Category Archives: Ecclesiology

Love: dealing with difficult Catholics

Dealing-with-Difficult-People

“You stay classy, San Diego!” -Ron Burgundy, scripture, if there ever was any. I have A LOT of people to pray for!! The list keeps growing!!!

Eph 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or the sword?
As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:35-39

Did you ever encounter a Catholic and not feel loved?  An employee of the Church?  A sacramental minister?  A priest?  A bishop?  Catholics who just sucked the air out of the room, left you feeling drained and, least of all, edified?  Have you ever encountered a Catholic, or bespoken one, and wondered, sincerely, whether they had ever actually read the Scriptures?  More than just Catholics’ general, and generally recognized, ignorance thereof?   I have.

In fact, some of the worst examples I have of unChristian behavior come from my fellow Catholics and the Church as institution, and I know, too well, from me, too.  Some of the finest examples I have of professional, respectful, loving behavior I have come from non-Christian/s and secular institutions.

“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 nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’ 

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” -Mt 25:41-46

“When did we see You in need of concern, courtesy, justice, respect, loving kindness, comfort, and not respond to You in Christian charity?  When was our example much less than our non-Christian or secular, or atheist, or agnostic, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Taoist, etc, neighbors?”  Christian, remember your dignity.

A cradle, I have been thrown out of a Catholic parish by the pastor.   I was doing what I understood I had been asked to do, what I had invested so much time and energy into doing, and what I had given freely of time, talent, and treasure, and professional technical service for FREE! to do.  The catechists I was responsible for were shocked, scandalized, and dismayed.  One said, “You began to make me feel excited again about church!”  And, my heart broke.   This is only one example.  It’s like the adage, “You’re not a real journalist until you receive your first death threat.”  I guess I’m a real Catholic now?

If you want to be a happy Catholic, as happy as you can be, just go to Mass, pray, pay, obey, if you can.  DON’T DO ANYTHING ELSE!!!!  NOTHING!!!!  No extra time!  No more money! 🙁  If you, however, are ready to suffer for Him, out of love, and His Kingdom, His Church, by all means dive right in!  You’ll get plenty!  I promise!  I know.

I have said for quite some time: “The Church is a lovely institution, until/unless you want something!”  Like justice?  🙁  As long as the juice is all flowing in one direction, in, it’s all rose petals and organ music, and incense.  Ask for something, and see what happens.  A real disincentive to those seeking something to believe in?  An obstacle to faith?  How do you think the Lord will greet those who have proven stumbling blocks to others in faith?  At their particular judgment?        1 Cor 8:9, 2 Cor 6:3, Rom 14:19.

The Catholic Church never met a dollar it didn’t like.

Wisdom of the Fathers:

“The only thing about the Catholic Church which hasn’t changed in two thousand years is the collection.” -Robert Lawrence McCormick

“It’s expensive!” -Richard Barton Whitney

The way the Church funds itself is absolutely scandalous.  County fair barkers/hucksters have more dignity, principles, and standards.

I have seen some efforts at recognizing this, and reform, thankfully, from some more enlightened parishes.  Here’s a radical idea, how about we spend a week or two figuring out what the parish needs for the year and then who in the parish can afford what, come to a convergence, compromise, mostly in terms of reducing the budget, and then spend the rest of the year talking about and praising Jesus?  Radical.  Any institution, any, that can absorb $3B in legal judgments, and not bat an eye, business as usual, has TOO much money!

Love does not mean subjecting ourselves to abusive harm.  God does not wish us to withstand abuse for the sake of the abuse, or in some misguided masochistic motive.  This is not Christianity.  Micah 6:8.

“Perfect love casts out fear.” 1 Jn 4:18.  Therefore, the “love” we experience from abusive people in our lives is simply not something we are called to submit to. It’s not love anyway.

Love does not require us to be within striking distance of an abuser.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  -1 Cor 13

Pray for yourselves.  Pray for the Church.  Pray for me and mine.

As we prepare for Advent, Mt 3:12/Lk 3:17/Mt 7:19-23.

Love,
Matthew

Matthew Arnold: New Age Agnostic to Catholic Apologist

1999gravesjpg_00000001173

Matthew Arnold is a convert to Catholicism, and one of the nation’s most talented Catholic apologists. Through his apostolate Pro Multis Media he promotes the teaching of the Faith through public speaking and communications media. Yet he was once an agnostic who dabbled in the New Age movement.

Arnold, born 1960, grew up in a nominally Christian family in Southern California. But, he joked, “About the most Bible reading I heard was by Linus on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.”

After graduating high school, Arnold worked as a musician, playing bass in a Top-40s band. He developed an interest in performing magic tricks, and graduated from the Chavez School of Magic. He worked as a magician in Hollywood, performing at restaurants, children’s shows, and private parties. He combined his talents as a musician, magician, and comedian to do warm-up acts before live audiences gathered to watch the filming of television sitcoms.

Some fundamentalist friends had turned him off to Christianity, but, Arnold recalled, “I still had a ‘God-shaped’ hole inside of me that I tried to fill up with the rock n’ roll party lifestyle.”

Having no religious formation, Arnold became involved in the New Age, including astrology and tarot cards.  Through a friend he was introduced to “channeling,” which would ultimately lead him out of the New Age altogether.

A young woman he knew claimed to be channeling (that is, serving as the voice for) a group of spirits who said they wanted to speak to Arnold. He agreed, and the spirits mostly offered him advice on his career. They were usually re-assuring, but at times the channeler could be verbally abusive. She could also be difficult to wake up from her trance.

To this day, Arnold is uncertain whether the experience was legitimate or an elaborate hoax. He reflected, “The whole thing was rather bizarre, but I had no formation or standard by which to judge. So, I was ready to believe it.”

Arnold experienced some physical manifestations that suggested the spirits’ authenticity. For example, one time he was knocked off his feet by an unknown force. Another time, he was sleeping and awoke to experience the feeling that someone was sitting on his chest. He was alone, but he thought he saw a face looking at him. He said the Lord’s Prayer, turned on all the lights in the house, and waited for morning. He also found a Bible and began reading it.

His New Age friend called Arnold the next day and informed him that the spirits had sent him an invitation the previous evening to return to their channeling group. He responded, “Tell them I got the message, and no, I don’t want to come back.”

Arnold met and married his wife, Betty, who had also been involved in the entertainment industry in Hollywood. She was Catholic, and Arnold, a voracious reader, undertook a careful study of her Faith. He credits the prayers of his wife and the intercession of the Blessed Mother for his conversion, as well as the instruction of a local priest.

In 1996, during the Easter Vigil, Arnold entered the Church. He was still working in Hollywood, making good money, and enjoying a successful career. However, fired up with the zeal of a convert, he decided that because of widespread immorality in Hollywood, he had to quit.

His final night, he was doing the warm-up show for a taping of the hit sitcom Friends. The episode featured Courteney Cox and guest star Tom Selleck, playing girlfriend and boyfriend, in bed together. Arnold’s job was to get the studio audience revved up for the taping, but, he recalled, “I was being a cheerleader for mortal sin.”

He quit, and never looked back.

Arnold began working in Catholic apologetics, using his media talents to create and produce Catholic audio tapes and DVDs, and soon was hosting Catholic radio and television programs. In 2006, he formed Pro Multis Media. Recent projects have included producing an abridged audio version of The Soul of the Apostolate for Lighthouse Catholic Media and recording the official audio version of Pope Benedict’sJesus of Nazareth for Ignatius Press.

Arnold has a special devotion to, and has placed his apostolate under the protection of, Our Lady of Good Success, an apparition which occurred in Ecuador in 1594. Although the appearance occurred centuries ago, he believes Our Lady’s message relevant for today. “What struck me was that the Blessed Mother said the problems in the Church would reach a critical point after the mid-point of the 20th century,” Arnold said. “It was then that we had the upheaval of the 1960s—the sexual revolution, immoral fashions, vocations crisis, and decline of marriage.”

Love,
Matthew

The Glory of the Crusades

crusades

I am a fan of Steve Weidenkopf.  I own and have on my iPhone his Epic:  A Journey Through Church History.  It is interesting, fascinating, and worthwhile.  He gives the best, and frankly only, explanation of the  Inquisition (The Holy Office) in a positive light and reasoning I have ever heard.  He is informed, factual, balanced.  Who could ask for anything more from any author on any topic, or even just citizen?

Keep in mind the Ottomans constantly threatened Europe, which is where we get the narrative of Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, from, Happy Halloween!!!  And, the Moors occupied Spain for 700 years, 711 -1492 AD.  Servant of God Queen Isabella the Catholic, whose cause for beatification is pending, would not meet with Columbus to “give him her jewels” for his attempt at a voyage until the Moors had been driven from Spain once and for all in the Reconquista.

I have just ordered his latest work The Glory of the Crusades.  The ebook becomes available this month.  I found it interesting, informative, educational, and enlightening.

It does seem history repeats itself?  Regardless of the reason?  The USA had bombed seven Muslim countries recently.  “Eight and I get a free falafel!” -Stephen Colbert.  Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

http://www.lighthousecatholicmedia.org/store/title/understanding-the-crusades

“We have returned to the Levant, we have returned apparently more as masters than ever we were during the struggle of the Crusades—but we have returned bankrupt in that spiritual wealth which was the glory of the Crusades.”
-Hilaire Belloc, The Crusades, 1937

“In our age the Crusades are described as barbaric, wasteful, shameful, and even sinful. Rarely are they called glorious. This is because the modern world embraces a false narrative about the Crusades. This false story, however much discredited by authentic modern scholarship, remains entrenched in the minds of the masses.

Yet it was not always so. During the Crusading movement these military events were mostly seen in a positive light throughout Christendom, with popes and saints exhorting Catholic warriors to engage in them. Warriors who participated in these armed pilgrimages did so for a multitude of reasons but primarily for the sake of their own salvation. The Crusades emerged from a feudal society that stressed personal relationships founded on honor, loyalty, and service to one’s vassal. Crusading knights invoked those virtues as they fought for Christ and the Church to recover ancient Christian territory stolen by Muslim conquerors.

The Crusades also emerged from an age in which faith permeated all aspects of society. This does not mean medieval Europe was heaven on earth or that Christendom was some idyllic utopia. But it was nonetheless an era in which people made radical life decisions because of their faith in Jesus Christ and his Church. Accordingly, the Crusading movement was a Catholic movement. Popes called for them, clerics (and saints) preached them, and Catholic warriors fought them for spiritual benefits. The Crusades cannot be properly understood apart from this Catholic reality.

Sadly, though, too many Catholics today seem more inclined to apologize for the Crusades rather than to embrace their glory.

Perhaps this is because the meaning of glory is not properly understood. The Old Testament can help provide us a proper understanding of glory. After Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt, they sinned against God by worshipping the golden calf. God wanted to destroy the Israelites for their idolatry but Moses interceded for the people and the Lord relented. Moses’ special relationship with God included the gift of being in the presence of the Lord in the meeting tent where Moses spoke to God face to face. Moses pleaded with God for his presence to remain with the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land so that the other nations would see their uniqueness.

Moses also begged the Lord to show him his glory (Ex. 33:18). The Hebrew word for “glory” used most often in the Old Testament is kabod, which means “heavy in weight.” To recognize the glory of something, therefore, means to acknowledge its importance or “weight.” Moses wanted the Lord’s glory to shine for the people in order that they would recognize the important act of their deliverance from bondage. To recognize the glory of the Crusades means not to whitewash what was ignoble about them, but to call due attention to their import in the life of the Church.

Perhaps by reclaiming the true Catholic narrative of the Crusades we may be emboldened to honor our Lord by proudly bearing the cross against modern enemies that threaten his Church no less than did the followers of Mohammed a millennium ago.”

Love, glory, & victory,
Matthew

Scripture & Tradition

tumblr_mm9dvovROE1qghk7bo1_1280

“Christ the Good Shepherd”, mosaic from the mausoleum of Galla Placidia, ~425 AD

In Catholicism, there are two fonts of revelation, in contrast to Protestantism, I generalize, which only has one, Scripture.  

Tradition is one of those, imho, words which doesn’t carry either the full or the correct meaning, imho, through translation to the 21st century American ear.

It is not “we have always done it this way”, rather it is the living and lived experience of living the faith of two millennia of the Church.   A living tradition.  Wisdom.  One informs the other.  A unity of living faith, with two doors by which to understand that faith.

What does Scripture say regarding this?  What does the experience of the lived and living faith say about this, in light of Scripture?  What is the truth we can distill from this contemplation, and from prayer for the grace to understand the Lord’s will for us, now, in this moment?  In this instance?  What is the Lord saying to his Church, now, in the living moment?

What has worked?  What hasn’t?  What did God mean by what he said?  Where can we recognize truth in our lived experience of the faith both in the initial ancient times up until now?  How does our lived experience of the faith now reflect and hold in relation to our ancestral understanding?

It is VERY important to organize, categorize, comprehend, and relate in one’s Catholic mind to the importance and seriousness of different Catholic teachings.  Not everything is doctrine or dogma, certainly not everything is personal opinion.  One must distinguish and understand between these ends of the spectrum if one even hopes to live a happy and contented Catholic life.  Otherwise, only fear, frustration, and confusion result from the ignorance.

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation “Dei Verbum/Word of God”, Solemnly Promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI, November 18, 1965

“9. Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence. -cf. Council of Trent, session IV”

https://thesowerreview.org/bishops-page-keeping-truth

-by Bishop Phillip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth, UK

“When I was a student in Rome, Thursday was our day-off and we’d often go out of the city to explore different places nearby. I’ll never forget going into a magnificent, mediaeval church with an eye-catching mosaic high-up over the altar. It depicted  Christ the Good Shepherd, preaching to his disciples; all sat at his feet eagerly  listening. But when you got a bit closer, something about the mosaic seemed odd. Why was it that Christ’s rob were not white but dirty-brown? Why were his listeners laughing, some drinking, everyone clearly having a good time? One was fox dressed up as a bishop.

It was only when you stood underneath the mosaic that the dreadful truth slowly dawned on you. This was not Christ at all! It was the False Prophet, Lucifer, the so-called Light-Bearer, the one who looks like Christ, but is anything other. Beware of false prophets who come disguised as sheep but underneath are ravening wolves.

We inhabit a noisy, busy, celebrity culture with many experts competing for our attention. Yet in the Gospel Jesus urges us to be critical, discerning, to sift truth from falsehood, to be sensible people, building our homes not on sand but on the rock of truth.

Where can we find Truth?

We rightly ask: What is true? How can we be sure we have the Truth? Where can we go to find it? We believe Jesus Christ is the Truth. He is God the Son Incarnate, Humanity’s Teacher. He reveals the Truth about God and about life. But how can we be sure even that it is really Him, it really is his Word, it really is what He teaches?

St. Paul gives us two criteria. All Scripture is inspired by God, he says. To know Christ’s teaching, we can turn to the Word of God in the Bible. Yet, as we know, the Bible can mean different things to different people. So Paul adds another criterion: Keep to what you have been taught. In other words, we have to read the Bible but within the Tradition, or we will end up with a subjective opinion not the Truth Christ intended.

But then there’s more. The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, adds a third element: “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form [the Bible] or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone.” So to know the Truth, we must consult the Bible and Tradition as interpreted by the Church’s authority. This triad of Scripture-Tradition-Magisterium gives us the rock or theological ground on which as Catholics we can build our home.

The Year of Faith

The Church has asked us to keep a Year of Faith, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism. The Catholic Church is now 20 centuries old. But in her history, she has never before passed through a busy, affluent, secular culture like ours today. We now know what happens when she does: Mass attendance declines; families break up; parishes are clustered; faith for many becomes a hobby, something to dip in-and-out-of.

It’s not the brand that’s faulty here; after all, Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life! It’s the culture we live in, which needs baptising. Let’s not be naive about this. A key reason for attrition is a crude lack of awareness of the corrosive nature of contemporary culture, along with a sad neglect of our Catholic distinctiveness, of the beauty of our Christian faith, and of what the Church can offer. This is why the Year of faith is a grace-filled opportunity. It’s not easy to be a disciple today, to be a Catholic, let alone, to be a Catholic teacher or a Catholic priest. This is because we inhabit a challenging cultural context.

A Spiritual homing-device

Let me give you an image, one I’m sure you’ve heard before. A few years ago, I was on holiday in Scotland and saw an amazing sight: thousands of wild salmon in a river, swimming upstream, racing ahead, jumping in the air to get past the rocks and over the boulders. Salmon, I am told, lay their eggs upstream, and once hatched, the new salmon swim down to the sea on a huge journey to the feeding-grounds off Greenland. They then have two months to get back to the river they were born in, to lay their own eggs and after to die. How on earth they know where their home-river is a mystery, but that’s why you see the amazing sight of fish swimming upstream, jumping in the air, racing ahead against the current.

It made me think of two things. That we are a bit like salmon. Deep down in every human heart is a spiritual homing-device. We are made for God and made for heaven. Our home is in him, and our hearts are restless until we find him. But secondly, to find Him, to find Him in our busy, affluent, secular culture, we must swim upstream against the current. To find God, to develop a friendship with him, to live the life of Christ, to reach heaven our home, we have to be countercultural, to be different, to create space and time, to make the effort, even to suffer.

Keep to what you have been taught and know to be true. As Catholic educators in a secular culture, let us ask God for the grace to persevere and to remain faithful. We ask Him, too, to bless the adults and the children in the different places where we serve.

Like Christ our Master, the Church will not be popular. We are countercultural people. We are swimming against the current. But let’s remember: it is not the product that is defective but the ability of people in today’s culture to receive it. This is why we need enormous creativity if we are to find new ways of spreading the Faith, effectively engaging with the new generations of 21st century. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit that he will shower upon us his many gifts. Thus rooted in the Heart of Jesus, may we all be well equipped to face the exciting challenges ahead.”

AMEN!!!!!!!!

Love,
Matthew

Reducing Faith in Jesus Christ & His Church to a business transaction

cardinalgeorgepell

http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/cardinal-george-pell-s-trucking-company-analogy-outrages-sex-abuse-survivors

Cardinal George Pell, a member of Pope Francis’ advisory Council of Cardinals, former archbishop of Sydney, has an interesting perspective. Pell gave video testimony from the Vatican to an Australian government inquiry looking into responses to child sex abuse by the Catholic Church and other institutions.

Using a hypothetical example, Pell said the church was no more responsible for cases of child abuse carried out by church figures than a trucking company would be if it employed a driver who molested women.

“It would not be appropriate, because it’s contrary to the policy, for the ownership, leadership of that company to be held responsible,” Pell told the inquiry. “Similarly with the church and the head of any other organization.”

“It is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.”

“He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors,” said SNAP’s Nicky Davis, who attended the inquiry in Melbourne, Australia.

Victims were also outraged by the Vatican’s refusal to hand over files requested by the Australian inquiry since the pope has signaled a tougher approach to fighting clerical sexual abuse and established a Vatican committee that includes Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins.

Out-of-touch is too kind a description.

Prayer of a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse

I just want to crawl into a hole and die….
but maybe if I just pray….
I’ll come out alive?
Its so hard to hold the child I was….
with her innocence lost.
Jesus, hold me for a while….
never let me go.
If I wasnt in so many pieces,
maybe Jesus could save me….
He could hold me and I wouldn’t crumble.

Love,
Matthew

Laity = Salt of the Earth

salt_of_the_earth

justinmarybolgerop
-by Br Justin Mary Bogler, OP

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again?” (Mt 5:13)

We are nourished when we come to church, listen to God’s Word, and receive the sacraments. But after being nourished, we leave the temple to sanctify the temporal order. This is the mission the laity are specifically charged with by the Church. In Lumen Gentium, we read that given their secular character, and that the Church has an authentic secular dimension, the laity must be “present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth” (LG 4).

What does it mean to become the salt of the earth? There are the familiar uses of salt: preservation and seasoning. Being salt in the world means we preserve what is good in it, and by seasoning it we make it better. There are other uses of salt. It’s used as a sacramental to protect from sickness and evil, so by being salt we guard what we have preserved and seasoned. Salt can also be a means of destroying. Cities and fields used to be salted as a sign of their defeat and so that nothing would grow there. This means not only guarding what we preserve and season, but also fighting against that which threatens it.

This mission to become salt of the earth has implications for civil society, which is comprised of church, family, charitable institutions, and community organizations. Edmund Burke referred to these institutions as “little platoons” within which the individual flourishes and learns virtue. The laity’s mission of salting will take place here. Of course it will also take place in the economic and political sectors of society, but these sectors flourish when civil society does. A healthy society grows from the bottom up. For it is in church, in the family, in working with charitable societies that carry out the corporal works of mercy, and in community organizations that individuals become virtuous, learn civic virtue and spirit, and become responsible members of society, ordering it to God, its source and end.

So how should the laity sanctify the temporal order? How exactly do we salt civil society? We must preserve those institutions that have been handed down to us so that we can hand them on to those who will come after us…The family is also obviously in need of preserving.

It is within the family, the domestic church, that individuals first encounter the faith and virtue lived out on a daily basis. Civil society must also be seasoned, that is, it must be improved where possible.

We are not called merely to preserve, to watch, as these institutions grow old. We attend to them and make them better ordered to God and the truths he has established. We also guard such institutions against forces that would attack them.

We especially see how there are certain forces, cultural and political, working against the family and religious institutions. And lastly, we don’t only play defense by guarding. We salt the fields of the enemy by fighting where and when necessary.

An obvious Christian way to fight against forces that work against civil society is through prayer. But we can also do this through protesting unjust laws and organizations and through establishing new institutions that promote charity, justice, and peace in society.

Christ charges us to be salt of the earth, but He also intimates the possibility of our losing this salty character. We must remain salty if we are to sanctify the world.

But if the faithful, especially the laity, are to order society to its Creator we must learn from Him how to do so. We must always return to prayer, the sacraments, and Scripture.

But we can also look back at the Scripture quoted above when Jesus urges us to become salt of the earth and remain that way. Christ says this in the context of the Sermon on the Mount.

And immediately prior to the verse above He gives us the Beatitudes. This too, given the context, is a way to remain salty. Be meek. Hunger for righteousness. Be pure. Be merciful. Work for peace. Turn the other cheek when insulted for the sake of the Gospel. The Beatitudes give us a program for staying salty. We have the charge (be salt), the place where it takes place (civil society), and the way to stay salty (prayer, sacraments, the Beatitudes).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

-Matthew 5:3-10

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ!  King of Endless Glory!!!  Amen!  Amen!  Amen!  Hosanna in the Highest!!!

Love,
Matthew

Survival Guide for Thinking Catholics – Ten tips from Rev. Tom Reese, S.J.

“Thinking Catholic is not an oxymoron.”  -MP McCormick
Born out of conscience, which St Thomas Aquinas says is inviolable, erring or not, Summa Theologiae Ia, q. 79, a. 13 – “Whether conscience is a power?” Aquinas’ treatment on natural law can also be found in ST I-II, q. 92 + ff.
“For Aquinas, every conscience binds, even an erring one. This means that if there is something that you believe you cannot do (after having taken care to form your conscience as well as you can), even if the Church commands it, then you cannot do it without committing a sin. Likewise, if there is something you believe you must do, even if the Church forbids it, then you must do it or else commit a sin. The command of one’s conscience to do or not do something against what the Church directs has to be pretty strong in order to fit what Aquinas is talking about.”
-Joseph M. Magee, Ph.D.
In the Regan lecture delivered on April 26, 2006 cosponsored by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, Reese outlined his strategies for Catholics who think, question, doubt, debate, and disagree. Here are those strategies in a nutshell:
         
1. Understand what the Church is actually saying. Is your question the result of a misunderstanding or a true disagreement?
2. Our understanding should be inspired by sympathy, not sarcasm and cynicism. Whatever a person says should be interpreted in the best possible light, which is one of the things St. Ignatius says in his spiritual exercises. If we disagree, we should disagree as friends in the Lord, not as opposing armies of fanatics.
3. You have to do your homework. The issues that face the church today are complex and not solvable through sound bites. As Catholics, we do not believe it is sufficient simply to listen to the Pope and ignore scripture, but nor do we believe it is sufficient to simply read the scriptures in isolation from the believing community. For us, conscience is important—but it must be an informed conscience.
4. We are a believing community with 2,000 years of tradition and history. We need to know our history—our triumphs and our failures, our saints and our sinners. A study of history helps us take the long view. Things have been worse, things can get better. For example, prior to the 20th century, a Catholic understanding of the Bible appeared to be in conflict with science. Today, contemporary biblical scholarship not only has eliminated this conflict, but helped us to better understand the Bible. Imagine what is going to be the situation 100 years from now as people look back on our time. How many of our theological debates and doubts will seem as silly as those caused among Christians when they discovered that the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa?
5. It is important to distinguish between law and doctrine. If you are a conservative and want a return to the pre Vatican II liturgy, don’t let anyone tell you that you are a heretic. If you are a liberal and believe that married men should be ordained, don’t let anyone tell you that you are a heretic. The question of married priests, the question of Latin in the liturgy, these are not doctrinal issues. These are matters of canon law and liturgical law. Laws have changed over time, laws can change again.
6. Understand the level of authority of a doctrinal position with which you disagree. Popes have only made two infallible declarations since Vatican I, the time when the infallibility of the Pope was defined: on the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. Some people tend to give all Vatican statements a definitive or infallible status, and that is just not the case.  Today we see that even longstanding teachings of the church can sometimes change. The church now teaches that capital punishment is wrong, whereas for centuries it had no problem with it; in fact, popes executed people in the papal states. Likewise, the Church is rethinking its position on limbo. Most theologians now believe that unbaptized children go to heaven. This is not what I learned in the Baltimore catechism.
7. Know how to interpret the words in doctrinal statements. Catholics in the last generation have learned from scripture scholars that it is a mistake to understand the bible in a fundamentalist way. It is important to study the historical and cultural context of the writing, the literary style, and the audience to which it was addressed. The same is true of doctrinal statements. When a Vatican document says that homosexuals are intrinsically “disordered,” we tend to think of this as a psychological description, whereas the authors meant it as a philosophical description. You may still disagree, but it is important to understand what you are disagreeing with.
8. Sometimes the Church uses words that are open to multiple interpretations as a way of covering over differences and maintaining unity. This was certainly done at the second Vatican council. Paul VI wanted documents approved by what amounted to almost unanimity. Compromise and ambiguity were important to gain conservative votes. Problems arise today when this historical fact is ignored and conservatives go back and give unambiguous interpretations to words and phrases that were purposely ambiguous at the time.
9. In my parents’ day there were only two options when facing questions about your faith: “Accept what the Church says or leave.” This is more an Irish or Northern European response than a Catholic response. Certainly this is not the way Italians and Africans live their faith. Italians pick and choose just like the classic cafeteria Catholics in the United States. The only difference is Italians don’t question the Church’s authority publicly; they simply ignore it and do what they want. The response is much more cultural than theological.
10. We need to recognize there will always be disagreements in the Church because there have always been disagreements in the Church. The Acts of the Apostles discloses that Paul disagreed with Peter at the council of Jerusalem. What I find so delightful in this story is that the disagreement was resolved through a compromise: Gentiles would not have to be circumcised, but they would have to refrain from blood sacrifice to idols (no longer a problem) and from adultery (still somewhat of a problem).
In the Catholic Church, we believe that an informed conscience is our highest authority. We also believe in the importance of humility. One must pray not simply for the conversion of ones’ opponents, but for the conversion of oneself. Despite their weakness and sinfulness, Christians have faith in the word of God that shows them the way. Christians have hope, based on Christ’s victory over sin and death and his promise of the spirit. And Christians have love, that inspires them to forgiveness and companionship at the Lord’s table. Any survival strategy for thinking Catholics must be based on the virtues of faith, hope, and love.
Love,
Matthew

Nov 9 – Solemnity of the Dedication of the Basilica of St John Lateran, 325 AD

baptistry_saint_john_lateran
-baptistry of St John Lateran

The Basilica of Saint John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome. It was built during Constantine’s reign and was consecrated by Pope Saint Sylvester I in 324 AD. That church and the adjoining palace were destroyed during the “Babylonian Captivity”, or Avignon Papacy.  The current structure Pope Innocent X commissioned in 1646.

image

One of Rome¹s most imposing churches, the Lateran¹s towering facade is crowned with 15 colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and 12 doctors of the Church. Beneath its high altar rest the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds St. Peter himself celebrated Mass.  As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, containing the papal throne (Cathedra Romana), it ranks above all other churches in the Roman Catholic Church, even above St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

image

The basilica itself stands over the remains of the Castra Nova equitum singularium, the ‘new fort’ of the imperial cavalry bodyguard. The fort had been established by Septimius Severus in AD 193, but following the victory over Maxentius (whom the Equites singulares augusti had fought for) at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge by Constantine I the guard were abolished and the fort demolished. Substantial remains of the fort lie directly beneath the basilica nave. The rest of the Basilica site was occupied during the early Roman Empire by the palace of the gens Laterani. The Laterani served as administrators for several emperors; Sextius Lateranus was the first plebeian to attain the rank of consul. One of the Laterani, Consul-designate Plautius Lateranus, became famous for being accused by Nero of conspiracy against the emperor. The accusation resulted in the confiscation and redistribution of his properties.

The Lateran Palace fell into the hands of the emperor when Constantine I married his second wife Fausta, sister of Maxentius. Known by that time as the “Domus Faustae” or “House of Fausta,” the Lateran Palace was eventually given to the Bishop of Rome by Constantine. The actual date of the gift is unknown but scholars believe it had to have been during the pontificate of Pope Miltiades, in time to host a synod of bishops in 313 that was convened to challenge the Donatist schism, declaring Donatism as heresy. The palace basilica was converted and extended, eventually becoming the cathedral of Rome, the seat of the popes as bishops of Rome.

Every pope from Miltiades occupied the Lateran Palace until the reign of the French Pope Clement V, who in 1309 decided to transfer the official seat of the Catholic Church to Avignon, a papal fief that was an enclave within France.  How and why that happened is a, some say very, long story I will spare you at the moment.

During the Avignon papacy, the Lateran Palace and the basilica began to decline. Two destructive fires ravaged the Lateran Palace and the basilica, in 1307 and again in 1361. In both cases, the Avignon papacy sent money to their bishops in Rome to cover the costs of reconstruction and maintenance. Despite the action, the Lateran Palace and the basilica lost their former splendor.

When the Avignon papacy formally ended and the Bishop of Rome again resided in Rome, the Lateran Palace and the basilica were deemed inadequate considering the accumulated damage. The popes took up residency at the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere and later at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Eventually, the Palace of the Vatican was built (adjacent to the Basilica of St. Peter, that already existed at the Vatican since the time of Constantine), and the papacy moved in; the papacy remains there today.

This feast was later made a universal celebration in honor of the basilica in reflection of the basilica’s primacy in the world as mother church.  The words: “Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput” are incised in the main door, meaning “Most Holy Lateran Church, of all the churches in the city and the world, the mother and head.”. This feast was established as a sign of love for and union with the See of Saint Peter for the entire Universal Church.

image

The square in front of the Lateran Palace has a red-granite obelisk, the largest in the world, commissioned by Pharaoh Thuthmose III and completed by his grandson Thutmose IV in Karnak, and placed in the Circus Maximus before being re-erected in its current place.  Truly, suggestive of, to me, King of Kings.

Love,
Matthew

Franciscan Reform: Francis & Clare

st-francis-st-clare-lg

Clare and Francis both embraced the proposition of Gregory the Great that we are saved by those we despise.

-from “The Great Catholic Reformers…”, by Dr. C. Colt Anderson, USML

“The idea that God uses people we regard as unimportant or as offensive to save us by teaching us humility, which Gregory saw revealed in Christ’s life and in the stories of the Old Testament saints, had become quite commonplace (by Clare and Francis’ time).

Rather than demanding the recognition of rights, Franciscan reform demanded a willingness to be despised in order to save others…this idea makes Franciscan thought and reform largely inaccessible to people who privilege current categories of thought…Ideas such as inherent rights and modern notions of freedom would not begin to appear until roughly five hundred years later.

Both Clare and Francis subscribed to the idea that the path to peace was poverty.  They would not have understood contemporary ideas that there will be no peace until there is justice.  Instead, Clare and Francis believed it was necessary to give others more than they deserved to establish peace.

By calling Christians to actively embrace and steadfastly love evil people, Franciscan reform went beyond passive resistance.  Based on the belief that the only way to overcome fear is through love,…Francis forbid his brothers from growing angry, from gossiping, from revilement, detraction, judging, and condemning those who were corrupt…

In fact, there is something radically, and Clare said ‘wonderfully’, subversive about Francis & Clare’s desires and actions to give those who are corrupt more respect than they deserve.  By giving the corrupt more respect than they deserve, Francis and Clare were imitating the way Christ desires to give to sinners the grace they do not deserve.  Franciscan reform hopes to compunct the sinner into reform.

Franciscan reform is absolutely nonsensical to those who do not possess the fear of God.  It is the fear of God, the recognition that God is just and that people are not, which moves the sinner to seek reconciliation.  Grateful for the gift of salvation, the sinner learns to be gracious with others.  Fear of God also allows people to let go of their anger and desire for vengeance.  In this sense, the fear of God is a mercy for those who have suffered real oppression or evil.  Filled with this gift, the only pious or appropriate response to sinners, even clerical sinners, is to feel pity for them.”

stfrancis_and_clare

Love,
Matthew

Speak the Truth!

To Cardinal Francis George:

 “What is truth?”, Pilate asked.  -Jn 18:38

Eminence, I am definitely not in your shoes, Deo gratias, but I pray you will always speak the truth regardless of the consequences.  Jesus didn’t mince words and didn’t go around apologizing for the Truth as He is the Truth.  They crucified Him for it, as you well know.   We can certainly expect the same if we stand with Him.  The KKK and gay movements are enemies of the Church.  This is not a surprise. This is a well known fact.  There is no mystery here.  I trust this is what you were referring to in your comments, even if unprepared.  Do not be afraid.

“Do not be afraid”
Genesis 43:23
 Genesis 46:3
 Genesis 50:19
 Genesis 50:21
 Exodus 20:20
 Deuteronomy 20:1
 Deuteronomy 20:3
 Deuteronomy 31:6
 Joshua 11:6
 Judges 4:18
 1 Samuel 4:20
 1 Samuel 22:23
 1 Samuel 23:17
 1 Samuel 28:13
 2 Kings 1:15
 2 Kings 19:6
 2 Kings 25:24
 Nehemiah 2:2
 Psalm 49:16
 Proverbs 3:25
 Isaiah 37:6
 Isaiah 44:8
 Jeremiah 1:8
 Jeremiah 40:9
 Jeremiah 42:11 (2 times)
 Ezekiel 3:9
 Daniel 10:12
 Daniel 10:19
 Zephaniah 3:16
 Matthew 1:20
 Matthew 14:27
 Matthew 17:7
 Matthew 28:5
 Matthew 28:10
 Mark 5:36
 Mark 6:50
 Luke 1:13
 Luke 1:30
 Luke 2:10
 Luke 8:50
 Luke 12:4
 Luke 12:32
 John 6:20
 Acts 18:9
 Acts 27:24
 Revelation 1:17

“Do not fear”
Genesis 15:1
 Genesis 21:17
 Genesis 26:24
 Genesis 35:17
 Exodus 14:13
 Numbers 14:9
 Numbers 21:34
 Deuteronomy 1:21
 Deuteronomy 1:29
 Deuteronomy 3:2
 Deuteronomy 3:22
 Deuteronomy 31:8
 Joshua 8:1
 Joshua 10:8
 Joshua 10:25
 Judges 6:10 (You shall not fear the gods of the Amorites…)
 Judges 6:23
 Judges 3:11
 1 Samuel 12:20
 2 Samuel 9:7
 2 Samuel 13:28
 1 Kings 17:13
 2 Kings 6:16
 2 Kings 17:35 (You shall not fear other gods, nor bow…)
 2 Kings 17:37
 2 Kings 17:38
 1 Chronicles 22:13
 1 Chronicles 28:200
 2 Chronicles 20:15
 2 Chronicles 20:17
 2 Chronicles 32:7
 Nehemiah 4:14 (Do not be afraid…)
 Job 21:9 (Their houses are safe from fear..)
 Psalm 64:4
 Psalm 78:53 (He led them to safety so they did not fear)
 Isaiah 7:4
 Isaiah 10:24
 Isaiah 35:4
 Isaiah 40:9
 Isaiah 41:10
 Isaiah 41:13
 Isaiah 41:14
 Isaiah 43:1
 Isaiah 43:5
 Isaiah 42:2
 Isaiah 51:7
 Isaiah 54:4
 Isaiah 54:14?? (you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear..)
 Jeremiah 10:5
 Jeremiah 30:10
 Jeremiah 46:27
 Jeremiah 46:28
 Lamentations 3:57
 Joel 2:21
 Joel 2:22
 Haggai 2;5
 Zechariah 8:13
 Zechariah 8:15
 Matthew 10:26
 Matthew 10:28
 Matthew 10:31
 Luke 5:10
 Luke 12:7
 John 12:15
 John 14:27 (Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful)
 1 Peter 3:14 (Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled,
 Revelation 2:10

 (troubled)
 John 14:1 (Do not let your heart be troubled…)
 Acts 20:10

It also says:
Mark 4:40 “…Why are ye fearful? Have ye no faith?”
Matthew 8:26 “…Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?…”
Revelation 21:8 “But the fearful, and … (ext.)… shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_times_does_the_Bible_tell_us_to_Fear_Not#ixzz1ip1GaBzp

In my amateur hagiography, I have come to the conclusion if we are moving towards the Cross, we must be doing something right in imitation of the Lord.  The Lord respected persons, but not popular taboo.  He also was never afraid to point out and acknowledge their sin, regardless of whom they were or what trouble they could cause Him.  I pray you will always imitate the Lord, as His servant.  Pray for me.  Many, many Catholics are praying for you in Chicago.

If the world can’t handle the truth, that’s the world’s problem, the Scriptures tell us.  The world always has and always will have a problem with the Truth.  That’s a good indicator it is the truth.  So, Cardinal, whatever the Truth is, say that.  If its that pedophile priests were protected, say that.  If it’s another hate group taking on the Church, say that.  Follow the example of the Lord, and speak the Truth.

How far we have come?

Sodomy
All European judicial systems of the 13th-mid 17th centuries used torture.  Inquisitorial repression of the sexual offence of sodomy, considered, according to Canon Law, as a crime against nature, merits separate attention. This included cases of incidences of heterosexual and homosexual anal sex, rape, and separately bestiality. Civil authorities at times executed those convicted.

In 1506 at Seville the Inquisition made a special investigation into sodomy, causing many arrests and many fugitives and burning 12 persons, but in 1509 the Suprema in Castile declared that crime not within the jurisdiction of the Inquisition deciding that cases of sodomy could not be adjudicated, unless related to heresy. Alleging that sodomy had been introduced to Spain by the Moors, in 1524 the Spanish Ambassador to Rome obtained a special commission from Clement VII for the Holy Office to curb its spread by investigating laymen and clergy in the territories of Aragon, whether or not it was related to heresy; and proceeding according to local, municipal law in spite of the resistance by local bishops to this usurpation of their authority.

The tribunal of Zaragoza distinguished itself for its severity in judging these offences: between 1571—1579, 101 men accused of sodomy were processed and at least 35 were executed. In total, between 1570 and 1630 there were 534 trials (incl. 187 for homosexuality, 245 for bestiality, and 111 with unknown specification of the charges) with 102 executions (incl. 27 for homosexuality, 64 for bestiality and 11 uncertain cases).

The first sodomite was burned by the Inquisition in Valencia in 1572, and those accused included 19% clergy, 6% nobles, 37% workers, 19% servants, and 18% soldiers and sailors.[45]  A growing reluctance to convict those who, unlike heretics, could not escape by confession and penance led after 1630 to greater leniency. Torture decreased: in Valencia 21% of sodomites were tortured prior to 1630, but only 4% afterwards. The last execution in persona for sodomy by the Inquisition took place in Zaragoza in April 1633. In total, out of about 1,000 convicted of sodomy – 170 were actually burnt at the stake, including 84 condemned for bestiality and 75 for homosexuality, with 11 cases where the exact character of the charges is not known.

Nearly all of almost 500 cases of sodomy between persons concerned the relationship between an older man and an adolescent, often by coercion; with only a few cases where the couple were consenting homosexual adults. About 100 of the total involved allegations of child abuse. Adolescents were generally punished more leniently than adults, but only when they were very young (under ca. 12 years) or when the case clearly concerned rape, did they have a chance to avoid punishment altogether. As a rule, the Inquisition condemned to death only those “sodomites” over the age of 25 years. As about half of those tried were under this age, it explains the relatively small percent of death sentences.[46]
[ <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Spanish_Inquisition&action=edit&section=14> ]

Speak the Truth!

Matthew McCormick
Chicago, IL