Feb 14 – St Valentine & Catholic marriage – for pleasure?



-skull of St. Valentine (226-14 Feb 269 AD), Bishop/Priest & Martyr, in the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, please click on the image for greater detail. He was martyred and his body buried at a Christian cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome, on February 14, which has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine’s Day) since 496 AD.  “Love is stronger than death.”

Relics of him were kept in the Church and Catacombs of San Valentino in Rome, which “remained an important pilgrim site throughout the Middle Ages until the relics of St. Valentine were transferred to the church of Santa Prassede during the pontificate of Nicholas IV”. His skull, crowned with flowers, is exhibited in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome; other relics of him were taken to Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, where they remain; this house of worship continues to be a popular place of pilgrimage, especially on Saint Valentine’s Day, for those seeking love.



Tees to the Kingdom, St Valentine shirts, please click on the images for greater detail

CCC 1602-1666


-by Br Raymond LaGrange, OP

“I like Saint Valentine. I am also a big fan of Christian marriage, and he was martyred for illegally presiding over Christian marriages. Through some bizarre accident of history, his feast-day is observed by the secular world, but the Church has taken him off the General Calendar. Unfortunately, I think very few people who mark this day on their personal calendars ever consider the life of the saint or the reason he died. This is but a reflection of a deeper problem: just as the world celebrates the feast of the patron of love without actually celebrating the patron himself, so also the world celebrates romantic love without actually thinking much about what love is in the first place.

In his book Love and Responsibility (written before he became Pope), Saint John Paul II impugns the idea that the point of a relationship is for both members to derive pleasure from it. The problem with this idea is that pleasure is not really a goal; there is no pleasure except pleasure in something. We eat cake for pleasure. We do not eat pleasure directly. No cake, no pleasure. Somehow, the world is trying to eat for pleasure without thinking too much about the step where you actually put food in the mouth. Such is a relationship of pure pleasure, nonsensical.

Any relationship, not just marriage, needs to be based on a common goal. For example, people who cooperate for an end in itself (hobby, being in a band – the goal is music, art/musical appreciation, volunteering, etc). These sorts of relationships (friendships, partnerships, mutual interests, fellow aficionados, etc.) often lead to the pleasure of relationship, but a relationship that is only founded upon mutual pleasure is actually the most unstable, because pleasure is so ephemeral. This can be said of emotional as well as physical pleasures. The deep feeling of contentment that arises when silently beholding a sunset with a lover is certainly a high pleasure, even the stuff of poetry, but that delight must give way to a chilly night. When night falls, something more than the sunset must remain to keep the relationship together.

Marriage is the most profound of human relationships, and so it must be based on the highest goal. That goal is nothing but the giving of one’s entire self. Saint John Paul II teaches that such giving is perfected only in procreation. It is in the bearing and raising of children that man and woman give themselves so fully that they make more of each other. Only by pursuing together the good of children can the couple really be united, even if the hope for children never comes to fruition. If either withholds this gift, the relationship becomes one of mere pleasure or convenience or some other friendly pursuit.

Children can make life difficult. They demand self-sacrifice, especially when they present particular difficulties. It is not easy. Sleeplessness is not fun. No engaged couple dreams of interminable appointments with doctors and therapists of various stripes.

At the same time, the gift of existence is one of the greatest gifts, despite the price. God, the giver of all existence, allows a man and a woman to share in His goodness by transmitting this most precious gift to their child. They can do this only with and through each other. The giving of this gift is fulfilling, because it is the gift that we were made to give. Giving this gift gives real joy.

This goal of procreation does not replace all the other goods of marriage. Instead, it makes them possible. A marriage can only be more than a house-sharing agreement if it aspires to a higher goal. Sexual union can only be more than an ‘arrangement’ if it aspires to something more than physical pleasure. The joy of self-giving can only be felt in the actual giving of oneself. The work of arranging one’s life around these different goods can, of course, be difficult, but the order of goods that the Church provides allows marriage to be structured firmly and stably. Only then can the desire to love be fulfilled. The passing on of existence is the only sufficient basis for marital love.”

“The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord ” (CCC No. 1601)…

“So, if one of these conditions is intentionally left out, then no marriage takes place,” Father Thomas Urban, who is a judge at the Metropolitan Tribunal in Detroit, Michigan said. “I’ll marry you but not for the rest of our lives — no marriage. Or, I’ll marry you only if I can continue my bachelor lifestyle — no marriage. Or, I’ll marry you but I will not have any children — no marriage.” – Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Publishing, Oct 11 2017, https://www.osvnews.com/2017/10/11/can-catholic-couples-choose-childlessness/

“Decisions involving responsible parenthood presupposes the formation of conscience, which is ‘the most secret core and sanctuary of a person. There each one is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in the depths of the heart’ (Gaudium et Spes, 16). The more the couple tries to listen in conscience to God and His commandments (cf. Rom 2:15), and is accompanied spiritually, the more their decision will be profoundly free of subjective caprice and accommodation to prevailing social mores.” The clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council still holds: ‘[The couple] will make decisions by common counsel and effort. Let them thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future may bring. For this accounting they need to reckon with both the material and the spiritual conditions of the times as well as of their state in life. Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of temporal society and of the Church herself. The parents themselves and no one else should ultimately make this judgment in the sight of God.’
— Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia No. 222 (first quoted passage taken from the final document of the 2015 Synod of Bishops)

Sex is both unitive and procreative, and the two cannot be separated.  Each is the point of the other.

I love you, Kelly & Mara.  Thanks, Mom & Dad,
Matthew

“At Home with the Lord”: 2 Corinthians 5:8 & Purgatory

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church teach that there is an intermediate state after death, like purgatory, when the Bible says that the only place for a Christian to be (besides this life) is heaven?

Referring to a soul’s “entrance into the blessedness of heaven,” the Catechism teaches that it will enter either “through a purification or immediately” (1022). This presupposes that it’s possible for a soul to die in God’s friendship but yet not be present with the Lord in heaven.  Some Protestants view Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 as contradicting this belief. Paul writes:

“So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Since the Bible says that for a Christian to be “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord,” there can’t be any intermediate state in the afterlife.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. Paul doesn’t say what the challenge assumes he says.

Protestants who appeal to this passage often fail to realize that Paul doesn’t say that “to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord.” Paul simply says, “While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” and that “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Protestants may reply that although Paul doesn’t exactly say what the challenge claims, that’s what he means. Are they right? Does the logic follow? Does the statement, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” mean the same as, “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord”?

Suppose I’m at work, and I’m wishing that I could instead be away from work, and at home. Can we conclude from this that if I’m away from work, I must automatically be at home? Doesn’t seem like it. I could be away from work, eating lunch at McDonald’s. I could be away from work, on my way home, but sitting in traffic. So, it’s fallacious to conclude from this verse that, once away from the body, a Christian must immediately be present with the Lord.

2. Even if we concede the interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:8 that the challenge asserts, it still doesn’t rule out purgatory.

But let’s assume for argument’s sake that the interpretation this challenge offers of 2 Corinthians 5:8 is true, and that to be away from the body is to be immediately present with the Lord. That still wouldn’t pose a threat to purgatory.

First, because the challenge assumes that purgatory involves a period of time (during which we are “away from the body” but not “with the Lord”). But as we’ve seen, the Catholic Church has never defined the precise nature of the duration of purgatory. We simply don’t know what the experience of time is beyond this life. If purgatory did not involve a duration of time as we know it, it would be perfectly compatible with the challenge’s interpretation of this verse.

A second reason is that the challenge assumes purgatory is a state of existence away from the Lord. But, as we have also seen, purgatory could very well be that encounter with the Lord that we experience in our particular judgment, as we “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). This makes sense because Paul describes the soul’s judgment as being one of a purifying fire (1 Cor. 3:11-15). It makes sense for God’s presence, not his absence, to be part of our soul’s purification.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Shouldn’t you make sure that the Bible passage you use to challenge a Catholic belief actually says what you think it says?

AFTERTHOUGHT: The early Christian writer Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-220) affirms the existence of a state after death before entering heaven when he writes, “Inasmuch as we understand the prison pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades [Matt. 5:25], and as we also interpret the uttermost farthing to mean the very smallest offense which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection.”

Love,
Matthew

Ecce, Res & Objective Truth


-“Ecce homo”, Andrea Mantegna, 1500, tempera on canvas, 72 cm × 54 cm (28 in × 21 in), Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. In the painting, two messages can be seen in Latin script: Crvcifige evm[.] tolle evm[.] crvcifige crvc[…] (“crucify him, trap him, crucify [in the cross]”) to the left and to the right the similar Crvcifige evm crvcifige tolle eṽ crvcifige (“crucify him, crucify, trap him, crucify”). The text on the left pretends to be pseudo-Hebrew in cursive script.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Br Ephrem Maria Reese, OP

“One thing that frustrates some, and fascinates others, about philosophical study, is that it takes ordinary things and makes them very, very complicated…

One feature of Catholic thinking that now fascinates people goes under the name “objective truth.” For many people, secular and religious alike, our world has been affected by “the turn to the subject,” or the tendency to say that truth mostly lies in the eye of the beholder, or depends on who the person thinking is. For truth to be objective, on the other hand, means that who the thinker is is not as important as what the thing they are thinking about is. The who needs to conform himself or herself to the what, not the other way around.

It is popular nowadays in Catholic theology to point out that Truth, in Jesus, became a person. In other words, Truth became a Subject. Indeed, He did. But a further twist to the story is that Jesus, Who is a Subject, also chose to become, for us and for our salvation, an Object. He became, among other things, a piece of food—a mere Thing. In the Eucharist, God so humbled Himself as to become, mysteriously, both thing and person—in theological language, we might say that He is both res et persona.

The Truth is a Person, a Subject, and is thus in perpetual conversation with us. He speaks interiorly. He comes to us as Word, speaking in our hearts, and even in other persons. But the Truth is also Thing, and as such, comes to us in Objects, called the Sacraments. One complaint that the early Protestant Reformers in England had with the Catholics is that our treatment of God is so thing-like. Their early charter, the 39 Articles, says: “The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about.” Well, yes and no. These most sacred Things are not to be merely thrown around, or treated superstitiously. But God did intend them to be mysterious realities. A “reality” is another word for “thing,” from the Latin res. In the Eucharist, and in the other sacraments (though in different ways), God makes His presence Real, in things. And that is something to be gazed upon, with reverent silence and song and humble prayer.

Before the person Who so humbled Himself as to be gazed upon in His torment, carried about in His death, worshiped and eaten in mystery, a true Christian will say: “yes, truth is objective.” He is more interior than my most interior self; He is more real than the realest exterior object. Ecce, Res.”

He lives,
Matthew

Feb 3 – Bl Iustus Takayama Ukon (高山右近), or Dom Justo Takayama (born Hikogorō Shigetomo) (1552 – 3 – 5 February 1615), Martyr


-Blessed Iustus Takayama Ukon 高山右近 Kirishitan Daimyō, please click on the image for greater detail

“The Holy Daimyo of Christ”, Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon, Martyr, was a Japanese Catholic (日本のカトリック教会) kirishitan (吉利支丹, 切支丹, キリシタン, きりしたん), daimyō, and samurai.  Of the Japan’s 42 Japanese Saints and 394 Blessed, only the Cause of Blessed Takayama Ukon was processed individually – a first instance in Japanese church history. All other Japanese Saints and Blessed are group martyrs, processed by the Vatican in four batches.

Kirishitan, from Portuguese cristão, referred to Roman Catholic Christians in Japanese and is used in Japanese texts as a historiographic term for Roman Catholics in Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries. The daimyō (大名) were powerful Japanese feudal lords.

Modern Japanese has several words for Christian of which the most common are the noun form kirisuto-kyōto キリスト教徒, and also kurisuchan クリスチャン. The Japanese word kirishitan キリシタン is used primarily in Japanese texts for the early history of Roman Catholicism in Japan, or in relation to Kakure Kirishitan, Hidden Christians. However, English sources on histories of Japan generally use the term “Christian” without distinction.

Christian missionaries were known as bateren (from the Portuguese word padre, “father”) or iruman (from the Portuguese irmão, “brother”). Both the transcriptions 切支丹 and 鬼利死丹 came into use during the Edo Period when Christianity was a forbidden religion. The Kanji used for the transcriptions have negative connotations. The first one could be read as “cut off support”, and the second as “devils who profit from death”.

Portuguese ships began arriving in Japan in 1543, with Catholic missionary activities in Japan beginning in earnest around 1549, mainly by Portuguese-sponsored Jesuits until Spanish-sponsored mendicant orders, such as the Franciscans and Dominicans, gained access to Japan. Of the 95 Jesuits who worked in Japan up to 1600, 57 were Portuguese, 20 were Spaniards and 18 Italian. Fr. Francis Xavier, SJ, Fr. Cosme de Torres, SJ, and João Fernandes, SJ were the first to arrive to Kagoshima with hopes to bring Catholicism to Japan.

Takayama had been baptized into the faith in 1564 when he was twelve, though over time neglected his faith due to his actions as a samurai. He would eventually rekindle his faith just after his coming-of-age ritual near the age of 20. He abandoned his status to devote himself to his faith and was exiled to Manila, where he lived a life of holiness until his death two months later.

In 1571 he participated in an important and successful battle all as part of his coming-of-age ritual which culminated in a duel to the death with a compatriot whom he killed; but Ukon received grievous wounds in the process and during his convalescence realized he had cared little about the faith that had received him and had been imparted to him by his father, who was also so daimyo, and converted to Catholicism, having Ukon baptized at age twelve, and giving him the name Justus, or Iusto. After his coming-of-age celebration he was named as Shigetomo (重友). However he is better known as Takayama Ukon (高山右近).

But then disaster struck, initiated by the lies and boasts of the Spanish captain of the ship San Felipe. On its voyage from the Philippines to Mexico it ran into a roaring cyclone that tore off the masts and sails and dumped it on the Japanese coast – with most of the cargo and crew intact. By Japanese custom the local Daimyo looked after the crew, but the cargo was his.

When the ship’s captain was told this he responded with a lie and a threat. “You’ve seen the Spanish missionaries in Japan. Well they are the forerunners of the Spanish Army who will soon come and make Japan a colony. You will be in big trouble then if you have stolen my cargo.” This threat was relayed to Shogun Hideyoshi, the generalissimo and real ruler of Japan – the Emperor was a powerful symbol, eking out cultured boredom in a gilded cage in Kyoto.

The Shogun looked apprehensively at the Philippines and Mexico, and the seemingly unstoppable armies from Europe. This set the scene for the persecution of Christians in Japan.

The Shogun waited because he wanted to continue trade with Europeans via their ships. But early in 1597 he struck a fierce blow – a total ban on Japanese Christian and western missionaries. He now decided to terrorize every Japanese Christian and foreign missionary by public and gruesome executions in Nagasaki, where Christians were numerous. Famous Christian Daimyo Takayama would head the list of about 20, or so, missionaries and Japanese Christians to be executed.

These “criminals” would have ears sliced off, loaded into open carts and paraded around the capital city Kyoto. Then guarded by unmerciful samurai they would be forced to march to Nagasaki, 30 days away, during the coldest time of the year. There they would be fastened to crosses in mockery of this foreign Christian religion.

The local governor was ordered to make as many citizens as possible attend. Everything was to be unhurried and drawn out, to heighten the terror for both the crucified and the onlookers.

Finally the two samurai, who had been standing right under each of the crucified, with the steel tip of a lance very visible, would thrust the lance deep and up under the rib cage of the crucified. The last punishment was the refusal of burial for their corpse that would remain on the crosses until they rotted away.

The Shogun’s advisors did not oppose the gory executions but they advised the Shogun that Daimyo Takayama was too highly respected, famous throughout Japan as a man of great courage and ability, and a lover of the highest expressions of Japanese culture – the Way of the classical Tea Ceremony, Haiku poetry, fine calligraphy – and a brilliant designer of Daimyo castles.

The advisors dared not raise with lecherous Hideyoshi another reason for Takayama’s fame – his total faithfulness to his wife Justa Kuroda, in an era of sexual abandon among the powerful men of the land. His advisors suggested that crucifying Daimyo Takayama like a common criminal could cause dangerous resentment and possibly harm to the Shogun’s “great reputation”.

So Shogun Hideyoshi took Takayama off the list of those to be executed on February 6, 1597. However the merciless Shogun was angry that Takayama still lived publically as a Christian, despite the Shogun outlawing Christianity.

To backtrack some years, Sen no Rikyu, still venerated by most Japanese, was the acknowledged creator of the fully developed Japanese Tea Ceremony, “Chado”, The Way of Tea, which was fast becoming the quintessence of Japanese refinement and culture for the ruling classes. The Tea Ceremony is not like a casual cup of tea with friends.

The Tea Ceremony is conducted mostly in silence, taking an hour or more, and is acted out according to a solemn ritual full of spiritual symbols. Often when Japanese Tea Ceremony people attend Mass for the first time they will say the Mass reminded them of their much loved Tea discipline.

This famous and venerated Sen no Rikyu had publically named the young Daimyo Takayama Ukon as one of his seven “mana deshi” – “most beloved disciple” – among the many Japanese who now practised the Tea cultural expression he created. Shogun Hideyoshi, who was also a follower of this Way of Tea, of course knew Sen no Kikyu personally.

He called Rokyu to his castle, and ordered him to visit Takayama with this stern warning. “I order you to renounce your Christian beliefs. I am your liege lord. If you do not obey me you are betraying ‘bushido’, the Way of the Samurai. The whole warrior class in Japan, from the Shogun to humblest samurai, vows to follow this Way until death. Bushido demands total obedience to your liege lord. I as Shogun am your liege lord and order you to renounce this foreign religion. If you refuse to obey you are breaking the bushido vow, and will have to suffer the consequences.” The consequences the Shogun referred to was the duty of hara kiri (seppuku), the ritualistic disembowelling of oneself with a short sword.

To crafty Hideyoshi the spirited Daimyo Takayama replied immediately and masterfully, neither rejecting bushido nor his Christian faith: “I accept Shogun Hideyoshi as my liege lord on this earth. But, higher than my earthly bushido obligation is my totally absolute obligation to obey Jesus, my Divine liege Lord, the Heavenly liege Lord of all earthly lords. I cannot renounce Him from whom I have received life itself, and the promise of eternal salvation.”


-model of Takatsuki Castle in the Edo Period, please click on the image for greater detail.  The castle was founded in the 10th century AD. Takatsuki was an important commercial and transportation hub because it was between Osaka and Kyoto. The Saigoku road, which connected Nishinomiya (in Kobe) with Kyoto, went through the town as well as did the Yodo River. As a result, the castle was the largest in the Hokusetsu region of what now comprises the northern parts of the Osaka municipality. Ukon helped to develop a thriving castle town. In 1581, Takayama Ukon built a church within the castle grounds and invited missionaries to administer to the local people. There were about 18,000 Christians living in the castle town around Takatsuki Castle.

The Nagai (original patriarch, Nagai Naokiyo, gained control of the castle in 1649. The Nagai ruled for 13 generations until the end of the Edo Period when it was abandoned in 1871. This family gradually increased the size of the castle and expanded its moats outward from when it was a Sengoku period castle. The castle was about 630 meters long and 510 meters wide after the last round of expansion. Unfortunately, it was destroyed after the Meiji Restoration and the castle’s wood from buildings, and stone walls, were repurposed to build the train line between Mukomachi and Osaka in 1874. The stones of the castle were smashed into rocks to be used for the rail bed that was built to connect Osaka with Kyoto.

One of the original castle gates can still be found at Hongyoji Temple. Some Japanese castle books have also suggested that the Karamon at Nagai Shrine is an original castle gate from Takatsuki Castle. The family crest of the Nagai Clan can be seen on the water trough just inside the entrance of Nagai Shrine.

When Shogun Hideyoshi received Takayama’s reply from Sen no Rikyu he was infuriated. He ordered the immediate seizure of Takayama, his castle, lands and all his possessions, reducing him to the ignominious, lowest rank of a samurai, masterless “ronin”, whom no Daimyo could employ or shelter. Takayama, his wife and family were banished to an inhospitable area of Kanazawa in the present day Ishikawa Prefecture. Homeless ex-Daimyo Takayama first went to the Jesuit house at Arie, asking to be allowed to do a week’s retreat based on St Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.

Takayama was a great admirer of St Ignatius of Loyola, SJ who once was a knight. The converted Ignatius chose poverty to follow Christ. Samurai Takayama told his wife and family that they now had the opportunity to do the same for Christ. Fortified by the Ignatian retreat, and at peace, Takayama asked for the prayers of the Jesuits and then led his family to what became a hand-to-mouth existence in a hostile environment. Ukon continued to spread Catholicism.

Ukon lived under the protection of his allies for several decades but in 1614 Tokugawa Ieyasu (the new shogun, after Hideyoshi died only one year after impoverishing Ukon and his family) prohibited the Christian faith which witnessed Ukon’s expulsion from Japan.

The shogun knew ex-Daimyo Takayama was spreading Christianity in the provinces and sent a grim message to him. Takayama ignored it. Some new friends advised Takayama to save himself and his family by a “seeming” obedience to Tokugawa’s order. Takayama replied, “For a man who has a sense of honour, and is firmly convinced of his Christian religion, it is inadmissible to even speak of such cowardice.”

Shogun Tokugawa then sent samurai to arrest Takayama and bring him bound to Kyoto. There Tokugawa worked on still famous Takayama for seven months, alternating between enticements of rewards and savage death threats. Takayama remained rock solid for Christ.

On 8 November 1614, Takayama, his wife Justa Kuroda, their daughter and their five grandchildren, 350 missionaries and Japanese Christian laymen were put on a small boat and deported to Manila.

He arrived to Manila on 11 December 1614 where he received a warm welcome from the Spanish Jesuits and the local Filipinos. The governor Juan de Silva wished to provide him with an income to support him and his relations but he declined this offer since he said he was no longer in a position to offer his services in exchange for income but neither did he wish to act like a lord.

The colonial government of Spanish Philippines offered to overthrow the Japanese Empire through an invasion of Japan in order to protect the Japanese Christians and place him into a position of great power and influence. Ukon declined to participate and was even opposed to the plan. He died of illness at midnight on 3 or 5 February 1615 just a mere 40 days after having arrived in Manila after having suffered from a violent fever. Upon his death the Spanish government gave him a Christian burial replete with full military honors befitting a daimyō. His remains were buried in the Jesuit church of San Ignacio Church in Intramuros and this made him the only daimyō to be buried on Philippine soil.


-This statue is found on the grounds of the city of Takatsuki’s functional Catholic Church, The Grand Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of Osaka, Japan.  It is modeled on the cathedral outside Manila, where Takayama spent his last days. This statue is located on the cathedral grounds, near the site where the church Takayama built his original church in 1574, please click on the image for greater detail.


-statues of Bl Takayama Ukon in the Philippines. The first four of the same statue, and the plaque below, are in Plaza Dilao, Paco, Manila, Luzon, Philippines, and the image immediately above of one unveiled 28 March 2017, “Samurai of Christ”, Thomas Aquinas Research Center at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines


-medallion commemorating the beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon

Prayer for intercession

“O God, in Your Wonderful Providence, You have chosen Justus Ukon Takayama to be a singular promoter of Your Kingdom, and an undaunted witness to the Catholic Faith — Reward, we beseech you, his zeal for Your Glory, and graciously grant us what we humbly ask through his intercession. Grant us also that following his example, we may bravely bear all trials for the sake of our holy Catholic Faith. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

Prayer for canonization

“O God, you desire the salvation of all people. Sustained by your grace, Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon followed the Gospel faithfully, and, rejecting all worldly rank and honors, achieved martyrdom by exile from his homeland.

We humbly pray, that Blessed Justo Ukon, who by freely accepting many hardships, gave powerful witness to Your love, may become a source of hope to people throughout the world, and soon be numbered among your saints.

Merciful Father, through the intercession of Blessed Justo Ukon, please hear our fervent prayers. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Father Anton Witwer, SJ, general postulator of the Society of Jesus, explained in 2014, “Since Takayama died in exile because of the weaknesses caused by the maltreatments he suffered in his homeland, the process … is that of a martyr.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 6 – Twenty-six crosses on a hill & “Silence”, the movie: love is stronger than death, 日本二十六聖人, Nihon Nijūroku Seijin


-1628 engraving, please click on the image for greater detail


-monument to the 26 martyrs of Nagasaki, 1962, please click on the image for greater detail

With the Oscars last night, will Hollywood ever tell this story, instead of apostasy? I doubt it. One of the reasons I started this blog, to, in my own small way, tell the brilliance of saints. When Christian missionaries returned to Japan 250 years later, they found a community of “hidden Catholics” that had survived underground.

Jn 11:25


-by Matthew E. Bunson

“A group of twenty-six Christians gave their lives for Christ on a hill near Nagasaki, Japan, on February 5, 1597. They are noteworthy not only for the zeal they showed as they died as martyrs, but for the model they provided to Japanese Christians for centuries to come. Their story reminds us that heroic examples of the Catholic faith transcend country and race.

Jesuit Beginnings

The Catholic faith was introduced into Japan on August 15, 1549 by the great Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier, SJ, who landed on the Japanese island of Kyushu with two fellow Jesuits, Cosme de Torres, SJ, and John Fernandez, SJ. Francis soon learned of the prevailing political situation. Despite the emperor’s traditionally accepted divine origins, he had little authority; instead the local lords (daimyo) exercised extensive powers. Francis concentrated on winning the confidence of the daimyo in the area, and on September 29, he visited Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, and asked for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo readily agreed to his request, believing that such a church might help to establish a trade relationship with Europe.

Francis mastered Japanese, then took his preaching into the neighboring island of Honshu, the main island in the Japanese archipelago. Within six years, six hundred Japanese converted to the faith in one province alone. But the rapid growth of the new faith soon provoked a sharp reaction. In 1561, the daimyo of several provinces launched a persecution that compelled Christians to abjure their faith.

Surprisingly, the Shogunate of Japan initially gave its support to the enterprise of evangelization. Primarily the shoguns believed the new religion might curb the influence of the sometimes-troublesome Buddhist monks in the islands, but they also thought it would facilitate trade with the outside world. Nevertheless, the Japanese officials were suspicious of the long-term intentions of the representatives of Spain and Portugal, most so because they were aware of the expanding Spanish Empire in Asia and the Pacific.

The labors of Francis Xavier were carried on and furthered by the Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, who arrived in 1579. This remarkable missionary opened a school to teach new mission workers, established seminaries, and promoted vocations for the Jesuits among the inhabitants. By around 1580, eighty missionaries were caring for more than one hundred fifty-thousand Christians, including the daimyo Arima Harunobu.

In Rome, Pope Gregory XIII declared his immense satisfaction with the work of the Jesuits and issued the decreed Ex Pastorale Officio in 1585. He declared that the Japanese missions were the exclusive territory of the Society of Jesus. Two years later, the first diocese was created at Funai (modern Oita).


-St Francisco Blanco OFM, Lima, Peru, please click on the image for greater detail”

Change in Politics

Several events soon transpired that changed the tolerant atmosphere. First, assorted Catholic missionaries who lacked the subtlety of the Jesuits arrived in Japan and failed to respect Pope Gregory’s decree. Their aggressive manner offended many Japanese, especially those who feared that Christianity was merely a prelude to invasion by the European powers. Thus, by 1587, when there were over 200,000 Christians in Japan, an initial edict of persecution was instituted by the country’s regent, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Nearly 150 churches were destroyed and missionaries were condemned to exile from the islands. The missionaries declined to leave and found safe haven in various parts of Japan. As a result of the persecution, within a decade the number of Christians had increased by 100,000.

The second major turning point occurred on August 26, 1596, when the San Felipe, a Spanish trade ship traveling from Manila to North America, ran aground off the coast of Shikoku, the southeastern island of Japan. Angered by the violation of Japanese territory, Hideyoshi ordered that the cargo be confiscated, and among the items seized were several cannons. The discovery alarmed Japanese officials, and the ship’s pilot made matters worse. Furious over the loss of his cargo, he threatened the Japanese with military action by Spain, an invasion, he claimed, that would be assisted by the Christian missionaries in the country.

The threats were complete fabrications, of course, but Hideyoshi used the occasion to seize the ship and then to launch the first major anti-Christian persecution in the history of Japan. In 1597, the same year as the arrival of the first bishop, Pierre Martinez, S.J., the government launched its pogrom. The Christian religion was banned, and those who refused to abjure the faith were to be condemned to death.

The initial public execution took place at Nagasaki, a city that had become the center of the Christian faith in Japan. The first martyrs were Paul Miki and his companions.


-drawing remembering 26 Catholic martyrs of Nagasaki, please click on the image for greater detail

Marked for Death

Born around 1564, Paul Miki was the son of a Japanese soldier, Miki Handayu. He was educated by the Jesuits and joined the Society of Jesus in 1580, the first Japanese to enter any religious order. Paul swiftly earned a reputation for the eloquence of his preaching. He was on the verge of ordination when he was arrested and thrown together with twenty-four other Catholics condemned to die in the name of the emperor. With Paul were six European Franciscan missionaries, two other Japanese Jesuits and sixteen Japanese laymen. The laymen included Cosmas Takeya, a sword maker; Paul Ibaraki, a member of a distinguished samurai family; and his brother Leo Karasumaru, who had been a Buddhist monk. Also arrested were Louis Ibaraki, twelve, a nephew of Paul Ibaraki and Leo Karasumaru; and thirteen-year-old Anthony of Nagasaki.

The martyrs were assembled at Kyoto, condemned to die, and then ordered to be taken to Nagasaki for their execution. As was customary, the prisoners had their left ears cut off prior to setting out so that they would be marked as condemned. The march to Nagasaki lasted a month. Along the way the men suffered the tortures of their captors and the jibes of crowds, but they also won the respect of many onlookers as they marched, bleeding and exhausted but still praying and singing. One Japanese Christian layman named Francis—a carpenter from Kyoto—decided to follow the martyrs as they progressed until he was arrested himself and expressed his joy at being included among them.

After the grueling trek from Kyoto, the condemned arrived at last at the place of their martyrdom, the city of Nagasaki. At ten in the morning on February 5, they were led along the highway from Tokitsu to Omura, and then commanded to stop at a small cluster of hills at the base of Mount Kompira. At the lowest of these hills, called Nishizaka, common criminals were put to death, and the lingering smell of rotting corpses could be detected. All was in readiness: Twenty-six crosses awaited the Christians.

Seeing the horrendous surroundings, several Portuguese merchants went to the brother of the governor, Terazawa Hazaburo, and asked him to intervene and at least have the place of execution moved. The governor, Ierazawa Hazaburo, was willing to listen to their plea, especially as his brother was a friend of Paul Miki. As it happened, across the road from the hill of Nishizaka was a lovely field of wheat, and the governor decreed that the executions could be carried out there.


-crucifixion of the martyrs of Nagasaki. A painting in the Franciscan convent of the Lady of the Snows in Prague, please click on the image for greater detail.

Calm amid Horror

At the wheat field, the martyrs were divided by the soldiers into three groups, each one headed by a Franciscan reciting the rosary. Each of the martyrs had his own cross, the wood cut to his height. Gonzalo Garcia, the forty-year-old Franciscan lay brother from India, was the first to be led to his cross. He was shown the instrument of his imminent death, and he knelt to kiss it. Today, he is venerated as the patron saint of Mumbai. Following his example, the martyrs one by one embraced the wooden crosses before them.

Unlike the Romans, the Japanese officials did not use nails. Instead, they fixed the martyrs to their crosses by iron rings around the neck, hands, and feet and ropes tightly binding the waist. The one exception was the Spanish Franciscan priest, Peter Bautista, Superior of the Franciscan Mission in Japan. This former ambassador from Spain (who had devoted his ministry for some years to lepers) stretched out his hands and instructed the executioners to use nails. Paul Miki, meanwhile, proved shorter than his cross had been measured. As his feet did not reach the lower rings, the executioners tied him down at the chest with rope and linens.

With their victims affixed, the soldiers and executioners simultaneously lifted the crosses. As history has demonstrated many times before and after, the crowd that had gathered for amusement at the expense of the dying fell silent as the large crosses thudded into the holes in the earth and the martyrs exhaled in agony from the jarring drop. On the hill with them were four thousand Catholics from Nagasaki. Young Anthony looked down and beheld his family at the front of the crowd, and he spoke words of hope to them.

Then, just as each had embraced his cross, the martyrs one by one began to sing hymns of praise, the Te Deum and the Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. The victims struggled to sing and to raise their voices to God one last time. From his cross, Paul Miki also preached for the last time. Seeing the edict of death hanging from one soldier’s long, curved spear for all to see, he responded to the charge, his voice carrying across the hills:

I did not come from the Philippines. I am a Japanese by birth, and a brother of the Society of Jesus. I have committed no crime, and the only reason why I am put to death is that I have been teaching the doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I am very happy to die for such a cause, and see my death as a great blessing from the Lord. At this critical time, when you can rest assured that I will not try to deceive you, I want to stress and make it unmistakably clear that man can find no way to salvation other than the Christian way. (Luis Frois, Martyrs’ Records)

And then the martyrs began their final minutes. The first to die was the Mexican Franciscan Brother Philip de Jesus, who had also been measured incorrectly, so his entire weight was placed on the ring around his neck. He slowly choked to death, until the order was given for two soldiers to pierce his chest on either side with their spears. The soldiers, in pairs, thrust their spears into each side of the remaining victims until the blades literally crossed each other. Death was virtually instantaneous. The martyrs accepted their end with the same prayerful calm that marked their ascent upon the crosses. The gathered crowd, however, cried out in anguish, and the din could be heard in the city of Nagasaki below. Many Japanese who watched the horror unfold became Christians themselves in the coming weeks and months. For the soldiers, the scene proved too much, and many began to weep at the courage of the dead Christians, especially young Louis Ibaraki who cried out, “Jesus . . . Mary” with his last breath.

With the execution over, the Christians in the crowd surged forward to soak up the blood of the martyrs in cloths and to remove small pieces of clothing to preserve as relics. Driven away forcibly by the guards, the crowds slowly dispersed, turning back to see the last rays of the sun framing the twenty-six crosses in stark relief.


-Catholic martyrs of Nagasaki, please click on the image for greater detail

Love is Stronger than Death

After dark, more people gathered. Christians from Nagasaki arrived to pray for the martyrs. In the days following, thousands more made a pilgrimage to the site. Peasants, local daimyo, soldiers, and foreigners stopped at the hill and remained there transfixed in prayer or amazement until the guards forced them away. Word spread across Japan, and the example of the twenty-six martyrs became the rallying cry for Christians.

The people of Nagasaki christened Nishizaka the “Martyrs’ Hill.” The next year, an ambassador from the Philippines was given permission by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to gather up the remains and the crosses. Pilgrims continued to visit the site, and the best efforts of officials could not stop new visits, both public and clandestine.

Paul Miki and his Companions proved the first of many thousands of martyrs in the church of Japan. Sporadic persecutions were conducted over subsequent years, erupting in 1613 under the sharp campaign of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), who considered Christianity to be detrimental to the good of Japan and the social order he was instituting. The next year, all missionaries were expelled and Japanese converts were commanded to abjure the faith. Long-simmering resentment against the persecutions culminated in a Christian uprising in 1637. This was mercilessly put down, and the once-flourishing Church in Japan seemed dead. Foreigners were forbidden to enter the country on pain of death.

The Church outside of Japan did not forget Paul Miki and his companions. The Twenty-Six Martyrs were beatified on September 15, 1627 under Pope Urban VIII, and they were canonized in 1862 by Pope Blessed Pius IX, making them the first canonized martyrs of the Far East. But then came a truly astonishing turn of events. In 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States arrived in Japan, and for the first time in two centuries, the country established official contact with the outside world. To the utter shock of Westerners, the Japanese Christians had not abandoned the faith despite brutal persecution. For two centuries, they had practiced the faith in secret. In 1865, priests from the Foreign Missions discovered twenty thousand Christians on the island of Kyushu alone. Religious liberty was at last granted in 1873 by the imperial government. What had sustained these Christians in the long dark years was their trust in Christ and the examples of those who had died for the faith. Foremost in their memory were the Twenty-Six Martyrs upon Nishizaka Hill.

Today, the site of the Twenty-Six Martyrs remains a beloved place of pilgrimage, and they are honored by the Monument of the 26 Martyrs erected in 1962, as well as a shrine and a museum. Thousands of visitors arrive every year. One of them, in 1981, was Pope John Paul II. He declared during his visit:

“On Nishizaka, on February 5, 1597, twenty-six martyrs testified to the power of the Cross; they were the first of a rich harvest of martyrs, for many more would subsequently hallow this ground with their suffering and death. . . . Today, I come to the Martyrs’ Hill to bear witness to the primacy of love in the world. In this holy place, people of all walks of life gave proof that love is stronger than death.

Foreign Franciscan missionaries – Alcantarines

Saint Martin of the Ascension
Saint Pedro Bautista
Saint Philip of Jesus
Saint Francisco Blanco
Saint Francisco of Saint Michael
Saint Gundisalvus (Gonsalvo) Garcia

Japanese Franciscan tertiaries

Saint Antony Dainan
Saint Bonaventure of Miyako
Saint Cosmas Takeya
Saint Francisco of Nagasaki
Saint Francis Kichi
Saint Gabriel de Duisco
Saint Joachim Sakakibara
Saint John Kisaka
Saint Leo Karasumaru
Saint Louis Ibaraki
Saint Matthias of Miyako
Saint Michael Kozaki
Saint Paul Ibaraki
Saint Paul Suzuki
Saint Pedro Sukejiroo
Saint Thomas Kozaki
Saint Thomas Xico

Japanese Jesuits

Saint James Kisai
Saint John Soan de Goto
Saint Paul Miki

O God our Father, source of strength to all your saints, Who brought the holy martyrs of Japan through the suffering of the cross to the joys of life eternal: Grant that we, being encouraged by their example, may hold fast the faith we profess, even to death itself; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Love of Him,
Matthew

Donal Og (Young/Beautiful Donal)


-please click ‘Play’


-please click ‘Play’

-an Gaelige, please click ‘Play’

My Donal Og, I love you, and you sail o’er the water
Take me with you to be your partner
‘Tis at fair and market you’ll be well looked-after
And you can sleep with the Greek king’s daughter

First time I saw you ’twas a Sunday evening
‘Twas at the Easter as I was kneeling
‘Twas on Christ’s passion that I was reading
But my mind, it was on you, and my own heart bleeding

My Donal Og, you’ll not find me lazy
Not like some high-born expensive lady
I’ll do your milking and I’ll nurse your baby
If you were set upon I would back you bravely

For you said you would meet me, but you were lying
Behind the sheepfold as the day was dying
I whistled first, then I started hailing
And all that I heard was the young lambs’ wailing

And you said you would give me, but you talk lightly
Fish-skin gloves that would fit me tightly
Bird-skin shoes when I go out walking
A silken dress that would set Ireland talking

My mother, she said we should not be meeting
That I should pass you by and not give you greeting
‘Twas a good time surely she chose for cheating
With the stable bare and the horse retreating

Black as the sloe is the heart inside me
Black as the coal with the grief that drives me
Black as the boot print on shining hallway
‘Twas you that blackened it ever and always

For you took what’s before me and what’s behind me
You took east and west when you would not mind me
Sun, moon and stars from me you have taken
And Christ likewise if I’m not mistaken

My Donal Og, when you sail o’er the water

Love & joy,
Matthew

Galway Shawl


-Dingle, County Kerry


-please click ‘Play’

At Oranmore in the county Galway
One pleasant evening in the month’s of May
I spied a damsel; she was young and handsome
Her beauty fairly took my breath away

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

We kept on walking she kept on talking
Till her fathers cottage came in to view
Said she, ‘come in sir’, and meet my father
And play, to please him, ‘The Foggy Dew’

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

She sat me down beside the hearthstone
I could see her father he was six feet tall
And soon her mother, had the kettle singing
All I could think of, was the Galway shawl

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

I played, ‘The Black Bird’, ‘The Stack of Barley’
‘Rodney’s Glory’ and ‘The Foggy Dew’
She sang each note like an Irish linnet
And tears weld in her eyes of blue

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

‘Twas early, early, all in the morning
I hit the road for old Donegal
Said she, ‘goodbye sir’, she cried and kissed me
But my heart remain with the Galway shawl

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

She worn no jewels, nor costly diamonds
No paint nor powder, no none at all
But she worn a bonnet with ribbons on it
And ’round her shoulders was the Galway shawl

Love, & ’tis true, ’tis true,
Matthew

Jehovah’s Witnesses – strategies

Jehovah witnesses are showing bible behind door. View from peephole.

“Each month Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) distribute millions of books, magazines, and pamphlets, in dozens of languages. Many of these are intended for non-Witnesses to try to convert them, but others are intended for Witnesses themselves.

One of the handbooks used by missionaries in the field is entitled Reasoning from the Scriptures. The book clearly centers around WTS (Watch Tower Society) theology, and this point is evident in part from the fact that some of the specific subjects treated in the book are identified as “Not a Bible teaching.”

The publication is intended to enable the average Witness going door-to-door to accomplish two purposes. First, it provides many Scripture references which seemingly support the WTS’s belief system. Second, it “arms” the JW with a variety of responses to statements and questions that are likely to surface in nearly any typical encounter with a non-Witness.

Some topics clearly have been selected because they concern beliefs peculiar to Witnesses. Others have been included because they are held by those of other faiths. This is especially true of Catholic doctrines. (A side note here: The Witnesses believe that all Christian denominations are demonic in origin, and they maintain Christianity as a whole went apostate—entirely abandoned the true faith—starting all the way back in the latter portion of the first century A.D. From their perspective, this alleged apostasy fulfills predictions in the New Testament. The main problem with this is that while the New Testament does speak of an apostasy, it refers to the falling away of large number of believers near the end times, not to the defection of the Church as an institution.)

Catholic doctrines discussed include apostolic succession; baptism as a sacrament bestowing grace; confession; holidays and holy days, such as Christmas, Easter, and St. Valentine’s Day; the use of images; Marian doctrines; the Mass; and purgatory. These alone constitute more than a tenth of the book and give an indication that the Witnesses see the Catholic Church as a main target.

Reasoning from the Scriptures begins with two how-to chapters, “Introductions for Use in the Field Ministry” and “How You Might Respond to Potential Conversation Stoppers.” The first gives suggested opening lines. “If the introductions you are now using seldom open the way for conversations, try some of these suggestions. When you do so, you will no doubt want to put them in your own words.”

Sample Openings

Five openings are given under the heading “Bible/ God.” The first reads this way: “Hello. I’m making just a brief call to share an important message with you. Please note what it says here in the Bible. (Read Scripture, such as Revelation 21:3-4.) What do you think about that?”

Notice the hook: “an important message.” It works for the advertising industry; why not in this context? Then come the Bible verses, followed by questions. The missionaries don’t tell their listener what to think—at least not at this point. Instead, they elicit his views. Once he gives them, it’s awkward for him to back out of the conversation.

Notice also in this example and in many of the ones that follow, JWs typically ask prospective converts for their own opinion or feeling on a theological matter. The advantage this approach has for JWs is that virtually everyone has some kind of opinion on the subject matter presented, so this approach practically guarantees that JWs can successfully engage a person in a dialogue. Once the dialogue has been established, the JW is then on his way to potentially making a convert. Fortunately for the JW, the average person fails to realize that theological or religious truth does not depend on one’s mere opinion or feeling.

Another opening line under this section is this one: “We’re encouraging folks to read their Bible. The answers that it gives to important questions often surprise people. For example: . . . (Ps. 104:5; or Dan. 2:44; or some other).” Again, here the listener is told he’ll be let in on a secret. He reads the passages, is asked his opinion, and then the Witnesses steer the conversation their way.

The leads given under the heading “Employment/ Housing” are more down-to-earth: “We’ve been talking with your neighbors about what can be done to assure that there will be employment and housing for everyone. Do you believe that it is reasonable to expect that human governments will accomplish this? . . . But there is someone who knows how to solve these problems; that is mankind’s Creator (Is. 65:21-23).”

This example shows another typical approach for Witnesses: they often target universal concerns. Who, for instance, is not worried about the future? Or living in a world free from pollution, poverty, and crime? So the “opening” for Witnesses often begins by focusing on these universal concerns, then continues by establishing a certain rapport, and finally turns to conversation that is more specifically theological in nature.

When many people in the area say, “I have my own religion,” it is recommended the missionaries use this opening: “Good morning. We are visiting all the families on your block (or, in this area), and we find that most of them have their own religion. No doubt you do too. . . . But, regardless of our religion, we are affected by many of the same problems—high cost of living, crime, illness—is that not so? . . . Do you feel that there is any real solution to these things? . . . (2 Pet. 3:13; etc.).”

Taking Cues

When many people say, “I’m busy,” this opening is used: “Hello. We’re visiting everyone in this neighborhood with an important message. No doubt you are a busy person, so I’ll be brief.” If the missionaries find themselves in a territory that is often worked by other JWs, they begin this way: “We’re making our weekly visit in the neighborhood, and we have something more to share with you about the wonderful things that God’s Kingdom will do for mankind.”

The second chapter of the Reasoning book instructs missionaries in how to “respond to potential conversation stoppers.” The reader is told that “not everyone is willing to listen, and we do not try to force them. But with discernment it is often possible to turn potential conversation stoppers into opportunities for further discussion.”

Missionaries are told not to memorize these lines, but to master them and put them in their own words. The key is sincerity. If the person who answers the door says, “I’m not interested,” the JW is to follow up with this: “May I ask, Do you mean that you are not interested in the Bible, or is it religion in general that does not interest you? I ask that because we have met many who at one time were religious but no longer go to church because they see much hypocrisy in the churches (or, they feel that religion is just another money-making business; or, they do not approve of religion’s involvement in politics; etc.). The Bible does not approve of such practices either and it provides the only basis on which we can look to the future with confidence.” Six other responses to the “I’m not interested” line are given.

Keep in mind that the JW has been well-trained and is well-versed in the “prepackaged” responses he has been taught. This fact adds to the appearance of the JW’s credibility and even his biblical “knowledge.” The reality, however, is that a given Witness has merely become adept at repeating select Bible verses and responses which he uses time and time again.

“Not Interested in Witnesses”

If the person is more specific still and says, “I’m not interested in the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the missionaries give this kind of response: “Many folks tell us that. Have you ever wondered why people like me volunteer to make these calls even though we know that the majority of householders may not welcome us? (Give the gist of Matt. 25:31-33, explaining that a separating of people of all nations is taking place and that their response to the Kingdom message is an important factor in this. Or state the gist of Ezekiel 9:1-11, explaining that, on the basis of people’s reaction to the Kingdom message, everyone is being ‘marked’ either for preservation through the great tribulation or for destruction by God.)”

Here you see peeping out one of the Witnesses’ peculiar doctrines—they don’t believe in hell. They think the unsaved are annihilated and simply cease to exist. Only the saved will live eternally. If the person at the door says, “I have my own religion,” he should be asked, “Would you mind telling me, Does your religion teach that the time will come when people who love what is right will live on earth forever? … That is an appealing thought, isn’t it? … It is right here in the Bible (Ps. 37:29; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 21:4).”

Notice again the approach: the Witness ultimately gets to a theological matter by means of an attraction to the emotions or one’s opinions (“That is an appealing thought, isn’t it?”) and not to revealed religious truth.

Also, this belief that the majority of believers will reside on a paradise Earth is another doctrine peculiar to the Witnesses. They think the saved will live forever on a regenerated Earth sometime in the future, after the wicked have been destroyed by Jehovah God at the Battle of Armageddon. But the “hook” they use is not peculiar to them.

Like Fundamentalists

Fundamentalists, though their theology is vastly better than that of the JWs, use a similar technique. On one hand, JWs argue to the truth of their position by asking, “That is an appealing thought, isn’t it?” Many people will conclude, “Yes, it is, and therefore it must be true”—illogical, perhaps, but that’s how many people think.

On the other hand, Fundamentalists will ask, “Wouldn’t you like an absolute assurance of salvation?” “Who wouldn’t?” is the reply, and, having given that reply, many people will find themselves accepting the Fundamentalists’ notion that one can have an absolute assurance of salvation (a doctrine that arises from their belief that all one needs to do to be saved is to “accept” Jesus as one’s “personal Lord and Savior”).

If the person answering the door says, “I am already well acquainted with your work” (a polite way of saying, “Get lost”), the missionaries should say: “I am very glad to hear that. Do you have a close relative or friend that is a Witness? . . . May I ask, Do you believe what we teach from the Bible, namely, that we are living in ‘the last days,’ that soon God is going to destroy the wicked, and that this earth will become a paradise in which people can live forever in perfect health among neighbors who really love one another?” Notice that once again the Witness has managed to turn around the conversation with this response and thus at least “plant seeds” in the mind of the person at the door.

The above examples show how JWs typically work when they come knocking at your door. It is evident from the Reasoning book that they are prepared for virtually every kind of response they may face. But while their “gospel” is false and their presentation is carefully prepackaged, Catholics should at least take note of the JWs’ willingness to promote what they believe. This is perhaps one lesson we can learn from them.”

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Love & truth,
Matthew

Impassibility: does God have emotions?


-by Trent Horn

“Biblical descriptions of God’s emotions are metaphors that describe how human beings relate to God, not how God relates to us

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and atheist whose writings are very critical of Christianity. In her essay “God’s Emotions” in the anthology The End of Christianity, she argues that emotions are a non-rational “evolved functional feedback response” found in higher-order animals. Therefore, the Bible’s depictions of God having emotions such as anger or regret reveal that ignorant nomads who “only had a superficial idea of what these words mean” wrote the Bible. According to Tarico, “It is a testament to our narcissism as a species that so few humans are embarrassed to assign divinity the attributes of a male alpha primate.”

Some people may say biblical descriptions of God’s emotions are nothing to be ashamed of because they make God more relatable to us. But although God did experience human emotions through the human nature He assumed through His Incarnation as Jesus Christ, God does not experience emotions as part of His divine nature. The Incarnation makes God more relatable precisely because, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God—”the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable”—with our human representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God (CCC 42).

For example, the persons you and I know have intellects and loving qualities, but God is “intellect;” He is “love” (1 John 4:8). God is not a person or being who embodies these attributes; He is the perfect exemplification of them. This is similar to the fact that God doesn’t have “goodness” or “being,” but simply is “Goodness” or “Being” itself.

If this is hard to grasp, remember what God said about Himself through the prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9).

Emotions usually comprise our responses to unexpected or uncontrollable events. But nothing can surprise or overwhelm that which is “the infinite act of being,” so that means God lacks emotions. This doesn’t mean, however, that God is an impersonal force of nature. It just means that although God has qualities we see in persons, God himself is not a person, in the same way, humans are persons (similar to how God is not a being but just is being). According to Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin priest and author of the book Does God Suffer?:

From the dawn of the patristic period Christian theology has held as axiomatic that God is impassible—that is, he does not undergo emotional changes of state, and so cannot suffer. . . . God is impassible in that he does not undergo successive and fluctuating emotional states, nor can the created order alter him in such a way so as to cause him to suffer any modification or loss.

When the Bible describes God as having emotions such as anger, regret, or pleasure, we understand that these are metaphors that describe how human beings relate to God, not how God relates to us. Saying God is angry at our sin or pleased with our obedience doesn’t mean God is reacting to something we did. It means we did something to alienate ourselves from God or to draw us closer to him. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger put it this way:

The wrath of God is a way of saying that I have been living in a way that is contrary to the love that is God. . . . “The punishment of God” is in fact an expression for having missed the right road and then experiencing the consequences that follow from taking the wrong track and wandering away from the right way of living.

The Bible’s descriptions of God’s emotions also represent how ancient people conceived of God in light of their cultural context. In places such as the ancient Near East, deities were often compared to human kings, and the best kings were those who were strong and swiftly punished anyone, whether foreign invaders or domestic rebels, who threatened the populace.

Just as the Bible contains ancient, popular descriptions of the world that should not be equated with modern scientific descriptions of it (for example, descriptions of the firmament), the Bible also contains ancient, popular descriptions of God that are true if they are not treated as modern theological or philosophical descriptions of God.

Now, Valerie Tarico emphatically objects to the idea that the Bible’s descriptions of God’s emotions are not literal. She says, “A metaphor about something as deep as the human relationship to ultimate reality needs to be deeply accurate . . . but the Biblical descriptions of God have this backwards.” They are backward, according to Tarico, because emotions are merely physiological responses to weakness or stress. Saying God is angry or pleased would indicate that God is imperfect.

But remember that these descriptions of God are not obscure or “mere” metaphors. They are expressions, albeit in an indirect way, of real truths about God that ancient people understood despite their ignorance of the physiological causes of emotions. Though they lacked Tarico’s training in psychology, ancient people still knew that being angry at someone meant you had a negative relationship with that person, and being pleased with someone meant you had a positive relationship. These are not naïve or improper ways of describing how finite, sinful humans might stand in relation to God.

People who say that the God of the Bible has “all-too-human needs or desires,” as does Tarico’s fellow contributor to The End of Christianity, Jaco Gerike, fail to grasp this metaphorical understanding of God’s emotions. Or they outright reject it. Gerike says, “None of these divine psychological characteristics were in their biblical contexts understood as being mere metaphorical descriptions or the result of any supposed divine accommodation.”

But the whole point of divine accommodation is that God lowered himself to a level for the biblical authors to understand him. Just as these authors would not have considered their descriptions of the physical world to be popular descriptions accommodated to ancient sensibilities, but rather how the world appeared, they would have thought the same of the descriptions of God they penned in the Bible. Those descriptions are true, but not if we read them as modern, theological treatises.

Sometimes they even fail to grasp the literal truth behind these nonliteral descriptions. For example, Gerike says that God is “narcissistic and egotistic” because he prescribes in detail how to worship him. Gerike takes aim in particular at the elaborate instructions for constructing the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 25-40 but fails to see that these instructions were for the Israelite’s benefit, not God’s. Human beings require custom and ritual in order to form their identities, and these rituals foster proper reverence for God. Just because they were tailored for what a resident of the ancient Near East would expect for pious worship does not make them evidence of God’s “narcissism.”

Finally, it is egotistical for creatures to demand to be worshiped, because they are not infinite in value like God. God, however, has a right to our worship, because he is “that which no greater can be thought.” Worship means we give someone his “worth-ship,” and so a being of infinite worth has a right to our unconditional obedience and adoration.”

Love & His love,
Matthew

Why don’t intellectuals believe in God?

“For many people who don’t believe God exists, this is one reason why: the smart people they know and respect, such as scientists and philosophers, are often atheists.

For example, ninety-three percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the most elite scientific organizations in the United States, deny God’s existence. One study found that seventy-three percent of professional philosophers are atheists

With such an overwhelming amount of smart people embracing atheism, it’s no surprise that a person who wants to be intellectually responsible will be disinclined to acknowledge that God exists. Let’s look at two strategies for how we can lower this mountain, and prepare a way for the Lord.

Strategy 1:

Explain that just because someone is smart in one area of expertise doesn’t make him competent when it comes to the question of God’s existence.

QUESTION: “Would you trust a mechanic’s views on politics because he is a good mechanic?”

I think it’s safe to say your friend will answer no. The training that a mechanic receives as a mechanic doesn’t equip him with political knowledge or wisdom. Explain that the same principle applies to what natural scientists and philosophers who are not trained in philosophy of religion, for example, say about God’s existence.

You can remind your friend that God is not subject to scientific inquiry. God is an immaterial being who transcends the boundaries of science’s data source—namely, physical reality. This being the case, no amount of scientific training is going to equip a scientist to pursue the philosophical inquiry of God’s existence.

QUESTION: “If you shouldn’t trust a mechanic’s views on politics just because he knows cars, then why should you trust a scientist’s views about God because he knows chemistry?”

Since the question of God’s existence is beyond a scientist’s expertise, as a matter of authority his opinion on the matter is of equal value to that of any other educated non-scientist—just like his opinion on art, or history, or sports.

Strategy 2:

Name some smart people that were/are believers in God or some transcendent power.

Your friend doesn’t merely have to trust polls that say many scientists and philosophers are believers. You can share with him the names and pro-God quotes of some of the greatest minds of history. Some of them laymen who were/are theists:

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), father of the heliocentric theory of the solar system: “The universe has been wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.”

Max Planck (1858–1947), originator of the quantum theory: “Religion is the link that binds man to God—resulting from the respectful humility before a supernatural power, to which all human life is subject and which controls our weal and woe.”

Albert Einstein (1879–1955): “Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality and intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order… This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”

And consider the contributions of these Catholic scientists:

Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294), English Franciscan monk whose writings predicted the construction of the telescope and laid the groundwork for the scientific method.

St. Albert the Great (1200–1280), bishop who taught St. Thomas Aquinas and who did a great amount of observational work in botany and zoology.

Thomas Bradwardine (1290–1349), archbishop of Canterbury who proved Aristotle’s scientific ideas on motion to be inconsistent and was the first to attempt to formulate a mathematical law of motion.

Nicholas of Oresme (1323–1382), bishop of Lisieux in France who made significant contributions to psychology, physics, mathematics, and economics.

Nicolas of Cusa (1401–1464), German cardinal who posed bold ideas such as the universe being infinitely large and that the sun and earth were in motion in infinite space.

Marin Mersenne (1588–1648), historic figure in mathematics referred to as the “father of acoustics.”

Christoph Scheiner (1573–1650), Jesuit priest who was one of the first five people to discover sunspots with a telescope independently of each other. His sunspot data is still used by scientists today.

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–1799), top biologist of the eighteenth century whose investigative work and experiments served as the foundation for the work of Louis Pasteur

Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), Augustinian monk and priest who was the founder of genetics.

Abbe Henri Breuil (1877–1962), one of the leading paleontologists of his time and known for his expertise on cave paintings and prehistoric art.

George Lemaitre (1894–1966), director of the Pontifical Academy of the Science who was one of the two originators of the Big Bang theory.

By now your friend will see that to believe in God is to be in good intellectual company.”

Love & His truth,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine


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