Category Archives: Ecclesiology

The Crusades – Glorious?


How can the Crusades be called “glorious”? Our modern mindset says they were ugly wars of greed and religious intolerance—a big reason why Christians and Muslims today can’t coexist peacefully.

Historian Steve Weidenkopf challenges this received narrative with The Glory of the Crusades. Drawing on the latest and most authentic medieval scholarship, he presents a compelling case for understanding the Crusades as they were when they happened: “armed pilgrimages” driven by a holy zeal to recover conquered Christian lands. Without whitewashing their failures and even crimes, he debunks the numerous myths about the Crusades that our secular culture uses as clubs to attack the Church.

“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.”
-Weidenkopf, Steve (2014-10-29). The Glory of the Crusades (Kindle Locations 76-77). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

“The creation of these myths began in the sixteenth century when Protestant authors used the still-ongoing Crusades to attack the Church and, principally, the papacy.”
-Weidenkopf, Steve (2014-10-29). The Glory of the Crusades (Kindle Locations 129-130). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

“Crusaders were portrayed as ignorant followers of superstition who participated in holy wars, which were nothing more than examples of Catholic bigotry and cruelty.”
-Weidenkopf, Steve (2014-10-29). The Glory of the Crusades (Kindle Locations 131-132). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

“Martin Luther set the stage for the Protestant interpretation of the Crusades by seeing the Ottoman Turkish threat to Europe in the early sixteenth century as part of God’s plan for divine retribution against the evils of the Catholic Church. At the height of his revolution against the Church, Luther wrote, “to fight against the Turks is to oppose the judgment God visits upon our iniquities through them.”-Kenneth M. Setton, “Lutheranism and the Turkish Peril,” Balkan Studies 3 (1962): 142, in Madden, New Concise, 209.

“After a Turkish invasion force reached the gates of Vienna in 1529, Luther reconsidered his anti-Crusade stance and actually encouraged Christian princes (Catholic and Protestant alike) to join together to fight the Turkish horde. Of course, Luther did not actually call for a Crusade, nor did he desire a religious war resembling the Crusades. He steadfastly rejected any such notion by writing, “If in my turn I were a soldier and saw in the battlefield a priest’s banner or cross, even if it were the very crucifix, I should want to run away as though the devil were chasing me!”-Madden, The New Concise History of the Crusades, 210.”
-Weidenkopf, Steve (2014-10-29). The Glory of the Crusades (Kindle Locations 134-142). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

“These scholars could not fathom the idea of warriors with actual faith engaging in warfare for primarily religious reasons.”
-Weidenkopf, Steve (2014-10-29). The Glory of the Crusades (Kindle Locations 191-192). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

“Even good Catholic writers can find themselves relying on old stereotypes when discussing the Crusades. Fr. Robert Barron’s popular video series and companion book, Catholicism, strikes a condemnatory tone when discussing the Crusades. Referencing the four marks of the Church, Fr. Barron addresses the criticism leveled against the Church’s holiness and remarks, “How could one possibly declare as holy a church that has been implicated in so many atrocities and outrages over the centuries? How could a holy church have supported the Crusades, the Inquisition and its attendant tortures, slavery, the persecution of Galileo… and the burning of innocent women as witches?”31 In Father Barron’s assessment, the Crusades are one example in a long “litany of crimes” in which even high-ranking clergy did “cruel, stupid and wicked things.”32 He even suggests that the saintly Bernard of Clairvaux was probably “wrong, even sinful, to preach the Second Crusade.”33

Fr. Barron’s work in this area betrays a lack of awareness of the recent and authentic scholarship on the Crusades (as well as the Inquisition) and instead relies on old, formulated, and erroneous criticisms of the Church’s historical past. Regrettably, the popularity of his (otherwise excellent) series ensures that these false narratives continue to influence the understanding of Catholics today.

Critics of the Church and even those within the Church argue that Pope St. John Paul II addressed the Crusades when during the Great Jubilee of 2000 he “apologized” for the sins of the Church; therefore, Catholics should not view these events in a positive light.

This view is not supported by the facts. John Paul II did not apologize for the Crusades; in fact, he never even mentioned the word during the Day of Pardon on March 12, 2000. In order to set the Church on a renewed footing as it entered the Third Millennium of the Faith, the pope tasked the International Theological Commission34 to study the concept of a purification of memory that aimed “at liberating personal and communal conscience from all forms of resentment and violence that are the legacy of past faults, through a renewed historical and theological evaluation.”35 On the Day of Pardon, John Paul II requested forgiveness from God for the faults and failings of our brothers and sisters who have gone before us in the Faith. His desire was born from a love of God and the Church in order for it to enter the third millennium free from the sins of Church members in the past. The pope not only asked God for forgiveness for the failings of past members of the Church but also called the Church to forgive those who have trespassed against it.

John Paul also recognized the importance of understanding the historical context in which the events of the past were lived, and he had no desire to pass judgment on our Catholic predecessors.36 He did not reject the Church’s historical past, which is replete with examples of mercy, forgiveness, holiness, and grand achievement. In his September 1, 1999 general audience he expressly said that the Church’s “request for pardon must not be understood as an expression of false humility or as a denial of her 2,000-year history . . . instead, she responds to the necessary requirement of the truth, which, in addition to the positive aspects, recognizes the human limitations and weaknesses of the various generations of Christ’s disciples.”

The Church has not apologized for the Crusades because an apology is not necessary. On the contrary, for centuries the Crusading movement was integral to the lived expression of the Faith.”
-Weidenkopf, Steve (2014-10-29). The Glory of the Crusades (Kindle Locations 228-260). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

“An authentic understanding of historical events begins not with the present time of the historical author, but with the contemporary time of the participant. Failure to adhere to that premise falsifies history and produces a “reading into” rather than a “learning from” historical events.39”
-Weidenkopf, Steve (2014-10-29). The Glory of the Crusades (Kindle Locations 265-267). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

“The International Theological Commission recognized this trap and encouraged those who would presume to judge the actions of Catholics in the past to keep “in mind that the historical periods are different, that the sociological and cultural times within which the Church acts are different, and so, the paradigms and judgments proper to one society and to one era might be applied erroneously in the evaluations of other periods of history, producing many misunderstandings.”-International Theological Commission, Memory and Reconciliation, 4.2.”
-Weidenkopf, Steve (2014-10-29). The Glory of the Crusades (Kindle Locations 269-273). Catholic Answers Press. Kindle Edition.

Q. Why do you think there is such a negative connotation in most people’s minds when it comes to the Crusades? Where did the negative “spin” originate?

A. Most people’s impression of the Crusades is fostered by Hollywood movies and documentaries on TV. Although this has led to wide recognition of the subject, the presentation of the Crusades is greatly misleading, because Hollywood and TV rely on an outdated anti-Catholic narrative. The negative “spin” actually began in the sixteenth century with the Protestant revolutionary Martin Luther, who attacked the Crusades because he saw them as an outgrowth of papal authority and power. Later on, Enlightenment authors like Voltaire and Edward Gibbon (among others) shaped modernity’s negative view of the Crusades by seeing them as barbaric events undertaken by greedy and savage warriors at the behest of a corrupt papacy. This anti-religious view of the inherently religious Crusades shaped popular imagination about the events and continues to be prevalent in our own day. Thankfully, modern-day Crusade historians eschew this prejudice and are bringing to light an authentic understanding of these Catholic events.

Q. Do you think a lot of the negative connotations the Crusades have is due to a misunderstanding about the time and culture in which they occurred?

A. Yes. History is best understood from the perspective of those who participated in the events themselves. In order to properly understand the Crusades, one must understand them as authentically Catholic events in an age of faith. This does not mean that everyone in the Middle Ages was a saint or society was perfect; but it was an era in which people made radical life decisions, like going on Crusade, because of their faith in Jesus Christ and his Church. The modern secular humanist world greatly struggles to understand the authentic religious worldview of the medieval period. 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.

Q. Your approach seems to be going against the normal apologetic arguments. Instead of merely defending the Crusades, you speak of their glory. What do you mean by that?

A. The glory of the Crusades means the movement was a very important one in the life of the Church (it occupies 600 years of Catholic history). It’s a historical phenomenon that all Catholics should know more about in order to defend the Church against modern-day attacks. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used for the “glory” of the Lord is kabod, which means “heavy with weight,” or something of great importance. It’s in this manner that I talk of the glory of the Crusades. They were very important events in the life of the Church, and since modern-day critics use historical events like the Crusades to attack the Church, it’s important for Catholics to know our authentic history and refute the myths. Basically, 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.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish with your new book?

A. To allow readers to see the Crusades from the perspective of those who participated in them. This authentic story is present among Crusade historians, but despite their best efforts it remains within academia and has not replaced the more common false narrative. I hope my book can help bring this great scholarship to a wider audience. I want to arm Catholics with the truth about the Crusades so they can not only defend the Church but also be filled with a healthy sense of Catholic identity.

Q. Given the current state of the world, do you think that a modern version of the Crusader has any place in the life of the Church or society?

A. Well, our modern world is politically and religiously different from the medieval period, but we can learn much from our brothers and sisters in the Faith who lived during the time of the Crusades. The Crusades are filled with the stories of heroic men and women who risked all for love of Christ and his Church and who were concerned for their own salvation. Their deep faith and desire to place themselves completely at the service of the Church for a greater cause is praiseworthy and should motivate modern-day Catholics. The Church today is in need of defenders, and even more importantly the world is in need of the saving message of the gospel. Every Catholic is called to participate in evangelization, and our recent popes have called for a New Evangelization to bring Jesus to those areas that are lukewarm or have rejected the Faith. We can look at the zeal of the Crusaders to motivate us into giving more of ourselves for Christ and his Church in an age that is desperate need of both.

Q. First, we’ll get to a question that has gotten a lot of press lately: do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

A.  In the document Lumen Gentium from the Second Vatican Council, the Church teaches that Christians and Muslims “adore the one and merciful God” (LG 16), so I think it is appropriate to say that Christians and Muslims believe in the existence of one God. But what we believe about the nature of God is vastly different. Dr. R. Jared Staudt wrote an excellent article that addresses this very important distinction (“Islam, Violence, and the Nature of God,” Catholic World Report, Sept. 2014). Islam does not view God as Jesus revealed him to be: a loving Father who desires our salvation and sent his Son to accomplish that task. Additionally, Islam rejects the Trinity, Christianity’s fundamental doctrine on the nature of God. What one believes about the nature of God shapes how one views and responds to others, and this is clearly manifest in the history of Islam and the Church.

Those alive during the Crusading movement did not believe that Christians and Muslims worshiped the same God. They recognized that Muslims professed a belief in one God, but they definitely understood that Muslim belief about who God is was not in keeping with Catholic teaching.

Q. Can you compare the threat of Islam during the Crusades to the threat of Islam today?

A.  Obviously, the geopolitical environment of the Crusading movement and that of today are quite different, so a direct comparison is not possible. But one can observe some similarities. Native Christians in Muslim-occupied territories of the late eleventh and twelfth centuries were harassed by various groups of Muslims, just as indigenous Christians today are persecuted. From its origins, Islam is a violently expansionist movement bent on the acquisition of territory. Within a century of Mohammed’s death in A.D. 632, Islamic armies conquered most of the ancient Christian territory in the Holy Land, North Africa, and Spain. ISIS is an Islamic organization that follows the teachings of Mohammed to expand the House of Islam through violent jihad. The establishment of the caliphate by ISIS, its conquests in Syria and Iraq, its persecution of indigenous Christians, its terrorist operations, and its infiltration of the West through propaganda and emigration all pose a significant threat to Western civilization.

Q. It seems that the Church has undertaken most of the historical battles against Islam, be it the Crusaders or the Holy League at the Battle of Lepanto. Why do you think that is?

A.  The rise of the Islamic movement in the seventh century was a crisis of epic proportions for the Christian world. Since Islam arose before the advent of powerful nation-states, the Catholic Church was the one international institution that could rally the desperate forces of the Western world to meet the threat. Before the Crusading movement, local Catholic rulers and warriors mounted defenses against Islamic invaders. The papal reform movement in the eleventh century freed the popes from the interference of secular rulers and allowed the popes to lead a united effort against the forces of Islam. In the beginning, papal leadership was very successful and important in the Western world’s response. But as the geopolitical environment evolved through the centuries, secular rulers became focused on their own political goals and were less inclined to listen to popes. As an example, Pope Pius II (r. 1458-1464) pleaded with the rulers of Christendom to mount a Crusade to retake Constantinople after the city fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Most rulers ignored him, so eventually he planned to lead the Crusade personally but died before the scheduled departure. The Church, and specifically the popes, have consistently recognized the danger Islam and its teachings pose to the Western world and have endeavored heroically to meet that threat.

Q. Do you think that modern-day Islam sees Christianity as a threat?

A.  There are elements within the Islamic world that dislike the Church, although I think there is also a strong dislike of Western secular culture and its immoral influence. The tenants of Islam and the Christian faith differ in significant ways, and those in ISIS and other violent Islamic groups recognize Christianity is an obstacle to their goals. Basic Islamic teaching views the world as in two camps: the House of Islam and the House of War. This dichotomy inherently views all that is not in the House of Islam as a threat that must be countered with jihad. Many in the Western world mistake Islamic anger and tension for misaligned economic policies or simple misunderstandings without understanding that core Islamic religious teachings are the reason for the current tension and violence.

Q. Across social media there seems to be an undercurrent calling for a “New Crusade.” What’s the likelihood of something like that happening in modern times?

A.  If one envisions a “New Crusade” in the vein of the armed expeditions sanctioned by the Church in the Crusading movement, then the likelihood is virtually nonexistent. The Church in the modern world, due in large part to the current political structure rooted in the nation-state, is focused on solving problems through diplomacy. In situations where diplomacy does not work, the Church turns for assistance to the international community and powerful Western nations. The Church voices support for those affected by Islamic violence and prays and works for peace, but the time of the holy war to defend Christians and the Faith from the onslaught of Islam, unless there is a radical change in the political structure of the world, is over. Of course, individual Christians may take it upon themselves (and some have) to fight in defense of their persecuted brothers and sisters, but they are not Crusaders in the proper sense of the term. For most Christians, the proper response to the current situation is fervent prayer and supplication to God to end the violence.

Reformation: Myths & Revolution

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There’s a popular version of the Protestant Reformation that goes something like this: By the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church had become thoroughly corrupted. Its doctrines were tainted by superstitions and false “traditions of men”; its leaders were depraved, forsaking the gospel to indulge their worldly greed and lust; and its practices kept Catholics living in ignorance and fear.

Only the heroism of Martin Luther and John Calvin, the story continues, was able to break the Catholic Church’s grip on power and lead the Christian world out of medieval darkness into the light of true biblical faith.

Chances are you’ve heard this story before. But it’s just a big myth, says historian Steve Weidenkopf.  We recently sat down with Professor Weidenkopf to dig even deeper into this tumultuous time in the history of the Church.

Q. You refer to a period that most people know of as the Protestant Reformation as the Protestant Revolution. Can you explain?

A.  We must recall that the history taught in our country is presented primarily through an English-Protestant perspective. That perspective presents the events of the sixteenth century in the guise of a “reformation.” This false narrative, which is extremely prevalent even among Catholics, paints the Catholic Church of the sixteenth century as an evil, oppressive, power-hungry monolith that was bent on the destruction of religious freedom. Its leaders were motivated by greed and maintained their power through the creation of superstitious practices that played on the ignorance of the masses. The heroic actions of Martin Luther and John Calvin, the false narrative maintains, freed the Christian Faith from popery and made the Scriptures accessible to all Christians. In reality, Luther and Calvin were not interested in the authentic reform of the Church but desired her complete destruction. Authentic Church reform involves the correction of abuses, the restoration of good habits, and the maintenance of the foundational aspects of the Church, such as its hierarchical structure and sacramental constitution. Any movement that seeks to destroy the Church—its organization, its sacraments, its way of life—and replace it with something new and not in conformity with apostolic tradition and history is a revolution, not a reformation. Studying the writings and lives of Luther and Calvin reveals that these men were not reformers but revolutionaries who sought the abolition of the Mass and other sacraments and the destruction of the Church’s apostolic foundations.

Q. Luther seemed to be a polarizing figure. What was happening at this time and place in history that made his teachings so attractive to so many people?

A. There is no doubt the Church was in need of reform in the sixteenth century. Many ecclesiastical abuses needed to be corrected, such as simony (the buying and selling of Church offices), nepotism, absenteeism (bishops not living in their dioceses), pluralism (bishops holding more than one diocese), and immoral clergy. Many within the Church urged the papacy to implement a comprehensive reform, and some popes attempted to do so. As an example, Pope Julius II called the Fifth Lateran Council to address these ecclesiastical abuses, but it completed its work only seven months before Luther’s 95 Theses, which was not enough time to implement its reform decrees throughout the Church. Additionally, the popes of the early sixteenth century, known as the “Renaissance Popes,” were more concerned with being secular princes than universal shepherds. The papacy suffered a significant loss of prestige during the fifteenth century, when the popes lived in Avignon, France, for seventy years. Their return to Rome was then marked by a forty-year schism (known as the Great Western Schism) of anti-popes. These papal problems, along with the ecclesiastical abuses, produced a sense of disunity in Christendom that was ripe for rebellion. Other factors that attracted people to Luther’s revolution included the political constitution of Germany, which was a collection of hundreds of small independent territories nominally controlled by the Holy Roman Emperor. A rising German nationalist movement contributed animosity toward Rome (primarily due to the heavy taxes inflicted upon German dioceses by the papacy). So, political and religious conditions were suitable for a revolution against the Church.

Q.  Do you think that reform in the Church was a resultant by-product of the Protestant Reformation/Revolution, and that some of the abuses that were pointed out resulted in reform in a positive direction?

A. Another term often used to describe the actions of the Church in the middle and late sixteenth century is the “Counter-Reformation.” Again, our history is told primarily through an English-Protestant perspective, and that term clearly illustrates that viewpoint. The very words imply the Protestant movement was an authentic reform that the Church then had to “counter” with her own reform. A more appropriate term, and one favored by many Catholic historians, is the “Catholic Reformation.” The Church did reform herself, primarily through the Council of Trent, the establishment of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), and the pontificates of Pope Paul III and Pope St. Pius V. The Church was on the path of reform before Luther and Calvin and would have ended the rampant ecclesiastical abuses without the Protestant Revolution. But I do think it’s fair to say the actions of Luther and Calvin focused the Church’s attention on the need for reform and provided a sense of urgency.

Q. The number of Protestant denominations is now very large and getting larger. Is it fair to say that the Protestant Revolution continues even today? If so, why?

A.  I think that’s a fair statement. The fundamental nature of Protestantism centers religious authority in the individual instead of in the Church (or, more specifically, the magisterium). The insistence on individual interpretation of the Scriptures, which is a foundational tenet of Protestantism, means there will always be competing and contrasting teachings embraced by rival groups.

Q. How soon after the teachings of Luther and Calvin were formulated did other Protestant denominations begin to branch off because of doctrinal differences?

A. Differences among Protestants were present at the very beginning of the movement. Both Luther and Calvin dealt with severe critics of their teachings as well as splinter groups that advocated a radical departure from the Protestant Revolution. Luther debated the Swiss revolutionary Ulrich Zwingli at the Colloquy of Marburg in 1529, only twelve years after the publication of his 95 Theses. Zwingli disagreed with Luther on the nature of the Eucharist and other teachings, and both men detested each other. The Anabaptists violently captured the city of Muenster in 1534, where they destroyed the city’s Catholic churches, established a commune, and engaged in polygamy. Based on its interpretation of Scripture, this group rejected the validity of infant baptism in opposition to the teachings of Luther and the Church. John Calvin famously ordered the execution of the Spaniard Michael Servetus, who vehemently disagreed with Calvin’s teachings contained in his book The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Protestantism is a revolutionary movement, and like most such movements in history it spawned violence, destruction, and disunity, which have greatly impacted Church and European history for the past five hundred years.

Q. Besides being one of the fathers of the Reformation, is it fair to say that Luther was also the father of anti-Catholic rhetoric?

A. Actually, anti-Catholic rhetoric is as old as the Church itself. One can find clear examples of it in the early Church in the writings of various pagan Roman authors who wrote anti-Catholic tracts and pamphlets urging Romans not to convert to the Faith. Earlier “proto-Protestants” such as John Wyclif in England and Jan Hus in Bohemia attacked the Church and her teachings with vitriol. Luther, however, took anti-Catholic rhetoric to a new level in his writings when he referred to the Church as the “whore of Babylon” and the pope as the “anti-Christ.” Luther’s writings are full of hateful, sarcastic, and venomous attacks against the sacramental nature of the Church, her hierarchical organization, many of her pious practices, and even her embrace of Aristotelian philosophy in the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas. In fact, Luther called for the ban of Aristotle’s works in his 1520 treatise An Appeal to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, writing that the “blind heathen” [Aristotle] was sent by God as “a plague” on the Church “on account of our sins.”

In The Real Story of the Reformation, Weidenkopf dismantles the mythical narrative about the two pivotal figures of the Protestant Reformation—or rather, Revolution, because what they wrought was not a reform of the Church but a radical break from it. He replaces that narrative with a true account of Luther and Calvin’s ideas, their actions and character, and their disastrous legacy for the modern world.”


Catholic Arrogance & Triumphalism: Avoiding Temptation

I have been/am guilty of, I will let my peers decide, the sin of Catholic arrogance.  I begin this way lest I be mocked and reminded to remove the beam from my own eye when I suggest I have witnessed my fellow Catholics, bishops, priests, and lay, sinning in this way, too.  We must repent.  We must refrain from sinning in this way.  We must.  It contradicts the Gospel.  The Lord commands.


2013-04-12 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) In following Christ, one walks with perseverance and without triumphalism, said Pope Francis in his homily during Friday morning’s Mass at Casa Santa Marta. The Mass was attended by personnel from Libreria Editrice Vaticana, including the director of the publishing house, Fr. Giuseppe Costa, as well as personnel from the Vatican pharmacy and perfume shop.

When God touches a person’s heart, the Pope said in his homily, he grants a grace that lasts a lifetime; he does not perform some “magic” that lasts but an instant. The Pope reflected on the climate of agitation immediately following the death of Jesus, when the behaviour and the preaching of the Apostles caught the attention of the Pharisees.

He picked up on the words of the Pharisee Gamaliel, cited in the Acts of the Apostles, who warns the Sanhedrin of the danger of attempts on the lives of Jesus’ disciples and reminds them how, in the past, the clamour generated by prophets found to be false subsided along with their followers. Gamaliel’s suggestion is to wait and see what will come of Jesus’ followers.

This “is wise advice even for our lives because time is God’s messenger,” Pope Francis observed. “God saves us in time, not in the moment. Sometimes he performs miracles, but in ordinary life, he saves us in time… in history … (and) in the personal story” of our lives.

The Pope added that God does not act “like a fairy with a magic wand”. Rather, he gives “grace and says, as he said to all those he healed, ‘Go, walk’. He says the same to us: ‘Move forward in your life, witness to everything the Lord does with us’ ”.

Pope Francis said “a great temptation” that lurks in the Christian life is triumphalism. “It is a temptation that even the Apostles had,” he said. Peter had it when he solemnly assured that he would not deny Jesus. The people also experienced it after the multiplication of the loaves.

“Triumphalism,” the Pope asserted, “is not of the Lord. The Lord came to Earth humbly; he lived his life for 30 years; he grew up like a normal child; he experienced the trial of work and the trial of the Cross. Then, in the end, he resurrected.”

“The Lord teaches that in life not everything is magical, that triumphalism is not Christian,” the Pope said. The life of the Christian consists of a normality that is lived daily with Christ.
“This is the grace for which we must ask: perseverance. Perseverance in our walk with the Lord, everyday, until the end,” he stated.

“That the Lord may save us from fantasies of triumphalism,” he concluded. “Triumphalism is not Christian, it is not of the Lord. The daily journey in the presence of God, this is the way of the Lord.”


The Heresy/Schism of Montanism

-Tertullian, (155-240 AD), a famous Montanist, and early Christian writer

It has nothing to do with the state of Montana. It is a heresy or, better yet, a schism caused by the prophet, Montanus, and two prophetesses, Maximilla and Prisca (Priscilla) in Phrygia during the late second century.

As witnessed in the Acts of the Apostles, the exterior gifts of the Holy Spirit (e.g. praying in tongues & prophecy) were common in the infant Church. But St. Paul already in his First Epistle to the Corinthians warns Christians that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit are not as important as the interior gifts of sanctity. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,… And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries… but have not love, I am nothing”. [1 Cor. 13:1-2] Such exterior gifts need to be tempered by humility and obedience to the Church, since Satan can more easily counterfeit them.

Montanus became a convert to Christianity around A.D. 170. He lived in Asia Minor, and, prior to his conversion, he was a priest in an Asiatic cult called Cybele. He claimed that he had the gift of prophecy, prophesying in an ecstatic state. Eusebius, a church historian born around A.D. 260-270, wrote the following of Montanus: “In his lust for leadership, he became obsessed and would suddenly fall into frenzy and convulsions. He began to be ecstatic and speak and talk strangely, and prophesied contrary to that which was the custom from the beginning of the church. Those who heard him were convinced that he was possessed. They rebuked him and forbade him to speak, remembering the warning of the Lord Jesus to be watchful because false prophets would come” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.16.1). Montanus was joined by two women, Priscilla and Maximilla, who also claimed to have the gift of prophecy and also prophesied in an ecstatic state.

It was not the idea of prophecy that caused a great disturbance in the church. It was the manner in which they prophesied. They had departed from the biblical norms of prophecy, both in content and in the manner in which they expressed their prophesies. They as a trio believed that they had received revelation from the Lord while being in an ecstatic state. This style of prophesying was likened to the same irrational, ecstatic prophetic style that was a part of Montanus’ life prior to his conversion when he was a priest of Cybele.

Unfortunately Montanus and his followers, called Montanists, did not remain loyal to the Church but broke away. At first, their prophecies were not heretical but simply extravagant. The early prophecies called for penance and strict fasts on certain days. But unlike the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke as messengers of God: “Thus says the Lord”, Montanus claimed to be possessed by God and spoke as God: “I am the Lord God omnipotent, who has descended into man.”

These prophecies also occurred during mad ecstasies. This concerned certain holy Churchmen, who tried to exorcise them. Later Montanus claimed that Christ’s redemption was still not complete; therefore, God possessed him in order to fulfill the salvation for all men. The Montanists highly valued chastity, virginity and martyrdom. They also disapproved of second marriages. Due to their emotional and rigorous nature, they attracted Christians, who thought that the Church was too secular and lax. Due to his extreme personality, the famous Tertullian also joined them and defended their cause. The sect survived the death of Montanus for a few centuries, but eventually became small and secret before disappearing altogether.

Montanists did not believe those who had denied the faith during persecution should be readmitted, in contrast to the Catholic position that through contrition and sincere penance, unity with the Church for the apostate could be restored.

-by Br Brian John Zuelke, OP

“…Montanism was an early Church heresy that sought to live a more pure Christian life in opposition to what was perceived as the “worldliness” of the mainstream Church.

Montanus and his followers were disturbed by what they perceived to be a lack of charismatic gifts within the Church, from gifts of healing to ecstatic prophecy to speaking-in-tongues. They blamed this lack of “charismata” on the moral laxity of the Church, a moral laxity which tends to arise as a natural consequence of the Church’s “settling down” in the world.

They sought to recapture the zeal and moral purity of the Apostolic Church, an era when the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit flourished. They believed a new age was upon them which would see the flourishing of the charismatic gifts… but only for the “pure.”

In turn, the “institutional Church” was viewed with suspicion and derided for having sold out to the world. As Montanism matured, its radicalism gave rise to heretical doctrines concerning the Trinity — a sort of modalism, (Ed. Modalism/Sabellianism is a type of heresy which denies the Nicene Trinity.  It rather proposes only one God who acts in three modes, but does not recognize those modes as three distinct Persons) in the end — and schismatic attitudes towards the Church. It was not violently suppressed: it simply fizzled-out.

…In our own new age of “new evangelization,” do we sometimes look at the “institutional Church” of episcopacy and Pope as a hindrance rather than a gift in spreading the gospel? Are we keen for miraculous events and new prophecy which will lead us out of the doldrums we find ourselves in?

Are we over-zealous at times for an exciting, “Spirit-filled” Church which has little time for the slow, patient work of conversion that Pope Francis seems to favor in Evangelii Gaudium (see n. 222ff)?

In fact, this age of new evangelization calls us to a new unity within the Church, that all may work together to mission ad extra and renewal ad intra.”


Christian Joy is NOT for wimps!!!!


-Life is tough.  Nuns are tougher. 🙂

I meet LOTS of Catholics.  Not surprised?  I talk to EVERYBODY!!!  I hang with my Latin chanting, really conservative peeps Sunday AM and my really flaming liberal, love children PM.  Kelly is amazed I can do this.  It’s natural for me.  It’s who i am.  I find sincere Catholics always in both.  Always.  I LOVE to hang with thoughtful, intelligent, sincere Catholics and non-Catholics.  Surprise.

I want to start an inter-parish exchange program on Sunday mornings including breakfast.  Four of you this Sunday.  Four of you others next.  We attend Mass at each other’s parish.  You know you belong to the same Church, don’t you?  🙂

The extreme fringes of either I really have no passion for.  The ones that REALLY scare me are the joyless ones.  Those who seem consumed by compliance, obedience, adherence, ritual, form, but the one thing that distinguishes them from other, healthier Catholics, is they are joyless.  I mean, really, what is the point?  Really?  Really?  Really.

Yet You desired faithfulness even in the womb;
You taught me wisdom in that secret place…
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to You.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare Your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
You, God, will not despise.

-Ps 51:6, 8, 10-13, 15-17

“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” -Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), 1.

“This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father…” –Ibid, 4.

“There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter…Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26). “– Ibid, 6.

Caritas Christi urget nos!!! -2 Cor 5:14

“Sadness ought to be banished from Catholic souls.” -Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati 

“The very word “gospel,” “eu-angelion,” shows that Christianity is “glad tidings” and that its whole tenor must be indisputably that of joy.” -Han Urs von Balthasar, opening sentence of “Joy and the Cross”

St. Thomas Aquinas says, “No man can live without joy.” and, “Joy is the noblest human act.”

Christian Joy means getting TOUGH!!!

Joy is not for wimps…True joy – the kind that doesn’t evaporate in the face of opposition and obstacles – must be anchored in the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. The saints learned this secret, and we must learn it, too. It’s not easy, of course. Like weeds, obstacles to cultivating true joy spring up all around us: struggles at home, problems with finances, illness, failed relationships, difficulties in the workplace, and, most alarming, confusion, division, and dissent within the Church itself…

For a Catholic, joy in the midst of adversity is not merely a
possibility or a suggestion, but an obligation…

The foundation of abiding joy is the realization that God is our
loving Father, Who allows all the trials and circumstances in our
lives to work together for our good, what we commonly call divine
providence (cf. Rom. 8:28). Every difficulty we encounter is
provided as an opportunity for us to demonstrate our trust and
reliance upon our Father. If we truly have confidence in His
loving care for us, why would we allow ourselves to become
discouraged by the troubles that surround us?

Don’t feel like you’re a particularly joyful person? You can do something about it. Like building a muscle through repeated weight lifting, joy is strengthened by practicing natural virtues. God’s gift of grace builds on nature, so by developing virtue, the treasure of divine life (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4) flourishes within our hearts. But this takes consistent effort. It means we must work to acquire fortitude, so that we don’t give up when things become difficult; temperance, so that we don’t give in to excesses in pursuing the pleasures of this world; justice, so we may prioritize and fulfill our daily obligations; and prudence, so that we may be truly wise and always able to evaluate our earthly circumstances in light of eternity. Without these natural virtues, our joy may be stolen from us…

Developing our joy in Christ is a lifelong process, and distractions will inevitably arise that will divert our attention away from Christ and toward the difficulties of our daily lives. These distractions are all the more painful and challenging when they are encountered close to home within our own families and within the Church itself…

Each of us could compose a long laundry list of all the challenges, frustrations, and temptations to anger we encounter in our families and within the Church: Dissent from Church teaching, liturgical abuses, and division (to name a few examples) exist, but to become consumed by these problems would be to go directly against Sacred Scripture, which calls us to let our mind dwell on good and wholesome things (cf. Phil. 4:8). This doesn’t mean we ignore or deny that these difficulties exist, but neither should we become preoccupied with them.

We see the problems, yes, but our focus must be on the solutions.
And even if there is no apparent earthly solution, we should
maintain a sense of hope and thanksgiving for the eternal life
that awaits us.

Besides being an essential characteristic of the faithful
Christian, joy is also a powerful element in leading others to
Christ and His Church. It’s been said that the greatest obstacle
to Catholicism is often Catholics. When we come across to non-
Catholics as pessimistic, suspicious, and incessant complainers
about problems in the Church, we aren’t going to be very effective
in evangelizing them. In fact, the more we Catholics appear morose
and cranky, the less seriously the world will take us and the
Gospel of Christ. We even run the risk of making the Church and
its teachings appear ludicrous to non-Catholics when all they see
is carping, name-calling, and rivalries among us.

Christ came to give abundant life (cf. John 10:10). When we live
that abundant life, we become walking, breathing advertisements
for the truth and power of Christ’s Gospel.

St. Augustine once remarked that “our hearts are restless until
they rest in Thee.” This truth is the key to reaching people with
the message of Christ and His Church. People are already seeking
Him, even if they don’t realize it. Each person we encounter is
seeking true happiness, but without Christ he is destined to seek
it in places and in ways that will never satisfy what he really
craves – a deep, abiding joy that comes only from Christ.

That’s why it’s essential that we manifest this joy to those
around us! If the people we seek to evangelize see us as angry,
pessimistic, and unduly aggravated by problems within and without
the Church, why should they want to become Catholic? No. We must
show those around us that, because of Christ, we are joyful,
undaunted, and hopeful, in spite of the problems and obstacles
that may surround us.

St. Lawrence the Martyr, while in the process of being grilled to
death on a gridiron, is reported to have looked up at his
executioners and said, “Excuse me, I believe I’m done on this
side. You can turn me over now.” That’s a sense of humor the world
doesn’t understand. It flows from the joy of knowing and loving
Christ. A similar sense of humor is necessary in ordinary life…

Joy in Christ leads naturally to evangelization. And we should
remember that authentic evangelization doesn’t mean imposing our
views on others. It means offering in a charitable way what they
are already seeking: the fullness of Truth. God has placed within
each of us the desire for truth…

For Catholics who don’t cultivate joy and charity, discussions
with non-Catholics or poorly formed Catholics often become mere
debates, futile and frustrating for both parties. But for the
joyful Catholic, these encounters are opportunities for grace –
not attempts to win arguments, but inviting the other person to
the fullness of communion with Christ in His Church.

We will, of course, encounter obstacles, difficulties, and
rejection, but we can accept these as opportunities to deepen our
trust in and reliance upon Christ and prove our faithfulness…Our job as Catholics is to serve as lights in the darkness.

Momentary setbacks and even spectacular earthly failures won’t rob us of our joy, because we haven’t placed our joy in the things of
this world. Our joy and hope are grounded in Christ and in the
life to come.

St. Alphonsus Liguori once said, “Those who pray are saved, those
who don’t are not.” If we constantly converse with Christ through
prayer, we need fear nothing. Think about the joy of the early
martyrs. In one account of early Roman persecution, a Catholic
suffered days of torture as the soldiers tried to make him deny
Christ. The ordeal ended in frustration for his tormentors. An
exasperated guard cried, “There is nothing we will be able to do
to destroy this man unless we can get him to sin!” You and I must
develop the same spirit of perseverance under pressure.” -by Curtis A. Martin, “You’d Better Not Pout.”

In His Joy,

Mean, Greedy, Nasty, Lying, Merciless, Cruel, Neurotic, Pharisaical Catholics


Jn 9:41

“We are saved by those we despise.” –Pope St Gregory the Great

“Sit down!  Shut up!  And let me tell you about the love of God!” -old catechetical joke

“God loves you, and you’re going to Hell!” -another old catechetical joke

aka, Taliban/ISIS Catholics

“Here comes everybody!” – James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 1923, about the Catholic Church

-by A. David Anders, PhD

“I once had an argument with a non-Christian friend about a point of Christian apologetics. I thought I came off pretty well in the debate, and I was hoping my friend would concede the point. Instead, he said something I was not expecting. “But Dave,” he said, “I just don’t like Christians.” Ouch! Truth is a lot less persuasive if you can’t stand the person delivering it.

I hear this a lot in my work with non-Catholics. I sometimes ask, “What is keeping you from becoming a Catholic?” Not infrequently they answer, “Catholics. Catholics are my biggest obstacle to becoming Catholic.” I am reminded of what Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians.” (little hand raise) This is something the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has also spoken about. In a Wednesday audience (October 29, 2014), he complained about mean Catholics: “if this or that person is a Christian,” someone might say, “then I shall become an atheist.”

So what should we do about the problem of mean Catholics? One option, historically, has been Puritanism. Puritans are those who are sure they know who the “real” Christians are. They reject everyone else. In colonial New England, for example, Puritans wouldn’t let you receive the sacraments, or become a minister or even vote in civil elections or run for office if you couldn’t “prove” you were one of the “real” Christians. Puritanism is attractive because it seems to solve the problem of bad Christians. We write them off as “not really Christian” and withdraw into our sect.

But Puritanism doesn’t work. New England Puritans from the very beginning split up into factions, each one sure they were the “real Christians” and that everyone else was a mere pretender. Puritanism is also unfaithful to the teaching of Jesus. In the parable of the tares, the Lord teaches there are good and bad in the Church. “Let them grow together until the harvest,” he said. (Matthew 13: 24-30)

We must avoid Puritanism, furthermore, because we can make mistakes about who the “good” and “bad” Catholics really are. It’s very easy to think the “good Catholics” are those we feel comfortable with, those who look or sound like us. But the best Catholics may be the ones who go unnoticed, like the poor widow in the gospel. “Do you see this poor widow,” Jesus said, “She put in more than all the rest.” (Luke 21:3)

We may also misjudge who is really mean or bad. In 1944, the Anglican theologian and lay apologist C.S. Lewis gave an address called “The Inner Ring.” He pointed out that in most organizations or societies there are confidential discussions, unofficial hierarchies, and intimate circles that exclude us. One of our strongest temptations is to resent that exclusion, even when it is perfectly innocent. Sometimes we may call someone “mean,” simply because we envy their friends or influence.

But I don’t deny that there are truly “mean” people in the church. There are the self-absorbed, the narcissistic, and the materialistic. There are also the cocky, doctrinaire, holier-than-thou Pharisees. Jesus told us to expect this. We find both types even among his disciples. (Judas was a money grubber and a traitor. James and John could be unforgiving and censorious.)

So, again, what do we do? The solution is to remember why Christ founded the Church. The Church is not an exclusive social club for saints. It’s a hospital for sinners. The whole liturgical and sacramental system of the Church presumes that we will sin against each other. “If you remember your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and be reconciled to your brother.” (Matthew 5:23) “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters. . . “

The truth is we need our sinful, mean, fellow Catholics. The Church is supposed to be like a sacrament, a sign and instrument of union between God and neighbor. We are supposed to show the world how to forgive, how to overcome differences, how to “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) If everyone were beautiful and easy, what kind of heroic charity would we need? Like in marriage, we enter the Church starry-eyed and full of wonder. But reality sets in eventually and the work begins. “But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)

I went to Mass recently with a friend who complained to me, “These aren’t my people. I don’t have anything in common with them.” Exactly. Where else can you find a bunch of people (some nice, some mean), thrown together, with nothing in common, but pledged to get along no matter what. Jesus gives us the example. As St. Paul once said, “For a good man, someone might dare to die. But God showed His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)”

Maybe, the New Evangelization is not about so much convincing others of our point of view, but rather, a personal call to self-reform?

Mt 7:3-5, Lk 6:41-42


Love: dealing with difficult Catholics


“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.


Matthew Arnold: New Age Agnostic to Catholic Apologist


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.”


The Glory of the 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!

“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,

Scripture & Tradition


“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”

-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.”