthodox, nothing could be further from the truth.

Icons in the Orthodox Church play a very important part in teaching the faith, and their worship. Icons are venerated by the Orthodox not because they are Icons, but because of what the Icon depicts. And just as many Catholic homes have a crucifix, Orthodox homes have an Icon. Once an Icon is blessed and hung in a Church, it can never be removed from that Church. All Icons are hung on an eastern wall facing west due to the symbolism of east representing heaven and the west this world. Icons are full of symbolism and meaning on many, many levels.

Statues on the other hand are a different story. While Icons represent the things of God in an imperfect 2-dimensional way, Statues are rejected by the Orthodox as a form of idolatry due to their 3-dimensional nature.

With the Catholic Church responsible in some way for many of the most beautiful statues in the world, you can see where this may be a point of contention.

So while some of these issues are not big hurdles, others may be. But in the end, the the Churches do share the most important thing of all: the Eucharist. And there is nothing with more unifying power than that.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Not My Best Moment, But There's Still Hope....

Yesterday, I completely disappointed and embarrassed myself by getting into a very heated argument with a man in a parking lot. While I thought I was nobly stepping into a situation to defend one of my children from an unnecessary sharp verbal attack, my actions were angry and defensive and only served to escalate, rather than de-fuse, the situation. There was a lot of very foul language on both sides, and if not for a gentlemen who "suggested" (after letting us know he was a police officer) that we both back away, it might have gotten even uglier.

I have a hard time letting go of incidents like this- of course, it's usually not this bad- I'm talking about even minor arguments with friends or my wife. So I expect I'll be praying for my own peace of mind for several days. And, I really wonder if this other man might have taken his anger home with him and let it spill over into his own family-- I still consider what he did about my son and later with me indicated he might be something of a bully. So I expect I'll be praying for his peace of mind, too.

A little later in the evening I opened the book of daily meditations that I've referenced before, and of course words of wisdom poured out:
"We should not become discouraged at the sight of our defects. The Lord has taken them into account. He wants us to make the effort to overcome them... The Gospels are replete with examples of the personal defects of the Apostles... Whenever we have a glimpse of our many defects we should meditate on the lives of the saints. They had their defects as well. But they struggled against their defects with humility and ultimately achieved sanctity. This has been true despite personal faults that have led to unChristian behaviour, as we once saw in the case of St. John."

Thanks be to God.

The Mathetes Award

A few days ago Swissmiss over at St. Monica's Kneeler awarded this blog the Mathetes award! As you will read below, the award is presented to blogs that the awarder feels are " acting in the role of a disciple of Christ" and "share the message in their own creative ways, and I admire them all for what they do". Thanks!

Here is the description of the award from the original website:

Mathetes is the Greek word for disciple, and the role of the disciple (per the Great Commission) it to make more disciples. I'd like to take the opportunity to award five other bloggers with this award and badge for acting in the role of a disciple of Christ. These five all share the message in their own creative ways, and I admire them all for what they do. In the spirit of this award, the rules are simple. Winners of this award must pick five other "disciples" to pass it on to. As you pass it on, I just ask that you mention and provide links for (1)this post as the originator of the award (Dan King of management by God), (2) the person that awarded it to you, and then (3) name and sites of the five that you believe are fulfilling the role of a disciple of Christ. If you know of other deserving recipients of this award, and would like to start a new string, then please post a link to where you've started in in the comments to this post. I would love for many deserving bloggers to be blessed with this recognition.

So, the five sites the members of this blog have chosen to recognize with the Mathetes award are, drum roll please, ....

1. Michelle over at Rosetta Stone
2. Fr. Martin Fox over at Bonfire of the Vanities
3. Margarette over at Minnesota Mom
4. Bob Catholic over at The BOB CATHOLIC Show
5. Taylor Marshall over at Canterbury Tales

Thanks again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Heresy In The Closet

About a year ago, I was looking on Ebay for some books to buy when I came across an interesting sale. It was a set of 12 hard covered books comprising a Bible commentary set. Rushed by there being only 2 minutes left in the sale, and wooed by a very reasonable price, I pulled the trigger and clicked on the “bid” button. And lucky me, … I won.

So a couple weeks later my boxes arrived, and excitedly I opened them only to have the authors name on the top book jump off the cover and hit me between the eyes:

“Ellen G. White”

For those who don’t know, Ellen G. White was a former leader and Prophetess of the Seventh Day Adventists. I might as well have ordered Joseph Smith’s 24-volume commentary on the Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price. I felt like such a chump.

So I still have the books buried deep in my closet with heavy objects on the boxes so there is no chance of one if them getting out and grabbing one of my kids, but it’s time they go. So I’ve decided to let you all decide what I should do with them. I figure these are my options:

1. Donate the books to the Seventh Day Adventist church in the neighboring town as an act of goodwill.
2. Put the books back up on Ebay for sale.
3. Throw away or destroy the books.

Now, being that the Seventh Day Adventists have a deep anti-Catholic aspect to their beliefs (they refer to Rome as, “Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots…” for example) do I enable the spread of these ideas by choosing #1 or worse yet possibly profit by it by choosing #2? Am I obligated morally to choose #3?

And before anyone begins to worry, I’m not exactly losing sleep over this. Just thought it would be interesting to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Archdiocese reorganizes

In last weeks Catholic Spirit, There was an article titled
“Archdiocese reorganizes to serve parishes.”

The Archdiocese has formed teams to become better Parish focused.

Team members will visit the parishes they are assigned and get to know each parish in depth.

Quote “Team members will help the Pastors and parish
Leaders identify the strengths and weaknesses of the parish, what
The parish can share with others and what recourses the parish needs.”

What bothers me about this, is that some Corporations have formed strong Central organizations to keep control over sub divisions. Those subdivisions Are not allowed to control their own destiny.

No matter what the Archdiocese says in using words like “help”, I am
Afraid they will require parishes to help them, especially financially.

Pro-Life Dinner - St. Michael/Albertville

There is an event coming up on Saturday, Oct. 27th, 2007 that I want everyone to be aware of and support if possible. The Pro-Life Dinner will be at St. Albert’s Parish Center in Albertville, MN from 6:00 – 9:00 pm.

Featured Speaker is Will Cossairt “Executive Director of Total LifeCare Center”
Total LifeCare Center is considering starting a new location in our area. There are currently 24 LifeCare Centers. The LifeCare Centers promote sexual purity and are instrumental in saving many mothers & babies from the horrors of abortion. All centers offer free confidential pregnancy tests, pregnancy counseling, baby items and referrals.

Rusty's Rocking Jamboree will entertain your children during the speaker’s presentation

Sug. donation $12.00/adults $7.00/students or $40.00/Family (includes a chicken dinner & entertainment)

Also, I wanted to post the comments on this great t-shirt that I got from my husband.

It says:
B4 you even Ask . . .
Yes, these are all my children and they're awesome!
Yes, we have television, we just don't need it!
No, this is not some sort of daycare, it is 24/7.
Why should we fix it if it is not broke?
Yes, we know where they come from . . . God!
We had planned on two, my spouse just can't count.
Yes, we've heard of birth control, no birth and no control.
You should enjoy our large family; our kids will be paying your social security.
We didn't plan the first few, why should we start now?
No, we aren't done, we are just getting started!!

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in their gate. Psalm 127:4-5

How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowes. Mother Theresa

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3

The greatest gift you can give your child is another sibling. Pope John Paul II

He that raises a large family does, indeed, while he lives to observe them, stand a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too. Benjamin Frankline, one of 17 children.