Friday, December 28, 2007

Political Crisis in Pakistan

I don't know all that much about geopolitics, other than what I watch on Fox News. But, it seems to me that the assassination of the former PM of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, is a clear demonstration of two things: a lot of the rest of the planet has not yet adopted the kind of freedom we have in America; and a lot of the time we take our freedoms for granted.

Let's face it, most of us walk around acting like we hit a triple, when in reality most of were born on third base. The peaceful transfer of power during our elections is one of the hallmarks and legacies of our founding fathers. Their wisdom and profound vision of a new type of government has truly rewritten the paradigm of human society. It's not always been perfect (slavery, a civil war, segregation) but it beats just about every other game in town so to speak. It's too bad circumstances have not allowed the rest of the world to follow suit.

What does this have to do with the Catholic trenches? Well, if nothing else, take a moment to pray in thanksgiving for our nation and our form of government, and for peace for the whole world.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Vocation crisis

This is something I have been thinking about but have not really had time to develop.
It seems to me that he crisis in vocations in the west extends beyond the priesthood. It is also a crisis of the vocation of marriage and fatherhood. Men are either not accepting the responsibility of marriage, or if they do, they do not fully embrace the marriage vocation.
Are the two related? What do you think?

Friday, December 21, 2007

More on Spe Salvi and advent hope.

In his encyclical The Holy Father makes reference to the many hopes great and small that all humans have. He reminds us that these hopes are necessary and good but can not replace the great hope of being loved by God.
During his Christmas reflection on Wednesday the Pope Benedict reminded us of our call to be witnesses and how the witness of our life can be hope for the world though they are “unaware”. Advent and Christmas are full of many good, small hopes, but they are only figures of the event which makes the great hope possible.
He later connects this hope we have to evangelization. Again touching on a theme from Spe Salvi in which, several times he argues against any type of individualistic paradigm of salvation. The gospel is never subjective or individualistic. It has always been, he states, a social phenomenon. Therefore, the hope we rejoice over at Christmas must never become an individual hope or an individual joy. Likewise, evangelism must never become individualistic though often it does; when the focus becomes saving oneself from judgment and hell. Both must be hope based on the objective reality of God incarnate in Christ as revealed to the Church. In order to clarify what is meant by evangelization he recommends we study and reflect on the “Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization”.

“The Child, adored 2,000 years ago by the shepherds in a cave of Bethlehem, never stops visiting us in our daily life as we, like pilgrims, walk toward the Kingdom. As he waits, the believer becomes the spokesperson for the hopes of all humankind; humanity longs for justice, and thus, though often unaware, waits for God, waits for the salvation that only God can give us…
It is therefore very important that we are true believers, and as believers, that we reaffirm forcefully, with our lives, the mystery of salvation that comes with the celebration of Christ's birth! In Bethlehem, the Light which illumines our life was made manifest to the world; the Way which leads to the fullness of our humanity was revealed to us. What sense does it make to celebrate Christmas if we don't acknowledge that God has become man? The celebration becomes empty.
Before all else, we Christians have to reassert with deep and heartfelt conviction the truth of Christ's birth in order to bear witness before all the awareness of an unparalleled gift that enriches not only us, but everyone.
The duty of evangelization is to convey this "eu-angelion," the "good news." This was recalled by the document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith titled "Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization," which I would like to offer for your reflection and personal as well as communal study.” [The full document can be found online at]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Newest Edition

Jonathan James Serviam!
Born: 12:47 PM 12/20/2007
Length: 20.5 inches
Weight: 8.6 lbs

Mom and baby are doing great!

(Not sure what's up with the pink, but I guess with 5 sisters and only 1 brother he better get used to it.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Spe Salvi and Gaudium et spes

Following is a small excerpt from a longer article by Antonio Socci on Spi Salvia ante Gaudium et spes.

“A bomb. It is the new encyclical of Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, in which there is not a single quotation from the Council (a choice of huge significance); in which at last Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory are spoken of again (and even the Anti-Christ, even though in an excerpt of Kant); in which horrors are called by their name (for instance, "Communism", a word which, at the Council, it was forbidden to pronounce and condemn); in which, instead of greeting the powerful of this world, the powerful witness of Christian martyrs, the victims, is mentioned; in which the rhetoric of the "religions" is wiped out, by affirming that the Savior is only one; in which Mary is shown as the "star of hope"; and in which it is shown that blind faith in progress (alone) and in science (alone) leads to Disaster and despair.Benedict XVI does not quote, from the Council, even "Gaudium et spes", which nonetheless had in its title the word "hope", but wipes out the very mistake disastrously introduced in the Catholic world by that which was the main Conciliar constitution, "On the Church in the Modern World". The Pope invites, in fact, at n. 22, to a "a self-critique of modern Christianity". Particularly on the concept of "progress".”

Being only a Benedict Catholic and having never been in a parish which abused the freedoms granted in V2, I can only understand what Socci is saying on an intellectual level. There is no “ah-ha at last” moment for me as I perceive there is for Socci and others.
I have been reading a lot of Benedict/Raztinger lately and find him to be solidly Catholic and uncompromising when it comes to philosophy and theology. He gives allowance where he understands an argument to be either speculative or non-essential but stands firm on church dogma. He is agressive but not rash. Paragraph 7 leaves no doubt that as far as this pope is concerned the rift between Catholicism and those that are separated is one of interpretation and the basic assumptions which drive it. He will not be a popular pope but he is formidable.
I would be interested in reading the reactions of others to Spe Salvi.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Perfect Gift For Those Who Had Nothing

A few years ago I was thinking about what it would be like someday to be grandparents. I began to think about my own grandparents and memories I had of them. My thoughts then moved beyond becoming grandparents to, God willing, great-grandparents.

While my kids have great grandparents, and my wife remembers some of hers from when she was little, I never knew any of mine. In fact, not only had I never met them but I really know very little about them. Sadly, I couldn’t have even told you their names. Within three generations, my great grandparents had disappeared from their great grandson’s mind.

How many generations would it take for me to disappear from my descendants’ memory? Unless I do something like broker a lasting peace in the Middle East, discover a theory of everything, or solve a Rubik’s cube in less than 7 seconds, I’ll be lucky if my great grandchildren know my name. I don’t think here’s anything really wrong with this, it’s just how it is.

How much would have my great grandfather (or either of my grandfathers since they died when I was relatively young) wanted to tell me? If they could have passed on some bits of wisdom for me, what would it have been? Or my great grandmothers, if they had the chance to tell me one thing, what would they choose? Or how about my great great grandparents and beyond?

And naturally my thinking began turning from the past, past the present, and into the future. What would I want my grandchildren of generations to come to know? If I had to pick some wisdom that I have stumbled across through no fault of my own – believe me on that – what would it be?

I know that the primary way we speak to our grandchildren is through our children. Our voice and message very much speaks through the kind of people they become. What they value, whom they cherish, and why is our message past on to future generations through our children.

But as important a message as that is, is there another way to pass on to the generations that follow a message we feel is important - a secondary method that would compliment the primary?

After thinking about it I came to the conclusion that the best candidate for this are family traditions. Since then, I have be trying to put together family traditions that carry with them the messages I want delivered to my children’s, children’s, children’s, … There’s little doubt that I will be forgotten, or only exist on a branch of a family tree in a book or hanging on someone’s wall but if I can just pass along a little of what is important, it’s just fine with me.

Manufactured family traditions may be a long shot, but I guess time will tell.

On Christmas Eve, before the kids go to bed, we read together a poem I wrote. I am no poet and claim no talent in that area, but only hoping to be published in a handful of homes in each generation. I can only hope that someday, years from now long after I’m not even a memory, some little children will be sitting with their parents listening to them read the story that’s been in the family for “years”.

The Perfect Gift For Those
Who Had Nothing

A gift was given by the Father,
To the house of all Mankind,
It came to a people waiting,
And it came at the perfect time.

The tree was ablaze with lights of faith,
Adorn with acts of love.
Topped with the shining star of hope,
Pointing to the heavens above.

Under the tree the Father placed,
A single gift with tender care.
Wrapped lovingly with special paper,
A paper so immaculate, so fair.

Then came the time to open this gift,
All the children gathered round.
And as they began to open it,
Not one of them made a sound.

As the gift was born from the paper,
One thing was known for sure,
The world was changed forever,
They had witnessed a miracle occur.

The gift shown forth a radiant light,
That filled the entire place.
The children looked down in wonder,
And saw a small child’s holy face.

But it wasn’t what some had expected,
It certainly wasn’t what they’d asked for.
But others knelt before the child,
And humbly began to adore.

With an angry look to their Father,
Some children left in haste.
While the children who remained,
Saw the pain on their Father’s face.

“Take this gift and go forth my children,
And bring it to all with loving care.
For I give this gift to you freely,
And of it freely you are to share.”

“Never hold your love from one another,
And pray for each other each day.
Know that true love is found in giving,
So give this gift you’ve been given away.”

“Bring the light of my love to the lost,
And your siblings in darkness find.
Knowing the more lovingly this gift is held,
The more brightly its light will shine.”

The Father knew this special gift,
Which He placed under the tree,
Would be to His children Hope,
And would set the captives free.

So my prayer for you this Christmas,
Is that with your love you might,
Give a gift back to our Father,
By witnessing to Him with your life.

Merry Christmas!

Faith and Choosing a Candidate

As a political quasi-junkie, I have at least kept up with a current coverage of the Iowa and New Hampshire presidential debates, polls, etc. Huckabee has made an apparent surge in Iowa, amidst the question of Mitt Romney's religious beliefs and perhaps amidst Rudy Guliani's religious "un-beliefs." The question is, how should the candidates' various beliefs influence our vote, as Catholics? More to the point should Catholics consider voting for Rudy for President because he's Catholic, and not for Mitt because he's Mormon?? (Sorry Mr. Huckabee, we'll get back to you in a bit)

Answer: No.

Here's the way I look at it, and I would be interested in other opinions. First of all, I wouldn't base my vote on the faith of the candidate, except to the extent that the strength of their belief might influence their performance and decisions in the White House. I don't really think that having a Mormon president would endanger us to suddenly wake up to find an LDS majority in Congress. Having said that, however, I do think Romney is being purposefully coy about some of the major tenets of his faith. To be delicate, the origins and history of the Mormon church are... "interesting." Romney has been more than happy to let the media defend his faith for him, without having to actually step up and give an account of exactly what Mormons believe. In a nutshell, Mormons are not Christians if your definition includes a Triune God. Romney is thus running for President of the United States and he's not a Christian, but is rather passing himself off as a Christian. In his case, it's a matter of personal integrity: he is simply being (passively) dishonest.

Now on to Guliani, with this caveat: judging another when it comes to God and righteousness is risky business; we may not truly know their heart when it comes to faith and beliefs. But in the case of Rudy, we do know that he claims he is Catholic but he's liberal on abortion. Some of his other actions also point to a cafeteria-style Catholicism, but again for all we know he is completely reconciled with the Church on those other topics. Here again, Rudy likes to say he's Catholic but doesn't necessary like doing what it takes to be in full agreement with the Church.

Political expediency: 2 Personal integrity: nil

So, how to navigate the treacherous waters of the electorate? Romney is (at least now) pro-life and Rudy is pro-choice. Both play fast and loose with the explanation of their religion. Does Huckabee trump them both by being more open about his faith, assuming he is more open after all? All three of them have been executives (one big-city mayor and two governors) which is good training for the Presidency.

My opinion: Rudy is OUT as a weak-lemonade believer. Romney and Huckabee remain IN for now. There are a few other candidates available so maybe one of them will emerge as a better choice for Catholics.

Let me know what you think!

P.S. This is all about Republicans. Think about the same questions for Democrats; are there ANY Dems who offer a decent choice for Catholics???

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fasting and feasting

Looking for a reminder that Advent is a period of self examination, penance and reflection leading up to the feast of Christmas? Read on;
“Four times a year, the Church sets aside three days to focus on God through His marvelous creation. These quarterly periods take place around the beginnings of the four natural seasons 1 that "like some virgins dancing in a circle, succeed one another with the happiest harmony," as St. John Chrysostom wrote (see Readings below). These four times are each kept on a successive Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and are known as "Ember Days," or Quatuor Tempora, in Latin. The first of these four times comes in Winter, after the Feast of St. Lucy; the second comes in Spring, the week after Ash Wednesday; the third comes in Summer, after Pentecost Sunday; and the last comes in Autumn, after Holy Cross Day. Their dates can be remembered by this old mnemonic:
Sant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia Ut sit in angaria quarta sequens feria.
Which means:
Holy Cross, Lucy, Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, are when the quarter holidays follow.
For non-Latinists, it might be easier to just remember "Lucy, Ashes, Dove, and Cross."
These times are spent fasting and partially abstaining (voluntary since the new Code of Canon Law) in penance and with the intentions of thanking God for the gifts He gives us in nature and beseeching Him for the discipline to use them in moderation.”
Sounds perfect. Moreover, even though the observance is voluntary the exercise of the option is encouraged by the UCCB.
“The church in the United States recommends setting aside the three days before Thanksgiving as unofficial “Ember Days” particularly for the practice of deeds of charity, penance and economic justice. Go to pp 188-189 in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers for information.”

So, I figure instead of making up our own dates, our family will revive a previously established tradition.

Since tomorrow is the Feast of St Lucy, a very big day in the Germanicus household as she is my oldest daughters patroness, the Advent embertides would be observed next Wednesday (19), Friday (21) and Saturday (22). This allows plenty of time before the Christmas vigil.

Today and tomorrow however, we feast! This year we are going to be as observant of feast days as we are about fast days. So, tonight we feast to commemorate Our Lady of Guadalupe and tomorrow St Lucy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Popes -- 1,975 Years and Counting....

Attached below is a link to the New Advent page which gives the lineage of Popes. This is obviously an important topic for our RCIA class and I've wanted to give them a place to read about the history of the Popes.

Thought I'd pass it along, but also ask if anyone is aware of any historical disputes regarding the early Popes? Is this list definitive?

Thanks and God bless!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Preparing the Way of the Lord

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is interesting in that Jesus makes no explicit appearance. Instead, we have John the Baptist baptizing in the Jordan River. I find John the Baptist to be one of the most powerful and moving figures in the Bible.

His message of repentance, turning away from sin and back toward God, was convincing to his hearers and moved them to it because John understood what repentance really was.

Repenting is an easy concept to get your mind around, but difficult to get our heart around. Repentance is a conversion, a return to God with out hearts and minds. Often, the biggest obstacles in this are our own pride, fear, and doubt. This is why John was so effective. He is filled with humbleness, courage, and conviction. Only a man like John could have ever preached a message of repentance as strongly and effectively as he did.

And the people came. In fact, the Gospel states that the “whole region around the Jordan were going out to him”. The Baptist’s words flowed past the ears, thought the mind, and into the heart of the people, softening them and turning them away from sin towards life.

It took courage to go to the river, humbleness to acknowledge their sins, and conviction not to leave when the influential Pharisees and Sadducees arrived to see what was going on.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.

I don’t think this message was one for Jesus’ first coming alone. I think it is meant to echo through the ages. God had chosen John to give this message, and us to live the message. We are called to repent, prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight his paths.

When I first was thinking about what preparing the way of the Lord, and making straight his paths would involve for us today, visions of street-corner preachers shouting messages of “turn or burn” jumped into my head. But this method has little value in our culture today, turning the message of repentance into little more than a sideshow act.

I also thought about people who use the “smother-them-with-love” approach to straighten the path. But these people can rarely be heard speaking of sin, let alone repentance. This approach seems to lack effectiveness because it has less of a chance of leading people to repentance than it does enabling them in their sin. True love desires the ultimate good, and sometimes that good can only be obtained through repentance.

So I asked Mrs. Serviam! how she thought we should be preparing the way of the Lord today. Her answer was as simple as it was right.

“Through our children.”

Only as a father can I combine in some strange way a “turn-or-burn” message with a “smother-them-with-love” approach and actually make the path just a little straighter. Living your faith as parents not only has consequence for you, but also the little ones you’ve been entrusted with. A great way of teaching them about repentance is by bringing them to confession during Advent. When you do, you are teaching them about courage by owning up to their sins by seeking reconciliation, humbleness by admitting they were wrong in what they have done, and conviction through living a life of faith even after you have sinned.

In a small way we can become a mini “John the Baptist” within our family - even when our kids resemble a “brood of vipers”.

CDF Document - Evangelization and Catechesis

CNA is reporting that the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) is preparing to "release an important document on evangelization and catechesis." It also says that this document may be released during Advent.

From the report:
The intention of the document, according to the source, is “to bring back the centrality of Jesus to the programs aimed at transmitting the faith to future generations, since several of these programs are centered on feelings or confused ideas about the teachings of the Church on the nature of Jesus.”
What "programs" are they talking about?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

In hope we were saved

I have just begun to read through Spe Salvi and I came across this statement on page 4.

“Paul illustrates the essential problem of the religion of that time quite accurately when he contrasts life “according to Christ” with life under the dominion of the “elemental spirits of the universe” (Col 2:8). In this regard a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ.”

I found this interesting because for the past several months I have been reading through Introduction to Christianity (written as Cardinal Ratzinger). In it he makes a similar statement in reference to the incarnation. That the incarnation consumed all myth.
Put another way the incarnation, when properly understood, fulfills the hope of human myth and legend. If all human religion is understood as the innate longing for God then it is may be said that in some sense all religion is good in that it expresses a desire toward God, which has been placed in us by God. However, it is not good in that this desire for union with God will always be confounded by our limits as compared to His limitlessness. We can not ascend to God ever. He always remains beyond our reach. The closer we get to God the more glorious He becomes and therefore the distance between what I am and He is becomes greater and greater. I am reminded of Genesis 3.16 where the woman is told that your desire will be for your husband but he will rule over you. The desire is for closeness but she will experience distance. Then it follows that the greatest hope (and the greatest good) of human kind is that either we become more God-like or that God become more Human-like and thus bridge the gap. The incarnation provided both.
Moreover, the incarnation of Christ not only fulfills the desire of all myth and religion but goes beyond them. The God-man is not half man half God. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. The Christ is not resurrected to die again in an endless cycle, His resurrection is once for all. Jesus does not simply overcome evil he destroys it and eliminates the final consequence of it. In Christ is the national hope of Israel for a messiah and the natural hope of all humans for a hero. Christ is the hope of all, though many do not know it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Grumbling, Paul Bunyan, Let's win some Souls!!!

With the arrival of snow comes the end of another wondrous fall here in God's country, Minnesota. We hardy folks in the northland have gathered the crops, filled the freezers with wild game, and have begun to sharpen our ice augers. Across the land of 10,000 lakes the ice continues to thicken while I write my first post in a very long time. Despite my absence in posting, I have still read every post and look forward to reading them on a daily basis.
This blog has seen a good deal of discussion and opinion regarding the Mass and the way it is celebrated here in Minnesota. My parish consists of conservatives, charismatics, a few liberals, and everything else in between. I have lived by my parish for 13 years and been immersed in many facets of the parish. I have heard some fascinating comments. Too much incense! Why the Latin? Do we need drums? What’s with the bowing! Stop clapping!!!! How dare he talk about contraception!!! The church is too fancy!! The church is too plain!!! I could go on and on and I bet many reading this blog can relate.
I am personally guilty of timing our ultra long Gloria at the 6:00 P.M Mass. We musically repeat the simple prayer about 20 times accompanied with drums and electrical guitars and bass. The music and the prayer finally conclude after five minutes have passed. Petty of me? I don't know what to think about it but realize I am really no different than all the rest who complain about a part of the Mass.
This past Saturday morning I found myself sitting in a tree with my smokepole (musket). You see in Minnesota I get to hunt deer with my bow, then a shotgun, then a rifle, and finally with a single shot, pack the gunpowder down the barrel and hope things don’t get wet muzzleloader.
As I waited for bambi or even better his mother or father, I thought about the Mass here at home and all the comments I have been hearing. I will be never confused as a liturgist. My knowledge of the Norms for Mass are minimal at best. As I was thinking and trying to make sense of the matter, my thoughts suddenly shifted to one of the greatest Mass stories of all time. Grab a cup of coffee, a beer, or if you are Servium a pink can of Tab, and take the time to read this simple but true story.
It was two years ago and the surviving deer of Minnesota River Bottoms had almost made it through yet another Fall. My three oldest children and two great friends had just finished a successful and enjoyable muzzleloader hunt. We had shot a nice buck and were driving back to civilization to eventually return home. A cell phone rang and we’ll call the owner Paul. His wife was calling and had just found out that her cousin was in the area and hoped to stop by to see their new home. We had planned to attend the 6:00 p.m. Mass by our home but that was exact time the cousins planned to arrive. showed that in the great town of Willmar a 12:00 o’clock Mass awaited Paul leaving him very little time to pack. We all helped him stuff everything into his car and off he went. Paul did not have any church clothes packed and so was unable to change out of his thick white and red wool flannel shirt and pants. He looked like... well…. Paul Bunyan. Arriving at the stroke of noon he raced up the stairs and burst into the back of the church hoping to slide in behind the procession.
Paul quickly learned that the date was December 10th , the Feast Day of Guadalupe. When his eyes adjusted to the color filled church he quickly noticed that he was at least eight inches taller than anyone in the entire church. At six foot four and full of muscle (no, the Men at Work song about that guy who liked vegemite sandwiches was not about this particular guy) , Paul has always been an intimating sight. Much to his surprise his white skin, dark hair, dark stubble, and wooly garments did not faze the parishioners of this beautiful church. You see Wilmar has a very large migrant worker population and Paul had joined them for an all Spanish Mass celebrating the Miracle of Guadalupe.
Paul quickly tried to sit down but the parishioners welcomed him and ushered him to be a part of the procession. I am sure this marked the first time that a man who looked and smelled like Paul Bunyan had ever joined the faithful Spanish speaking population of Willmar, Minnesota. They quickly ushered him to the front of the procession and the music began. Paul processed in with the priest and the faithful. He was encouraged to join in the dancing as they celebrated joyously their love for the Blessed Mother. Paul has never been a very good dancer and let us be thankful that this occurred before the emergence of Utube.
Mr. Bunyan was given the front row and welcomed as a brother in Christ. After a two hour Mass in Spanish, Paul was able to receive the same Body and Blood of Christ with the many millions all over the world. After the initial shock wore off, Paul was able to really appreciate and enjoy the different culture and their celebration of the sacred day. The Mass was different but Paul walked away with an appreciation for the fact that we are “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. What a wondrous gift to be Catholic and know our faith spans the globe to every culture.
You might be wondering how this story relates with our personal critiques and grumblings of the Mass. The American culture is changing. Let’s face it, the American middle class Caucasian family is a majority of the past. We are barely replacing ourselves while other cultures and nationalities continue to lap us with children and immigration. Our catholic churches will be forced to adapt and meet a wide variety of needs. If changes in worship get our undies in a bunch, what will be left to get in a bunch when things really change.
In conclusion, I plan to be more like Mr. Bunyan and focus on the Eucharist and look for the fruit in different kinds of worship. We are “One Holy Apostolic Church” and let’s face it, our country needs some spiritual revival. I plan to get out and try to win more souls and spend less time complaining or policing others. Have a blessed Christmas!!!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Whispers of an Invitation to Contemplation

Well one of my favorite seasons, Advent, started last Sunday (along with the Liturgical Year). With the tendency by some to treat Advent as the beginning of the Christmas season, I though Father gave a wonderful Homily.

While hitting on the themes of the day's Gospel reading of "being prepared" and staying "awake", he made it clear how important it was to let the first coming of Christ remind us of His second. For just as surely as He came once, he would come again. Be prepared, stay awake. And while we wait, be a thief of souls for Christ.

After Mass I read Father's weekly article in the bulletin. It was one of his shortest, but I think it was one of his best. It really catches Advent's essence and heart beautifully. I hope he doesn't mind, but I typed it out and included it below.

The Advent season is such a beautiful time of the year. The silence-with-darkness of approaching Winter whispers an invitation to contemplation, in preparation for the coming of the Son of God. It’s a season of penance and poetry, aching in the expatriation of our fallen world, for the beatitude of redeemed Israel. To miss these weeks of longing through premature Christmas cheer is a slide into a superficial spirit. Ecstatic union is far greater as a satiated culmination of hopes, desires, and yearning. Can the mountain top experience of our faith be great, if the perceived depth of our poverty is shallow?

“O Come O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.”

This passing age, indeed its strife will cease, all shadows recede and hatred flee. The weight of sin, the chaos of tyranny, the impulse of greed, fear, pride, selfishness will give way to the Love and Light of the Word Incarnate. Jesus, the Son of God, Word made Flesh, Splendor of the never-ending day, approaches. By prayer, fasting, the reading of scripture, Confession, celebrating the Eucharist, and acts of charity, we must prepare the way.

Father Michael

Speaking of Islam ...

I just heard that Dr. Terry Nichols, Professor of Theology and Department of Theology Chair at St. Thomas University, will be speaking on Islam this coming February for the men of our, and a neighboring Parish.

To better focus his talk, Dr. Nichols has asked for questions.

If you could ask him any question about Islam, what would it be?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Response to Ron

I received a comment to a previous post: Even the Commas Count from Ron Rhoades. While we disagree on many things, I thought his comments were fair and deserving of a response. I decided to post it here due to it length and importance.

So here is my response:

Hello Ron! Thank you very much for leaving a thoughtful response. I really appreciate any feedback I get to my posts.

Let me begin by saying that after re-reading my post, the only part I think would have changed is using the word “poorly” when speaking of the NWT translation. I would have rewritten this paragraph:

“This translation is notorious for poorly translating verses that seem to contradict their doctrine and theology.”

As this:

“This translation is notorious for using alternate translations that have been traditionally rejected for verses that seem to contradict their doctrine and theology.”

As far as the translation of Luke 23:43, I disagree that the problem here is any personal bias on my part. I think the problem is that ALL translation to some extent involves a bias and that the problem is with those unwilling or unable to recognizing this. And again the problem is not that there is a lack of evidence in my position, but existing evidence for BOTH positions – here is where bias enters. Truth be told, there is no exegesis without a little eisogesis.

I believe this to be the only honest a position one can hold.

The point of my post is not that the NWT’s translation is grammatically impossible from the Greek texts, in fact it is exactly the opposite! The aim was to point to the need for an authority above translation since more than one translation in some cases is indeed possible. My apologies if this was not made clear.

In your first point, you speak of Professor Jason David BeDuhn’s book, and while I am sure the professor is very bright, I unfortunately have no idea who he is and have never read the book. And after a little research into the book I have found that the results of his findings is not that the NWT is the most accurate, but that it was one of two finalists for the spot. The other translation held up by the author as being most accurate was none other than the Catholic Church’s NAB. The reality of it is that you can find studies and books on both sides, and again I ask how we know who is right?

Your second point was that there have been translators who have placed the comma where the NWT does, and I completely agree! As to my main point, there is more than one way to move the Greek into English being that there is no one-to-one relation between the two languages. And if correctness lies in a list of translations which supported our claim, I think I’d have you beat. But the truth doesn’t depend on a majority’s consensus, it exists outside opinion. So with there being valid opinions on either side, how can we know who is right?

Yes, the Codex Vaticanus is “the most important of all manuscripts of Holy Scripture” – thank God that the Catholic Church has protected and shared such a treasure! I took some time this morning to look at the text ( page 114 fourth line from the bottom in the first column - thank God for todays' chapter and verse!). I did not noticed a comma at all – none. I also tracked down a copy of the text that the Whatchtower Society has published for fairness sake. In their text, you do see a very small dot, but you would have to argue pretty hard to convince me it was a comma.

The Codex Vaticanus uses punctuation very rarely, and when it does, it places whitespace after the punctuation (for example Luke 22:31). This mark you speak of occurs between two letters with absolutely no extra whitespace, it appears to me (and many others much more learned than I) to be simply a miscellaneous, unintentional mark on the page (not at all uncommon). But who is right? How do we know?

Your fourth point really hits at the heart of the matter. We now enter into the theological bias that all have. As a Catholic and a Jehovah’s Whitness we simply do not agree on many things, the state of the soul after death being just one of them. You have listed many scriptures that when read in isolation COULD hold the possibility of you interpretation. But Ron, you and I both know that I could begin listing the standard passages that contradict the standard passages you list.

We would have some that would appear to hold that the soul dies until the resurrection and some that would hold that the soul is eternal and thus never dies. These arguments go on every day with great detail, passion, and conviction. If you think there is a chance I can change your mind, please let me know and I’ll give it my best shot ;-).

But what results most often are the people on either side digging their heels in and people undecided getting confused. When an issue of this type is left in the realm of argumentation, only a subjective answer for each individual can possibly result. But as we can see, if each individual’s subjective answer can contradict another’s, how can unified, universal truth be known? How do we know which possible translation is the correct translation?

For that something objective must exist for all individuals to look to. A source that can be trusted with this truth because it has been given this authority by the one who is the author of truth. This source is the Holy Catholic Church. I know that we firmly disagree here. But the scriptures have authority because the Catholic Church has said so. And She has said so because the Holy Spirit has led Her to.

Your arguments on proper grammatical translation are lost on about 99% the world’s population who can neither read Koine Greek with mastery - nor read any language at all. How can these people “evaluate the facts”? For some great truth to be hidden in nuances of the text, only to be found in 1950 with the translation of the NWT, is a hard one to swallow. For Christ to leave this world with the only possibility of finding truth to be in how “properly” Scripture is translated is something I find unreasonable. Jesus has not abandoned his sheep to the wolves of “accurate and solidly based on rules of translation”, He had foreseen this, and given the world the Catholic Church.

Thanks again for your response Ron. I do appreciate a thoughtful discussion. Of course I hope you will someday find the truth of the Catholic Church, even if it’s not tomorrow. There is a lot we disagree on for sure, but I do pray that the world will be led past these disagreements and to the truth of Jesus Christ, and I know we can both agree on that.

God Bless,