June 2004 Archives

Current Reading

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Haven't updated this in a while.

1. Pilgrims Progress -- you'd think, as a former Scots Presbyterian, I'd have made the journey through the pages of Bunyon's classic by now.

2. Pensees - Blaise Pascal -- Pascal is one of the premier Christian apologists of all times, presenting ideas you'd think no atheist could oppose. Wanna bet?

3. Ascent to the Truth - Thomas Merton -- I haven't taken a vow of silence on this one, just working through it at a leisurely pace.

Bishop Gumbleton and War

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Bishop Gumbleton, of Detroit, in his Trinity Sunday homily, managed to work in the opinion that prosecution of war, even the war against Hitler and Nazism, was something contrary to the teaching of Christ. This is what he said:

Today, President Bush is over in Europe celebrating how 60 years ago we invaded the continent of Europe from the British Isles. We think of this as a marvelous thing, something to celebrate, but it meant killing and hatred. That’s not God. That can never be God.

Somehow we’ve come to think that sometimes it is OK to hate and kill. We’ve come to believe that sometimes killing is necessary, but it isn’t. And it can’t be. It cannot be.


Anyone reading this statement without any knowledge of the history of the D-Day Invasion would think that we, the Allies, were aggressors in World War II; that we were there simply to kill and hate. My initial response to this was that the Bishop seemed to believe that there was nothing worth dying for. To clarify, I meant that the Bishop seems to believe that there is nothing worth fighting for, which may involve both killing and dying. What if that had been the response of the Allied leaders in 1939 and 1941? As it was, 6 million Jews died in concentration camps during the years 1939 to 1945. It only stopped in 1945 because of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. We celebrate this act today, not because it commemorates killing and hatred, rather we celebrate it because it commemorates the triumph of good over evil.

The Church teaches that the taking of innocent life is a mortal sin, it is always and everywhere wrong, an evil. Those in Nazi Germany who came to power in the early 1930’s scorned such ideas. They looked upon themselves and their countrymen as as "supermen", the only real human beings, all others being “inhuman” and “subhuman”, especially Jews. They took it upon themselves, after having come to this conclusion, to begin a systematic program to eradicate all humans who were “inferior” in some way, thus the concentration camps. The lives of the Nazi’s were not “innocent”, rather they dedicated themselves to the taking of the innocent lives of others, they were engaged in the grossest kind of evil. Yet, in Bishop Gumbleton’s world, nothing would be done to stop such men, because, after all, it cannot be right to hate and kill. In Bishop Gumbleton’s world, it’s preferable that 6 million, or more, Jews be exterminated than that any Nazi army be challenged and destroyed.

But the Allied leaders did not respond as Bishop Gumbleton would have them do. Instead, they chose to fight evil, knowing that many Americans would die, so that good might prevail. I believe they made the correct moral, Christian choice. They recognized that to tolerate evil is to, in a sense, cooperate in propagating it; in fact, to allow evil to flourish is to become guilty of that evil. The Bishop might argue that, instead of war, reason should have been resorted to. Surely such men as Hitler and Goebbels would listen to reason. However, even a rudimentary knowledge of the history of the 1930’s would show that reason and negotiation was tried, ad nauseum, with the sole result of encouraging Hitler to become even more aggressive and bloodthirsty. Such men do not listen to reason.

We are faced with a similar situation today; we have been attacked by men who hate us because we are not “like them.” These are men who are also dedicated to the taking of innocent lives and, thus, have themselves surrendered all claims to their own innocence. They are dedicated to killing us solely because we do not share their ethnic and religious background – we are Christians, infidels. If we choose to believe that it is wrong to try to stop them, killing them if necessary, then we shall surely die, along with who knows how many countless thousands, or millions, of others. I believe that the only appropriate response to evil is to try to destroy it, not out of hatred but out of concern for the Good. If we do nothing, we ourselves shall be guilty of allowing their evil to reign over the earth.

St. Thomas Aquinas Society

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I was planning on attending the Mid-America Conference in Wichita on August 5-8 until I received the St. Thomas Aquinas Society brochure over the weekend. As you may or may not know, the local St. Thomas Aquinas Society hosts an annual conference here in the Springs and this year's is, guess what, August 6-8. Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Jonette Bencovic, both of EWTN fame, and Leonardo DePhillipis and Lindsey Younce (of Terese movie fame) will be here. Bishop Sheridan will be celebrating Mass on Friday night.

The conference is free and will take place in the World Arena, here in the Springs.

I've got to attend this one.

St. Phillips Square

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St. Phillips Square is a new blog by Fr. Michael Darcy, an Oratorian in Pittsburgh.

Welcome to St. Blogs, Father

SFO Anniversary

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This news item of interest appeared on Zenit:

Secular Franciscans Marking a Silver Anniversary


ROME, JUNE 13, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The ministers general of the Franciscan religious families in a joint letter commemorated the 25th anniversary of the approval of the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order.

"The Secular Franciscans, in these our times," the letter says, "are precisely called to be witnesses to communion, solidarity, hope and peace, to be men and women capable of 'courageous choices' in order to give to the world a radiant face that can only be constructed by beginning again from Christ."

The letter may be consulted at the Web page of the Secular Franciscan Order, www.ciofs.org.

The Franciscan Third Order, or Secular Franciscan Order, as it is called today, dates back to the time of Francis of Assisi.

Its men of letters, artists and scientists have included Giotto, Dante, Palestrina, Galileo and Christopher Columbus.
ZE04061304

Surprised by Joy

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A commenter wrote to me with a question her daughter asked on hearing about my post on Father Rain, "But doesn't he know it's a sacrifice?" You'll recall that in that post I related what a joyful experience the Mass was when celebrated by an African priest, Fr. Okoth.

Yes, I do know it is a sacrifice. But I also know, it is primarily the "celebration" of a Sacrifice made for me, not by me. The Mass celebrates the giving of a gift, the gift given by God the Father of His only Son that I should have life “and have it more abundantly." Isn't that a pretty good reason to be joyful?

Think about this; if you are given a great gift by, say, your father at Christmas, something you could never afford to buy for yourself, for instance, a new Jeep (for me) or a 3 carat diamond ring (for you ladies), what would your reaction be? Might you not react by jumping up and down, screaming almost in spite of yourself, even with lots of people looking on, in joy expressing gratitude to the giver? Wouldn't you say things like, "Oh, thank you, how generous you are to me, what a wonderful father you are to me? How lucky I am to have you for a father, you are always so thoughtful." Or, would you walk away to sulk in the corner, put on a prune face, act all gloomy and sad and not even thank your father? What would he think of that kind of reaction to his beautiful gift?

This is something we all can easily understand and I think our worship of God is no different. At Mass, we celebrate God's gift of His Son to us as "a holy and living sacrifice." In Galatians, Paul writes that the fruits of the Spirit are, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I don't see depression and sadness on this list of the gifts we all receive at baptism and confirmation. We express these gifts in our lives naturally at all times, but especially in worship.

Regarding worship, the Catechism has the following to say about the Sabbath. "Sunday, the 'Lord's Day', is the principle day for the celebration of the Eucharist because it is the day of the Resurrection. It is the pre-eminent day of the liturgical assembly, the day of the Christian family, and the day of joy and rest from work." I also find it interesting, in looking up the word "celebration" in the Catechism, to find this notation: "See words to which celebration refers, above all Liturgy." How many celebrations would we show up to week after week that we weren't, after all, really interested in attending because we didn’t find them joyful. How many would we attend week after week if we never expected to have a personal meeting with the host so that we could share his joy in the celebration. At Mass, we’re going to meet our Lord, to share time with Him, to share in the celebration of Heaven, the greatest celebration of all. I think that calls for at least a bit of joy on our part.

I think the question, "But doesn't he understand it’s a sacrifice?" evidences a misunderstanding of the meaning of joy. Joy doesn't mean that we act silly, nor does it mean that we are trivializing the experience of the Mass. The Catechism states (#1387) regarding the Eucharist: "To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required of their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest." Even when we are solemn and reverential, we are still joyful, one condition does not rule out the other. We can, after all, be dignified and still be joyful. We are, after all, experiencing a foretaste of the eternal joy we will know when our time on earth has ended.

The Apostle also understands the importance of joy. In Philippians he writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

Paul emphasizes that he wants us to be joyful in the Lord always. He doesn’t say rejoice in the Lord always, except when you’re at Mass, he says always. The insistence on joy is found, in fact, throughout the Bible. In Ecclesiastes, of all places, we find the Preacher writing: For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. In Psalm 132 we see, Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy. The call to joy is actually found everywhere in Scripture.

Fr. Okoth grew up in a poor village in Kenya and was only able to go to school because he was sponsored by his Mutter Dora, a Swiss lady, a widow, who, through her monthly sponsorship, paid for the cost of his education. In fact, at considerable sacrifice, she continued to sponsor him while he was in seminary, after he turned 18. She is still alive, 95 years old, and when he went to visit her he learned that she paid for sponsoring him by selling things she sewed at the local market. She gave him almost everything she had so he could be a priest. Fr. Okoth knows what it means to receive a gift given at great sacrifice, and he knows the joy that comes naturally with both the giving and the receiving of such a gift. All of life is, for him, a gift. Sometimes it makes him so joyful he wants to dance, even on the altar.

Why Not?

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EWTN News Services reports the following:

Bark mitzvahs
Spiritual needs are also being taken care of. At St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford, Connecticut, pets can now even receive Holy Communion as well as a special benediction, the Wall Street Journal reported March 10.

The Journal noted that with pews being increasingly hard to fill, some clergy are creating "pet-friendly worship services." In some cases this even extends to making house calls for sick animals or accompanying pet owners to the vet when they euthanize a pet, not to mention officiating at pet funerals and group "bark mitzvahs."

According to the Journal, after pet gravestones became one Petco's most-requested products the company started selling memorial stones in 2002. The greeting card company Hallmark has introduced cards with spiritual imagery to its lines of pet sympathy cards. The sympathy cards are sent to pet owners when their animals die; annual sales are now half a million. Meanwhile, Skylight Paths has just published a book called "What Animals Can Teach Us About Spirituality." Sometimes animals can even be given precedence over human worshippers, BBC reported April 24. St. Hilda's in Ellerburn, North Yorkshire, may be forced to close after an invasion by Natterer's bats.

The church dates back more than a thousand years, but under European law it is an offense to damage, destroy or obstruct an access used by bats. The church vicar, Reverend Dave Clark, says the bats are driving his parishioners away and without a congregation the church would close. The church stands on a site thought to have been occupied by a monastery founded by St. Aidan in A.D. 647.

I didn't say a word!

Anglicans at it again

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This report just in from Reuters News Agency:

LONDON (Reuters) - Favorite prayers and psalms from the Bible have been radically reworked for a new Anglican prayer book in a bid to get the faithful to think about issues like Third World debt and fair trade.
For example, out goes "Give us this day our daily bread," from the Lord's Prayer and in comes a line about God "giving us our daily bread when we manage to get back our lands or get a fairer wage." In the 23rd psalm, "The Lord is my Shepherd" sees "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" replaced by: "Even if a full-scale violent confrontation breaks out, I will not be afraid, Lord." Christian Aid, which has helped put together the prayer book, said Wednesday the reworking was aimed at encouraging a new perspective.

"It is to show people how biblical scriptures are transposed in the Third World," a spokeswoman said.

I was sure you wouldn't want to have missed this one.

C'mon Over Y'all

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Summer approaches and more of you are travelling, so I'd like to encourage you fellow St. Bloggers, if you find yourselves in the Colorado Springs area, to look me up for a get together. If you plan on coming west, drop me an email and let's see if we can meet up, y'all.

St. Ephraim

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Today is the Memorial of St. Ephraim, the Syriac.

ST. Ephraim.bmp

In the desert of the heart, let the healing fountain start; In the prison of his days, teach the free man how to praise.
-- W. H. Auden

Father Rain

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Since moving to Colorado Springs, I have been blessed in an unexpected way – I have been able to attend several Masses celebrated by priests from Africa. For the first couple of years I was here, Fr. Sylvain from the Congo was attached to this diocese. On Sunday, Fr. Crispin Okoth, from Kenya, by way of Rome, was visiting our parish.

In his native language (to be honest I’m not sure what it is) okoth means “rain.” Fr. Crispin introduced himself at the beginning of the homily and informed us of this and that he would be pleased if we called him Fr. “Rain.” Fr. Crispin is a big man, a joyful priest, full of the Holy Spirit, whose holiness is almost palpable. He told us that he was so happy to be with us he felt like dancing, he said that in Kenya, masses lasted two or three hours, with dancing, but he promised us that he would not dance on the altar. He said that when he first arrived in Rome a few years ago “they” were horrified at his dancing, and they told him “thou shalt not dance on the altar.” What an awful commandment.

Mass is an entirely different experience when a priest from Africa presides, you feel like dancing yourself, you enter into the Mass in a way I find it hard to describe. As I said, Fr. Rain’s joy was almost tangible; by the time we were ready to recite the “Our Father” I was nearly in tears, both for joy and sorrow for my previous hardness of heart.

Coming from a Protestant background, one of the most notable differences in the worship experience at Mass is the lack of personal involvement on the part of those in the pews. I often feel that, were it not for the responses expected of “the people” on many Sundays there would be no signs of life in the church whatsoever. I sometimes wonder if most of the folks present are even aware of what is going on, or if they are not just going through the motions. This feeling is reinforced when I see the number of folks making a bee line for the door immediately upon receiving communion. Its not that I expect every Mass to be a deeply moving experience, that wasn’t true even of many Presbyterian worship services – I neither want nor expect that. But surely the Mass should be a joyful experience, surely on at least a few Sundays people should be willing and able to express their joy, maybe even dance, at the altar. Surely not everyone has heard the commandment, “thou shalt not dance.”

I wonder if this lack of personal involvement is not part of the reason for many of the problems in the Church today. The problems, to quote a football coach referring to his star running back, “are many and they are great.” It’s not just the sex abuse scandal, although that is part of it, but it is a crisis of leadership on the part of the bishops, it is a crisis of catechesis, and it is a crisis of evangelization.

Russell Shaw has an article in the most recent issue of Crisis magazine, “An Open Letter to America’s Bishop’s” that I hope you will have the opportunity to read. He states the problem facing the Church in the following terms: “The problem is best described, I think, as an acute and far-reaching spiritual crisis bordering on spiritual collapse. In the United States, it’s closely linked to cultural assimilation.” I think he’s right. The fact that a man like John Kerry can publicly proclaim himself a faithful Catholic, while at the same time taking positions absolutely contrary to the centuries old teaching of the Church on the value and sanctity of life, in a way presents a greater challenge to the bishops today that the sex abuse crisis does. If the bishops do nothing, if they assume that “this too shall pass”, they will be demonstrating that, in fact, the teaching of the Church is meaningless. Unless those Catholic politicians who promote the culture of death are strongly censured by the Church, unless they are, in fact, excommunicated, the message that will go out to society today is that the culture is stronger than the Church. The message will be that anyone, no matter what their belief and no matter what their agenda, is welcome, not only to attend Mass but to share in Communion. If John Kerry and those like him are allowed to go on like this, why shouldn’t my Protestant friends and relatives also be allowed to partake in Communion? What’s the difference?

If the bishops continue on a “hear no evil, speak no evil” path it will be no wonder if the faithful lose whatever love for the Eucharist they have remaining. They will see by the example of our pastors that the sacrifice of the altar is a meaningless ritual unworthy of being defended. Not only will there be no joy at Mass, there’ll be no one at Mass.

NOTE: As I have stated before, I do not advocate excommunication as a punishment or as some sort of revenge, but as a wake up call. The objective, after all is to make clear to the person in mortal sin the danger of his position and to call him or her to repentance. I also advocate it as a message to all the faithful that the Church is serious when she states that the Eucharist is “the source and summit” of our lives in the Church. Finally, this is not a political position; I would apply the same treatment to Catholics who are Democrats, Republicans, Greens or whatever else is out there, as long as they actively promote positions that are anathema to Church teaching.

The Gipper

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I guess this says it all:

Gipper.bmp

Cuba's Reaction

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This fine word from the Cuban government, as reported on Fox News website


HAVANA — Cuba harshly criticized former President Ronald Reagan (search) and his policies on Monday, saying he should "never have been born."

In the first reaction to Reagan's death from the communist government, Radio Reloj (search) said:

"As forgetful and irresponsible as he was, he forgot to take his worst works to the grave," the government radio station said.

"He, who never should have been born, has died," the radio said.

The statement did not mention Cuba's relationship with the United States under Reagan, a staunch foe of communism.

It also did not mention Reagan's decision to order U.S. forces to invade the tiny Caribbean country of Grenada on Oct. 25, 1983, because Washington feared the island had grown too close to Cuba.

Since the early 1960s, Cuba and the United States have been without diplomatic relations, and Cuba has been under a U.S. trade embargo. But relations between the two countries were especially tense when Reagan was in office from 1981-1989.

Radio Reloj lambasted Reagan's military policies, especially the "Star Wars" anti-missile program (search). The initiative, launched when the Soviet Union still existed, rejected a long-standing doctrine built on the idea that neither superpower would start a nuclear war out of fear of annihilation by the other.

The radio also criticized Reagan's policies in Central America, where Washington backed a counterrevolutionary rebel army that fought against the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The United States also supported a conservative government that battled Marxist guerrillas during El Salvador's civil war.

"His apologists characterize him as the victor of the Cold War (search)," the radio said. "Those in the know knew that the reality was not so, but rather (he was) the destroyer of policies of detente in the overall quest for peace."

It seems this is the kind of regime we must oppose wherever we encounter it.

Fr. Elijah

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There's a new member of St. Blogs, Fides et Ratio, by a Fr. Elijah of the Boston Archdiocese -- this post alone makes this blog worth reading. Please welcome Fr. Elijah.

Another Davinci Book

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After pre-ordering Carl Olsen's book, The Da Vinci Hoax, (it will be released in July) I noted that our own Amy Welborn also has a Da Vinci book out, De-Coding Davinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of the Da Vinci Code, please consider ordering this book as well. This subject deserves serious study and attention.

New Da Vinci Code Book

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I have just seen an advertisment from Ignatius (in World Magazine) for a new book co-authored by Carl Olsen and Sandra Miesel, The Da Vinci Hoax. I am about to order this book and I encourage you, no I beg you, all to buy it too.

When it was first published, I did not take The Da Vinci Code too seriously, I thought most Christians would ignore it and, like me, realize it was nonsense and not pay any attention to it. I was wrong. I have heard people who are otherwise devout Catholics praise this book, saying what a great book it was and acting as if they really believed most of the stuff in it.

The Da Vinci Code poses a very real threat of leading people away from the Truth of the faith, it is incumbent on all of us to learn as much as we can in order to be able to refute its lies.

Bishop Chaput has written a

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Bishop Chaput has written a good article in the Denver Catholic Register

I offer a partial quote about it from LifeSiteNews.com here:

DENVER, May 26, 2004 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In a strong and witty column in the Denver Catholic Register, Archbishop Charles Chaput writes on the growing scandal of pro-abortion politicians receiving communion. Entitled, "It's a matter of honesty: to receive Communion, we need to be in communion", the article explains, "Claiming to be Catholic and then rejecting Catholic teaching is an act of dishonesty and a lack of personal integrity. Worse, if we then receive Communion, we violate every Catholic who does believe and does strive to live the faith fully and unselfishly."

The archbishop refused to rule out denying communion saying, "Denying anyone Communion is a very grave matter. It should be reserved for extraordinary cases of public scandal." He added however, that "the Church always expects Catholics who are living in serious sin or who deny the teachings of the Church - whether they're highly visible officials or anonymous parishioners - to have the integrity to respect both the Eucharist and the faithful, and to refrain from receiving Communion.'

Commenting on the recent spate of newspaper editorials and letters from politicians excoriating Catholic bishops for even discussing denying communion to pro-abortion politicians, Archbishop Chaput said, "One of the ironies of an already strange election year is the number of non-Catholics, ex-Catholics and anti-Catholics who have developed a sudden piety about who should receive Communion and when."

Saving the best for last, the Archbishop concluded, "We're at a time for the Church in our country when some Catholics - too many - are discovering that they've gradually become non-Catholics who happen to go to Mass. That's sad and difficult, and a judgment on a generation of Catholic leadership. But it may be exactly the moment of truth the Church needs."

Bishop Chaput has offered yet another excellent explanation of what it means to be Catholic. I hope you will take time to read the article in its entirety.

Karl Keating Makes the Point

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Please see Karl Keatings latest E Letter for a clear, concise explanation of Bishop Sheridan's Pastoral Letter and what it means.

Bishop Sheridan, quite simply, has said nothing new and nothing that is not in accordance with the teaching of the Church. I wonder why so many wish to call themselves Catholic and yet do not wish to be Catholic?

Please pray for Bishop Sheridan, and all bishops who wish to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and the Magisterium of the Church.

Comments

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Until now, I have never deleted a comment posted to this blog. However, there was one posted in response to my post on Bishop Sheridan's Pastoral Letter that is inappropriate. It has been deleted.

I am willing to conduct a discussion with anyone who questions what I post here, I will not enter into a dialogue with those who wish to indulge only in name calling.

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