Category Archives: Consistent Ethic of Life

Faith & Works

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-by Vince Frese

You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was competed by the works. – James 2:22

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“I vividly remember getting the call from my divorce attorney telling me that my spouse was seeking full custody of our children. That shook me to my core and threw me into full-on crisis mode. I did not want to lose my children! Like any good Catholic I began to storm heaven with my many prayers begging God to help me. And pray I did. I prayed rosaries, novenas, devotionals–everything I could think of. In my mind the more I prayed the better. Surely, I thought, praying all four mysteries of the rosary was better than just the daily mystery. And, a Divine Mercy chaplet morning, noon, and night was better than just one. And so this went on for several weeks. Then, one day my attorney called. He asked me if I had put together the affidavits from my witnesses testifying to my ability to parent my children. I was now even more panicked. While I had been praying like crazy, I had failed to do much else.

When we are in crisis it is typical for us to fall on our knees and beg for God’s help. Most of us, me included, are not bashful to ask God for help. We are filled with hope that God will miraculously come to our rescue and put an end to our misery. But prayer is only half of the equation. God wants us to put our faith into action. We must pray and act. Certainly, prayer is an essential ingredient to living our life of faith, yet, God gave us free will and many talents to use in conjunction with our prayers. We are coworkers with Christ working together to fulfill His plan. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed, in crisis, or downright frustrated, keep praying, but be sure you are getting busy working on your problems, too. Jesus is a faithful partner who will magnify all your efforts and make them bear fruit.”

Love, Faith, & Hope,
Matthew

Mar 19 – St Joseph, Sorrow leads to Joy!!!

John-16.20

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As I have mentioned prior, Joy! is not the same thing as the quick, early-flash, “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it”, the sugar-high of some giddy blush of unearned, easy, light, incidental, or happy, happy, happy, happiness; the health and strength, vitality, appetites, it ALL works, God willing, of youth. Even these wane in the evening of life; Sts Ren & Stimpy, notwithstanding, pray for us!

The Joy! which only God gives, the relationship with Him, takes patience, takes time, as the best relationships do. (just ask St Augustine)  Start early!!! It involves birthing-suffering, silence, you don’t NEED to do or say ANYTHING. Just present yourself, more in mind and heart, than in chapel, but chapels are nice, and quiet, too.

Whatever your state, your condition, present yourself to Him, constantly, never leave Him. Let Him be with you, always, ALWAYS! He will abide, if you invite Him. He will. He will. Collapse, face-flat, spent, gone, nothing-left, and bereft, before His awesome, infinite, holy mercy. “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in You I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until disaster has passed.” (Ps 57:1)

Never suffering for suffering’s sake. Our God is NOT a sadist!!! But, as a pedagogical tool of His holy will. How else do we, or at least me, of hardened heart and head, learn?  Cheap grace.  I hate cheap grace.  Hate it.  Hate it.  Hate it.  Patience in prayer. Patience in and with Him. Trust. Trust. Trust. He gives the strength and grace to do it, too. He provides ALL necessary for His will, and our good. He provides ALL; His Holy Providence! Praise Him. Praise Him. 🙂 (Heb 12:11)

“Your faith has been your salvation.” (Lk 7:50) Your FAITH has been your SALVATION! So true. So true. It is a ripened fruit on the tree of our lives, long before harvest it buds, the gift of the mercy, mercy, merciful God, the GOOD God, the loving Father who KNOWS what is BEST for us, although we may, as children often do, do, disagree strongly with His righteous will and corrections. We do. We do. We do. (Mt 7:11)

The Joy! which the GOOD God gives to His children is the richest of the fruits of life. Richer, sweeter, more succulent than health, wealth, or any of the pleasures or people this life can give. It is. It is. It is. Praise Him, Church. Praise Him. 🙂

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-by Lianna Mueller

“On March 19, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Joseph. Though he had the treasure of living with the holiest, most amazing two people to ever live, the life of St. Joseph was filled with sorrows- but these sorrows eventually brought joy. Like us, St. Joseph didn’t know how the sorrows of his life would turn to joy; he choose to trust God and obeyed in the midst of great challenges.

Can you imagine the heartache St. Joseph must have felt to learn that Mary was pregnant? This woman, filled with virtue, appeared to have committed a great sin. The news of her pregnancy was a huge shock. The thought of also being separated from Mary must have also filled his heart with grief. He was betrothed to a perfect woman! Being a faithful Jew, the culture and law dictated that he had to part with her. St. Joseph resolved to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:19), not wanting her to be subject to public shame. Then an angel came to him in a dream, informing him that this child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and was the Son of God! St. Joseph chose to have faith and to take Mary as his wife and the Child as his son. He had the great privilege of parenting the Son of God! No other man on earth can claim that. What he thought was sorrow turned to great joy.

Months later, Joseph and Mary were on the way to Joseph’s hometown in order to be counted in the census, as was every other person native to the city. There were no rooms available and Mary was due to deliver the baby. St. Joseph tried and tried, but there was nowhere to be found. (Like looking for a job?  And, money is LOW.  We are NOT going to make it in time!  WHAT AMI GOING TO DO!!!?)  St. Joseph likely felt a blow to his manhood- he was tasked with protecting the Son of God and the Child’s mother and all he was able to provide was a stinky stable for this Child to enter the world into? This must have equaled sorrow for him. However, sorrow turned to joy when the shepherds and the magi came to worship the Child. This Child, a great King, had been called to enter the world in humility and St. Joseph helped to provide that – St Joseph FULFILLED the HOLY WILL of God! – nice on the resume’ 😉 .  I wonder what questions the recruiter/HR will have when they get to that one?  😉

St. Joseph must have felt sorrow when going into Egypt. Again, he was tasked with protecting his wife and the Son of God but now they were refugees, on a trip to safety filled with perils and dangers. He knew that King Herod was looking for his Son to kill Him, though Jesus was only a toddler! Can you imagine the grief and fear that must have filled St. Joseph’s heart? However, as he had learned to do, he trusted God and obeyed when asked to do so. He brought the Holy Family to safety and refuge. The joys of the family must have been many as they raised Jesus and enjoyed time as a family, living in safety and harmony.

When Jesus was about twelve, there was a period of three days in which Mary and Joseph did not know where He was. This would have been a great sorrow. Any parent who has lost a child for even a minute knows how overwhelming and terrible of an experience it is. St. Joseph probably blamed himself for Jesus’ disappearance, thinking that he didn’t do well enough in watching out for him.   (My mother lost me in the department store, only for a few minutes, but it took years off her life.  My grandmother, Mema, my mother’s mother, was, shall we say, not overflowing in praise for my mother.   You think Jewish mothers are tough?  They are.  Try Irish-Catholic ones for spice.  Life can make you that way.  No matter what my mother did, she recalled to me, Mema would say, “You don’t watch those children.”  Nothing.  Nothing was ever good enough.  When pregnant with me, yes, I was a SURPRISE!!!!!  Mema said to my mother, “Mary, you have NO sense!!  My father upon being told of me, in the inadequacy of men expressing their emotions, and resorting reflexively to pitiful and hurtful, really, attempts at humor, said to my mother, “Whom do you suspect?”  Mother did NOT have it easy at home.  RIP.  I miss you so. )  Upon finding Jesus teaching in the temple, his sorrow turned to joy at watching his Son’s wisdom and steadfastness in carrying out God’s will.

These were just a few of the sorrows in the life of St. Joseph. Like us, he had to endure much suffering. These sufferings eventually transformed into joy as God’s plan was revealed. It is much the same in our own lives. St. Joseph teaches us to trust God and obey, though a situation may appear to be hopeless. As we celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph, ask for his intercession in your own sorrows. He will guide you in the path of obedience and trust in God, leading you to great joy.”

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient
in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it will take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—, let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
what time will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that His hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”
-Rev. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

Love & Joy!, trusting in His Holy Providence & Will!
St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us! Sustain us in ALL our trials and wants! Help us to trust Him, as you did, always!!!
Matthew

Psychiatry & Catholicism: Part 4, The Sanctity of Life

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2280 Everyone is responsible for his/her life before God Who has given it to them. It is God Who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for His honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of. (2258)

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God. (2212)

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. (1735)

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. (1037)

-Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2000, (2nd Ed., p. 550). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.

We commend them, all the departed, and ourselves to the infinite mercy of God.

“A sense of God as the creator and author of life is necessary for understanding and appreciating these doctrines and moral teachings. The Catechism begins this section with an affirmation of our responsibility before God for our own life, which is a gift from God. This responsibility is grounded in our human freedom, another gift we have been given as rational, spiritual creatures. Our happiness and salvation hinge on the good use of our freedom. In order to be saved and to become holy, we must respond to and cooperate with sanctifying grace. We freely act as stewards, not as full owners or dispensers, of the life God has entrusted to us. To attempt to dispose with this life on our own terms is to act wrongly and irresponsibly, as though God did not create or redeem us.

By faith in God’s revelation, we know that we are persons created in His image and likeness. Even apart from the supernatural gift of faith, our human reason can perceive that God is the source of life and that we have a natural inclination to preserve and perpetuate our own life. This universal human inclination is inscribed in our biological constitution: the fundamental will to survival underlies many features of human psychology and be-havior. One feature that indicates how serious and unhealthy severe depression can be is the fact that it so often inclines a person toward suicide — an objectively disordered, unnatural, and irrational act. Aside from other considerations, this feature of depression should be sufficient for the depressed person to seek immediate medical, psychological, and spiritual assistance.

The Catechism explains that suicide is contrary to love in three ways. First, it is contrary to love of God, for the reasons just described. Second, according to the natural moral law, it is contrary to a proper love of self, also for reasons just described. Appropriate love of self includes the desire and intent to preserve one’s own life, even in the midst of suffering or hardship. Third, suicide is contrary to love of neighbor. Even if we are suffering, we continue to have obligations toward our family, nation, and society. Anyone who has tried to comfort loved ones in the wake of a suicide can see clearly the unimaginable suffering that suicide causes for those left behind. Grieving after a suicide, as discussed in the last section of this chapter, is tremendously painful and almost unbearable.”

-Kheriaty, Aaron; Cihak, Fr. John (2012-10-23). Catholic Guide to Depression (pp. 100-101). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Love, prayers, life,
Matthew

Feast of the Holy Family – family life is not fair

Christ Discovered in the Temple Simone Martini, 1342, Italy
-“Christ Discovered in the Temple”, Simone Martini, 1342, my MOSTEST FAVORITEST depiction of the Holy Family! So realistic!! Ain’t NOBODY HAPPY HERE!!! 🙂

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-by Rev. Benjamin Earl, OP

“Children and teenagers – among others – have a very keen sense of justice. Or, perhaps more precisely, they have a very keen sense of injustice; they can be quick to lament “it’s not fair” should they perceive a wrong. I dare say that phrase has been heard more than a few times over the last few days.

“Life’s not fair” is the typical reply. Family life is not fair. Was it fair that Christ, whose coming as a child we celebrate with joy in these days, should suffer and die for our sins? Was it fair that Mary, his sinless mother, should have her heart pierced with a sword in sorrow for her son? Was it fair that Joseph should be forced to take his young family to Egypt so as to escape the murderous Herod? Of course it wasn’t fair.

Family life today isn’t fair. Many parents must struggle with the death, sickness or disability of a child. That’s not fair. Many parents must struggle with a troubled teenager… and many teenagers and even younger children must struggle with troubled parents, with little experience and often no help. That’s not fair. Many families get separated and torn apart through no fault of their own. That’s not fair.

When I say “it’s not fair” I mean that these situations aren’t just or equitable. Families and individuals suffer undeservedly – sometimes through somebody else’s sins, sometimes just because of unfortunate circumstances.

One of the quirks of the English language is that the word “fair” can have other meanings besides “just” and “equitable”; it also means “beautiful”. Can situations which are manifestly unjust or inequitable nonetheless be described as “beautiful”? Obviously there is nothing beautiful about suffering or injustice itself. These things disfigure the justice desired by the Creator. But there certainly can be something beautiful, something “fair”, when somebody acts with great love in the face of suffering and injustice. In this, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph has many lessons to teach us.

It was not fair that the Holy Family be separated returning from Jerusalem; but it is beautiful to read how Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus. Once the child has been found in the temple, it is beautiful and fair to hear not harsh or angry words from Mary, but loving words seeking deeper understanding of her divine son.

The events of Christ’s infancy and the foreboding of his terrible passion are not fair; but are stored up in the fair pondering of Mary’s heart.

Joseph is described by the scriptures as a “just man”[1]; he is a man who shows fair, just and beautiful care and responsibility both on learning that his betrothed is with child, and then in the face of being forced to flee with his wife and the child Jesus from the dangers that face them.

The scriptures tell us nothing of Joseph after the incident in today’s gospel. Ancient Christian tradition tells us he was already old when he received Mary into his house,[2] and therefore it is probable he died sometime before the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. Presuming that he died peacefully in the presence of both Jesus and Mary, the Church calls Joseph the patron of a happy death: an exemplar of how the tragedy of dying can become something beautiful, something fair, if in accepting it we allow Christ to embrace us in the communion of the saints.

The Church holds up the saints as examples for us to emulate. But when it comes to the Holy Family we need to be careful. We are not called to emulate the Holy Family in every respect: that wouldn’t be fair. We are not to seek the injustice they suffered; and nor do we have it within our power to save the world. But when we are faced with suffering in the world of today, and in our own families, we should certainly seek the intercession of Mary and Joseph and the consolation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Emulating them we must strive for justice and a beautiful love for all who suffer. It may not be fair, but it is fair.”  Amen.

[1]Matthew 1:19

[2]Protoevangelium of James, 9

Love, please pray for families!
Matthew

Divorced Catholic: for He commands His angels…

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vince_frese
-by Vince Frese

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“If God really loves me, where is He NOW when I need Him the most?” was the thought that ran through my mind often during those first weeks and months when my divorce hit. Sure, I read over and over in the Gospels how God will never abandon me. How even the hairs on my head are numbered. How he feeds the birds and I am so much more important to him than birds. And how he will give me rest. I so wanted to believe all that, but my reality frankly was very different. I often felt very alone—even abandoned.

As I look back on those dark days, I now realize that God did not abandon me, far from it. While he didn’t show up physically at my door step offering to take care of me, what He did do was send His angels. People started appearing in my life that I either did not know, or had not seen in a long time, ready to help. I had a woman from my kids’ school suddenly start to drop dinner by once a week. An old friend called out-of-the-blue and offered to help me with the kids. People at work started to pick up my slack when I had to be out for all the court proceedings. A dear friend made it a point to stop by once a week and take me out to lunch and patiently listen to my endless ranting. Then the emails and letters of encouragement started to pour in.  No, God did not abandon me. He revealed his incredible mercy by sending his legions of angels to me in the form of all these people to look after me and walk with me in my darkest days. In all my pain, I just didn’t recognize it. Keep trusting in God, He is sure to send angels your way. My bet is that he already has.

“For He commands His angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go.”
—Psalm 91:11

Love & healing; Jesus, Divine Physician, heal us!!!
Matthew

“Conscience is a window to Truth.” – Rev. Wojciech Giertych, OP, Theologian for the Papal Household

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ROME, November 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Conscience is a window to truth, according to the pope’s theologian. And an act of conscience is an act of reason, not something to be confused with feelings.

Father Wojciech Giertych, Theologian for the Papal Household, aka Master of the Sacred Palace, sat down with LifeSiteNews during the final week of the Vatican’s Synod on the Family to discuss some of the issues considered during the international gathering of bishops called to address challenges to the family.

Father Giertych did not take part in the synod, and he was therefore not privy to any of the closed discussion occurring there, nor was he able to speak to specific synod developments.

However, the one on-call theologian for the pope, Father Giertych is a valuable resource on the Church’s teaching. And he was able to offer clarity on some of the moral areas discussed so widely at the synod.

Given the underlying question of conscience during the synod gathering, LifeSiteNews asked Father Giertych about the prevalent indifference to sin in society and its implications. He concurred that there is an absence of a sense of sin today in many parts of the world, with the effects carrying over into real consequences for people’s lives.

“If the perception of moral truth is unclear, then people are lost,” Father Giertych said. “People aren’t quite sure what is right and what is wrong.”

Following this, conscience is now often cited to allow permission for people to act on their impulses and desires, without regard for sin or consequence.

Specific to the synod, a term that received attention was “inviolability of conscience,” which seeks to establish an individual’s personal conscience as paramount, without necessarily first defining conscience.

Father Giertych told LifeSiteNews that we have to be careful in what we mean by the term “conscience.”

“Conscience is the act of practical reason,” he stated.

“Many people identify conscience with feelings,” said Father Giertych. “Feelings are secondary; conscience is a window to truth. … The conscience has to be formed to see the truth.”

We should not identify our conscience with our feelings, he continued. Rather, we have to go to the truth of the matter. And application of conscience is not an arbitrary thing.

“The idea of a subjective conscience, that I invent my moral principles as I go along – this is absurd. This is absolutely wrong.”
“You have to perceive the truth of the matter,” stated Father Giertych, “by reason.” This means taking all factors involved into account.

There are three specific criteria that determine an individual’s perception of the truth related to an act of conscience, Father Giertych told LifeSiteNews. These are the intention, the object of the act, and the circumstances. “If one is missing, then the whole act is inappropriate.”

The truth of an act of conscience can vary according those criteria.

One example he explained was the question of whether a doctor should amputate a patient’s limb. This is an extremely serious thing, and it would not be appropriate to take the limb in a medical setting where it could be saved. However, it is another matter entirely if leaving the limb will kill the patient.

Father Giertych clarified that while the conditions that establish the criteria surrounding an act of conscience can vary, the definition of conscience and its application do not.

“The idea of a subjective conscience, that I invent my moral principles as I go along – this is absurd. This is absolutely wrong,” he told LifeSiteNews.

The concept of conscience permeated much of the synod discussions, as it directly relates to the moral issues debated there.

Among the most hotly disputed matters was that of Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Father Giertych revisited for LifeSiteNews the fundamental question of who should present him- or herself for the Eucharist.

“Every individual before he receives Holy Communion has to see that he receives the Communion worthily, believing this is the body and blood the soul and the divinity of Jesus Christ given under the species of bread and wine,” he said, “and that the individual is in a state of grace. That means that individual is not aware of having committed mortal sin.”

When someone is in a state of grave sin, Father Giertych said, he must be absolved of his sin before presenting himself for Communion.

“If that is the case, then it’s required to go to Confession and be absolved of the sin,” he stated.

A perfect conversion is necessary for worthiness to receive Communion, the papal theologian continued, and that means a conversion toward God and an aversion to sin.

The same can be said of any temptation, Father Giertych explained, as it is in the case of Catholics living objectively in a situation that is contrary to the moral truth.

No one is owed Communion; rather, it is a gift from the Lord to be given proper regard and handling.

“The graces of God we receive as a gift from God,” said Father Giertych, “and so we have to persist in an attitude of gratitude. … Whereas if we approach the gifts of God with our list of demands, it destroys the purity of our relationship with God. So any sort of sense of entitlement is incorrect. It’s inappropriate.”

“The teaching of St. Paul is clear,” the theologian explained: “we have to be worthy to receive the Eucharist, we cannot receive it unworthily, and affirmation of sin makes a person unworthy.”

When asked about the idea often expressed that Communion is not a prize for the perfect, but medicine for the sick, Father Giertych clarified that this does not negate the elements necessary to be worthy of receiving Communion.

“The sacraments are a nourishment,” he said, “but they’re nourishment that has to be received in truth, and in the pure relationship of gratitude towards God, and in the recognition of the light that God has given us.”

“The graces of God we receive as a gift from God, and so we have to persist in an attitude of gratitude.”

Father Giertych pointed out that the Commandments and moral teaching transmitted in the Church are also a gift, and that one must accept all of the gifts God gives to properly accept any.

“We receive Jesus not only on the sacraments, but also in the teaching that accompanies the sacraments,” he said.

And Father Giertych dismisses the idea of a supermarket approach, saying, “You enter the supermarket: ‘I want this, no, I don’t want that. … But in our relationship with God, we cannot impose upon God our own list of demands. ‘I want these graces, I don’t want those other graces…’ If we are pure in our relationship to God, we accept them all.”

To the argument that the Church must adapt Her teaching to align with society’s standards today, Father Giertych counters that today is not at all different from any other time in that no justification exists to allow the Church’s principles to be compromised.

It’s not a novelty that times change and the Church would face new challenges, he told LifeSiteNews.

The Church had to invent certain practical ways to help people to live the fullness of the Gospel in the past, he said, but the fullness of the Gospel has not changed.

“Human nature, the sacraments, divine grace, what we receive from Christ and the identity of the Church, the mission of the Church has not changed. [T]he principles have not changed; human nature has not changed. And the guidance that God gave us ultimately in the Word made flesh, in Christ, that does not change.”

Regarding the concept discussed during the synod of Church decentralization, Father Giertych was quick to correct a misconception that the Vatican controls everything. He said the term decentralization refers to government.

He also clarified that the Church has always defended the concept of subsidiarity – the idea that it’s always best to handle things on the local level whenever possible.

“The local bishop should address his individual diocese’s problems by applying the Gospel, Church teaching, and tradition.”
But the idea that any doctrinal matters could be managed at the diocesan level is wrong, he said, as it is not the local bishop’s place to do so.

Individual bishops must handle issues in their respective dioceses, but only within the confines of upholding Church teaching. A bishop cannot decide doctrinal issues because he hasn’t the authority, as the Church’s teaching comes from the Church and therefore cannot be changed.

“The local bishop should address his individual diocese’s problems,” said Father Giertych, “by applying the Gospel, Church teaching, and tradition.”

Love,
Matthew

Help for non-Catholics & Catholics in understanding Catholic marriage…

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-by Jacob Lupfer, a Methodist who admires the Catholic Church.

“Most people following this month’s Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome are aware that the specter of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion is the most controversial and difficult issue among many controversial issues being discussed.

I have followed reports from the Synod closely and have been very interested in Catholic perspectives on divorce, remarriage, and the sacraments. As a divorced and remarried person with an abiding respect for Catholicism, I suppose I am more interested than most. Few Protestants believe that remarried persons are unworthy to receive Communion. Many Protestants are wondering, “What’s the big deal?” A few have asked for help in understanding the debate. I hope to helpfully to offer some explanation here.

The puzzled Protestant must first consider Catholic teaching on marriage. For one thing, marriage is a sacrament (one of seven, whereas Protestants have only two – baptism and the Lord’s Supper). As an efficacious sign of grace, a man and a woman, after giving consent, mutually confer the sacrament upon one another in the presence of the Church. It is not the work of a priest or a church or a civil magistrate. And, following words attributed to Jesus himself, marriage is indissoluble: “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”

The next difference concerns divorce. Protestants typically assume that if a court grants a divorce, then the marriage no longer exists. In Catholicism, civil divorce is a mostly meaningless distinction. Church tribunals can grant annulments, which decree that the marriage was invalid. In recent generations, especially in territories like the U.S. where courts came to easily grant divorces, the standards for receiving an annulment have liberalized. (Though fewer U.S. Catholics are marrying, marrying in the Church, and seeking annulments.) Without an annulment, the Church considers the couple married as long as both spouses are still living. No action of a civil court can change that reality.

Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate has complied some helpful data on marriage, divorce, and annulments.

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Here is where it becomes complicated regarding Communion. A civilly remarried Catholic is, in the eyes of the Church, living in adulterous relationship. Every sex act with the new spouse is considered a mortal sin. Whereas Protestants came to accept subsequent marriages and stepfamilies without much trouble, the Catholic Church considers these situations “irregular” and maintains that without an annulment, the initial marriage remains intact. A civilly remarried Catholic could receive Communion if s/he is celibate. In Protestant churches, it would be virtually inconceivable for a pastor to confront remarried people about receiving Communion. But this gets to two more differences: fitness for receiving Communion and the nature of Communion itself.

In the United Methodist Church of my childhood, the minister invited everyone to the Lord’s Table, saying, “Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: Draw near with faith and take this holy sacrament to your comfort.” Over time, the language of intentionality was shortened and arguably watered down a bit. The most frequently used UMC Communion ritual now says, “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another…” Regardless of denomination, the invitation is relatively simple for Protestants: If you repent, you are welcome to partake. In true Protestant fashion, you are competent to determine for yourself your fitness to receive the sacrament. You and God know your heart. No priest or catechism is necessary to assist in that determination!

Not so in Catholicism. You cannot say, “Well, I am in good conscience, being happily and faithfully remarried.” Furthermore, if you receive Communion in a state of grave sin, you commit another grave sin.

A final significant difference between Protestants and Catholics on this question concerns the nature of Communion itself. Most Protestants suppose that the major Christian debates about Communion concern the frequency with which it is celebrated and the mode by which it is received. But this obscures a greater, more fundamental difference. For Protestants, Communion is a community meal, a moment of personal devotion, and a remembrance of Jesus himself. For Catholics, it is Jesus himself. Christians differ about how exactly Christ is present in the bread and wine. Liturgical Protestants hold that Communion is more than a remembrance. But for Catholics, through transsubstiantation, the elements become the actual body and blood of Christ.

With an arguably “higher” view of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Catholics take more seriously the idea that communicants must receive Him worthily. For the civilly remarried Catholic, this is apparently impossible without changes in Church doctrine.

In convening the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis deliberately sought a diversity of views. Some theologians, most prominently Cardinal Walter Kasper, have argued that civilly remarried Catholics be allowed to receive Communion. The most vocal opponents have been Cardinal George Pell and Cardinal Raymond Burke. Their Eminences have engaged in a spirited and sometimes pointed public debate. Based on reports of the Synod’s first week, there seems to be an openness to pastoral innovation, but there is no sign that bishops want the Church to abandon its belief in the indissolubility of marriage.

Unsurprisingly, many lay Catholics have also weighed in on the question. Since Protestants will instinctively be sympathetic to the view that remarried people should be permitted to receive Communion, I will highlight two traditionalists. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has a characteristically thoughtful blog post that includes links to his other writings on this and related issues. In a provocative column, civilly remarried laywoman Louise Mensch states: “I am a divorced Catholic. And I’m sure it would be a mortal sin for me to take Communion.” Her perspective gives expression to the Church’s sense that Catholics in irregular relationships should attend Mass and remain part of parish communities even though they cannot receive Communion.

Protestants who wish to understand why it’s a big deal for Catholics to even debate the idea that remarried people can receive Communion, must bear in mind these vital differences:

  • Marriage as a sacrament vs. ‘merely’ a God-ordained union
  • Sacramental marriage vs. civil marriage
  • Annulments vs. divorce
  • Clerical/Church determination vs. individual determination of worthiness to receive Communion
  • “Real presence” as real presence vs. “Real presence” as holy mystery or ‘mere’ remembrance

Regardless of your position, Protestants should take note of the Synod’s consideration of how the Church can nurture marriage and family life. The challenges the pope hopes to address are not uniquely Catholic problems.”

Love,
Matthew

Too many Christians, not enough lions…

StJosephRCInt1

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/18/a-country-without-churches/

dominicbouckop

-by Br Dominic Bouck, OP

“The Catholic parish of St. Joseph’s — now run by the Dominican Order — worships in the oldest Catholic church building in Manhattan. Built in 1833, it served the community of Greenwich Village before there was Central Park, the Empire State building or even the subway. Far from being a museum or mere relic of the past, the parish today ministers to college students and professionals — those who have been in New York their whole lives, and those visiting just for the weekend. Each Mass is filled with women and men of different backgrounds and nationalities.

Dorothy Day prayed here. There is a soup kitchen that serves hundreds each week. A parish elementary school is right next door.

St. Joseph’s is also neighbor to the famous Stonewall Inn and has served the spiritual needs of its visitors as well. But in the face of the latest same-sex marriage ruling, the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage has frustrated activists who want religious organizations to either bring their teachings into accord with the newest cause or to be limited from full civic participation, and thus punish long-serving institutions that will not submit to their demands.

After the Obergefell decision, Time magazine writer Mark Oppenheimer was quick to declare that the state should “abolish, or greatly diminish” property tax exemptions for churches that “dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality.”

Punishing “dissent” seems a strange new role for the American government. In the mid-twentieth century, the Catholic church was a leading advocate against anti-miscegenation laws. The church was able to take a stand contrary to the state on marriage and not be penalized for it, a position now almost unquestionably supported by Americans. And despite the confidence of those like Oppenheimer, the dissenters aren’t even a minority in the more recent marriage controversy. Most Americans favor religious liberty, and a plurality oppose Obergefell.

Allowing conscientious objection is an acknowledgment that the state does not have all the answers. The state has an obligation to make laws, but the state has no obligation to be correct. The independent voices that critique the state make the state better, and should not be silenced. Lose churches, lose the independent voices that prevent the state from having an absolute say in complicated moral matters.

In addition to the alternative moral voice that the church provides, the Catholic church is one of the leading charitable institutions in the country. But this matters little to a militant ideological movement that, intending to prevent discrimination, has prevented churches from doing certain charitable activities and seeks to “ostracize” them even more. The first wave has been the shutting down of decades-old Catholic adoption services around the country, including in the Archdiocese of Washington. The next wave, hinted at by Justice Samuel Alito and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, will be universities and educational institutions — including the many Catholic schools for the underprivileged. And after that will be the places of worship themselves.

Oppenheimer identifies the real problem with dissolving tax exemptions, too, though in a dismissive and historically illiterate manner. Churches in important locations will be penalized for the simple reason of where they were built. “If it’s important to the people of Fifth Avenue to have a synagogue like Emanu-El or an Episcopal church like St. Thomas in their midst, they should pay full freight for it.” Parishes like St. Dominic’s in Washington or St. Joseph’s in Greenwich Village could be added to this list. But they were built for everyone, rich and poor, and their work should not be penalized because property values have skyrocketed as decades have gone by. Removing the tax-exempt status of churches simply adds an additional tax to regular churchgoers, and most of the congregations at these historical places of worship couldn’t sustain the property taxes for more than a few months. If they can’t foot the bill, local places of worship will simply have to close, and with them the community services they provide.

Losing a local church would be damaging to its worshippers and the community at large, but even still, the resilience of the faithful can overcome the limitations of property loss and a lack of governmental support. That said, it is in the state’s best interest to protect those voices that at the moment respectfully oppose its laws. By prohibiting faith-based conscientious objection, institutions will be limited in their ability to speak independently without fear of punishment, and some of the largest charities in America will be shuttered. Churches have defended and served the American people both spiritually and materially for hundreds of years. Now it’s time to defend the church.”

Love,
Matthew

Math, Reason, & Civilization

platonicElements
-Platonic elements

revstephenfreeman

-by Rev Stephen Freeman

“If math should suddenly disappear, it would set physics back – a week.”
Nobel Prize Winner – Richard Feynman

Mathematician’s response: But that week would be the one in which God created the universe.

Galileo is said to have remarked that the universe is a wonderful thing, written in the language of mathematics.

“There is a remarkable correlation between things as we see them and math. Particle physicists have managed, on occasion, to predict the existence of new particles purely on the basis of math – and later have their predictions upheld through experimentation.

The ancient Greeks marveled at the relationship between math and reality and even suggested a relationship between certain geometrical shapes and fundamental reality. Plato posited that the “four elements” each had a primary geometrical shape. Fire was a sharp-pointed tetrahedra; Air was a smooth-sliding octahedra; Water was a droplet-shaped icosahedra; Earth was an easily compactable cube. To this, Aristotle added a fifth element, the Quintessence [“fifth element”], which was the ether, the stuff that filled all of space, thought to be the breath of the gods. Indeed, it was posited that that universe itself had the shape of that element, a dodecahedra.

Modern physics has more detail and more math, but the same intuition about how things are. This system of elements believed by Greek philosophers, is repeated in the writings of the early Fathers. It was the common, educated understanding of the world at their time. And, as I have noted, though geometric shapes have given way to quarks and charms and gluons, the fundamental intuition has not changed.

It is appropriate to look towards math when considering creation. And this correlation between math and creation also gives rise to the use of reason. If mathematical rules accurately measure and predict the movements of the heavens, then the same principles apply to all things. Logic is simply the application of mathematical principles to ideas and words. This intuition has not changed over the course of the centuries. Just as our math is more sophisticated than the math of Euclid, so our logic is more sophisticated than that of Plato and Aristotle. But it is still the same math and the same logic.

What has changed over the centuries, however, is the relationship of all of this to culture itself. Modernity (a movement and set of concepts born in the late 18th century Enlightenment) extended reason in every direction. It was assumed that the power of math, demonstrated through repeated and successful experiments, could be directed towards everything with beneficial results. And so were born new “branches” of knowledge, such as Political Science (the application of rational logic to the problems of the State), Sociology (the application of rational logic to social behavior), etc. Every branch of science in the modern world shares the common assumptions of the Enlightenment. Reason and experiment will tell us everything.

There is, however, a limit to this wonderful correlation – and it is this limit which is often forgotten within Modernity. The Fathers recognized that God Himself is not subject to these rational, mathematical principles. This is not to say that God is irrational, but that He transcends the categories and principles of creation. In a similar manner, the soul itself cannot be subjected to these principles.

The soul is not “stuff.” Rather, it is regarded as the “life” of the body. Instead of being a data point of metaphysics, the affirmation that we have a soul is an affirmation that when all the math and rationality of our existence is finished, there remains something to be said. Regardless of our materiality, we are more than numbers and reason. The “life” of a man is, like God, not subject to measurement or definition.

A strength of the modern project has been its use of reason and math. With careful application we have seen amazing advances in science and technology. But the same strength has also been its greatest weakness. For we have tried to reduce everything to science and reason (with increasingly bogus versions of both). The more purely “reasonable” and “scientific” revolutions were all abject failures and the cause of untold misery (cf. France and Russia). Though democracy found its way across many other nations, most sought to balance pure reason with the wisdom of inherited tradition. It remains the case that solutions based on pure reason fail at the human level.

All of this is true because the soul (and thus human behavior itself) remains not subject to reason or math. It stands as a boundary to our arrogance and a point where trespass happens at our peril. That quality is present elsewhere as well. For though many aspects of human existence can be measured and quantified, they cannot be reduced to their quantification. There is always a remainder that cannot be accounted for, other than by a recognition that we are in the presence of life itself. Of course, much of modernity will often choose to ignore the remainders of our existence, seeking to force life into quantifiable boundaries. Such efforts must be cataloged as examples of arrogance and the danger of modern hubris.

A life rightly lived must be lived beyond measure. Beyond the math and reasons that predict the progress of economies and weigh benefits and boons, the soul yearns for what cannot be seen, measured or reasoned. And that yearning has drawn grace down from heaven through the ages and transfigured the merely mathematical.

The intuition of the early philosophers went beyond what they could measure and see. Earth, air, fire, water – theses are obvious elements to be measured and considered. But they understood that the fifth element was something apart. It was always the point where philosophy stumbled. For though it rightly recognized “something more,” it could not itself be successfully known. But at least they recognized that not everything can be known. In that sense, our modern world has forgotten the quintessence of created existence.

Of course, our struggles today are not with the rationalists of the late 18th or 19th centuries. For today, reason itself has become suspect. There has been a shift in popular consciousness in which the will has triumphed over reason (something that was inevitable). Today, what is true is what we want to be true. It is the final victory for consumers. Not only are we able to choose anything we want, but we are also able to will what is.

Justice Anthony Kennedy articulated this with great succinctness in 1992 in the opinion he wrote for Planned Parenthood vs. Casey:

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

That “liberty” now justifies fundamental realities such as the relations between male and female to be subject to change, because some want it. Reality has become plastic and subject to redefinition. This is an anti-science and an anti-math, just as it is anti-reason.

The mathematical reasonableness of creation is an important feature of creation, recognized both by the fathers as well as modern science. In that sense, true science is in no way the enemy of the Christian faith. It has its limits, and must stand respectfully silent before the quintessence of existence. Reason and Math have classically been limited by reality itself. The will, however, seems to know no limit. With its triumphant rise, civilization has passed over into barbarism.”

Love,
Matthew

Objective True Meaning

objective Truth

“Objectivity is a central philosophical concept, related to reality and truth, which has been variously defined by sources. Generally, objectivity means the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject’s individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivity_(philosophy)

edwardnpeters

-by Edward Peters, JD, JCD, Ref. Sig. Ap.

“Rusty Reno has a fine essay over at First Things addressing the Kim Davis matter. I differ, however, with one paragraph therein. Reno writes: When the Supreme Court issued its decree, American civil law ceased to define marriage and instead became a law of civil unions, with the word “marriage” now having no real meaning. With that sort of reasoning, I might be able to wiggle my way toward signing licenses that say “marriage” but really mean “civil union.”

I wish the Supreme Court had only enshrined same-sex civil unions in law; such a ruling we might have lived with. But that is not what the Court did. Instead five justices imposed on marriage (true marriage, natural marriage, traditional marriage, whatever pleonastic phrase one wishes to use) the lie that marriage includes the union of two persons of the same sex. This judicially imposed lie is not a ‘little white lie’ that might allow one to hide a surprise birthday party, it is not a ‘public figure lie’ (half of which aren’t true in the first place), and it is not even a ‘planted lie’ designed to deceive military enemies or dangerous criminals. Instead, the Court has published a naked, gross falsehood that tears simultaneously at the fabric of law, language, family, and society.

The word marriage has, and will always have, an objectively true meaning—no matter how many times it has been degraded by sinful societies (usually by its legal institutions but more lately by its mass media) and by many recalcitrant individuals (including some religious leaders). Justice Kennedy’s atrocious prose in Obergefell can no more deprive marriage of its meaning than, say, Barney’s insipid theme song (“I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family”) can deprive family of its meaning. Instead, Kennedy the Judge and Barney the Dinosaur teach something seriously false about marriage and family. But while Barney’s lyrics simply make one queasy, Kennedy’s words are now the pretext to throw people who do not accept his lie into jail.

The actual text of whatever document one is called upon to sign or certify is crucial to determining whether one may sign or certify it. I’ve not seen a Kentucky marriage license and so defer to those who have. But this much is certain: any document that declares two people of the same sex to be married, one may not sign or certify.

With that caveat in mind, again, I recommend reading Reno’s important essay.”

Love,
Matthew