All posts by techdecisions

Smells & bells


-please click on the image for greater detail

-altar bells used at the elevation of the the Eucharistic, both species to draw the attention, practically, of large congregations who may be in a cathedral so large they may have trouble seeing the elevation or knowing the exact moment the bread and wine are changed into the Eucharist, to mark that special moment. This is a very minimalist modern design, some current and older versions are quite ornate.


-the crotalus. It can take many forms but is usually always wooden and must make a loud sound, similar to the volume of altar bells. In the Roman Rite, altar bells are not supposed to be rung after the Gloria in the liturgy on the evening of Holy Thursday, and are supposed to remain unused until the Gloria on Holy Saturday. This is supposed to make things more somber as we remember the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But, during this short period of time, is anything supposed to take its place? That’s where the crotalus comes in. The Church’s liturgical rubrics don’t prescribe a replacement for altar bells, but there is a long-standing tradition of using a wooden clapper or noise-maker in its place. This serves to both mark the same events as the altar bells, but in a less “sweet” way and thus maintain the somber tone.

The term “crotalus” is a Latin term that comes from the Greek word “krotalon” (κροταλον), which means “rattle.” (As a result, “crotalus” is also the name of a genus of rattlesnakes.) Crotaluses can come in many different designs (see the pictures and videos at the end of this article for examples).

The crotalus used to be universally used, but fell out of use in the last few decades. It seems, however, to have made a little bit of a comeback lately due to an increase of interest in traditional liturgy.

(“Smells *& bells is has been used by progressive Catholics derisively post Vatican II to mock the use of pre-conciliar liturgical practices.  Too cool for school.)


Karl Keating

“I was debating the leader of a ministry that tried to lure Catholics into “real” Christianity. In the question period a young woman raised her hand. She looked angry and, turning to me, said, “My grandmother lives in Mexico. She is a pious Catholic. She goes to Mass every week and prays the rosary every day. Under her bed she keeps a glass jar with a hairball in it, and she worships the hairball. Why does your church promote such idolatry?”

I replied that worshiping hairballs is no part of Catholic practice, that Church authorities would disapprove of the practice if they knew about it, and that she should consider asking her grandmother’s priest to intervene and set the pious but confused woman straight. The questioner seemed to accept my plea of innocence. She seemed to recognize that we shouldn’t be blamed for something we would condemn if we only knew about it.

Then questions turned to real, not imagined, Catholic practices, ones that many Fundamentalists find repellent. These are the “smells and bells” of Catholicism: actions that mark Catholics as Catholics, things we do that make us stand out.

We have sacraments

Fundamentalists dislike peculiarly Catholic customs because they think they’re non-scriptural, even anti-scriptural. This attitude can be overcome, but it takes patience. First, we must explain what we mean by a particular practice (many Fundamentalists don’t know, say, what the sign of the cross is—they don’t know the motions, and they don’t know the words).

Then we must explain why we do these things (because they bring to mind our Lord’s redemptive work, for instance). Third, we must question Fundamentalists closely to see if they harbor some unusual misunderstanding of our practices. Many of them do.

We need to impress upon them that Catholicism is a sacramental religion. (Ed. In ancient Roman religion and law, the sacramentum was an oath or vow that rendered the swearer sacer, “given to the gods,” in the negative sense if he violated it. Sacramentum also referred to a thing that was pledged as a sacred bond, and consequently forfeit if the oath were violated. Both instances imply an underlying sacratio, act of consecration.)

Sacraments are visible signs of God’s grace; they are actions that not only signify the transmittal of grace to us but also really do transmit grace. They are a natural consequence of the Incarnation. God took on flesh (matter) to save us, and he left behind actions that use matter (such as water, oil, and wine) to continue to give us his saving grace.

Unlike Catholicism, Fundamentalism is not a sacramental religion. It’s one thing, Fundamentalists say, for God to take flesh and to use material things during his sojourn on Earth. It’s something else for him to set up a Church that encourages the continued use of material things. God is too great, too “wholly other,” to use matter as a vehicle of grace.

For the Fundamentalist, it gets worse.

Sacramentals more troubling

Aside from the seven sacraments, Catholics have sacramentals, and in some ways sacramentals are more off-putting for “Bible Christians” than are the seven sacraments themselves. After all, even Fundamentalists have the “ordinances” of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, although they don’t think these “ordinances” do what our sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist do, such as remit sins and convey grace. But Fundamentalists have nothing like sacramentals—or so they think.

The Code of Canon Law explains, “[S]acramentals are sacred signs by which spiritual effects are signified and are obtained by the intercession of the Church” (can. 1166). They aren’t the ordinary means of grace established by Christ—that is, they aren’t sacraments as such—but they are related to sacraments.

With sacramentals we consecrate our daily lives and keep thoughts of God ever in our minds. There are seven sacraments but countless sacramentals. Any action or thing put to a sacred purpose may be considered a sacramental.

Fundamentalists use sacramentals, but they don’t realize it. Consider the Protestant wedding ceremony. The bride wears white and, perhaps, a veil. She carries a bouquet. She and the groom exchange vows and rings. Each of these actions and things has a religious significance: purity in the white garments, the beauty of married life in the bouquet, fidelity in the vows, permanence in the circularity of the rings. Each is a sign of the holiness of matrimony. Each is a sacramental, if the word is used in a wide sense.

Borrowing from paganism?

If spoken to gently, most Fundamentalists can come to accept the fact that they too use sacramentals, even if they reject the word. They are especially uncomfortable, though, when told that many of these sacramentals originated in pagan religions. After all, a standard Fundamentalist charge against Catholicism is that its distinctive customs and beliefs are of pagan origin.

Fundamentalists don’t want to admit that they too have borrowed from paganism, but that is exactly what they have done. After all, their churches are offshoots of offshoots from the Catholic Church, even if they won’t admit the fact. (Fundamentalists believe their brand of Christianity goes straight back to New Testament times. It actually goes back only to the nineteenth century.)

Let’s look at a few Catholic practices that most irk Fundamentalists.

Genuflecting

When they pass the Blessed Sacrament, Catholics go down on one knee to honor the Real Presence. This posture of subservience makes perfect sense, since Christ is really present in the tabernacle. Fundamentalists don’t believe he’s there, of course (they believe instead in a Real Absence), but they can be made to acknowledge the sensibleness of genuflecting through analogy.

Ask them to imagine themselves at Buckingham Palace, at an audience with the Queen of England. She enters the room and walks up to a woman. Under court protocol, what is the woman supposed to do? She is supposed to curtsy as a sign of respect for the Queen.

Another analogy. A soldier meets an officer on the street. What does the soldier do? He salutes. Again, a sign of respect and an acknowledgement of a superior.

Who is more superior to us than God? Which Fundamentalist, transported back to first-century Palestine, would not throw himself prostrate at the sight of Jesus? If that would be proper, then why not genuflect where Jesus is sacramentally present? Once you accept the actual presence of Christ in the tabernacle, genuflection makes perfect sense. Leaving out the genuflection would be a bit of an effrontery, like refusing to curtsy to the Queen.

At Mass we stand when the Gospel is read, out of respect for the very words of Jesus, and we sit to listen attentively to the other scriptural readings. At the consecration we kneel, kneeling being the posture of adoration. What we are doing is praying with our bodies, not just with our minds, and praying that way makes perfect sense for a creature composed of both body and soul. The postures we use during Mass show us—and those around us—what we believe and what we take seriously.

Sign of the cross

Every Fundamentalist knows Catholics cross themselves when praying in church, when hiding in foxholes, and when stepping into the batter’s box. They don’t, as a rule, know that Eastern Orthodox Christians also cross themselves (although they do it “backward”), so Fundamentalists think the sign of the cross is something that distinguishes Catholics from “real” Christians.

They don’t know that “real” Christians began making the sign of the cross at an early date. The theologian Tertullian, writing in 211, said, “We furrow our forehead with the sign [of the cross].” Making the sign was already an old custom when he wrote. It may have been common even when the apostles were alive.

True, the practice is not mentioned in the New Testament, but neither are peculiarly Fundamentalist practices such as the altar call, in which people march to the front of a church to announce publicly that, because of the preaching, they have just decided to “make a commitment to Christ.” This Fundamentalist practice—we can call it a Fundamentalist sacramental—is nowhere alluded to in Scripture, but it is not contrary to any scriptural teaching.

Catholics’ sign of the cross signifies two things at once: our redemption through the death of Jesus on the cross and the Trinity as the central truth of Christianity. When we make the sign we trace the cross on ourselves, and we recite the holy invocation: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We affirm what Christ came down to do for us (to redeem us by his voluntary death), and we affirm his chief revelation to us: that God is simultaneously one and three.

Incense

Not used as often in our liturgies as it once was, incense symbolizes the pleasant odor of Christian virtue and our prayers rising to God. It is the first part of the “smells and bells,” and most Fundamentalists think only Catholics use incense. But incense is not peculiar to Catholics. The ancients, both Jews and Gentiles, used it. Incense accompanied prayers at the Temple (Luke 1:10), and one of the gifts given to the Christ Child by the Magi was frankincense (Matt. 2:11).

But all that was before Christianity began, say Fundamentalists. Okay, but the book of Revelation deals with what happens afterward, and there we find that “the smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hands of an angel” (Rev. 8:4). If there’s incense in heaven, why not in churches here below?

Bells

Our church towers commonly have bells, often consisting of large sets, known as carillons, that can be rung from a keyboard. Small handbells are rung during Mass. Bells have been used for centuries to call people to Mass and to sanctify certain times of the day—for instance, it once was the custom, in Catholic countries, to ring church bells at noon so workers in the fields could pause and recite the Angelus. During Mass bells are rung at the consecration, partly to focus our attention, partly to echo the hosannahs of the heavenly choirs.

Fundamentalists disapprove of bells being used in Christian worship. Why they disapprove isn’t often clear. Some say bells are of pagan origin and thus should be forbidden; but pagans also sang hymns, and no Fundamentalist thinks Christian hymns should be forbidden.

Other Fundamentalists are more straightforward: they don’t like bells simply because, in their minds, bells are identified with the Catholic Church. Of course, Protestant churches often have bell towers, even if those towers contain no bells, but that’s overlooked by these Fundamentalists. For them, opposition to bells hardly rises above mere prejudice.

Rosary

The usual complaint about the rosary is that it violates Matthew 6:7, which reads this way in the King James Version: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do.”

“See,” say Fundamentalists, “you Catholics repeat prayers, and Jesus told us not to do that!” Did he really? Then how does one account for what happened in the garden of Gethsemane? There Jesus prayed the same prayer three times—that is, he repeated the prayer.

Did he violate his own injunction? Was he a hypocrite? No, that’s impossible—which means Fundamentalists are wrong when they claim Jesus condemned repeated prayers. They should read Matthew 6:7 again. The operative word isn’t repetitions. It’s vain. Jesus condemned vain prayers, such as those to pagan gods.

Those gods sported multiple titles. Worshipers thought the gods would decline to hear their petitions unless they were addressed by the titles they wished to be addressed by at a particular moment. Having no way to know the titles of the day, worshipers started their prayers with a litany of titles, to make sure they hit upon the correct ones. Such a habit was vain not because it was repetitious but because it was futile: those gods didn’t even exist.

The rosary is an intensely biblical prayer. It contains not just the Our Father, which Jesus himself taught us, but also the Hail Mary, which is built of verses lifted from the Bible: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (Luke 1:28) and “blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42).

The meditations associated with each decade (Catholics call them “mysteries”) are also straight out of the Bible, but most Fundamentalists don’t realize this. They think Catholics just rattle off Hail Marys without giving a thought to what they’re doing. In fact, when we pray the rosary we meditate on incidents in salvation history, such as the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection—each a prominent scriptural event.

Priestly vestments

What are uniforms for? To single out people for a particular function. The soldier’s uniform tells us his vocation, the police officer’s uniform helps him be identified by someone looking for help, and the Roman collar marks the priest. Vestments—a sacred “uniform”—are used at Mass.

In this the Church follows the example of the Old Testament liturgy, in which the priests were dressed in special clothes (Ex. 40:13-14, Lev. 8:7-9), and of the New Testament, which tells us that John the Baptist “wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist” (Matt. 3:4).

Holy water

Water covers most of the Earth, and it is absolutely necessary for life. No wonder this marvelous liquid is used in sacraments and sacramentals. Sacred uses of water are found throughout the Old Testament: the saving of the Israelites by the parting of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:15-22), the miraculous flow from the rock touched by Moses’ staff (Ex. 17:6-7), the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land (Jos. 3:14-17), Ezekiel’s vision of life-giving water flowing from the Temple (Ezek. 47:1-12).

In the New Testament we find the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:13-17), the healing water of the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9), and the water brought forth from Jesus’ side by the spear thrust (John 19:34). We’re told by our Lord that to enter the kingdom of God we must be born of water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5).

With all these holy uses of water, is it any wonder we find it at baptisms, in exorcisms, and in the stoups at the door of Catholic churches? With it we bless ourselves (there’s the sign of the cross again!), not because the water itself has any special powers—it’s ordinary tap water with a pinch of salt added—but because its pious use brings to mind the truths of our faith.

If we take the time, we can help Fundamentalists see that “smells and bells” flow naturally from the Incarnation, but it takes work. Fundamentalists tend to be hereditary anti-Catholics; their anti-Catholic feelings were learned in the home or at the foot of the pulpit. If something is Catholic, they reflexively don’t like it. They operate from prejudice, not from dispassionate thinking. Yet even the most prejudiced can come to appreciate the sensibleness of sacramentals if they have sacramentals explained to them by a patient Catholic.”

Love & joy,
Matthew

Explaining sacramentals to Fundamentalists


Karl Keating

“Protestant Fundamentalists don’t believe that sacraments exist, even though they have two: baptism and matrimony. Many of them use the term “ordinances” for baptism and their analog of the Eucharist, which they call “the Lord’s Supper.” The isn’t just a matter of nomenclature. Not only do they use different words than we do, but they mean different things.

To them, baptism is a sign and nothing more. To us, it is the sacrament that first brings sanctifying grace to the soul. To them, the Lord’s Supper is a mere memorial of Holy Thursday. To us, it is the re-presentation of the actual sacrifice on Calvary, but in an unbloody manner. To them, matrimony is a high state but not a permanent one. To us, it is a permanent and grace-filled union.

We all, Catholics and Fundamentalists, know that Fundamentalists reject sacraments, at least in the Catholic understanding of them, but they reject much more. They have a hearty dislike for distinctive Catholic practices and for what we call sacramentals.

Sacramentals are defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as”

“. . . sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy (CCC 1667)”.

Pesky sacramentals can pop up all over the place, not just inside Catholic churches but even inside Fundamentalist churches. Consider the Fundamentalist wedding ceremony. The bride wears white and, perhaps, a veil. She carries a bouquet. She and the groom exchange vows and rings. Each of these actions and things has a religious significance: purity in the white garments, fidelity in the vows, for instance. Each is a sign of the holiness of matrimony. Each is a sacramental if the word is used in a wide sense.

If spoken to gently, Fundamentalists can come to accept the fact that they too use sacramentals, even if they dislike the word. They are especially uncomfortable, though, when told many of these sacramentals originated in pagan religions. After all, a standard Fundamentalist charge against Catholicism is that its distinctive customs and beliefs are of pagan origin.

Fundamentalists don’t want to admit that they too have borrowed from paganism, but that is exactly what they have done. After all, their churches are offshoots of offshoots from the Catholic Church, even if they won’t admit the fact. (Fundamentalists believe their brand of Christianity goes straight back to New Testament times. It actually goes back only to the nineteenth century.)

Let’s look at three Catholic practices (they can be considered sacramentals) that irk Fundamentalists. We’ll look at additional ones in the next blog post.

Genuflecting

When they pass the Blessed Sacrament, Catholics go down on one knee to honor the Real Presence. This posture of subservience makes perfect sense since Christ is really present in the tabernacle. Fundamentalists don’t believe he’s there, of course (they believe instead in a Real Absence), but they can be made to acknowledge the sensibleness of genuflecting through analogy.

Ask them to imagine themselves at Buckingham Palace, at an audience with the Queen of England. She enters the room and walks up to a woman. Under court protocol, what is the woman supposed to do? She is supposed to curtsy as a sign of respect for the queen.

Another analogy. A soldier meets an officer on the street. What does the soldier do? He salutes. Again, a sign of respect and an acknowledgment of a superior.

Who is more superior to us than God? Which Fundamentalist, transported back to first century Palestine, would not throw himself prostrate at the sight of Jesus? If that would be proper, then why not genuflect where Jesus is sacramentally present?

Similarly, at Mass we stand when the Gospel is read, out of respect for the very words of Jesus, and we sit to listen attentively to the other scriptural readings. At the consecration we kneel, kneeling being the posture of adoration. What we are doing is praying with our bodies, not just with our minds, and praying that way makes perfect sense for a creature composed of both body and soul.

Sign of the cross

Every Fundamentalist knows Catholics cross themselves when praying in church, when hiding in foxholes, and when walking up to the plate to bat. They don’t, as a rule, know that Eastern Orthodox Christians also cross themselves (although they do it “backward”), so they think the sign of the cross is something that immediately distinguishes Catholics from “real” Christians.

But they don’t know that “real” Christians began making the sign of the cross at a very early date. The theologian Tertullian, writing in A.D.211, said, “We furrow our forehead with the sign [of the cross].” Making the sign was already an old custom when he wrote. It may have been common even when the apostles were alive.

True, the practice is not mentioned in the New Testament, but neither are peculiarly Fundamentalist practices such as the altar call, in which people march to the front of a church to announce publicly that, because of the preaching, they have just decided to “make a commitment to Christ.”

The sign of the cross signifies two things at once: our redemption through the death of Jesus on the cross and the Trinity as the central truth of Christianity. When we make the sign we trace the cross on ourselves, and we recite the holy invocation: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Incense

Not used as often in our liturgies as it once was, incense symbolizes the pleasant odor of Christian virtue and our prayers rising to God. It is the first half of the “smells and bells,” and most Fundamentalists think only Catholics use incense. But incense is not peculiar to Catholics. The ancient Jews used it: incense accompanied prayers at the Temple (Luke 1:10). And one of the gifts given to the Christ Child by the Magi was frankincense (Matt. 2:11).

But all that was before Christianity began, say Fundamentalists. Maybe so, but the Book of Revelation deals with what happens afterward, and there we find that “the smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hands of an angel” (Rev. 8:4). If there’s incense in heaven, why not in churches here below?

Bells

Our church towers commonly have bells, often consisting of large sets, known as carillons, that can be rung from a keyboard. Small handbells are rung during Mass. Large bells have been used for centuries to call people to Mass and to sanctify certain times of the day—for instance, it once was the custom, in Catholic countries, to ring church bells at noon so workers in the fields could pause and recite the Angelus. During Mass bells are rung at the consecration, partly to focus our attention, partly to mimic the hosannas of the heavenly choirs.

Fundamentalists disapprove of bells being used in Christian worship. Why they disapprove isn’t precisely clear. Some say bells are of pagan origin and thus should be forbidden, but pagans also sang hymns, and no Fundamentalist thinks Christian hymns should be forbidden. Other Fundamentalists are more straightforward: They don’t like bells simply because bells are identified with the Catholic Church in their minds. Of course, Protestant churches often have bell towers, but that’s overlooked by these Fundamentalists. For them opposition to bells is largely a matter of prejudice.

The rosary

The usual complaint about the rosary is that it violates Matthew 6:7, which reads this way in the King James Version: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do.”

“See,” say Fundamentalists, “you Catholics repeat prayers, and Jesus told us not to!” Did he really? Then how does one account for what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane? There Jesus prayed the same prayer three times—that is, he repeated the prayer. Did he violate his own injunction? Was he a hypocrite? No, that’s impossible, which means Fundamentalists are wrong when they claim Jesus condemned repeated prayers.

Read Matthew 6:7 again. The operative word isn’t “repetitions.” It’s “vain.” Jesus condemned vain prayers, such as those to nonexistent pagan gods.

What’s more, the rosary is an intensely biblical prayer. It contains not just the Our Father, which Jesus himself taught us, but also the Hail Mary, which is built of verses lifted from the Bible: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (Luke 1:28) and “blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42). The meditations associated with each decade (Catholics usually call them “mysteries”) are also straight out of the Bible.

But most Fundamentalists don’t realize this. They think Catholics just rattle off Hail Marys without giving a thought to what they’re doing. But when we pray the rosary we meditate on incidents in salvation history, such as the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection.

Priestly vestments

What are uniforms for? To single out people for a particular function. The soldier’s uniform tells us his vocation, the police officer’s uniform helps him be identified by someone looking for help, and the Roman collar marks the priest. Vestments—a sacred “uniform”—are used at Mass. In this the Church follows the example of the Old Testament liturgy, in which the priests were dressed in special clothes (see Exodus 40:13-14, Leviticus 8:7-9), and of the New Testament, which tells us that John the Baptist “wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist” (Matt. 3:4).

Holy water

Water covers most of the Earth, and it is absolutely necessary for life. No wonder this marvelous liquid is used in sacraments and sacramentals. Sacred uses of water are found throughout the Old Testament: the saving of the Israelites by the parting of the Red Sea (see Exodus 14:15–22), the miraculous flow from the rock touched by Moses’ staff (Exodus 17:6–7), the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land (Joshua 3:14–17), Ezekiel’s vision of life-giving water flowing from the Temple (Ezekiel 47:1–12).

In the New Testament we find the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13–17), the healing water of the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–9), and the water brought forth from Jesus’ side by the spear thrust (John 19:34). We’re told by our Lord that to enter the kingdom of God we must be born of water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5).

With all these holy uses of water, is it any wonder the Church promotes the use of holy water? We find it at baptisms, in exorcisms, and in the stoups at the door of churches. With it we bless ourselves (there’s the sign of the cross again!), not because the water itself has any special powers—it’s ordinary tap water with a pinch of salt added—but because its pious use brings to mind the truths of our faith.

If we take the time, we can help Fundamentalists see that “smells and bells” flow naturally from the Incarnation, but it takes work. Many Fundamentalists are what might be termed hereditary anti-Catholics. If something is Catholic, they don’t like it, period. They operate from prejudice, not from dispassionate thinking. But even the most prejudiced can come to appreciate the sensibleness of sacramentals if they have sacramentals explained to them by a patient Catholic. And patience works: Some Fundamentalists now even pray the rosary!”

Love,
Matthew

Sacramentals – don’t wear a rosary


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Shaun McAfee, was raised Protestant, Southern Baptist/Non-denominational, but at 24, he experienced a profound conversion to the Catholic Church with the writings of James Cardinal Gibbons and modern apologists. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology. As a profession, Shaun is a veteran and warranted Contracting Officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has served in Afghanistan and other overseas locations.

“All sacramentals share a dignity that commands our conscience to treat them with great reverence and respect. Certainly not limited to any of the rules or precautions included in this article, Catholics must be vigilant and responsible with them. The Code of Canon Law states that “sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated reverently and are not to be employed for profane or inappropriate use even if they are owned by private persons” (1171).

The physical sacramentals are not playthings, fashion accoutrements, or ordinary decoration for our homes. A child handling rosary beads may be harmless and for sure could become a thing of joy and faith, but caution must be taken to ensure that the beads and crucifix are not carelessly broken, thrown, chewed and swallowed, or tossed in the trash. Although it might be popular and perceived as a means of acknowledging the Faith, adults should maintain their reverence by not dangling a rosary from the neck, tossing holy water in the kitchen junk drawer, or allowing blessed medals to be scattered around like loose change. All sacramentals must be handled with care and a sense of purpose.

One might object, stating that wearing a rosary is a method of sharing the Faith. This may be a good intention, but it is more effective to demonstrate devotion than to display a static signal of one’s own beliefs. Catholics must be careful not to trivialize or exaggerate devotion with practices that may become a stumbling block to the use of sacramentals for other Catholics and non-Catholics, too.

We must also be conscious of our behavior and intentions with the non-physical sacramentals of blessing and exorcism. The sign of the cross must clearly be made as a true sign of faith and piety—made intentionally, prayerfully, and uniformly when with others, rather than quickly, sloppily, or chaotically. Blessings at mealtime—hopefully not the only time families pray together—should be sincere. Genuflections and bows, also raised to the dignity of being sacramentals, should be made with the same inner sense of reverence.

These are the basics to handling and using sacramentals in a dignified way, but the Church has established other rules of which every Catholic should be aware. Also, in making or administering sacramentals, the Church’s law dictates that the rites and formulas approved by the authority of the Church be observed carefully (CIC 1167, §2).

The preference of the Church is to bless sacramentals, ordinarily through a cleric. This should be promoted and welcomed. Since the sacramental’s power is though the Church’s intercession, the proper blessing naturally adds to the sanctification of the object. Truly, the primary reason for blessing any sacramental is to set it aside for holy purposes, but an accompanying motive is to ensure that it is freed from any demonic possession and otherwise remove the effects of profane use.

No matter what, no blessed sacramental should ever be sold or purchased. Simply put, after a blessing, the Church does not condone the trafficking of spiritual things. Nor does it allow the sale of blessings themselves, or exorcisms: although we might offer a priest a stipend for an exorcism or the blessing of a house, this is not done for profit. Sacramentals that are useful but no longer desirable should be given away to a parish, person, or place where they may be returned to use.

Eventually, sacramentals wear down. Crucifixes break, as do rosaries. Candles burn out, and scapulars tear. If a sacramental reaches a state where it is beyond repair or its effective use, the object should be disposed of properly. Even in a tattered state, the object has been blessed by the Church and should be treated correctly, even in private possession.

The proper way to dispose of a sacramental is to burn it or bury it. Not only do these methods of disposal show the correct reverence, but they prevent the sacramental from falling into the wrong hands and from desecration—the loss of a particular quality of sacredness. Sacramentals are desecrated by abusive behavior, crude use, or destruction to the point of being unusable. Even desecrated sacramentals, to maintain the reverence due to them, should be disposed of in the ways laid out above.”

Love,
Matthew

Supreme Court sides with Catholic agency that refused to certify same-sex couples as foster parents

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the city of Philadelphia violated the Constitution by limiting its relationship with a Catholic foster care agency over the group’s refusal to certify same-sex couples as foster parents.

The justices came down unanimously against Philadelphia and for Catholic Social Services.

“The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless it agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents cannot survive strict scrutiny, and violates the First Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Catholic Social Services is affiliated with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The agency has said that its Catholic beliefs prevent it from certifying same-sex couples as foster parents.

Philadelphia learned in 2018 from a newspaper reporter that the agency would not work with same-sex couples. The city has said it requires that the two dozen-plus foster care agencies it works with not to discriminate as part of their contracts. The city asked the Catholic agency to change its policy, but the group declined. As a result, Philadelphia stopped referring additional children to the agency.

Catholic Social Services sued, but lower courts sided with Philadelphia.

Biblical anarchy


-by Trent Horn

“Different Protestants have different definitions of sola scriptura, but at its core, every definition makes Scripture a Christian’s highest authority. In doing so, it leaves no room for a divinely appointed Magisterium or Church that can authoritatively declare what Christians are obliged or forbidden to believe. This is evident in things like the 1978 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, a popular statement among conservative Evangelicals, which says, “We deny that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than scripture or equal to the authority of the Bible.”

But in practice, it is the authority of a person’s interpretation of the Bible that becomes the highest authority. This leads to what Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid called “a blueprint for anarchy.”

You get people like Matthew Vines, who earnestly contends that the Bible is divinely inspired and, when properly interpreted, does not condemn modern same-sex relationships. Or you get people like Brandan Robertson, who reject fundamental tenets of Christianity by saying Jesus committed the sin of racism when speaking to the Syrophoenician woman. And this isn’t just Robertson, either, as there are denominations like Christadelphians who believe that Jesus had a “sin nature.”

At this point, a Protestant could say: no matter how clearly you state things, you’re always going to have unsaved people twisting Scripture and misinterpreting it. When it comes to the claim that Jesus sinned, only a degenerate person trapped in the darkness of sin could fail to apply Hebrews 4:15’s clear teaching to the question: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.”

Sola scriptura is defensible, these apologists claim, because incorrect interpretations of Scripture can always be refuted by the correct interpretation true Christians can always locate within the pages of holy writ. But this pushes the problem back and assumes that everyone will nicely go along with a uniform understanding of what Scripture even is.

For example, how could you respond to someone defending Jesus’ sinfulness who says he doesn’t believe that Hebrews is Scripture? After all, the letter is anonymous, and although it has been traditionally attributed to Paul, several Church fathers questioned its canonicity. The early Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea said, “Some have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that it is disputed by the church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul.”

Even if Paul did write it, why believe that Paul’s words were divinely inspired? Pastor Robertson says there’s reason to doubt that, given that Paul was never one of Jesus’ disciples during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Some Christians follow only the words of Jesus (similar to Bill Johnson’s Just Jesus movement). Others, like hyper-dispensationalists, take the opposite extreme and think Christians are bound to accept only some of Acts and the letters Paul wrote while he was in prison.

Without a Magisterium to appeal to, saying these views contradict Scripture assumes what the Protestant apologist is trying to prove—namely, which writings constitute Sacred Scripture. But because the Church has an authoritative teaching office, there is a way to set objective “ground rules” when it comes to understanding the meaning of Scripture.

A Protestant might offer three objections to this critique of sola scriptura. First, if the meaning of Scripture has been entrusted to the Church, then why hasn’t the pope or an ecumenical council infallibly defined every passage of Scripture and put all controversies to rest? For the same reason Protestants don’t have a divinely inspired biblical commentary: God chose not give this kind of revelation to the Church.

The Church hands on the Deposit of Faith, and, although a handful of biblical passages have been infallibly defined (such as John 3:5’s reference to water baptism), the Church allows biblical scholars a fair amount of latitude more generally when it comes to interpreting the Bible. The Church’s authority primarily presents itself in biblical interpretation by setting “guardrails” that make certain interpretations off-limits. For example, scholars might find new insights into the cultural interaction that took place between Jesus and the Canaanite woman, but they are prohibited from saying the interaction proves that Jesus is not fully divine or not free from sin.

Second, a Protestant might say the Catholic is kicking the can down the road: if there is “anarchy” when it comes to interpreting what the Bible says, then won’t a similar anarchy occur when people try to figure out what Church documents mean? In response, I would say this is a good reply to someone who says private interpretation can never be a part of the life of a Christian. That’s too narrow of a view, and the Catechism even says Christians must obey the dictates of a properly formed conscience (1790).

However, a more defensible position would be that interpretive clarity is at least far more feasible (or may even only be possible) through a living Magisterium. That’s because a Church that persists through history can teach doctrine through deliberate, repetitive acts that account for misunderstandings that arise in each generation. The static words of Scripture cannot articulate themselves anew for every generation.

Finally, a Protestant might point to the dissenters within the Catholic Church as evidence that having a Magisterium does not eliminate the problem of heresy. What about all the priests and lay people who argue for expanding the definition of marriage and the ordination of women? What good is a magisterium if it doesn’t prevent these voices from rising up in the Church?

Well, even when God directly spoke to his chosen people or his faithful angels, people rebelled. That’s the cost of giving creatures free will. But at least Catholic dissenters usually admit that what they’re peddling directly contradicts what the Church teaches. They may hope Catholic teaching will change in their favor, but they begrudgingly allow that their heresy is not Catholic teaching. A Protestant, on the other hand, who dissents from “traditional Christianity” can always say what he believes is what the highest authority in Protestantism has always taught, which others have simply failed to recognize.

So while dissenters and heretics will always afflict the body of Christ, Christ chose to protect his Church not by confining divine revelation to Scripture alone, but by instituting a Church. Jesus told his apostles, “He who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16). The same principle animates the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Sacred Heart vs the Heresy of Jansenism


-by Joseph Heschmeyer, a former lawyer and seminarian, he blogs at Shameless Popery.

“Why do Catholics today celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus? After all, we don’t have feast days dedicated to any other organs of Jesus’ body. There’s no “Solemnity of the Arm of Jesus,” for instance, to honor His baptisms and Healings. So why a feast day for His Heart?

Biblically, the heart is “our hidden center.” Scripture refers to the heart more than a thousand times, often, as the Catechism (CCC) notes, in the context of prayer (2562-63). The greatest commandment of the Law is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5; Mark 12:30). In speaking of the Sacred Heart, then, we’re referring to the person of Jesus, to his humanity, and to his love for the Father and for us, what the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) calls his “infinite divine-human love for the Father and for his brothers.” In a special way, the image of the Sacred Heart captures the moment in which that love was poured out for us on the cross, when a soldier pierced the side of Christ, and blood and water flowed out (John 19:34).

As the CDW notes, we find devotion to the Sacred Heart throughout the Middle Ages, but it goes from being a personal devotion to a liturgical feast in no small part in response to the heresy of Jansenism. In the words of Pope Pius XI, “the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was instituted at a time when men were oppressed by the sad and gloomy severity of Jansenism, which had made their hearts grow cold, and shut them out from the love of God and the hope of salvation.”

So what was the Jansenist heresy, and how was the Sacred Heart an answer to it?

Although the heresy of Jansenism is sometimes unfairly oversimplified, there were three particular features of the heresy that (inadvertently) produced disastrous effects. The first was a double predestination: that God destined some for heaven and others for hell, irrespective of merits. As Leszek Kołakowski traces in his book God Owes Us Nothing, Jansenist theology argued that God gives some people the graces necessary for salvation and withholds them from others (pp. 31-35). The result of this idea would be that some people are going to hell, and there’s literally nothing they can do about it. They aren’t saved—not because they refuse God’s overtures, but simply because God doesn’t want to save them.

The second feature regarded imperfect contrition, sometimes known as attrition. In simple terms: If I turn away from my sin out of fear of hell (rather than out of love of God), is that good enough to be forgiven? The Catechism (1453) now clarifies: by itself, “imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins”; however, imperfect contrition is sufficient to receive absolution through the sacrament of Penance, since imperfect contrition can be perfected through the sacramental graces flowing from the confessional. But the Jansenists taught the opposite: that even for a valid sacramental confession, a penitent needed perfect contrition. Worse, Jansenist priests “routinely withheld absolution, in the belief that few penitents demonstrated sufficient precision and adequate contrition.”

Third, because so few people could count on perfect contrition, Jansenists warned against receiving Communion frequently, in a misguided attempt to avoid the scandal of unworthy reception.

What was the combined effect of these three teachings? That ordinary Catholics doubted God’s love for them; doubted whether they were (or could be) forgiven, even after going to confession; and stayed away from the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion out of fear, thereby depriving themselves of sacramental graces. The resulting vision of God was thereby distorted. As Pius XI would later recount, “God was not to be loved as a father but rather to be feared as an implacable judge.”

This is an important insight, because it gets to the heart of the matter. It’s not just that Jansenism got the details of predestination or contrition or sacramental reception wrong. It’s that Jansenism got God wrong, in a fundamental way that many of us still get him wrong today.

Perhaps it is only fitting, then, that it was God himself who set things straight. While multiple seventeenth- and eighteenth-century popes vainly tried to quash Jansenism, Jesus intervened in an unexpected way: through a series of apparitions to a French nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690). In the last and most famous of these apparitions, Jesus showed her His Heart and said:

“Behold the heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love.”

Theologically, this is the corrective Jansenism needed. Jesus did not deny any of what Jansenism was getting right: that sin offends God, that so many of us seem indifferent to God, that we can slip into ingratitude toward God with startling ease. But rather than express this in terms of divine wrath, Jesus presents it as a tragedy of unrequited love. That is, sinners act this way not because God denies them the graces to do otherwise, but because they fail to appreciate the depth and breadth of God’s love for them. Jesus saw the same problem that the Jansenists saw, but he answered it with open arms and an open heart.

A great difficulty in believing in God’s love and mercy is simply accepting that God is so radically other. It’s hard to wrap our minds around the idea that the uncreated and unchanging God of the universe has a personal love for us. And so Jesus reminds us that He has a human heart, and with it, the full range of human emotions. Yet He is fully divine as well as fully human. Thus, our devotion is not just to the heart, but to the Sacred Heart. Jesus has at once the full experience of human emotions and the perfect vision of divine foreknowledge.

Pius XI illustrates the implications of this divine-human union in a beautiful reflection on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the one hand, he points out that it was chiefly “because of our sins also which were as yet in the future, but were foreseen” that the soul of Christ became “very sorrowful, even to death” (Matt. 26:38). In other words, what weighed upon Christ was not principally the looming shadow of the Cross, but the weight of our sins.

But there is a happy corollary to this idea: that when we read that “there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him,” this should also be taken as Christ foreseeing our acts of reparation to the Sacred Heart, that “His Heart, oppressed with weariness and anguish, might find consolation.” And so, the pope concludes, “even now, in a wondrous yet true manner, we can and ought to console that most Sacred Heart which is continually wounded by the sins of thankless men.”

This is a wonderful and mind-bending insight. The promise of the Sacred Heart is that our actions today are wrapped up (through God’s perfect foreknowledge) with Christ’s experience in Gethsemane, that we are either adding one more burden to Him through our sins, or giving Him one more consolation through our acts of love and reparation. And so (in yet another encyclical on the Sacred Heart!) Pius XI encouraged that “the Feast of the Sacred Heart be for the whole Church one of holy rivalry of reparation and supplication,” in which we hasten in large numbers “to the foot of the altar to adore the Redeemer of the world, under the veils of the sacrament,” pouring our hearts out to His. What better way can we celebrate the triumph of Jesus’ love over the cold justice of Jansenism and our false conceptions of God?”

Within Thy Sacred Heart, dear Lord,
My anxious thoughts shall rest.
I neither ask for life, nor death;
Thou knowest what is best.

Say only Thou hast pardoned me,
Say only I am Thine,
In all things else dispose of me:
Thy Holy Will is mine.

And may Thy Sacred Heart, dear Lord,
E’er be my counsel sure,
Led in Thy Heart’s obedience
To make my own heart pure.

And when Thou shalt come claim my soul
Then may we never part,
For there shall be my only joy:
Within Thy Sacred Heart.


-please click on the image for greater clarity

Love, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!! (for generations, a traditional part of McCormick grace at evening meals),
Matthew

Jesus only moral teacher?


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Matt Nelson

“A major part of [Jordan} Peterson’s program has been introducing Jesus as the archetypal perfect man. In his provocative work At the Origins of Modern Atheism, the late Jesuit theologian Michael J. Buckley notes the abiding prestige of Jesus Christ as a moral authority during—and despite—the Enlightenment. Even secular thinkers turned to Jesus for guidance on how best to live. This comes as a surprise, since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were marked by an unprecedented rise in secularism in Europe.

“No one denied the moral genius of Jesus,” writes Buckley. “The Enlightenment agreed that Jesus was a Jewish ethical preacher still illuminating a world in which tradition and Church had distorted his beliefs and maxims.” There was one outlying group of “interpreters” of the New Testament who had gotten it right, however: the philosophers. The philosophers rejected his divinity, but many identified Christ nonetheless (in Thomas Paine’s words) as “a virtuous and amiable man.” Many, like Paine, compared him to Confucius in the East and the ancient Greeks in the West. To these, Jesus was a pre-eminent ethicist. But the Son of God he was not.

The secular great moral teacher narrative is alive and well today, too, thanks to figures like University of Toronto psychologist Jordan Peterson. Peterson has captured the minds of many Christians. His project, taken in totality, is not perfectly harmonious with the Catholic worldview. (For a nuanced Catholic analysis of Peterson, see the work of Christopher Kaczor and Matthew Petrusek.) But in teaching the Bible from a strictly psychological point of view, Peterson has succeeded in making the Bible credible again to many a skeptic—at least as an ancient mythological text brimming with wisdom.

A major part of Peterson’s program (deeply inspired by twentieth-century psychiatrist Carl Jung) has been introducing the New Testament Christ as the archetypal perfect man. Many recent converts to Christianity have credited Peterson as the major factor, and thus his objective analysis of the sacred texts has made him, unintentionally, an important pre-Christian thinker for our times.

Non-believing historian Tom Holland has offered a similar pre-Christian service to the culture. Holland, in his book Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind, defends Christian values with vigor and conviction while defending the contention that Jesus’ crucifixion was the pivotal event by which West came to realize that even the “lowest of the low”—even a convicted criminal, humiliated and crucified by the highest authorities—possesses nonetheless the utmost dignity. In his more recent collection, Revolutionary: Who Was Jesus? Why Does He Still Matter?, Holland zeroes in with interest (now as editor) on the founder of Christianity, compiling a variety of essays from atheist, agnostic, and religious authors.

But can Christ be no more than an archetype, or a great moral teacher—or even just the perfect man?

In the final analysis, no—Jesus was infinitely more than these. He was God—goodness itself, apart from which there is no gold standard by which to measure the great moral sage from the self-imposing dictator.

C.S. Lewis had some things to say about this, famously. Jesus, in plain and clear words and language, claimed to be God. He must be Lord, liar, or lunatic. And we do not usually call con artists or lunatics great moral sages, nor do we call them archetypes of the perfect man.

Thus, as Lewis claimed back in the mid-twentieth century:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.”

Some have challenged that a fourth L should be added to Lewis’s trilemma. Could it all amount to a fanciful legend? This seems hardly a viable option. For as the pre-eminent New Testament historian N.T. Wright has written, “We have got almost as much good evidence for Jesus as for anyone in the ancient world.” Scholars like Wright, Brant Pitre, Craig Blomberg, Richard Burridge, and Richard Bauckham have shown that the Gospels are biographical and intended—with impressive reliability—to convey real facts of history according to eyewitness accounts.

That Peterson and other secular figures are advocating for Christ as a noble character is a good thing. It offers our post-Christian culture a pre-Christian service. But it is not enough. We need to be absolutely clear about this. They do not teach the gospel. For they deny (or at least do not affirm) Christ’s divinity. So, as Christians, we should be always ready to extract the good from the bad. Just as we do with ancient pre-Christian thought like that of Plato and Aristotle, we should labor to make the necessary distinctions and corrections in modern pre-Christian thought, and we should be abundantly clear with ourselves—and others—about both.

Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, often referenced as the C.S. Lewis of our times, gets right to the heart of it all. He writes:

“The only honest reason why anyone should ever believe Christianity, or anything else [is]: because it is true. It may also be helpful, comforting, challenging, relevant, responsible, creative, or dozens of other things; but none of those is the first reason why an honest person believes Christianity.”

Reframing this passage about belief in Christ demands no less: that we believe first because his claims about being co-equal with God are true. Jesus Christ is the everlasting God, and any spiritual system built upon a lesser Christ is barren. There are only two logical options: either take him at his word or dismiss him as a fraud. A lukewarm or falsely irenic Christology might as well be an atheistic Christology, and . . . well, in that case, it might as well just be a Christless atheism. For Christ—and there is no way around it—declared with unapologetic clarity and conviction that he was above even the Law (Matt. 5:17-48). He was clear about how he saw himself. These are not the claims of a great moral teacher. So it seems that the only real choices are God or nothing.

Love, Lord,
Matthew

Can Catholics Get Woke?


Noelle Mering

“The woke movement seems to sense that it can grow parasitically off the residue of religion until it has replaced it.

One of the reasons woke ideology has been successful at making inroads among Christian communities is that it feeds off the Christian precept to offer compassion and aid to the marginalized and suffering. This leads to a lot of confusion about whether or not Christians can get woke, with many seeing it as the natural outgrowth of that Christian precept. But as I write in my book, Awake, Not Woke (TAN Books), on both a human and a spiritual level, wokeness is an ideology that harms far more than helps.

It is imperative that we identify how it operates, as it often mimics Christianity, compounding the confusion. Even as society grows more secular, the woke movement seems to sense that it can grow parasitically off the residue of religion until it has replaced it.

One example of how this happens is in connection with the Christian concept of repentance. Under threat of cancelation, people caught on the wrong side of wokeness will often repeat some version of the phrase doing the work in their apology: “Yes, I see where I was wrong, and I am committed now to doing the work.”

On its face, this phrase might strike us as a harmless and even helpful indication that the offender is reflecting on his errors or harmful biases and seeking to undo and repent of them. In this light, it can be compatible with Christian habits of examination, confession, and repentance. This is likely what your nice progressive Aunt Susan thinks is all the phrase means.

Doing the work of woke re-education, however, means coming to see all facets of society through a lens of power and oppression and becoming activists in their undoing. That Aunt Susan does not see the bait-and-switch involved is crucial to the success of the movement.

Here is an incomplete list of what is ultimately involved in doing the work:

  1. Reframing our perspectives to see every person, event, and interaction (no matter how insignificant) through the lens of identitarian group conflict. As celebrity author and woke race guru Robin DiAngelo famously said, the question in any given human interaction is not did racism take place, but rather how did racism take place.
  2. Seeing all Western thought, literature, institutions, ideas, philosophies as fraught systems of oppression and colonization that must be de-centered, destabilized, and disrupted.
  3. Dismantling our understanding of objective moral law and intelligible bodily meaning. Our bodies can mean anything (which assumes that they mean nothing). Sexual repression is an internalized form of political oppression. According to Critical Theory, the academic underpinning of wokeness, moral principles are obstacles to personal liberation.
  4. Committing to silencing (in ourselves and in others) any thoughts or concerns that question the ideology. Such resistance is either false consciousness, if we are in the oppressed group, or further evidence of our complicity and privilege, if we are in the oppressor group.
  5. Committing not to be silent (“silence is violence”), but to use our voices only in support of woke-approved views. (The logic of 4 and 5 combined show how we devolve into compelled speech.)
  6. Seeing that everything is political. Friendships, family, religion, knitting, cooking, even gardening.

While the phrase doing the work is far more loaded than what a good-willed person might suppose, in a deeper way, it is astonishingly reductive. Borrowing from Marxist conflict theory, the woke break apart the world into simplistic binaries of the oppressed and the oppressors. Within any given individual, various identity combinations might mitigate or intensify his victim status and corresponding right to be heard or need to repent. How have I participated, unwittingly or not, in the sins of my ancestors or systemic webs of injustice? Or how have I been harmed by them?

Moral stature is given not according to character, but according to victimization, which creates endless motivation to uncover culprits outside oneself.

This reduction of the moral life into collectivized culpability detached from moral law is irreconcilable with the Christian faith. Though the actions at first glance might bear similarities, Catholicism is directed at reconciling the penitent to God, whereas doing the work is directed at conforming the penitent to the ideology.

The Catholic call to self-examination is both more penetrating and more personal. It is also respectful of the reality of human nature. Four guidelines helpful for confession are that the penitent should be concise, clear, complete, and concrete. These simple guidelines serve to help us see ourselves with clarity and humility.

The human desire to see ourselves and have others see us in a good light can easily corrupt our vision. We are prone to hiding our faults—to deflect, to excuse, to generalize, to conceal. We want to avoid acknowledging our sins plainly and simply. When life goes poorly, we look for anything outside ourselves to blame.

Woke ideology exploits this. Stoking anger and resentment serves well the cause of revolution. But it also obscures our understanding of God’s mercy and love. We reduce Him in our imaginations to a harsh taskmaster rather than a loving father.

While we can hide for some amount of time from ourselves, we cannot hide from God. He already knows what we are—which is good and bad news. The bad news is that He knows our sins. The good news? That means that His love for us is far more sincere and intimate than we might have supposed. In knowing our need, He comes to reveal to us the depth of His love.

Woke ideology is both reductive and totalizing. It is parody of the C.S. Lewis quote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” By doing the work, we begin to see everything as signs and shadows of the power and hatred of man. Through God’s grace and the sacraments, by contrast, we begin to see everything as signs and shadows of the mercy and love of a Father.”

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.” -1 Peter 5:8

“Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” -Mt 25:13

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” -Eph 5:14

“But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” -Mt 24:43-44

Awake, not woke.

Love,
Matthew

Apr 6 – St Juliana of Cornillon (aka of Liège)(1193-1258) – Promoter of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi


On Wednesday, 17 November [2010], at the General Audience in St Peter’s Square, the Holy Father commented on St Juliana of Cornillon, better known as Juliana of Liege, who lived in the 12th century. The following is a translation of the Pope’s Catechesis, which was given in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning too I would like to introduce a female figure to you. She is little known but the Church is deeply indebted to her, not only because of the holiness of her life but also because, with her great fervour, she contributed to the institution of one of the most important solemn Liturgies of the year: Corpus Christi.

She is St Juliana de Cornillon, also known as St Juliana of Liège. We know several facts about her life, mainly from a Biography that was probably written by a contemporary cleric; it is a collection of various testimonies of people who were directly acquainted with the Saint.

Juliana was born near Liège, Belgium between 1191 and 1192. It is important to emphasize this place because at that time the Diocese of Liège was, so to speak, a true “Eucharistic Upper Room”. Before Juliana, eminent theologians had illustrated the supreme value of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and, again in Liège, there were groups of women generously dedicated to Eucharistic worship and to fervent communion. Guided by exemplary priests, they lived together, devoting themselves to prayer and to charitable works.

Orphaned at the age of five, Juliana, together with her sister Agnes, was entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns at the convent and leprosarium of Mont-Cornillon.

She was taught mainly by a sister called “Sapienza” [wisdom], who was in charge of her spiritual development to the time Juliana received the religious habit and thus became an Augustinian nun.

She became so learned that she could read the words of the Church Fathers, of St Augustine and St Bernard in particular, in Latin. In addition to a keen intelligence, Juliana showed a special propensity for contemplation from the outset. She had a profound sense of Christ’s presence, which she experienced by living the Sacrament of the Eucharist especially intensely and by pausing frequently to meditate upon Jesus’ words: “And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

When Juliana was 16 she had her first vision which recurred subsequently several times during her Eucharistic adoration. Her vision presented the moon in its full splendour, crossed diametrically by a dark stripe. The Lord made her understand the meaning of what had appeared to her. The moon symbolized the life of the Church on earth, the opaque line, on the other hand, represented the absence of a liturgical feast for whose institution Juliana was asked to plead effectively: namely, a feast in which believers would be able to adore the Eucharist so as to increase in faith, to advance in the practice of the virtues and to make reparation for offences to the Most Holy Sacrament.

Juliana, who in the meantime had become Prioress of the convent, kept this revelation that had filled her heart with joy a secret for about 20 years. She then confided it to two other fervent adorers of the Eucharist, Blessed Eva, who lived as a hermit, and Isabella, who had joined her at the Monastery of Mont-Cornillon. The three women established a sort of “spiritual alliance” for the purpose of glorifying the Most Holy Sacrament.

They also chose to involve a highly regarded Priest, John of Lausanne, who was a canon of the Church of St Martin in Liège. They asked him to consult theologians and clerics on what was important to them. Their affirmative response was encouraging.

What happened to Juliana of Cornillon occurs frequently in the lives of Saints. To have confirmation that an inspiration comes from God it is always necessary to be immersed in prayer to wait patiently, to seek friendship and exchanges with other good souls and to submit all things to the judgement of the Pastors of the Church.

It was in fact Bishop Robert Torote, Liège who, after initial hesitation, accepted the proposal of Juliana and her companions and first introduced the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in his diocese. Later other Bishops following his example instituted this Feast in the territories entrusted to their pastoral care.

However, to increase their faith the Lord often asks Saints to sustain trials. This also happened to Juliana who had to bear the harsh opposition of certain members of the clergy and even of the superior on whom her monastery depended.

Of her own free will, therefore, Juliana left the Convent of Mont-Cornillon with several companions. For 10 years — from 1248 to 1258 —she stayed as a guest at various monasteries of Cistercian sisters.

She edified all with her humility, she had no words of criticism or reproach for her adversaries and continued zealously to spread Eucharistic worship.

She died at Fosses-La-Ville, Belgium, in 1258. In the cell where she lay the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and, according to her biographer’s account, Juliana died contemplating with a last effusion to love Jesus in the Eucharist whom she had always loved, honoured and adored. Jacques Pantaléon of Troyes was also won over to the good cause of the Feast of Corpus Christi during his ministry as Archdeacon in Lièges. It was he who, having become Pope with the name of Urban IV in 1264, instituted the Solemnity of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Pentecost as a feast of precept for the universal Church.

In the Bull of its institution, entitled Transiturus de hoc mundo, (11 Aug. 1264), Pope Urban even referred discreetly to Juliana’s mystical experiences, corroborating their authenticity. He wrote: “Although the Eucharist is celebrated solemnly every day, we deem it fitting that at least once a year it be celebrated with greater honour and a solemn commemoration.

“Indeed we grasp the other things we commemorate with our spirit and our mind, but this does not mean that we obtain their real presence. On the contrary, in this sacramental commemoration of Christ, even though in a different form, Jesus Christ is present with us in his own substance. While he was about to ascend into Heaven he said ‘And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Matthew 28:20) “.

The Pontiff made a point of setting an example by celebrating the solemnity of Corpus Christi in Orvieto, the town where he was then residing. Indeed, he ordered that the famous Corporal with the traces of the Eucharistic miracle which had occurred in Bolsena the previous year, 1263 , be kept in Orvieto Cathedral — where it still is today.

While a priest was consecrating the bread and the wine he was overcome by strong doubts about the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. A few drops of blood began miraculously to ooze from the consecrated Host, thereby confirming what our faith professes.

Urban IV asked one of the greatest theologians of history, St Thomas Aquinas — who at that time was accompanying the Pope and was in Orvieto — to compose the texts of the Liturgical Office for this great feast. They are masterpieces, still in use in the Church today, in which theology and poetry are fuse. These texts pluck at the heartstrings in an expression of praise and gratitude to the Most Holy Sacrament, while the mind, penetrating the mystery with wonder, recognizes in the Eucharist the Living and Real Presence of Jesus, of his Sacrifice of love that reconciles us with the Father, and gives us salvation.

Although after the death of Urban IV the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi was limited to certain regions of France, Germany, Hungary and Northern Italy, it was another Pontiff, John XXII, who in 1317 reestablished it for the universal Church. Since then the Feast experienced a wonderful development and is still deeply appreciated by the Christian people.

I would like to affirm with joy that today there is a “Eucharistic springtime” in the Church: How many people pause in silence before the Tabernacle to engage in a loving conversation with Jesus! It is comforting to know that many groups of young people have rediscovered the beauty of praying in adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament.

I am thinking, for example, of our Eucharistic adoration in Hyde Park, London. I pray that this Eucharistic “springtime” may spread increasingly in every parish and in particular in Belgium, St Juliana’s homeland.

Venerable John Paul II said in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it. Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned” (n. 10).

In remembering St Juliana of Cornillon let us also renew our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As we are taught by the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic Species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man” (n. 282).

Dear friends, fidelity to the encounter with the Christ in the Eucharist in Holy Mass on Sunday is essential for the journey of faith, but let us also seek to pay frequent visits to the Lord present in the Tabernacle! In gazing in adoration at the consecrated Host, we discover the gift of God’s love, we discover Jesus’ Passion and Cross and likewise his Resurrection. It is precisely through our gazing in adoration that the Lord draws us towards him into his mystery in order to transform us as he transforms the bread and the wine.

The Saints never failed to find strength, consolation and joy in the Eucharistic encounter. Let us repeat before the Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament the words of the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro te devote”: [Devoutly I adore Thee]: Make me believe ever more in you, “Draw me deeply into faith, / Into Your hope, into Your love”.

Thank you.

Pope Benedict XVI

Taken from:
L’Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
24 November 2010, page 18

-by St Thomas Aquinas, OP

(Opusculum 57, in festo Corporis Christi, lect. 1-4)

“O precious and wonderful banquet!

Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods. Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.

O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.”

-Beethoven, Symphony 7, Allegretto

Sacris solemniis
iuncta sint gaudia,
et ex praecordiis
sonent praeconia;
recedant vetera,
nova sint omnia,
corda, voces, et opera.

Noctis recolitur
cena novissima,
qua Christus creditur
agnum et azyma
dedisse fratribus,
iuxta legitima
priscis indulta patribus.

Post agnum typicum,
expletis epulis,
Corpus Dominicum
datum discipulis,
sic totum omnibus,
quod totum singulis,
eius fatemur manibus.

Dedit fragilibus
corporis ferculum,
dedit et tristibus
sanguinis poculum,
dicens: Accipite
quod trado vasculum;
omnes ex eo bibite.

Sic sacrificium
istud instituit,
cuius officium
committi voluit
solis presbyteris,
quibus sic congruit,
ut sumant, et dent ceteris.

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum;
O res mirabilis:
manducat Dominum
pauper, servus et humilis.

Te, trina Deitas
unaque, poscimus:
sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
ad lucem quam inhabitas.

At this our solemn feast
let holy joys abound,
and from the inmost breast
let songs of praise resound;
let ancient rites depart,
and all be new around,
in every act, and voice, and heart.

Remember we that eve,
when, the Last Supper spread,
Christ, as we all believe,
the Lamb, with leavenless bread,
among His brethren shared,
and thus the Law obeyed,
of all unto their sire declared.

The typic Lamb consumed,
the legal Feast complete,
the Lord unto the Twelve
His Body gave to eat;
the whole to all, no less
the whole to each did mete
with His own hands, as we confess.

He gave them, weak and frail,
His Flesh, their Food to be;
on them, downcast and sad,
His Blood bestowed He:
and thus to them He spake,
“Receive this Cup from Me,
and all of you of this partake.”

So He this Sacrifice
to institute did will,
and charged His priests alone
that office to fulfill:
to them He did confide:
to whom it pertains still
to take, and the rest divide.

Thus Angels’ Bread is made
the Bread of man today:
the Living Bread from heaven
with figures dost away:
O wondrous gift indeed!
the poor and lowly may
upon their Lord and Master feed.

Thee, therefore, we implore,
O Godhead, One in Three,
so may Thou visit us
as we now worship Thee;
and lead us on Thy way,
That we at last may see
the light wherein Thou dwellest aye.

Adóro te devóte, látens Déitas,
Quæ sub his figúris, vere látitas:
Tibi se cor meum totum súbjicit,
Quia, te contémplans, totum déficit.

Visus, tactus, gustus, in te fállitur,
Sed audítu solo tuto créditur:
Credo quidquid díxit Dei Fílius;
Nil hoc verbo veritátis vérius.

In cruce latébat sola Déitas,
At hic látet simul et humánitas:
Ambo támen crédens átque cónfitens,
Peto quod petívit latro pœnitens.

Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intúeor,
Deum támen meum te confíteor.
Fac me tibi sémper mágis crédere,
In te spem habére, te dilígere.

O memoriále mortis Dómini,
Panis vivus, vitam præstans hómini,
Præsta meæ menti de te vívere,
Et te illi semper dulce sápere.

Pie pellicáne, Jesu Dómine,
Me immúndum munda tuo sánguine,
Cujus una stilla salvum fácere,
Totum mundum quit ab ómni scélere.

Jesu, quem velátum nunc aspício,
Oro fíat illud, quod tam sítio:
Ut, te reveláta cernens fácie,
Visu sim beátus tuæ glóriæ. Amen.

I devoutly adore you, O hidden Deity,
Truly hidden beneath these appearances.
My whole heart submits to you,
And in contemplating you, It surrenders itself completely.

Sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of you,
But hearing suffices firmly to believe.
I believe all that the Son of God has spoken;
There is nothing truer than this word of truth.

On the cross only the divinity was hidden,
But here the humanity is also hidden.
Yet believing and confessing both,
I ask for what the repentant thief asked.

I do not see the wounds as Thomas did,
But I confess that you are my God.
Make me believe more and more in you,
Hope in you, and love you.

O memorial of our Lord’s death!
Living bread that gives life to man,
Grant my soul to live on you,
And always to savor your sweetness.

Lord Jesus, Good Pelican,
wash my filthiness and clean me with your blood,
One drop of which can free
the entire world of all its sins.

Jesus, whom now I see hidden,
I ask you to fulfill what I so desire:
That the sight of your face being unveiled
I may have the happiness of seeing your glory. Amen.

Pange, lingua, gloriósi
Córporis mystérium,
Sanguinísque pretiósi,
Quem in mundi prétium
Fructus ventris generósi
Rex effúdit géntium.

Nobis datus, nobis natus
Ex intácta Vírgine,
Et in mundo conversátus,
Sparso verbi sémine,
Sui moras incolátus
Miro clausit órdine.

In suprémæ nocte coenæ
Recúmbens cum frátribus
Observáta lege plene
Cibis in legálibus,
Cibum turbæ duodénæ
Se dat suis mánibus.

Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem éfficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum,
Et si sensus déficit,
Ad firmándum cor sincérum
Sola fides súfficit.

Tantum ergo sacraméntum
Venerémur cérnui:
Et antíquum documéntum
Novo cedat rítui:
Præstet fides suppleméntum
Sénsuum deféctui.

Genitóri, Genitóque
Laus et jubilátio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedíctio:
Procedénti ab utróque
Compar sit laudátio.
Amen. Alleluja.

Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory,
Of His Flesh, the mystery sing;
Of the Blood, all price exceeding,
Shed by our Immortal King,
Destined, for the world’s redemption,
From a noble Womb to spring.

Of a pure and spotless Virgin
Born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
Stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
Then He closed in solemn order
Wondrously His Life of woe.

On the night of that Last Supper,
Seated with His chosen band,
He, the Paschal Victim eating,
First fulfils the Law’s command;
Then as Food to all his brethren
Gives Himself with His own Hand.

Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
By His Word to Flesh He turns;
Wine into His Blood He changes:
What though sense no change discerns.
Only be the heart in earnest,
Faith her lesson quickly learns.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo, the sacred Host we hail,
Lo, o’er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail:
Faith for all defects supplying,
When the feeble senses fail.

To the Everlasting Father
And the Son who comes on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.

Verbum supernum prodiens,
Nec Patris linquens dexteram,
Ad opus suum exiens,
Venit ad vitæ vesperam.

In mortem a discipulo
Suis tradendus æmulis,
Prius in vitæ ferculo
Se tradidit discipulis.

Quibus sub bina specie
Carnem dedit et sanguinem;
Ut duplicis substantiæ
Totum cibaret hominem.

Se nascens dedit socium,
Convescens in edulium,
Se moriens in pretium,
Se regnans dat in præmium.

O salutaris hostia,
Quæ cæli pandis ostium,
Bella premunt hostilia;
Da robur, fer auxilium.

Uni trinoque Domino
Sit sempiterna gloria:
Qui vitam sine termino
Nobis donet in patria.

The heavenly Word proceeding forth,
Yet leaving not his Father’s side,
And going to His work on Earth,
Has reached at length life’s eventide.

By false disciple to be given
To foemen for His blood athirst,
Himself, the living bread from heaven,
He gave to his disciples first.

In twofold form of sacrament,
He gave His flesh, He gave His blood,
That man, of soul and body blent,
Might wholly feed on mystic food.

In birth man’s fellow-man was He,
His meat while sitting at the board;
He died, our ransomer to be,
He reigns to be our great reward.

O saving Victim, opening wide
The gate of heaven to man below;
Our foes press hard on every side,
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.

All praise and thanks to thee ascend
For evermore, blessed One in Three;
O grant us life that shall not end,
In our true native land with Thee.

Love,
Matthew

The Heresy of Pelagianism 2


-by Joseph Heschmeyer, a former lawyer and seminarian, he blogs at Shameless Popery.

“The hallmark of Pelagianism is a denial of original sin and a belief in human perfectibility, seemingly apart from divine grace.

If you spend too much time on the internet, you may have seen the historian and author Diana Butler Bass’s impassioned defense of Pelagianism. In it, she says “Pelagianism helped save my life” and that “declaring Pelagianism a heresy was, in my opinion as a human being and a church historian, the worst mistake western Christianity ever made.”

The defense of Pelagianism is fascinating, if only because it’s rare to see someone owning the label. Moreover, there’s a great deal of confusion about who Pelagius (c. 354-418) was and what he actually taught. Indeed, much of what we know of his doctrine comes from the writings of his opponents, although some of his own writings remain.

The real-life Pelagius was from somewhere in the British Isles and became a monk in Rome. He was well respected for his asceticism and his apparent holiness. The fifth-century historian Gennadius writes that “before he was proclaimed a heretic,” Pelagius “wrote works of practical value for students: three books On belief in the Trinity, and one book of Selections from Holy Scriptures bearing on the Christian life,” but that (as time went on) he became increasingly fixated on defending his own heretical views.

Just what were those views?

An easy (somewhat simplified) way to understand the matter is that if Calvinists err in one direction, seeming to reject the goodness of man as God’s creation, Pelagians err in the opposite direction, treating humanity as so good as not to need redemption.

In his defense, Pelagius’s motives in teaching this seem to have been good. In a letter to Demetrias, he lamented that “most people look at the virtues in others, and imagine that such virtues are far beyond their reach. Yet God has implanted in every person the capacity to attain the very highest level of virtue.”

Herein lies the half-truth of Pelagianism. Pelagius was right to preach something greater than lukewarm holiness, calling Christians to strive not only for good but for perfect. The Christian message is radical, after all: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). And settling for lukewarmness is spiritual suicide, as we see from Christ’s words to the church of Laodicea: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16).

But there’s a problem with achieving perfection. Pelagius admitted as much, saying that “people cannot grow in virtue on their own.” Here, you might expect that he would say that what we need is Christ, or divine mercy, or grace. Instead, he says: “We each need companions to guide and direct us on the way of righteousness.” That is, instead of turning toward God and grace, the Pelagian impulse is to encourage one another to perfection that (if we’re just careful enough) we can achieve ourselves. It is here that Pelagianism goes dangerously astray.

The hallmark of Pelagianism is a denial of original sin and a belief in human perfectibility, seemingly apart from divine grace. Pelagius described the human condition by saying that “day by day, hour by hour, we have to reach decisions; and in each decision, we can choose good or evil. The freedom to choose makes us like God: if we choose evil, that freedom becomes a curse; if we choose good, it becomes our greatest blessing.” Explicitly, Pelagius denied that this godlike ability was the result of grace, or Christianity, since “the goodness we see in pagans is proof of the goodness of God. He has granted every person, regardless of race or religion, the freedom to choose good or evil.”

At this point, you may be thinking Pelagius’s view of the human condition sounds a lot like what many modern Christians believe. But Pelagius saw more clearly where that line of reasoning leads. First, it logically entails that the Fall of Adam and Eve was good, not evil since their “banishment from Eden is in truth the story of how the human race gained its freedom.” He explained:

“When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden they were like small children: they simply obeyed God’s instructions without considering the moral reasons for those instructions. To become mature they needed to learn the distinction for themselves between right and wrong, good and evil. And God gave them the opportunity to become mature by putting within the garden the tree of knowledge, by which they could learn this distinction. But if God had simply instructed Adam and Eve to eat from the tree, and they had obeyed, they would have been acting like children. So he forbade them from eating the fruit; this meant that they themselves had to make a decision, whether to eat or not to eat. . . . By defying God, Adam and Eve grew to maturity in his image.”

A theology that praises man for “defying God” should set off alarm bells.

The trouble with Pelagianism doesn’t stop there. In this view, Jesus is no longer our redeemer so much as simply a helpful model of living a holy life. As Pelagius describes it, “in the teachings and the example of Jesus Christ we learn the general principles of behavior which pleases God.” Even when he says we are “reborn” through Christ, it’s only “because we can see clearly how we should live.” It’s not so much that Christ saves us, but that we (following the example of Christ) save ourselves.

In all of this, Pelagius is ascribing to our human nature, or our reason, or our good actions, things that Scripture instead ascribes to God and to divine grace. As St. Paul explains, it is “by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

Butler Bass’s own writings reveal the dangerous consequences of Pelagian thinking. She is the author of Freeing Jesus, which Fr. James Martin has praised as “an inviting, accessible, provocative, challenging and always inspiring look” at the “heart of Christianity” from “one of our great Christian writers,” and which Butler Bass describes as being interwoven with her Pelagian theology. As she explains in the book’s introduction, the title comes from her belief that an icon of Jesus in the National Cathedral spoke to her and said, “Get me out of here.” The book is largely about “liberating” Jesus from our traditional view of him. For instance, instead of the cross, Butler Bass says that “the circle best illustrates my experience of Jesus,” and she presents an image of what her idea of what it means to believe in “the welcoming and inclusive Jesus, the Jesus of the circle and in the circle” (p. 261). It is, in short, a vision of Jesus as a visionary, but nothing more. She describes a mental image of

“Jesus sitting in a circle with Patanjali, the Buddha, Muhammad, Guru Nanak, and Confucius; with saints and mystics and seers. In the circle. Not above it, not beyond it. In the circle. With me, with all of us in the circle (pp. 259-60).”

Such a vision of Christ might seem far afield from the Christian perfectionism toward which Pelagius was striving, but it’s really just a matter of bringing Pelagius’s theology full circle. After all, if Pelagius is right, Jesus is not our redeemer—he’s simply a good moral example. And that’s why the Church considers Pelagianism a heresy. A church without Christ as its head, no matter how good it makes its adherents feel, is not really a church at all. It’s just another false teaching.”

Love & truth,
Matthew