Friday, November 30, 2007

Spe Salvi - Saved By Hope

It's out, read it when you get a chance.

"...Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where Hope Shines

Tomorrow, the Vatican will be releasing Pope Benedict XVI’s second encyclical. The title of the encyclical is, "Spe Salvi" which is Latin for “Saved by Hope”. The document is said to be about 65 pages long and will be released in multiple languages including English.

With the Holy Father’s first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est" or “God is Love”, It seems that he is continuing on the theme of the three Theological Virtues – Faith, Hope, and Love (Charity).

To be honest, I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen more buzz about the upcoming encyclical like we did for the first (at least not in the circle I travel in). I can’t help but assume that the reason is the subject – Hope.

Everyone knows what faith and love are, but hope is often seen as the misunderstood middle child. While Faith and Love (the greatest of these) seem to jockey for the faithful’s attention, Hope ends up being overlooked, misunderstood, and ignored.

“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit…” - CCC 1817
I think it’s a given that it’s more difficult for a Catholic to accept the gifts of faith and love than it is Hope because Faith and Love demand something from us whereas Hope gives something to us; a promise of eternal peace, happiness and meaning.

So why is Hope grouped with the other two?

When you look at the world you don’t have to try very hard to see it’s full of sin. But look harder, just past that sin and you will find a world full of broken people. People filled with sadness and despair, people suffering and afraid, people angry and alone.

In a world fallen and filled with incredible sadness, Hope begins to shine. And it’s to these people most of all that God extends this gift of Hope.

It’s God’s way of telling us to hold fast, that we have not been forgotten. A promise that this world is not our home, but only a stop along the way. It’s a reminder that good can comet from bad and that redemption flowed from suffering.

For the faithful, Hope reminds us to keep our eyes on that goal of spending eternity happy with God no matter how difficult things get, and the strength to persevere in dark times. The author of Hebrews speaks of Hope as, “an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil”.

Make sure to remember to check the encyclical out tomorrow, it just may be what a hurting and disbelieving world needs. And with Advent starting this Sunday, I can't think of a more fitting message.

And here it is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

God's Direct Intercession?

I sometimes have a tough time figuring out how much detail God really makes happen in our lives-- I'm talking about the "this happened for a reason" kind of stuff. I'm guilty of rolling my eyes when ball players give the "thanks, God!" gesture after a touchdown, as if He really cares about football games and such... but, I of course believe God has the ABILITY to do this and anything else He wishes, and that everything happens because God either actively wills it or allows it to happen.

I've been having such a feeling lately regarding a situation I've been involved in for a year, or a decade, depending on how you count it up.

My dad and I were estranged for 10+ years, with virtually no contact, until about 18 months ago I had a thought sort of hit me in the head during Adoration. My family was going to Florida and I decided right there in the Adoration Chapel to let go of a bunch of bitterness from his marriage to my mom, and invite him to meet me (and his three grandchildren, whom he'd never met!). He lives in Jacksonville. Was this God, or Mary, or my Guardian Angel putting this idea into my brain?! Maybe.

I wrote to him and he wrote back, and last Thanksgiving we got together, and have kept in telephone contact since. It was pretty emotional. He seems to have grown as a person and I know I have-- at the very least the last time he had heard from me and wasn't Catholic!

When we met in Florida I learned that he had been caring for a lady friend for two years, who had COPD, needed portable oxygen and was basically confined to short trips and a lot of close care. He had offered to take care of her, and they both really thought she wouldn't be alive for much longer. He stuck with his commitment for nearly three years, even though I know he wanted to come here and visit but really couldn't leave her. This Saturday she passed away in a hospital after some complications.

(This was a little wrinkle in my original "revelation," since I should mention that I also had the firm idea in the Chapel that night, of convincing him to move to Minnesota and live near us-- or maybe with us....)

He called me on Saturday morning to tell me about her death, very emotional, and he mentioned right away that he didn't have anyone else to call or talk to. I knew this all along intellectually, since his parents and sister have already died many years ago; but when he said it I realized how lonely and desperate he must feel right now. He had devoted himself to being a companion to this one person, who as far as I can tell is the only person in the world whom he really had any attachment to...

Until last year, when I had called him out of the blue and struck up a renewed relationship with him. It does make me wonder what he would have done if he really had had no one at all to call on Saturday, or really no prospect for the next phase of his life.

And it makes me wonder if this was one of those situations in which God put us both in a position to make a touchdown-- for me, a chance to forgive and ask for forgiveness; for him, a reason to go on after a devastating personal loss and live the rest of his life as an involved father and grandfather.

I welcome any reflection or similar stories.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Even the Commas Count

This Sunday the Gospel (Luke 23:35-43) gives us an account of possibly the most famous death-bed conversion.

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, "He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God." Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself." Above him there was an inscription that read, "This is the King of the Jews."

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying,"Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us. "The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God,for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said,"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you,today you will be with me in Paradise."

King of the Jews had mounted his throne and we are reminded that the condemned receive sentences corresponding to their crimes, while the faithful theirs corresponding to grace. It’s a wonderful affirmation that the grace of God can soften the hardest of hearts as long as it is still beating, and a warning that same grace can be refused.

But this reading also holds a hidden message. I would like to look at the last verse in the reading above (Luke 23:43):
"Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
The Greek text of the New Testament was written as one long string of uppercase Greek letters – no lowercase letters, no spaces between words, no punctuation, no breathing marks, no accents, etc. Below shows what the original text looked like, what the modern rendering of the text in todays Greek manuscripts, and my rough translation of the text (sorry it's so small):

The New World Translation of Holy Scripture (NWT) is the translation of the Bible that the Jehovah’s Witnesses use. This translation is notorious for poorly translating verses that seem to contradict their doctrine and theology. The above verse, Luke 23:43 is one such verse (John 1 is another great example). .

While virtually all mainstream translations (Catholic and Protestant) of the Bible translate the verse as:

"Amen, I say to you,today you will be with me in Paradise."

The NWT translates it as:

"Amen, I say to youtoday, you will be with me in Paradise."

Notice that the only difference is the placement of the second comma, but what a difference it is!

The commonly accepted translation poses a problem for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. For Jesus to claim that this man would be with Him that day in paradise would point to some non-physical (spiritual) mode of existence after death. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the soul ceases to exist immediately after death, and unless you were one of the 144,000 elect you will not be taken to heaven (paradise).

But when the translator moves the comma just one word over, the problem is solved. You now have Jesus promising "today", that the man will be with Him in paradise (no time constraint). Clever!

Remember, the earliest texts we have contain no punctuation. The Jehovah’s Witnesses like to point out this fact, but it really doesn’t support their translation only allows for its possibility. So how do we know who is right?

As Catholics, we know who’s right because God has given us an authoritative guide here on earth – the Church. He did not leave us a written Word without a voice to interpret it. And the Church has spoken, and the comma goes on the left side of the word “today”.
We have an eternal soul, our actions in this life affect the next, and it's never too late to change our heart.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Bar Kokhba Revolt And The First Schism

From last Sunday's Gospel reading:
Then they asked him,"Teacher, when will this happen?And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?" He answered,"See that you not be deceived,for many will come in my name, saying,'I am he,’ and 'The time has come.’Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections,do not beterrified; for such things must happen first,but it will not immediately be the end."
From the beginning, the early Christians thought of themselves as Jews, and not as a separate religion. As time went on, this became the source of confusion and tension. The Council of Jerusalem was conducted to address this very problem; what laws must a Gentile follow to be saved.

While the complete break between the Christians and Jews was more of a development than an occasion, many point to one event that solidified it: the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

After the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in 70AD, the Romans kept a military presence in Jerusalem. Most likely in an attempt to calm the situation and keep the Jews from rebelling again, the Roman Emperor Hadrian spoke of allowing the Jewish people to rebuild the Temple. But when the Emperor did finally turn his attention to Jerusalem, his actions were far from what the Jews had hoped for.

In an attempt to Hellenize to Jews, the Romans outlawed many specifically Jewish practices (such as circumcision). It had been over 60 years since the Second Temple was destroyed, and the fact that the Second Temple was rebuilt 70 years after the destruction of the First was not lost on the Jews of the time. It was a time of suffering and expectation for the people.

In 131 AD, the Emperor Hadrian announced that he was indeed going to rebuild the city. But not as the city of Jerusalem but as Aelia Capitolina – a city dedicated to the god Jupiter. Hopes of rebuilding the Jewish Temple were replaced with plans for building a temple to the god Jupiter. For the Jews, this was too much.

In 132 AD the top Rabbi in Jerusalem, Rabbi Akiva, began to organize a Jewish revolt and overthrow the Romans. He looked for a man who would lead the people to independence as Judas Maccabee had in the days of the Maccabeen revolt.

Rabbi Akiva chose a man by the name of Simon Bar Kosiba. Bar Kosiba was a natural leader and powerful warrior and seemed to be the perfect man for the task at hand. Once Rabbi Akiva gained the approval from Jewish Sanhedrin at the time for Bar Kosiba, he began to refer to Bar Kosiba as Bar Kokhba (son of the Star – a reference to Num 24:17) and declared him to be the Messiah.

It’s at this point in the story that we find a problem for the Christians. While Rabbi Akiva had declared Bar Kokhba to be the Jewish Messiah, the Christians had their own candidate for the position. As the vast majority of Jews supported Bar Kokhba, the Christians could not. And in an atmosphere as charged as it was, this decision served to split Christianity from Judaism more than any other.

But, … on with the story.

Bar Kokhba began to put his forces together for battle. There is a story that in order to get the “best” men for his army, Bar Kokhba only accepted men who would prove their desire and toughness by biting off a finger from their right hand. It’s said over 250,000 men passed this test. (If this really happened or not I have no idea, but it’s a pretty cool story and I’m not going to be the one to spoil it.)

Well Bar Kokhba and his men were successful in driving the Romans not only out of Jerusalem, but out of all of Israel. For almost 3 years Israel once again had Her independence and was ruled by Bar Kokhba.

But it wouldn’t last. After suffering staggering losses to the Jews, the Romans sent an enormous force to crush the Jewish revolt. Some historians believe that 12 of the 24 Romans Legions were sent, almost half of the Roman army. It was bloody, but the Romans slowly began to take the Jewish lands back.

Bar Kokhba and his men staged their last stand in a fortress in the city of Betar. They held out for almost a year under Roman siege until a traitor showed the Romans how to breech the fortress’ defenses. The Romans stormed in and showed no mercy, massacring everyone.

Eerily, the fortress like the First and Second Temples, fell on the 9th of Av. After the defeat and the Jewish Diaspora, most no longer referred to the once Messiah hopeful as Bar Kokhba or “Son of the Star”, but as Bar Koziva or "Son of the Lie".

In response to the revolt, the Roman Emperor renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina as planned, erected a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount, and forbade any Jew from living there. For over 500 years Jews were not allowed to live in what was once Jerusalem. Once a year, on the 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av), the Jews were allowed pay a fee to enter into the city and mourn at the last standing wall of the Second Temple: the “Western” or “Wailing” Wall.

But Christians were allowed to live in the city. You can imagine how this would remove any notion for the Jewish people of Christianity being another Jewish sect. Now, especially in the eyes of the Jewish people, Christianity was now seen as a separate religion.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Destruction of the Second Temple

This last Sunday we heard in the Gospel reading the following:
While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here -- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
Most know that the Second Jewish temple was destroyed after Jesus’ death and resurrection, but the story behind it is (at least to me) an interesting one.

The Roman presence in Jerusalem made the Jewish people understandably resentful and angry. Around the year 66 AD a group of Greeks, asserting their rights as roman citizens in a Roman province, made a sacrifice to a pagan god outside a Jewish synagogue. When the Jews appealed to the Roman garrison in the area to stop the sacrifices, they were ignored.

Enraged by the unwillingness of the soldiers to stop the sacrifices, the Jews (lead of course by the Zealots) attacked and destroyed the Roman garrison. Two major laws of the universe were broken here – don’t offer sacrifices to pagan gods around the Jewish temple or synagogue, and don’t kill Roman soldiers no matter how mad you get.

Like hurling a spark into a pile of dry brush, the unrest spread across all of Palestine and into Egypt. This caught the Emperor’s attention, so he sent in the 12th Roman Legion, nicknamed the “Thunderbolts”, to take care of the problem. The 12th Legion, based in Antioch, was about 30,00 men strong.

The 12th Legion joined up with the legate of Syria, Gaius Cestius Gallus, and made camp 6 miles outside of Jerusalem. When the Jews found out that the Roman forces were just outside the city getting ready to attack, they were enraged. They, even though it was the Sabbath, attacked the Roman forces with “a great shout and violence” and marched through the middle of the enemy killing 515 Roman soldiers and only loosing 22.

Due to its sorry showing, Gaius Cestius Gallus sent the 12th Roman Legion away in hopes of replacing it with a stronger, better prepared force. While the Troops were marching away from the city, the Jewish forces ambushed them. The ambush was a complete success with the Romans losing around 5,700 men while the Jews only lost a few. And Gaius Cestius Gallus, whether by a Jewish sword or his on, also was killed. But the Roman’s greatest loss was of their Eagle Standard.

Roman Legions marched with an Aquila or standard not unlike the flag of modern armies. The most important standard the Roman’s marched with was the Eagle Standard – not much more than a pole with an eagle on the top. For this to be lost to the enemy was a huge deal and very little was spared to retrieve these standards when they were lost (only happened a handful of times).

(We should all be very honored that our very own blogger, Germanicus, once led a campaign to recover the Eagle Standard lost by another Roman Legion.)

The Emperor Vaspasian’s son, Titus, was now sent to crush the Jewish revolt and retrieve the eagle standard. Being that natural barriers protected the other three sides, the Romans marched down from the North to Jerusalem. It took a long time for the Romans to break through the three walls the Jews set up to for protection, but they finally succeeded in placing Jerusalem under siege. The people of the city suffered terribly.

When the Romans entered the city and came upon the Temple, its doors doors were set on fire. Once the doors were burned up, Roman troops rushed into the temple battling its defenders to the death. After the outer Temple courts were under Roman control, the soldiers broke into the inner temple and all defenders were slain.

Josephus writes about the scene:
“Around the altar a pile of corpses was accumulating; down the steps of the sanctuary flowed a stream of blood, and the bodies of the victims killed above went sliding to the bottom.” (War 6.259)
Interestingly, Titus claimed he never meant to destroy the temple. He claimed that a Roman soldier throwing a burning piece of wood into the temple set the temple on fire accidentally and that he ordered his troops to try to save it. Within the Jewish Temple, now in ruins, the Roman soldiers set up their remaining standards and made sacrifice to them.

It took a few more months to subdue the rest of the city. Titus then ordered all the inhabitants killed, enslaved, or sent to other provinces for “sport”, and that the city be burned.

The date that the Second Jewish Temple was destroyed, Aug 28th 70 AD, was a very significant and painful date for the Jews. This date, the 9th of Av, is the same exact day that the First Jewish Temple, Solomon’s Temple, was destroyed. Separated by 656 years, the only two Jewish Temples ever built were destroyed on the exact same day.
Jesus said, “All that you see here -- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Friday, November 16, 2007

Salt and blood

I was cooking dinner tonight and as I was stirring the gravy, and stirring and stirring I saw the box of Koshering Salt in the open cupboard at eye level. Since I was stirring gravy, did I mention that? With nothing better to do, I read the Koshering directions for meat.
In brief;
Soak in water 30 min
Cover completely with salt
Let stand one hour on slanted board
Shake off salt
Rinse twice in cold water.

Sounds like alot of trouble. I was intrigued. What a strange requirement. So I looked for more info and found this;

Have You Considered
The Effects of Consuming Blood ©
By Dr. Akiva G. Belk
“One of the mitzvahs of this week's parsha is the prohibition of consuming dahm, meaning blood. "And you shall not eat any blood..." Leviticus 7:26
One may wonder why we would discuss such a subject. Most normal Jews are not in the habit of consuming blood... or are they? This is an interesting command.
A Jew who does not observe kashrus is in extreme danger of violating this mitzvah. Even observant Jews must be precautious in avoiding blood. Within the finely tuned makeup of the Jewish nefesh is a very delicate balance that is extremely sensitive to consumption of blood. It can be compared to a deafening effect. Over a period of time a person who listens to noises without protection will incur hearing loss. The amount of hearing loss is dependent on the several factors regarding the noise. The point is, one may suffer hearing loss, G-d forbid.
In a similar way one who consumes blood suffers both spiritual sensitivity loss and physical sensitivity problems. One's ability to function as Hashem intended will definitely be impaired. This is because blood is the essence of all living creatures. The Torah states that "the life of all flesh is in the blood." Leviticus 17:11 So if one consumes blood, G-d forbid, they absorb the presence of the being whose blood they consume. One simple example of this fact is disease. Yet there are other factors that are not as easily perceived that greatly affect one, like animal brutishness, cruelty and territory issues.
Then one considers the spiritual issues. Consuming blood greatly hinders the avenues of spiritual enlightenment. It is like trying to run a powerful electric tool on a very cheap extension cord. The cord cannot supply adequate current, the draw is too great. It is also like a bucket filled with rocks. The rocks weigh one down and prohibit the total use of the container for carrying its full potential.
So not only should a Jew purchase kosher meat, but one should be careful to extract blood by using salt and by roasting blood-concentrated parts like liver with fire before consuming.
Now considering this, why would a Jew, Jesus, who many consider to be their own personal savior... their own individual god... the one whom they credit with creating the world and writing the Torah... say words that contradict what he was purported to have said in the Torah?
"As they were eating, Jesus took {leavened} bread, {NOT MATZOH} and blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take this {bread}, eat {it}; this is my body.' He {Jesus} took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.'"
One MUST ask, what is the intention here? Why was leavened bread used at Pesach? Why was bread offered before the wine? Why was wine identified as blood?”

Why indeed! According to Dr. Belk if one consumes animal blood one becomes like an animal. Therefore if one consumes the blood of Christ one becomes like Christ. I think he gets it!

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."
These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.
And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father."
As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Excommunicate Ted Kennedy and Other Scandalous Catholic Politicians

Well, the title of the post says it all.

Not really. I guess you could say this is my thesis to start with, but I'm really interested in others' opinions on this.

A few initial rules of engagement on this: 1. I'm definitely not any kind of Church scholar, I just go on what I've learned in the last two years; 2. I don't want Ted Kennedy (or anyone) to go to Hell; 3. Ted Kennedy's sins are no worse than mine; 4. The culture of death needs to be stopped.

If I understand this issue correctly, excommunication keeps a Catholic from the Sacraments, but doesn't really mean they are "kicked out" of the Church per se; they are effectively kept from all participation in the whole reason the Church exists, the Sacraments. The Church desires that anyone who has been excommunicated will eventually repent and return to full communion with Her. The reasons that excommunication might be imposed on a Catholic, include unrepentant mortal sin, made worse by obvious scandalous behavior. Now, in most cases we should not judge someone we see receiving the Eucharist, even if we're certain, or think we are, of their behavior. Such prejudice is obviously fraught with great danger, insofar as we probably don't really know the full story; they might have confessed and repented and are in a state of grace; if the priest is giving them Communion then we should assume it's OK.

(If I've got any of this wrong, let me know)

But, can anyone really understand a scenario in which Ted Kennedy, and other like-minded Catholic politicians, repeatedly and adamantly push a pro-abortion agenda including the so-called partial birth abortion procedure, but are somehow still in full communication with the Church? Does this not scandalize the person (Kennedy, et al); the parish; and the whole Church?

Sure, we are called to use the "benefit of the doubt" approach, which is prudent and charitable. But if I walked up for Communion, took the Host by hand, and then suddenly you saw me crunch it up in little pieces and scatter it all over the sanctuary, you'd have to use some pretty impressive pretzel logic to not assume I had just desecrated Our Lord-- unless you somehow decide to assume I had performed a sleight of hand trick, consumed the Host and then pulled out an unconsecrated wafer to trick everyone.....nevertheless, a scandal either way.

Looking for your viewpoint.

Bella: a new controversy??


Okay folks, I'm looking for a vote here on the ending to the movie. Here's the controversy I'm trying to start:
Did Jose adopt Nina's daughter (Bella), and then reunite Nina and Bella four years later?


Did Jose, after convincing Nina to keep the child and put her up for adoption, find the adopting couple a few years later and arrange a meeting?


A couple of pros and cons: Jose whispered something to his brother Manny, who responds "you're going to WHAT?" Did Jose say he was going to adopt Nina's child? That's certainly a logical and obvious assumption. But if that's the case then why would Jose and Nina wait four years before reuniting mother and child? And wasn't the little girl on the beach at the beginning of the movie Bella, running around with other girls as Jose watched them, until her "father" (I daresay an older man with his older wife) called for her? Could that have been Bella's adopted father and mother?

I haven't looked up any info and I won't until I get some opinions logged in. Looking forward to some honest discussion. Maybe we can reignite interest in the movie since I understand it's not doing well. Thanks!

A Really Tough Call

Here is an article that has been getting a lot of attention as of late. The article is titled "Priest has pro-life parishioner arrested". Read the article by following the link above if you can, but here are a couple of paragraphs to highlight the problem:
A pro-life activist banned from stepping on the grounds of St. Matthew’s Church in San Mateo after a controversy over his display of signs showing graphic pictures of aborted babies was arrested on Tuesday, Nov. 13, for trespassing on church grounds.
. . .
Foti, a well-known pro-life activist, has long been controversial at St. Matthew’s. Parents of children at the parish school began complaining last year of Foti’s truck, displaying the graphic signs, which he parked on a public street adjacent to the school. Parents, who dropped their children off on the street for school, complained that their children had to view the graphic pictures.
. . .
Foti told the Nov. 14 Tribune he did not feel McGuire “had any valid grounds to ban me from the church. Right now, I am going to call my attorney and see what I can do and what I should do."
I can understand people being upset over a pro-life activist being arrested by a Catholic priest over wanting to show (graphic pics) the reality of abortion. There are few things today more horrid than abortion, and few things nobler than the fight against it, but I have to ask one question.

What would you do if a group fighting against legalized sodomy parks a van with graphic pictures next to your kindergartner's school?

Why couldn't the fella park a couple blocks away from the school and walk to Mass? Let's fight hard to save the children, but let's not forget to guard their innocence too.
What do you think?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stewardship and Teenagers - 2007 Fall General Assembly

It's the 2007 Fall General Assembly, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting this week in Baltimore, Maryland. As of right now, they have released two documents; the first titled "A Call for Bipartisan Cooperation on Responsible Transition in Iraq" and the second "Stewardship and Teenagers: The Challenge of Being a Disciple".

The document released today, the one dealing with Stewardship and Teenagers, has an interesting twist. We have all heard the stewardship formulation to "share you time, treasure, and talent", but this document adds a fourth to the list - sharing our Tradition (faith). Thank goodness it started with a "T"! The "fourth T" does a nice job of expanding our concept of stewardship and helps remind us of the Church's true mission. The document is pretty good and well worth reading (I'm sure the Bishops will be thrilled to hear I thought so ;-).

So if you have a teenager, or something resembling one, print the document out and go through it with them. Let's fight the urge to just hand it to them and tell them to read it and actually "work" through it with them.

The document starts out with the following quote:

“My appeal to you today, young people . . . is this: do not waste your youth. Do not seek to escape from it. Live it intensely. . . . You, young people, are not just the future of the Church and of humanity, as if we could somehow run away from the present. . . . The Church needs you, as young people, to manifest to the world the face of Jesus Christ, visible in the Christian community. Without this young face, the Church would appear disfigured.”

(Pope Benedict XVI to Youth in Brazil)

All documents generated from the event will be posted here - check them out when you get a chance.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Problems in the Church - A Proper Perspective

I ran across an interview from 2002 with the then Cardinal Ratzinger over at Zenit. One of the questions in the interview caught my attention, and I've included it below. This man's ability to put things into proper perspective is amazing to me.

Q: Do you think that the Church, especially in the Western world, is prepared to address de-Christianization and the great void that is left? Or is there still among the men of the Church a vision of Christianity, and not of a missionary Church?

Cardinal Ratzinger: I think that in this connection, we have much to learn. We are too concerned with ourselves, with structural questions, with celibacy, the ordination of women, pastoral councils, the rights of these councils [and] of synods ...

We always work on our internal problems and we do not realize that the world is in need of answers; it does not know how to live. The world's inability to live properly is seen in drugs, terrorism, etc. Therefore, the world is thirsty for answers -- and we remain with our problems.

I am convinced that if we go out to meet others, and we present the Gospel to them in an appropriate way, even our internal problems will be relativized and resolved. This is a fundamental point: We must make the Gospel accessible to today's secularized world.

I will be the first to admit that I can become overly focused on the "problems" that exist in the Church today. While these issues are important, it's easy to forget that they are not the most important task at hand. The most important task, the mission statement of the Church if you will, is spreading the Gospel to a world in need.

When too much attention is given to the internal issues, a sort of tunnel vision results. By focusing in on the less important, a stubborn refusal to yield can result in a nearsighted pride, all dressed up in righteous indignation. And when too little attention is given to these same issues, glimpses of relativism can be seen hidden under a false notion of charity.

Finding this balance is easier for some, and more of a challenge for others. But until we do, as the Holy Father states above, our ability as a Church to spread the Gospel will be diminished.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I read this short primer on indulgences and was immediately struck by the selflessness and Christ likeness.

"How did the practice of Indulgences develop?
In the penitential services through which public sinners were reconciled with the Christian Community (Church) it was customary to impose penances like long prayers, fasting and pilgrimages to be performed as a condition for receiving sacramental absolution. Recognizing that the individual penitent often found these penances extremely difficult, the spirit of charity moved many to a desire to share the burden with their less fortunate brothers and sisters. Martyrs offered their sufferings on behalf of those doing penance, prayers of the community began to be counted as partial fulfillment of the penances imposed on individuals, and so, gradually there developed the notion of indulgences as grants of satisfaction drawn on the spiritual reserves of the Christian Community. "

In that same spirit rather than gossiping about the latest scandals on religious prime time try this; sometime this week make a good confession, go to mass, pray the rosary with your family, perform an indulgence for yourself, offer it up for someone else, or better yet do both. Share the burden.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christ in you the hope of glory

I got to thinking about this responding to another blog a friend of mine runs. ( )

Karl Adam writes; "The characteristic element of the Catholic mind [is] the overwhelming importance of the Church in the production of the certitude of faith. The Catholic does not come to Christ mediately and by literary channels, as by the scriptural records, but immediately through personal contact with Christ living in his community."

The title quote is from the letter of Colossians. The full context follows;

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church,
of which I am a minister in accordance with God's stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God,
the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones,
to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.
It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me.

Basically Paul is telling the Colossian church that
1. His sufferings are somehow added the passion of Christ and will help make the word of God complete. I understand this adding to be by the design of Christ in order to allow us to be partakers in his work and therefore his glory.
2. Further this completion is for their benefit
3. Paul brings the completion through his understanding
3. The proof of this completion is being manifest in the holy ones (Holy Spirit given to the gentiles in the same way as Pentecost?).
4. The completion to be understood is salvation for the gentiles through Christ.
5. Understanding that will bring them to perfection. In other words it will save them.

Now, if one understands that during the time of Paul’s writing this the word of God must have been limited to the Jewish scripture and that while the law and the prophets imply the salvation of the gentiles it is in a very limited and Judea-centric way. The completion of the word was to demonstrate that the gentiles would be full partakers in the glory of God. Grafted in as children. This could not be known from scripture. It took revelation and reality to reveal it. In fact those Jews most familiar with the scripture bitterly opposed the revelation. Peter and Paul believed as did the other disciples but many others did not. In order for the gentiles at Colossae to have certitude of faith they needed to submit to the Apostles teaching.

So, Adam's point that one can only have certitude of faith through the Church is seen in this text. In fact it is only through a submissive communal reading of the word that it becomes complete. Any other personal reading and interpretation must be considered as inferior to the communal reading and understanding. In practice one must allow the interpretation of the Church to guide meaning and certitude. This is especially important as Catholics become more comfortable with personal scripture reading. The tendency will be to personalize the text and find personal meaning in it.

Friday, November 9, 2007

More on Gaudium Et Spes

2 great examples which typify the theology of GAUDIUM ET SPES;

Oskar Schindler a quote from
“Oscar Schindler rose to the highest level of humanity, walked through the bloody mud of the holocaust without soiling his soul, his compassion, his respect for human life - and gave his Jews a second chance at life. He miraculously managed to do it and pulled it off by using the very same talents that made him a war profiteer - his flair for presentation, bribery, and grand gestures… “
Oscar Schindler spent millions to protect and save his Jews, everything he possessed. He died penniless. But he earned the everlasting gratitude of the Schindler-Jews. Today his name is known as a household word for courage in a world of brutality - a hero who saved hundreds of Jews from Hitler's gas chambers.”

Lech Walesa from

“Lech Walesa, the fly, feisty, mustachioed electrician from Gdansk, shaped the 20th century as the leader of the Solidarity movement that led the Poles out of communism. It is one of history's great ironies that the nearest thing we have ever seen to a genuine workers' revolution was directed against a so-called workers' state. Poland was again the icebreaker for the rest of Central Europe in the "velvet revolutions" of 1989. Walesa's contribution to the end of communism in Europe, and hence the end of the cold war, stands beside those of his fellow Pole, Pope John Paul II, and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.”

Mt 25:31-46
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.'
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Two cities

Last night I was reading an article on the KoC website. The article touched on the responsibility of the layman to use whatever gifts they have been given to improve the temporal order. I was curious so I did more research and found this at;
“This council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come, think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation. Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age. . . . The Christian who neglects his temporal duties, neglects his duties toward his neighbor and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation” (GS 43 . )

A little background;
1. This is a V2 document so the purpose is primarily to address problems facing the modern church. V2 was a council first pastoral in nature seeking to attend to issues of practical theology.
2. GS asserts that “the human race is involved in a new stage of history” characterized by a dynamic, evolutionary concept of reality as opposed to the static concept of ages past. This means that change is now the norm for the majority of human kind. Change in migration, economics, culture and education.
3. These changes all have their impact on religion. Especially the practice of religion.

One definition;
1. Two cities The immediate reference in tradition is Augustine. “Fecerunt itaque civitates duas amores duo” Two loves therefore made two cities. Continuing… the love of oneself to the contempt of God produced the earthly city, however the love of God to the contempt of self the heavenly city. I think GS tries to bring balance to the idea of 2 cities thinking that perhaps zest for the heavenly city has gotten the better of us. Calling it one of the more serious errors of this age.

With the above understood to paraphrase St Paul; We are required to live fully in the position in which we were called. No matter if it does not seem “spiritual”. We must do it with the intention of gospelizing it. I am not just talking about treating our co-workers well or being honest at work. I believe it goes much deeper than that. I understand this to mean that we are required to find that thing which is not “right” and use whatever power, influence or wealth we have been given charge over to make it right. So whether one is a carpenter or CEO the requirement remains the same. What is not right? Make it right.
I am interested in hearing what others think the implications of this are.
I for one seldom think of my job in this light. I usually limit my Christian witness to the realm of morality and ethics. It is quite a challenge to try to understand my job in terms of a vocation or calling and I do not wrestle with how to do that near enough. How can the project I am doing right now be gospelized? Finally this flies in the face of the theocratic solutions proposed by fundamentalists and the secular solutions proposed by materialists. Because it assumes that economics or politics are themselves good one need not create a “Christian economics (bible based money management please…Islam does that!), however, because I am a Christian I must apply the discipline in a Christian way. The Christian solution is to truly believe that one is a citizen of two cities.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Bible At The Center Of Life

At the Vatican News Service, there is a summary of the Holy Father’s general audience held today. With 40,000 people attending, he “dedicated his catechesis to St. Jerome”. It is short and well worth the read. The Pope needs very little space to explain how the Bible should be read, finding a balance between its objective and subjective meanings.

Some of us read the Bible with a desire to find out what it says to me, caring little about any background contextual information. This method can lead to treating the Bible as a book written by God and handed directly to man (as the Muslims see the Koran). It tends to ignore that the text was written through a person, at a time, and in an historical setting.

Some of us are inclined to see the Bible as more of a challenging puzzle with any meaning to be found distanced from us personally and only obtainable through study. This method can lead to treating the Bible as a book with a message for a people long ago, while forcing us today to see only general truth and moral guidelines, but no really personal message or meaning.

But in his wisdom, the Holy Father sees truth in both together, and danger in each individually. The truth, as it often does, lies at the center.
The Holy Father indicated how Jerome also affirmed "the need to go back to the original texts, ... to the Greek in which the New Covenant was written" and "to the Hebrew" for the Old Testament, "thus everything that arises from the source 'we may find in the streams'" he said, again quoting the saint.

It was Jerome's view, the Pope explained, "that commentators must present multiple opinions" so that readers, "having read the various explanations, ... may judge which is the most trustworthy."

The saint "energetically and vigorously refuted heretics who attacked the tradition and faith of the Church. He demonstrated the importance of Christian literature, which by then was worthy to bear the confrontation with classical literature," having become part of "a true Christian culture."

"From Jerome," Pope Benedict went on, "we must learn to love the Word of God in Holy Scripture," because to ignore it "is to ignore Christ." Hence it is important "to live in contact and living dialogue" with Scripture.

"Such dialogue must have two dimensions. On the one hand it must be a truly personal dialogue ... because God has a message for each one of us. We must read Scripture not as words from the past but as the Word of God Who talks to me, and seek to understand what the Lord is telling me."

However, "in order not to fall prey to individualism, we must bear in mind that the Word of God is given to us to build communion, to unite us in that truth, in that path. ... The Word of God, though it is always personal, is always a Word that builds ... the Church. For this reason we must always read it in communion with the living Church. And the privileged place for listening to the Word of God is the liturgy."

"The Word of God transcends time," the Pope concluded. "Human opinions come and go, ... the Word of God is the word of eternal life. It carries eternity within and is valid forever."

Wow, he should write a book.

Bella The Movie

I received the following email from a friend today:

By now, hopefully all of you have heard about the movie “Bella” – that tells the wonderful story of the value and sacredness of human life. It opened a couple weeks ago in limited theaters – and none in the St Michael area. Just recently, additional theaters have been added, including St Michael, Elk River and Maple Grove. GET THE WORD OUT! We need to do our part by supporting good films.
Here is a link to a page that lists theaters (Minneapolis) and show times for the movie.

From what I understand, the movie is supposed to contain a moving pro-life message. But due to an accident scene (required for the storyline), it may not be appropriate for a younger audience.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Fr Francis Mary Stone

The Internet has been flooded over the last few days with the news of Fr. Francis Mary Stone’s decision to take time off to discern his vocation. For those who do not know who Fr. Stone is, he hosts the “Life On the Rock” show on the EWTN network. I think it’s only fair to let Fr. Stone speak by including his letter that was read before the last show aired below:

Dear Family,

Regretfully, I have a message that does not come without significant pain to both you and me. I have to tell you in all honesty and truth, that I have been personally involved with helping a widow and her struggling family. Over the course of time, the mother and I have grown very close. As a result, I am compelled to take some time off to prayerfully and honestly discern my future.

I am truly sorry of the impact this may have on so many. I am not unaware of the gravity and magnitude of the situation, yet after much wise counsel, it is really something that I must deal with now for the good of all.

With that said, it is best that I deal with it away from EWTN. Therefore, I have asked for and graciously been granted some extended time to prayerfully discern my vocation.

To those who are part of the EWTN family locally, and others throughout the world, especially all those who have supported me so faithfully in my priestly vocation and ministry here on Life on the Rock, I sincerely apologize. I ask for your prayers and understanding during this time that is so very difficult, but yet so very necessary.

Please lift me up in your humble prayers to Jesus through Mary, our Mother, in Grace and Mercy.

Fr Francis Mary, MFVA

(Source: Thomas Peters (AMP))

I only have a few thoughts/comments that have no doubt been brought up else where.

Part of me is glad that Fr. Stone came forward before being “caught” (assuming his words were not prodded by his superiours).

Part of me wants to know why Father feels the need to “sincerely apologize”? If he feels the need to apologize it seems he recognizes he did something wrong. I suggest stop doing what is wrong, go to confession if needed, and move on.

Part of me is not sure that so much detail in the letter was needed (i.e. being “personally involved” or “grown very close”). Why not just leave it at needing some “time to prayerfully discern my vocation”? I’m not sure why a public “confession” was needed.

And part of me wonders what the, yaaaaaawn, big deal is? Where's the story? We see people who are remarried after a divorce all the time without an annulment receiving Communion – what’s the difference? Some may think my concept of the preisthood is not high enough, to them I’d say their concept of marriage is too low. People all around us divorce and remarry with their children suffering for their supposed "right" to happiness. But outcry against that would be seen as insensitive at best, and judgmental at worse.

What if we are called to a vocation, mis-read the discernment in our youth, and end up married when our vocation was priesthood or a priest/sister when it was marriage?

What is the “right” thing for Fr. Stone to do? Does an objective "right" thing even exist anymore?